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Greg Steltenpohl is the Founder of Califia Farms, one of the fastest growing plant-based beverage companies in the world. Greg is an visionary brand builder and serial entrepreneur with a focus on utilizing creative principles to build mission based organizational cultures that achieve world class results. Greg has led Califia Farms’ meteoric growth as an innovative leader in premium, natural beverages that make it easy and delicious for consumers to live a plant-based lifestyle.

Show Links

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregsteltenpohl/ https://twitter.com/CalifiaFarms

Time Stamps

00:00 — Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Califia Farms | Lessons Learnt Building Califia Farms

01:41 — How Greg got started as an entrepreneur

05:27 — What makes a good entrepreneur?

08:15 — Entrepreneurial identity

14:22 — What does Califia do different?

21:32 — Thoughts on setting up the right team

25:23 — The Califia story

32:52 — Being a plant-based pioneer

41:50 — Greg’s tips & resources for entrepreneurs


SUCCESS STORY PODCAST

Stories worth telling.

On the Success Story podcast, Scott has candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas and insights. He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their story to help pass those lessons onto others through both experiences and tactical strategy for business professionals, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.

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Machine Generated Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, company, entrepreneur, food, California, business, big, literally, entrepreneurship, question, product, plant, world, system, based, point, sugar, creating, dollars, organization

SPEAKERS

Greg Steltenpohl, Scott D Clary

 

Scott D Clary  00:05

Thanks again for joining me. Today I am sitting down with Greg Steltenpohl who is the CEO of California farms one of the largest, fastest growing natural beverage companies in the US. he co founded California farms in 2010, with a Farmers Cooperative based in San Joaquin Valley that is focused on creating healthy, delicious plant based beverages. Greg is well known as the founder and CEO of Odwalla, leading us supplier of fresh juice and nourishing beverages. Greg led the company through its transformation from small startup to publicly held corporation with an average growth rate exceeding 50% per year in building on gwala. Greg was a pioneer in employing ideas and of environmental sustainability, employee empowerment, creative corporate culture and community based marketing. Odwalla was sold off to Coke was part of the coke brand, for over 10 years. Greg is a serial entrepreneur, I’m very excited to unpack his playbook, understand how he came to be who he is today. So thank you, Greg, for sitting down. I really,

 

Greg Steltenpohl  01:17

really excited to be with you Skype, and love being in good company you’ve had on the show so far.

 

Scott D Clary  01:24

Now, it’s my pleasure. You are You are the epitome of what entrepreneurs strive to be you took the company from startup to publicly traded, and now you’re on to the next venture. But that doesn’t happen overnight, as we all know. So how did? How did your career start? Where did you come from and university jobs moving into entrepreneurship? Walk me through your journey?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  01:49

Well, you know, it’s funny how things you know, you try to pinpoint a starting point. And in my case, a book literally fell off a bookshelf in front of me. And that book was called 100 businesses, you can start for $100. My only problem was I didn’t have that $100. So I, you know, the the origins of Odwalla have to be traced back a little bit further than that. You know, I was raised in a family that my father absolutely adored fresh squeezed orange juice. And it was a ritual at our, you know, morning table. Ever since I was a little kid and I lived in both Florida. And when I was quite young, six or seven years old, we moved to Southern California. And growing up in Southern California round orange groves was, you know, just had a lot of great memories for me. And the romance of the snowing orange blossoms and just seeing the incredible output of those trees, obviously registered something in my imagination. So flash forward. Many years later, I studied environmental sciences at Stanford. And when I got out, this was in the, you know, late 1970s. And I had this degree that there really wasn’t any place for other than kind of greenwashing big developments that oil companies were doing, or kind of fighting alongside the Sierra Club and trying to establish some early, you know, nonprofits that that would resist some of the environmental damage that was happening and back in those days. So I chose a different route, which was just to think about how things were going wrong in the first place. And I just started thinking about business as creating a lot of the problems, but I felt like businesses could be redesigned. And that and because I love food and agriculture, when that book fell down off the bookshelf in front of me, I kind of put two and two together and said, Maybe I should you know, quit, Quit stalling on this dilemma and and start something from scratch. And so one of the little ideas of this business of 100 businesses was a kind of glorified fruit stand, which and the people said you could franchise brand and extend out and have these little, you know, lemonade and fruits. Stan’s all over the place. So I really didn’t like the idea of retail. So I thought you can grow something much bigger if you are a supplier and and got into creating something that could really literally be everywhere. And that’s how the idea of Odwalla got started. And literally, you know, borrowed a couple of $100, bought a little hand squeezer, a box of oranges, some empty bottles, and swallows the first few batches in the kitchen, kind of got kicked out of the kitchen into the back shed. From there, we got a little place that, you know, a few 100 square feet to put a little semi automatic machine and Odwalla just took off like a weed back in the 1980s being one of the very first sort of natural food businesses.

 

Scott D Clary  06:02

And as you as you That was your first venture, so I’m sure there was tons of learnings. Walk me through growing that venture? What did you learn about entrepreneurship? What are things that you wish you had known? Some of the pitfalls, stresses, as it grew, I’m sure there’s a whole other podcast, just speaking about?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  06:26

Well, you get, you know, the, there is a gene, in my experience, but I also think it’s, it’s a bit like the debate of nature versus nurture. Entrepreneurs can be born, but they also have to be made, at least if you’re going to succeed over time. And I think that we also over glorify them in some ways. So I think there’s a lot of dark sides to entrepreneurship that we can get to into a little later that I just don’t think it’s a panacea for the world’s problems. And I think, in reality, there’s true entrepreneurs everywhere, especially in developing countries where people have to be so creative, just to get by on a few dollars a day. So I feel like quite humbled by the experience, and, you know, some of the romanticization of it. But I think it also, there’s a spirit to it, that really is contagious, and that people really do gravitate around. And it brings out the passion and people and that, you know, you can have a purpose and you can have, you can have a great business idea and a business model, you can have a great design, you can have all those, you know, interesting ideational beginnings, but at the end of the day, there’s got to be a lot of grit, and, and passion to get you through the series of, you know, quite frankly, kind of never ending challenges. And and then you have the challenge of success and and how do people overcome that in six, you know, in a healthy way. So those are the interesting territories. But if you asked me, you know, entrepreneurs, I think are kind of forged in the kind of trouble they get into by going after what they first started in thought they had some idea about.

 

Scott D Clary  08:46

I think that one theme that I see a lot on the show when I speak to people that have done their own thing that have built their their own business from the ground up. It’s it’s the over glorification of entrepreneurship and sometimes how everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, but they don’t realize the struggles that that you can go through. But you’ve you know, you’ve literally gone through the entire gamut. You starting from a couple bucks to publicly traded. Now, I’m curious because as you start to go towards the route of, you know, it’s growing, growing, you have many, many employees multi million dollars in revenue, and now you’re looking to exit go public.What, what, at that point? When do you decide that you use you decide that you want us to do something? Let’s move on to other things.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  09:45

Well, you know, sometimes, I mean, it’s super interesting question because, you know, the entrepreneurs have a particular challenge in separating their identity From what they do, and I believe that that’s, you know, when I was talking about the problems of success, that’s one of the things and one of the things that entrepreneurship can be a compulsion. And, you know, compulsions are really not the healthiest form of behavior. So I think it takes, it does take a lot of self examination. And certainly, I would have to fall in that bucket since I’m in my 40s 40, going into my 40s, first year of being an entrepreneur, and having been a serial entrepreneur, you know, I actually am at a stage in life where I, you know, asked some tougher questions about where, you know, where is truly the right legacy? What is the right legacy to lead, given my span of experience? And how can I best contribute, you know, the point of view, to help the next generation of entrepreneurs overcome, you know, some of the downsides of what we may have created. And, you know, I think, people, we don’t have to look any farther than a lot of the current crop of big technology entrepreneurs now who live in literal worlds of their own and are now going offworld, almost, you know, there’s three different entrepreneurs that are in the race for space than to be the first to colonize another planet. And meanwhile, back at the ranch, you know, I think we have a lot of we have any Vietnam, while and decolonization, you know, that we’ve done on this planet. So, I have a lot of, you know, mixed feelings about how entrepreneurs sometimes gets separated from a greater social fabric, because of their success, extreme success, you know, and so, for me, I think social entrepreneurship should not be like this separate calling. I mean, my wish, is that that dialogue was much more sophisticated, around how we build companies where the social entrepreneurship, meaning, you know, not just responsibility, but actually creatively embracing, you know, issues and frictions in society, and then taking them and transforming them into something that’s more aspirationally exciting to people and, and renewing, you know, and we’ve used that word disruption, that the word disruption and celebrated disruption. And, you know, I think there’s a little more nuance to it, I think, you know, anything that’s re, you know, regenerate renewal, reinvigorate, you know, these replacement metaphors, for things that have kind of run their course, and need to be re examined from scratch, are the kinds of ideas that I’m really interested in and Kallithea. I’m, you know, I’m an entrepreneur who’s in my 60s, I was in my 20s. When, you know, Odwalla got started, I was in my 30s When we went public. And when you’re in that stage, there’s, there is a glory, doggy. I mean, you just think that each stage is another rainbow. And we got hit by a ecoli. You know, contamination. When our company was about 16 years old at Oglala. And, and we were publicly held, and then world just for our world, just ground to a stop. The press and media was almost like a Michael Jackson story. Because, you know, we were such a kind of darling of California and all this stuff. And when people thought that this fresh juice was making people sick, it was too irresistible of a story, and a downfall. So we had to work our way back up from that over a multi year period, where we lost 90% of our sales and, you know, for a while people thought of the brand as a as a pariah. And, you know, I was really felt ashamed of the fact that we actually could have made people sick. So I think that these kind of Rites of Passage, when you get older you look at them I actually don’t want to trade them in, I guess is, you know, my takeaway from those things I, I’ve never wanted to go through it again. But the tempering that happens, and I guess the, like the priority for me and building a new food company like we have, which is many times the size of Odwalla, this boy, for Calathea, is that, you know, how do you? How do you try to change the food system from scratch? How do you try to rebuild it in a different way? How can you design food safety into the integral DNA of the company from the very beginning? Those are the kinds of things that get more interesting, rather than just another public offering. Or x, you know, billion dollar valuation or whatever, yeah, you know, exterior benchmark that gets put out in front of, you know, most people.

 

Scott D Clary  16:03

And, and I think that it makes you very calm it, like you just said, it makes you hyper conscious of, of what really matters in in a corporate environment. You know, you went through a tough time. That’s unfortunate, but I love it like you, you hold that with you. And you use that going forward in other organizations in California and anything you touch, right if, if this is a core tenant of, of you, as a as an entrepreneur, as a CEO, as a founder, that’s going to permeate whatever organization, whether or not you’re advising a younger entrepreneur, whether or not you’re building something out. Now, I guess, my my curiosity, my question is, it’s important to have environmental sustainability, employee empowerment, creative corporate culture, community based marketing, these are all incredible initiatives that I think, really differentiate companies. And by the way, how, how are some ways that you actually achieve these so that they’re not just, and there’s a there’s a wide gamut, I think of activities that could achieve these. But what are some of your favorite things that California does

 

Greg Steltenpohl  17:09

different? Great question. And thank you for that. And it is, you know, at the end of the day where the rubber meets the road, because, you know, talk is cheap, as everybody said, and even companies need to be aware that people nowadays want to know where the receipts are. You know, like, what, what did you really do? That’s what you said you wanted to do, but what did you really do, and I, you know, I aspire to make California’s main business as close to a, you know, regenerative type business for the planet, and for individual people who actually consume the product as possible. And for its image, and its brand, and everything that it stands for, to be actually functional in a, like, socially, and cultural, positive way. And I think those three parts, you know, the community, culture, social part, the personal health standpoint, because we’re a food company. So at the end of the day, what we materially make goes materially into people’s bodies, and materially has an either health promoting effect, or a health deleterious effect. So and then finally, there’s a carbon footprint, and and, or what we call foodprint, which is not just carbon, but water, land, atmosphere, all the different aspects of environmental consumption or benefit or exchange that the company actually does. So the first of all, the very exciting premise of, you know, trying to create a new food system is that a food system of the future has to be plant based for it to make sense, doesn’t mean everyone in the world has to be vegan. But it does does mean that the majority of food that we consume, has to have a smaller, you know, ecological footprint. Because we don’t have the remaining land. We don’t have enough water, fresh water that’s available between what people need directly and and what the farms need to go through the secondary transformation that happens within an animal where the water use is usually five to 10 times what it is to go directly in the caloric, you know, exchange between a plant and then a human. So that’s First and foremost, so we find that it can boil down to a simple a understanding that, you know, if you drink a pint beverage, that pint were weighs a pound, well, literally, by switching from a pint of dairy milk to a pint of plant milk, you will save a pound of carbon in the atmosphere. So, since the average person consumes over a ton of food per year, that literally, we can each of us save a ton of carbon by essentially having a primarily plant based diet. And that environmental impact alone is more than almost any other single action or transformation that a human being can do for the benefit of the environment, without depending on anybody else. And without depending on legislation, you know, governmental interference or guidance. No matter how you look at it, it’s just a single, willful act and decision that people can do. So I was greatly excited by that concept. And I realized that you can’t wag your finger at people to get them to to be plant based, the best way to do it a is make it taste great. And be create an exciting brand and initiative, and, you know, communication program behind it. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do. And other companies like us are joining in that. And that, you know, once you go down that road, you examine, it allows you to examine everything else you do like just filling products full of sugar, whether they’re plant based or not, creates diabetes creates easier susceptibility to, you know, both chronic disease and those chronic diseases make somebody more susceptible to immune attacking, you know, organisms like COVID. So, like, no matter how you look at the circle, it’s so interesting that if you if you look at it as a exciting challenge, instead of an, you know, responsibility box to check, then I think transforming companies and transforming the food system is very much within the reach of a single generation. And that’s the kind of thing that kind of turns, I think the people are calpheon and myself still at my age, and it really is that when you see the possibility of change, and the power is in the consumer, and the citizen, not only in the hands of something so big you feel you can’t make an impact. And that’s literally the spirit of entrepreneurship, that in itself. So for me, like the ability to transmit the idea that action and possibility exists. That’s as an entrepreneur, I’ve always been shocked that so many people just don’t. They don’t feel that. And and so, you know, it starts with being a part of it. And then hopefully people discover their own initiatives, you don’t have to start big companies, you know. So I think societal transformation is an imperative. And I’m just like super thankful that I could have the opportunity to make really great healthy products in California, which is a state that appreciates it. And it’s a state where so many innovative ideas are coming out. But we’ve had some unhealthy ones come out of here too. So we have to keep the keep the power the boat pointed in the right direction.

 

Scott D Clary  24:06

Very, very well said. And I appreciate you highlighting that. Because I think that that’s something that escapes a lot of first time entrepreneurs who are very much focused on the success on their perceived notion of success as opposed to what success really is, once you once you have figured out how to hit those traditional benchmarks. I call them traditional just because they’re probably the way that most businesses benchmark themselves. Probably for the for the wrong. That’s it’s not the right way to benchmark yourself. But when you start a business, you want to be profitable, you want to appease your shareholders, your investors, whatnot. But that’s not the only way to build a business as you as you can see, like you’re living you’re literally living proof of how to build a business that is socially conscious. Now, my question is to build a business that socially conscious, you have to get everybody on board or it’s going to be very hard it’s gonna be an uphill battle by everybody. I mean Like your culture, your employee, your the people that you hire, and you bring into into your organization, and you mentioned everyone at a coffee is very, is very proud of the work that you do. So for somebody who’s building an organization, how, how do you find those people that are in tune with what you’re doing?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  25:18

Well, I mean, you hit a very good point around the team. And, you know, obviously, I’m the guy on the show here, whatever. But we have 300 to 300 employees. And we have some incredible leadership in the company that’s distributed through all different aspects of the company. And we’re vertically integrated. So we have manufacturing, we have, you know, raw materials sourcing, we have logistics, we have it, we have, you know, huge financial infrastructure, we have investors from all different parts of the world. You know, so these, these things never happen as a result of just one person’s effort. But I think the entrepreneur bears a unique responsibility, particularly in the early stages, to, you know, they have Dayton body, what it is that you’re, the mission is about, and if it’s not really a mission, and it’s just fishing around for an opportunistic business plan, and then getting people fired up around that plan. I, you know, the longevity is probably going to be under question. I think resonance for me is the word that is really important when it comes to people and how to hire and bring the right people on board. And, you know, I continue to make mistakes, personally. So I think anyone would be lying if they, they found really the solution. Because, you know, things ultimately become really important to or things like loyalty and things like consistency, humility. So not just people who work hard, and not just people who have certain skill sets, or may be massively productive. So that alignment, and, you know, ultimately, being in tune with each other, you can do extraordinary things. And the more that you can accomplish much, much more when there is a minimal of internal friction, because organizations that dragged themselves down with too many internal processes, or too many internal points of conflict, or too many chiefs can never really have enough energy to successfully compete, or, you know, make their marketing goals really work because that energy was chewed up on the inside. So you you need to catch you need to set your sails and catch the winds of the environment where the strength is much bigger. And too much internal focus sometimes also makes companies too team oriented, and not enough paying attention to their customer. So being customer focused is one of the challenges that I find amongst executives, the hardest to find, because I think you can’t just rely on the marketing department for that. Or else you again, cause a lot of unnecessary meetings, and they become the sole defender of the point of view of the, you know, the end consumer, when, you know, you would get there a lot faster if people thought about those no matter what role they had in the company. Right? And then they would be bringing that point of view to the table. So you get no cute answer for it. I think you always have to just be awake in an interview. I personally have learned to do at least three in person interviews before making a decision because I find that the first definitely the first time people can boil you over with their energy and enthusiasm. Second time, they don’t have quite as much third time they might drop a lot of you know

 

Scott D Clary  29:28

it’d be kind of real self. Right.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  29:31

Right. So it’s kind of wear him down and then see what they’re really made of right. Yeah, no, not Not really. But I do think you have to go go beyond you know, you can’t take things at face value.

