I love how Arron has formed a company that is directly aligned with his values and his personal interests. While this is a story of a Veteran who founded a company, there is something for everyone in this story. First of all, I appreciate Arron’s example of someone who is always learning - from audio books, from YouTube videos, from peer groups - and using that to get better. I also admire how Arron is constantly walking the fine line between listening to customer feedback while also trusting his own vision and intuition.
Aaron is the Chief Grinder at Keto Butta, which isn’t about being part of a diet craze of just seeing a regular almond butter - it’s a fun, delicious and healthy way of living. He served in the US Army as a Telecommunications System Operator for over 9 years, and currently serves as the City Leader for Bunker Labs in Portland Oregon.
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The Leadership Podcast - Have you ever wondered how you could become a more effective and balanced leader? Or how to find a team with a high degree of trust that performs at a level you’re accustomed to? Check out The Leadership Podcast where they study what makes the best leaders tick - including many who have moved "beyond the uniform" to reach new levels of success and fulfillment.
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Vancouver, WA is Arron Barnes. Aaron is the Chief Grinder at Keto Butta, which isn’t about being part of a diet craze or just a regular almond butter - it’s a fun, delicious and healthy way of living. He served in the US Army as a Telecommunications System Operator for over 9 years, and currently serves as the City Leader for Bunker Labs in Portland Oregon.
What is Keto?
It’s a lifestyle - it’s a diet that consists of eating a lot of high quality fats mixed with some proteins and vegetables. There are hardly any carbs. This forces your body to use fat as fuel rather than carbs.
What lead you to the Keto diet?
Candida is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body. I was able to self-diagnose myself with candida and that pushed me to change my diet.
Whenever I would eat sugar, I would get a tingling sensation in my toes. At first, I thought it was gout. But then I got a burning sensation in my gut. There were a couple other symptoms as well. All those symptoms together indicated to me that I had candida. Candida feeds on sugar and carbs so I cut those out of my diet.
Did you notice a difference right away?
Yes - there was an immediate difference. I don’t think I went through what people refer to as ‘Keto Flu’. That’s what your body goes through when it is transitioning into eating Keto. I just immediately felt better.
What lead you to start your company?
I dropped about 14 pounds in a few weeks when I first started the keto diet. I was eating a lot of nuts but I was getting sick of that. So I decided to mix a lot of different ingredients into almond butter. I really loved it as a snack so I made the decision to start Keto Butta from there.
Where did you get the discipline to stick with the Keto diet?
I grew up in a very disciplined household. So that’s where it started. I made the decision as an adult that I wanted to be around to spend time with my wife and kids. That desire is where I get the discipline to stick with the Keto diet.
When I first started the Keto diet, I was able to test different foods and see what I was intolerant to. I noticed that gluten sugar really bothered my body. That pushed me to stick with the diet - I knew it was what was best for my body.
I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. If my parents were sick, I would appreciate it if they made the health changes they needed to to be around for a longer period of time. So I’m trying to do the same thing for my kids.
How did you get Keto Butta going?
I had originally started a juice business. I ran that for about three years. That got me interested in continuing on the entrepreneurship road.
Where you at as a business now?
The product is called Keto Butta. It’s very convenient for people on the go. Keto Butta products can serve as a meal replacement.
How did you get to this point?
When I first got started, I had to start with jars of the product. After a massive internet search, I was able to find single serve packaging.
I’m starting to hire co-packagers but until then, I package everything on my own.
One thing that’s important in entrepreneurship is finding a few mentors. Try to find a mentor that’s specifically in your product space. Entrepreneurs that have done things you haven’t done will tell you what worked and didn’t work for them. You can take some of what they’ve done and replicate that with your own business.
Are there any resources you would recommend to listeners?
You were in telecommunications before this. How did you make the shift from telecommunications to entrepreneurship?
My goal for being in the Army was to gain a skill that I could apply to life after the military. When I got out, the telecommunications field was booming so I was able to use my experience in the Army and apply it to what I did on the civilian side. There was a lot of on the job training. I got really thrown into the fire. Some of the clients we worked with were really tough. Working with them forced me to learn fast.
I left that job after 14 months and went to a startup called New Edge. Since it was a startup, there was no standard operating procedures. So people were just shooting from the hip a lot of the time. I was working a lot of night shifts and if something happened, it was kind of crazy to find who I needed to solve the problem. I had to work through a lot of those problems on my own.
That ability to learn on the fly has served me now that I’m an entrepreneur.
If someone wants to start a company, do you recommend working first after leaving the military or going straight into entrepreneurship?
About six months before I got out, I bought a computer and brushed up on my computer skills. I had an interview at Nike the night after I got out and other interviews while I was still in.
I recommend that you prepare as much as you can while you’re still in the military. Reach out to organizations like Bunker Labs, Patriot Boot Camp and IVMF. They have resources that can help you during your transition.
My experience in telecommunications helped me as I moved into entrepreneurship. When I was getting started with my juice business, I went to a lot of farmers markets. One of the other vendors told met hat he wasn’t very tech savvy. I was able to use telecommunications to help my own business as well as the businesses of other vendors that I knew.
When did you start your juice company?
Initially, I started it when I was working full-time in telecommunications. I bought some equipment and started going to local farmers markets. It was a great place to start but not stay. I was serving a premium product so it was hard to find a large market. In order to better reach my customers, I started bottling the juice and taking online orders.
Brian Tracy has been an entrepreneur for a long time. He said that discipline is most important for success in entrepreneurship. I would also add that it’s important to pay attention to the market and environment in which you exist. Find your niche and create the product to serve that group.
Can you talk about the peer group you’re a part of?
It’s a group of entrepreneurs based in Portland, OR. It started in 2000 as seven business owners that got together to share resources and ideas. I’ve been selected for the 2019 cohort and I’ve gained some great connections through that group.
What is your advice for veterans that want to start a business?
It will cost you more and take you longer than you think to get started. You can find success, though. Surround yourself with good people and mentors.
How do you fund your business?
Growing up my dad and brother had rental properties. I knew that at some point, I wanted to get into rental property as well.
When I started the juice business, I was working in telecommunications. Eventually I got laid off. There’s a program in Washington State that connects you to the Chamber of Commerce and helps you build your business. So after I left the telecommunications business, I connected with those resources. I also owned a couple rental properties so there was money coming in there. Those properties have allowed me to focus full-time on my business.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share with listeners?
The Keto diet was started back in 1920 as a measure to help people with epilepsy. It worked very well. A lot of illness in the world comes from what we put in our mouth. So I encourage people to check in on a daily basis with what you’re putting in your body.