Today is Wednesday and you know what that means…a special Wild Wednesday feature! This week’s feature is someone I had the chance to meet in Baltimore at the Expo East trade show! He came up to our booth and asked to interview me about Wild Squirrel. He was going around to different companies and interviewing them about their experience at the show. After talking with him for a while I realized he was also the owner of a company called Flax Seasoning! I was excited to learn more about his experience starting his company and thought he’d be a perfect fit for this post. Hope you enjoy our interview!
1) Name, where do you live, what is your profession?
Darren Baker, Northern Virginia, Program Management
Darren Baker, Northern Virginia, Program Management
2) So in the readers digest version… What is your educational/professional background and how did that lead you to the where you are today with Flax Seasoning? Did you ever dream you’d be an entrepreneur?
For my undergraduate degree I obtained a BA in Psychology with a variety of other advanced coursework. Honestly, institutional academics did very little to prepare me for entrepreneurship or even fuel my desire for entrepreneurship. Self-education and the School of Hard Knocks have helped prepare me for Flax Seasoning more than anything. Like Jim Rohn, one of my favorite self-development leaders said, “Formal education makes you a living, self-education makes you a fortune.” I’d rather make a fortune, and I think you all would agree…
I definitely dreamed I would be an entrepreneur. There were a few other entrepreneurial projects I’ve worked over the last 10 years or so – I’ve learned something from all of them and have applied many of those lessons to Flax Seasoning. None were in the food sector though so this is a new mountain to climb.
3) Similar to the previous question, what was your inspiration for starting a company based on these little seeds?!
I was inspired to start a company based on flax seeds when I kept hearing people say how they have flax seeds but don’t know what to do with them, or, how they didn’t like the taste of them. What better way to add flax to your meals than to sneak it into your seasoning? But overall, my biggest inspiration for starting this company is my desire to help other people live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been health conscious since I was a pre-teen and it’s a very empowering life. I’d like to see other people do the same. For some people, Flax Seasoning will be the first organic product in their kitchen. I’m inspired by the opportunity to put a healthier kitchen into each house.
4) Do you believe flax should be incorporated into everyone’s diet? Explain the added health benefits and why you first started incorporating flax into your personal diet.
Yes. Unless you have medical restrictions I would recommend you add flax seeds into your diet. Especially for the vegetarian and vegan crowd since flax seeds have so many beneficial applications in the kitchen. You can use it to replace eggs, make pizza crust, or as a vegan source of Omega 3s and protein. But regarding the health benefits of flax, its high in Omega 3s, has protein, fiber, a host of nutrients, and lignans. I first started incorporating it into my diet so that I could make my meals more nutritious.
5) What was the process of initial recipe developing, ingredient sourcing, labeling, packaging and marketing?
I made the decision to try and take this idea to market on New Year’s Day, 2011. I had a few business ideas I wrote down (Flax Seasoning being one of them) and needed to decide what I was going to try and focus on that year. I decided to give Flax Seasoning a shot.
I was fortunate on the recipe development and the labeling. My girlfriend is a personal chef and my brother is a graphic artist. Problem solved! To find ingredients and vendors we did a lot of research through good ol’ Google! It took a while but we got it together.
Regarding the marketing, imagine stepping into a boxing ring and you weren’t trained for the match – what do you do? Some people run, but if you’re motivated to win you’re just going to start swinging your fist! You never know, you might just land a few good ones! Well, that was me. I honestly was just running around the DC area dropping into stores, hoping someone would give me a shot. A few people said yes, and that’s how I started selling it. “Feet on the street” was my marketing strategy starting out.
6) Both being entrepreneurs in the food world, I’m sure we’ve experienced some of the same challenges. What has been the hardest/most unanticipated part of starting Flax Seasoning?
The most unanticipated part of starting Flax Seasoning is the learning curve. Every business genre has its own language, key players, and challenges. I’ve been learning A LOT! I guess I didn’t really anticipate how much I didn’t know when I started. At the same time though, I wasn’t even concerned with it because the most important thing to do is start. Now that I’ve got it started up, I have a much better idea of what I need to learn. But you know how it is with business, there’s always something new to learn. That’s just life. As long as you’re willing to learn, you’re in good shape.
7) Do you find working for yourself to be as rewarding as I do?! What is the best part of running your company?
Having your own company can be very rewarding. The best part of running my own company is being able to choose my teammates. Behind every great business there’s a great team. Business is a team sport! I’ve been able to get my family and friends involved with helping me and it’s been a lot of fun having them pitch in.
8) Please explain your product line and where you hope to expand in the near future!
Our Flax Seasoning blends combine flax seeds with spices and herbs. We use all organic ingredients, are gluten-free, and non-GMO. We have three blends, but are focusing on using two as our front runners - Sensational Seasoned Salt, and our No Salt – Amazing All Purpose Blend. In the long run we hope to expand beyond spices and create more of a health foods company. In the meantime though, we have a hand full of flavors we’re creating that we are looking to bring to market next year as our product expands.
9) What are some upcoming goals for your company?
One of our near term goals is to get our organic certification. We use all organic ingredients but are looking to have the official organic seal placed on our labels. We will get there in the next few months though.
10) How have people responded to your products?
People love our products. As soon as they taste it they put it in their cart and bring it home. Once people are aware of it they have high praises for it. And that’s pretty cool to witness. I am grateful for everyone that has supported our products by purchasing and referring it.
11) What was your Expo East experience like??
Expo East was actually my second trade show. I attended a much smaller one in Virginia during the Spring of this year (2012) – it targeted Virginia businesses and opened up some doors for us.
Our experience at Expo this year was great – I really enjoyed it. My goal was to establish the connections we need to position the product for growth and we accomplished that. At the Expo I think our product really made an impression. People really loved the idea, the taste, and quality.
12) Keeley and I have found that one of the beauties of running your own company is that the learning NEVER stops! We like to say that we have learned more in the past year and 9 months then we ever did in our years spent in college! So, throughout the process of starting your company, what is the most important thing you have learned?
Decide what you’re going to focus on. Don’t lose focus. Be positive. Be yourself. Learn from everything. Have fun!
Thanks Darren for being this week’s Wild Wednesday feature! It was great to connect with you at the trade show and I wish you the best of luck with your company!
That’s all for now,