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Article: 2023 Year in Review: Connor’s Founder Business Recap

2023 Year in Review: Connor’s Founder Business Recap

2023 Year in Review: Connor’s Founder Business Recap

I’m leaving 2023 with mostly positive emotions. I got through the most challenging year of my life raising a newborn whilst making all the mistakes in the book.

But we did miss our revenue / growth targets, our retail business is flat and our traffic imploded and product development continues to fail. 

In hindsight, my goals were a bit ambitious given the drastic changes to my life.

I certainly could not work anywhere close to full capacity after February, but I was able to manage my time and priorities well despite the challenges. And a huge thank you to my wife Shelby, for being the most loving and supportive partner I could ask for. 

Let’s get into the positives, negatives and what I’ve got cooking for 2024. 

Big Wins for 2023

The positives to reflect on are that we grew 42% despite some huge challenges, we’re cash flow positive even with paying me a modest salary and successfully launching a new product category (pet food). 

1. We Grew 42% vs 2022

2023 was the most difficult year of my life. I’m proud that we grew 42% in spite of the challenges. 

This is shy of my goal set from 2022, but I had a beautiful baby boy, so give me a bit of leeway here. 

Simply put, our lives got turned upside down in February when Marlow came 5 weeks early. 

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Everyone with kids goes through it: no sleep, your days melding together, questioning why we did this (is that just me?) etc. If you’re a parent, thanks for the savage initiation into your coveted club.

I quickly knew that work would be an afterthought to keeping my little bud thriving. You see, my wife and I are both small business owners. So maternity or paternity leave do not exist.

While there are lifestyle and flexibility advantages to both parents being self employed, the lack of government financial resources and ability to take time off is difficult to bear. 

I took 3 months off of any creative or growth oriented work. Just kept inventory stocked, checked in on important emails, etc. 

A huge thanks to our team for picking up the slack. Particularly Francisca who is the most dependable and hard working team member I could ask for. 

After month 3, I worked when I could, which still wasn’t much. We had a baby that did not nap, so daytimes were a limp to the finish.

We are at month 10 now and the little bugger finally naps properly. 

But as other parents will tell you, it gives you a more focused energy to get things done and a desire to push hard to provide for them. 

2. Cash Flow Positive

The first thing to celebrate is that we are still here! I can’t stress enough how hard it is to just survive as an independent business these days.

This year is the first year Bluebird has the cashflow to be able to pay me a modest salary. I say modest because it is still far from what I would get if I had stuck to working for software companies years ago.

But enough to pay the bills and allow my wife and I to have a child. We still struggle (don’t we all), but I live with extreme privilege (being a white male born and raised in Canada). 

Plus, I know what I signed up for. The food industry.. While sexy from the outside… is fiercely competitive. 

The Inventory Cash Flow Crunch

Let’s talk about the issues with small business cash flow. 

Product-based brands experience huge cash flow problems because of inventory. You always need to buy more (or finance the making of) inventory 1-6 months in advance.

The longer your lead time (time it takes to get all your ingredients and make your product)  is and the longer it takes you to sell through your inventory, the worse cash situation a business is in. 

Even if you are growing at 100% year over year, all of that growth or supposed profit gets reinvested to buy or make more inventory so you can continue growing. 

Suffice it to say, we are able to finance the inventory needed to grow at a steady pace without going into debt or raising money. 

Even just being in business after COVID and interest rates (two bone broth brands shut down 2022 and countless small businesses) is something to celebrate.  Woohoo!

3. New Category Launch: Pet Food

I pivoted the business into pet food and launched a dog bone broth. While this came as a surprise to friends, family and customers, it is something I’ve thought about since 2019 when I got my husky: Nitotem.

He suffered from parvovirus and almost died before I adopted him. He’s had awful digestion ever since and is allergic to 99% of dog food. 

Bone broth seemed to help his digestion… and he and my other dog Atlas go absolutely nuts for it. If you have a picky eater, give it a try and thank me later. 

