Interview with Andrew Buerger, Co-Founder at B’more Organic
The founder series explores the minds of business owners and their journey to make a difference in their industry. We interview these business founders to understand the life lessons that mold them into who they are today. We also learn more about their company, their products or services, how they are different from their competitors, and the problems that they are trying to solve for their customers. The information that these business owners provide to us helps inform other entrepreneurs who are looking to make an impact in the business world. We all can take these lessons and apply them to our entrepreneurial journey. We want to thank every business owner who volunteered their time to participate in these interviews and share their knowledge with the community.
Great to meet you. Thank you for doing the interview. We want to know more about your journey, early struggles, success, and some wisdom that we can pass on to others who are interested in walking your footsteps toward becoming an entrepreneur. We know that being an entrepreneur is not all glory and fame, but there are hard times too. We believe that others who are interested in being a business owner can gain insight from other business founders like yourself. Again, we want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule. Let’s get this interview started!
Let us start off with some basic questions to learn more about who you are as a person.
Can you tell everyone your name, please?
Where did you go to school?
Undergrad Psychology at the University of Vermont and MBA at the University of Colorado
Can you give an example of an early lesson in life that helped shaped who you are today?
When I was six my sister, and I had a lemonade stand outside our house one day. We made and sold lemonade for hours. Towards the end of the day, a reporter from the local paper came by to take our picture. He said, “I heard you were donating the proceeds to the Community Chest.”
My father was on the local charity board and called the paper to tell them. I was surprised and became upset that I couldn’t keep the money. I never forgot that lesson though: a guy who gets free rent and lemonade mix shouldn’t be holding all the profits himself. Help others who don’t have that privilege. Today, we donate 1% of sales to help others.
We all have entrepreneurs whom we look up to in our industry. These business leaders help influence, shape, and drive our ambition to succeed. These entrepreneurs could be someone that we have worked with on a project or could be someone that we look up too from a distance. For example, Bill Gates is a big inspiration to me not only because of his work in Microsoft but his outstanding contributions to society.
Who would you consider to be a significant influence on you professionally and can you explain why?
Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, or TEaO as he calls himself. He created the first bottled organic tea with only a tiny amount of sugar. He innovated this category before anyone else.
He’s been very generous teaching me about the industry. He gave me a tour of his office early on. He talked about how sustainable the office was; how well they treat their tea farmers; how they donate to charity; and how they source organic ingredients with minimal impact on the earth. At the end of the tour, he took us to the sales department. There’s bell there that they ring every time they make a sale. Seth then said, “you can’t do all this without sales.” It was a great reminder of “no money; no mission.” The tour taught me two things. 1. It’s essential and necessary to be profitable. 2. You can do well by doing good.
Thank you for providing background on who you are as a person. I always find it fascinating to learn who a person is and their early life lessons. Let us move forward with the interview and discuss what you are doing now and how you are making a difference in your industry.
What is the name of your company?
Where is your company located?
What services or products does your organization provide?
We bottle organic protein smoothies with no added sugar. They’re made from skyr, an Icelandic-style strained yogurt.
What problem is your business trying to solve?
To provide a convenient meal on the go that’s free from added sugar and toxic chemicals.
How is your business unique against your competitors?
We provide a delicious organic protein with no added sugar. Most other brands are not organic or add sugar. That means we’re free from hormones and pesticides. We think ours taste better too.
How did the idea for your business come to fruition?
That’s a long, long story that you can read about on our website. In short, After so many of my close family members died young (mom 25; dad 58; sister 45), I became obsessed with eating right to prevent disease. I discovered skyr while on a fundraising climbing in Iceland and fell in love with the fantastic tasting Icelandic yogurt. It’s crazy high in protein and very low in sugar. I know then I wanted to make my own in a convenient drinkable version.
I knew nothing about the dairy industry and was resourceful enough to know my undergrad had an excellent dairy program. So, I called the school and asked them to introduce me to a dairy scientist. We were selling it in climbing gyms and yoga studios ten months later.
Where can people go on the web to learn more about your business?
Final question. We want to thank you for the interview. We have one last question to ask you about imparting some wisdom to future entrepreneurs.
What three tips would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out on their journey?
- Know your why. Start by knowing why you’re doing this, and not just to make money. Your employees don’t drive through snowstorms just for a paycheck. Our “why,” or mission, is to take a bite out of the disease. We make a VERY healthy product and donate 1% of sales to disease research. Everyone understands that — our employees, suppliers, and retailers. That’s what focuses everyone and keeps everyone motivated. When things get rough, or cash gets short, we go back to why we’re doing this. It gives us a reason to overcome any challenge — “When your ‘why’ is big enough, you can overcome almost any ‘how.’”
- Go fast and light. I learned a lot about life and business through my mountaineering experiences. I find it beneficial to climb fast & light sometimes. When you’re a small business, the best way to beat your competition is being faster to market or innovation than them. And, be very, very judicious with your spending.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Another lesson from climbing. I love a good bed and bathroom like everyone else. Also, I wouldn’t say I like the cold. Yet, I do a tough climb in the cold every year to get used to being uncomfortable. It’s similar to SEAL training — they put in you in dark, cold water for hours then roll you in the sand. They want you to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s important when things get rough, you’ve been in that position before and you know you can fight through it. You won’t quit. You may have to tell your bank you can’t make a payment, or go without a paycheck for a while; your spouse threatens to leave you because you work too much; the stress of maxing out your personal and business credits makes your kids think you’re always angry….This is the stuff they don’t teach you in business school, but you can expose yourself to it. Tim Ferris has some good suggestions in his book “The Four Hour Workweek.”