Matt Askren is the President and General Manager of XLNT Bakeries, a food business that creates and distributes snacks across the country. We spoke about the food business, growth opportunities, challenges, and much more.
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Aaron Spatz 00:00
You’re watching America’s Entrepreneur on Youtube. Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And each week we interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers as a detail their personal and professional journeys. Before we jump in, hit the subscribe button and be sure to hit the bell icon so you’re notified every time we release a new episode. Thank you so much for joining the show this week, I’m really excited to welcome Matt asker into the show, Matt is a seven year Marine Corps veteran, he served in a variety of different roles and capacities primarily within within the food business. And most recently as the president and general manager of excel in T bakeries, and so really, really excited to talk with him and hear more about just this entire journey and what and what that’s looked like for him. And so, Matt, I just want to welcome you, thank you so much for being a part of the show.
Matt Askren 00:50
Thank you, Aaron, I always appreciate the opportunity to jump on shows, and especially given our similar backgrounds. I think that this could be a lot of fun.
Aaron Spatz 01:00
Yeah, for sure. No, it’s it. It’s always a lot of fun when you’ve got multiple things in common. And so it was fun chatting with you just just a couple seconds ago off camera, but give us a quick kind of rundown of your just your your history, like What the What inspired you to join the military, you know, what, what got you interested in food, like just kind of give, give us a little bit of a background as to who you are?
Matt Askren 01:25
Well, you know, I’d like to think it’s an interesting story. So growing up, the son of a Vietnam era, or not this era, but Vietnam veteran, my dad was in the army. My grandfather on my mother’s side, was in World War Two in the Navy. So growing up, I think that there’s always been a certain level of patriotism, a certain level of appreciation for our country and for people that have fought for our country. So military was never out of the question. No matter, you know, what was going on in my life. School was not my thing. That may be the understatement of the year. But it really wasn’t, you know, especially as I ventured into middle school, high school, things like that, I There could have been 1000 Things I’d rather been doing rather than going to class every day. But I still had a desire, a yearning, if you will, to, to try and improve and to achieve. And so the military and more specifically, the Marine Corps really spoke to me in that regard. You know, as you may recall, and when you’re in front of that recruiter, and they, they pull out the 50 different traits, or 50 Different reasons that people join, and you know, one of them is challenged, that was really something that stuck out to me. So that led to my joining the Marine Corps at 17. Going off to boot camp, and, you know, starting a journey that I really would have never predicted, you know, at that time, Iraq and Afghanistan were in in full, full force. So the idea that I would play a couple times was not shocking or surprising, in fact, it was invited. And I don’t want to give off a bad impression to myself, like I was dying to go to war. But But I do think that for many of us, if you join during a time of war, you know, you want to be able to contribute there, that’s a part of why you joined because if, if this is going on, I want to be able to be a positive contributor for my country, and for the people that I served with. So I got all that that I needed, you know, seven years two investments, a couple MLS is a couple secondary jobs. And, you know, really got all that I needed. And decided at that point that I wanted to take the the many skills that I had honed, and the Polish, if you will, that I had put on myself while I was in the Marine Corps, to the private sector. And as you mentioned, I’ve majority of my time in the private sector has been in the food business. And you know, the rationale, there is twofold. bifurcated, if you will. The first part is that’s where I got a job, or my first managerial job once I got out. So that made made a lot of sense to kind of continue that process and that trajectory. The second component to that is, you know, all of us. And unless you’re off the grid, which more power to the people that that do that. But unless you’re off the grid, you’re buying manufactured food, you know, you go to a grocery store, a convenience store, you go to a ballgame, and get a hotdog on down the line. And so the notion that if you’re really good in the food business, you probably will be able to find a job was very attractive to me attractive to my wife, and ultimately attractive to the companies that give us our mortgages.
