We all know that eating healthy is important, but for Chase Barmore it was mission critical. After suffering from asthma, allergies and weight-loss challenges, Chase turned to a holistic plant-based diet to improve his physical and emotional wellbeing. The problem? Health foods were har to come by in his hometown of Louisville, KY.
Being a fearless entrepreneur, Chase and his wife Jamie, a creative innovator and fitness enthusiast, opened LIFEbar in 2010, pioneering holistic superfood nutrition in a place most famous for fried chicken. Since launch, the duo has shifted their business to accomodate direct-to-consumer sales, making healthy eating accessible to all.
We spoke with Chase to talk about his entrepreneurial start, having a spouse as a cofounder, pivoting to DTC, and his advice for other early-stage food founders.
Before starting LIFEbar, what were you up to?
Before LIFEbar Chase owned and operated a valet parking company.
Before LIFEbar Jamie was a ceramic artist and potter.
Before shifting into the DTC world, and creating our 3 lines of products, LIFEbar was a brick & mortar Superfood Smoothie & Juice Bar for 10 years starting back in 2010. We were famous for having the best tasting smoothies, as well as the best tasting wheatgrass shots. All of these skill sets lead us to create our current product lines. They were years in the making. When COVID hit we discussed our dream of really creating a DTC brand and move past the brick and mortar life.
Do you work with a co-founder? What is this relationship like?
We are a husband and wife co-founder team. Hows the relationship? We have sacrificed work boundaries and a sense of normal marital/ work life balance to achieve our common goal of a successful, meaningful business. We are always striving to establish the brand, do better, and grow the company to achieve more freedom & stability.
We both have different areas that we work on separately, but always find it critically important to convene at every step before moving forward.
Ingredient sourcing: buying fruits and vegetables must be rather difficult, any advice on working with farmers?
Have multiple sources of where you are getting your frozen fruit; if one goes down you have another ready to go. Joining our state’s organic association so we have a list of all the farmers and what they produce has been very helpful.
Retail relationships: do you sell mostly DTC? Do you wholesale?
80% of our sales come from DTC – 20 % Wholesale and we are almost ready to launch on Amazon
What inspires you? Who in the industry do you turn to for inspiration?
Great quality, mission driven brands. Since entering the Foodboro community we have been introduced to so many brands that have given us hope and inspiration. Ori of Burlap & Barrel, the Chefs on ChefTable on Nexflix, Bakers, Chefs, Business people on Master Class, as well as other entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss.
Any other brands in the industry that you think are killing it?
Health Aid Kombucha, Jenni’s Ice Cream, all of friends in our Shopify for Startups group S4S.
As a founder, what do you do to take care of your health, “turn off” work?
We like to get out into nature as much as we can and unplug. We try to do this daily even if its just an hour at our local park with our dog Charlie. Peloton also plays a huge role in our life!
Join a group of like minded business owners like Foodboro.
What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?
- Join a group of like minded business owners like Foodboro & S4S so that you have a network of people in your field to ask questions, learn from, and recommend suppliers/ contractors/ agencies to work with.
- Vet your agency and make sure they work in your industry.
- See if you have a shared commercial kitchen space in your area to run small batches of your products so you don’t have to have as much capital to start.
- Have flexibility in making changes to your product.
What food and beverage trends are over-hyped and which are here to stay?
Plant-based, whole foods are here to stay for sure! Also, organic ingredients really do matter. I think that over-processed “healthy” snacks filled with stabilizers and “other” ingredients will be short-lived.
What can we expect next from LIFEbar? Do you see taking the brand beyond smoothie blends?
We want to stay in the smoothie realm and we will certainly be adding more flavors to our product line as well as more protein flavors. Potentially some other products like toppings!