Bobo’s Beryl Stafford bakes up inspiration at SBDC women’s conference

LOVELAND — You don’t always have to play by the rules or know exactly what you’re doing to find success in business. Bobo’s Oat Bars founder Beryl Stafford is proof of that.

Stafford told the story of her company’s unorthodox journey from her Boulder kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores across the country Thursday in Loveland. She delivered the keynote address at the Colorado Small Business Development Center’s fourth annual Northern Colorado Women’s Conference.

Bobo’s was born out of a mother-daughter baking tradition in 2003 and has grown into a company with more than $8 million in annual sales. 

In the early days Stafford went from store to store, from co-op to co-op across the region to educate buyers about her oat bars and soak in as much knowledge as she could. 

Bobo’s founder Beryl Stafford delivered the keynote address at the Colorado Small Business Development Center’s fourth annual Northern Colorado Women’s Conference. Lucas High/BizWest.

“It took me three or four years just to get into a handful of little stores,” Stafford said. “The whole time I didn’t know what I was doing; I was just going for it.”

Sometimes “going for it” means coloring a bit outside of the lines. For example, Stafford’s first labels and business cards indicated that Bobo’s bars were all organic despite the fact that they were not certified as such by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“You just make it up as you go along,” she said, eliciting laughs and applause from the capacity crowd gathered to hear her speak at the Ranch Events Complex in Loveland.

Stafford credits much of her early business success to this do-it-yourself spirit and willingness to take risks.

Networking with members of industry groups such as Naturally Boulder is another key for women who want to make a splash in the natural and organic food space.

Stafford’s networking eventually led her to Justin Gold, founder of nut butter product maker Justin’s LLC. The two agreed to share a bakery space and “fed off of each other’s networks,” she said.

Bobo’s hit a tipping point when Whole Foods agreed to begin carrying the firm’s bars.

Of course, the more bars the company sold, the more work Stafford put in.

“I did a ton of demos every weekend” at trade shows and grocery stores, she said. “Getting the word out went on for years.”

But that grind took a toll.

“I had no social life. I was driving my friends crazy. I was exhausted,” she said.

Venture capital and private equity firms came knocking but Stafford was hesitant to give up equity in the company she worked so hard to build.

Rather than sell the company, Stafford hired former Boulder Brands executive T.J. McIntyre to serve as Bobo’s new CEO. McIntyre’s arrival marked a new chapter for the company.

“‘Forget the private equity company; let’s grow it together,’ he told me,” Stafford said.

And grow Bobo’s did. The company grew so fast it ran out of production space at its bakery in Boulder. Earlier this year Bobo’s bought the Canyon Bakehouse plant at 1510 E. 11th St. in Loveland to allow for a continued production growth.

Despite that growth, Stafford hasn’t forgotten what made Bobo’s special.

“The packaging equipment is a little more automated and a little more sophisticated, but we still make the bars by hand,” she said. 

She encouraged the business women in attendance Thursday to “be hungry, be humble and work the hardest in the room.”

“You have to be hungry and passionate for your product,” she said. “If you’re not hungry, you wont work hard and you won’t have much fun.”

LOVELAND — You don’t always have to play by the rules or know exactly what you’re doing to find success in business. Bobo’s Oat Bars founder Beryl Stafford is proof of that.

Stafford told the story of her company’s unorthodox journey from her Boulder kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores across the country Thursday in Loveland. She delivered the keynote address at the Colorado Small Business Development Center’s fourth annual Northern Colorado Women’s Conference.

Bobo’s was born out of a mother-daughter baking tradition in 2003 and has grown into a company with more than $8 million in annual sales. 

In the early days Stafford went from store to store, from co-op to co-op across the region to educate buyers about her oat bars and soak in as much knowledge as she could. 

Bobo’s founder Beryl Stafford delivered the keynote address at the Colorado Small Business Development Center’s fourth annual Northern Colorado Women’s Conference. Lucas High/BizWest.

“It took me three or four years just to get into a handful of little stores,” Stafford said. “The whole time I didn’t know what I was doing; I was just going for it.”

Sometimes “going for it” means coloring a bit outside of the lines. For example, Stafford’s first labels and business cards indicated that Bobo’s bars were all organic despite the fact that they were not certified as such by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“You…