Aaron Spatz 04:59
Well Yeah, no, I mean, that’s a it’s a really interesting, really interesting journey for you. And so I mean, you, you and I, and I echo your sentiment that that you shared a few minutes ago about, you know, about wanting to go and contribute to the fight. Because I think for a lot of people, and I’ve really enjoyed the way you said that because I think that’s, I think it’s how the majority of veterans feel is like, Hey, I signed up during time of war, I obviously, totally understand, well, maybe not totally understand. Right. But I would, I would fully welcome an opportunity to contribute in that in that manner. And so I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it’s unreasonable, or, or, or crazy ask, it just kind of depends on the deployment cycle, the tempo and all those other things. So I think that’s great. And again, I think you said that really, really well. And then, you know, on the other side of that, then you pursuing pursuing a food business, so like, your first managerial job, was it was in was in the food business, and so like, kind of progressing through that. So share share with us, then, like how you were able to take your military background, your leadership experience and training? And how did you overlay that then going, going into something completely new do?
Matt Askren 06:21
Well, the first step of that is, is convincing somebody that you can do it? Absolutely. And that may be an oversimplification on my part. But, you know, I could have gotten out of the Marine Corps and been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but if nobody believed me, I’d never get a chance to do it for pay. So, you know, again, exaggeration, as I try and illustrate that, but, you know, you’ve got to be able to explain to people, what skill sets you have, and what skill sets you home, because it’s unreasonable to expect somebody who’s never been in that world to understand that completely, as it’s also unrealistic to expect guys that are getting out of careers in the military, to be able to totally understand what they’re coming into on the private sector. Yeah. So with that I basically tried to boil things down, is plainly as I could hindsight 2020 I look back on it and this man, I terrible job with that. Maybe one day on LinkedIn or something, I’ll post my initial resume from many moons ago. And people can point and point laugh. But you know, it starts with with the resume. And then when you go in with with interviews, how do I add value, the way that I felt that I added value was the one you know exactly what you’re going to get from me every day, I’m going to bring a level of professionalism, a level of consistency, a level of regimented Ness, if you will, that you’ll know what to expect from me day in and day out. The next component is, you know, if I can do one thing in my life at the age of 20, something right out of the Marine Corps, it was relate to a unrelatable group of people, the Marine Corps did a fantastic job of showing me how to do that over and over again. So if you put me in charge of people, even if you don’t think that that I can relate to them, or even if you don’t think they can relate to one another, I believe that I was able to do that. And I conveyed that. And as it turned out, that first job I had in food, was leading a sanitation department full of really hardworking and tenured employees that everybody said, they can’t work together. And so the whole purpose, why I was hired, other than the fact that I was probably very affordable. Was that was that I portrayed myself as somebody that could do that. And they said, Well, what do we have to lose? So they put me on that. And sure enough, I showed that I could, and from there, it was really about rounding myself out. It’s really about learning, and pay grades and leadership grades and decision making grades above mine. And by starting out with a smaller company, you know, that these days, I look at the size of that company. And I say it really wasn’t that small, right. But in perspective, it wasn’t a publicly traded New York Stock Exchange type company. I had an opportunity to see various levels of that business that I really didn’t have any any right to. And what that did was it fed my curiosity. It allowed me to have an idea of things that I needed to explore the things I needed to learn the types of questions I needed to ask, you know, as a podcaster, and I’m sure you can relate that we learn so much, one by asking questions, but two by observing what questions somebody asks. And so what I found over the years was, as I sit in these meetings that I don’t necessarily always think that I’m supposed to be in, you observe what that executive is asking in terms of this question. You try and predict what that executive is asking. And then over time, what manifests is you start asking those really good questions, people start noticing that about you. And then in my case over, you know, a period of time, you become that executive. So, you know, and even to this day, I look, now, when I see the questions that investors ask, I see the questions that people that are on boards of directors ask, and I still have that same process. And as I find myself asking similar, or the same questions that they are, it’s affirmation to me that I’m continuing to grow and move and build. And, you know, that’s what we’re all here for. I think, you know, we’re all here to continue to be better today than we were yesterday, whether that’s with our business with our family, with our, for the people that are in the military, with with your service. And, you know, it’s all a part of a big process, which again, for me started because I was able to convey to a group of seasoned food professionals, that maybe just maybe I could get a couple of different types of people in one group to work well together.
