Katy Peetz identifies with her customer segment. An active runner, yoga practitioner, and “mostly plant-based” eater, Brooklyn-based Peetz couldn’t find a healthy snack that powered her lifestyle. But as a trained chef and former food editor and stylist, she knew how to create a product that would work for her – and many others. Turning that product into a profitable business? Well, that’s a work in progress. Keetz & Co., Peetz’s energy bite company that launched in December, is a seed-based protein bite that is packed with nutrients and energy. She may be new to the game, but she already has valuable insights to share: “I picked up a lot of skills for 3 years, doing things that I knew I wouldn’t do forever but would help me. They weren’t all great experiences, and when you go through hard times, you wonder what it’s for. But everything I’ve done has helped me a lot. “
How did Keetz & Co come about?
I actually started making my bites before I had a company. Two summers ago I was training for the NYC marathon, and doing a 300-hr yoga training. I would walk into Whole Foods and walk back out because all the shelf-stable bars had a lot of fillers, and sugar was the second ingredient. I also have problems with whey powder – and I get it, companies have to use cheap ingredients – but I thought, there has to be a better option. And on the vegan side, everything had so much sugar and no protein. I wondered, where’s the in-between? So I started making my bites and giving them away to my friends.
I was at a point in my life when I wanted to do something that was bigger. I decided to just try to launch Keetz & Co. During this time, I was asking so many people for their thoughts on bars and bites: how they consume them, when they consume them, where in the store they shop.
No one was really doing bites. There’s a few companies in New York, but they are mostly fruit-based. I knew I wanted something that was less sweet and more protein. It was really hard to get this texture, and I finally got it in December. Then I got my first big order in January, for Parsley Health.
How did they find you?
I haven’t even really been marketing that much because I’m so small, and until I can really scale, which hopefully is in a couple of months, it’s really been word of mouth.
Most of my accounts are health food and yoga studios. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 15 years now, and all of these studios sell beverages but very few of them have truly healthy snacks. I really saw an opportunity there. I knew this is a niche product and I kind of wanted to create a cult following. And then expand and grow.
I’m also really bootstrapping this. So I didn’t have the money to go big right away and spend a bunch on marketing. So yoga studios, coffee shops, cafes. A few specialty grocery stores, but the bites don’t do as well there – those are the stores where you have to go hard on marketing and do a lot of demos. I do love doing demos and talking to people about my product and they help a lot – complete strangers don’t care about your feelings! They’ll give you their opinion, and it’s really helpful.
I still do a little bit of other stuff on the side, but I’ve been doing Keetz & Co mostly full-time since January.
What’s a typical day?
Typically, I work in the morning on emails. I’m definitely a morning person, so if I do any kind of strategic planning, I do it in the morning. But I definitely don’t do enough of it. I am trying to figure how I can do less email and more strategic planning moving forward. Wednesday and Thursdays, I do production in a shared space. I usually spend 3 nights there doing labeling and packaging and shipping as well.
And often I have meetings in the evenings – I usually have 3-4 meetings a week with people where I ask questions and ask for help. So far, that’s been the best way to learn something. In the beginning, I was trying to do a lot of my own research with Google. When I started to reach out to people, it became so much easier – things became clearer, and if people couldn’t help me they’d connect me to others who could.
Can you talk about the process of building your e-commerce store for Keetz & Co?
In the beginning, I wasn’t even thinking about doing e-comm. I was planning distributors and retail stores. That’s all I was aware of. But recently, people were reaching out to me to buy, and it made sense to go online. If that’s the demand, I want to meet the demand.
I just launched my store, and it’s very simple right now. Yesterday I was asking on Instagram if anyone knows how to use Shopify – I need help! My site is simplistic, but I wanted to just get it up there. I’m adding to it – I probably edit it every day. I try not to allow myself too much time, because I could get into a deep hole.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur?
I’ve been asking myself that, because I need to hire soon. And I’m wondering what I should handle myself and what I should hire for. Definitely my strengths are the recipe development part and product expansion. And from working at Gather Journal, I understand how to think about a concept and bring it to life visually. In this case, it’s my packaging. So detail is a strength, and understanding what people like.
But business is hazy – I studied business in college, but on a high level I don’t know. I enjoy finance and accounting and think they’re important – it’s your business, you have to know your numbers – but wrapping my head around these companies that are producing thousands of units a week or month, that’s when I think, holy sh*t. I’m going to get there? It’s really hard to imagine.
My weaknesses are the tech side. Building the website. Communicating with your customer on a daily business and building the funnel. I like doing that, but I find other parts more important. Customer is everything, but you can be so consumed with the business that it’s hard. Especially now that I sell direct, I have to figure that out.
What do you want out of 2019?
I want to outsource my production, and to have a consistent product that I’m so happy about. That’s the first thing. One of the best pieces of advice I got was from Nicole Centeno from Splendid Spoon. She said that as your product grows, it should only get better. I think that’s really important. A lot of times as companies scale, you can taste it – the taste declines. But it should be getting better and more consistent. So that’s my goal!
I’d like to also grow a team. I can’t do this all on my own. And I should probably say, have some sort of revenue!