“Kicking ass and saving grains! Why disrupting industries starts from within.”

 

Seth Hillstrom (Seth): 

We are so lucky to be celebrating International Women’s Day by interviewing such an inspiring entrepreneur, disruptor, and visionary in Sarah Pool, Co-founder and CEO at Canvas.

We’re talking about “Kicking ass and saving grains! Why disrupting industries starts from within.”  And for anyone new to our eBev Interviews…don’t hesitate to chime in.   Sarah, thanks so much for joining us today! 

Sarah Pool (Sarah):

Thanks so much for the opportunity to join, Seth! We’re super excited to be here today.

Seth:

Sarah, at one point you’re a successful financial professional, busy managing wealth for the business elites in Boston. Fast forward a few years and you’re leading a rapidly growing superfoods company that you founded – Pacific Superfood Snacks. And certainly worth noting is that you built and sold your original brand (Pacific Northwest Kale Chips) in just over two years. Now, you were recently charged with solving a sustainability and efficiency issue that has plagued brewing for hundreds of years – by the growth & disruption arm of the biggest beer company in the world. And honestly, you might have already done it. Wow. Lots of questions!

First one: I don’t believe anyone could be this successful at architecting disruptive healthy brands without being the real deal. What drove you out of finance and into super foods (and drinks)?

Sarah:

For sure, Seth! I entered the finance world because I was an athlete in college (and all growing up), and was seeking an environment with the same ethos…pushing the limits, maximizing potential, maximizing impact, an environment where you had to compete really hard but really well (smart)…a “whatever it takes/find a way” ethos. I experienced all of that above and more in finance, and learned all of the tools I needed to launch a company of my own. My passions collided while competing in triathlons and marathons, adopting a strict plant-based diet and realizing the lack of truly healthy food options on the market. It very quickly became a calling to bring healthy snack foods to the masses and impact people’s well-being through real nutrition.

Seth:

Awesome! So it seems like since you made the transition, you’ve been building brands around something you feel good about, something you’re passionate about, and something you’re hoping your consumer is going to have a lot of passion for themselves…how does that impact your strategy in defining the brand itself and how you find your fans/go to market?

Sarah:

It’s a great question, Seth! And can be a bit tricky at times. First, you can’t be something you’re not — so if you’re trying to be passionate about an idea or present yourself as something that’s not true to who you are, it’s going to be hard to sustain that message over the long haul (and even short haul) and easy for customers to realize the inauthenticity. Passion isn’t everything, but it’s such a massive part of the equation — who wants to be a part of something that the founders or leaders aren’t totally die-hard about? It’s the brands that are absolutely fanatical about what they’re doing that are able to create a ‘movement’ of advocates around them.

The second piece of that is, how many advocates are in the market for the product or service you’re offering. This may not matter if it’s just a passion project, but it does matter if you’re trying to build a global market. Then it’s a matter of getting really smart about how and where and to whom you’re delivering your messaging to — what does that unique segment (of many segments) specifically need to hear from you? We try to do the second part really smart, but it’s always coming from a place of complete fanaticism/belief/passion about what we are creating.

Seth:

That’s a really tight, cohesive, well-planned approach to thinking about how to go about activating advocates. Love it!

Okay, now I’d like to unpack my own statement about you solving a major sustainability concern that’s always plagued brewing. Just over a year ago ZX Ventures asked you to tackle the issue of the remaining barley fiber that generally goes to waste after it’s had its starches brewed into a beer – which for anyone who doesn’t know, is a MASSIVE amount of waste each year (hence the “Kicking ass and saving grains!”) …Can you tell us a little more about the situation that existed, and how you began to approach such a tall order?

Sarah:

Yes, to be fair — the tall order was achieved by a brilliant team of food scientists and engineers from Anheuser-Busch InBev and key external partners at university and beyond. It was an impossible idea — to save spent grain. It hadn’t been done before and there was an incredible amount of unknowns. There is a particular food scientist and big dreamer by the name of Jorge Gil-Martínez who was determined to find a way, and did so — despite all odds. My responsibility was to then take the saved spent grain and turn it into something that provided an incredible benefit to people, and that’s when Canvas was born. A prebiotic fiber + plant protein beverage made from remarkable, real food ingredients (barley, coconut, cashews, herbs, and spices). Each bottle contains 39% DV of fiber (when only 3% of the U.S. population is getting the daily recommended intake). There’s nothing out there like it and it’s amazing to be able to give a second life to the beautiful barley grain. It’s been a life-changing endeavor with so many people from so many different areas involved in bringing it to life. A true team effort.

Seth:

This is a truly amazing story! So credit where it’s due to Anheuser-Busch InBev and Jorge…And wow what an outcome. I can only imagine the implications of this process for underdeveloped regions of the world.

Sarah:

Exactly, Seth! Just scratching the surface of what’s possible!

The dream of a scientist is nothing without the surrounding of the right multidisciplinary team. This story is awesome, and it’s just the beginning!!! So proud and thankful Sarah Pool!

Seth:

Not surprisingly, you were able to find a lot of people just as passionate about this problem/solution, and the efficacy of Canvas – which packs an insane eleven (11) grams of fiber to go along with its eight (8) grams of plant protein per serving – and you crowd-funded the launch through Kickstarter. Having done it, what would you say you learned from launching a brand this way vs. the more traditional investment model? Were you able to garner more love from consumers through participation and/or better insights?

Sarah:

Another great question, Seth! Yes, exactly…that was the goal. This dream was never about us. It was about building something that could impact the health of people globally and to do that side-by-side with customers. We wanted to bring as many people as possible with us on this journey from the beginning because we all know we are better together and that what we could create collectively was so much greater than what we could achieve individually. Each and every person who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign has had a hand in the making of Canvas and bringing something incredibly special to life, from feedback on how we can improve, to encouragement about the unique aspects of what makes it great, and inspiring a greater ethos around food, nutrition, and new technologies that contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Seth:

That’s a really cool way of inspiring passion in your advocates. …Now that it’s been 9 months or so since the Kickstarter launch, what key marketing initiatives are you focused on for Canvas? Are you going wide and generating broad awareness/spreading the word – or are you more focused on building out from a core of passionate fans?

Sarah:

Absolutely, Seth! You’ll be seeing Canvas all up and down the West Coast over the next 3 months. We’re simultaneously working on some key partnerships that will make Canvas available nationally over the next 12 months. In the meantime, you can find us online at www.drinkcanvas.com and for all of your followers, here’s a 15% coupon code: PREBIOTICS

Seth:

AWESOME! I like that bifurcated approach and I’m glad to hear it’s going well. Alright then west-coasters…you’re up first in stores! And for those of us on the east, we’ll have to settle for the convenience of having it delivered right to our doors.

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! You’ve really blazed a hell of a path, and we’re so excited to follow along to see what comes next for you and Canvas!

 

For questions or comments please visit: 

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6377573368308264960

Leave A Comment