David Greenfeld: Founder & CEO of Dream Pops

Episode 332

David Greenfeld, Founder and CEO of Dream Pops, launched his company in 2018 with a mission to reinvigorate the dessert category with plant-based products that taste great and satisfy the 21st century consumer. Before this, he started his first company, Just Wine,  as a junior in college.  Between that company and Dream Pops, he had quite an interesting road of discovery. I can’t wait for you to hear about David’s fascinating entrepreneurial journey from being a hip hop artist, to working at Tesla, to his time spent living in Italy and what inspired him to start Dream Pops. And his lessons are educational.  His story of building this incredible business is inspiring and you won’t want to miss what he has to say!  On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I am so excited to have my next guest. Here we have David Greenfeld, who was the founder and CEO of dream pops, and we met actually back I think, in 2018, you guys are just taking off and I’m so excited for you that everything is going super, super well. So you started dream props in 2018, with a mission to reinvigorate the desert category with plant based products that tastes great and satisfied the 21st century consumer so and you’ve definitely done that. Before this, you started, I was doing some research on you, your first company just wine while you were a junior in college. Very, very cool. And in between that company and dream pops had quite an interesting road of discovery that hopefully we’ll get into as well. I love to get people’s entrepreneurial stories and really understand what makes them tick what lessons and wisdom. So I was super excited to get David on here to really talk about all of that. So without further ado, welcome, David.

David Greenfeld 1:50
Kara, thank you so much for having us. I’m a big fan of yours and the show. I’m really excited to share our story, a lot of ups and downs a lot of really challenging times, but really grateful to be where we are today and excited to be here.

Kara Goldin 2:04
Awesome. So how would you describe dream pops to people

David Greenfeld 2:08
dream pops is the Willy Wonka of better for you and plant based desserts. We started with an ice cream popsicle, which I think I gave to you in 2018, which was in a weird plastic bag and incredibly embarrassing. We think was three and a half years ago, we launched dream pops bytes, which is our take on Nestle’s dibs, makeable ice cream product. And then about a month ago, we launched our first non frozen product called Dream pops crunch, which is kind of a crunchy bite malted milk ball butter finger type product that is shelf stable and doesn’t fit in the freezer aisle. The larger ambition are to build the next Hershey’s bars or Ferriero of clean better for you plant based desserts with better for you ingredients. no high fructose corn syrup, all plant based and honestly, I’m just I have the biggest sweet tooth in the world. And we thought why can’t we deliver the same amazing products with less ingredients that still have that great taste? At the end of the day?

Kara Goldin 3:04
Did you always know that you’d be an entrepreneur? Yes,

David Greenfeld 3:08
I have two parents who are both entrepreneurs. And I think just being in that environment, they’ve always encouraged failure, trying new things, putting myself out there. And honestly, I’ve tried a lot of things. I was hip hop artists, I tried to start a Boxed Wine business in college, I sold lemonade and lemonade stand. So I’ve had, you know, trading up banner basketball and baseball cards back in the day. So I’ve had a lot of experience with trying different avenues to build businesses. And I think it’s a lot harder when you don’t have a family that supports that I really commend entrepreneurs that go against, you know, their parents wishes to go build something and take so much risk.

Kara Goldin 3:52
So during your junior year in college, you started just wine. So where did that come from? I mean, how did you decide to focus on the wine industry? I guess were you barely 21 At that point,

David Greenfeld 4:05
literally 21 I would say and here was a great learning for me. So I met one of my roommates in college. His name was Max henchmen. And he his family had been in the wine industry. And he was showing me some stats on box wine growth in Australia, and basically had this idea and hunch that wine had been very antiquated for a long time. And that Boxed Wine was more you know, more eco friendly, unique differentiated but also cost effective. So we bottled some box wine, we launched it, we actually got it into Whole Foods. And great lesson we had some yeast got into the bags within the box and the products actually exploded on whole food shelves and we were quickly kicked out. So a combination of product quality issues and also just not really being passionate about the wine industry. I was more passionate about building businesses and brands Um, you know, I realized I’m gonna build something, I want to consume it every day, I want to love it. And it needs to be something I’m obsessed with. And those were two great lessons that I took forward into dream pops from from that learning.

