Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Therese Moore. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Therese, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today One of the toughest things about entrepreneurship is that there is almost always unexpected problems that come up – problems that you often can’t read about in advance, can’t prepare for, etc. Have you had such and experience and if so, can you tell us the story of one of those unexpected problems you’ve encountered?
As an owner of a small company, 3 bear Oats, one can always expect challenges whether that be supply chain issues, logistics, cash flow management, etc., however when your company is a frozen food product, the hurdles seem even greater and many, unexpected. Perhaps I was a little naieve, but I assumed providing a good tasting, healthy, organic, sustainably packaged and most importantly locally sourced oatmeal bowls would resonate immediately with the contemporary consumer. Offering a high protein, high fiber, gluten-free, low sugar and low sodium food that’s also delicious, comforting and convenient certainly jives with our health conscience yet fast-paced lives. What I failed to understand is introducing a totally new concept into the marketplace requires patience (something most who know me well would agree I lack). Many new products claim to be a better this or a healthier that when the “this” and “that” are already found on the store shelves. 3 Bear Oats are frozen, “ready-to-eat” sweet and savory steel-cut oat bowls. It takes time and education to fully get the product. For consumers this means taking a little bit of a chance when trying something new. In addition, savory oats are a whole new fashion of eating this fabulous grain, although it’s a wonderful lunch and or dinner, alone or paired as a side dish, customarily as one would eat rice or pasta. The freezer aisle poses another challenge. I’ve found that shoppers don’t typically search the frozen section for fresh or novel goods. This part of the market is cold (!) and aside from common staples (think ice cream or peas), outside of the average consumer’s shopping routine. So what to do? Demo, demo, demo! I’m in the stores on a weekly basis sampling our product and winning over customers. Once they try it, for the most part, they become instant and loyal fans!
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
For the love of oatmeal! My European upbringing and love of cooking inspired my discovery of steel-cut oats as all-day meals. I substituted steel-cut oats in a pasta recipe when experimenting with gluten-free friends at a dinner party I hosted…the rest was history. Friends who tried the savory steel-cut oat dish encouraged me to take 4 recipes to a winter farmers market in 2016, serving them hot, out of a big, red kettle. Soon, I was known as the “oat lady” and expanded to other farmers markets around the Twin Cities. Such positive reaction led me to win a local Maker to Market program grant and scaled as a frozen food option at local Co-ops in 2018—soon after to larger local grocers. You can still find me on weekends at the farmers market where I continued to iterate with feedback and learning. All in, 3 Bear Oats offers 6 different artisan gourmet bowls – 3 power breakfast options: Little Bear’s Breakfast (apples, honey, walnut and seeds – dairy free and more traditional), Petite Canadienne (bacon, cheddar cheese and maple syrup – sweet/savory and smoky), Alpine Trek (peanut butter, chocolate, banana chips and raisins – rich, indulgent and vegan). Our savory oat bowl collection is Orso Toscano (mushrooms, leeks, parmesan cheese, basil and oil oil – much like a vegetarian risotto), Cottage Garden (broccoli, carrots, kimchi, sesame seed oil and seeds – like a vegan Korean inspired rice bowl) and finally Shangri-La (spicy mix with almonds, ginger, coconut and hot chutney, for now, only available at the market). There’s something for every taste and dietary preference. I think I help give consumers healthy, convenient comfort food. And what I’m most proud of is that I do all of this using produce from small local farmers and Minnesota makers insuring that our bowls are made for people who value food crafted with care, purpose and respect for our planet.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
There are as many strategies for effectively building a business as there are businesses, I suppose, and I’ve read many books and listened to many podcasts that discuss various approaches. For me, there are two tangible items that stand out. 1. GO WITH YOUR GUT because only you, who is so passionate about your brand, really know what you want from it and what you can offer while staying true to your mission, goals and authenticity. We all know what is right and just following that path will keep you honest and confident. This is why I’ve stood by my initial promise to fulfill my mission to stay fully organic, locally sourced when possible and sustainably packaged even though it’s more costly to do so. This is our product in its purest form. I have also resisted working with a co-packer, which often comes with compromises. Although there are wonderful companies that serve this need, there is a viable desire to cut costs and I didn’t want to loose control over the final product, no matter how good intentioned the suggestions for making the product cheaper and quickly produced.
2. SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE because in the end I’d rather build velocity over reach. In each new venue, we try to stick and build awareness and loyalty among our consumers. Every time we secure a new account, we choose to serve this account quintessentially, honoring all our orders in a timely manner, offering store guided promotions, endless demos and support as they have supported us by bringing 3 Bear Oats into the fold. We want to partner with like minded clients so we are all striving to meet the same customer driven goals.
Can you tell us the story behind how you met your business partner?
My business partner is also my husband, Doug. I met Doug back in NY in 1991, when he was in advertising and I was in publishing. In fact, at the time, he was my client. As time went on, we moved to Minnesota where Doug pursued a successful career at General Mills and got an in-depth look into the packaged food industry. His knowledge has been instrumental in growing our business. I’m grateful for his General Mills background as its helped guide 3 Bear Oats in its infancy. I’m also grateful for Doug’s patience, especially since he has his career to manage! Understanding the world of consumer goods, really gives you a leg up. It’s a hard, bumpy road, in spite of the support for local businesses like mine. Margins are tight and during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was plenty of pivoting. That said, I think we’re stronger for it—we were able to take time to reflect on the business and prioritize. The best part of our “business partnership” is that with different yet complimentary skills, we can divide and conquer. My strengths are in the kitchen, recipe development, social media and sales. Doug’s are definitely working the numbers, understanding the industry and navigating technology, without which I’d be lost. We’re a lean team, dedicated to bringing warm “hygge” to the frozen aisles!
- Website: https://3bearoats.com/
- Instagram: @3bearoats
Dani Loomis, photographer