Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Bread and pastries
With a focus on artisan goods and organic heirloom grains, founder Andy Clark has grown his neighborhood bakery 25 percent each year.
Bread baking is in Clark's blood. "I've been baking bread since I was a teenager in high school in Massachusetts," he explains. "I've always loved it, and I've never done anything other than work in bakeries." From Boulder's Daily Bread in the 1990s to more than a decade running Whole Food Market's Rocky Mountain Bakehouse, and a stint as COO of Udi's Artisan Bakery in Denver, he definitely built a successful career baking up and down the Front Range. But he always yearned to start a little neighborhood bakery of his own.
"I stumbled upon the location before I had any money," Clark recalls when describing Moxie Bread's early days. "I called every friend I have and asked them for small loans. A whole bunch of them gave me $5,000 each or a little more so I could bootstrap it."
He utilized repurposed materials and used contacts at larger, established bakeries to source used equipment at economical prices. "The big guys always shed equipment as they grow," Clark says. "I got a bunch for really good deals. I also saddled up with a vendor of high-quality European baking equipment who offered me flexible payment terms, which was really helpful."
Clark opened the 1,800-square-foot bakery with only $125,000. He says sales have increased by 25 percent or more every year and the bakery is now doing "$1 million to $2 million in annual sales" thanks to a broad menu and dedicated community of fans.
Everything on the menu, from the best-selling croissants and kouign-amann to the King Ed, a quiche-like pastry made with croissant dough and filled with egg, roasted vegetables, cured meats, and cheeses, is created fresh in small batches every day. "People really appreciate the quality," Clark notes. "I think people at this moment want food that's made fresh with ingredients they can pronounce and from local sources as much as possible."
"We're centered around the use of organic, heirloom grain," he adds. "It all begins and ends in regional and sometimes locally grown organic heirloom grain, milled in house every day, and transformed into French-, Italian-, and German-style artisan baked goods."
Why the focus on organic and heirloom grains? Clark says the reason is because heirloom wheat varieties are easier to digest and produce fewer reactions in consumers with gluten sensitivities.
"Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is now an epidemic," he continues, "and I think it's important to look at your wheat sources. What varieties are being planted? What chemicals were put on it? These considerations might help solve this enormous problem in our food system where every other person has a wheat allergy."
Challenges: Clark says Moxie currently faces several challenges including a tight budget, seasonal sales fluctuations, and an R&D pipeline that tends towards unruliness. "My staff and I are passionate food people and we want to do everything," he explains. "We'll be messing around with waffles, or breakfast burritos, or heirloom grain pasta -- all these things that we don't really have the space to do. One of our challenges is making sure we stay focused and remember what is really driving the business. Innovation is a big piece, but you can get lost in it as well."
Opportunities: The Moxie team mills grain into flour fresh everyday and has sold a little bit to the public in the past, but Clark says they're preparing to ramp up that revenue stream. "We're getting some nice bags made up, little three-pound bags as well as five-, 10-, and 20-pound bags so we can take our farmer-direct milled grain to a larger audience. That's our biggest next step."
Needs: Clark says Moxie needs more space. "We're probably going to need to do a remodel on the building to create it because we're plumb out of space as it stands right now."