Abby Kircher of Abby’s Better: “Keep your head down and keep moving forward”

I’d say one of the biggest challenges of turning an idea into a reality is never taking that first step because it seems too “big” or “challenging.” The key is to start by taking as many small steps forward as possible before you start making those big jumps. Keep your head down and keep moving forward. […]

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I’d say one of the biggest challenges of turning an idea into a reality is never taking that first step because it seems too “big” or “challenging.” The key is to start by taking as many small steps forward as possible before you start making those big jumps. Keep your head down and keep moving forward.

As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Kircher, Founder & CEO of Abby’s Better.

A young female entrepreneur and health enthusiast, Abby Kircher combines her passion for innovation and nutrition to create a new way of healthy snacking as the CEO and co-founder of Abby’s Better.

Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Abby has always been known to take on a leadership role, even from a young age. In 2015, when Abby was just fifteen years old, she became invested in her health and creating a healthy lifestyle. It was during this time where she couldn’t help but notice the lack of options for foods that were both delicious and nutritious. With a drive to bridge the gap between taste and health, Abby took out her food processor, nuts, a few natural sweeteners, and began making an array of nut butter flavors and bites to create what is known today as Abby’s Better.

Today, Abby is even more passionate and ambitious than ever to share her creations with the world. To those seeking a healthier path, Abby offers the cleanest snacks made with all natural ingredients with a promise to never sacrifice taste. Abby continues to inspire other young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, even if it means taking the road less traveled. Abby’s brand and products can be found anywhere from local farmers markets to major food retailers around the East Coast and Midwest.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Orlando, FL but moved to the Charlotte area when I was 9. I was home schooled (went to a variety of co-ops), and have always had a passion for learning! My favorite subjects were always any type of English or history class. I have two older brothers, Aaron who now works with the company, and Elliot who goes to college at Samford University. We have always been a very close family. When I was younger, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At one point I thought of being a freelance writer for (hopefully) National Geographic! Crazy how things change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Funny enough, a quote I have always admired and to this day “keep in my back pocket” is one by Julie Andrews — “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’ve always loved listening to “How I Built This.” It seems obvious now, but I was always intrigued by the stories of people who often came from nothing and built something no one thought possible. They took a passion and created an empire. That was so inspiring for a young girl, like me, who wasn’t sure what she should do with her life.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

When I was 14 year old, I was overweight and unhappy with my body. I knew I needed to make a change in not only how I ate, but also how I treated my body in general.

I started to focus on the ingredient labels of the foods I was eating and one of my favorite foods at the time was peanut butter! I ate it on pretty much everything. However, the peanut butter I was eating had tons of artificial sweeteners, peanut oils, and general ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce and knew couldn’t be helpful.

So, I decided to make my own! I was 15, it was the summer of 2015 and I started mixing different nuts with different natural sweeteners, like fruit. I eventually came up with 5 flavors of nut butters: Coconut Cashew, Date Pecan, Honey Almond, and Coffee Almond.

After hearing what friends and family were saying about the healthy BUT delicious products, I approached my mom and said “Let’s start a business. We can call it Abby’s Better and it can be a hobby to look good on the college resume.”

Little did I know that making that decision that day would lead me not to college, but far from it into a world I was totally unaware of at the time. I soon realized that Abby’s Better was about a lot more than just nut butter, but about creating a clean label snack brand that could be a one stop shop for healthy snacking.

There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

I’d say one of the biggest challenges of turning an idea into a reality is never taking that first step because it seems too “big” or “challenging.” The key is to start by taking as many small steps forward as possible before you start making those big jumps. Keep your head down and keep moving forward.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

It seems too simple, but Googling and spending as much time as necessary making sure your idea is unique enough to stand out amongst competition. If your idea is in an already-crowded space, make sure you have differentiating factors. A lot of ideas have been made into things, but not all have been mastered or perfected like they could be.

Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?

My mom, and Abby’s Better COO, has always been a huge inspiration for me. We have very different skill sets, different outlooks and opinions, and that helps us complement each other in a work environment. I am also IMMENSELY inspired by all of the other successful female entrepreneurs in a variety of different industries who have paved the way for me to be able to do what I do.

For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

As I previously mentioned, once I decided to take the first leap in selling the product, I did TONS of research online about manufacturing, the FDA, food safety laws, sourcing, and whatnot.

We realized that we couldn’t sell a food product that had been manufactured in a home with a pet (we had a dog), so I quickly started to look for shared commercial kitchen space where we could bring the simple machines and ingredients.

I would work there late nights after school with friends and family as we tried to look for a better way to manufacture. We finally found our own facility. We are vertically integrated and produce all of the Abby’s Better, Inc. products ourselves.

Our first retail store was a small local chain in Davidson NC. We simply emailed, called, and did whatever we had to do to get in front of the buyer. We just requested 15 minutes to share our story and butters. We succeeded. After the first meeting we were “in,” and that continued to be our strategy for another 1,500 stores. No one can sell the products and story like a founder can, because no one has that level of passion.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The amount of time we spent hand jarring each of our butters is insane. Hours upon hours because we didn’t know how to find the other option. That kind of “grind” in the beginning is good though. It taught me perseverance and to do the hard work that needed to be done even when it seemed insurmountable.

The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention, when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

Our first infusion of capital with our family and friends raised was the tipping point. That was when we could put real money into manufacturing equipment, marketing, updated packaging design, and everything else.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Two things come to mind — I wish I had been aware of the capital needs more clearly. I did not have a finance background so that whole world of investing was so new. I’ve learned so much about it, but it would have been nice to have more experience in that area. I wish someone had made me aware of how difficult it would be to “detach” and “compartmentalize” when you are running a business that matters so much to you. It is hard to find balance.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Find a way to diversify your invention from the rest. Make sure it is unique and solves a problem. Then start to make a rough draft of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it should just be for you and your goals. Where you hope your invention to go and the steps you need to take to get it there.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It is vital to surround yourself with people in the industry you are going into, especially if it is new to you. However, in the beginning it is about learning as much as possible and using that “entrepreneurial spirit” to get stuff done. Hiring someone might not be the most financially smart decision in the beginning.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

If you have the ability, bootstrap until you can’t anymore. You don’t want to look back five years down the road, own very little of your own company and wish you had done it differently. Continue to bootstrap until you stop growing and there are no more pivots/changes that will help.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Hopefully by providing healthy, pure snacks that are easily accessible and appealing to every consumer.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire 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.

Where people my age dare to dream big. For them to not believe the lies that they are “too young.” That I can inspire people to take their time creating and giving back.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

This is no surprise, but Oprah Winfrey! She has overcome tremendous adversity and obstacles and has become one of the most powerful women in the world. She is such an inspiration and it would be such an honor if I ever get the pleasure of meeting her.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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