Kara Goldin 5:12
That’s so interesting. We had thought about at hint, putting it into the bag in the box. At points, we actually were concerned about exactly what you’re talking about. It’s fascinating, because the manufacturers that we were talking about were like, No, I think it’ll be just fine. And we really like ran the risk assessment for us, because we already had distribution. And I think that you know, you go and it’s one thing to be a brand new brand, and that occur. But it’s also, if you’re already in a little bit of an established brand, and then you go and launch this product, what is the consumer experience? What is your relationship with the stores, and so sometimes you have to really do the homework and sort of figure out whether or not this is going to work. Sometimes you have to go try things if you don’t know whether it’s going to work or not. But really, really important lessons, I guess that that you learn there. So you left, what was your journey, then after college?

David Greenfeld 6:08
Yeah, so after doing something so high risk, that didn’t work, I kind of defaulted to, okay, I’m gonna go into finance and work in investment banking. And so I went to Hoolahan, and was there for four and a half years. And the idea was, I really want to understand how businesses are scaled, how they operate, how to build a financial model, how to capitalize the company, and then, you know, I knew long term, I could take the skill set of being an investment banker, and probably apply that to building a business after if and when the time was right.

Kara Goldin 6:37
So, Harrison, you and I were talking about Harrison before Harrison was on our podcast a few weeks ago, and definitely had that similar experience. What do you think people who are investment banking don’t really know about actually starting a company, because I think there’s, there’s quite a bit on the operation side where, you know, people who haven’t been in it, and who are, you know, really don’t have boots on the ground and haven’t seen it, they just have no idea what they don’t know. But I’m so curious what you would say being on both sides.

David Greenfeld 7:12
Yeah. And look, there are a lot of investment bankers that do empathize, I will speak from my personal experience, that I was extremely cocky, and, you know, thought that I could jump into a company or a new industry, and in three months understand how these businesses are operated, and then give advice as to how they should be better running their companies, I think that was one of the more going into building a business is very humbling. And I I regret how cocky and just overly confident I was that I knew what was going on. And I think there are really empathetic investors and investment bankers and you know, venture capitalists. But there’s a huge difference in being an operator and looking at quarterly financials and assessing a business. And I would even in this environment, it’s really important that investors are empathetic, because this is a really hard time to build a business. And I’m grateful that I’ve been on that side of the table, because I can I know what they’re looking for. And I can speak to that. But I also do get very frustrated when I see some of the folks on the other side of the table taking advantage of founders,

Kara Goldin 8:22
I feel like it’s getting talked about a lot more. But I think that the highs and the lows for operators, they’re not waves, right there spikes, massive spikes, I’m sure you’ve had it where one day you wake up and you think, okay, we’re killing it, we’re doing it and then all sudden, you get that phone call, like, Oh, you’ve been discontinued, or, you know, the line broke, and that’s not going to happen. And then you’re going to have, you’re not going to be able to ship to an important customer, whatever that is. People don’t see that until they’re actually in these operational roles. And they don’t understand it. And what I found in just interviewing so many founders, the highs and the lows in any industry are definitely there. And they’re real. And I think people should be a lot more empathetic than they are because I think the weathering of the storms that come in, that founders take, especially in those early days, they’re real.

David Greenfeld 9:16
I also would argue that there are false positives that sometimes investors can be excited about that maybe don’t reflect the health of the company, whether that’s a new account that maybe isn’t going to be around in eight months, but it looks great on paper, the revenue growth or new distribution. And sometimes as a founder, you’re like, oh my god, it’s awesome. I got this new revenue increase, or I don’t know I’ve just I think it’s really important to remember that every month a business is changing. And yeah, you never know what could happen whether that a new retailer win or an issue with product quality, etc. So totally agree.

Kara Goldin 9:50
Yeah, definitely. I think another thing that happens early on to so many founders and definitely happened to us was that you’re gonna bring in people in To those first couple of people that come in, that are not necessarily going to be here in the company in like a month, they come in, they help you get stuff done. And then they and then they move on. And I remember even the first few people, you sort of take it personally, that you’re like, What have I done wrong? Do I suck, you know, like, Is my product terrible, whatever. But I think that’s another piece that I really think is natural and normal, I think that there’s going to be people that are going to transition in and out of your company in the very early days. And it’s not until you start to have some stability and get scale that you start to bring in people that can really help you grow to that next stage. But it doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful for those early stages.

