The Age of Independents: Bryan Mitchiner, Stocked
Welcome to The Age of Independents, a new podcast from indie.biz. For our first guest, we're excited to have Bryan Mitchiner of Stocked. Bryan is a consumate independent and a serial entrepreneur in the food industry. His companies and products include:
Stocked Kitchens for making.
Stocked Distribution for wholesale.
Stocked General Store for retail.
Gestures by Stocked gift concierge for your client, your mom, your friends.
Tell us your backstory.
I graduated from UW in 2010. I knew leaving college that I eventually wanted to start my own thing. I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit, although, I maybe wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I started working for a local company by the name of Molly’s Grab-N-Go Sandwiches & Salads (not to be confused with the other great local Molly’s, Molly Moon’s). I started doing sales for them. I got into the food industry and I loved food and working with other people who love food.
Then, I met my buddy Justin (Hoffman) who had this out-of-this world mustard recipe called Honey Curry Mustard. So, we started Mustard & Co. It slowly grew and grew into real business as we sold more and more mustard.
From there, I realized there was a real opportunity to start a distribution network to help distribute other brands like Mustard & Co. So, that’s what lead to Stocked. It’s been great, we’ve just been connecting with more and more brands like Mustard & Co. and helping them distribute their product.
So, you were working with Stefan Kalb at Molly’s. What was the process of going independent?
Stefan has been a mentor and really helped us get started. Mustard & Co. was just a night thing, then I went down to 4 days a week at Molly’s. Mustard & Co. got busier and busier. Then asked if I could go down to 3 days a week. When I asked to go down to 3 days a week he encouraged me to just go all out, and then with his support, that’s what we did.
Was there ever a time when you weren’t sure Mustard & Co. or Stocked would make it?
Yeahhhh. A few months after I officially quit working at Molly’s and did this full time, we weren’t making enough to support both (co-founder) Justin and me. I knew I needed more income from somewhere, so I just decided to go around to my neighbors to ask if they needed their lawns mowed, something I did a lot in high school. I was pretty low at that point and it was the end of July, once lawns had already stopped growing, so, of course, no one said “yes".
Then, something snapped me out of it. At some point, I just told myself, if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine because A) It’s just mustard and B) I can just do something else.
How do you go about setting goals?
I don’t really set goals. I have a lot of ideas of what I want to accomplish in my head. They’re more ideas, rather than numbers. I tend to just follow what I think is a natural next step. I write down a lot of my ideas to see what I’ve actually accomplished. For whatever reason, goals don’t resonate with me.
What do you wish more people knew about being an independent business owner?
Hmm, that’s tough. It sounds cliche, but it’s so much harder than you could imagine. It’s also really awesome. It’s a roller coaster. Really high highs and low lows. I know there will be more valleys, there always are. But now, I know they are coming.
What resources do you access when you have business questions?
People. When there’s something business or food-related, I find someone who’s doing something similar and ask them. I have a lot of mentors and a lot of people are willing to help you if you ask them.