If you're looking for something delicious to put on your sandwich, look no further than the tasty treats being produced by Yumbutter, a Madison, Wisconsin based company that makes yummy, healthy, nutbutter potions. The company has a commitment to people and the planet and lives this out with its BuyOne|FeedOne program, as well as in its operations and daily practices. We recently had the chance to interview Adrian Reif, the company's founder and "Head Yumbutterologist" to discuss what it's like to start a company that cares, advice that he offers aspiring entrepreneurs, and what his big dream for the world is. (And, be sure to visit our site on Monday, when we'll have a very delicious Yumbutter giveaway!)
CPC: Tell us briefly about what led you to where you are now. Are you someone who has always had ideas or a desire to make a positive impact? Adrian: I once quipped, “I’m blessed by luck and naivety. I’m cursed by ambition, ideas, and attention deficit.”
Luckily, it’s not clinically diagnosed ADD, just the one common to many entrepreneurs. I’ve always been excited by ideas, but the transition toward impacting the world as responsibly as possible with those ideas was (and still is) a journey.
The journey began, incidentally, while writing a business plan. While working for a large bank I spent many nights and weekends researching the ins and outs of starting a carsharing company. It turns out that carsharing is a social enterprise with many benefits outside of making a bunch of money. Slowly, the values I’d been reading about released into my bloodstream, opening my worldview to new perspectives.
I really started thinking about my role on the planet. Is it right for me, an average American, to need five times the amount of land and resources to live compared to the rest of the world (20 acres versus 4.4)? Especially when most resources are finite? Unbelievably unsatisfied sitting in a cubicle, I quit my job where I was making $60,000 a year. I began thinking about business in the terms of impact on the environment and began working as an environmental strategy consultant.
Then, in 2009, I took the opportunity to teach English in southern China for part of the year and travel around Asia for the following seven months. The travel itself taught me how to live simply and humbly, but I was also abhorred to witness the environmental degradation in developing countries. As I gazed out the window of the myriad buses and trains, I wondered, What will become of this planet if these countries develop into spitting images of America?
When my plane touched down on U.S. soil in late 2009, I walked off with only $80, but with more passion for starting a company than ever - only now I knew it would embody my values and desire to make a positive impact on the world.
CPC: Why peanut butter? Why not sell organic T-shirts or help people recycle? Adrian: For two main reasons:
- First, it’s freakin’ awesome peanut butter! When I began churning my own peanut butter in my kitchen in Nashville the flavor blew me away. Then, I experimented with different combinations and I knew peanut butter could be a platform for creativity, health, and fun.
- Second, peanut butter allowed me to offer a consumable; something used daily that didn’t accumulate or end up in landfills. People need food and will always buy it. Why not buy it from the most responsible food company on the planet?
CPC: What makes Yumbutter different? Adrian: Yumbutter is made unlike any other peanut butter on the shelf. It’s churned homestyle, giving it a deeper texture and richer peanut taste. We get super creative with the ingredient combos, from chocolately-but-not-oversweet Dark Chocolate Delishe to savory-spicy-whoa Asian Jazz. And whenever you buy a jar of Yumbutter you directly help to feed a malnourished child through BuyOne|FeedOne. Currently, we’re focusing on Haiti, the country with the highest rate of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere.
As a company, we pride ourselves on being unconventional. For instance, our corporate priorities go above and beyond just measuring revenues and expenses and including the following as our Indicators of Success:
- Customers' health and well being
- Employees' health and happiness
- Social impact through our BuyOne|FeedOne model
- A new standard for our environmental footprint - aiming to be a closed-loop company
- Changing the status quo in the food system, i.e. bringing good food to more people and empowering farmers to grow healthy crops on healthy land the world over
CPC: What's been the most rewarding part of your work? Adrian: When I tell someone about our BuyOne|FeedOne model and their mouth drops a little and they say, “Wow, that’s awesome.” It gives me hope that we as a society are moving in the right direction.
CPC: What's been your biggest challenge? Adrian: The size and scale it takes to play the food game. It’s extremely difficult to compete with the big companies that couldn't care less about their customers’ health and ingredient quality. Yet, it’s exciting to see the rise of people who are willing to pay a little more to support small, responsible companies. It also motivates us to be able to compete with them someday.
CPC: What advice have you been telling people about starting a company that makes the world a better place? Adrian: Do it. Now.
CPC: What's your big dream for the world? Adrian: That everyone has the basic necessities. Then, once they do, that they have the same opportunities as you and me. Then, once they do, that they wake up each day and think how cool it is to wake up each day.
Be sure to tune in Monday for a very yummy Yumbutter giveaway!