Aaron Spatz 11:10
Yeah, no, it’s a, it’s a really good point that you made, which was just getting getting someone to take a shot on you. Right? It’s like, you’ve got you got the raw skill, you got the raw ability, but you can’t prove it quite yet that it will translate in this capacity, but you make enough of a case, and then apply enough of the theory to say like, this isn’t unreasonable, though, to assume that this could be playing, it could be feasible. And so people buy into that that’s exactly why they hired you. And you’re like, Well, yeah, you know, this, this is not unreasonable to expect that he could, he could deliver results or make an impact or, you know, whatever, X, Y and Z here. And then sure enough, you know, you step up to the plate, you make things happen. And I really like what you’re saying about the types of questions to ask. And I think that it, what, what my theory is on that is like, it goes back to being a perennial student, right. And so like, you’re always learning, there’s always something to glean and to gain from every experience. And I mean, even bad experiences, man, like I’ve had, I’ve had some horrific experiences. And I’ve learned from those also, right. And so like, there’s, there’s always something to learn. But you’ve learned by being able to see different types of leaders lead different types of organizations, big and small. And so just kind of paying attention to the types of questions they ask. And then what you’re doing, though, is you’re you’re allowing that to inform your perspective in the way that you think about problems. So then, so then you’re you’re developing yourself. Right? Am I saying that right? I,
Matt Askren 12:49
it I definitely resonate with what you’re saying, Yeah, I don’t think I could disagree. If I tried. You know, the, the perennial and perpetual student aspect is very important. Because if you if you listen to anybody that is coming towards the end of their career, and you listen to almost all of their success stories, almost all of them in their woven from A to Z, is how they had to learn something, they had to adapt, they had to teach themselves, they had to partner with somebody to teach them. You know, it manifests again, in many different ways. But but that tends to be a common theme as you you talk about success. And again, I’m preaching to the choir with you, because, you know, you have the opportunity to talk to folks that are doing that regularly. So I think you’ll probably agree, but that that is a common theme. Very rarely. Do you talk to somebody and they’re like, Yeah, I’m a member of Mensa. I’ve got an IQ of 173. And ever since I was nine, I’ve been the smartest person in every room that I’ve ever met. I’m not telling you it doesn’t happen. I’m just sure that’s that’s absolutely the exception that proves rule. More often you have people that say, Hey, I’m kind of smart, but I’m not really anything that special. I was willing to take chances when other people weren’t, I picked up on on social or industry cues when other people didn’t. You know, I had people that pointed me in the right direction. And I was comfortable enough to take that on down the line. Those are the reasons very rarely is it because somebody has just always been smarter, better, more capable.
Aaron Spatz 14:32
100% And I think that’s the hallmark of successful entrepreneurs. I think, I think the spirit of entrepreneurship really does rest inside of this, this blend of so many different things. But you know, one of those being, again, continuing to ask questions, continue to learn, continue to challenge yourself to challenge others. Right. And so but you’re what you’ve done though, is over the course of your career, post military especially is taking all of the industries specific knowledge that you’ve gleaned, you’ve learned through observation through through doing it yourself through a whole bunch of different means and methods. And so now you find yourself in this spot where, okay, like you’ve taken a lot of these lessons learned. And you went ahead and you’ve launched something. No doubt, there’s a ton of learning happening even still, and you’ll never stop learning. But you hit a point. So I’d love to kind of hand this back over to you and just understand, Okay, give me give us all the Genesis story behind the brand behind behind everything that you’ve, that you’ve been working on.
