This is a follow up story for Bare Performance Nutrition. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 4 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Nick Bare and I’m the Founder/CEO of Bare Performance Nutrition (BPN). I started my business in 2012, while I was studying nutrition at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A year before graduating college and commissioning into the US Army as an Infantry Officer, I took out a $20,000 loan, sourced a supplement manufacturer, and went all-in on my passion.
The first four years of building BPN were spent as a side project. My primary job and priority were leading an Infantry Platoon at Fort Hood, Texas, but with every waking moment outside of it I was learning how to scale a startup. The first couple of years were tough and I quickly learned the struggle of a bootstrapped business. We started to experience some momentum by building an online community through social media, learned how to tell our story, and documented the journey of building BPN to where it is today.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
This past year has been a pivotal time for BPN. We ended up growing about 50% from 2021 to 2022. We hired key employees, off-loaded some fulfillment to 3PL micro-fulfillment centers located in metropolitan areas, started implementing EOS, and started exploring our 2023 retail expansion. If I had to describe the last couple of months leading into this next year it would be “brand maturity”.
We have historically operated fairly lean, but this past year we made some strategic hires to position the brand for greater future success. We added staff to the operations team (order fulfillment and customer service), creative and marketing teams, and brought on an experienced CFO and CRO. Josh Jolley now sits in the CFO role at BPN and has made massive improvements to our budget, inventory forecasting, P&L, and all things finances. Kat Thomas now sits in the CRO role and has taken a strong lead in identifying cost savings for the business and increasing revenue opportunities.
One of the initiatives that Kat Thomas implemented was to partner with micro-fulfillment centers located in metropolitan areas. This allowed us to reduce some of the volume pressure of our in-house fulfillment team and offer two-hour delivery for customers within a certain radius of our multiple micro-fulfillment centers located strategically across the US. This has proved successful, especially during our annual black Friday sale where we were able to hand off 25% of our orders to our fulfillment partners.
“Growing Pains” are experienced by most businesses (if not all of them), but they aren’t excuses for why problems don’t get solved. BPN started to experience some of these pains in 2022 and the executive team knew we had to get out in front of them, so we decided to implement EOS (entrepreneurial operating system). This is a system that builds out a company accountability chart, highlights brand vision, and creates objective targets to strategically achieve them. We hired an EOS implementer and began the process of fully building out EOS within BPNs foundation and framework. So far it has been an amazing decision.
In the middle of 2022, we decided it was time to expand BPNs retail presence. For the last 10 years, we have been a 90% DTC business. Our first two strategic retail partners were Scheels and Central Market, which are both amazing organizations. We used those two retail partners to learn more about the complexities of retail, test our marketing plan and activate our online community. We proved great velocity in-store. In 2023 we secured retail accounts with HEB, Wegmans, and Vitamin Shoppe. By March we will be in 1,000+ retail stores and are excited for the opportunity to grow the brand and work with amazing partners.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
My biggest mistake was separating creative from performance marketing…
In an attempt to navigate the rapid growth of a DTC e-commerce brand, I made a decision that I am now fixing. BPN is a content-heavy brand, with a loyal community and cult-like following. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have our tagline, “Go One More” tattooed on their bodies. Naturally, our in-house media team consists of a lot of people. They range from designers, videographers, photographers, copywriters, and social media managers. Leading and managing creative minds has been one of the hardest parts as CEO of the business, but that comes with the job.
At the beginning of 2022, I decided to separate the creative team from the performance marketing team. They occupied separate offices in our HQ, didn’t communicate as frequently, and resulted in nobody rowing the boat in the same direction. My goal and reasoning were to allow each team to hyperfocus on their respective lane, however, I failed to realize how much they fed off one another.
After shifting people around and experimenting with new strategies I decided it wasn’t going to work. It was the wrong decision. So now, we are rebuilding. The implementation of EOS, building out an accountability chart, and assigning functions to each role, it has provided more clarity to individuals and teams across the department. I’m currently occupying the Chief Creative Officer (CCO) role and leading the entire creative team. We built out a new suite in our HQ and combined creative and performance marketing again. There is better cross-communication, and a stronger vision and the team is rowing the boat in the same direction. Things feel right.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I host a podcast called The Bare Performance Podcast and we release weekly episodes on fitness, business, and motivation. During one of the episodes this year with my running coach Jeff Cunningham he said, “it’s better to be consistently good than occasionally great.”. This quote spread like wildfire online.
One of my greatest strengths and I humbly say this, is that I am very consistent. It’s how I’ve built my fitness and it’s how I’ve built my business. We haven’t done anything that went “viral”, skyrocketed demand and challenged our supply chain, or stressed the business overnight to be “the next best thing since sliced bread”. We have shown up, day after day, and put in consistent work that has compounded over the last decade. It’s something I’m very proud of.
I’ve learned, as we watched many other businesses decline in 2022, that taking the long-term approach to building a business is sustainable. It is resilient, strong, and dependable when economic challenges arise. Even though we are 10 years in, we are still working on refining the base of the business every single day, because you can’t build a large house on a weak foundation.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
If you would have asked me this question 18 months ago I probably would have listed 20 objectives with no real data to support them. This is where hiring a strong CFO and CRO has been a huge win.
Over the next year, our focus is to increase e-commerce DTC sales by 30-50% and expand into more than 1,000 retail stores across grocery, specialty, sporting goods, and wholesale. We are also launching a free BPN Training App for iOS and Android, which we have spent the last 12 months building out. Overall, we are building out strategic tools to improve customer acquisition and retention through DTC and retail experiences.
In the next 5 years, we plan to introduce a packaging re-fresh to position the brand more competitively in retail. We have started this process through customer research and design studies. That leads to a much larger retail presence, with a larger team to support it.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business, by Gino Wickman
This is a book that I had sitting on my bookshelf for years but didn’t open up until I was prompted by my CMO. I’m glad that I didn’t read it earlier because I found this book when I needed it the most. It helped me identify why we were experiencing certain issues in the business and provided a solution to those problems. The solution is EOS (entrepreneurial operating system) and so far it has been game-changing for our business and team. I highly recommend it to all business owners. Read it multiple times until you understand the power of EOS.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
This piece of advice may be more suitable for entrepreneurs who are “a few years in” to building their businesses. Why? It’s something I recently had to be reminded of by a trusted mentor. It is something I often struggle with myself.
As you grow your business, hire more people and reach new levels of revenue it is easy to think that you NEED to look to others for future answers. You may THINK you NEED to hire experienced agencies, outsource work or hire a new c-level executive. The truth is, you may have to, but I’ve found that quickly jumping to that conclusion is because you have lost confidence in yourself.
Although you may be navigating uncharted territory in your business lifecycle, you are probably the best person to steer the ship. You don’t need that overpriced agency or that c-level executive who promises to change the course of your company. You have led your business to where it is today. Be proud of that. Have confidence in it. Take a chance on yourself and keep pushing forward.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Although we have hired quite a few new people this past year, there are still some positions that need to be filled. We are actively looking for a paid media buyer, web developer, and partnership manager. Historically we have outsourced our paid media and web development to agencies. This has worked well and we have had the opportunity to partner with some amazing people, however, we would love to bring those positions in-house. The partnership manager role will be responsible for managing our brand ambassador program and athlete/influencer roster. Our previous partnership manager, Adam Klink, now sits in the Community Director role at BPN.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings