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Helping Oats founder Anne Bachman and Bulu Box founder Paul Jarrett sat down with Brian Lee from Silicon Prairie News during the Pipeline Entrepreneur Innovators Awards to talk about starting out and building professional relationships.
Helping Oats is a consumer packaged gourmet oatmeal bowl. Bachman got the idea for Helping Oats her freshman year of college. As a volleyball player, she was training and eating oatmeal three times a day.
Initially, she wanted to open an oatmeal bar. She thought the idea was unique and it would be the first eatery of it’s kind. A little googling showed her otherwise.
“There’s one in New York, of course, sponsored by Quaker,” said Bachman.
She wasn’t deterred though, believing that she could do better than Quaker.
By her sophomore year of college, Bachman was researching her idea and looking for local oatmeal brands. She ended up quitting volleyball and moved back home to Nebraska.
It was back in Lincoln that Bachman and Jarrett met. She repeatedly called him to ask for an internship with Bulu Box. Jarrett said he ignored her initial calls thinking they were coming from a telemarketer.
“I was avoiding this phone call and I finally took it, and it was Anne looking for an internship at Bulu Box.” Jarrett said her persistence and direct questions about venture capital made it obvious that Bachman personified one of Bulu Box’s core values: fearlessness.
Between her new job and her junior year of college at UNL, her idea for an oatmeal bar got pushed to the back burner.
“I just slowly kept working on it while I was working [at Bulu Box],” said Bachman. “They didn’t really know I was working on this on the side.”
All that changed when Bachman participated in a pitch competition at UNL and made it to the final round. An email announcing the pitch finalists came through Jarrett’s inbox. Jarrett encouraged her to take her startup money and leave Bulu Box. With roughly $28,000 in startup funds, Bachman was ready to focus on Helping Oats.
Narrowing the focus
Bachman, a chronic pain sufferer, has long been aware of how food affects her body. The more sugar she eats, the worse her pain.
“Throughout the year working at Bulu Box I had pain, but then in the summer I really started focusing on it and how food can help with pain,” said Bachman.
She ended up developing a raw, vegan, gluten free and dairy free oatmeal dish. Her packaged version of Helping Oats can be eaten cold or warm and has a spoon built into the lid.
“Helping Oats is a quick and healthy breakfast option for people on the go,” said Bachman. “You just grab it out of the fridge.”
Maintaining a professional relationship
Jarrett remains a supporter of Bachman and Helping Oats. He is currently an advisor to the company, admitting that their professional relationship is a lot less formal than most, but that’s what works for them. He says he doesn’t offer advice, but rather uses examples of his own experience in the startup world that Bachman can apply to Helping Oats.
Not only that, but he really enjoys Bachman’s creation.
“I would also say that it’s highly addictive,” said Jarrett. “It’s delicious.”
What does the future hold for Helping Oats
Bachman hopes to make Helping Oats available at coffee shops.
“A big goal would be Scooters,” said Bachman. “They are a local brand that would be able to work with me and understand if I have issues.”
She also has other ideas about making other varieties of Helping Oats.
“There are ways to make the oatmeal product I have without actual oatmeal, which may sound crazy,” said Bachman. “There [are] so many options and that’s what excites me.”