In this episode, we’re joined by Myles Powell, Founder, and CEO of 8 Myles, a popular and fast-growing line of gourmet mac and cheese.
His story is truly inspiring. Myles was a civil engineer. But he wanted to fulfill his passion for cooking and experimented with different ingredients and recipes.
Having no experience or connections, Myles launched the food company 8 Myles. He started selling barbecue sauces but soon moved to mac and cheese.
Myles learned the hard way. He struggled to quit his engineering job, dealt with constant stress, and didn’t know how to grow a business. Now, 8 Myles is featured in Target, Whole Foods, and many other stores throughout the country.
Discover more about Myles’ entrepreneurship story by listening to the podcast episode.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement. The podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
Ken: In today’s episode. I speak with Myles Powell, Founder and CEO of 8 Myles. Popular and fast growing line of gourmet mac and cheese. Myles tells us about his pivot from selling barbecue sauces at Farmer’s Markets to actually selling the mac and cheese he was making to showcase his sauces. He talks about the struggle of knowing when to quit your job and the mental anguish it took to make that decision and then be forced to make it again a couple of years later. He also shares with us how he was able to take advantage of the open shelf space made possible through the effects of the COVID pandemic on the supply chain and how he used that to get his product into popular retailers like Target and Whole Foods. I wish I had another hour or two to talk to Myles. He is an inspiring entrepreneur with a lot to share. Enjoy the episode!
Ken: Yeah. Hey Myles. How are you doing? Thanks for jumping on for sure. Glad that. Hey, I’m really, I’ve been looking forward to talking to you. I know that you guys have had some success here in the last couple of years and you’ve got an interesting story.
Ken: So I think it’s going to be awesome for the listeners. We like to kick off the podcast with just a quote, maybe something that’s inspiring to you or is motivational to you. Do you have one in mind that you could share?
Myles: Yeah. And it’s actually, maybe the quote, they actually got me started with the business and that quote is I’m interested in this, right.
Myles: It’s not why, why not? So essentially it’s, you know, instead of trying to figure out why you shouldn’t do it or, you know, think about. You know, what stopped you from actually doing it? So it’s sort of like a, it’s a small play on words, but it’s meant to encourage decisions.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And I’d say it’s also, I think it, it engages your mind in a different way.
Ken: Right. Rather than just looking at the obstacles, you know, your mind is much more creative than you think. And so when you start asking that question, I think you start coming up with some now. Exactly. Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s great. so for those who don’t know, you don’t know your business. Do you mind just giving us a little bit of a background?
Myles: Sure. My name is Myles Powell. I’m the Founder and CEO of 8 Myles. We’re a manufacturer of gourmet comfort food currently specializing in premium mac and cheese. We sell it frozen,to retailers, across the region.
Ken: Okay, cool. I have to ask about the name 8 Myles. Where’d that come from?
Myles: So every time I get that question, you know, folks will say, are you from Detroit, say, no, I’m from Philly originally, but you know, so I’m a sucker for any kind of motivational movie.
Myles: and 8 Myles. The movie actually fits that bill pretty well. And I’m pretty sure when I was thinking of starting a company, I must have just watched a movie. it just felt like it stuck being, my name was Myles, you know, and their plan originally was to create, eight different types of barbecue sauces at the time barbecue sauces.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. I love that movie. the M and M story, of course, for those who haven’t, you know, maybe haven’t watched it. it is pretty inspiring to see kind of his journey and his come up and struggle. so, but you’re not from Detroit.
Myles: No. I’ve never been Detroit.
Ken: What part of Philly are you from?
Myles: so it’s a Delaware county, which is the next county right outside of the airport, essentially.
Myles: So, yeah, I lived there until I went to college, university of Delaware
Ken: okay. Cool. So, you know, you mentioned the barbecue sauces business. Was that actually something that you launched or was that just an idea?
Myles: Yeah, actually launched it. So, what happened was after I graduated college, I moved out from my first engineering job and it was around this time that I really started to experiment in the kitchen.
Myles: I grew up. Family of foodies and everyone cooked. And so I always loved really good soul food, comfort food, and barbecue, all that good stuff. And so when I was finally, you know, I’ll call myself a quote unquote adult, my first real time full-time job. And, you know, after work, I wanted to channel that passion that I had grown up with and started just experimenting with different types of salsas and.
Myles: Actually created a, you know, barbecue sauce that I thought was amazing. and I sent it out to friends. The friends loved it. And you know, at this time, I wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with my job. you know, I was an engineer by trade, but I wanted to do something different. And because what kind of engineering were you a civil engineer?