 

Scott D Clary  29:44

You mentioned a really good point there. When everybody’s responsible for customer success. That’s that’s evangelism right across the whole organization. I spoke to go ahead sorry.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  29:56

Well, I was just gonna say like plant based IBP we are not A company of 100% vegans and, you know, when you have a, you know, hundreds of people, and, you know, it’s a democracy, and I like people doing things for reasons that they, internally have gone through a process, and they appreciate. So, and like I said, it’s not about veganism, but it is about understanding why plant based is important. And, you know, factory treatment of animals, in my own belief system is not ethical. And, you know, there, there are ways that, you know, it can be done, and there are ways that it shouldn’t be done. And you also have to look at what kind of system you support to your dollars. And, you know, we’re voting our dollar with every, every time we lay it down to buy any meal. And I, you know, having people who realize that, oh, let me give you a little example, for California counties started literally, you know, was for a whole different reason, we were concerned about the food waste that was going on with the citrus crop in California, and 20% of it was literally going to the cows. And what it took was a entrepreneurial commitment from this group of farmers, that that I got into a partnership with. And the other thing was my own love of citrus combined with, you know, just the persistence and solving some problems that hadn’t been solved before. But along the way, you know, there, there was another problem that happened between some of the citrus partners. So, you know, we were able to pivot the business to plant based milks. And just in parallel with this coke ad, had gotten Odwalla and grown it along the pathway. So in the time, because when I started making the plant milks at California, lower sugar was a core tenet. And we also had this, this maxim of something different, something better. We didn’t need a complicated 10 commandment, you know, set of, you know, core values, other than understanding what did something different, and it’s something better mean, and something that was truly helpful. And we couldn’t be in the sugar game. And because in beverages, I hate to say it, but in most cases, it has been all about the sugar game, and that, by refusing to play that game, we distinguish ourselves so that our number one selling product became a 40 calorie per serving unsweetened almond milk. And Meantime, Coke turned Odwalla from an average of having between 110 to 120 calories to having an average calorie count of between 240 and 280, during that same period of time. So now cokes top selling product at Odwalla, I just had one, the superfood product had six times the amount of calories that are on the best selling product that Calfee as of 40 calories. So these are the things that if you don’t have the value system in place, you just won’t end up making those decisions. And today, California serves over a million and a half servings a day. So that’s a million and a half times a day that someone is saved from a sugar overload. So

 

Scott D Clary  33:49

I tell that to their health, like that’s an incredible number that you’re saving from that.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  33:53

You know, when when you if you think about every entrepreneur, if every entrepreneur could tackle their ideas system a little bit, you know, with the environment and with people’s health in mind, it doesn’t matter what people would do, I think we’d end up with the world we wanted, because people embrace those companies. I mean, it’s the brand love that that people get when they really commit to those, those same values is you can’t buy it. And literally that’s the other thing about the approaches you asked me in the question about community based marketing, for example is one of the things you listed. Community based marketing means that dollars you spend circulate right back in locally used or in the parts of the community that most need those dollars. If for example, all you do is television advertising, who benefits from that? The television now work the advertising the broadcasters, that’s where it all goes. And that goes in inside of only a corporate ecosystem. If you support the local schools, the whatever the PTA, you know, the food program for gardening, the you know, in our case, we’re trying to use our own supply chain to get our product to underserved what you call food deserts, food, swamps, inner city, places where natural food products are needed the most but our least accessible. So that’s the kind of thing that I talk about when you use your business model to actually do the thing you talk about.

 

Scott D Clary  35:45

These are the things Oh, no, I was gonna say this is just something that we’re seeing people want from companies more and more. And this is not reactionary on your part, either. I want to highlight that this has been your core tenant for a while. But now companies are trying to jump on this bandwagon.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  36:02

Well, it’s a good bandwagon to be on if you really actually do it. So mean, for example, we you actually have to worry about it, because there, there is backlash, almost kind of reversal that happens where people try to find the faults of people, which is a healthy, you know, I think, skeptical, healthy point of view, but we just made a million serving pledge about three months ago, to get a million servings of our product out to you know, as donations, this is not a sale, you know, a product to, you know, sell to the consumer, but get to those people on the frontlines of the COVID battle. So whether it was nurses, daycare people, homeless shelters, food banks, whatever it is, and you know, at least at this point, and we said we would do it by the end of the year, and I think we’re already at a 90% fulfillment rate of that pledge, and we want to re up it again. But those are the things that companies can look at, because there are things that can be done that don’t necessarily hurt profit margins, but actually employ the work of everyone in the company, and just apply it to a little better. And, and I think that’s, that’s the sort of win win. And, you know, use the use the operations of the business to actually do even more good. is kind of my own idealism about the right way to handle community based, you know, help.

 

Scott D Clary  37:48

Very, very well said, we’ve covered a lot of a California I want to I want to ask you some sort of life lesson insight questions from yourself. But before I go into that line, and they’re they’re a little bit, they’re more rapid fire than anything. I wanted to just give you the floor. Was there anything that I don’t know about California that you’re excited about? Where the company’s going? Where you want to see it? Go that you’re working on right now, things like that?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  38:18

Well, I think that the directions for us as a company being a plant based pioneer and and brand is that we view, you know, the products of an animal based food system, meaning, you know, there’s a whole spectrum of activities that go from mostly related to cows, but extends into chickens and eggs and to, you know, pigs and sheep and all kinds of other species. But the cow because it’s related to dairy milk is the one that Calfee is most directly looking to supplement and replace as a mainstream kind of core product stream. And if you think about dairy milk as a kind of in the production of dairy as a kind of refinery system, so just like crude oil, goes into a big factory and comes out as plastic comes out as jet fuel it comes out as tar and oil. It’s got all these different things that comes from crude. Well, the same, you know, raw milk comes into a big factory system and is separated by weights of fat and densities and all kinds of things to become cheeses and butters and spreads and everything else. So when you go at it from a plant based point of view, this is what the vision that Calfee is trying to go and we just launched plant butters. We just launched a product with plant proteins that come from peas and Rice, we are moving into spreads and, and in the direction of things that can replace cheese’s. So those, that whole spectrum is such a large part of land use in America, you know, the bulk of where dollars go from the consumer, you know, you’re talking about things that are on the order of 25 $30 billion worth of expenditure every year just for what the consumer is paying in, in retail. So this world of, you know, whole different way of doing things by partnering with plants, is just the biggest message that I think California wants to bring. And we have embraced, you know, and are looking to evolve this model of convenient community based marketing into not just a project or a program that we do annually, but to work with other businesses to figure out systemically how do we address, you know, how systemic racism has embodied itself in the food system, for example. And, you know, getting high quality, high nutrient dense products into those communities at an affordable price, is the kind of challenge that we can’t undertake, by ourselves as a company, but we really have to participate in with a vision. And, you know, we’ve been able to partner with visionary retailers like Target, we’ve been able to partner with NGOs and large nonprofits, like, you know, Feeding America, and those type of partnerships are, can be sort of the next generations food system vision. And that’s really what I wanted to convey that I think is possible.

 

Scott D Clary  42:02

I think that I think that everything you’re doing is an I didn’t realize going into this all the initiatives that you were actually engaged in, so I, you know, I appreciate the conversation. But I think that everything you’re doing should be a beacon for other companies to emulate. Because just being aware of all these things that you have impact over and all especially because you deal with health, and again, the things that people put into their body, not only being just like a socially conscious company, but being a health conscious company, and all these things, and the way you lead and the way you manage the the culture of the organization, everything is like checking those boxes off, that they think are good things for a company to emulate. So, I hope I hope that people listen to this. And if they are, if they are in more traditional structures that perhaps unfortunately, don’t focus on on all the things that you mentioned, that they start to investigate at least and understand how their company within their own specific industry or ecosystem can have more of a forward thinking. I call it forward thinking, I really should think it should just be the way you think, but a forward thinking view on how to how to you know, run an organization. So hats off to you for that very, very well.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  43:15

Thank you, Scott. But really, you know, it is time, the time is now and I think COVID gave a reset button, you know, in so many ways. And hopefully people you know by having more time so their family more times to make their own food you know, just more occasions to put into question, the daily practices and so on and really Kelty as part of a much bigger movement that many many young people are already born with an attitude you know, around what has to be and I just I think my biggest role is their dreams can be possible and they can do it but it does take commitment and it does you know, it doesn’t happen that easy. And listen, you can pick up the fight anywhere along the way. You know intrapreneurship we I started the company I was actually a intrapreneurial part of this farming company and I was a Division I was creating a new division for them but you know this this is not it can happen for people inside a big companies. But you do have to take a stand at one point and stand for something and mean it you know, you got a you do you just add whether you’re plunked down your own cash or all your sweat equity, you just even in work sometimes it’s an unpopular decision that has to be made or an unpopular point of view. And if you lose your job because you said something then you know that All right spot for you. Right didn’t pick up where that leaves off. And yeah, like I got I just this last story because I think it’s an example of that. Yeah, I was just before I started California, I was a founder, a co founder of another company, and that company has raised capital was I had the involvement of a former chairman of Pepsi in involved another guy who was a big entrepreneur, you know, a lot of big shots were involved in the thing. And it was great. And we were trying to bring women products from Africa here raw materials and had great aspirations. But at the end of the day, you know, there were too many cooks, and not enough people, you know, serving the food, right. And I, you know, I would, I realized my own internal unhappiness. And so I just, I laughed, and it’s the first time it was so hard for me as a entrepreneur to leave. And I left and literally, the next day, without any provocation, there’s a guy on the phone. And it turns out to be this guy, you know, Bert Evans, who owned the sun Pacific, and was the head of this Big Co Op. And so there was no connection, literally, he had no knowledge that I was leaving my other company. So it was just because I did that out of principle, and out of what it was being true to myself, literally the next day, you know, that, that the new opportunity came, and that became, you know, the destiny of California. So, I love that stuff. And, you know, sometimes the world laughs at YouTube, because the first CEO that they sent in, after I had left. Odwalla was a guy named sugar man. And he turned out to be a great guy. But the irony of coke by then putting in a guy who had the name, sugar bad, was a bit too much, right?

 

Scott D Clary  47:09

It’s a little ironic, a little, you know, life’s life’s a funny thing. Like it’s a very fun thing. And you know, sugar man, sir, it’s funny, but you know, what you just mentioned about you leaving next day? I don’t think there’s too many people. I don’t know, actually, anybody who’s left something of their own will and regretted it. Ever. Something always happened. Interest, something interesting. Something always happened. Yeah.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  47:34

You’ve heard enough. Hot air from all of us on your show to know.

 

Scott D Clary  47:40

Yeah. Yeah. A lot of entrepreneurial stories.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  47:44

Yeah. Well, that’s great. Well, I, you know, I wish that people really take the deeper message from these kinds of conversations and, and do go out and act on what they really believe in. And that’s the biggest fun of of it. Yeah, that’s the real essence of entrepreneurship.

 

Scott D Clary  48:04

Yeah, very, very good. Okay. I have a couple rapid fire life lesson insight questions. And then, and then I’ll and then I’ll figure out where people can go and find more about you in California, even though I’m sure since just a website, but regardless of that, some other links from you. So what would be what would be a resource to be a person, it could be a book, could be a podcast that you learn from that you’d advise other people to go check out?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  48:35

Well, I would, first of all, I’m kind of omnivores quick, book reader, buyer, consumer. And I just, and I’m my own personal mentors, aside from Steve Jobs, who was was, you know, probably the closest thing to a business person, but I regarded him more as an artist and designer, you know, type, you know, sold, but I think that it’s always hard for me, because, you know, I literally devour stuff from so many sources. But for a long time, Odwalla supported a group called the Bioneers. And that’s, you know, like pioneers, but Bioneers. And the Bioneers is all about practical solutions for restoring the environment. They usually have cutting edge speakers resource series, all really based around tackling tough questions. And for example, Paul Stamets who’s one of the godfathers of the rebirth of mushrooms, and, you know, in all their applications, was first kind of You know, got audience based out of Bioneers. So that would be the top of mine one for me here. You know, if people are in the food industry and they don’t, you know, subscribe to food navigator, for example, I think that’s like really a ride on hub for you know, you know, discovering what’s going on, on on food industry. Other than that, man, it’s just follow your passion, I, you know, whatever is, is parking your interest, just go deeper into it. And as soon as you go deeper, will just lead you to the next thing. And he was talking to a guy who loves the east side of the Sierras, the wild side, you know, I, you know, to go somewhere without a trail and navigate by, by the landscape, you know, that’s my idea of, you know, like, real fun, so, and you do it by paying attention, and then figure out where you want to go. So you just put the two things together. And usually, you know, you can avoid being lost and part of navigation is pay attention to big features, and understand the weather. And, you know, the weather is the metaphorical thing for that the the ecosystem, whatever is the bigger system that encompasses the system we’re in. So we all learned that the United States is not the be all and end all. It’s part of a bigger system. And whatever system of capitalism and, and free trade and globalism, it’s inside the system of our total earth atmosphere. So regardless of what how big we think we are, we’re always inside of a different systems. And so that’s a world within worlds is kind of the foundation of the whole concept of ecology. So I resist other than plug in the Bioneers. And, you know, I would resist any easy answer to your question.

