Andrew and Sarah Gordon are newlyweds, just married in August 2012. However, they didn’t spend their honeymoon snorkeling in Hawaii or touring the Mediterranean. Sarah and Andrew spent their honeymoon launching their new company, Squarebar, a healthy and delicious new nutrition bar that comes in three different flavors.
Sarah and Andrew have known each other for some time; in fact, they first met because one of Andrew’s friends was dating one of Sarah’s good friends. Their friends ended up breaking up, but Sarah and Andrew met each other and hit it off right away. According to Sarah, “We pretty much spend all our time together, and we still like each other!” Running a business together hasn’t come in the way of that, either. “When we decided we wanted to start developing a bar, nobody really thought it was going to happen, and a lot of people were like, ‘You guys don’t want to work together,’ but really that’s the whole reason why we did start the company.”
After spending five days in New York for a Christmas party with Andrew’s company, only to come back to going their separate ways with different jobs, the dream started to take shape more concretely. “I was dropping Andrew off at work, and he was like, ‘We have to do something about this. I want to work together all the time.’ We were literally driving to his work and we decided to start a company!” That day, Sarah went home and started formulating the first of what would be many recipes for their new bar.
So why Squarebar? Not only does Sarah have a longtime love for baking and cooking, but both Andrew and Sarah live a healthy and active lifestyle. “When we started dating, Andrew was just eating steamed brown rice, broccoli, and baked chicken breast. That was like, all he ate. …I started making all these meals for him, and I think that’s maybe why he fell in love with me!” Combined with Sarah’s love for baking, clean eating was also a primary factor in the evolution of Squarebar.
For Sarah and Andrew, clean eating isn’t just an abstract food philosophy, but a passion that they live out in their own kitchen. Sarah told me about the difference that clean eating has made in her own life. She was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 11, and as a competitive swimmer and water polo player, it was a constant struggle. After years of refusing treatment with steroids, Sarah’s asthma finally got so bad in high school that she was on constant medication, which led to struggles with chronic bronchitis in addition to her asthma symptoms.
Things took a new turn in college, when Sarah had a few attacks that landed her in urgent care. Ironically, the doctor at the urgent care center recommended the book Ultraprevention by Drs. Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis. Sarah discovered that she is sensitive to both gluten and dairy, and after eliminating both from her diet, she observed an immense decrease in her asthma symptoms. “I just cut all that out, and it totally changed everything. I was on steroids – Singulair, Claritin, Albuterol – and I don’t even have an inhaler any more.”
For Sarah and Andrew, clean eating at its best also means free of GMOs, and they hold these high standards for their products as well. When they started formulating the final recipe for their bars, Andrew and Sarah decided to become a part of the Non-GMO Project , a non-profit organization that provides verification for GMO-free products. Squarebar has been verified from the very beginning, since all the ingredients used in the bars are already verified. “Since we were formulating our product from the very beginning, we were the first product to actually come to the market already verified. We actually did it from the beginning. We were Non-GMO verified before we were even organic certified or gluten-free certified. That was the very first thing we did.”
In addition to obtaining certifications for their product, Andrew and Sarah put a lot of work into developing the final recipes. “When you make recipes, you can’t just triple a recipe. Sometimes it just doesn’t come out quite right…so we were really kind of scared to see what happened when they [the manufacturers] made 50,000 of our bars! So when it came, we were so happy and relieved it was so good. It was the most rewarding experience, because that was our first demo.”.
So what’s the biggest challenge they’ve faced? “I think time,” Sarah said. “Andrew and I were both working full time jobs, and it was hard to find the time.” Sarah and Andrew self-funded their company and also did a Kickstarter project just before they started manufacturing their product. It worked! “That was amazing. We got this following right away and got this amazing funding. I think our goal was $12,000 and we ended up getting almost $14,000, which was really cool.”
Unlike many companies and particularly food product manufacturers, Sarah and Andrew didn’t just develop their product with mass production in mind. Every step has been intentional and well planned out. “We started everything from the beginning. We started saving money from the beginning, building the website from the beginning, coming up with the branding from the beginning – at the same time that we were formulating…a lot of stories are like, ‘They were making this amazing salad dressing, and everyone loved it and now it’s this amazing food company. That wasn’t like us. We wanted to start a company, and we did it all from the beginning.” Andrew learned how to build websites and do the product designs on his own. At the Natural Foods Expo in 2011, Andrew and Sarah set their goal. “We just walked the Expo floor, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘This is our goal. In one year, we are going to be here.’ And we did it!” Sarah and Andrew launched Squarebar at the largest natural foods expo in the world – quite an accomplishment!
My husband and I dream about starting our own business some day, so talking to Sarah was so encouraging and eye-opening for me. But even if you’re not an entrepeneur, just seeing the passion and dedication that Sarah and Andrew put into their work is inspiring. The health industry will thrive with companies like Squarebar at the center. Check out my review of the three Squarebar flavors to learn a bit more about the product ingredients.
Squarebar was released in northern California Whole Foods in summer 2012, and as of our conversation they were available in 21 stores. They are also available in various natural food stores throughout the country, or online at Abe’s Market.