How a Start-up Company Is Leading a Snack Food Revolution

About the Episode

Ashley Nickelsen is on a mission to reimagine snacks in vending machines. This is a nutrition-packed conversation about what goes into starting a new functional snack company on a mission to disrupt the snack food industry. Ashley shares her story and the inspiration behind starting BTR NATION, the challenges in being a sole founder, finding a co-manufacturer to work with a new company, scaling up, working with social media influencers, omnichannel marketing, and sourcing ingredients for their superfood bars.

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“My number one word of advice, whether you’re starting a company, thinking of starting a company, or just living life, is find your why. That’s what’s going to help you get up in the morning. Life is hard. We see lots of things on social media that can just derail us, and knowing your why and your purpose, or trying to find your why, is what keeps you going and really burns that fire within.”

Ashley Nickelsen

In this Episode

2:30 What drove Ashley Nickelsen to start the company?
6:35 How does B.T.R. NATION ensure food safety without applying heat to their products?
8:59 How can entrepreneurs best choose which distribution channels to pursue and when?
10:31 How does a relationship typically work with a social media influencer?
13:43 Why is it hard to scale a DTC distribution channel?
16:00 How difficult is the process of choosing a co-manufacturer?
19:15 What ingredients does B.T.R. NATION use in their products?
33:29 Which ingredients that B.T.R. NATION sources are the most difficult to handle or source?
36:45 How fickle is the growing cycle for cacao?
40:11 What’s the difference between cocoa and cacao?
43:31 What is MCT oil?
49:30 What is maca powder?
55:50 What is the most challenging aspect of running and scaling up the business in the food sector?
57:16 How long is the cash conversion cycle?
1:00:34 What’s the ultimate goal of B.T.R. NATION?
1:02:25 Advice on starting a company.

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Resources Mentioned

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Acronyms or Terms Used in This Episode

  • SKU: stock-keeping unit
  • DTC: direct-to-consumer
  • CACs: customer acquisition cost 
  • Omnichannel: refers to marketing and selling to customers across multiple channels, such as in-store, online, and mobile, so that customers get the same experience regardless of how they shop
  • MCT: MCT oil is a supplement made from medium-chain triglycerides, which are a type of fat

Meet Our Guest

Ashley Nickelsen

Ashley Nickelsen

Founder & CEO of B.T.R. NATION

Ashley Nickelsen is the Founder & CEO of B.T.R. NATION, a functional snack company on a mission to fix our broken food system, one snack at a time.

Ashley started her career in the supplements industry as the Director of Sales and Marketing of Further Food, a wellness startup committed to real food-based supplements. She grew that company from $0-$10M in 3.5 years.

Ashley went on to start her own company after her parents passed away from rare forms of cancer. While taking care of them, Ashley became frustrated by the sugar-laden snacks in hospital vending machines. With a background in food studies and biochemistry, she took to the kitchen to create her own snacks: low in sugar, boosted with superfoods, and easy to digest. When her parents passed away, she made it her mission to share these nourishing snacks with the world and reimagine the modern vending machine.

Location Location: San Francisco, California

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