What makes up a good Paleo company, one that you’d want to buy from and really, one you’d want to work out with?
Bill Gates was a computer nerd before Microsoft was a company, Phil Knight was a good runner before starting up Nike, and Greg Glassman was a phenomenal coach before he came up with CrossFit. Like those exceptional examples we were Paleo eaters and athletes long before Paleo Treats began.
At its most basic the soul of a company is found in the actions of its owners, and if you can’t walk the walk then how can you squawk the yap, let alone make a great product? We’re not talking about being able to rock the fastest Fran or hunt and gather all your own food, we just think it’s critically important to be involved in some way in Paleo if you’re going to sell Paleo products.
We’ll talk about Paleo Treats as a company since we know the most about it, but we’ll also point you to some other companies we admire who are serving the Paleo community and doing a really good job.
Paleo Treats started in a little house in San Diego in May of ‘09. In the first few months we got a lot of “Who the heck are you, and how can I trust a 2 month old company?”
To answer those questions, you’ve got to go back a few years and see where each of us came from. Paleo Treats was founded by 3 people; Dave, Lee, & me, Nik.
Dave was in the Navy on his 18th year of service. The consummate professional, he tries to maximize everything he does and as part of that he’s been eating Paleo ever since he discovered it in 2004. Like many servicemen he’s got the classic hard-chargin’ personality, so whether he’s racing dirt bikes, climbing rocks, or in the caveman gym, he cranks as hard as he can.
Dave’s a quiet professional, and if you met him on the street I don’t think you’d have a good chance of guessing his background although you might be tipped off by his quiet intensity; he doesn’t suffer fools easily. Dave is especially good at one liners and came up with most of our product names (Mac Attack, Brownie Bomb, and Cacao Now!) and our tag line, Rations for the Driven. He also doubled as our technical expert and shipping guru. He left Paleo Treats late in the summer of 2011 for more exciting work than making cookies but remains a consultant and good friend.
We’re a small company, so everyone pitches in, and we all have more than one job to do every day.
Lee balances out the aggressive energy that Dave and I bring to the company, but that doesn’t mean she’s a pushover; she’s owned an expedition company that worked extensively in West Africa, lived in Nicaragua during the Iran-contra affair, and grew up on the deserted mesas outside of Albuquerque.
After owning a successful t-shirt company (Quiet Hero), Lee has the business acumen to keep us all afloat and she runs the books, a task whose name is completely dwarfed by its enormity. She wishes everybody a happy birthday on Facebook, and runs herd on Dave and I when we go off the rez and deep into military lingo.
That leaves me, Nik.
Like Dave, I was in the Navy (it’s where we first met, many moons ago.) After 5 years in, including a stint on the US Navy Pentathlon team, I got out and took a 5 1/2 month sailing trip from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale via the Panama Canal on a 22 foot sailboat (a J22 for you sailors out there.) Between then and now I’ve gone to welding school, contracted in Iraq for Triple Canopy, hit the iron many hours in quite a few different gyms and run a few businesses. I’ve cleaned the hulls of racing sailboats, delved deep into the green building world, worked to rebuild an Indian reservation after natural disaster, worked for the Navy as a civilian instructor and used to work on container ships a few months a year. I do all the writing for the website, and a lot of the backend website work.
Dave was responsible for getting Lee & I into Paleo, and while we all follow it pretty closely and make a religion out of being active, we hop off the wagon a few times a year and just tear the ass out of some good and rich tiramisu at Dave’s birthday or get shithouse drunk at the local tavern; it’s part of being human and enjoying the whole ride of life enough to veer out of normalcy every so often.
We contract a local company to make our treats once or twice a week depending on how many orders we get, we make sure to order all the ingredients ourselves and we keep a close watch on how everything is made. We always shoot for organic ingredients, and we try to keep everything as local as possible; mixing, packaging and labeling are all done by hand right here in San Diego. That all costs a little more, but it means we can walk in any time and actually see what’s going on, and it means that every cookie is inspected before it leaves, something important to us as fanatics about quality.
So that’s us. We like to think we’re a pretty widely varied group of people, and we also think of ourselves and this company, Paleo Treats, like a family. We try to get together every week to have a family night, and we push hard for not only a tough image of hard chargin’ Paleo athletes but also to project the values that are important to us; excellence, integrity, peace, love, and joy. We think that in the end those are worthy end goals for anyone; soldier, sailor, athlete, or business.
Well, what about the company itself? What makes for a good company, and how can you tell at a glance that you’re dealing with someone who’s going to put out a quality product?
Especially in the Paleo world, the first thing to do is look at the ingredients. If a company doesn’t get the basics right you’d better take a good hard look at why not, and be skeptical of the answer. We use organic when possible, keep it local when we can, and make sure our cookies are basically unprocessed beyond hand mixing and a quick bake.
The second thing to look for after ingredients is, do the people in the company actually follow the Paleo diet? You can tell that with a glance at a picture, and you can also ask around and see who’s thrown down in a gym or on a race course with the owners.
Most Paleo companies are owned by athletes, and it’s easy to ask around or do some quick Googling and see what kind of work is being done by these people. If you don’t see anything athletic when you Google or Facebook at least one of the owners (try me, Nik Hawks or look for Steve Liberati over at Paleo Kits for examples) you should probably delve deeper. After all, if someone is going to sell a product they should be actively engaged in its use.
Finally, you should ask around and see if people who have already taken the plunge had a good experience or not. If they were treated well both professionally and personally they’ll have good things to say. Like the other great Paleo companies we work like hell to earn more testimonials then you can shake a stick at, and we’re both proud and thankful every time we hear back from a satisfied customer.
We don’t really think about pricing (yeah, go ahead with the peanut gallery) because with everything any of us do, if we’re serious about it, money is not the limiting factor. If it’s cheap and it’s what we want, great, if not, we’ll buy it anyway. Between the three of us we’ve got a few worn-out cheapo t-shirts that have been around since high school that feel like a perfect match for the Rolex or go well with RM Williams or feel just right snugged up in the shoulder pocket with an FN SLP Mark 1. We focus on excellence and it shows in our product.
Bottom line? We work hard, eat clean and rest easy, trusting that living and breathing those attributes make for the best product possible that goes out to hard-charging humans who get after it in whatever they do, whether it’s CrossFit or hunting, gathering, gardening or adventure racing.
If you’d like to hear about other kick ass companies who walk the walk, try Steve Liberati’s Paleo Kits