Its darkest just before dawn. There will be lows so low it will be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. At the beginning of launching our business and throughout the pandemic, it’s been tough, but we’ve always made it through. The low points are what make the celebratory moments so much brighter.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Krauss, Co-Founder of Texas-based Mammoth Creameries.
Tim was born in Cologne, Germany and moved to the US at age 14. He attended Hawaii Pacific University before moving to Texas to attend Texas State University-San Marcos, where he earned a B.B.A. in International Business Management. His career got its start in software, working for companies such as Actian Corporation and Dell EMC, before transitioning to the consumer packaged goods industry working for EPIC Provisions. At 28 years old, Tim was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and his life changed forever. He committed himself to live a more health-conscious life centered around exercise and eating well, adhering to the paleo diet before making the shift to a low-sugar, low-carb, and high-fat ketogenic diet. He now runs the sales and marketing of Mammoth Creameries, a keto frozen custard brand that he co-founded with his wife, Susan. With their two-person team, they have been able to manage the amazing growth of Mammoth including: developing four delicious flavor staples; handling point of sales for retail stores across the US including Whole Foods and Brookshire Grocery Company; launching three new flavors in March of 2021; managing a household with four children.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, it’s actually a pretty interesting story. Never in my life did I think we would start a company, let alone a food company. It all started November 27th, 2013 when I woke up in the ICU after being in a diabetic coma. Everything leading up to this day was telling me something was wrong. I had been sick for nearly a year and half, but I had no idea it would be Type 1 Diabetes. No one in my family has diabetes and, besides what you see on TV, I didn’t really understand what it was. When I woke up in that ICU bed, I weighed 140lbs, which was crazy considering my normal weight is usually around 180lbs to and 170lbs at racing weight. When I was ready to leave the hospital, I was told that I would be fine to just continue eating a normal American diet and I would just need to supplement with insulin. My first thought was, easy enough. Little did I know this would make my weight skyrocket from 140lbs to 254lbs in a matter of months. All of my vitals were in terrible shape — blood pressure, cholesterol, everything! My doctors were recommending different types of medication to address my diabetes, but I just knew that was a path I didn’t want to take.
That day Susan, my wife and Co-Founder of Mammoth Creameries, and I had a serious conversation on what we could do. Susan was terrified. The thought of being 28 with two kids and having the potential for your partner and best friend to have a stroke or heart attack was rough. The next day Susan introduced the concept of Paleo into our lives. We quickly cut out grains and refined sugar, and we were 100% committed to making this work. I instantly started to see results. I started losing weight and feeling better. My insulin consumption was significantly reduced, and for the first time in nearly two years I was starting to feel like myself again.
After a few years of Paleo, I started to feel trapped again and we went back to the drawing board. This time Susan introduced Keto. At this point Keto was definitely not as big as it is now. There weren’t any snacks on the market or any super legitimate information on it, but the message was simple — eliminate carbs once and for all. So, we did. The first two weeks were rough. Again, because there weren’t any Keto products on the market, we had to make everything from scratch. It was so hard and so time consuming, but we stuck with it. A common thing we kept noticing was that even though we were feeling good we still really missed treats, especially ice cream. Again, Susan was like “I got this” and stared making sugar free ice cream with a countertop ice cream maker and it was SO GOOD! I mean it was crazy, she was making ice cream every day. I would take it to work with me and people started noticing, asking about it and eventually wanting to buy it. Not long after that we were approached by a local Austin, TX CPG genius that told us we should consider starting an ice cream company and the rest is history!
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I think the hardest thing (at least for us) was to commit 100% to taking this risk. At that point we had four kids, a dog, car payments and a mortgage. We also needed to make sure we would have health insurance. As a Type 1 Diabetic, that can truly be a matter of life or death. So yes, terrifying.
And from there it’s really been a continuous uphill battle. As a first-time entrepreneur every step of this journey has been hard, from manufacturing, to sales, to marketing. Everything is very fragile; the highs are very high, but the lows are so low it’s terrible. You must make decisions that will have a direct impact on the overall health of the company and its employees, and in the early days if you make too many bad calls it might as well be the final nail in your coffin. The industry is always watching, judging, and trying to counter every move you make. Being an entrepreneur is the most rewarding journey, but it’s also the hardest.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Well, that’s easy. This is my job, and if I am not good at my job, I lose my job. But also, it’s the impact we have on people that love a super-premium product that gets me super stoked. When people share their story of how Mammoth helped change their life, it makes it all worth it.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going well, all things considered. Last year was a hard year. There was a lot of uncertainty, and there is still some today about the retail landscape during a pandemic. However, we continue to approach the tough times in the same way we approach everything — going to work every day with a purpose. If we would stop or give up on something every time things got hard, where would we be today? If you can aim to be just a tiny bit better every day, with some time you can see real progress.
Running and growing this company has been the single-most difficult thing I have ever done. If it were not for a reason or purpose, I would look for something easier to do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think what makes Mammoth stand out is that we’re a mission-driven company with the goal to offer people a better-for-you ice cream without the taste of a better-for-you option. Our ice cream is the cleanest ice cream at retail and has the shortest ingredient list in ALL the options there are for ice cream.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I am not sure I have any tips for that. To me, it’s either you want it, or you don’t. I have learned that motivation is fake news. You have to have the drive and I am not sure that can be taught. I wake up every morning wanting to be better than yesterday, even if that’s by only 1% or less. You have to constantly want it and work harder to get there every day.
I like to add running and biking into my routine to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when running a company. You have to make time to stop and smell the roses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are a few people that have made all the difference for us. These people believed in our product and in us before anyone else did. In the early days when we launched this company, way before Keto was cool, I would try to sell our product to local stores. They would literally laugh me out of the building saying sugar-free ice cream will never be thing. If it weren’t for that core group of supporters, the logical thing would have been to quit.
Katie Forrest, Taylor Collins, Robby Sansom and Bill Weiland believed in us and told us that we were onto something, probably before we even truly understood the impact we would have on the “better for you” eating community.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We try to give back every chance we get by supporting children and adults with diabetes or other autoimmune diseases. If we can help reduce the physical and emotional stress of a person with diabetes by 10% a day, that is real impact in that community. Not having to worry about a dessert sending you into Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is probably one of the most powerful and impactful things we do, especially in children and young teens.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be very flexible. 95% of things will not go your way, but that is ok. Follow what works and find a new angle for what doesn’t.
- Stay true to the mission no matter what. There are a lot of exciting things popping up all the time that can easily distract. It’s important to remember your roots and remain true to the core values of your business and brand.
- Never doubt yourself for anything. Give 100% or nothing at all. I remind myself of this every day when I wake up and get ready for work, even when the going is tough.
- Its darkest just before dawn. There will be lows so low it will be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. At the beginning of launching our business and throughout the pandemic, it’s been tough, but we’ve always made it through. The low points are what make the celebratory moments so much brighter.
- This will be the hardest thing you will ever do, and you have to remind yourself that it is worth it and to keep moving forward. If you don’t believe in yourself and your brand, who will?
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would urge people to eat only products that have the best and cleanest ingredients in them. It’s so important to incorporate clean food into your diet that works for the body not against it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!