Challenging the Status Quo


When I was just a child, my mom exposed my brother and I to tough real estate negotiations, design meetings and busy constructions sites, challenging us to provide our input into the development of new homes. This type of exposure, especially at such a young age, inspired me to approach my own business a bit differently, and instilled a belief in me that with diligence and creativity you can create something amazing and truly innovative.

Fast forward to the launch of ProYo, and you’d find me taking a similar approach to designing this high protein food, rather than relying on traditional dairy innovation. In my mind, this was an important approach as traditional ‘innovation’ in dairy, novelties and yogurt has generated a limited amount of exciting new products and has focused more on creating new flavors, lower fat/calorie options and some new types of packaging, rather than truly shaking up the dairy manufacturing process at its core. With ProYo, I wanted to create something truly different.

Following are some key highlights on how I approached our innovation (and still do to this day) that I hope inspire you to take a different approach in your own industry.

Stick to the vision – A Practice in Patience First, Not Profit First

While the idea for ProYo did come from a life-changing, weight lifting accident and the recovery that followed, the innovation process more mirrors the long-time spent in rehab than a quick spark of inspiration. My goal was not to get to market as quickly as possible, but rather to create a totally new type of healthy, delicious and convenient food that would help people and also put a smile on their faces. I took the time to meet with leading nutrition experts, rehab patients, doctors, retailer buyers and more to test out my ideas and to leverage a variety of expertise to realize my vision. While it’s tempting to be shelf-ready ASAP, especially to any investors you may have, stay focused on why you’re creating the product and I guarantee the result will be better. Today, I’m proud to offer a product that delivers on the promises of high protein, junk-free, delicious and nutritious.

Borrow from other industries

My background includes studying construction management at Cal Poly, commercial and residential real estate development, and the ownership of a drive-thru coffee and yogurt shop in Santa Barbara. While these industries don’t typically overlap, they became the perfect recipe for developing ProYo High Protein Frozen Yogurts. Rather than trusting in the decades-old processes of traditional dairy plants, I challenged experts to leverage my construction knowledge, including the mixing of concrete, to create our now patented process for making the protein and dairy combination found in ProYo. Similar to mixing concrete, the mixing of dairy and proteins takes the perfect balance and control of all of our ingredients, heat, mixing time and controlling of waste. If not balanced properly, a literal explosion can occur. But when done right, the result is truly innovative! I challenge you to keep an open mind when it comes to manufacturing as a seemingly crazy idea from another sector could generate a result you never imagined.

Make you mark on shelf

When I first launched ProYo, I hoped to create something different than anything else that had come before us, including not only what was in our product, but also how the product was packaged. My first point of difference, inspired by a smiling child eating a push-up pop, was to package our product in a tube that creates a fun eating experience reminiscent of childhood. The package itself makes you smile, and you can even use the tube to measure out other ingredients when making a smoothie with ProYo.

Secondly, I made a bold statement with the carton for our tubes. In surveying the frozen and dairy aisles, I quickly observed that most packaging featured flat, primary-colored tones and sometimes simple flavor cues; for instance, a strawberry for strawberry yogurt. Additionally, in looking at products in the supplement category, I noticed premium brands often featured black, white and silver packaging and large call outs for key nutritional benefits. As I wanted shoppers to easily understand what was in the product, and that ProYo was a premium offering that delivered on nutrition and taste, our team designed a stark, black package featuring an image of the tube with the ingredients flowing out from the tube itself, almost like looking in the product through a magnifying glass. We also boasted several key nutritional benefits for the product. But we didn’t stop there; we enlisted the support of bloggers to host focus groups asking for feedback. Through those groups, we were able to strike the right balance between our unique black packaging, nutritional call outs, ingredient focused imagery and color, creating a package that would catch your attention in the aisle and also be attractive to both the male and female buyer, a hard feat in the dairy and frozen cases. When determining how to make your mark on shelf, I encourage you to take time to not only survey your own category to see how you can stand out, but also check out other categories for inspiration and test your look out on your target to make sure what you create will resonate!

What steps have you taken, either in starting your company or creating new products, to challenge the status quo? I’d love to learn from your stories, too!