Myles: So I was working kind of on the utility side doing kind of project management, but you know, it didn’t feed my, my, my passion. Right. So that’s when I decided to, I wanted to launch a food company.
Ken: Yeah. You know, so let’s double click on that a little bit. I’m always interested in these points of transition, right?
Ken: So you’re going down one track and, but you’ve, you know, you’ve got this thing that you’re doing on the side a little bit, you’ve got this passion for food and you know, you come from a family of foodies, you know, it’s not easy to make that kind of choice. Right. You went to school, obviously for engineering, I’m assuming.
Ken: And so everything’s taking you down one track, but you chose. You hit the brakes and then completely change lanes. How did you, you know, just add a little bit more color to what that decision was like. and if it was something that was difficult for you
Myles: Yeah. So throughout college and even before college and high school, right?
Myles: I mean, I was really motivated to become a successful engineer. And once I graduated, I was really excited to work, you know, get a paycheck and become a, I call it a real human being. And, and I remember my second day of my new job, which, you know, I didn’t know anything about yet. I’m still trying to get my feet wet.
Myles: And I came into the office, sat down to my cube. It must’ve been maybe an hour later, about 9:00 AM. It just hit me. Like, I mean, it hit me hard and I said, man, I have to do this for 40 years. And I couldn’t really fathom it. And I said, there’s no way. There’s no way I can do this consistently for 40 years straight.
Myles: And I think that was a spark that told myself, I need to find a way to do something else. And at that point, I, I was, I had already planned to start going to grad school later. I had a strong interest in business. And as I mentioned before, like I always loved to cook and especially eat. And I started to say, you know what, maybe I can tie those two together, and figure out a way to pursue my passion now while still working as an engineer because I had to pay bills.
Myles: But I had told myself that one day, I want to make that strong pivot to being focused on food. A hundred percent.
Ken: Nice. Yeah. You know, I had a similar, you know, I was going down the medical route and taking all my pre-med classes and, you know, I was planning on being a doctor and kind of had the same thing where I looked down that road.
Ken: And I said, am I really going to be happy in a hospital? You know, in doctors. You know, for the next 40 years of my life and for me it was no. And so I kind of went with my passion to which, for me it’s business and like, technical stuff like programming, you know, the tech side. so yours was business and like food.
Ken: So let’s take the story from there. What was your next move? You know, you start going down that route.
Myles: So, you know, and this is where I was living at the time. it was in Harrisburg. And I didn’t have a, I didn’t have a large social network out there. And so I had a lot of time, and you know, I wanted to, and I didn’t like idle time.
Myles: I think that came from actually my engineering program. just always studying, always doing something. Right. So when you put me in a situation where it’s like, you know, there’s dead space, I’ll call it. I wanted to fill it up. And, I started cooking just to play around in the kitchen.
Myles: And I had told myself. I want to create a recipe book. I wonder if you have a cookbook. I’m sorry. I didn’t know how to do that. And so I decided I could think of someone. I knew it told me you should start a food blog and this is 2012. So this is before Instagram was the way it is now. And, you know, social media in general.
Myles: I mean, it was really just Facebook that was running the show. So I started a food blog and just started posting recipes. And, over the course of about a year, you know, got a little attention here and there, nothing significant, but it really just kept fueling my passion. And then the key point was about a year after doing that, I applied at random to a casting call.
Myles: but I think the food network put out a casting call saying, you know, calling all home chefs to this new competition series, you know, apply here. And that quote that I mentioned earlier, You know, the why, you know, not why not? That was what encouraged me and a friend of mine who echoed the quote to go ahead and apply.
Myles: So I applied to this casting call with my blog. That’s kind of, I guess, proof of concept. And they got back to me and said, Hey, we will, this is interesting. We want to interview you. We had the interview, we had a couple of interviews, a couple of, you know, meet and greets over the phone. And then they said, Hey, we want you on this.
Ken: Very cool. So no professional training, you know, in terms of being able to cook, did you have a product at the time or did you have anything other than the blog?
Myles: No, just the blog. I had just. Really toying with his barbecue sauce idea. But I mean, I was just a recipe itself. There was no business at all.
Myles: And yeah, the guy, you know, I just went to, I went on this show. and it’s funny because it’s the show where they don’t tell you anything upfront, you know, you’re going into. And it turns out that it was a competition series where you’re competing with, you know, 20 other chefs and they cast it. They cast me as the underdog being, I was at the time, like 22 years old.