Fast forward to 2022 and pet food manufacturers started approaching me to use my bone broth in their products. 

It got me thinking… Why don’t I just launch a dog bone broth and see how it goes? 

Side note: there are more pets in the USA than there are children under 18. This is a market that continues to grow like crazy. And we are going all in. 

Our grass fed beef bone broth powder for dogs and cats launched on Amazon US in April and is doing well. 

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We have a pasture raised chicken bone broth for dogs launching mid January in the USA.

Both products will be available in Canada sometime in mid to late Feb. Sign up for our email list if you want to get on the early launch list and get it before everyone else. 

Big Losses of 2023

We fail early and often. Our retail business is bad, product development continues to be a thorn in my side, website traffic imploded and we got in trouble. 

1. Retail Business is Flat

How retail business (where you find Bluebird Provisions products in grocery stores) is flat for the second straight year.

I haven’t had motivation to grow this side of the business because I am 100% focused on growing our online business. 

But it is a piece of the pie that we need to pay more attention to. 

2. Product Development Issues (again)

Product development is tough, I certainly fail more than I succeed in this area. We failed to develop a beef bone broth powder for humans.

Simply put, I will not sacrifice my morals and use processed ingredients (ex: natural flavors, yeast extract) to make it taste good. 

If I sacrifice these morals, then what are we really doing here? Tons of brands have done this and are experiencing financial success.

But I will continue to try and find a way to do it naturally. 

3. Traffic Imploded

Website and social traffic imploded for a few reasons. Google algorithm updates and TikTok not converting into sales led me to shift some of our resources elsewhere.

I’ll still invest in growing organic website traffic, but in a bit of a different way I can talk about more next year.

4. Getting in Trouble

Remember when having a newborn was the biggest stress ever? Combine that with legal troubles (4 weeks after birth) and you have a recipe for… more fun. 

I can’t say more, but it was costly and made me feel like I was drowning.  

2024 Goals

  • Grow 45% 
  • Operate at 10% profit margins
  • Launch 3 new products

  • Want to help me reach our goals? You can do a few things to help.

    1. Buy some bone broth for yourself, a friend, pet or family member. Shop USA, Shop Canada
    2. Leave an honest  review on Amazon USA or Amazon CA 
    3. Subscribe to our email newsletter below. 

    Revisiting 2023’s Goals (set at the end of 2022)

    Let’s take a quick look at last year's goals.

    1. Grow Sales by 100% vs 2022 (double)

    Woah, what a facepalm moment. Did I know about the newborn coming when I made this goal?

    2. Launch and Grow a New Product Line in a different category

    We did this with the pet bone broth! Onward and upwards for more of these. 

    3. Grow Online Presence (website traffic to 250,000, TikTok to 20m views)

    This did not work as intended. I ended up having to delete about 30 high performing blog posts, google updates cut our traffic by 25% or so and we abandoned the TikTok experiment because it wasn’t converting to revenue. 

    4. Be Profitable

    I have to confirm with my accountant, but I think we did this! 

    Do you have any recommendations for me or the business? Leave a comment below or find me on X/Twitter

    You can find my previous recap here for 2018 and 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 respectively. 

    3 comments

    Long time reader first time writer. Love your work Bluebird! Any plans to expand to the international market?

    Matt Guest

    Connor, I really enjoyed reading your emails after I bought the dried chicken bone broth. I do think I need to acquire a taste for it.. I will use it in recipes. I also love that you are sharing your year – that’s way more than most do, and I feel much more connected to you as the owner of the business and your product. As a matter of fact, I am going to purchase the pet bone broth – not because my dog has issues, but it’s healthier than the Tbsp of wet food I add to the dry. With all the info you send out, it makes me WANT to help your business. Thank you for sharing and I hope 2024 is profitable for you and your family.

    Kim Weisner

    Thank you for sharing this with us Connor. I love your product and want you to thrive for my benefit as well as yours. I’d much rather have a relationship with a caring individual (team) than a corporation that’s all about the money. It’s so refreshing and needed.

    Annette Hunner

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