Kurt Seidensticker – CEO & Founder of Vital Proteins

Episode 79

My guest, Kurt Seidensticker, is a a serial entrepreneur and he has always been on the cutting edge of new information and products. After going into aerospace engineering and working at NASA, Kurt went to work Motorola and then moved into the e-commerce space. Eventually, he merged his interests in health with entrepreneurship and created Vital Proteins. On this show, Kurt talks about how he decided to create a collagen peptides product that was accessible to consumers, how he has approached digital marketing and working with influencers, what it has been like to build his company so quickly, and much more.

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Kara Goldin: Hi everybody. It’s Kara Goldin from Unstoppable. And I’m really, really excited for my next guest. So this is Kurt Seidenstick. So Kurt, for those of you who don’t know is the founder and CEO of Vital Proteins, super excited to have you here today. And he’s a serial entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience, including holding positions at NASA and Motorola. Wow. Crazy. And can’t wait to hear about that.
And he’s successfully grown a number of companies within the eCommerce space, a journey that eventually led him to define a new space in the nutrition marketplace, powdered collagen category. And he is, as I mentioned, the CEO and founder and the company is called Vital Proteins. I bet you’ve actually seen it in the store. It’s also been featured in Vogue and Men’s Health and Well+Good and People and lots of celebrity fans, everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Kourtney Kardashian and many, many more. So we’re super excited to have you here and just sharing your story and how this whole thing got started. So welcome.
Kurt Seidensticker: Kara, thanks for having me. Looking forward to our talk today.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about, okay, so NASA to Vital Proteins. So how did that jump happen?
Kurt Seidensticker: I think there’s an underlying story behind my passion for being an entrepreneur. I think that started when I was a kid. I was always thinking outside of the box in trying to be a creator and figuring out new ways to do things. And when it was time to go off to college, I started thinking about, what’s going to give me that best tool to solve these problems. And I really went into aerospace engineering for some reason because it was the toughest major problem solving. And I thought I’d take on that challenge. And after I left college, naturally with that degree, went to NASA and got into a really great role there of first learning how to fly the space shuttle and then training the astronauts how to fly the space shuttle. I think for a kid right out of school, that was kind of like a dream come true.
But underlying all of this was that need to make a difference and make a change and take on challenges and be a creator. And so really I’ve used a lot of my… I think innately in my skills are just like looking at things a little bit differently and trying to change the way we do things for the better. And I kind of went from NASA. And moved back to Chicago and worked at Motorola, and Motorola since 1994 were really starting to create cell phone technology. So one of my roles there was really to go around the world and design the first generation cell phone networks that are the basis for what we do for daily communications today.
And after that then, the internet came about and started thinking about how are these cities going to communicate and share information and went to really start up a company called Level 3 Communications, which even today built the backbone of the internet by connecting cities through fiber optic cables. You’d connect Denver to Chicago, Chicago to New York or New York to Atlanta. And it became the basis for the backbone of the internet. And once that was done in 1998, 2000 started realizing, okay, what’s going to run over this data. When we have all this fiber optic bandwidth capable, what’s going to really run over that. And looked at creating a data center business because I knew we needed software and technology to actually create experiences and data for consumers.
And so started a data center company right in 1999. And then realized that, okay, on top of that eCommerce. And if you remember back in that day, people thought e-commerce was never really going to be a transformative element of our world. And I kind of saw the convenience of it and eventually worked on developing technology behind that, became recognized as internet. I think internet retail are one of the top 30 innovators in eCommerce. And that just kind of created a platform I think for future innovation and ideas of creating things.
And throughout this whole time, my whole life I’ve always really been focused on running in fitness and wellness. And running has been a part of my life. And what I realized as I was getting older, I always heard the story about people hanging up their running shoes because your body just had a very difficult time in your mid 40s, continuing that daily pace of the run. And I started thinking like I didn’t want to do that because I was really passionate. And so I took on that problem solving, why is it that people have to give up running in their mid 40s? And it really came down to your body’s inability to repair itself quick enough between your runs. And that repair processes is really the repair of collagen structures in your joints.