Myles: and I was competing with folks that have been cooking for like 15, 20 years. Needless to say, I didn’t do well. the show was called America’s best cook. So, I flamed out pretty quick, but I’ll tell you that experience alone was like my, I came home and I remember I got home late, woke up the next day and it felt like a dream.
Myles: I was like, I can’t believe that happened. I think there’s food things where I belong.
Ken: Oh, that’s cool. Well, you know, I’m thinking about it, like you’re competing against other chefs, you know, even just the term chefs, you know, did you consider yourself a chef at the time? Not even close. Well, Hey, sounds good though.
Ken: you know, you mentioned that it led you to kind of realize that this is what you wanted to do. What was it about the show or that experience that led to that?
Myles: I think even though I didn’t do well, I think just being around food, I think, you know, and knowing like that I was presented the opportunity just made me feel that, you know, everything was kind of sh was telling, you know, the life was telling me that you should pursue food.
Myles: the fact that I was even on the show and as nervous as I was that I thoroughly enjoyed it. And there that just kind of threw up my passion and I said, this is the path that I want to take.
Ken: That’s pretty cool. and so did that lead to any sort of external results in terms of, you know, like more traffic to your blog or, you know, any, doors open up to you, based on your experience on the show?
Myles: you know, I was on TV for a brief second, but I. I think it did help blog traffic, but nothing substantial came out of it, kind of a short burst here and there. And you know, but it’s funny. Cause right when that happened, I was actually in grad school too. And being in business clubs, these business classes and then the food network thing happening.
Myles: And it just felt like the world was aligning to say, you need to start your food company. And at that point I really started to put together the pieces of how. Okay.
Ken: Awesome. Well, yeah, let’s take the story from there. Okay. What was the next move?
Myles: Yeah, so then it was just, it was me and Google. Right.
Myles: Just trying to figure out how to start a company. Cause I, you know, I didn’t have a network of entrepreneurs. I didn’t know anyone doing this, so I was just trying to figure it out. and I think it took me about maybe six to nine months after that experience to really understand. At least what I thought at the time said, okay, this is I’m going to start a business.
Myles: And, I came up with the name 8 Myles and I said, you know, I’ve got these barbecue sauces. My friends love the ones that I just got, you know, it’s unique to the market. I’m going to, I’m going to launch this thing. So I hired a branding person. you know, I, you know, one of the contractors I found online, we worked together for about three years.
Myles: put together a logo and label all that goodstuff and, launched the company. This is May of 2018.
Ken: Okay. Cool. So, it was called 8 Myles, like so 8 Myles was a name that you had for the barbecue online. I’m looking on your website now, do you still sell barbecue sauce?
Myles: I don’t so right.
Myles: I mean, there’s a couple of small stores in the DC area that still carry it, but primarily the sauces are used for internal production. I use our Buffalo and our barbecue sauce for our Mac and cheese.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. So let’s, let’s kind of connect the dots. How did you come to Mac and cheese?
Myles: Yeah, so I was doing the sauces for a couple of years.
Myles: I actually moved to DC, and by the way, I’m still working as an engineer, you know,8 Myles is still a side hustle. cause I’m still not ready to make that leap yet. Still trying to figure things out. I moved to DC, got a new job down here, two months into the new job. I quit. You know,
Ken: So you moved for the new job and then two months until you quit.
Myles: So I primarily moved for 8 Myles and personal. like I mentioned, I was in a kind of a rural area. I wanted to live in a city. Hadn’t really done that yet. it was 25, I went to explore a bit more. And so moved down here, you know, got a job down here. And then yet two months in, I decided this job is really holding me back and the really stressful, I didn’t like who I was working with.
Myles: and I just, you know, I said, I need to try something drastic. I was two and a half years in the 8 Myles and I said, this is the time I’m going to just risk it all. So I quit the job and focused on 8 Myles full time. I’m still doing barbecue offices and still didn’t know much. Right. I’m still trying to figure everything out.
Myles: You know, and thinking back to what I thought, I knew them completely wrong. Right. I didn’t know any better. and so I was, you know, someone, I was doing 8 Myles full time. I was tending to focus on the wrong areas and quickly realize how expensive living was in DC. Ended up picking up about three part-time jobs, and slowly growing the business.
Myles: But now we’re close to what I wanted to see. And, It was about maybe a year after that I decided to get another full-time job in engineering. you know, it sucks cause it was, it felt like a step back, but I needed the money. Right. I had to live. So, went back into full-time work and it was around that time.