Matt Askren 15:38
It starts with networking, as it often does, again, I’m preaching to the choir, I know. But uh, you know, so much of anybody’s success stories that specifically mine begins with the ability to connect with people. You know, thankfully, I was blessed with a great memory, I was blessed with with a natural curiosity, it’s probably my mother on that. She’s known for asking question upon question in being very intrigued and what sometimes other people find mundane, some of that is has trickled down within, within my siblings and I. And so, you know, you’ve got to network, you got to get to know people, people have to feel like there’s relationship there. And that really sets the tone. So at some point in my career, I decided that, that I wanted to be at the top of an organization. You know, ideally, that would be in a president type role. But I also would love to have had equity or ownership in an entity. And at that time, I was informed of something called entrepreneurship through acquisition, or a search fund. I won’t bore you guys with all the details, but anybody that wants to look it up, it’s a fantastic mode of business in a way to really kind of accelerate
Aaron Spatz 16:58
Well, let’s, let’s go ahead and talk about it. I, I’d love to,
Matt Askren 17:01
well, so a search fund, and I’m going to give you very generic terms. So there are any, any, any fellow people that have been involved with search funds, if I don’t quite nail down all the details, I will apologize in advance. But a search fund is something that came about, I believe, in the late 80s. Very popular through Stanford Business School and booth University Chicago Business School, and it’s kind of matriculated throughout the rest of the country. But But what it provides people is an opportunity, typically fresh out of school or fresh out of the military, to connect with investors have investors either pay for them to search for a company that they’ll run and have an equity stake in or ultimately have that brought to them with the the search funder. Having done that due diligence in many cases. And then in exchange for, for that what’s called a self funded, self funded search fund. Oftentimes, there’s a larger equity stake involved. And so that was how I got my start in that a friend of my brothers, somebody that I’ve known since I was, you know, eight years old, or whatever, got involved in that process. And it sounded too good to be true for me. So I started to look into it more, and realize that, you know, it was a real thing, and it was actually gaining some steam. Unfortunately, my background didn’t really lend itself to being a prime candidate for the traditional search fund, which is where a group of say six to 12, investors will pay your salary to search for a couple years. So I was much better suited for a self funded search. So I did that on my own while working and going to school and all that other fun stuff. But I ended up in that process, finding some businesses that ended up not coming to fruition. More importantly, what I found was a great network of investors that believed in me. And so, you know, as my career kind of continued, I stayed in contact with those folks. And I would tell anybody, that if you are able to secure a network with people that make decisions at that level, do everything you can to maintain it and to foster and cultivate it. Because without trying to over simplify it, people with that level of resources, and with that intention of using those resources are going to find something over time that they could probably be involved in. And so because I had done a good job of maintaining that relationship, I got a phone call and said, Hey, we’ve got this startup going on. There’s this awesome family recipe that we’re going to commercialize. And you know, we have confidence that you could be the one to operate it. And so you know, from there, we this is where we’re at Eccellente bakeries was supervised by the time this airs very well may have Lucy’s muffin tops, Lucy’s bunts, and Lucy’s boom cakes which is a fantastic Bundt cake with a shelf stable cream. That’ll absolutely knock your socks off. But the long, long story, short period Time is I networked, I foster those relationships, I proved myself. And then when opportunity came, I was, you know, somebody that they were comfortable calling to say, Hey, can you make this happen. And now here we are, I’ve been in this venture, officially since November of 2019. So you know, almost two years, that running a startup through a pandemic, which I, you know, I don’t necessarily recommend, but we’re here. And we’re still hooking in Javon and making it work. So that the entrepreneurship through acquisition search fund world, as was a huge benefit to me, I still hold that community near and dear to who I am, the ability to network, which goes all the way back to, you know, being a child and making meaningful relationships, remembering names, fast forward to my time in the Marine Corps, where I was more than happy to make sure that people knew who I was, and what I was about, fast forward from there to getting into the private sector, joining LinkedIn, 2012 2013, whatever your that may have been, which ironically, I felt like I was behind the curve at that time. Which is why it’s so interesting when, you know, I talk to people now, and they tell me that they’re behind the curve, because they’re joining it, you know, in 2021. And I, I’ve come to the point where I just believe we all think that, because I sure felt that eight or nine years ago, but, you know, these are the things that provide entrepreneur opportunities. Maybe that everybody doesn’t hear about, it’s not buying a franchise, which, you know, if you want me to, I can talk about that I tried to do that when I first got to the Marine Corps, it’s not doing a startup by going necessarily to the neighborhood bank. But they’re, they’re unique and interesting ways that smart people can can find entrepreneurship.
