1908 Brands isn’t your first rodeo, so to speak. What prompted you to build another company from scratch? As Eco-Products transitioned from a distributor to a manufacturer of strictly compostable foodservice items, I didn’t want Boulder Clean to die or be discontinued, therefore I started National Eco Wholesale, otherwise known as NEW, in 2010 which had a big wholesale part of the business and also inherited Boulder Clean from Eco-Products. We ended up selling the wholesale part of the business to Honest Green in New York who subsequently sold it to UNFI. In any case, when we sold the wholesale part of our business in 2013, we changed our name to 1908 Brands, Inc. To answer the question more directly, I didn’t want Boulder Clean to die and I still had energy to build one more company.
What did you think you could do better this time—and did that happen? I am a lot more experienced with a lot more contacts. This definitely makes it easier, although the industry of natural foods is a lot more difficult than the foodservice industry. Branding is very hard and expensive.
What makes Boulder Clean a great brand? The single thing that sets Boulder Clean apart from our natural competitors is the efficacy of the product. We consistently test significantly higher than the natural competitors and often comparable or better than conventional brands.
When you are ready head out for a day at the office, are you bringing a briefcase or a backpack? I have a laptop that I put in my backpack every day. It either goes home with me or on my various work trips. It is literally part of my body, which is somewhat sad as well.
What is your philosophy or approach to running a business in today’s competitive environment? Yes, there are the boilerplate things like culture, communication, etc., but you must be very involved and work harder than anyone else in the company.
1908 Brands has a growing number of food lines. Do you see the company continuing in this direction more so than home care? Our first two brands were non-food (we sold CompoKeeper in 2017) then food brands. I do see us mostly sticking to food brands moving forward.
Maesa Koeber, founder/CEO of Gorgue (our November issue Indie Inc. profile) wants to know what are greatest perks of having an indie brand? The only perk is this is where the natural food and product industry is going. The new generations are looking for indie brands. With that said, starting a new business in this industry is very, very difficult. The big guys are in it and just look at the North Hall at Expo West, there are thousands of startups as well. You need to have a lot of money, time and energy to have a chance; not to mention the basics like an unique position in the marketplace.