TWO Buckets: Winning and LearningJan 03, 2022
Do you have an idea for a new product and want to know how to launch it? It can feel daunting, but as today’s guest shares, to launch a product successfully, you need to see experiences in two buckets — as either winning or learning.
My guest today is Chris "Bernie" Bernard, and we met at a mastermind event where he was a guest speaker. Chris is a CPG expert and an investor with over 20 years of experience in apparel, outdoor, and most recently packaged foods. His latest project, Mindright, pairs brain-boosting ingredients with delicious superfoods to support your mood, energy, and focus.
What I enjoyed about Chris was his openness and humility in sharing his journey, which like everyone else’s, has had its ups and downs. In today’s episode, we talk about the lessons he’s learned along the way, what it was like pitching an idea to the very successful Rob Dyrdek, and how he approaches work-life balance as an entrepreneur, father, and husband.
Who Is Chris Bernard?
Chris was born in Yonkers, New York, which is just north of New York City. Chris met his wife, Maritza, back in 2005 while visiting an client as a representative for the action sports brand Burton snowboards in New York City.
“I was out front talking with the owners, and this beautiful woman walks a couple yards away. I said to my buddy, ‘Look at this girl, she’s beautiful!’ She stopped, turned around, and walks right up to me! We just started talking, and she ended up being in the industry [and] worked for Oakley sunglasses. … 30 days later, that store had a grand opening. Her boss walks in and, right behind her, is Maritza. We just connected, and it was the most amazing thing. I told my boss and the founder of Burton snowboards that night, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’ We were engaged four months later.” - Chris Bernard
What an incredible story! Chris and Maritza have been married 15 years and have four children aged 13, 11, 10, all girls, and 7, the only boy. In 2016, they moved to California where Maritza’s family resides.
After completing a Marketing degree at Iona College, Chris struck it “lucky” and was hired at Burton. He credits them for teaching him how to be a true entrepreneur. Chris quickly learned how to run a business, run teams, build a vision, and so much more.
The time came when Chris decided to exit the business, and he was able to walk away with a lump sum of money. He immediately invested in a company called Buff Bake, on the condition of Chris becoming CEO. Chris credits this period with teaching him how to sell to retailers, how to position your product, how to adapt his existing skillset, and maybe most importantly, about partnerships and where the value within those partnerships lies.
Buff Bake experienced some challenges, and Chris decided to pivot once again.
“I decided to step [down] as CEO and start consulting, but I still had so much passion around [functional food] — I love it. I loved watching the winners [and asking], ‘How were they winning? Why were they winning?’ What’s apparent to me was [how] functional food is going to change how we think about the food we eat.” - Chris Bernard
“Functional food” is a term used to describe enhanced food that has better nutritional value for us with properties like lower sugar content, animal friendliness (vegan), or higher protein. During this time, though, Chris was at his heaviest weight and mentally drained from the stress of income instability. It was also taking a toll on his relationship with his wife.
“I started consulting and had some great opportunities. I did some fun stuff, but that passion and desire for [functional food] was still there. A friend of mine introduces me to Rob Dyrdek, and his passion is building businesses from the ground up. [Rob] brings his vision and passion to the things that align with his strategy, and we partnered together on this journey of taking a condition-specific look at foods that support mental and cognitive function.” - Chris Bernard
That introduction led them to launch their first product with Mindright.
As you can see, Chris’s story is quite something, and it’s why I’m excited to share his wisdom with you, let’s jump straight in!
The Pitch to Rob Dyrdek
Chris teased us with how he was introduced to Rob Dyrdek, so I’m curious to know more details around how that transpired.
“A friend called, saying, ‘I think you guys would hit it off.’ We set up a date, and I met Rob, and he just fills the room with so much energy. We sit down in his office and he’s like, ‘Okay, I want to know everything, [all] the value from the day you left your mother’s womb to the day you sat down here.’” - Chris Bernard
Chris ended up sharing his life’s story until he realized there was only six minutes left in the meeting. Before Chris arrived, he wasn’t sure if he would be pitching or if this was just a meet and greet, so he brought cookies for Rob to try. In those last remaining minutes, Chris took the chance to pitch him quickly.
“I said, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what it’s about,’ and he tried some cookies. He liked the cookies, but he goes, ‘I really like you, and I think that we could do some cool things together. Is it cool if we keep you on the radar for any ideas or concepts that come up?’ I [said,] ‘Absolutely!’ I left there having an incredible first experience meeting Rob.” - Chris Bernard
Chris immediately started thinking of ideas, his first one being vegan cookie dough. It didn’t taste great at all, never mind the fact that it was not scalable. Rob turned it down, and it was back to the drawing board. Chris focused on these core questions:
- What’s winning in the market?
- What’s a clear call to action for me?
- What would fill both of our lives?
Those questions drove him to focus on brain health and daily mindset using tasty snacks that contain things like nootropics and adaptogens. Chris understood the habits that made him successful not only made him feel good but fueled his energy and focus.
“If I’m feeling good, energized, and focused, I’m unstoppable. [If] my mindset isn’t [in] a good place, then it’s up to me to support that [with] food, exercise, sleep, and meditation. Those were all pillars, and there [are some] foods that support cognitive function. I put my head down [and] reached out to one of my old suppliers [who’s] a food formulator. I pitched him the idea, and he [said], ‘Man, that’s a great idea! I want to get involved.’” - Chris Bernard
They sat down together and decided what ingredients they felt strongly about and what products they could execute. They decided to make them all, from bars to bites and coffee creamers to nut butter. Chris worked on the presentation using market data and created the vision and the roadmap of where the company would go and the people to get involved.