Myles: I felt like barbecue sauce. Wasn’t the end all be all. I was doing a lot of farmer’s markets at the time and, you know, pop up events and what I realized. People like barbecue sauce, but if you’re doing a farmer’s market at 10 in the morning, no one’s buying barbecue sauce, but they are buying things that they can eat on the spot.
Myles: And I was tons of Becker’s crush, like they were selling hot, ready food. So I started making food to pair up my sauces and people loved it, especially the Mac and cheese. And that’s when I had that kind of, that spark of, oh, I should sell this Mac and cheese. It’s something I grew up on. People love it. I can incorporate my sauces.
Myles: I want to do that. And so, 2018, he hits and I decided. Pivot and focus on Mac and cheese instead of the barbecue sauce.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. There’s a lot to unpack there. you mentioned, you know, this step, you know, what felt like a step back, right? and that, you know, you have this passion you want to really get this business off the ground, you know, but it’s not quite there.
Ken: And you still need to live. Right. you know, and I wanted to double click on that just because I think a lot of entrepreneurs find themselves in that situation. I actually think that’s very common. Right. Um you’re trying to make, in other ways, What I actually don’t like is when people paint that journey, like astraight line and the like, it’s like, everything is up into the right.
Ken: And that’s how it worked out. I think you do a disservice to a lot of other entrepreneurs that are trying to come up and that are coming up behind you to make them think that’s how it is. Right. Right. I think the way you described it as actually much more. You know, what was it specifically, do you think that felt like a step back, you know, and kind of where were you mentally and emotionally at the, at that point?
Myles: I mean, it was really hard. So it was hard on both ends, right? It was hard to quit my job because, it was a good paying job, even though I hated it. Right. It was still a good paying job. I remember, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I decided to quit. I actually had the conversation with my parents first and they agreed, you know, they said, Hey, we’ll help.
Myles: We’ll help how we can. I had some savings at the time, but it was July 4th. Where I was actually watching fireworks with my friends and I was telling them about my decision and I was still really nervous about it, kind of unsure. And they encouraged me to kind of follow my gut. And so I texted my boss that night and I said, Hey, we have to talk in the morning.
Myles: And that’s, that’s like the universal sign to your supervisor. I’m going to quit. Right. And so, I probably stared at that text message for an hour before I sent it. Cause it was like, I can’t believe I’m going to send this. I felt because I would work all day, come home stressed and I couldn’t do the things I wanted to help grow the business.
Myles: And I said, well, if I try this, it doesn’t work. I can probably get another job. And not that I thought that would happen, but I want him to see and try. And then unfortunately, you know, after six months, you know, My bank accounts. I’m like, I have to get a full ID, another job. I can’t survive like this. And so, and then you’re right.
Myles: I was, I didn’t understand how to grow a business. My first one, a lot of entrepreneurs you hear about are successful. It’s not their first attempt at a business, right? So much to learn and it takes a while to learn some of this stuff. And I learned the hard way, and that’s why I ended up getting another job because I didn’t do it the way I should.
Ken: Well, you obviously did something, right? Because you guys have had a lot of success since then. I want to double-click on the decision to start making Mac and cheese, you know? And so you mentioned that you are at these farmer’s markets and you’re looking around and seeing people crush it with hot and ready food, how long between.
Ken: Like observing that to actually whipping up some Mac and cheese and showing up at the next farmer’s market with your Mac and cheese,
Myles: I would say a couple of months. it didn’t take long because I mean, these farmer’s markets, people, some people don’t understand they’re grueling. especially in the fall when it gets cold during the mornings, when you’re out there at six in the morning, You’re not closing up till two o’clock in the afternoon, you’re home by four it’s a long day and it’s a Saturday, right?
Myles: So you worked all weekend and you’re doing that. I think after my first attempt at bringing in, like, I used to do chicken wings too and back, and I think seeing the difference in sales that I had, who was a spark of like, okay, this is a business where it’s at, you know? right. But I didn’t, I mean, once again you know, I was at a farmer’s market, which is a lot different than retail. So it was pretty, it was hard, it was a learning curve to figuring out how to do a package. Good. That’s not a barbecue sauce. and that’s actually, when I linked up with an incubator, food accelerator program in DC, and I know they said, Hey, we’re going to help you launch or relaunch or pivot your business to focus on a, frozen food, as opposed to what you’ve been doing, which is a Barbecue sauce.
Ken: Okay. How did you find out about this incubator?
Myles: they found me actually at an event that I was selling the Mac and cheese, you know, I had, I kind of, I packaged it for and frozen and sold it, but it was jenky, right. It was like an aluminum tin with little cover on top. Just something that could be present.
