We met up with the founders of Indie Bars for a talk about energy, cranberries and the importance of hanging out at the right pool.
We are curious about how the idea of Indie Bars was born. What’s the history behind?
Olle: I have a background in triathlon and have tested a lot of energy bars through the years. There are many alternatives out there but I experienced problems with the ones I used. I didn’t get enough energy from it, even though I tried them all – from gels to bars. In the spring of 2013 I got the idea to produce something on my own, since I like to baking and being around the kitchen. I started using it on my own and found it worked really well for me, so I started giving it to my friends at the pool after training to see their response. That’s how I met Mikaela.
Mika: I found out about Olles idea and thought “My god, is he gonna run this by himself?” Got really interested in the concept since I’m a nutritionist. I asked straight out if he wanted a co-founder. And he did!
Olle: Absolutely! We started developing the bars together. It was important that they were going to be organic and totally free from gluten and lactose, as well as vegan. They were supposed to taste good and be made for people that workout. Those were the main principles that we based our product development on.
What’s the biggest problem with the products out there today? Why are they not good enough?
Olle: Many of these energy bars contain synthetic products. They are not built on organic ingredients like dried fruit or nuts and contain many additives. I am careful of what I eat normally, but when you work out you are expected to consume all these synthetic products, and it feels strange.
Mika: When you do conditioned sports it is important that you get a lot of energy, it’s not like running 30 minutes and you can eat like you normally would. You have to eat energy in some way. One of our main goals was to make a really tasty product, which we think most of the bars today are not.
Often it can be hard to know what’s in the energy products you’re eating. How transparent are you with the ingredients?
Mika: We are very transparent and write all the ingredients. We only use natural ingredients, so there’s nothing we can write with other names. All natural products, such as fruit sugar, together with the packaging, will make them durable for a whole year.
Olle: Many other brands want to highlight something special, that you get extra energy because it contains a special ingredient, like caffeine or amino acids. We see it as when you do training you need energy, not a magical ingredient that make you super strong. If you eat good raw materials you get good energy to be able to perform good effective training. That’s why we call our products Wipeout and Breakaway to connect to sports. We dont want to call it “Blueberry Bliss”, something that focuses only in the ingredient. We want to focus on the activity and the practise.
I like the name, Indie Bars, how did you come up with that?
Mika: In the beginning, when Olle started, he called it Aloha Bars. An inspiration from triathlon, Hawaii and Ironman. We got problem with the trademark rights so in the end we chose Indie Bars, to communicate the feeling of independent, small scale and locally produced.
How do you work together? Good sides and bad sides?
Mika: We are both very energetic and develop a lot of ideas so we have to stop ourselves sometimes.
Olle: We have made most of the work together, from baking and experimenting with new tastes, to labeling hundred of bars, being at exhibitions and competitions, you name it. We complete each other very well.
How has your experience been with entrepreneurship?
Mika: When I asked Olle if he needed a co-founder I already had my mind set to work hard, and I have done it since. I had no previous experience with entrepreneurship but I’m very targeted, so when we decided to go it was all in.
Olle: The journey to develop a product and started to sell it is very long, and showed to be longer and more complicated than I had imagined when starting out. It’s one thing to bake 20 bars at the time in your moms kitchen, but to do it in bigger scale as a whole another, regarding keeping the taste, consistency and deliveries. You learn a lot.
What milestones have you had?
Mika: I’d say when we met our supplier in England, that made me feel this is for real.
Olle: We can’t say too much about that though, it’s a bit like the batman cave, we can’t reveal everything. I have to say the campaign with you, FundedByMe, was a lot of fun. We got a receipt that people believe in the product and actually do contribute. It’s one thing when people say it’s a fun product but now people actually funded the idea. That’s a lot of fun!
How did you come up with ingredients for a product like this?
Olle: You hang out a lot in Coop, Östgötagatan and Skanstulls Hälsokost. We have experimented with ingredients to find our own unique taste with the ingredients we like the most. It was a whole lot of experimenting and counting back and forth, you know “add some more cranberries there”. Some got really good, some didn’t work at all.
Mika: Product development takes time. Our goal is to have the best bars on the market so we spent a lot of time to get the right taste with all the components we wanted. Further tastes are planned.
What’s the next step?
Mika: Product development is there all the time, which is crucial in a market like this. Our main goal now is sales. It’s a challenge to get enough money on sales that you can actually invest more in the company. First thing we are looking into is the packaging of the product, to get a real package instead of a sticker.
Olle: It’s like Mika says, now we got capital from FundedByMe and athletes are getting in touch with us spontaneously to corporate. The same with sports clubs and stores. A lot of people want to corporate which is super exciting. In the meantime we have to get the product out to the market.
How did you find FundedByMe?
Mika: Both me and Olle are very social and hang out with the target group. That helps to market and spread the word.
Olle: I had read about projects that were made possible through crowdfunding. I heard about Flippin’ Burgers and how it was a part of their story that they were funded by friends, family and early supporters. I started looking and found FundedByMe and realised it works with our product, to have the reward based option. It’s not only for funding but also good for marketing and to tell the story about the bars and ourselves. Mika hasn’t revealed it yet but she is a really successful triathlete. She won the swedish championship this summer and is joining the national team now. Thats a huge part of the story.
Do you have any tips to other people that want to crowdfund?
Olle: Have a clear product that people can grasp and fits the type of campaign. Work with several types of communication channels, hang out with the people you are reaching out to and always bring your product with you.
Have you had any rough periods and how do you find the energy to come back?
Mika: There’s always new problems occurring. For every problem we solve there’s new coming up. I think thats what it’s like for every startup in all industries. You have to build all relations from scratch, you have to work with everything. We dont have any consultants. We do everything on our own. It’s a challenge but very satisfactory when you manage to solve the problems.
Olle: You learn that you cant be clear enough when you communicate with different operators. In the beginning of the summer we had a situation where we had prepared everything, from stickers to ingredients and is ready to push the button, when a supplier made a last minute call and said their product is not organic. It’s a test of your patience but with creativity you find your way around it. You have to like challenges. Finally, thank you FundedByMe for helping us make this happen.