And at the time, people were promoting glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, and the idea was those were just masking the problem. They weren’t actually regenerating or fixing the problem that was actually underlying it. And my daughter was in med school at the time and we talked together and it turns out just kind of fate, there was this article that came out about glycine’s role in collagen synthesis. So initially I was thinking glycine was the key that was missing from my diet and started looking on that journey of where I could get glycine. And it turns out collagen was rich in glycine. And it was like over 50% glycine. And I said, okay, well, I noticed there were some tablets in the market and people were taking one or two grams. And I said, well, how much do I need to take?
And that science really turned out to be your body needed like 20 to 40 grams a day, which means I would have had to take like 80 tablets a day. And I’m like, “Okay, I can’t even take one on a regular basis.” So I started thinking, well, why can’t I get more collagen today? And part of that’s taste profile, solubility. And so really creating a collagen that integrated into everyone’s daily wellness routine, like adding it to your coffee, adding it to smoothie, adding it somewhere. Because I had been taking protein supplements from dairy proteins and plant proteins. And when I was looking at this, I said, I could create a new category of this collagen protein where it is scoop based and it’s actually incorporated into your daily diet. That was different than what was being promoted for collagen normally, which was a beauty supply, a pill a day. Right?
And so that creation of that category I think was really transformative. And this all happened within like a week of time from seeing that paper to saying, wow. I still remember the feeling today is like, I go, “Wow, that’s really a Vital protein.” And then the spark came and I think that comes from having started other businesses and knowing and recognizing there’s an opportunity and a great idea and you’re solving your own problem but you also see the benefit of this for other people. And I think within a week or two, I leased a facility and got rehabbing it and turning it into a manufacturing facility for collagen and the kind of rest just took off from there.
Kara Goldin: Wow. I have so many questions that… I mean, it’s amazing. And you were obviously doing things in technology and then to actually create a consumer product that is sold on the shelf. Right? I mean, there were a few iterations before. You started when? How many years ago?
Kurt Seidensticker: So the idea was in September, 2012. And I was ready to launch the first product in November of 2013. So about six years, seven years ago. Yeah.
Kara Goldin: Wow. Amazing. It’s crazy. So your first product out of the gate was what?
Kurt Seidensticker: The Collagen Peptides, which today still is our hero skew. It’s the number one seller. It’s now become the number one protein brand in the country or the number one skew in the protein category. And it continues to dominate. Even as we innovate, that one skew that we created right at the beginning continues to lead the market and continues to lead our own brand.
Kara Goldin: And the distribution, how did you think about? Because you had never done this, right?
Kurt Seidensticker: Never done it.
Kara Goldin: And how did you think…
Kurt Seidensticker: I don’t know if that was a curse or a benefit. But I had gone to Expo West I think in 2013. Right? So after I had the idea, I’ve got to figure out how to do this. And as you know when you go to Expo West you have the Hilton hotel there and there’s that gathering place. And I had sat down with this guy and just was talking to him and he told me his story about his business that he had a great idea and he’d been in the CPG space for decades. And he launched his idea, went through distributors, went through co-manufacturers, got a national retail launch and all in the same year. And by the end of the year, he was bankrupt.
And what I took from that is, okay, I’m going to vertically integrate. I’m going to do manufacturing and myself. I’m not going to go to distributors right away. And I’m actually not going to go on retail shelves right away because one of the failure points was you can’t just be on the shelf, right? Consumer is not going to buy unless they know you. They’re going to walk into a Whole Foods. And they’re going to say, “I know this brand. I’ve heard about it. I want to buy it.” Right? “I want to try it.” So you need to create that brand awareness early on in the evolution of the brand. So I said, I’m going to hold off on retail. And I’m going to really focus on direct-to-consumer and focus on educating consumers about this new category of product. And it’ll naturally evolve into a retail distributed product.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Yeah. That was about the same time 2013, 2014 was when we did our direct-to-consumer. And we’re still a lot earlier than many other ready to drink products. But I had actually come from AOL. I ran AOL’s e-commerce. And I didn’t even think that a beverage company could launch online. I mean, there were other issues like the weight of it and shipping and lots of other stuff included. But I mean, it was really, I always tell people when I get phone calls and people say, “Hey, how do I build a direct-to-consumer business?” And I always tell people, Amazon is a great first step to actually see not only how much desire people have in wanting your product but also what is the competition? How are people viewing this? Is there a lot of education needed around your product? And all of those kind of components as well. So you launched that and what’s the component of that killer product that you have. I mean, what is…
Kurt Seidensticker: So it’s relatively simple, right? You basically take gelatin and hydrolyze it into peptides and make a cold water soluble protein from it. And so it’s essentially derived from cow hide, bovine hides. So it was a relatively simple ingredient that wasn’t really being used in the market today as a new form of ingredient supplement.