Aaron Spatz 21:49
Yeah, no, it’s a, it’s a really interesting method to get there. And so and I’m gonna try to back briefly on what I believe you told me, and if I screwed up, feel free to correct me. But so but what you’re saying, though, is when you’re when you’re doing the search fund as an option, it’s, it’s different from the perspective of like, Hey, you’re the investor slash operator in your, you know, you’re going to bring 100% of the cash to the table to either purchase the company, and then you’re going to run it, and basically, you’ve acquired it, now you’re going to operate it yourself. This is a different, this is a different animal, where you’ve got a pool of investors, and there and whatever the compensation structure looks like, but then I imagine it involves some mix of a sliver of ownership in a company coupled with some salary. And but but that, but that’s the trade is like, so you’re, you have a small stake in the company. But you’re tied, obviously, you’re tied to the upside of it. And so like, whatever that time horizon looks like in terms of like, hey, what’s it? What’s our, what’s our goal here? Are we trying to grow this? So we can sell it? Or are we just like, what’s the goal? And so you’re kind of working on that. And they’ve already kind of pre vetted, you slash kind of checked you out, gotten to know you, you’ve gotten to know them. So everyone’s comfortable with each other. And then the right opportunity comes along, where everybody feels good about it. And so you’re like, Okay, let’s go and do this.
Matt Askren 23:19
That’s very accurate. So there’s typically two, two time periods involved, the first of which is, when you’re pitching investors in for a traditional search fund, which I ended up not doing. I tried to do, but it wasn’t a good candidate for it. You know, you’re trying to get, say, six to 12 investors to pitch in enough money for you to spend, say, two years doing due diligence on various companies. And then those investors have the right of first refusal, once you find something that kind of passes the smell test. Okay. And then in many cases, if you find a business worthwhile majority of that business will be purchased by those original pool of investors. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be other ones that come on. But yes, normally there is a an equity stake that is given to the searcher. If there’s I don’t want to go into exact numbers, just because it’s probably not the right forum for that. But there is kind of a predetermined ballpark that people get put in. And then there is compensation on the side of that. And, you know, typically people come in, they’re the CEO, the president, the CEO, you know, could be a number of different titles, but in that highest level, and they answer to the Board of Directors, which is usually made up from the investors that have put the money in. And so anyway, that was what got me on this path. In the end, that wasn’t exactly what I did. But that relationship with I mean, it’s what I tried to do, we wasn’t able to execute the purchase, but those relationships that I had with those investors, when they had a startup, they were commercializing it They just plugged me in. And so that that again, that again, show and so there’s a lot of similarities there. And the search fund was what got me to this point. But you know, the lesson there to people is don’t give up. Because even though one thing doesn’t work out, if you’re in a network with good enough people, and they trust you enough, there will be an opportunity where, where you guys do business together?
Aaron Spatz 25:25
For sure, for sure. And to your point, I mean, I’d say is often a multi year thing. I mean, it’s could be something somebody you met a long time ago, and you just continue to to the point you made earlier, continue to cultivate those relationships and stay connected and continue to just invest in that. And you know, with enough time, somehow, something’s going to shake out. So which is pretty cool. So So walk us through then a little bit more detail of the business itself. So you mentioned so you get Lucy’s hoopy buys. But like, what else like where, where’s the product sold? How do people find out about it.
Matt Askren 26:06
So we’re so we’ve been sold in 22 states from Pennsylvania to Alaska, the initial brand and at launch was Lucy soupy pies, which is a grab and go dessert premium out of the cooler. That’s an important distinction, you’re not going to find the product on a shelf, you’re going to buy it in a you know, it could be in a beverage cooler, it could be in an open air cooler, sandwich cooler, upright, countertop cooler. But in any event, if anybody sees this and wants to try the product, when you go to your local convenience store, it’s not going to be next to the hostess cupcakes, right, it’s going to be more likely to be in the sandwich. So from there, we’ve now developed shelf stable lines, which will go on the shelf are on a rack that don’t need to be kept in the cooler. Those are Lucy’s muffin tops was these bonds and Lucy’s mooncakes, those are getting ready to launch and travel Centers of America won’t store food stores rebel in some other places, right. So those are going to be a big focus for us in the second half of 2021. But the whoopie pie has been kind of what we’ve hitched our wagon to, to get our start, it’s it’s a very high quality product to moist cakes, dairy based center, that will knock your socks off, unlike anything anybody’s had before. You know, our motto is, it’s all about the cream. You know, so in found in many different places, mostly in the micromarket world, also sometimes called the canteen world, and then also found in convenience stores, we very soon will be in the grocery vertical, you know, looking at launching in target at the end of the summer, some other places as well. So very excited to see how that continues to move forward. But ultimately, we offer very good products that are unique. And and you know, being that we’re on the rise. When from a business business standpoint, when category managers and buyers and vice presidents marketing deal with us, what they find is, there’s another level of attention that they get from us. And that’s because we haven’t been around for 17 years, we haven’t been around for 100 years, you know, we were this, these brands launched at the end of 2019. So you’re going to get our most attention, you’re going to get a strong year of voice, the voice of the customer is heard very loudly from us. So, you know, those are some of the benefits of dealing with us. But it’s a tremendous group of products. We’re very proud of them. And you know, we’re excited at growth. We’re about to launch and sepco in Texas, some of the 711 franchise groups in Florida, Texas, Virginia, the Midwest Road Ranger that goes all throughout the Midwest, we’ve got a lot of activity going on right now control oil and Alabama. So you know, the the Circle K franchises in the southeast are about to come on board, you know, there’s a lot of things I can I can say but ultimately the goal is to continue that growth to grow into more channels. And basically they become an item where our customers know that when they go into a convenience store to go to a micro market or go to the grocery store that they’re gonna be able to find us and enjoy us.