Myles: I did my own label and I think they saw the potential in it and they reached out and said, Hey, we would love for you to join our program. And then. I said, well, I couldn’t, you know, being that I tried and I tried to scale the barbecue sauce without any sort of help. And I looked at it as like, well, I could probably use some assistance in an area I know nothing about, so.
Ken: Yeah, I love your website. It says a wise man once told me you make the best Mac and cheese I’ve ever tasted. you were obviously getting some great feedback, and probably primarily at these farmer’s markets, right about the Mac and cheese. So, you know, it sounds like, okay, in your head, you’re still selling barbecue sauce, right?
Ken: Like you’re showing up there and then you’re starting to showcase your sauces with chicken wings and Mac and cheese. Yep. When was it that you decided, Hey, wait, Mac and cheese can actually be the business,
Myles: 2018. I think at that point, I really felt like barbecue sauce. Wasn’t doing it for me.
Myles: And the feedback I was getting to the Mac and cheese is a lot better because at one point I started selling the Mac too at the same store. I had some barbecue sauce too. And the Mac and cheese moved like four times better. So that’s when I decided, okay, this is probably a better product.
Ken: So it doesn’t sound like it was that tough of a decision.
Ken: I mean, it sounds like, you know, moving and sort of getting pulled by the. Tell you, Hey, wait a minute. There’s something here.
Myles: Yeah, it was, for me, it was an easier decision. It just, you know, when you know, you know, it just feels better. I said, yeah, this direction, I want to take it in.
Myles: and then I looked at the landscape. So for instance, with barbecue sauce, that whole section of the grocery store is pretty tightly controlled by a couple of big players with frozen Mac and cheese. It’s. I mean, it’s still, there’s still a lot of competition, but there’s not as much competition.
Myles: and I’m not even talking about crap. That’s the thing too. Like when you talk about the number one Mac and cheese maker in the world, Kraft, Mac and cheese, and you know, no offense, it’s crap, right? It’s if they’ve been around since the stone ages, you know, it’s not premium as, you know, you know what you get, right.
Myles: And I say, well, if I come with a real Mac and cheese, it’s going to blow it out the way. So that’s what, and it just felt like there was more opportunity.
Ken: Okay. Cool. Were you concerned at all about the fact that it was frozen and so, you know, keeping, keeping it, good and distribution and stuff, there’s a lot of challenges around, you know, havinga frozen product as opposed to something that could just sit on the shelf.
Ken: Were you concerned about that at all?
Myles: No. I should have been, but that’s it though. That’s been, it’s all about the learning curve, right? There’s certain things you don’t think about because you don’t know, you just think about. I’m kinda just, I’m plowing ahead. And as these things come up, I think about them, but a lot of it’s not pre-planned and not as, and it’s not like I’m being stubborn.
Myles: It’s just, I didn’t, it’s not in my thought process. Right. and plus, as a solo entrepreneur, you know, you don’t have a team you’re juggling so much, you’re going to have so much that falls through the cracks that you’re going to kind of be privy too late. and so really the launch of the Mac was based on.
Myles: Partly instinct. you know, at this point I’ve been around for a little bit, so I have some folks that I can talk to about it and they’re helping me out. But a lot of this is kind of.
Ken: Right. Well, and the truth is that’s how, you know, I think everybody feels like, Hey, I’m doing it wrong. Or, you know, other entrepreneurs know so much more than I do, but the truth is it’s like that this is how everybody does it.
Ken: You know, you kind of cross that bridge when you get there. Right. yeah, one term that I, that I hear, you know, at least I heard somebody say and I think about a lot is, you know, don’t be one of those people that waits for all the lights to be green before you leave the house. Right. Like that is, that doesn’t make sense.
Ken: And in entrepreneurship and in business, you know, you know that they’re okay. There’s some vague challenge in the future that I’m going to have to figure out, you know, distribution of the frozen food. Right. But for right now, I’ve got to focus on these most pressing matters and then. I will handle that later.
Ken: Right? At least based on my experience and people that I’ve talked to, you know, that is kind of the way you do it. You know, you weren’t doing it wrong. You were doing it.
Myles: Yeah, I think it was Mark Cuban. I’m sure he borrowed it. But he used to say a lot of entrepreneurs suffer from paralysis by analysis, where there’s a waiting for everything to line up before they make that move.
Myles: Sometimes it takes, and sometimes that’ll never happen, which means you’ll never make that move. And that’s actually why. I took that first jump of faith because in my brain, initially, it was like, okay, once I get this contract or like this sales agreement or whatever, it’ll catapult me to the next level.