“I pitched [Rob] this idea, and before I finished, I had this silver case, and I opened it up and he [thinks the products inside] represent[ed] the categories, [but they were] products for [Rob] to try. He was excited, and it aligned with his goals.” - Chris Bernard
They may have had an agreement, but they continued to do a few more market investigations to streamline the launch. What I love about this story is how Chris’s journey details how, even if you get a ‘No,’ it doesn’t mean “That’s the end.” He kept pushing the boundaries, and after following his gut to focus on what helped him on his mental journey, created the Mindright products that Rob signed off on.
While they successfully launched in 2021, Chris shares what lessons he learned and how they plan to use their new wisdom moving into 2022.
Using Lessons From 2021 to Improve 2022
While 2021 has been an exciting business year for Chris, it hasn’t come without important teaching. He’s taking the time to appreciate the change in business fortune while also creating plans for 2022.
“We’ve learned a ton about what resonates [with customers] [and] what people like about Mindright, and one of the things we’ve done these past nine months is we didn’t put enough emphasis on just the simple fact that ‘Mindright’ does the heavy lifting and we complicated it a little bit [by advertising things like,] ‘happy brain blend,’ ‘good mood,’ ‘superfood,’ all anecdotal pieces to support a puzzle that didn’t need it. It’s just ‘Mindright,’ and we use ingredients for your mind.” - Chris Bernard
The name of the product is simplistic and elegant. How many times have you heard someone say, “I need to get or do X to get my mind right?” However, even with such a clever name, they fell into the trap of overcomplicating their messaging and using too many buzzwords. With an action plan for their messaging in 2022 complete, Mindright has another important challenge to tackle.
As part of their 2022 plans, they are evolving some of their packaging while launching new ones. One of Mindright’s biggest challenges is thinking about how to win in retail, not tucked away in the health section or the vitamin aisle, but in the busiest parts of the store.
“We want to win in a big way, [so] how do we introduce ingredients for your mind in other [ways]? We’ve got a superfood popped chip, almost like a potato chip, [with] cool ingredients. We have an energy bite, which I am very excited about, [because] we’ve been thinking about how we consume caffeine, [and we want to make it] work in your favor as opposed to against you [by] depleting your system.” - Chris Bernard
Through innovative partnerships, Mindright is creating new products made with upcycled ingredients like the coffee shell, which for years has been discarded. Now, their product has more antioxidants and polyphenols than any superfood out there.
“What [these ingredients] [do] is increase a protein in your brain called BDNF, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, and that helps create and repair neural pathways. As we’re aging and stressed, neural pathways are breaking, creating brain fog and mental fatigue. [Our product assists] brain performance [and] clarity.” - Chris Bernard
One of their partners has been scientifically studying the positive impacts of their ingredients, which is why Chris is so excited about being a positive voice to the mental health discussion.
Chris understands the role that maintaining a healthy work-life balance plays in mental health, and shares how important his family is in this equation.
Launching products is an exciting time, and Mindright isn’t even a year old yet! There’s a lot of work that goes into getting a brand and a business off the ground. Chris has a grounded approach to work-life balance to keep himself in check.
“No [business] success can measure against failures in your personal life. For me, if I’m winning and making millions of dollars and my wife is miserable and my kids are unhappy, I’ve lost. That’s not learning, that’s a failure for me. I understand what [my family’s] needs are and focus on never disregarding that. I know this is what my wife and kids need to be happy.” - Chris Bernard
It’s not just understanding what they need and communicating that with each other, it’s also supporting Maritza in her newfound venture of real estate. Chris recognizes she’s found her thing and, because she’s crushing it, has never been busier in her life. Chris uses his experience to guide her.
Having lost his way a bit and fallen into a bad routine, Chris has turned that around to maintain his physical health in aid of his mental health and starts his day at 5:15 AM.
“We have a sauna that we just got, which is amazing. I’ll say a prayer, [which is] my form of meditation, which is grounding myself, doing some breathing, [and] getting focused and ready for the day. I like [using] that Headway app and try[ing] to bang out 10 pages first thing. Next, I go to the gym, and as long as I get 30 minutes in a day of something, even if it’s a walk, I love it.” - Chris Bernard
There are great trails around them in Phoenix, and Chris makes sure to remain intentional about staying off his phone as much as possible, especially when his wife joins and they’re able to enjoy the walks together.
Why You Should Listen to This Chris Bernard Podcast Episode Right Now…
Guys, this is such a great interview with Chris — especially for anyone interested in understanding what it takes to launch a new product. I enjoyed hearing about the full journey that Chris has been on to create Mindright and become partners with Rob Dyrdek.
To conclude this episode, I asked Chris one last question: If he had to give a TED talk on something he wasn’t known for, what topic would it be? This was his answer:
“[It would be] relationships. My wife and I have been through so much together, and I feel it’s the one area of my life where I’ve learned a lot and grown the most, and I love to share that with other people.” – Chris Bernard
A focus for my Reaching Beyond podcast is to share inspiring journeys of people maintaining their personal balance sheets as much as their professional ones. Chris’s TED talk certainly speaks to that.
I hope you’ve been inspired by this conversation and found it useful in your pursuit to improve the balance in your life.
You can follow Chris on Instagram as well as Mindright to see how their journey unfolds. I enjoy Mindright’s coffee booster, and you can check out their website to browse and find a product that helps you boost your brainpower and focus.
Thank you so much for reading this post. If you found value from this episode, it would mean a lot to me if you would take a few seconds and write a five-star review and maybe share it with some of your friends on Apple Podcasts. I’d be so grateful! I’d also love it if you would tag me, @kyle_depiesse, on Instagram with your greatest takeaways from the episode!
Cheers to your success! I’m rooting for you.
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