Kara Goldin: Amazing. Amazing. So then you’re going along building this brand online. At what point did you say I need to make this a food and beverage brand?
Kurt Seidensticker: Well, I think one thing that made the brand successful early on, not only that first initial direct-to-consumer launch, we partnered that launch along with doing trade shows and consumer events and getting out there and doing… I think the first year I did like 30 or 40, the next year I did like 150. Right? And it was always being on the road and always being out there, talking to the consumer and you reconnect with these consumers year after year and they get to know your product and you’re out there educating. And from that conversation, then you hear how they take the product and they bring ideas and they talk about like, wouldn’t it be great if you had this? This is what I do with the product, blah, blah, blah.
And from that then it became clear that some consumers are having challenges of taking Collagen Peptides in their normal routine because they weren’t used to taking a dietary supplement but they wanted to take it. They were already putting it in ice cold water and having solubility issues. And we thought we need to really think about making this more convenient, more accessible to a broader number of consumers who are not blender affectionados, right? Who know how to make the product. And so that led us to the idea of creating a collagen water itself. And that came with challenges too, technical challenges because it really hadn’t been done before. We spent probably about a year developing the product. And that also then led to our formulation and other food categories as well. And what we noticed, this is the great thing about direct-to-consumer business, because you have that relationship, you can constantly have that conversation, you can send out surveys to hundreds of thousands of consumers and get immediate feedback.
And we did a survey I think in 2016 and asked our consumers, how are you taking the product? Why are you taking it? When are you taking it? What benefits are you looking for? Tell us more about your lifestyle and how you incorporate it. And from that survey, we learned a lot of things that consumers were really incorporating our products into their morning routines, into their coffee. And I think we had over 50% of our consumers consuming with coffee. And that led us to the innovation of coffee creamers. Right? We have a powder line today and a liquid line coming online as well. But because of the usage occasion and because of that direct relationship with the consumer, it allowed us to evolve into what the consumers were telling us they wanted from Vital.
Kara Goldin: So leading into the digital marketing early I think is something you definitely did and were ahead of the curve. And especially in the influencer space, I mean, we talked a little bit about some of the celebrities. How did you think about that? I mean, again, you’re a guy from NASA who’s like… I mean, you’re jumping in and doing it. I mean, it’s awesome. So how did you think about it?
Kurt Seidensticker: It was a natural evolution of the brand because I remember in 2014, right? As we had launched the brand, trying to figure out how we’re going to do marketing. Because I wanted this company to earn every single dollar had made. I wasn’t going to over invest in it. And hopefully the success came later. It had earned success every single day. And so we’re very frugal with everything. And I was standing in line at Whole Foods and read a Paleo Magazine and there’s this Paleo f(x) conference coming up in one week in Austin. I said, “Let’s just go to that and see what happens.” And that turned to be turned out to be a very critical moment I think in Vital’s history, because we went down there, it’s a four day show, long hours. But every single person there had a platform and a voice to educate consumers and their own audience about health and wellness.