Myles: I’ll quit. But the work you have to put in to get there, you might need to quit beforehand. And I think that’s the hardest decision that a lot of us have to make where it’s like, I’m not there yet, but if I put everything I have, and so it, hopefully I get there, but it’s not.
Ken: Right. Okay. So you had this product, it sounds like you were in a couple stores, you started selling it to the people that you were initially selling your barbecue sauce to, you know, talk to us just a little bit about distribution, you know, how you got into other stores and then, you know, I’d love for you to spend a little bit of time talking about how you got into the target, how that lined up.
Myles: Sure. So at this point I’m starting to build. Contact lists call it, people in the industry. Right. I don’t feel as alone as I did before I’m working with this incubator program. And my first goal was to get linked with a distributor because I hadn’t had one prior to this. and. I was looking for, you know, kind of your mid-level guys that I could work with small brands because, you know, I said, Hey, if I link up with them, I now have access to a myriad of locations.
Myles: I can sell my product. So at the same time, I’m trying to refine the brand because I didn’t really have a strong brand presence. Right. Just had a product. And, my first distributor was rainforest. there are Northeast distributors, pretty nice size, but they. I had presented my product to them and they gave me the green light.
Myles: And at that point it was like, okay, now I’m off to the races, but you know, I’m still, I’m still a small, still early, you know, I might send them 40 cases of product and then they might activate a couple of accounts here and there, but I’m starting to slowly grow. I’m still not anywhere close to a household name.
Myles: And, you know, it’s funny cause. The whole Passlow concept looks different. the money that I have to spend is a lot more than it ever was, but the moment the money coming in is also growing too, but not at the same rate. And so now I’m looking at finance differently, right? I know. How do I manage this piece?
Myles: I’m thinking about bringing in some help with production works before that it was just me. And so as the scaling starts to happen, it opens up this whole, whole nother building of. How do we, how do we continue on this path?
Ken: Right. and you know, so what did you do? Let’s double click on one of those challenges, you know, sort of the cashflow thing, you know, how did you learn what you needed to do or, you know, access to capital that you needed in order to do this?
Ken: Because you’re right. I mean, You know, getting these big accounts can be great, but at the same time, you have to pay the fee for that production. And you may not receive any money for a long time, you know, from these retailers. So, you know, how did you learn what you needed to learn?
Ken: Did you know, did you hire somebody to help you kind of through this part? Or, you know, what did that look like?
Myles: So the first year of this stage of the company, so between 2018 and let’s say early 2019. I was still naive to the need for capital investment. I was under the assumption that I would be cash flow positive and no time.
Myles: my rate of bootstrapping was increasing, so I was putting more personal capital into it. I ended up doing a small crowdfunding campaign, mid 2018. We brought, I think it was like $6,000 to pay for some equipment. But like I said, I’m still so small that I’m just thinking, okay, I just need to land one account, one big account, and then I’ll be fine.
Myles: This falls into the whole concept of like learning as you go.
Myles: So I’m still funneling personal money into the business, but as I add more accounts, I’m looking at it like, okay, I’m still not comfortable on a cash flow standpoint. And it wasn’t until, I would say late 2019 that I’ll say, quote, unquote, things got real. and that was the whole target.
Myles: That’s how the target started. We can go into that.
Ken: Yeah. Sure. Why don’t you just tell us how that lined up.
Myles: So target and I don’t consider myself lucky or to be in the right place at the right time. but Target reached out to me directly, actually, and December of 20, 19 8, they, the buyer,messaged me on LinkedIn.He said, Hey, we’re in the DC area.
Myles: We’re doing what we call a trend shopping, which is when we go to different markets and look at new products, we come across your guys’ Mac and cheese. We love it. You know, we want to talk about potentially districts working with you guys. So I’m, I look at it as like, this is spam. There’s no way this is real, you know, got in contact with them.
Myles: We talked for a bit and he said, yeah, we love you guys. Let’s see if we can work together. And, you know, being, this is 20 December, 2019. We started talking about maybe working together, starting in may of 2020. I’m like, okay. And I’m still working full time by the way, but I’m like, okay, maybe this will be that thing.
Myles: Anything that takes us to the next level. then 2020 happens and in 2020, when 2020 does it shuts down everything, you know, targets say, Hey,sorry. You know, we can’t bring you in right now where we’ve got our hands full, but the interesting part. And in May April that year, they said they came back and said, well, you know, our distribution channel is all jacked up your local, can you just supply our stores with products that just help those spaces.