 

Scott D Clary  52:07

But you do promote a very, very insightful way of looking at the world, which will lead to many more answers than just giving a book title. So I appreciate that. I appreciate that very good answer. What, what would be a lesson that you would tell your younger self?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  52:29

Oh, trust, trust yourself more. And believe in yourself more? Listen, listen to the deeper part of yourself more, but always have an inquisitive mind, including about yourself. And I, you know, I have to define self, I don’t believe in itself, I believe in selves. And, and, you know, we have an internal community inside of ourselves, just like we have, the modern ecology is just like, we are literally a walking bunch of biomes. Right? We have a skin biome, we have an intestinal biome, we have like biomes, in all different parts of ourselves, just like plants do. They have a, there’s a biome on the surface of the leaf, there’s a different biome in the root system. There’s a different biome in the, in the canopy in the, at the top of the plant, and the bark. So like, we are just way more complex than any of us imagine. And so I think that when we start thinking about self improvement, or we start thinking about how to, to, to think of ourself, that I just encourage curiosity, and openness and lack of certainty, as one of the healthiest points of view to lead you in the right direction. There was an old guy, Alan was a he had a book called The Wisdom of insecurity. But you know, people think insecurity is a bad thing. You know, they think it’s paranoid. But insecurity means you just always, just have a little bit of caution involved. You always have a little bit of question involved. And if anything, I think the world today needs a precautionary principle before jumping in and, you know, running around and altering it.

 

Scott D Clary  54:44

Yeah, well, I think that I think we’ve ran around and altered it too much. So we’re at the point where I think we do have to be a little bit more cautious because it’s not so much to run around with anymore. Where we’ve Yeah,

 

Greg Steltenpohl  55:00

I’m passionate about the discussion. And I don’t want to overstep my bounds of this. So I’ll keep it extremely short. But

 

Scott D Clary  55:08

I cannot. It is great. Thank you. It sounds

 

Greg Steltenpohl  55:11

contradictory for a guy on entrepreneurship show to be talking about being cautious. Okay. And anyone who knows me, and I’ve probably been involved in, I don’t even want to count the price, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of launching products. So, but I do think that how we do things? That is the big question nowadays, the how of things is, is the answer to the why, you know, why we do things is in how we do things. So I think that there’s a, there’s something worth, you know, thinking about this. Yeah. Agreed, agreed.

 

Scott D Clary  55:58

And last question, and these are all very open ended. That’s why you’re a great guest, by the way, because you take the open ended, and you run with it. Some people are very short and succinct. But I like I like when you when you go into the depth of how you come to an answer on these things. Because I’m not sure if you’re if you probably are, you’re very self aware of how you communicate, but you do have a very strong opinion. But then there is a story that comes to a logical conclusion. And I really appreciate that, because that’s how I think. So thank you for for doing this for these questions. I really liked the answers. What does success mean for you?

 

Greg Steltenpohl  56:39

Well, that’s the little Zinger at the end, right? Well, the, to me, in leaving, and I’ve had a near death experience, about seven or eight years ago, and I had a liver failure. And it turns out, I had a congenital defect of bile duct, which just blocked up and literally, you know, kind of blew up my liver. And so in, in being in that, you know, kind of in between state, I did have to kind of face the answer to that question firsthand. And I didn’t come up with this original set of words, because I actually heard it recently. But I said, that is what I feel, and to have increased the flow of goodness in the world is what to be, you know, when I leave and pass to the next world, I hope that I can look back at my life and say, Yes, I increased the flow of goodness. Very good answer. Very, very good answer.

 

Scott D Clary  58:03

The most important question would be where can people go to connect with yourself? Coffea where all the where are all the places? You know, that’s we have to get this on? On on record, that’s the most.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  58:17

Okay, well, first of all, we have some great retail partners, Whole Foods has always been huge supporter of kalithea. Target is a great supporter. But most recently, we’ve been delighted to find out that even you would say even but people at Walmart are hungry for really good dairy alternatives. And you can find the product there as well. So probably any major retailer in the United States, but and we are I am proud to say the top selling oat milk on Amazon. So if you want to get you know, any plant milk in a shelf stable format for your pantry, you can get it on Amazon. But main thing is try to get to california.com California farms.com. And on calvia Farms calm you can look at length at any of our products, you know stories about the company and we try to keep a pretty artistic Instagram account for people to just, you know, bring more interesting visual design into their lives. So those are those are good starting points for people to discover. Calpurnia

 

Scott D Clary  59:32

perfect Yeah, you actually have a really nice looking Instagram. I’m just taking a look at it now. It’s you have coffee X on there. I’ve I’ve never been on your Instagram before right now. So I’m gonna have it this coffee hacks. I gotta. I gotta I gotta go look. I gotta go there. I see.

 

Greg Steltenpohl  59:47

Yeah, they’re a little bit tongue in cheek but but they do come in handy.

 

Scott D Clary  59:51

Very good. Very good. So all right. Thank you. My pleasure. My pleasure. That was really good. I really enjoyed that. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate Well,

 

Greg Steltenpohl  1:00:00

I’m in an inspiring place. So the Sierra Nevada is and I have a view down one of the deepest valleys in the world, you know, so it’s, it’s an inspirational place to talk to you so

 

Scott D Clary  1:00:14

thank you so much. I’m glad I got you know

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