David Greenfeld 10:43
Yeah, and right, in six months, a business can change in terms of the need, internally certain roles and functions of a $1 million brand. $5 million dollar brand, a $20 million brand are very different and the expectations on the operators are very different. So

Kara Goldin 11:00
totally agree. So how have you gotten the word out about dream pops? Yeah,

David Greenfeld 11:04
I mean, I follow you know, Kara, you you set the precedent. And it’s been awesome to see what you’ve done with your brands, but I really rebuilt this across all channels. Yeah, built it on Instagram initially. And then Tik Tok and LinkedIn had been our biggest platforms. And recently YouTube shorts. So really built a great digital brand that sells in retail. And it’s really about volume of content, doubling down on the organic content that performs and then brand activations pop ups. Downloading Frozen is really challenging because you don’t have the to see your Amazon. So you need to make sure that you’re winning in those frozen retail channels. And when you are, you know, whether that’s through shopper marketing or other levers, making sure that you you double down on what’s working.

Kara Goldin 11:53
So you went into frozen, obviously, you had not been in frozen. What would you say to people now who are thinking they’re gonna go and and start a frozen company? Like, would you say No way? I mean, do you think it’s gotten easier? Do you think it’s just still super challenging.

David Greenfeld 12:11
So like, I when I would ask other Bounders and frozen to give me advice, like five years ago, if they do it, I hear some people that say, Don’t ever do it, not worth it. But I actually sitting in my seat. I disagree. I think it’s so hard that if you figure it out, there’s less barrier to entry and less competition, I would put beverage there. I think beverage frozen, perishable, fresh, anything in the fresh set 30 to 6090 day shelf lives really hard. But I wouldn’t say don’t do it. Like if you have a great product, you can still win and win big. And so I really don’t like when people are like I’ve had a bad experience, I’m going to tell someone not to do it. There’s always room for an innovative product that you can make, you can execute on. It’s just you’re getting you’re not going to be able to take advantage of DTC or other channels that might allow for faster growth. Sitting here. Now, I love Frozen. I think it’s a really exciting category. Yes, there’s competition, but it’s expensive to operate in. And you need to understand frozen logistics, like the back of your hand. Yeah, definitely.

Kara Goldin 13:14
How did you learn frozen logistics, calling people

David Greenfeld 13:18
I started a podcast as well, that 70 episodes where I interviewed founders. And just the amount that was shared back and forth within the interview. But then after was incredible. So other founders in the space, and then just getting coffee or meeting people at trade shows. I’m also a big fan of cold emails and LinkedIn messages. And in this industry in particular, it’s crazy how many people will give you 10, five to 10 minutes and share. But it’s really rolling up your sleeves and making some mistakes. I’ve had product melt that, you know, pallets that melt and you know, issues supply chain mistakes, but think it’s just rolling up your sleeves and making it happen.

Kara Goldin 13:59
So has there ever been a funny story? Maybe you produced a new product out of that crazy story that happened that it was sort of an accidental mess up along the way?

David Greenfeld 14:09
Yeah, so less of an accidental product we made but funny story is in the early days, I didn’t know how to distribute the ice cream products into stores. So I would literally put ice cream in my car with dry ice and a big cooler and make deliveries on my own into Erawan Bristol Farms. I didn’t know unify like I just I convinced Bristol Farms and Erawan like we pitched them and they believed in our product and gave us a shot. So myself I would put a dry ice pellets into, you know a big container in my car in the trunk with our product and I would make the deliveries. What I didn’t know in the early days I had my windows up with the dry ice and almost passed out in spit like suffocated because dry ice emits co2 in the car. And so it was a pretty crazy year. Again, where I was driving, you know, trying to understand what was going on and could have been pretty awful. But you know, looking back, learn that lesson kept making the deliveries figured it out. And anyone who puts right in their car, please roll down those windows. It’s a little scary. That’s

Kara Goldin 15:15
crazy. I never realized that. So what happened?

David Greenfeld 15:18
I literally started to almost pass out while driving on my way to Erawan. And that that would have been pretty terrible.

Kara Goldin 15:26
Did you? How did you figure it out? Um,

David Greenfeld 15:28
I didn’t realize what was going on until I think I had heard like, I was starting to blackout. And so I like had to pull over to the side. And I rolled down windows, and I was trying to think about what was happening. And then I saw a lot of steam coming off the drives in the back of the hot summer day. And I was I just was like, That makes a lot of sense.

Kara Goldin 15:49
You’ve learned a lot along your journey, right? I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s crazy. So I’ve heard you talk about the need to build your tool set. Can you share a little bit more about that?

David Greenfeld 16:02
With regards to everything? Yeah, operations or marketing or building

Kara Goldin 16:06
the company? And however you want to take that?

