The functional nutrition category is dominated by protein bars, cookies, puffs and more, but former college athlete and dietician Jabari Martin, couldn’t find a product that met his standards. So he created it. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Jabari’s recipe for delicious, crunchy, chocolatey protein bites came to life as GRIT Superfoods. Plant-based, gluten free and keto-friendly, GRIT’s line of products are made using anti-inflammatory ingredients + high-quality protein.

Jabari spoke with Foodboro about his journey to entrepreneurship, working with Amazon, his approach to work/life balance, and what he recommends for other early-stage food founders.

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Before starting Grit, what were you up to?

I had the idea for GRIT while helping to create meals for an NBA player on the Golden State Warriors in 2017. Prior to working as a dietitian, I worked as a software engineer, making user interfaces for apps.

What kind of facility do you use to produce your product?

It’s said that entrepreneurs wear many hats and I’m no different. I wear my baker’s hat 4 nights a week, baking our protein bites in a large catering kitchen.

Retail relationships: do you sell mostly DTC? Do you wholesale?

Currently, we’re selling on our online store and on Amazon. But it’s important that GRIT be where our customers are – gyms, sporting goods and sports nutrition stores, athletic events and meets. Soon, you’ll see us in these places too.

What insights do you have on working with Amazon?

I see Amazon as the ultimate representation of entropy in the marketplace. With over 147 million Prime members, you’re bound to find the most surprising perspectives. Browsing customer reviews, you’ll find complaints of $0.50 per serving items being too expensive. Some comment on a product’s serving size being too large. And for others, the same servings aren’t large enough. My take away: As a founder, it’s easy to forget that people in different areas vary on their expectations. For example, consumers in Gary, Indiana are used to much lower prices than San Franciscans. And not everyone knows (or cares about) what adaptogens are.

What inspires you? Who in the industry do you turn to for inspiration?

I’m inspired by making helpful products for people. love making products and I love being helpful. That’s exactly what GRIT Superfoods is. We’re making food that helps people.

Any other brands in the industry that you think are killing it?

Tracksmith. I LOVE Tracksmith’s marketing more than anything.

As a founder, what do you do to take care of your health, “turn off” work?

Exercise, eating right, and sleep. I personally do a terrible job of getting adequate sleep but getting exercise, even if it’s just 20 pushups or a run around the block, keeps my mind right. Also, I learned to play the didgeridoo during quarantine last year. I’m not sure what my neighbors think of it, but a good 20-minute didge session is a satisfying way to end a long grueling workday.

Talk to your fans and your haters.

What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?

Keep improving. Talk to your fans and your haters. Find out why your repeat customers keep buying and have candid conversations with your haters. How do your repeat customers talk about your product? Is there a common complaint? You don’t have to follow every suggestion or complaint but consider it and document it. Occasionally, even a troll might make a good point.

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