And so that very first show, I met Melissa Hartwig, Melissa Urban with Whole30. I met Mark Sewson, I met a Wellness Mama. I met a ton of people and just had hour long conversations with them and kind of told them what my idea was and what came out of that was even before influencers were thinking where these friendships and partnerships that helped advocate the brand through an authentic voice of third parties. And we continued to do that. Once I saw that right off the bat, that became part of our strategy doing hundreds of these. And I think last year we did probably over close to 10,000 events through our whole team, right? That was our massive team either doing in store demos or being at consumer trade shows or being out in the field doing something.
But through those direct face to face connections, we developed these relationships authentically with influencers that we were never even paying influencers really in the first three, four years of the brand. And because of that, experts became knowledgeable about collagen and its benefit and they advocated for it. And then you have individuals like Jennifer Anderson, where her doctor suddenly is recommending that she should take this or she’s seeking out knowledge about it. And she became an authentic, unsolicited, natural advocate for the brand. And a majority of our influencers, that’s how they came across Vital. It’s through their own journey.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. Well, I think third party stories are just super impactful. Whether it’s a celebrity or if it’s actually somebody who’s just a fan of the brand. And maybe in some ways I think fans of the brand or even… I don’t know, I go back and forth on this because I think while celebrities definitely bring value at certain times, I also feel like people feel like they were just paid to do this. Right? People always ask, “If I’m building a brand, do I have to go get 10 stars to come and represent my product?” And I don’t think you do. I think especially if you’re starting small and trying to get your financials all figured out, it’s not something that you should. I think it’s better to actually get people to taste your product, which is what we did initially. And we just focused on having a great product and getting the product out, which I know you guys have done as well. And then moving into retailers, did you think that was just much harder to sort of figure out, distribute them and everything else? Right?
Kurt Seidensticker: Funny story, I had absolutely no experience in this, right? And the benefit I think of developing that direct-to-consumer brand and getting the voice out there and being brand forward instead of retailer forward is that consumers knew who we were and they were buying us. And we got on the radar of national retailers, Whole Foods was probably at all these Paleo f(x) shows in Austin from their headquarters. And they came over and they started talking to us. And from that discussion, they came to us and said, “We want to launch you nationally.” And it wasn’t a sales pitch, right? It wasn’t us going out, hitting the road, going in and trying to get a meeting and trying to get a pitch on a calendar. It was really having the retailers come to us and say, we want to carry you. And that partnership has worked really well with all of our retailers.
And from that then, the funny thing is I think it was September of 2016, Whole Foods says, yeah, we want to carry you nationally. I’m like, “Great, let’s do that.” And we worked through all the terms and the strategy. And I think we signed the deal mid November. I think it was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in November. And I’m like, “Great, deal done.” And then it’s like, “Okay. Here’s what we need you to do in the next two weeks.” I’m like “What?” And getting that huge relationship going and I had no sales team. And suddenly I realized I needed to build a sales team really quick just to support a national rollout with Whole Foods. And then that just naturally expanded into our sales team, who does a phenomenal job on retailer partnerships and getting the brand out there and getting the product on shelf.
Kara Goldin: And then your last thing that you did was the Ready to Drink, and which is in many ways, probably the most challenging of any of that.
Kurt Seidensticker: It is.
Kara Goldin: Because, yeah, having a DSD. Do you have a DSD network as well?
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. We have several DSD networks I think between different regional areas in Los Angeles and Chicago and down South as well. And building that distributor network yourself is a challenge, right? We did not go big distributor globally or big distributor nationally initially. And we’ve kind of just worked our way through that because it’s not only having distributors supporting the marketing and education behind it.
Kara Goldin: Totally. Yeah. No. I absolutely get it. And DSD by the way, for those of you who don’t know our lingo that Kurt and I are going back is direct store delivery. So it’s all those trucks that get your products to the store and hopefully merchandise, help merchandise the stores, et cetera. So let’s talk about goal setting. I mean, because you’ve really built this company. I mean, incredibly impressive. How many people do you have now in the…
Kurt Seidensticker: I think we’re around 450 people total. We are vertically integrated so we do have our own manufacturing facility, which probably is about half the staff. Right? And then the other half is sales, marketing, finance, operations, admin, HR.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. And the manufacturing it’s all in Chicago or…
Kurt Seidensticker: All in Chicago. Yeah. Franklin Park right next to O’Hare Airport. As part of strategic marketing, right? I built the warehouse right down 294 cells with a huge Vital Protein sign on it. So you get that.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome.
