Founded: October 2009
Colorado state of mind: NY transplant Elizabeth Stein brings her growing food company west, to the '50-yard line' of the natural foods industry.
After a career change, Purely Elizabeth founder Elizabeth Stein started making gluten-free muffins and baked goods in 2008.
"I had been working in the fashion industry," she says. "I was unhappy with my job and went back to school to study holistic nutrition."
It follows that Stein learned all about superfoods "before they were big" and opened a nutrition counseling practice after graduating. As a hobby, she started to dabble in making gluten-free foods.
She brought some of her muffins in 2008 to the Westchester (N.Y.) Triathlon, where she was marketing her counseling services. "People went crazy for them," she says. "That was really the aha moment."
She returned to the triathlon the next year with packaged baking mixes to sell, and no free muffins. The reaction was similarly ecstatic and soon she was covered by New York lifestyle blog Daily Candy. Next thing she knew, she had $10,000 in orders.
"I had no idea of their reach." says Stein of Daily Candy. "We were overnighting ingredients and working 20 hours a day." After filling the backlog, Stein didn't waste any time in finding a co-packer in Vermont.
Today Purely Elizabeth has full lines of granola and oatmeal cereals, and cookie and pancake mixes available at Whole Foods, Target, and other national retailers. She uses ingredients include such grains as quinoa and chia along with almond flour and coconut oil.
”Our focus is on better-for you sweeteners, better-for-you oils, and ancient grains," she explains. "The goal is gluten-free, nutrient rich, innovative ingredients, and to taste amazing -- that's most important."
But the goal is to keep discovering -- and rediscovering -- superfoods. "I try to stay one up on ingredients," says Stein. Kaniwa -- "quinoa's baby cousin" -- is the latest ancient grain to show up in Purely Elizabeth's stockroom.
After spending most of her life on the East Coast, Stein moved her company west from New York in June. She's just getting settled in Boulder, and two out of three other employees made the move with her. She expects to make two additional hires in the near term, and expects to find plenty of good candidates in the city that has been called "the 50-yard-line of the natural foods industry."
One reason for the relocation: The company's new co-packer, Natural Food Works, is in northeast Denver. "That move was really prompted by our growth," says Stein, citing Colorado's central location as another factor. "We wanted to partner with a co-packer that could take us through this next growth phase."
But that's not the only reason Stein left the Big Apple. "Being here in Boulder surrounded by all these natural-foods companies and all these innovative companies was important to me," Stein explains. "On a personal level, I am an outdoor person, and I wanted to live someplace where I could get up and go on a hike in the morning. It's a pretty amazing change so far."
Challenges: "Getting through this next growth phase," says Stein, citing the recent entry into Target's national network. "It's a pretty big jump."
And time is in short supply, as Stein is also working on her first cookbook, Eating Purely, due in print in 2015 from Skyhorse Publishing.
Opportunities: Catalog expansion. "Definitely, my goal is to be in several more categories," she says. She's thinking big, targeting "every category but frozen."
Needs: Making some good hires. "We are needing to build out our team more," Stein, citing an immediate need for salespeople.