David Greenfeld 16:09
Yeah. So when it comes to to marketing, I think you need to get your hands dirty and test things yourselves. I don’t like outsourcing in general, I think I I’ve had people that say, why are you posting on LinkedIn or Instagram or Tiktok, so much like you should be running your business? Well, a piece of that is you need to actually understand how that content works, and then be able to hire somebody that knows how to execute on what’s working, not just outsource to an agency that claims they know what they’re doing. I think that also applies to operations to sales. So every role at the company I have personally done myself. And so I can, I think that allows me to be able to hire for it. For example, Cara, we used to manufacture everything out of a tiny facility in downtown LA. That means myself and one person on the line and 10 people on the line, then 15 people in a commercial facility, making popsicles packing it into a bag, stamping, date codes, palletizing, and shipping. And so when you understand those things of tiny details, your ability to assess the performance of someone else that’s going to execute on that I think goes through the roof as the probability of success. And when you hire people that know what they’re doing, and are better than you at it. I think that’s what leads to ultimate success.

Kara Goldin 17:26
I think that when you actually understand components of their job, when people get stuck, or the person who’s tasked with it, can’t really figure something out, you’re able to jump in and assist. And I’ve seen that over and over again. And so I think that that is such a key thing, people are people, right, they can be the best at their job. But if they just don’t see something, because they’ve never seen it before. And I think that more and more, I think as I hear this across the board in all different industries, it’s just when you’re trying to do something brand new, maybe you’re bringing in something new into the operations process, or you’re trying something new on Tiktok, or, you know, whatever it is, like just bringing in smart people who help you to think about things is, you know, the best thing and if, if your leader has actually done your job, I think that that’s absolutely key in being able to contribute to the solution. So brand purpose, I get asked this a lot like how do you find your brand purpose? You know, I think it’s a lot easier for startups when you’re starting a company and you’ve got a why but what would you say to that, like, how do companies find their purpose? And what if they feel like they’re sort of moving away from their purpose in some way? How do you come back to it?

David Greenfeld 18:39
It’s a great question. I’ve done an exercise called the Seven why’s where you start with the question like, why did you start doing pubs and then you try and answer it seven times, and distill it down to your core purpose of why you’re doing anything that you’re doing. And I’ll shout out Carl Segal, my friend who told me about that exercise, which I think is really interesting. I’ve gotten to a couple different places with why we exist. One is like the ability to inspire other people to go after their dreams, whatever that is, like anything is popsicle. There’s that peace of like, go build that business that brand. Go write that song, go do whatever it is that really like makes your heart sing and that you want to accomplish. I think there’s a piece of inspiring people. But then when it comes to why the product exists. For me on a personal level, I’m lactose intolerant. I have the biggest sweet tooth on the planet. I think about all the Snickers bars, Dippin Dots, you know, Reese’s cups, Hershey’s Kisses I’ve consumed in my lifetime as a child, the ingredients in those products and the ability to create products that replace those that are six to eight ingredients that don’t have high fructose corn syrup, a ton of sugar and these you know toxic ingredients and what consuming 10s of 1000s of those products over the first you know, early years of your Life, I’m replacing it with a healthier option, what impact that has on health. And that’s something that I can stand behind and say if if we’re creating a product that billions of people consume, and that’s reducing their sugar intake, it improves their overall health, they still feel like they get that joy from eating something indulgent, then that’s a pretty awesome mission to stand behind.

Kara Goldin 20:21
When you have those tough days that hit what inspires you. I mean, you touched on this just now a bit. I’m so curious what your response is. But when you know why you’re doing something more than anything, but how do you know for sure,

David Greenfeld 20:35
I’ve had those days and nights where I thought I ruined my career, I had a lot of people in finance that I worked with that mocked or made fun of me while I was sampling at Erawan, or Whole Foods at the grocery store, David lost his mind selling popsicles. It’s easy for people to project opinions put you in a box. And so there are times where we were not getting traction investors were saying no, you know, I was like, did I does this work? I know, deep down. This will work if I if we keep improving and making it happen. On your question of where I go with it, to keep pushing forward. It was a quick framing exercise where I realized, in my old job that I was working at 200 plus hours a week, yes, I had financial freedom, but I didn’t have control of my life or my destiny on a daily basis. The ability to wake up every day and create something I love is the ultimate luxury. Yes, I’m working equal or more hours, but it’s a luxury to get to go build something and create something every day. And so that thought process of I’m going to take a financial hit in the short run, to have control over my life is something I’m willing to do. And also not only is there the ability to make a living, but there’s also the ability to touch billions of people or millions of people. And so that formula is okay, I will take the short term pain in order to have the long term formula for happiness and career fulfillment. Do you hear from consumers a lot all the time I get all the emails in the DMS complaints. But my favorite are just and more people need to do this, send an email that says, Wow, I really enjoyed eating your product. And it’s amazing because I get those and those are my favorite emails and messages. Your product changed my life. Your product is my new favorite. But the on the you get 10 emails of problem spirit issues, right?

