02 May Small Business Spotlight: Brass Roots Food
For people and families on the go, it is a challenge to find snacks that are both filling and nutritious. Yet, as Americans struggle with increasing obesity, many are seeking healthier alternatives to traditional, fried foods like potato chips.
One company, Brass Roots Food, is looking to change the way New Orleanians and Americans snack.
We chatted with Aaron Gailmor, founder and Chief Eats Officer of Brass Roots Food, about his goal to create a “potato chip-like” snack that was healthy and delicious.
Committed to New Orleans, Brass Roots Food is more than a chip, and Aaron’s company proudly supports several local youth organizations.
A conversation with Aaron Gailmor, Brass Roots Food
Tell us a bit about your company and you. How did you become an entrepreneur and start Brass Roots Food?
While I’d always been interested in health and wellness, my father’s heart condition drove me to really educate myself in nutrition. The snacks I enjoyed were still generally very unhealthy, so with my new interest in nutrition and diet, I started developing healthier versions, which led me to co-founding our first healthy snacks brand. This year that brand became Brass Roots Food. With four other staff based here in New Orleans, I’m so proud of the work we’ve all done.
Tell us a bit about Brass Roots Food. In addition to being healthy, what makes your “chip” product unique?
The goal for our product was to create a savory, crunchy snack that was nutritionally dense and balanced enough to energize, satiate and fuel a consumer, while still being delicious.
It’s something you could eat for lunch if pressed for time, and not feel awful about it because of a spike in blood sugar, and then a huge dip in energy.
We are the only snack in our category that combines both a good source of protein (8g per serving, nearly that of jerky) with healthy fat from avocado oil. As a result of our quality ingredients, consumers with dietary restrictions or those looking to change their eating habits (cutting carbohydrates for example) can still enjoy snacking!
The great thing about our snacks is that they are good for adults and kids alike.
Your brand name references a deeply New Orleans tradition. How does your company reflect the culture of New Orleans? Why is New Orleans such a part of your brand’s success?
There is a mentality in New Orleans that is unlike anywhere else. Optimism, perseverance, celebration and community are everywhere. It made me want to do more than just create healthy snacks.
I view our brand name of Brass Roots as a responsibility. It is a responsibility to help people of ALL walks of life live healthier, happier lives, not just those who can shop at premium health food stores, or who have easy opportunities for exercise and wellness.
I’ve always been inspired by my mother, who works with youth as a mental health counselor, and my father, who as a musician, teaches children to write songs. We wanted this focus on youth to a part of Brass Roots Food.
We’re taking on this responsibility both through our snacks AND our work supporting youth, in particular those from lower income families.
New Orleans is home to some of the most inspiring, impactful organizations in the country, and we want to work alongside them to support what they’re doing.
In addition to our snack donation programs, we provide nutritional, culinary and entrepreneurial support & education. Some of our amazing partners include Roots of Music, Covenant House and Youth Run Nola. Helping them empower youth is more fulfilling for me than any other aspect of running our company.
As my wife and I embark on raising a family of our own, our company mission is personal for us and has taken on a new, even more sincere meaning.
Brass Roots Food is committed to New Orleans, and I love that New Orleans is a huge part of our mission.
How has Brass Roots Food utilized the business/entrepreneurial resources in New Orleans to grow your business?
We’ve been extremely fortunate to work out of the Launch Pad co-working space downtown. It’s been an incredible resource for us. We’ve hired staff who work out of Launch Pad. We made our movie with Comfy Stone Films (a studio based in Launch Pad), we hold focus groups there. Lastly, we’re a part of an incredible community of motivated people who want to help our city.
I am also a part of Krewe de Nieux, a group of entrepreneurs who have committed to New Orleans, share resources, support one another, and want to help the city as business owners.
I also recently started the New Orleans Food & Beverage Brand group (NOFAB) that aims to bring our city’s wonderful base of amazing food and drink products together in a “rising tide raises all ships” strategy. We have monthly meetups, invite speakers to join, and leverage each other’s success to help one another. We also aim to help our city through job creation and entrepreneurial encouragement.
What has been key to your success?
I’ve been fortunate to hire a small team of passionate, committed, and hard-working people here in New Orleans. They have worked hard to help us get to this point and I’m so proud of them. I’ve also been lucky to have an incredibly supportive wife, who believes in what we’re building and has stuck by me throughout a real journey, and to whom I owe my introduction to New Orleans!
We also have benefitted from a fantastic base of investors and our manufacturer. They’ve been supportive, they know the food & beverage space extremely well, and importantly, they are committed to New Orleans as well.
Lastly, the city of New Orleans is such a huge inspiration. It’s spirit and people drove me to reimagine what we could be as a brand and how we could represent the city for the food industry on a national scale. And without such talented people around us, we would not be here today.
We know there are challenges to running a small business. How have you handled setbacks, and what advice can you offer other small businesses?
The biggest challenge was realizing we needed to rebrand. This is an emotionally and intellectually difficult change. I knew though that our company identity and mission were no longer reflected in our brand. The general advice was that sometimes you need to take a step backward to take a much larger step forward. If you surround yourself professionally with good people who you trust, they will support you and help you make the right decisions, even when those decisions are difficult.
Can you share any recent successes or accomplishments?
We added about 750 stores in 2018, from California to Georgia, including Sprouts Farmers Markets, HEB and Rouses. Our sales grew by 50 percent per quarter in 2018 and have grown by 75 percent per quarter on Amazon.
We hired three fantastic sales, marketing and operations staff in New Orleans in 2018.
We closed on a $1 million investment from our manufacturer in 2018 and just closed on an investment from Spiral Sun Ventures, a food and beverage focused venture capital fund based in Chicago.
What are your goals for 2019? Where do you see Brass Roots Food in the next five years, or even 10 years?
We want to introduce our snacks to more people and continue to support more local youth organizations in New Orleans. I also aim to hire more people in sales and marketing.
In 10 years, I want us to be a national and global food brand with multiple product lines. I want Brass Roots Food to stay loyal to its mission and proudly represents the city of New Orleans. Furthermore, I hope to have helped forge a path that creates a large, thriving food and beverage products industry here in the city.
I expect for us to demonstrate that companies can be impactful forces for good and to redefine what it means to be a “brand”.