Aaron Spatz 29:24
That’s really cool. So then walk us through the process then of I’m sure it’s it’s organized chaos to an extent but just of growing the the product growing the company you have been able to scale and in find the product in a number of different places, but at the same time managing the manufacturing process managing all the different aspects of the contract. What does that been like for you in terms of just all the things that you’ve learned previously but then into Right now, how are you guys able to continue to, to grow? And like, what are the big things that you’re focused on right now.
Matt Askren 30:09
So the pandemic changed a lot of our plans. And I don’t think that we’re alone on that, especially as a startup, our goal initially was to be relatively regionalised, for the first couple years, you know, there’s a lot of benefit to that freight is a lot cheaper, you can merchandise better. And most of that’s, that’s obvious, you know, doesn’t bear too much depth to go into. With the pandemic, all of a sudden trade shows with for a major vehicle that we were going to wash the product through, were no longer at our fingertips, they were no longer an option for us. So we kind of had to scrap that plan. And we put the product where people want it. And, you know, that was hadn’t become our growth plan. And because of it, we made some phenomenal relationships, and we’ve gotten a good reputation all around the country. But it is a change, there’s no doubt it’s, you know, it’s not how we originally prescribed that this would work. So, you know, with that come adjustments, and but the good news is, we’re a lean team. And we’re very happy to make adjustments, if it means that we’re going to get the ball across the goal line, or get the deal across the finish line. And so one of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we didn’t let the pandemic softens. Now, it helps. So we’ve got fantastic investors, we’ve got a great board, and we’ve got, you know, great customers. But, you know, we were willing to, to zig when, when some people wanted to zag during the pandemic, and that has benefited us, I think that there’s a lesson in there probably for some other people, which is that you may have the greatest plan there ever was on paper. But when when some real stuff happens, sometimes you’ve got to make adjustments.
Aaron Spatz 31:57
Yeah. And it would appear that I mean, you’ve you’ve been able to make you’ve been able to make those adjustments. And so and then you’re just you’re sitting here, sharing with us, like what your, what the future for the rest of the year looks like? And so again, like what’s, what’s the growth of the team look like? What’s the what’s the, like, I don’t know, how the, like how the manufacturing of the product is actually performed? But like how, how have you been able to keep up with the demand of the product and being able to distribute that?
Matt Askren 32:28
Well, we have been fortunate that our manufacturing process in our supply chain has been minimally affected by the pandemic. And in many cases, our b2b customers, you know, the distributors, the retailers love us for that. But it also that process has been affected by the pandemic, because a natural reaction from many distributors and retailers of the world is that when something like a pandemic happens, no new items, that’s kind of across the board mentality. And so we struggled with that, because we were in a lot of people’s decision making queue. And so all of a sudden, no new items, was tough for us, all we had to do was, you know, do as much business development and brand awareness marketing is we could, so that people that were willing to try a new item, and I’m again, I’m talking business, to business to business, b2b, not b2c, you know, that they knew that we would be able to serve and satisfy. And so I feel like, you know, we’ve got a good reputation a good reputation because of that, you know, I was at a trade show a few weeks ago, and there was discussions of some of the biggest CPG companies in the world, not the country, but the world that were going to have a hard time fulfilling orders based on on the supply chain and manufacturing process, implications, what’s going on. And so again, thankfully, to this stage, we really haven’t been affected by that the way that a lot of other people have. So we’re very blessed and thankful for that. And our plan is that it that we, you know, get so many sales that if we have a problem, it’s not pandemic base, it’s because we’ve done such a good job showing people how great the products are
Aaron Spatz 34:15
100%. So like, what so I mean, it probably has to do with pandemic, but I was just curious, like, so what, what’s been one of the biggest things that you’ve learned now, so like, if you’ve been in this now, over a year and a half, like what’s been one of the biggest takeaways for you, now that you’ve, you’ve been in the thick of it, you’re, you’re you’re doing it? Like what’s, what’s one of the biggest lessons that you’ve learned so far?
