Victor, Idaho Business Spread Out Over 40 States
Originally in The Idaho Falls Post-Register, 09-08-2011
Written by Clark Corbin
Victor, ID: Long before her energy bars became a successful business venture, Kate Schade made just enough of them by hand to fill her coat pockets during a long day of skiing.
Schade, a New York transplant, experimented with whatever ingredients happened to be in her cupboard throughout the early 1990s until she developed what became the Tram Bar.
Schade soon became the envy of her friends, who began paying for her ingredients in exchange for bars to pack to the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Shortly thereafter, Schade started working at an organic farm in Victor and was impressed enough with the operation to switch to organic and all-natural ingredients by the early 2000s.
After years of recipe tweaking and not-so-gentle prodding from friends, Schade launched her company (www.katesrealfood.com), Kate's, in 2005.
"People who come to Jackson from all over the country started calling me, wanting me to send (the energy bars) to wherever they were," Schade said. "I had just been selling them in the Jackson area and doing some mail order, so it became a third job for me."
About a year-and-a-half ago, Schade got serious, found a business partner, devoted all her energy to the company and set up shop in Victor.
Since then, the business has expanded rapidly -- which Schade attributes to hiring sales representatives and quitting her other jobs in the restaurant and sporting goods industries to focus on energy bars.
Today, the company employs 15 -- up from four this time last year -- and Kate's energy bars are available in 40 states.
In the past six months, Schade said her sales have increased about 350 percent -- leaving her optimistic the company can produce 1 million bars in the next year to satisfy demand.
"Once people try them, they want them," Schade said. "(We've grown because of) grass-roots marketing and word-of-mouth advertising. The amazing thing is, after however many years it has been, I've only gotten amazing comments from people."
Kate's produces five bars from the company's Victor headquarters -- the Tram Bar, Handle Bar, Stash Bar, Grizzly Bar and Caz Bar. Each is a bit different, but they feature ingredients such as rolled Montana oats, organic honey, milk chocolate, rice nuggets and almond butter.
Locally, the bars are available at Broulim's locations, Villa Coffee House, Idaho Mountain Trading, 3 Peaks and throughout Teton Valley.
Richard Napier, owner of Idaho Mountain Trading, said the bars have become popular since he began stocking them a year ago. Customers stock up when they are heading to the woods, and the shop's staff has been known to munch a few as a midday pick-me-up.
"They hit the spot for most people -- skiers, hikers, backpackers," Napier said. "They work really well and they've been really popular for us."
Looking ahead, Schade hopes to continue to partner with the niche communities that helped her get her start -- mountain sports enthusiasts and organic agriculture operations. So far, the company has stayed true to those roots through volunteer projects at Victor-area organic farms. In the future, Schade hopes to support adaptive sports programs and establish a bike park in the Teton Valley.
"The number one goal is to be able to give back to the community in different ways," Schade said. "We want to support outdoor play and promote outdoor play as much as possible."
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