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Can Baby Food Change the World?
A Review and Entrepreneurial Tips from The Earth’s Best Story
by Gail Bradney

 
   
 
   

When twin brother entrepreneurs Ron and Arnie Koss set out to create the first organic baby food company, they planned on changing the world.

With little business experience, no money, and a big dream, they launched Earth’s Best Baby Food, which revolutionized and empowered the organic foods movement and benefited hundreds of farmers and millions of babies.

In The Earth’s Best Story: A Bittersweet Tale of Twin Brothers Who Sparked an Organic Revolution (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010), the Koss brothers offer a lively and engaging look at how their unique bond as twins enabled them to overcome daunting business challenges on the way to creating the first nationally distributed organic food to sit next to its mainstream competitors on supermarket shelves.

Part colorful family biography, part how-to (and how-not-to) business book, The Earth’s Best Story takes readers for a wild ride in the entrepreneurial hot seat, from conception 25 years ago through its sale in 1996 to H.J. Heinz and to its present owner, The Hain-Celestial Group.

The book weaves together alternating accounts in each brother’s voice, starting from their humble beginnings in Vermont as sprout growers and broom makers. The story is a fascinating portrayal of twin brothers who had a dream and dared to challenge convention to achieve it. Along the way, readers get a rare inside view of how to start an environmentally and socially responsible company—from writing business plans and attracting angel investors, to forging supplier partnerships and attracting a team of people who share the vision through good times and bad.

Most of us take for granted the fact that we can go into mainstream supermarkets, meander over to the health food section, and buy organic produce, dairy, and ingredients that are chemical-free and grown without pesticides. But that is in large part due to the Koss brothers, who set out more than 20 years ago to change the way Americans ate and shopped. This book is a poignant reminder of what an idealistic individual with a vision can accomplish.

Here are 10 tips for launching your big idea by Ron and Arnie Koss, adapted from their new book, The Earth's Best Story.

Do you need prior business experience to launch a nationally successful company? Not necessarily. Do you have to compromise your socially and environmentally conscious ideals to be financially successful? Absolutely not.

It's not easy to build a start-up on a dream and a dime. But you can do it. We did, and despite some heartbreaking betrayals and great disappointments, we have never regretted it. Our company, Earth's Best Baby Food, revolutionized and empowered the organic foods movement and benefited hundreds of farmers and millions of babies.

Here are some tips for turning your business dream into a reality:

  1. Engage in brutally honest self-assessment. Consider the merits and timeliness of your idea and look introspectively at your motivation, goals, and commitment to the venture.

  2. Avoid avoidance. Recognize red flags, inner voices, twitches, and butterflies that surface momentarily as gifts--opportunities to "morph" now so as to succeed later.

  3. Determine what you are willing to risk. Draw some boundaries and carve out which assets you are willing to risk. Are your kids' college savings off limits? How about pledging your home as collateral? The clearer you are, the smarter you'll be in crunch time.

  4. Leverage your strengths and confront your limitations. Get to know your unique disposition (e.g., dreamer vs. detail oriented, marketer vs. number cruncher) and anticipate its optimal expression and location within the organization.

  5. Look beyond family for "angel investors." Getting family to invest may be easy, but easy may not be best. Family money may dull your alertness to the fact that you have failed to deliver a product that will attract others who do not share your DNA.

  6. Don't keep yourself isolated in a vacuum. Avoid going in endless circles and torturing yourself with "go nowhere" mental gyrations. Break out and talk with the smartest people you know. Network. Get perspective. Be curious.

  7. Trouble is inevitable, so face it head on. Strategize on how you're going to meet it. If this prospect is not exciting and doesn't galvanize you to be ready to work 24/7 or at least 12/6, your start-up fears might be your friends.

  8. Consciously engage. The more you let emotions and preconceived ideas (prejudices) get in the way of clear, conscious decisions--such as our stubborn attachment to Vermont as the best locale to start Earth's Best--the greater the risk to success.

  9. Keep the big picture in sight. The frame of the house doesn't make the home. Don't get so caught up in overcoming the obstacle in front of you that you neglect the magnitude of what remains to be accomplished.

  10. Resist low-balling capital needs. If you think asking for less makes you more attractive to angel investors, think again. And even if it does, trying to launch a business when you're undercapitalized often leads to premature pain, aging, and stock dilution for everyone, even angels.

       
   
 
       
   

The Authors

The Earth's Best Story

Ron and Arnie Koss, twin brothers and cofounders of Earth's Best Baby Foods, are the authors of The Earth's Best Story: A Bittersweet Tale of Twin Brothers Who Sparked an Organic Revolution (Chelsea Green Publishing, March 2010).

 
       
   
 
       
   
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