Matt Askren 34:39
That even the most sound principles sometimes have to be rethought. And that’s pandemic based. You know, I spend my time in the food business and there are certain things that I just thought I knew. And, you know, again, you throw a pandemic, and then all of a sudden, you’ve got to put some of those things to the side temporarily not not moral things, not ethical But some some kind of key business philosophy, you’ve got to be willing to step outside of maybe it’s just temporary. But but otherwise we get left in the dust. And, you know, for those of us that have, you know, investors to answer to or board stance or to, as well as customers and consumers answer to, is very important that you provide solutions. And if those solutions are counter contradictory, or counter to what you thought you’ve learned over the years, maybe it’s time that maybe it’s time to adapt a little bit again, you could maybe maybe in 2022, or 2023, we can go back to having those hard and fast philosophies that we never veer off them.
Aaron Spatz 35:44
Yeah, that there’s, there’s a lot of, there’s just, there’s a lot of different things happening out there. And COVID is obviously the the cause of a lot of this, but it’s interesting to see the businesses that one that were quick to adapt early on and kind of realize, like, Hey, we’re we’re not gonna go back to this when you whatever normal was, and you could make a case for or or not, for that, it really kind of depends, I think it remains to be seen. But the point though, is there’s a, there’s a group of companies that adapted to the changes much more quickly than then certain other companies and you’re in kind of, to your point a minute ago is like you’re seeing the result of that, the benefit of that, because A, you’re the first one there, and putting putting something like a pandemic on top of everybody is really in a lot of ways it kind of helped equalize certain certain parts of business or certain types of industry, where, like, to what you’re just saying a minute ago was like, Man, I, there’s a lot of things I thought I knew, that worked hard and fast. And it’s like, not so much. And so it kind of has a way of giving everybody a chance to kind of relaunch and retool and kind of rethink about where it is that they’re headed towards, you know, so it’s, it’s just, it’s really fascinating, it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be really fascinating to see what happens in the next one to three years. In terms of, because I’ve seen, I’ve seen certain things with businesses where people are in and this doesn’t, this does not necessarily apply to you. I’m just talking in like, massive generalities here. But like, there’s, there’s been, like a, like a very short term, but very high demand season for certain products. And I think that I think a lot of investors and I think a lot of people are just curious, like, is this? Is this indicative of a longer term change? Or is it simply just in response to COVID? And so is
Matt Askren 37:43
it a great reset or not? Yeah.
Aaron Spatz 37:47
I guess we’ll have to see. Right.
Matt Askren 37:50
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s maybe components that are going to go that way? Yeah, you know, I think that at the end of the day, there, there are some core principles that will win out, which is the groups that that have the high quality products, the groups that have intentional marketing groups that are able to serve and satisfy their customers, I think in the long run are going to still win out. You know, I also think that that group should have resources will tend to fare better. But I all I truly do agree with the idea that there are that there are flies in the ointment that may stay what we’re doing right now, you know, chatting over a, you know, a video mode, you know, was around before the pandemic, I would argue that it’s probably been cemented as a normalized form of business and communication, since the pandemic, right, that would be an example that I would say, potentially is different. You know, the, the real estate boom, right now that’s going on, in many cities and suburban areas around the country. You know, is that going to last forever? Or is there a bubble involved? I don’t claim to be an expert on that. I’m just saying that that could be one, that a year to three years from now, we look back on, and we say, you know, okay, that was here to stay, or that was a fly in the ointment that was temporary. And the people that were quicker to react to what that truth is, we’re going to be the ones that do the best. So I’m not even predicting which one of those will be sure about the housing part. Anyway, I am about the video teleconferencing. Yeah. But but the the folks that were able to to recognize that adjust to it and then put resources behind it will will benefit for sure in the longer haul.
