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Déja-Brew with Kickbar Founder Julianna Ward

Julianna Ward is the Founder of Kickbar – a range of chocolate coffee bars that fits in the palm of your hand and has the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. Each bar is only 2g of sugar, less than 100 calories, and a delicious burst of caffeine. Julianna talked to us about her inspiration to start Kickbar, the triumphant rewards to running a business, and shared advice to those looking to start their own business.

  1. What inspired you to start your brand?

“I was inspired to start Kickbar because my background is in early-stage startups, so I was working at venture growth companies in New York City. I was working around the clock – early in the mornings, late at night, running around from meeting to meeting. I didn’t like the K-Cups that were in the office and I didn’t always have time to run to the local Joe’s or Starbucks to pick up a coffee to get me through the afternoon. I realized that there wasn’t a great tasting option to eat my caffeine through the day and there was nothing I could grab running into my next meeting to fuel me immediately. So, the idea behind Kickbar was born. I started working and tinkering in my own kitchen, then moved to working with a coffee chemist, pastry chef, and food scientist who helped me iterate on Kickbar. It is now the great tasting product that it is today!”

  1. What flavor of Kickbar is your favorite?

“I would have to say that Cocoa is my favorite Kickbar flavor. It’s actually a new flavor we just launched a couple months ago, but it tastes awesome! It has a hint of coffee flavor, but it really tastes like amazing, delicious, caffeinated chocolate.”

  1. What is the most rewarding part of starting a business?

“I get to learn something new everyday. I’ve never started a food or CPG business before and everything I have learned to date has been self-taught. Everyday brings a new set of challenges that I have to figure out, and we as a team tackle it together and learn something new. Because no two days look the same, that is probably the most exhilarating part for someone like myself who is always curious and solving new problems.”

  1. What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a business in the CPG space? Or challenges nobody talks about?

“Don’t get too attached to one idea. You are going to iterate on everything – the flavor, the recipe, the packaging, the marketing. While you think you have the perfect idea as you’re getting started, it will inevitably change. Also, don’t worry about launching the perfect product. Just get the product out there in the market, start selling it to your friends, get their feedback, get it into the hands of potential customers and see what they think. Learn as much as you can from folks and know that you’re inevitably going to iterate and constantly be making changes for the first 1, 2, 3, maybe 5 years. Be open minded about that and get the product out there!

  1. What are some lessons you’ve learned from starting a business from the ground up?

“First: you have to be nimble. You have to test, figure out what works, and then invest from there. Second: you have to be scrappy. You need to be smart about every dollar you are putting into the business and always finding a way to do it more cost-effectively. What may seem like a good idea to spend thousands of dollars on a recipe formulator, why not spend a month or two in your kitchen to see if you can get to that recipe on your own? The hardest part of starting a business is not the idea and developing a recipe and formula, it’s actually selling it. Pre-launch, don’t waste a lot of money and don’t spend a lot of time getting to market. Get it out to people – the hard part comes into play when you have to sell a product and get people to part ways with their money. Make sure that is where you are investing and spending money, because growth is the most difficult part.” 

  1. What is your vision for Kickbar in the future?

“My vision for Kickbar has always been to make a great tasting and healthy way to get a kick of caffeine on-the-go. But more importantly, what we are maniacally focused on every day is helping to empower people in their day-to-day lives. Our motto is eat anywhere, do anything, and that is really what we are focused on. We wanna be there for people when they’re waking up at 5 in the morning for a run as they’re training for a marathon. Or for a mom who is running from work to pick up the kids from school and still has a hundred things to-do on her list and needs something to get through it all. Or a nurse who is working an extra-long shift to help people in our healthcare system. Whatever the need is, there are people who need help to get through their everyday lives and to accomplish what they want. That’s really what we’re focused on.”

Want to hear more from Julianna? Find her on or on Instagram @kickbar.

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