From time to time, Micro Business Perspectives likes to highlight a micro business to get a better understanding of how they came to fruition. This entry comes from Anthony Flynn, owner of YouBar (www.YouBar.com), an online custom protein bar company. You may recognize Anthony from the newest Vistaprint television commercials running live now.
The idea behind YouBar’s custom protein bars was hatched in 2006 on a chair lift at California’s Mountain High Ski Resort. My mom, Ava Bise, and I were both snowboard instructors back then (my mom still is!), and we ate a lot of protein bars up on the slopes so we wouldn’t have to stop for lunch. One day, while we were riding the lift together to the top of the mountain, we started talking about how neither of us had found the perfect protein bar — and we started discussing what that would be.
We discovered that our ideal protein bars were totally different. My mom wanted nutrition bars that weren’t too sweet with lots of protein to fuel her days teaching snowboarding and belly dancing. Meanwhile, when I got off the slopes, I did other athletics, like marathon-running, so I needed high-carb, lactose-free bars (I’m allergic). We both wanted fresher bars with far fewer preservatives than any of the bars we could find on the market.
Just like today, back in 2006, there were seemingly a million different protein bars available at stores. But strangely, as the number of different types of mass-produced protein bars on store shelves increased, the number of commercial bars that my mom and I wanted to eat actually decreased. We were both fed up with having to adjust what we ate to fit the bars on the market, and felt that food should be designed for people’s appetites — not the other way around.
So my mom and I took the bar by the horns (apologies for the cheesy pun!), and we began making our own protein bars at home. “It was as though we’d died and gone to heaven,” my mom used to say, “Except for the dishes we have to clean!” We finally had protein bars with the exact ingredients that we wanted — free from preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. And they tasted delicious too.
Once we started making our own protein bars we found out we were not alone in our frustration with the mass produced bars. Almost everyone we knew lit up at the possibility of creating custom protein bars tailored to their own tastes and dietary needs. Before we knew it, we were making bars for all of our friends and family. And so YouBar was born.
In early 2007, YouBar set up shop in an 800-square-foot kitchen in Hollywood and sold bars through a simple website that was created by one of my best friends from college, Garett Wenig. Then, In February 2008, we had our breakthrough as a company. YouBar was featured in The New York Times, National Public Radio’s Marketplace and Daily Candy — all in the same week! Overnight, YouBar went from a couple orders a day to hundreds.
YouBar expanded its product line to include custom protein shakes in 2008 and custom trail mix and cereal in 2009 — giving our customers full control over three more on-the-go foods. This last summer, we moved to a new 8,000 square foot facility in Downtown Los Angeles.
Today, YouBar is still exploring new ways of empowering our customers to customize their lives. We now feature dozens of organic, gluten-free, high-protein and low-calorie ingredients, and we always listen to our customers suggestions. At YouBar, our customers aren’t just customers, they’re the creative spirit behind the whole company: the recipe designers. As my mom always told me: “You are what you eat, so choose!”