Aaron Spatz 39:42
Yeah, yeah, it’s gonna it really is it’s gonna be fascinating to see like which elements of this that have that have played out since COVID. Like which of that is is going to remain behind and in terms of just a permanent change in the way that we do things. The housing the housing thing, that’s a whole nother ball of wax that that is that is very fascinating to me. And just the the jokes out there. And I’m feel I feel so bad for a lot of people right now that are trying to get homes and they just cannot. Because it’s like, it is like a feeding frenzy out there when it comes to trying to get there, get hands on property, just very, very, very difficult because it’s just so so competitive. But that that will be fascinating. I’ve been I’ve been scratching my head about that want to be completely honest with you. I’m just like, what what’s going on? You know, this, just just something just does not feel right. But again, I’m, I’m not a real estate expert either. So I’m not I’m not quite sure I can I can explain that one. But no, it’ll, it’ll, it’ll be fascinating for sure. So so so the future will end we’ll kind of we’ll start to wrap up with this. But like so the future the company, you’ve you’ve, you’ve shared with us a little bit of some of the some of products that are that are coming out some of the plans that you guys have had, you know, I appreciate you laying out there. Yes, some of the lessons are like but what would be like just one big, big bit of advice that you’d have for somebody else that may be following in your footsteps? Or they may, they may be in the early stages of a startup right now. But what what would be some advice that you’d have now that you can kind of look back on over the last, you know, one to two years and kind of seeing this for yourself? Like what’s what’s like? What’s some of your thoughts on that?
Matt Askren 41:27
Well, first, I would say buckle up. Yeah, and that may be obvious. But I mean, you know, there is a reason why people write books, make movies, and tell really cool bonfire stories about startups. Because it is a wild ride. The second piece of advice I would I would do is that, you know, have found a good foundation at the start of it. And that foundation is multifaceted, have a good foundation, with your investors have a good foundation with your other key personnel that are going to be involved with the business on a day to day or week to week basis, have a good foundation at home with your family if you have one. Because at various points in times, all of these things get tested in a startup. Because by nature, it’s more volatile there, there’s more risk, so there’s more reward potential. So that that would be my thought would be buckle up, have a great foundation. And then also trust the process. Once you’ve put in the work to make that happen. You know, you’ve got to answer everything with a sound strategic plan. And then, you know, once that goes, you need to be willing to trust it until you have data or reason to believe otherwise, in which case, then you need to pivot Case in point to pandemic we’ve had to pivot. But, you know, we feel like we had a tremendous strategy pre pandemic, had it not happen, you know, we could have been, we could have sucked. So those are kind of my three things that come to mind immediately. There’s a million more. And again, that’s why there’s so many fun books and movies that have been made about
Aaron Spatz 43:08
for sure for sure. Well, Well Matt, like what’s the what’s the best way that people can get get a hold of you and learn more about you but also learn learn more about the company?
Matt Askren 43:18
Well, our website is excellent e bakeries.com. That’s X, L and T bakeries. Calm. We can be found on on LinkedIn at excelente bakeries LLC, we can be found on Facebook at Lucy soupy pies on Instagram at Lucy supervise. You can follow or connect with me on LinkedIn at Matthew asker. And so definitely happy to connect and look forward to watching this grow. You know the the work is not easy never is but you know, that’s why it’s worth it. It’s satisfying because it isn’t easy. And for the people that are watching this now, you know, screenshot it. And in three or four years, I’ll be totally gray. And you can you can make memes about
Aaron Spatz 44:05
Amazing. Amazing. Well, Matt, I just want to thank you so much. This has been a it’s been a true pleasure. I really do appreciate you spending time with me and also just sharing some of your experiences and the different things that you’ve learned and, and just some of some of your thoughts on all these different topics. I really, really do appreciate it. Thank you.
Matt Askren 44:23
much. Appreciate it. Aaron. Pleasure to be on.
Aaron Spatz 44:29
Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us. That’s a Ron at Bold media.us So thanks