From home kitchen to national brand
PaleoSimplified of Pinellas County
Nearly five years ago, Eileen Forte, frustrated with the lack of healthy options available for snacking, found herself making a homemade grainless energy bar in her kitchen.
Little did she know that what started out as an energy bar meant for family and friends, would end up being the catalyst for a national brand of Paleo-inspired on-the-go snacks.
“It is my mission, my goal, my heart to be able to make these products available to anybody because when you go to the shelf, the choices are not there,” she said of her PaleoSimplified business. The brand now features three flavors of energy bars, and a grainless granola crunch. The bars are packed with 26 vitamins and minerals, and are also gluten-free.
“There are many bars that are labeled as healthy and they’re not,” Forte added. “They’re filled with artificial ingredients, artificial sugars, soy – none of that is what you would find in our products.”
While Forte is happy with the progress of her business these days, when she first started out, she didn’t know the first thing about running a business. The first thing she did was reach out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida for assistance. “That was probably one of the best, if not the best, moves I made,” she said.
Forte got started right away with multiple training seminars offered at the FSBDC at USF. Then, she met with business consultant Mark Narus, in Tampa. Narus taught her about optimized websites and search engine optimization. After Forte implemented Narus’s recommendations, he connected her with Wayne Brass, a business consultant at the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County.
“I haven’t met with anyone who wasn’t extremely knowledgeable, super helpful, goes far and beyond and gives me up to date pertinent information,” she said of the consultants.
Brass has assisted Forte in focusing her marketing efforts as she prepares to take her brand international. She’s also worked with the government contracting specialist at the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County who prepped her for doing business with state and local entities.
Since starting to work with the Florida SBDC Network, PaleoSimplified has grown to be a national brand. “At that time, we may have been in less than 10 stores and they were local stores that were supporting me,” Forte said. “If you want to fast forward to where we are today, we are a national brand and growing. This year was the biggest year for us so far in that we finally entered into national distribution and we’re also working with an international company who is taking us abroad.”
While Forte sets her sights on international expansion, she is careful not to forget the people who helped her get there, or the reason she created PaleoSimplified to begin with.
“It’s been an amazing journey and I’m super proud of it but I don’t forget my purpose,” she said. “It’s all about health. It’s about me putting my head on my pillow [at night] and feeling really proud of what I provide.
“The one thing I tell everyone who comes to me – especially if they’re a Florida company – is to seek out this branch, the Pinellas branch of the SBDC, because of the wealth of information,” she said. “It’s just an endless resource of quality information.”