#073 – Mike Kelly: Knowing When to Pivot & Embracing the Right Opportunities

  • July 31, 2018
Mike Kelly Profile Photo

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly is the creator of Papa Bear’s Nut Butter (and the titular Papa Bear). He started the business for a simple reason: he loves nut butter! It’s something for the healthy people out there who appreciate life’s indulgences.

But here’s a funny little thing about this conversation – just days after our interview, some big changes happened in Mike’s life and business: Papa Bear’s is actually dissolving! Mike is partnering with up with two other people to start a new food brand focusing on a more diverse (but similarly healthy) product line.

I wasn’t afraid of losing money… I was more afraid of saying I never tried” –Mike Kelly

While we do talk a lot about Papa Bear’s products in this conversation, the main focus is really product development, entrepreneurship, and online sales – and, critically, knowing when to pivot. So you can think of this episode as a time capsule of the moment right before a Mike’s big pivot, containing all of the insight and information he’ll take from years of Papa Bear’s and apply to his new endeavor.

One last thing – I first met Mike a few weeks ago at a General Assembly Food & Technology event in Santa Monica. These awesome adult education centers are scattered around the country and if you have an opportunity, I highly suggest checking out their incredible events. You never know who you’ll meet!

“To not taking ourselves so fucking serious all the time.” –Mike Kelly

We also discuss:

  • Transitioning from farmer’s markets to Amazon
  • Meeting at General Assembly
  • Testing products + flavors
  • Why they changed from Papa Bear’s Kinda Healthy Nut Butters to Papa Bear’s Nut Roasters
  • The secret trick to getting all of the butter out of a jar
  • Creating Churro Butter (and getting emotionally attached to it)
  • Scaling up a food product business when you make the food by hand
  • Your food is only as good as your ingredients
  • Personifying Papa Bear
  • Demolition Man, Taco Bell, and Amazon
  • Marketing a product on Amazon
  • Mike’s nuts being organic
  • How Mike chose the name Papa Bear
  • Advice from an entrepreneur who’s made a lot of mistakes
  • Mike Kelly has touched every single jar of Papa Bear’s, in one way or another – Wow!

Mike’s Game-Changing PB&J Recipe:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Put 2 slices of Dave’s Killer Bread in the broiler until they are toasted to your preference
  • Put peanut butter on the toasted side of one slice & jelly on the toasted side of the other slice
  • Put banana on the the side with peanut butter
  • Combine the slices into a sandwich and you have a sandwich that’s soft on the outside and crunchy on the inside!

Resources:

Mike Kelly’s Bio:

Mike ‘Papa Bear’ Kelly grew up in a small Jersey Shore town. As a College Football Player at the University at Albany, Mike consistently turned to various nut butters for a quick, healthy, protein packed snack. Post college, Mike moved to California where he started producing nut butters out of his home kitchen in Santa Monica using different nut combinations and a unique roasting process. Rather than adding additional sweeteners and sugars Mike chose to change the method in which nut butter is traditionally produced to create a unique product packed with flavor that doesn’t kill you nutritionally. Check out the full line at iLovePapaBear.com or on Amazon!

I love the world of food and beverage, everything about it, it’s soo damn sexy! Every time we eat and drink it ignites us sensually…the look, texture, taste, smell, sound all in a unique combination, encapsulating a moment in time. The act of sharing a meal with friends, chatting, eating, and drinking together is so forking perfect. It is a feeling that echoes a sense that All Is Good! Very, Very good!

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