Myles: So I was taking my Mac and cheese and going store to store maybe by eight, eight local stores and just putting them back on the shelf. which was funny because it was such a weird concept. I would just bring it in, I want to walk into Target with the case. And look at the managers, they have a letter from your boss that says, I can bring you Mac and cheese.
Myles: And so, did that for five weeks. you know, Target came back and said, thank you. You know, you did really well. Sales were great. Well, let’s reconnect later in the year. So at this point, I’m still chugging along. I’m adding accounts. I’m starting to expand a bit, I’m in New York now. I’m in whole foods, local homes, you know, only about 20 or 30 whole foods, but you know, I’m starting to gain some traction.
Myles: and the December of 2020 target comes back and says, you know, we’d like what you’re doing. We want to officially bring you in for 2021.
Ken: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. The pandemic ended up being good for certain types of businesses and, you know, obviously bad for other types.
Ken: one of the opportunities is in CPG that I do continue to hear about is exactly what happened to you is that, you know, places like targets their supply chain completely messed up. You know, they have empty shelves and it’s interesting. We’re speaking in 2021 December and you still see.
Ken: You know, some empty shells. When you go into some of these stores. Right.
Ken: Yeah. And I see that as, you know, if you’re paying attention as an entrepreneur, I think that’s a real opportunity, right. To do something similar to what you did. whereas some of these retailers that wouldn’t have necessarily looked at you before are kind of in a spot where, Hey, I’ve got an empty shell.
Ken: You know, is there somebody local that I can put in there exactly. Right. Is that how you saw it? Did you recognize that opportunity pretty early on when they started talking?
Myles: so, you know, at that point, I think I wasn’t looking at it as, I mean, you know, what happened with them bringing me in for a five week period, you know, that was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I think, you know, when they gave me.
Myles: I was just, I was, you know, I was just happy to be there. Right. I was like, I can’t believe this is kind of happening. but I truly felt like it was the opportunity that I needed to expand the business that I’ve been trying to expand for the past six years.
Ken: Yeah, pretty cool. All right. Well catch us up to today, you know, you know, how are things going now and then, you know, to the future, what, is there anything, you know, coming up in the next six months to a year that you’re pretty excited about?
Myles: Yeah. So after. we launched and, you know, and it was, it was the most Mac and cheese I’ve ever made. and it changed everything. So I ended up bringing in, a team of like six people to help me out. You know, at this point I’ve got a factoring company and it just, it really changed how I am.
Myles: I’ll also, I’m talking to investors at this point. It’s like, everything is different and it’s almost like, I felt like I grew up a little bit and. You know, and, and that started this whole process of, okay, now I need to focus on raising money because I just saw how much I had to spend to launch.
Myles: And if I’m going to, if I’m going to continue to expand, I have to spend this amount of marketing and all this stuff. So it changed my mindset a bit in terms of how I’m going to scale up, how I’m going to manage a production team. And, you know, I had, and I’m still working full time. And so I’m becoming sort of insane, in terms of.
Myles: you know, I’m working from like 6:00 AM until 10 at night, every day. and weekends all work too. And I feel like I’m starting to, I’m making mistakes along the way, because I can’t focus on 8 Myles. So between May and October, it was this constant, it’s a repeat of 2015, or I’m sorry, 2017 where I’m like, there’s so much I need to do, but I don’t have the time to do it, but I need them.
Myles: personal to live. So what do I do? And then October hit. I had a meeting with a giant and they expressed interest in bringing us in. I had, I was having issues with my production staff where, because I wasn’t there, it was a lot of mistakes made and I told myself, you know, as much as it sucks to quit and then not do well, I gotta do it again because now I have so much more knowledge, just so much more potential.
Myles: I got to give it all I got. So I actually quit my engineering job again. that was late October early mid-October and, you know, I decided that this is the time that I needed to scale and really grow the business. How I see it.
Ken: Awesome. and then, it sounds like you’re in target, in the Northeast, you’re also in whole foods.
Ken: other stores like, you know, let’s just say someone listening here wants to try your Mac and cheese. How do they find it?
Myles: So on our website, actually the store finder app, you plug in your address and would tell you that the closest store that carries it, you can, I mean, we’re throughout the bridge between Virginia up to Connecticut.
Myles: we’re and then we’re in a couple of spots in Ohio as well, but, you know, at this point, the plaintiffs to continue distribution and actually bring out a couple of new products as well.
Ken: Okay, cool. Is there anything you could tell us about that you have been working on?
Myles: Yeah. So actually in the next couple of weeks, hopefully we’ll start seeing them on shelves.
