Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 5: Taking Over the World One Gluten-Free Product at a Time

Better Batter started as a one-product company. In addition to the original flour mix, what other products do you now offer? 

In 2010 we put out our brownie mix and our pancake mix. In 2011 we put out our cake mixes and our seasoned flour. In 2012 we launched our nutrition bars. Next year we are planning on launching more mixes and other products—time will tell what they are! We try to find what need is not being met and to meet it perfectly in advance of the competition.

What is your most popular product?

Our number one biggest seller is our flour. It is the backbone of our company with 60 percent of sales in one of our six sizes of flour. The other products sell pretty evenly across the board, but right now the bars are really buzzing. A lot of the stores want them because they’re allergen free, isolate free, GMO free, corn free. Many other bars on the market have something in them. When you look down the line, I’m looking at all these energy bars and they all have nuts, fruits, isolates, dairy—they all contain some ingredient I can’t have. So these are a good fit for the market.

How do you choose new products to develop?

We try to fill a ‘black hole’ need—do something nobody else is doing—like we did with our nutrition bars. I try to merge what is a ‘felt need’ with our consumers with what is possible to do. We don’t do products that are already market saturated, and we don’t do products we can’t make better than their gluten containing counterparts.

With the expansion of your business, you have recently hired additional help. What was your thought process as you looked to invite people outside your family to help with the business?

I looked at the four or five best companies to work for in our area of Pennsylvania that treated their employees with integrity, and I talked to the employees. I talked to the Human Resources people. I asked the employees what it is about this company that they love so much. My goal is to be like a New Pig, where the average length of employment is fifteen years long.

We think about what our employees need to be paid to make a good life for themselves, not what they need to survive. What kind of health care do they need? What kind of time off and scheduling do they need? If their benefits are not something I would like to be given, they’re not good benefits. Their time off, their family medical leave, their health care—I filter it through what I think I deserve. And if someone is going to get paid first, they are.

How do your employees contribute to the company?

Employees take care of your business and they also take care of your customers. We ask a lot of our employees. We ask them to be part of something bigger. We ask them to change the world. And so we give them a lot of freedom to establish policy. If I’m the admiral of the fleet, they’re the captains. I listen closely to them, and they help make us better.

I hire my staff because they are strong when I’m weak. My employees are very gifted in multiple areas. Each of them is handling multiple departments right now. They work very hard. We joke, but it’s true, that my employees can get about 40 hours of work done in 20 hours. I can trust them completely. I’ve been able to do with three full-time—four including me—and two part-time employees what other companies do with 10 or 15. I am blessed. My staff are homerun hitters, every single one.

Running Better Batter clearly takes a lot of work and time. If you don’t do it for the money, why do you do it? 

I’m changing the world and providing an education about social justice for my children. And cake! Even if I never took home any money—even if this company doesn’t ever make us any money, I’ve been able to feed my children normal food, regular tasting food, my grandma’s recipes. And I’ve been able to teach them the way they need to interact with the world, how to make wise choices and treat others the way they want to be treated.

The company may go nowhere, but the lessons I’ve taught my children, they’ll survive. I believe that my children will treat the world in a better way because they’ve watched me practice what I preach. For me that’s very rewarding. As a parent I’m very concerned that I don’t leave my children with a shallow and empty philosophy—that they don’t get out in the world and lose their soul. If they’re rich and successful but their career is for money, if they don’t follow a passion and they don’t help people, that’s failure on a multigenerational scale.

Someone told me once that the only thing you leave behind is what you give away. I’ve lived through cancer. I was told I was going to die. I’ve outlived my death date, and I feel like I’m living on borrowed time. What matters after I’m gone is how I’ve taken care of my parents, how I’ve taken care of my children, how I’ve changed the world. Everything else fades away. Right now, Better Batter is a part of that.

What’s the most rewarding part of your business?

The most rewarding thing, to be honest with you, is seeing people heal, physically. To watch someone go from physically dying to being extremely healthy in a state of nutritional wholeness without having to give up any food they love—it’s kind of fun.

What are your plans for Better Batter’s future? What is your ultimate goal?

I’m going to be very up front with you. I want to be—not in a bad way, but in the size way—I want to be the Coca-Cola of the gluten-free world. I want to take over, be HUGE. When we started the company, I said to my husband, I have all this English background. If I ever write a book, it will be a book about business. It will be about how you run business. It will be about how you change the world through business. I want so desperately to change America. The only way to do that is if you’re big enough that people will listen to you. So my goal is to be the biggest one out there, whether that means partnering with other companies, buying other companies, or producing new product lines. I’m taking on the nation. To do that, I need to have a soapbox to stand on, and a big company is a pretty big soapbox.

Can you maintain your core values and philosophy as the company grows larger and if so, how?

I believe I can. As the work increases and the larger the company gets, the more you have to hold the line and say, we are not getting this hierarchy thing going; we are not strictly about the money. We are who we always have been, and we are creating what we want to be. You have to constantly remind people of that on every front. Once a week I do a strategy session with all my departments, and we just sit down and say, how are we doing? What are we doing to make who we are now who we’re going to be in the future? How are we making sure the ship is still steering in the right direction? It’s a constant battle, but there are companies who have done it. We want to be added to the list.

Do you have role model companies?

I do, and I watch them very carefully because you want to see what they do once they reach a certain point and how long it takes them to lose that. One of my original role model companies was The Hershey Company, both in terms of what to do and what to avoid doing. Milton Hershey built what I want to build, took care of his people, his community, his world. I remember thinking, if I ever build a business, this is the kind of employer I would want to be.

Hershey has also become a role model for me of what I don’t want to see happen. I watched how Milton’s dream of a little utopia in Hershey, PA disintegrated; this huge multinational became about the money, the manufacturing went off to somewhere cheap, and the community suffered.

How big can we get before we lose our corporate soul? How long can our vision last? Those are the big questions we need to answer [at Better Batter].

From your perspective, what makes Better Batter special, and how do you feel about what you’ve done with the company so far?

Better Batter is special because we’re giving people back their old family recipes and favorite ways of doing what is central to them—making memories around the table. When I create a clone of a perfect cake mix—one that you could never tell was gluten free—I am creating something completely new in the world. When I establish a system that allows even the poorest person to eat this way, if they need to, I am doing something good in this world. To create and do good, this is essential to me. With Better Batter, I am on the front line of completely uncharted territory. And I’m feeling really adventurous.

To learn more about Better Batter and to explore or order Better Batter products, visit betterbatter.org.

<<Naomi Poe & Better Batter intro

<<Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 1: A For-Profit Business with a Nonprofit Heart

<<Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 2: Personal Struggles Lead to Business Big Bang

<<Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 3: GMOs, Fad Diets, and Making a Positive Difference

<<Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 4: Thoughts on Business from a “Person in Business”

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One Response to “Naomi Poe & Better Batter Part 5: Taking Over the World One Gluten-Free Product at a Time”

  1. [...] healthy and enjoyable food choices.  Even more, Naomi’s honest interaction with the audience was unlike anything I have ever seen in the business world.  Rather than standing at the podium solely as a professional, Naomi approached the crowd casually [...]

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