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"Oh, my god, I can't believe they're coming over here!" Collins marvels, in the hushed, conspiratorial tone of a nature-show host. This is as close as anyone will get to a week-old baby bison."This ranch, this field, this herd of animals, is what paradise looks like to Forrest and Collins.The ranch would not only be an outlet for their outdoorsy lifestyle, but also serve as a lab for regenerative grazing practices that they hoped to push more of their suppliers to adopt.They wanted Epic to be a force for changing America's food system, and the ranch would help.Once they finished school, they started a vegan protein-bar company called Thunderbird Energetica.Thunderbird drew the interest of Whole Foods, which gave Forrest and Collins a 0,000 loan and distribution in 30 stores, but the experience was a "disaster." They made mistakes in everything from manufacturing to branding.They still went to work in flip-flops most days, still had half a dozen dogs wandering around the office.General Mills, one of the world's largest food companies--the parent of such conventional mega-brands as Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Green Giant--might seem an odd home for the couple's creation.
They were also, like many founders of hip food and beverage brands, obsessed with making products that offered a healthy alternative to big food--healthy for consumers and for the environment, and humane to the animals.
The paleo movement was just starting to take off, and as Forrest's health improved, the two decided they should hit reset with their business as well.
They entered Incubation Station, a local startup accelerator focused on consumer products that is now called SKU.
By the time they had finished the accelerator, they were convinced they should pivot to meat.
Epic, the new brand, were protein bars that substituted the powders in products like Quest bars with blended bits of meat, fruit, and nuts.
Epic, in turn, would get access to vast resources, with the potential for greater impact.