Myles: It’s a family size, Mac and cheese. the one that I currently have on the market, the eight ounce portion. So for an individual, but you know, a lot of our customers are saying, Hey, we’d love the product, but I’ve got a family of four. I’d rather not buy four of these. I would much rather buy one, which makes sense.
Myles: and so we’re actually at, so we’re coming out with, at 32 ounce pack size.
Ken: and you have, a bunch of different, different, I guess, flavors, what’s the, you know, what’s the best-selling and, which one do you like best?
Myles: So it depends on who you ask. So we’ve got three flavors, you’ve got a home-style Buffalo and a barbecue.
Myles: I mean, homestyle is more traditional. And so a lot of folks picked it up, especially if they’re giving it to their kids. But for folks like myself who want a little something extra. The Buffalo and barbecue were close. I’m a huge fan of barbecue. but I’ve also heard Buffalo is a lot of people’s favorites.
Ken: Got it. And are you still selling barbecue sauces? You know, are you doing that at all?
Myles: Barely that’s something that I just do, a couple of local stores here and there and, I really make it just because we use it, but then our Mac and cheese.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, look, it’s been good.
Ken: hearing your journey. I think, you know, you’re somebody to look out for and, I just think it’s, you know, you’re going to have a ton of success going forward. and, I’m happy for you. It sounds, you know, I like how real you are about it, telling us about the grind and the ups and downs. but you can be stuck with it.
Ken: And now you’re starting to see some of the fruits. Before we go into the quickfire rounds, you’ve got four questions for you. what, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs, you know, that are currently in the grind doing what you’re doing, maybe they’re midway through the journey that you just described for us, you know, what could you tell them?
Myles: I would say focus on your mental space. I think a lot of people that don’t do this don’t realize how much of a mental toll it does take. B it’s almost, and this is actually something I’ve been focusing on recently, because you got to imagine, especially in the beginning, you’re doing something that doesn’t pay you, but you’re working a lot.
Myles: Like imagine I made a quote one time and I said, imagine you’re working hard, you’re killing yourself. Or you’re at a job where you get paid. Right. You can complain about your boss. You know, you can. Ask for a raise, all that stuff. If you’re your own boss, you have no one to complain to. So, and you’re doing it to yourself, right?
Myles: So it may, it’s a whole different feeling like when you, like, you might work a 14, 15 hour day, come home exhausted without a paycheck. And you’re really, you’re only operating on faith and hope and you’re doing for a long time. It does. It weighs you down. so recently. Incorporate things that, you know, kind of take out of that space.
Myles: So for instance, I like to workout. it’s like my getaway kind of, and, I’d tell entrepreneurs, you know, find something that you can do. That’s not work-related that you can escape from because it’ll really help you out. And then also too, no matter how much you research, no matter how much you Google or talk to people, you’re going to make mistakes.
Myles: No. Just know how to bounce back from those mistakes. That’s what’s most important.
Ken: Awesome, awesome. All right. So quick fire round. Just, tell me the first thing that comes to mind. what’s one tool or resource that has helped you the most in your current career
Myles: Excel. I’m a numbers guy, so, I, you know, an engineer by trade.
Myles: So I live in Excel.
Ken: What is one book that you could recommend to the audience?
Myles: Oh, I think I told you that I am, I love motivational books. So one of the, actually one of the first books that I read before I started the company was called power broke by Daymond, John.
Ken: Great. What is one piece of advice that you would give your 21 year old self?
Myles: Oh man, that’s it. That’s a hard one. I would tell him to be firm in your brand. So what it means and why you’re doing it. Talking to investors early on.
Ken: And, who is somebody in your field of work? You know, so maybe it’s another entrepreneur or, you know, somebody, they look like you look up to that you’d love to take to lunch.
Myles: You know, what out, you know what I would actually like to do.
Myles: it’s not an individual, but it’s a collective, I’m, I would love to get together with a room of folks that are in my space, kind of in my same group. And just have a chat or Q and a right. We learned a lot from each other. I’ve done it. I’ve done similar things in different organizations.
Myles: I think you’ll learn the most from people that are going through what you’re going.
Ken: Cool. Good answer. All right. Well, that’s it. Hey, I appreciate you taking the time. I think that this is just a jam packed interview and like we said before, we started recording, you know, me and you could talk for hours.
Ken: And so we have to wrap it up at some point, but I appreciate you telling us your story, your journey, and just being so open with us.
Myles: No for sure. Ken you know, this, the things like this, it’s always a pleasure. I love doing it.
Ken: Yeah. Awesome thanks, Myles
Myles: All right. Thank you.
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