On Oct. 30, the University of Maine Foster Center for Student Innovation (FCSI) hosted the event “From Student to Startup Founder: A Young Entrepreneur Series Event,” which was one out of a series of events discussing entrepreneurial experiences in the local community.
Previously, the UMaine FCSI hosted presentations from the founders of TipWhip, Bodri Clothing and The Maine Box. The founders all spoke about their businesses, which have grown from small local businesses to statewide companies, and encouraged UMaine students to continue to innovate.
Alden Blease, founder of the R.E.D.D. energy bar company spoke to the UMaine community about finding opportunities and anticipating what people would like.
Blease, who founded R.E.D.D. in 2014, met many roadblocks during his attempts to break into the market, but through hard work and perseverance, he was able to launch his product.
R.E.D.D. stands for “Research Enhanced Design and Development,” and is a “superfood energy bar” that boasts that it is “all killer, no filler.” For Blease, making a product that was healthy but was also accessible to a consumer base that was constantly on-the-go was incredibly important to see his product take off.
“What began as a personal quest for healthier nutrition to fuel my busy, on-the-go lifestyle now has the potential to transform the functional foods market for millions of people,” Blease noted.
While Blease’s product is successful and the company has made over $4 million in profit, it wasn’t always easy for him. At first, even though he had a marketable product and a good head on his shoulders when it came to business, he didn’t have the startup funding needed to be able to break into the market.
“That’s when you have to consider how marketable your product is,” Blease noted. “And then you have to make good investments [based on what market your product fits].”
Eventually, because Blease’s energy bars catered to a young, health-conscious consumer base, Blease was able to secure the funding through a fund for local entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. This community support allowed Blease to grow his company, and in March of 2019, he was able to raise more than $2.2 million in funding and re-vamp the branding of R.E.D.D.
The refreshed branding brought a marketing change, as well as a recipe change, and R.E.D.D. thrived from the reinvention. Instead of the old moniker, R.E.D.D. now means “Radiant Energy Deliciously Delivered,” and fit the company’s idea that healthy food should look good and taste good. The bars now come in bright, shiny wrappers and inside, the bars now contain about 10g less sugar and more probiotics.
The company, which grew from a small startup to a business gaining momentum all the way down the east coast, is an inspirational story for those hoping to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. There are lots of ways to start a business and present an idea, and Blease encouraged the UMaine community to take advantage of the opportunities they would get in their time at UMaine.