There are few things in this world that make me geek out as much as pizza. So when I interviewed Aaron Greenwald, President of Bold Organics, it wasn’t hard to get me excited about his company and his product. Aaron and his partner, award-winning St. Louis chef Eric Brenner, have developed a line of gluten-free, dairy-free, organic non-GMO pizzas with their brand, Bold Organics.
Like many journeys to entrepreneurship, the path to creating his company was inspired by his personal experience. In high school, Greenwald was a competitive tennis player. Seeking ways to help him improve his performance, his mom suggested he try a gluten and dairy free diet. The results were remarkable. Aaron lost 20 pounds in two months, while his energy and ability to focus increased dramatically. The only problem was he couldn’t find the kind of pizza and pasta that he loved so much without breaking his new diet.
When he entered college at Washington University in St. Louis, his original focus on architecture quickly shifted to business, and in particular, entrepreneurship. By his second year, he began researching his plan to develop a gluten-free, dairy-free pizza company. He learned that there was a huge American market for this sort of product among people with some kind of celiac disease or digestive challenge – over 18 million people with gluten sensitivities and over 50 million with sensitivities to dairy! Now all he needed was someone to make the pizza.
Enter Chef Eric Brenner, proprietor (at that time) of the acclaimed MOXY Contemporary Bistro in St. Louis. Brenner had spent years fielding requests from patrons for foods catering to various dietary sensitivities. He became well known for a 90% gluten-free menu that included desserts, pastas, pizzas and sandwiches, earning his city’s Chef of the Year award in 2008. Aaron knew he had found the man to help him create the delicious product he was seeking.
From the start of recipe development in 2011, to a family & friends funded launch in the beginning of 2012, Bold Organics products are currently being sold in over 2000 retail outlets across the country. The company boasts a four man management team, over 100 salespeople working in the field, and two manufacturing facilities. And yes, they have their very own test kitchen where they are constantly trying out new mouthwatering recipes like barbecue chicken and veggie pesto pizzas. They are planning to launch at least two new pizza varieties next year, as well as a line of gluten-free pastas, and are currently in the middle of a capital raise.
Forging a business in new and unknown territory has been a journey full of challenges for Greenwald, who got his company started before he was even 21 years old. However, he seems to have embraced the process of working through obstacles, trying to come up with the most creative and effective solutions to problems, and has been lucky to have some good advisors along the way.
“Being effective with [our] marketing is one of the biggest challenges any business runs into, just because being able to cost effectively get out to our customers to let them know about our products… requires a lot of insight and creativity. [It’s the] biggest challenge since we’ve launched the brand, but we see challenges every day.”
Indeed, Greenwald has undertaken his particular set of challenges with gusto. He took the time to identify a market with a great need, and has carefully crafted his product to fill that need. In fact, he considers this particular part of the process the cornerstone to his company’s success thus far – “making sure you have a differentiated product that stands out in a variety of different ways from the stuff that’s already out there.” Delivering this unique product with excellence – that’s the key to developing brand loyalty.
As far as I’m concerned, he had me at pizza.
Listen to the full interview here:
Deborah Oster Pannell is a writer who specializes in the arts, culture, special events and creative & innovative projects of all kinds. As Director of Communications for the tech start-up eventwist, she also manages their blog. Some of her favorite work is featured on modernlifeblogs.com, lizkingevents.com, and her own blog, shesaysyes.wordpress.com. Currently she is preparing to launch Project Mavens, a content branding firm. On Twitter @projectmaven.