The Paleo Diet Bar
Co-founders Todd and Shauna Sledge build a business “one rep at a time”
Sweat equity is a term used often in the world of real estate, where Todd Sledge still earns a living. While many would say it describes nothing more than an increase in property value as the result of do-it-yourself improvements, others ascribe a more visceral definition. For them, sweat equity represents the hard work, frequent sacrifice, and yes, countless sweaty hours they’ve dedicated to achieving their dreams. Todd and his wife, Shauna, co-founders of Braaap Nutrition and their newest venture—The Paleo Diet Bar—fall into the latter camp.
Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the couple recently released the first-ever nutrition bar endorsed by Dr. Loren Cordain, a leading expert on and founder of the Paleolithic movement and author of the bestselling books The Paleo Answer, The Paleo Diet Cookbook, and The Paleo Diet for Athletes. The Paleo Diet Bar,available in Cranberry Almond and Cinnamon Raisin, is the ideal natural nosh for high-intensity athletes from CrossFitters to ultra-marathoners. All natural and gluten-, dairy-, soy- and preservative-free, it contains a whopping 17 grams of egg white protein and nine essential amino acids.
“And it tastes good,” says Todd. “A lot of protein bars are chalky and not very appealing. Ours taste like you’re having a meal rather than a processed bar.” Thanks to its 100 percent raw ingredients, delicious flavours, and nearly equal balance of carbohydrates to proteins and fats, The Paleo Diet Bar is poised to take over the Paleo foods market. The Sledges are thrilled and making big plans for the future, but they’ve travelled a rough road to get here, one paved with thousands of pounds of raw materials, sleepless nights, and sacrifice.
Their journey began in the family kitchen. Shauna—a group fitness instructor, endurance athlete, and part-time dental hygienist—was inspired to create her own protein bars after attending a running event in San Diego. Disappointed with the products on the market and armed with a Vitamix blender and an assortment of ingredients, she puzzled out a formula. “I don’t even like to cook,” Shauna says with a laugh. “I make salad and steak; that’s pretty much the gist of it, so for me to sit in the kitchen and come up with these recipes was like being in prison.”
She persevered, however, and developed a winning combination of Colorado honey, coconut oil, whey protein, and rice flour. The Braaap Bar, the couple’s first product under the Braaap Nutrition label, was born. Of course, it wasn’t that easy. “It sounds quick, but we spent months experimenting in our kitchen,” says Todd. “Our kids were so sick of eating batter after that, I don’t think they ever want to eat it again,” he laughs. And then there was the matter of the flour. “We couldn’t find basmati rice flour on the market,” he says. “Nobody made it in bulk, and it was the key ingredient for our formula.”
Fortunately, they were able to persuade Lundberg Family Farms, the producers of the basmati rice they were grinding in their home blender, to custom mill flour for them—in 2,500-pound runs. “They said we would have to order at least 10,000 pounds,” Todd says. “That was pretty much every penny we had in the bank. But we told them our story and talked them into a smaller run that would be manageable financially for us. It was delivered on a truck to our house.” The couple’s children and neighbours helped unload the pallets, and the flour was stored in their garage.
Balancing reality and their dream was just as difficult as sourcing rice flour in the early years of Braaap Nutrition. During the day, the couple worked their regular jobs. At night, they went to the commercial kitchen they rented to bake Braaap Bars. “I would teach [fitness] class early in the morning, then saw patients, then took the kids to whatever they had after school,” says Shauna. “Then we’d fit in dinner and go to the kitchen.” After baking the bars, the couple had to drive to Denver, an hour away, to drop off the finished product for wrapping.
“We’d get done making 1,000 bars at 2 o’clock in the morning,” says Todd. “Then we’d drive those to Denver, drop them off at the packaging place at 3 o’clock in the morning, and get back to Fort Collins at 4:30, just in time for Shauna to teach her class at the gym at 6 o’clock.” Shauna adds with a laugh, “We’d have fights because one of us would forget to turn the oven on or forget to bring the almonds up from the basement.” The couple is now able to have their products professionally manufactured, allowing them to return to a somewhat normal life.
Their indefatigable attitude in the face of adversity has certainly contributed to their success, as has their mutual love of CrossFit. While Todd has been a CrossFitter for more than three years, Shauna recently became a certified
coach to better connect with The Paleo Diet Bar ideal consumer. “CrossFitters adore the Paleo Diet, so our newest company is really geared to that market,” says Shauna. “The Paleo Diet Bar is all this great raw food compressed into a bar and ready to go.”
While the Sledges would love to see The Paleo Diet Bar in grocery stores across North America, they really want to reach out to CrossFit gyms and WOD enthusiasts. “We want to get this product into the hands of the consumers who will appreciate it, and that’s not going to be just the normal, average person,” says Todd. “Having CrossFit gyms carrying The Paleo Diet Bar would be awesome because it will get the product to the right consumer.”
The couple just launched a program for brand ambassadors as well. “If you have your own blog or website and want to promote us and earn commission on sales off The Paleo Diet Bar, you can learn more at the affiliate link on our website,” adds Shauna.
What advice does the couple have for others ready to put in their own sweat equity to turn dreams into reality? Start by treating your business like a CrossFit workout. “It’s going to be really hard and there will be times when you want to quit, but you just have to tell yourself ‘one rep at a time,’” says Todd. “That’s what we’ve done every day since we started these companies. We do one thing every day that moves us towards our goal.”
“There are a lot of very smart and successful people out there,” he adds. “The truly successful people are the ones who are willing to help pay that forward. That’s what we’ve vowed to do from here on out. If someone wants to start something from the ground up, we’ve experienced it and we want to pay that forward because there are so many people along the way who were instrumental in our success.”
To learn more about The Paleo Diet Bar visit their website at www.TPDFoods.com.