Kurt Seidensticker: 200,000 people driving by it every day.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Do you know Julie Smolyansky from Lifeway.
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. Yeah.
Kara Goldin: I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago and yeah. I have a lot of Chicago on here actually.
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. We’ve become a new incubator I think with entrepreneurs. And our offices were I think two blocks away from hers when we were in our temp office in Fulton Market on the West side.
Kara Goldin: No. That’s awesome. So how do you continue with competition? I mean, very similar I feel you how you started not only a new product but also a new category which as I share with people and I have a book coming out in October. And I talk a whole chapter about this, how it’s like, I had no idea I was starting a new category. Right? Did you know you were starting a new category when you started this?
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. I mean, that was my goal, right? Because I knew I think being a creator over a competitor is key. Because as a competitor, you’re at a disadvantage and you’re reacting to the market more than you’re creating your own vision. And so I saw that gap in a protein space between plant protein and dairy based protein that allowed us to set the narrative and define the category of that collagen ingestible market. I don’t like to look at competition, right? I think the first two, three years of Vital, we had almost no competition. So we were just freely ourselves to create and innovate and follow that vision. I think as 2016, we started getting competitive, our competitors entering the market. They were seeing how well Vital was doing.
And I try to stay away from looking at that. Because I still have this vision to build. And I tell our team like, “Let’s focus on who we are and what we want to build. And let’s be the definers of this category.” And I think through innovation, the great thing is, we’re on generation four or generation five. And as a competitor enters the market, they’re on generation one and they have to go through the same paths that we went through. And always being a creator and showing that expertise to the consumer and having that relevance to the consumer allows you to maintain market leadership. And we’ve done that throughout the life cycle for Vital.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. I mean, I’ll just add to that. I mean, the interesting thing that I found was I remember when Coke came out with their first competitor to Hint in the early days of Hint. I mean, we’re now a 15 year old brand. And I remember that was a bad day and like the timeline. I remember thinking like, “This is terrible.” Right? We’re dead on arrival. Right? It’s awful. And then what I realized is that we started a new category and so they were actually helping us to expand the category and by bringing in this competition. And as long as we focused on being better and being a better product right and do what we were doing every single day, I mean, people have asked me in the past, “Did you really change?” And I’m like, “No.” I mean, it was really about focusing on what we do every day and understanding our quality and being able to still educate people on what we’re doing. And potentially if we needed to change. Right?
I mean, I think the only thing we really did during that time and I’d be curious to hear what you think about this or what you guys did. But maybe we did some skew rationalization because we just thought, those might be skewing retailers. At that time we were just in stores to think like, “This isn’t successful.” Because maybe they weren’t the best flavors. Right? Or are the best products. So we got rid of the stuff that just was good but it was polarizing to people. Like I was to talk about, like, we had a cucumber water.
Kurt Seidensticker: We did too. And that was gone.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. And I mean, it was funny. I mean, this was 15 years ago not when you started. But I talk about this in the book where in the West Coast, we couldn’t keep it in stock on the West Coast. And when we brought it into New York, people are like, “What are you thinking? How can you have a cucumber water?” And then people didn’t have this vision for the brand. And so I always say, people say they want to be weird and different, but the reality is like the best fruits in the fruit and vegetable section are really what sell. Right? There’s no big secrets around it and don’t be weird. Right? It’s like that’s the key thing but did you have the same experience?
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. I still struggle with skew rationalization because you have something that you think works and maybe the consumer isn’t resonating with it. And you say, okay, it’s generating so much money on the market and do really want to pull that off and put something else in that you think can be better. And I think early on, as a category creator, one of the advantage we had is, our Hero product was great but the retailers really wanted a brand block. And they would take four shelves or even sometimes an entire pod within a store and put all shelves all Vital Proteins.
So we would have 30, 60 products or 60 front facing products all in one section of the store. And we have to make a decision, which one of these we’re going to take out and what are we going to create and put in its place because we didn’t want to lose that shelf space. So innovation suddenly became part of the strategy of skew rationalization, which as a brand, you want to be really efficient and not have hundreds of skews. And that’s always been a challenge for us because everyone always has a new idea. But it keeps us fresh and innovative and lets consumers check in and say, “I haven’t tried that yet. That looks interesting.”
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No. Absolutely. And you guys are constantly innovating into new products. I mean, you guys jumped into the performance space. What made you think that was the thing to do?
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. It just goes back to our roots. Right? I started the brand because I was really fitness forward and focused on running. And few things happened over the years with Vital. Right? We were having a direct-to-consumer relationship. Doing these surveys, I found out our consumer was 80% female consuming it for beauty benefits. And I’m like, okay. I thought I created this Paleo running company but really our consumers were female beauty and wellness forward. And I said, there’s still that benefit for men. There’s still that benefit for athletes. And we were still going out there. We were going to Boston Marathon, we’re doing all these sporting events. And the enthusiast, the runner was still very passionate about us. And yeah, I think we did a CrossFit event and people said, “I didn’t know you guys were in fitness as well.” And I’m like, “Yeah. We’ve always been here.”
Kara Goldin: That’s so funny.
Kurt Seidensticker: And what I realized the Chicago Cubs, like in 2016, every player was taking Vital Proteins every single day. They had no injuries the whole year. And they ended up winning the World Series. And we became longterm partners with the Cubs and suddenly every major league team came in and said what were the Cubs doing. And the Cubs were really great to introduce us to all the other teams. And we introduced college and pretty much to major league sports in 2017 after the Cubs victory. And so it was this underlying benefit that was being provided that really wasn’t resonating with consumers with our main line brands. So performance came about to really focus on that fitness benefit, focus on that athlete benefit. And so we watched that here last year as part of our new brand line, the Vital Performance line.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. What percent of your business Is direct-to-consumers? I mean, that’s where you started, right?
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. So early on, right? It was 100% when we launched with Whole Foods, right? It goes down to 80% but then as we expanded, right? It had gotten down to probably about 30 to 35% and we’ve seen a slight shift with COVID and in the changes in the world we have today, we’re kind of floating that 30 to 40% of direct-to-consumer. And when I say the direct consumer it’s our website, plus the Amazon of which we manage ourselves.
Kara Goldin: Interesting. Yeah. We’ve flipped actually through COVID. It’s fascinating because I mean, we had close to 40% of our business was direct-to-consumer and then we have sort of an additional channel, which I’m not sure. It’s probably different for your business. We call it Food Service but it’s like offices and maybe some of it for your ready drink stuff. But we’re not really in too many like food lunch spots where you guys might be or smoothie bars or something. That’s just not really where we’ve kind of shown up. Not that we haven’t wanted to, it’s just sort of how it’s played out. But that business in March basically shut down with all of these offices shutting down. And that was like 15% of our overall business. And so we really made some pretty big bets and bold bets and said all close through the end of the year.
And we said, even if it comes back, I mean, people all around us, I was out speaking in March, in late March and they were like, “Come on.” It’s not going to close down until the end of the year. And I’m like, “Let me be wrong.” We were really were focused on that. And then we very quickly we were buying ads and upping our Facebook and Google budgets. And I mean, at one point I think one of the buyers said to me from Facebook, he said, “So have you been watching the news? I mean, I don’t really understand what you guys are doing right now because everybody’s canceling ads.” And we were like, boom.
Kurt Seidensticker: Spending a lot. Yeah.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. We were really in TV and we did a lot of stuff. And so now that business is like 55% of our overall business. I mean, we almost tripled that business. It was crazy.
Kurt Seidensticker: We did something similar. I think early March, I kind of saw the same things tapping and really I think late February, I activated my team. And I said, there’s going to be a shift here, more direct-to-consumer. And I tasked my team, we use this internal thing, a tag called We Sprint. But I said, “Guys, we need to really…” Normally we would maintain two weeks of inventory at Amazon, right? Amazon’s a massive business for us. And it’s just in time for delivery. And I said, we really need to bump that up to eight to 16 weeks. They’re going to have logistics problems. More consumers are going to shift. The philosophy is going to increase. We need to be ready to shift. And so we shifted our manufacturing to really be prepared for that growth and in direct-to-consumer so we never had supply chain issues. And we ended up investing more in digital marketing and really letting the consumer know that Vital was still there and present in their everyday wellness routine because wellness is becoming more front and center in everyone’s mind.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. Totally. And you had a list. You had a list of names. I mean, that was same with us. It was we could communicate directly with the consumer and share that we were understanding what they were going through, which I think is such a key thing. If you didn’t have that list, you were sitting here saying, “My gosh, my shelves are empty at various stores.” And having to sort of deal with entire distribution arms in the case of Food Service shutting down. I mean, I’ve talked to many founders who if your only two channels are stores and food service, like through COVID, it’s not a pretty picture, right? They’re starting to come back. But I think that the direct-to-consumer model was really for those of us that really had invested in it and really understood it. I think it was just having a leg up. And yeah, that’s very interesting to hear you have the same perspective. So what’s next for you? What are you excited about through the end of 2020?
Kurt Seidensticker: I’m excited about our global expansion, right? We had very broad global expansion plans for 2020 that have slightly been altered but still on target and still on pace for a full global launch here by the end of the year. And so, we’re focusing on Europe, we’re focusing on Asia, South America. And I see huge opportunities I think for Vital really to bring wellness to the world. And it’s great because it’s like you’re creating again and you’re creating these new markets and going into them. And so for me, that’s really, really exciting.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Are you doing like joint ventures with some of these countries, or are you actually just going in?
Kurt Seidensticker: So we’re leading like how we did it in the US. We’re really leading with eCommerce. We’re leading with Amazon. We’re leading with influencers. We’re leading with our direct-to-consumer business and getting that awareness out there before we go into distribution, before we go on to retail shelves. I think the retail shelves will happen here in January. We have a few launch partners in the UK as well. And yeah, that’s the other thing, right? We just did a merger with Nestle. And Nestle has immense global presence that will-
Kara Goldin: Congrats. That’s huge.
Kurt Seidensticker: … benefit Vital Proteins. Yeah. Thank you.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome.
Kurt Seidensticker: And that gives us the platform I think really for a global scale.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Yeah. I know. And I think definitely Nestle will learn from you guys as well. Because that direct-to-consumer capability that you’ve really proven out here, that’s super, super exciting. Well, this is awesome. I loved our conversation. So I ask one last question. What makes you unstoppable? I feel like you’ve answered. I have to say, and this is actually not a plug for my book. Although I feel so many things that you’ve said sort of fit into this profile that I talk about. The book is called Undaunted. I bet so many people have said, “Kurt’s fearless.” And I bet you do have fears. Right?
Kurt Seidensticker: I have fears. Yeah.
Kara Goldin: But you tackle them. Right? And you just go and do it. And it’s a journey and you’ve switched careers. You are a proven example of somebody who lives undaunted and I love it.
Kurt Seidensticker: Yeah. I’ve heard the quote that a good CEO has a healthy amount of paranoia. Right? And it’s that fear of looking in the future and seeing potholes and hazards and trying to navigate that. But I think, what makes me unstoppable and a lot of things I’ve been learning just from Vital is that, passion and perseverance and not giving up and be convicted to your vision and make it work. Right? And that ability is not to give up and to continue to pursue is really what makes all of this unstoppable.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. So vitalproteins.com and check them out and lots of great stores that are out there as well. And where do people find Kurt? Are you on social?
Kurt Seidensticker: I’m on Instagram. Yeah, justbeingkurt is my Instagram and also on LinkedIn as well.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. It’s great. Well, everybody check it out. And definitely if you enjoyed this episode, give us a great review and give Kurt a great review and definitely subscribe to Unstoppable. We’re super, super excited to have everybody here and have Kurt here and everybody stay safe and well. And come back and listen to more great stories. So thanks so much.