John's interview in GoSolo by Subkit August 17, 2023.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cibare (pronounced che-bar-ē) means "to nourish" in Italian, which aligns with our mission of providing clean, delicious, nutritious snack bars to busy, health-conscious consumers. Our bars are plant-based with zero added sugars or sugar-like substitutes and 1 billion probiotics to support immune function, digestion, and protein utilization. We are gluten-free, non-GMO, and Vegan.
What makes Cibáre so different from the many other bars out there? Two words: Taste and Texture. Most bars on the market are too firm and dense and have a terrible aftertaste. Cibáre uses only organic dates as the primary sweetener in our bars. Stevia, monk fruit, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, or any of the other sweeteners so common in many other bars are not used. At Cibáre, we discovered the perfect balance between protein, nuts, and dates, which results in a velvety soft texture. We believe a Ph.D. in Food Science shouldn't be required to understand the ingredients in our food, and if our customers need to Google our ingredients, we've done something wrong. The simpler, the better.
Our customers are sophisticated, informed consumers who read food labels. They understand the benefits of healthy, delicious, plant-based, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free foods. They enjoy an active lifestyle with activities that promote health and fitness. They are runners, swimmers, bikers, hikers, skiers, and surfers. They are yoga, pilates, HIIT, and CrossFit enthusiasts. They enjoy recreational sports, take care of their bodies, embrace the outdoors, and respect and value nature.
Tell us about yourself
Ten years ago, I was working in technology for a California utility and taking a lunchtime HIIT class. One day, a few people brought protein bars to the class. I understood the benefits protein plays in muscle building and recovery, so I gave one a try. In a nutshell, it was awful. Over the next few classes, I tried a second and third, hoping for an improvement, but the disappointment continued. They were either too chalky or brittle; some had a weird aftertaste, but most just tasted artificial.
Well, I've always been comfortable in the kitchen, so I decided to make my own bar. I started playing around with different protein powders, nut butter, and fruits until I arrived at a texture and taste I liked. This didn't happen overnight; however, with time, patience, and a lot of sampling, I eventually arrived at a formula that was delicious and had a nice creamy texture. At first, I was making the bars for myself and my family, but eventually started offering them to friends, gym partners, and co-workers. In 2020, my daughter Maddy persuaded me to bring them to market with the addition of one billion probiotics. And last September, Maddy and I, as father/daughter co-founders, launched Cibáre.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm extremely proud of the brand we've created at Cibáre. We spent a lot of time discussing our values as entrepreneurs and how to present them through Cibáre. Our packaging is approachable and friendly and reflects our love of the outdoors. Seeing our first run of production bars come off the line and into our branded caddies was very rewarding. We just went through our second production run and are now in a small number of specialty grocers in California. We have a product roadmap we are very excited about, but the biggest accomplishment comes back to the family. At its most basic level, Cibáre will always be a family brand, and I am fortunate to have a brilliant co-founder and product development expert on my team, who happens to be my daughter.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I spent my entire career in the corporate world, so launching a new business and becoming a business owner is a tremendous challenge. Everything, from navigating the multitude of complexities with structuring the business, marketing, sales, and order fulfillment, was a learning opportunity.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, recognize that there aren't any playbooks or roadmaps explaining how to start, run and grow a business. Understand that there could be more than one way to achieve an objective. The path we've taken with Cibáre might be completely different than that of another company.
Second, accept that you are going to have setbacks. Try to minimize the impact of setbacks by looking ahead and anticipating obstacles before they are upon you. Don't dwell on past failures or disappointments, but learn from them, adjust your strategy, and try again.
Third, surround yourself with smart people who you trust, whether it's a mentor, friend, colleague, spouse, family member (daughters are great for this :-), etc. Join an online community and build your network. You'd be surprised how many other entrepreneurs have faced the same questions and are eager to help.