Kara Goldin 22:35
No, I love it. And that’s that’s what I always go back to I mean, those early emails of people. The first week, we were in business, there was a gentleman that wrote to me that picked up our product on the shelf at Whole Foods. And he had this thing that I had never heard of called type two diabetes. This was 17 years ago. And I’d heard of type one diabetes, but my curiosity was like, I was like, Wait, what’s type two diabetes. And he went on to say that, even though no doctor had told him this, that the diet sweetener was actually spiking his insulin levels. And he was tech executive. He said not a lot of people knew that he had type two diabetes. But what hint did was help him feel normal and be able to function. And he thanked me for that. And it still sat with me this many years later, as like a really powerful thing. And I, I keep those emails, I keep those letters, because I think that during those really tough and challenging times, it’s that connection with the consumer. And I think that you’ve done such a great job of actually being accessible as well. Because when people can find you on LinkedIn, and Tik Tok and some of the others and be able to write to you, I think that that’s how you end up getting this motivation, but also learning about what your consumer is looking for.

David Greenfeld 23:55
100% I think I do the same thing. I also will say and whether or not it’s it’s healthy. I’m not saying it’s definitely not out of spite, but it’s more motivation. You know, I’ve had 300 Plus ambassadors turn us down since inception. And I just like to keep the email teams and the those people just as on my desktop as a reminder that if 300 People have said they don’t believe in this or don’t think it’s going to happen, or this will never work. And we’ve gotten to this point and are still in business five and a half years later. Like I that’s that is also some great motivation.

Kara Goldin 24:31
Yeah, definitely. So very cool. What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

David Greenfeld 24:37
Wow, great question, best advice I’ve ever received. If you do your best, every single day and you never give up you will eventually be successful. I think

Kara Goldin 24:47
that that is so true. So getting back up even when you don’t feel like it doesn’t mean that you can’t take a break but I always say staying complacent will. My my father you To say that to me staying complacent will ultimately kill you.

David Greenfeld 25:03
But and that I 100% agree and it may sound like try it, but like if you know if you are doing the best that you possibly can, knowing that you are giving 110% And you do not stop, eventually you will break through because you’re willing to react to the market and mold the ball of clay to make it work. And that might be a different business or product than what you started with. And so I think that that that is what really resonates.

Kara Goldin 25:30
So you mentioned your product extension, not in the frozen aisle Correct

David Greenfeld 25:35
Correct. And this in the early days, we said we wanted to be a confectioner candy company. So this is really showing that beyond the freezer, we can exist and and you know, build something larger than just I

Kara Goldin 25:47
I love it. I remember talking to Justin Justin’s nut butters and and that that was the key thing. I haven’t had him on the podcast. But I remember talking to him about one of the shows that he said that that was the game changer, that when he could get up next to the cash register. That created the poll that he needed, even on for the rest of his product line. So super, super exciting for you. And I hope it goes super well. You just launched it

David Greenfeld 26:16
just launched and it’ll be it’s on DTC and Amazon but it’ll be rolling into retail in q1.

Kara Goldin 26:20
Amazing, so great. Well, super, super Terrific. Thank you very much, David, such a great product and everybody if you haven’t tried dream pops or if you have tried it, you need to get on and purchase a bunch of it right now. And definitely support dream pops and David and we’ll have all the info in the show notes as well. But thank you for your wisdom and your stories and your lessons and your tenacity and all of that. It’s it’s really, really awesome and energizing. So thank you and thanks, everybody for listening. So goodbye for now.

David Greenfeld 26:56
Bye. Thanks for having us.

Kara Goldin 26:57
Thanks all for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed it. And I want to thank all of our guests and our sponsors. And finally our listeners keep the great comments coming in. And one final plug if you have not read or listened to my book undaunted, please do so you will hear all about my journey, including founding, scaling and building the company that I founded hint we are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks everyone for listening and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening