Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 385 81 mins

Mid-Day Squares: The Power of Personal Branding and Storytelling for digital-first CPG Brands

About the guests

Jake Karls

Kunle Campbell

The secret ingredient in Karls' vegan chocolate brand, Mid-Day Squares, is viral content. Jake Karls, along with his sister and brother-in-law cofounders, Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli, star in TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube videos, sharing the behind-the-scenes entrepreneurial drama. "We document and show everything--the good, the bad, the ugly of building this business," Jake Karls says.

This episode features a special guest, Jake Karls, co-founder and face of the fast-growing good-for-you CPG confectionary brand, Mid-Day Squares. Jake, along with his sister Lezlie Karls and brother-in-law Nick Saltarelli, are known for sharing their entrepreneurial journey on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, giving customers a unique behind-the-scenes look at building a business.

With sales on track to hit $17 million by the end of their fiscal year in May 2023, more than double what they did in 2021, Mid-Day Squares aims to be a modern chocolate company with functional ingredients, a challenger brand, AND a disruptor to the 140 Billion dollar chocolate industry.

Listen in as we discuss Jake’s journey from overcoming low grades, business failures, and rejection upon rejection to building a 96% automated factory and raising $16.7 million in investment to set the foundation for Mid-Day Squares’ rapid growth trajectory.

Mid-Day Squares is on a mission to be a modern chocolate company with functional ingredients. More than that, they’re on a mission to build a community of fans rather than just customers, and it’s having powerful results for their business. Stay tuned to learn how Jake and his Co-Founders at Mid-Day Squares are doing it, and uncover insights direct from their multi-million dollar brand playbook that you can use to build your own authentic challenger brand – even in a hyper-competitive billion-dollar industry.

One thing that is evident about Jake is he’s not afraid to fail, and even when his first business didn’t work out, he kept pushing forward – and he puts it all out there for the world to see. From studying to be an actuary to dropping out and starting a fitness business to ultimately co-founding Mid-Day Squares – Jake’s story is a fascinating and unorthodox one that you won’t want to miss. It’s a story, and the authenticity behind it, that Jake, along with his sister and brother-in-law, have used to build a media empire around Mid-Day Squares. There are some powerful lessons here for Founders and eCommerce professionals about the impact storytelling, and social media can have on your brand if you can have the courage to stand out and set yourself apart. All this comes down to the powerful ways of thinking and mindsets that Jake has developed through the good times and the bad. You will notice that the mindset of an eCommerce professional will be a key theme not only in this podcast but in the 2x eCommerce podcast throughout 2023. Mindset is what makes the tactics that we cover here in the 2x eCommerce podcast every episode work in what is a cross-functional and sometimes rowdy retail environment. It is the foundation, the driving force behind an entrepreneur’s ability to create, innovate, and commit to bold, industry-disrupting visions. And Jake has it in spades. I have no doubt that you’ll leave this episode feeling inspired and fired up to bring the same ingredients that Jake brings to Mid-Day Squares to your own business. So without further ado, let’s get started!

Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:

  • Mid-Day Squares are food products that have low sugar, real-food ingredients, plant-based, protein, and fiber.
  • “When you’re hiring, find someone that doesn’t have to be perfect at the beginning but they have to have the basic skills. They also have to be obsessed with getting better and learning.”
  • Jake advocates for therapy and encourages and plans for therapy to be accessible to everyone in their company.
  • Build your own personal brand by telling your story and staying true to your authentic self.
  • Mid-Day Squares owns their factory and is aiming for $30 million to $35 million in sales by May 2024.

Covered Topics:

On today’s interview, Kunle and Jake discuss:

  • Jake’s Backstory
  • Mid-Day
  • Telling Your Story
  • Building Your Personal Brand
  • Behind the Camera
  • Redefining Identity
  • On Youtube
  • Creative Team’s Background
  • On Jake’s Therapy
  • Jake’s Personal Brand
  • Jake’s Milestones
  • Capital and Funding
  • Channel Expansion and Marketing
  • Market and Growth Equity
  • D2C Retention Rate
  • Lightning Round


  • 05:50 – Jake’s Backstory
    • Jake is recovering from an injury from ice hockey after injuring his lower back.
    • Jake didn’t do well academically and has a learning disability but he wanted to be excellent.
    • He ended up studying actuary but struggled immensely and thought he was not being authentic to himself.
    • After three years in university, he dropped out of the program and ended up with a financial economics degree.
    • After applying and getting rejected by investment banks and insurance companies in Canada, he decided to start a fitness business outdoors/a boot camp.
  • 19:09 – Mid-Day Squares
    • Jake’s sister was making the chocolate snack, Mid-Day Square, as a hobby and as an alternative to her husband’s chocolate junk.
    • His sister and her husband realized that the hobby
  • 22:10 – Telling Your Story
    • “Fans are everything. Build fans, not customers, that’s the best piece of advice you could probably give to any CPG brand owner or marketing team.”
    • People love drama and intrigue.
    • Elon Musk is not a typical executive because he is unapologetically himself.
  • 25:28 – Building Your Personal Brand
    • “Two and a half years in, I realized, ‘What if we built our individual brands that have Mid-Day Squares part of it but the brand has so much more to see of your individual?’”
    • “Personal brands are powerful because once you have an audience, you don’t need to sell them anything.”
  • 31:05 – Behind the Camera
    • They started filming themselves first but had to hire a vlogger to help out creating the content.
    • “The idea is they’re continuously capturing and telling that story and documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly of everything.”
    • The videographers mostly follow them around.
    • His sister and her husband are focused on the ops of Mid-Day Squares so Jake created his personal brand.
    • Their senior editor guides the story and Jake’s sister is the creative director.
    • They tell their story through video pictures, audio, static, or written via Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
  • 45:27 – Redefining Identity
    • “Share your story.”
    • Being true to yourself is “when you unlock the true freedom to your story.”
    • Jake looks up to Elon Musk as he shares his story and Jake is able to develop his best from them.
    • Jake studies different people, from one extreme to the other to learn from them.
  • 51:50 – On Youtube
    • “Short forms, from the attention span, are the way to go.”
    • They are not as active on Youtube as they lack resources for it for now.
    • They stayed true to their story and strategy.
  • 54:28 – Creative Team’s Background
    • Trevor, their capturer, has traveled and lived in many countries. James, their senior editor, is used to editing vlogs on Youtube and is a gamer.
    • “When you’re hiring, find someone that doesn’t have to be perfect at the beginning but they have to have the basic skills. They also have to be obsessed with getting better and learning.”
    • Jake and his partners go to therapy at least once a week.
  • 58:13 – On Jake’s Therapy
    • Jake and his partners have been seeing their therapist, Dr. James Gavin for ten years.
    • Jake is an advocate for therapy.
    • They spend $50,000 a year for therapy in the company and are planning to have an internal team therapy where their team can utilize it.
  • 59:41: – Jake’s Personal Brand
    • Jake experienced failure and pain, losing so much money before succeeding in his personal brand.
    • “Don’t be afraid. You are your own biggest critic. The moment you realize that, move out of the way and let it out.”
    • “ I’m not saying to go share crazy things that I’m sharing. I’m saying to share journeys of your life that are inspiring and that cannot hurt anyone.”
    • Mid-Day created a product that has “low sugar, real food ingredients, plant-based, protein and fiber.”
    • The idea of Mid-Day is that they are a modern-day Hershey’s but a “better-for-you real chocolate bars, real foods, and relatable company that is culturally relevant.”
  • 01:08:33 – Jake’s Milestones
    • Mid-Day’s whole vision is “to get a 60% gross margin after trade spend.”
    • Mid-Day owns and built their manufacturing factory which took three years to build.
    • They did $1 million in sales in their first year, $3 million in their second year, $9 million in their third year, and then $17 million, and are looking to gain $30 million to $35 million in May 2024
    • They have 60 team members, and some are based in Toronto, Texas, and Arizona, but mostly, in Montreal.
  • 01:11:54 – Capital and Funding
    • They raised about $20 million and then $4 million from debt from the government for their factory.
    • They were able to raise venture funds with some entrepreneurs and operators that have added value in terms of skillsets.
    • With their last valuation, they are at about $45 million post-money.
    • They are planning to take the company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
    • They have a vision of global market expansion.
  • 01:13:59 – Channel Expansion and Marketing
    • Mid-Day is in Target in the US, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Wegmans. They are also in Walmart in Canada, Sobey’s, Metro, and other natural and health food stores.
    • They are focusing on continuing to win at Target and potentially expand to Costco, Canada, and Walmart in the US.
    • “Retail is a game. If you understand it, you could make a lot of dollars. You need to understand logistics and be able to manage your distributors and your brokers properly.”
  • 01:17:26 – Market and Growth Equity
    • “Equity is for raising money and stock options.”
    • They are looking for non-dilutive capital to support the work stuff.
    • “D2C drives cashflow up because it’s paid in three days. We use that as a way to keep cash in the business as well.”
  • 01:18:24 – D2C Retention Rate
    • The customers don’t have a save-and-subscribe option.
    • They are looking to be a stronger retailer business.

Lightning Round:

Q: What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
A: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Q: Are you a morning person?
A: Yes.

Q: What’s your daily morning routine like?
A: Wake up at 5:00. I go get a coffee and then I read for about 30 to 45 minutes. Before getting injured, I would work out and then I start my day at about 7:30.

Q: What two things can’t you live without?
A: Books and working out.

Q: What book are you currently reading or listening to?
A: Competing Against Luck, it’s all about innovation.

Q: Finally, what’s been your best mistake to date? By that, I mean a setback that’s given you the biggest feedback.
A: Trying to manage people. I tried to operate, be the CMO, and manage people, that’s not my skill. I learned that you play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. A weakness of mine is being a leader that manages, that’s why I don’t manage anybody in the company.


  • Read a lot and learn from different kinds of people.
  • Be authentic to yourself as it will lead you to a path of freedom, whatever it means to you.
  • “YouTube is our future, believe it or not, down the line.”
  • “When you’re hiring, find someone that doesn’t have to be perfect at the beginning but they have to have the basic skills. They also have to be obsessed with getting better and learning.”

Links & Resources:

Facebook Group • Continue the Conversation

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Here is where to apply to join the Facebook group



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On this episode, you’re going to learn from the Founder of a good-for-you CPG chocolate brand called Mid-Day Squares. It’s a great episode you don’t want to miss.

Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast where, in this episode, we’re thrilled to have a special guest, Jake Karls, the Co-founder and face of the fast-growing CPG confectionery brand, Mid-Day Squares. Together with his sister, Lezlie Karls, and his brother-in-law, Nick Saltarelli, they shared their entrepreneurial journey with the world through TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube giving customers a unique behind-the-scenes look at building a business.

Mid-Day Squares is on track to hit $17 million in sales by May 2023, more than double their previous year. Their mission is to be a modern chocolate company with functional ingredients that challenge and disrupt the $140 billion chocolate industry. In this episode, we’ll delve into Jake’s journey of overcoming low grades, past business failures, and rejections to build a successful brand. He’ll share how they aim to build a community of fans, how they leverage storytelling on social media to drive growth, and how their mindset has played a critical role in their success.

From starting to be an actuary to starting a fitness business and finally founding Mid-Day Squares, Jake’s story is a testament to his courage and commitment to building an authentic challenger brand. Sit back, relax, and get ready to be inspired by Jake’s story and the powerful lessons he has learned along the way. Join us as we uncover insights from this multi-million dollar brand playbook of Mid-Day Square and explore the mindset that drives success in the eCommerce industry. Cheers.

Jake, how’s it going?

It’s morning here in Canada, East Coast time. I sprained my back playing outdoor ice hockey so I am in deep pain. That being said, I’m fired up for our conversation and I know it’s going to be fun because we’re getting into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I wish you a speedy recovery with your back. What happened with the hockey Incident?

Have you ever played ice hockey?

Nope, just field hockey.

I was skating fast and I was trying to take a wrist shot. When you take a wrist shot, you flex your stick because you’re putting so much weight and power into it. The forward motion momentum was going and then I tripped. Subconsciously, your brain tries to protect you. I tried to protect myself from falling straight on the ground and I put my hands out and I caught myself but I extended my back like a U. I then heard a little crack. Right after that, I continued playing so I’m like, “I can’t be injured, there’s no way.”

The next day, I woke up and it was deadly. I went to physio and all that stuff. I sprained my lower back. The problem is I’m on my way to recovery but there’s still a tweak pain whenever I do an excess movement. I’m frustrated. Being an athlete and being someone active every day, this is the first time in my life that something has been taken from me that I cannot control.

How are you reacting to the circumstance?

This is a game of psychology right now and it’s been the most difficult game I’ve experienced in a long time. Before our interview, I was on the phone with my fiance and I told her, “I’m feeling depressed right now. I’m having trouble.” I’m a positive, energetic, and momentum-driven person but I was feeling low. I was feeling low because I was like, “When is this going to change? When am I going to get better?” I went back to the thought of how dumb it was and how I hurt myself. I wish I could take that back but then it’s like, “If I go down that path, that’s a direction.” Now, it’s like, “How do I continue moving forward and appreciating small progress?”

I agree. It’s down to gratitude to find growth. You need gratitude to find growth. I’ve spoken a lot about gratitude on my LinkedIn with regards to the first thing you do in the morning when you journal is write a few lines of gratitude and be genuine about it and that’s it. Jake, you are full of energy. Who is Jake? Where did this energy come from as a child? I want to know who you are, your childhood, and how key moments in your childhood link up to who you are today. You’re a co-founder with your sister of Mid-Day Squares. It’s a fast grown CPG brand. Who is Jake the child?

Jake the child is still Jake today. When I was growing up, I didn’t do well academically so I needed to do something to grab people’s attention. I wanted to be excellent, I wanted to be an outlier, and I didn’t want to be mediocre, and that’s still today the same thing. At the time, being in high school and everyone else is propelling forward in terms of academics including all my friends, I couldn’t do well.

I have a learning disability. I am not strong in that stuff. What I would do instead was be the class clown. I would have fun, prank the teacher, and the professor, make noise, get into trouble, and probation. I thought that was the hero status because everyone was laughing and everyone wanted to see more entertainment and more value. I was like the circus.

As time went on, grade 11 came, and that’s when you graduate to the next level. Where I live, there’s something called CEGEP, which is grades 12 and 13, it’s right before you go to university or college and they call it CEGEP. I’ll never forget, my principal from high school called me and my parents and they said, “Jake might not graduate high school due to his low grades and his performance.” My mom looks at me and she’s disappointed.

I look at myself that day when I went home and I’m like, “All the class clown and entertainment and popularity that I was getting from that is useless because I’m going to move backward while everyone moves forward. I’m no longer going to be with all the people I spent my whole five years with in high school.” That was the moment I said, “I’m going to take my academics seriously. I’m going to try to do as well as I can to get out of high school and graduate,” and I did.

I ended up going to CEGEP into business and I changed my whole perspective on life. I start to take academia seriously and I start to do decent, I started to do pretty well. . At that moment, I started to change my course of who I am. I stopped being authentic to Jake. I started being authentic to the world of what the societal box wanted me to do. The pressure from society to do well in school was a big thing for me.

I did well and then I went to university. When I studied at university, I wanted to show everybody that I’m no longer the class clown and that I’m a new person. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be like everyone else because I was embarrassed to be at the bottom of the class and no one thought it was cool anymore.

I ended up studying to be an actuary because I thought that would be a high-paying job and people would be impressed with me because of its high academic status and deep statistics in math. I studied that in college and university and I struggled. I struggled immensely doing well. I hated it. I disliked the experience of what I was studying. I was doing it for my parents, I was doing it for my friends, I was doing it to prove to everybody that I can do it, and that is a huge mistake. After three years of being in university, I decided to drop out of that program and end the degree with a financial economics degree because it was easier for me.

I ended up going home one summer. I remember the third summer and I was applying to jobs in investment banking and actuarial jobs and I couldn’t get a job. Every first interview, I’d get rejected. I would show up being me. The idea was I would show up authentically because I start to realize that being this other Jake and that everyone else in the world is in the box, I was failing dramatically. I felt like I was in a mental prison, I couldn’t get out, and I had no freedom.

Finally, after getting rejected by all these investment banks in Canada and these insurance companies, I watched Shark Tank one night, as cheesy as it sounds, and I saw this guy on screen and he was pitching his dream to these Sharks. He had two mortgages on his house, he had kids, and he had all these responsibilities that I did not have. He looked so free, passionate, excited, and energetic, and yet I’m sitting on a couch feeling a little bit depressed, feeling embarrassed of who I am, and trying to fit into the world. This guy yet has so much more responsibility but he seems like he’s on fire.

That was the moment I decided. I promised myself that no matter what, I need to try whatever this person was doing. That’s when I started my first business, I started a fitness business outdoors, a boot camp. In Montreal, it’s cold where I live so in the summer, everyone wants to be outside. I was throwing these massive workout classes, 50-plus people. I ended up having 180 clients, making a ton of money, and having the time of my life storytelling via social media because I was showing everyone fun. I was finally being me again. I was finally being the energetic, the non-traditional Jake, and I felt free.

I ended up closing that business after 2.5 years because I lost my passion for the fitness aspect. I launched another business which was clothing on college caps. It’s a sweatshirt like I’m wearing right now but with a logo. I’d throw parties and I would hype-build this community energy. I was being myself because I was having so much fun but I lost $80,000 and went bankrupt on that business after two years.

I finally decided that maybe I should stop entrepreneurship because I was tired, my ego was a little shot down, and I was veering back to like, “Do I do what everyone else does and get a job and have a family?” That’s all good and everything, there’s nothing wrong with that. My sister and my brother-in-law approached me with this chocolate bar idea and they said, “We want you to be our third partner in this business. It’s about to launch. We need you to blow it up. You have blown up businesses from a community standpoint and branding standpoint. You are a genius at that but your operations skills aren’t great.”

I was like, “Chocolate food? I’m not interested in that because this space is saturated.” I ended up going through a complete mental restructuring and saying, “What do I want with my life?” What I wanted was to hang out with good people, partner with good people in life, and allow myself to be me every day and that’s what this new-found partnership would allow me to do. I ended up joining Mid-day Squares as the third partner and we launched it a month and a half later with an unbelievable marketing plan and an unbelievable product, a product with a great product market fit.

I finally realized that, in life, you choose if you want to be you. The moment you choose that path, you are on a path of freedom. Whatever freedom means to you, you’re on a path of that freedom. You cannot buy that. You cannot force that. You have to choose that. That was the journey from my childhood. I’m 29 years old today, living a free life of what I want to do. It doesn’t mean it’s going to work out financially in terms of success but I am doing what I love to do every day.

That’s an incredible backstory, Jake. There’s so much to unpick from there. You guys are doing well. I don’t know what the margins are but you’re doing well from a volume transaction and volume standpoint. You’re in many targets. We’re going to get into your operational or marketing success thus far.

Let’s go back to what you said. There are a few things I picked up from your narrative and the first was when you were not doing well at school early on, you’re five years in high school, you’re the class clown or jester, how did your parents react to your results? Obviously, your results were coming to your parents. Were they critical? Were they neutral? Were they accepting? Indifferent? What was the reaction of your parents?

The beauty of my parents is I love them because they’re free thinkers on thinking big, doing things, and trying things. My father is an entrepreneur and my mother has worked with my father for a long time, she’s a great spirit. When I was in high school doing poorly, they didn’t care or pressure me to do better. They did want me to pass. I never felt the pressure of like, “You must get 90 or you must do this.” I always felt that they were supportive.

They knew I was the class clown because that ball of energy was what made me special, it’s what made me who I am, and it’s what my purpose is today. My purpose is to make people feel something deep inside to spread good energy and show the world that you could win in whatever youdoby being unapologetically yourself. My parents understood that. That being said, for them, their dream was to have someone, either me or my siblings, do well academically, and not one of us did other than my brother who’s an entrepreneur today. He did a little better than my sister and me.

None of us became doctors. My mom’s dream was a doctor, an accountant, or a lawyer because everyone in our community was becoming that. All my parents’ friends’ kids weren’t wanting to become entrepreneurs, they weren’t wanting to become anything but a great well-paying job, a doctor, lawyer, accountant, or investment banker. That was the pride and proud of the parents for the kids.

In life, you choose if you want to be you. Click to Tweet

My mom and dad had three runts that were running around and doing poorly in school, except for me and my with this free spirit. Everyone liked being around us so they liked having us. There was this double-edged sword of the good, the bad, and the ugly from it. I’m lucky to have gone through the experience of not having so much pressure to do what I didn’t want to do. I created that pressure for myself.

You’re three siblings, right?


What number are you?

I’m the third so I’m the youngest. My sister is my business partner, she’s the middle. My brother is the oldest and he runs a toy company. We’re all different though.

It’s you, your sister, and your brother running Mid-Day at the minute.

Me, my sister, and my brother-in-law, her husband.

When you joined Mid-Day, had it gone to market at the time or did you help launch it to market?

What happened was my sister was making this chocolate snack, the Mid-Day Square, two years before launching as a hobby. She was making it for her husband as an alternative to the chocolate junk that he was eating in the afternoon. She made him a better-for-you chocolate bar that had some protein, plant-based ingredients, and good fibers. It sustained his energy throughout the afternoon so he loved having it.

When she ended up closing her fashion company and my brother-in-law sold out his ad tech company, they wanted to work together. They didn’t know what it would be but they wanted to be in the food space because they were both very passionate about it. They didn’t realize they had a product right in front of their face that they were making every day. When my brother-in-law read a report from one of these large conglomerates here in Canada, it showed that real chocolates are darker chocolates. Above 55% cocoa mass was growing tremendously year over year and that plant-based proteins were also on a tear.

At that moment, he’s a data guy, he realized that my sister was making, for the last two years, a baby of these two massive growth categories. They had this product and they’re like, “We’re going to launch it, we just need to commercialize it.” They reached out to the McGill Food Science program here at McGill University, it’s a well-respected university in Canada, and they worked with them to create the macros that they needed to get to, six grams of protein per square, four grams of fiber, a good amount of fat, and real food ingredients but still tasting good.

Once they had the product market and the product was there, people loved it, and friends and family loved it. They came to me and they’re like, “This is a saturated market, this is an extremely busy market. We don’t have a budget. We need to launch this business and we need to hit it big but we need to get creative.” That is what I do best, thinking in disruption format on how to use storytelling in social media to build a community that will then buy the product. That’s what I said to them.

I said, “There are 30,000 to 40,000 products in a supermarket. We need to separate ourselves from those 30,000 to 40,000. We don’t have the budgets that Hershey’s has. We don’t have the budgets that anyone has. We have a startup budget and that’s not going to buy us the retail space and the refrigerator, it’s limited space.” I said, “The only way we could do it is if we tell a story that will create an emotional connection with the consumer. That way, when the consumer goes to a grocery store or a supermarket, they will see the product and will want to buy it because they feel like they’re buying from a friend, a family, or a neighbor because the story is emotionally and connected or involved in their life.”

This is incredible. I’m enjoying this. How did you start telling this story? How did you make your first steps in telling this story to make the emotional connection and eventually build a connection? How did you get your first thousand fans?

Fans are everything. Build fans, not customers, that’s the best piece of advice you could probably give to any CPG brand owner or marketing team. I’m an extrovert and my partners are introverted, two of them. When I pitched this idea at the beginning of a reality show on entrepreneurship showing everything about how we build the business other than the process of manufacturing and the trade secrets, I said to my partners, “If we want to make noise in this space, this old school business of grocery, or food and beverage, the only way we’ll do it is if we take from the best. We take from the entertainment world, Hollywood.”

What I meant by that was I looked at all the shows that had the highest TV ratings in North America and I said, “Let’s take the best from those shows, bring them into our storytelling in a raw and unfiltered way, and that will hopefully work because we’ll have a product that’s tied to it that people can physically go buy to support if they like it.”

I looked at Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the TV series, and it was on fire, the ratings were outrageous. I said, “The reason why people like this when I did my research was because they love drama, they love family drama, they love the idea of it. That checked our box. I said, “We’re a family business. We’re partners in a business that is family. We have drama.” That’s number one.

I then looked at Shark Tank and I saw that the ratings were on fire because people loved the idea of entrepreneurship, they were curious to know more about it like they wanted to know more about chefs in 2005 with all these programs like Top Chef and MasterChef. They were celebritizing chefs. Now, entrepreneurship was starting to become celebritized. I said, “What if we take it ten steps further by opening the curtain?” Showing what legal battles look like, showing what raising money looks like, showing what going through an acquisition looks like, and showing hiring and firing. I’m showing everything. People will be intrigued.

The third thing, I was like, “Look at Elon Musk, his social media following was on fire,” and it still is today. The reason why is that he doesn’t look like a typical executive, he’s unapologetic himself. People either don’t like him or they love him. That type of polarization is powerful because you build strong fans within the polarization. For me, I said, “We’re three whack founders. If we take the drama from the Kardashians, the behind-the-scenes of entrepreneurship from Shark Tank, and the unapologeticness and not-typical CEO executive from Elon Musk, we’ll have a reality show. That’s all we did.

We started filming everything unfiltered and showed it on Instagram Stories and posts and that slowly started to get attention. The next thing you know, 1,000 fans started buying our product. They wanted to support and the way they went to support was to go buy it in-store, go home and tell everybody about our product or our brand, shout about it on social media, or both.

There’s a lot to unpack there. I like the analogy and what you extracted from the Kardashians, Elon Musk, and the rest. There is a personal story I want to cover and then there’s the execution of the strategy. We want to create drama. How did you execute it? Let’s go back to the personal brand. Did you, Jake Karls, and your co-founders have to recreate your personal brand? Did you turn up the way you normally turn up? Did you engage with a personal brand expert?

Did you put pen to paper and say, “This is the Jake Karls the public needs to see. This is where I’m going to present myself. These are my colors. This is how I’ll always look. This is what I will never wear. This is how I’ll talk.” Did you define your building block, your DNA, or your public persona? Did you just say, “I’m going to be as authentic as possible. They either love me or hate me, Donald Trump style, and that’s it.”

You say Donald Trump and Elon Musk, these guys have fans. They’ve built them to have the 50/50. 50% dislike them or they even use the word hate and then 50% are diehard, they’ll go to war for you or they’ll do anything. For me, mediocracy is the worst. If you have the neutral, you’re never going to win big. Donald Trump won the presidency and Elon Musk built his dream companies. I’m not saying I’m a fan of either of them but what I’m saying is these people have done something from a standpoint of fandom that is the typical playbook for winning. That is how you win big by building fans.

For us, you said personal brand, it’s important to say that when we started, none of the three of us had personal brands. Maybe I had 500 or 600 followers on Instagram and my partners had 200 each maybe. It was just our friends. All my friends knew who I was, the fun, loud guy that was a party animal at the time, played sports, and all this stuff. I never put it out there.

That being said, when I did that clothing business on college campuses previously, I was loud on the business account on social media and it was building and growing. I had 10,000 followers. I understood how the community builds but I didn’t do it personally, I did it for a brand previously. when I pitched my partners originally on this idea, they were like, “No one cares about the three of us. No one cares personally about us.” I challenged them and said, “You’re wrong. If we act like a boy band or a girl band, we could build fans.”

I look at the Backstreet Boys and I’m not a fan of each one of them. I’m a fan of some of them and the ones that I am, I’m diehard for. What I’ll do is I will listen to their music, buy their music, and go to their concerts because I like one of them, I’m a big fan. It’s the same thing with the band Journey or whatever it is, you could like one individual because they relate to you. When I start to pitch it like that, my partner was like, “Let’s give this a try. We’ll give it three months and we’ll see if it works.”

When I start to realize the power of personal branding was not till the second year of our business. I focused, in the first two years, on showing the Mid-Day Squares brand and showing how we’re building the business and people liked it, they liked the energy and the atmosphere. People started to slowly become fans of each different fans. My sister, they were inspired by how she is, and my brother-in-law because of his software and his analytical ways and because of my energy. We had different small fans.

Two and a half years in, I realized, “What if we built our individual brands that have Mid-Day Squares part of it but the brand has so much more to see of your individual?” I started posting what I like so I work out with no t-shirt on. I dance in offices. I do crazy and wild things and that slowly starts to create this rapid, “Who is this guy? He’s crazy, wild, and entertaining. I like him. He owns a chocolate company. I could support him by buying his product.”

That’s when I realized personal brand is powerful because once you have an audience, you don’t need to sell them on anything, they naturally want to support you. If you give them value and you are authentic to yourself, it will stand out. That’s when I realized that authenticity, boldness, and being unapologetic every day is the fastest way you’ll build your personal brand because people relate and feel comfortable when people are being themselves and real.

The problem with our world today is that humans have a fear of being themselves, they’re worried about the loss of aversion, loss of losing whatever they have, fear of judgment, and fear of being misunderstood. Once you pass that barrier and you knock that wall down, the ceiling is unlimited. There’s no ceiling, it’s a sky. You are your own superpower. You, by being unapologetic, no one in the world can do that. They can only do them. They cannot copy you. That’s when I realized that when you unlock that, your personal brand can go exponentially as large as it wants to go as long as you put in the time, effort, energy, and momentum into it.

You’re a wise man. I like your point on authenticity, boldness, and being yourself. Going back to telling the story of Mid-Day Squares, you started out trying to promote Mid-Day Squares. Were you behind the camera? Did you get a videographer? How did you capture these stories? Were they selfies? What did you do?

In the beginning, we had to film ourselves and it was uncomfortable because none of us were used to that. I had a bit of comfort because of my previous business so I understood the idea of naturally posting things. I was comfortable but my partners were uncomfortable. They didn’t want to film themselves. They didn’t want their personal life on camera. They didn’t know how to selfie-style themselves. The moment we realized how much time it was taking for the three of us to take the content, we realized that our first hire had to be a vlogger.

We needed someone to take that off our minds to have to pull out a camera when we’re in an argument or when we’re in a therapy session or when we’re in a breakdown. That was the first hire and that was an untraditional or unconventional hire as a food company and it was expensive. I remember it was $60,000 or $70,000 and we didn’t have the money but we got it because we realized that the content was driving the awareness and cost per acquisition to be lower cost.

When we did that, people were shocked, they were like, “You guys are crazy. You’re out of your mind. Why aren’t you hiring a food scientist or someone to help you with production?” We were like, “This story needs to be told and captured.” The amount of time that it’s taken the three of us to capture it is killing the business vision and operations. That was the first hire. Now, we have an internal media team with editors and videographers that are creators. Our marketing team doesn’t have anybody else in it other than creators.

The idea is they’re continuously capturing and telling that story and documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly of everything. We film our therapy sessions, the three of us, when we’re in it and it gets heated to a point where it’s uncomfortable to watch. We have that documentation so we show it to our consumers because our consumers deserve to know what’s going on. “Is it that everything’s falling apart?” Yeah, maybe things are falling apart but here’s how we’re getting through it. Here’s our mindset. Here’s how we’re powering.

My brother-in-law and my sister were on the verge of a divorce a year and a half into this business because of the business. We showed the therapy of how the three of us were able to get through it and worked towards it. It was inspiring and relatable to most people in the world. That created a trust with the consumer that was powerful that I can’t even spend millions of dollars to get that with the customer. It’s this weird thing that happens when you’re authentic and you’re genuine and you don’t just show the good but you also show that ugly and uncomfortable side as well.

Which not many people are willing to do. You are in a state of uncomfortable sharing everything, the good, bad, and ugly, which is incredible. So your sister, Lezlie, her husband, Nick, and then you, Jake. Would this videographer follow you all day or was it at specific times?

In the beginning, it would follow us everywhere, every motion that’s happening. Now, they still do that. When we’ll go on a trip, we’ll have our videographers, we’ll bring them with us, or a trade show or conference, wherever we’re doing something big. At the moment, what I’ve noticed, and this is what’s going to tie back to personal branding, we’re still limited on resources. We’re not the biggest company. We’re growing but we don’t have necessarily all the money to spend on creators. We still have a manufacturing plant. We own our factory, that’s costing so much. The hires that are going towards that are extremely important.

For example, as my position relates to the company, I’m a rainmaker. I focus on building relationships, building the network, building the brand, hype, energy, momentum, and making sure we have investors, journalists, and retail friendships, and making sure those relationships continue to strengthen and grow. For me, I’m never in the office. I’m in it right now but I’m usually not here, I’m traveling the world. Our videographer is not following me around at all.

This is where personal branding becomes important to fill the void. Our videographers here are filming the drama that’s happening at the office. This drama is between my team here and my sister and my brother-in-law. I’m not in it because I’m not associated with that. Where it’s important for me to stay relevant and to stay naturally out there is I need to build my own brand because I’m out there and about and it’s not being told through Mid-Day Squares. It is, at times. I’m in a lot of the content when I’m here. Because I’m here only 30% or 40% of the time, I’m only in 30% or 40% of the storytelling. People don’t see me that often.

That being said, when I go build my Instagram and LinkedIn, I’m telling Jake’s story. I’m choosing the story that is my story. When I share it, it’s inspiring, comfortable, and relatable. Mid-Day Squares is a part of that chapter of my story but it’s not everything. That’s where I’m building this fandom and then I’m getting a lot of opportunities to continue to tell my story but I’m responsible for that story. It takes a lot of work to tell that story. Every day, I have to spend hours on LinkedIn. I have to engage. I have to come up with content. I have to create.

I could use my content team here but they’re also tasked with a whole other operation of telling a company’s story. They can’t give me every minute of editing and time so I got to be creative and this is where personal branding can carry you forward even if you’re not taking part in the branding necessarily with the company. That’s what’s excelled me forward, it’s got me onto Forbes Magazine, TV, and radio. It’s the personal brand mixed with the brand building of my company.

Where my sister and my brother-in-law are currently is they don’t have personal brands as much because they’re focused on ops in the company but Mid-Day Squares is telling their story. Mid-Day Squares is elevating their brand and they’re elevating with Mid-Day squares. For me, I’m telling a story outside of Mid-Day Squares, which is elevating me and Mid-Day Squares is carrying me through 30%.

Going back to Mid-Day Squares, who tells the story? You have a team. How do you craft what to present? I checked your Instagram for Mid-Day and it was amazing because you did a recap of 2022 and it showed the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was emotionally enthralling to get into what it takes to run a company like Mid-Day and what you guys were going through. The controversy, the pain, the joys, and your win, everything was shared in 90 seconds and I got it immediately and I felt connected to the story. Is it you that comes up with a narrative or do you get creators and say, “This is the storyboard. Can you guys approve it and let’s get it sorted?”

That video that you watched on Instagram must have 40,000 or 90,000 views. I don’t know what the number is on Instagram. On TikTok, that video blew up to 350,000 views. We’re getting all this organic viewage and that’s because the storytelling is powerful. The senior editor guides the story with my sister who’s acting as a creative director. She and the senior editor guide the story. They come up with the storyline. My videographer captures the story that needs to be told and then they rego back and edit it and tell that story.

From a standpoint of how they tell stories every day, it’s like a newsroom so they’ll come into the office, they’ll look at everyone’s calendar, see if there’s any drama, and then they’ll be on call if there’s anything that happens. Let’s say we have a big board meeting, they’ll come to the board meeting, they’ll film it, and they know it’s there. Let’s say a machine breaks down unexpectedly, the videographer is there to capture all the drama, a solution to the problem, and then interview people at the time. It’s like a newsroom.

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That being said, it’s not like there will be bigger things that they work on like a storyline that will take maybe a week to two weeks to build. That will be in the realm that we continue to work on it. Otherwise, there are spontaneous things that happen. That’s how we tell the story and it’s a complex thing and we’re still under-resourced on the team for it. We still need one more capturer, one more videographer, and one more editor to complete the way that we want to brand build even more.

Between our social media followings as a company, we have 320,000 on all of our socials but with millions of views yearly.Think about the amount of consumers falling into this spiral, this rabbit hole of Mid-Day Squares where they’re like, “This company rarely talks about its chocolate bar. It talks about the emotional story of building a business, the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.”

They fall in love with the story first and then they’re curious and then when they go to their grocery store or their local Target in the United States or their Whole Foods, they see it and they’re like, “I love this brand. I’m going to buy it.” They buy it and they’re already biased to want to like the product because they know us and they feel it.

Once they like it because it’s a good product, they go to their dinner table at night and they shout about it and acquire us more and more customers. It’s this method that every company chooses. I’m not saying that everyone has to go tell their story of the good, the bad, and the ugly. They have to find their authentic story as a brand. Once you have great storytelling aligned with a great product market fit, your limit is exponential. You can go take over the world over time. You need to be patient, you need to have grit, you need to have conviction, and you need to be able to withstand immense amounts of pressure because that is what entrepreneurship, in my opinion, is all about.

Has all of this been told via a video? Is there any other media type, static images, or GIFS that can still tell your story? Is it video or nothing for you guys?

Video is big for us, it’s our dominant factor. We tell it via static video or stories like continuous day-to-day stories. Pictures and stuff like that do a good job, we do it. We describe a bold picture, for example. If we had a massive milestone, we’re showing you the energy and momentum in that picture, and it’s powerful.

The second thing is on LinkedIn, it’s more written stuff. We have a podcast and it’s the three of us sitting down at a table and talking about real-life things. It’s a chat that’s very much growing fast. We don’t have that much energy and time to put into it but we have 40 episodes and we try to do it once a month.

What’s cool about that podcast is it’s growing not on the end consumer but it’s growing in the industry for CPG. We’re getting buyers listening to that. Investors, journalists, and people that we need to grow the actual business from a structural standpoint are engaged in that conversation because we show our entire playbook on how we’re building it. It gets into the mind of how we think, how we act, and how we execute.

Storytelling is not just video pictures, it’s everything. It could be audio, static, written, or video. It could be how you tell your story when you’re on stage to an audience, that is storytelling. How you carry yourself every day in a meeting is storytelling. Storytelling is everything that you make people feel, it’s the emotions and added value you give. Storytelling is the vehicle to get to that, it’s to get to the heart of the individual. If you’re not getting to the heart, you will not win, and you will not get to the top.

Mark my words, in January 2023, the future of marketing is not the performance, the influencer work, and all that stuff. That’s great, you still have to do that. The future of marketing is going to come down to who is the best storyteller. That is who’s going to win. It’s not who has the most money but it’s who could tell the best story and get it to the right outlets. Once you have the best story, you’re almost guaranteed, eventually, if you stay consistent, to hit true virality and not the one that’s a one-hit-wonder. I’m talking about consistent hundreds of thousands of views or millions of views that people care about and want to watch and want to know more about.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, his framework for infusing habits is identity. You need to change your identity and identity boils down to the things you do on a day-to-day basis. If readers, CPG brand owners, or consumer brand owners are reading this and want to change their core identity both as individuals and for their brand to become storytelling brands, to even have a chance to thrive in the next decade, how would they redefine their identity? What daily actions should they take now that would stick with them for the entire life of their brand or even their own personal lives if they choose to be storytellers?

Here’s the best piece of advice, share your story. I don’t care if it’s your business, your hobbies, your life, or whatever your story is, share that story. People might say, “I don’t have anything interesting to say.” That’s completely false and I’ll tell you why that’s false. We, as humans, are stuck in our own ways. We live our story 24/7 every single day, every minute, and every second.

We might not find it as interesting ourselves but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t living your story 24/7. You might not even be living it every day, you might be living it only once a month. You are going to find it interesting. Start slowly to share those bits and understand that no one’s living your story. It’s something new to them, they’re curious, and people want to know. Storytelling doesn’t go viral right away, it’s brick by brick, and it’s small progress every single day that can lead to forward momentum.

Once you are in that forward momentum loop or energy, it’s almost unstoppable if you keep it in the forward direction. It could be even sharing a thing that says, “Good morning. I feel good today.” Once you start letting this out and getting comfortable with those things, you’re going to lose the fear. The wall that’s blocking, you’ll eventually build the muscle so strong that you could knock that down. Once you knock that down, the world’s your oyster. You could say anything you want.

Bring it back to Elon Musk, he says whatever he wants and it drives tens of millions of views because he does whatever he wants. He does get in trouble but at the end of the day, he doesn’t care. He’s accepted that it’s okay. Between you and I, the world has rules but the world’s rules that I believe in are solely to be kind to people and not do criminal activity. Everything else is freedom of play. If you want to say anything you want in the world, do it.

At the end of the day, the world is all a fugazi, or whatever you want to call it, it’s all fake. I say this with optimism and the reason why is everyone’s playing a part, it’s theatrics. No one necessarily knows everything to do. We’re all in the game together. The moment I start to be a little bit bolder, every day, say things a little bit funkier, a little bit weirder, or a little bit more true to myself, I start to get more fans. I start to get more people inspired and fired up. I start to get more trolls. That’s when you unlock the true freedom of your story.

You then start to get addicted to telling your story and you need to be careful that you don’t get addicted to the viewage and the stats because that’s what’s called social media addiction and that’s the same addiction as cocaine, casinos, gambling, or whatever. If I’m giving a piece of advice to everyone, start getting comfortable with a little bit of discomfort of telling your story, and don’t do it so big, do it in small pieces every day. It’s like working out, you don’t have to do 100 pushups a day. Don’t force yourself to do 100, do one and see where it goes from there. I promise you, by day 20, 50, or 100, you’re going to be doing way more than one a day.

Jake, when it comes to storytelling, who do you look up to?

Elon Musk. Here’s where it is and it doesn’t mean I stand with all their views but I look up to all the controversial figures and I look up to them in the sense that I study them. I study every political leader from Democrat to Republican, Conservative to Liberal, from extreme to extreme, and from people like Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk or everyone in the book. It’s because they all share their stories in different ways.

I’m curious to know how the fandom builds. The study of the fandom is applied to everything from your personal relationships in your life to the way you grow your business or the way that you tell your story. I watch videos, I watch how they present themselves at conferences, how they present themselves on TV, how they write their posts, and how they engage in their speeches, and I take the commonalities from it.

When I do that, I start to develop the best from them and I put it into me, my authentic self. I then start to study that and I start to train my muscle to get better and better at it. That’s how you become a way better storyteller, a way better performer, and a way better person in this world. That being said, it doesn’t happen overnight, this takes years. I’ve been swinging and missing in entrepreneurship for over ten years now. I am still not successful but I have learned and I have grown individually. I have personally become a better storyteller. I’ve become a better leader. I’ve become a better human.

This is years of work, time, energy, and sacrifice into it studying those leaders that I’m telling you I’m getting my information. Reading books allow you to have mentors that you don’t even need to get to know as a person. They tell you their mind in a whole book. It’s like having a conversation with them, asking them questions that you get to ask. On top of that, the third thing is to also surround yourself with people in your life that inspire you. It sounds cheesy but those people are going to elevate you to become better.

An off-field question, what’s your take on YouTube? I see you guys are not too active on YouTube. Is short-form the way to go? You mentioned 350,000 views from a single post on TikTok. Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, is short-form the way to go?

Short forms, from the attention span, are the way to go. YouTube is our future, believe it or not, down the line. I’m talking more like 5 or 7 years. We are going to do a longer format on YouTube and have mini docu-series going. We don’t have the resources right now to handle that. With TikTok, to give you the viewage of our last ten videos that we’ve posted on TikTok, we have 180,000 followers. The last video was 1 million, then 313,000, then 425,000, and then 3.8 million, 165,000, 282,000, 751,000, 8.1 million, 10 million, 217,000, and 129,000. That’s the last ten videos.

That is over 30 million organic and non-paid views. Think about that. If I were to put it on primetime TV, it doesn’t even get that. This is our choice of story that we’re telling. Here’s the deal, figure out how to tell a story that works. I tell you these views, by the way, in the last 10 or 20 videos and it’s doing well. Here’s the thing, when we started on TikTok, we had 10 or 50 views per post. We had a big following on Instagram previously. It wasn’t hitting.

We stayed authentic to our strategy. We didn’t change it. We stayed true to good, great storytelling. At first, after eight months of trying this, I was like, “It’s not working. TikTok seems to not like the type of storytelling.” Finally, it hit. When it hit, we realized that this is working and our strategy is being rewarded. That being said, we kept small tweaks that we would learn along the way but we didn’t change because of pressure because we were watching people do these funky dances that were getting 20 million views.

That doesn’t keep the community. What keeps community is adding value to a consumer’s life, adding emotional value, and adding value in education and entertainment consistently and not just a one-time hit. That’s why I always say to people that everything is a long game and if you’re playing the short game, you’re on the wrong track in life.

Speaking of education and entertainment, which is bang on, that’s the way social media works, in your creator team, your editor, are they comedic? Do they have entertainment in their background? There are some captions on your Instagram Reels, “We’re robbed,” and all of that stuff. What’s the background? How do you hire a creator that you know will tell your story from an entertainment standpoint?

Our capturer has traveled the world, lived in many countries, and experienced a tremendous amount of culture so he’s told those stories that are interesting to us. We enjoy that about him. His name’s Trevor. He’s a very big legend in our company. Our senior editor, James, he’s been with us for a while. He used to edit vlogs on YouTube, that’s what he did before, and he’s a gamer.

He is obsessed with learning. He’s an individual that continues to be obsessed and gets focused on getting better at what he does. He has such conviction as an athlete does. That has brought him a long way from his original storytelling that he is done with us. He has learned the TikTok algorithm. He has learned how to tell stories. He has done research on every type of storytelling that’s been out there. That’s what you need when you have a creator.

When you’re hiring, find someone that doesn’t have to be perfect at the beginning but they have to have the basic skills. They also have to be obsessed with getting better and learning. Like an athlete, when you’re competing to play in the NHL, Hockey, NBA, football, soccer, or whatever you want to call it, you need to be obsessed with getting better. They need to love the art of what they’re doing and continuously improve it.

I used to not be obsessed with entrepreneurship. Now, I’ve learned to become obsessed with it because I’ve learned to be obsessed with learning. Every day, I read a book. I read for 30 or 45 minutes. It’s not cause I have to, it’s not because I need to, but because I want to learn more. I didn’t learn in college or high school. I’m only learning now and I’m choosing what I’m learning. If I want to learn about innovation, I can learn about innovation. If I want to learn a new language, I can learn a new language.

I’ve realized that my growth as an entrepreneur didn’t come from me banging my head on making chocolate. What it came from was experiences of being put in certain scenarios and having to deal with those scenarios and then meeting people. The second thing is opening my mind to wanting to learn every day. I’m not saying something new every day but I’m saying something. Learn something and be open-minded and that helps.

Also, I see therapy. This is something that not too people talk about but I and my partners go to a therapist once a week minimum together to work on our communication, to understand each other, and to have hard conversations. That has kept us together as a partnership extremely strong over and has grown us. Therapy is the most powerful tool anyone can use if you allow it to be part of your life and embrace it and not avoid it.

I used to think I was the happiest guy and that was all wrong. Now, I’m working on myself and it’s been a tremendous journey. I hope to do therapy for the rest of my life next hundred years. I want to do it 2 to 3 times a week. It is expensive. It allows you to play with your mind, understand your mind, and understand how you can improve that, how it works, the mechanics, and the rewiring. These are things we don’t even learn in academia as growing up. This is where my mind’s going in the next ten years and that’s where I want to go.

Jake, how did you pick your therapist? Did you have to kiss several frogs to find the princess?

No. I was lucky and I mean it. My partners were seeing this therapist, Dr. James Gavin, previously for ten years. I was transitioned into it. The deal was when I joined the company as the third partner in August 2018 before launching, my partners made two agreements and the first one was that we are going to film everything and give it a three-month runway to document. That was my pitch to them. They had to accept, even being introverted, to get on camera.

They accepted that and then they asked me, “The only way to join is if you come to therapy once a week minimum in good or bad times with us.” I was like, “I don’t need therapy. I’m too good for this.” I was naïve and narcissistic. I ended up doing it because I wanted to join the company and I did it. For the first five sessions, I hated every moment, and I thought it was stupid. After that, I’ve become the largest advocate for it because it has made me a better person. I have learned so much. I’ve realized so much about myself that I didn’t even know beforehand.

I’m lucky to have this therapist, Dr. James Gavin, who is available to us when we call him whenever we need him. We spend $50,000 a year on therapy as a company. Eventually, we want to have it as an internal team therapy where our whole team can utilize hopefully that service down the line but we’re not there yet.

At the start of this conversation, you’re talking about the power of thoughts. It’s our thoughts that lead to emotions. That mental health foundation is fundamental to being our optimal selves, both for ourselves and our partners. You’re in a partnership. You’re in a family and the business family. You have investors. You have customers. Showing off to be your most authentic and better person through therapy is important. I agree with you.

I want to finally touch base on your personal brand. We’ve been talking about Mid-Day for a while. We’ll get into some of your amazing successes. I’ve been tracking some of your successes on LinkedIn. Following you on LinkedIn has been insightful. The color and your activity and your milestones. You are in CBS and you were in Forbes.

I saw you on your Instagram with Walmart. You’re launching Walmart. It’s a celebration, you’re celebrating all those wins. From a personal brand, separating yourself from Nick and Lezlie, what’s been your biggest learning building your personal brand? Would you now say, “This and this is what you must do to start this personal brand journey,” like what you’ve done building your brand?

Thank you for the comments. Before we get into that success stuff, with that success, there’s extreme pain and failure in this company. We have failed and we have lost so much money. There are a lot of things that have gone wrong and still go wrong every day. From a learning standpoint, on personal branding, the biggest learning I can give to anybody, and it’s one sentence, is there are no rules. No one cares after 24 hours.

Don’t be afraid. You are your own biggest critic. The moment you realize that, move out of the way and let it out. You have so much to say. Everyone has so much to say. We experience so many things in the world. You have so many beautiful things to share, so many hardships to share, and so many moments. Because you share something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get fired from your job. It doesn’t mean that your colleagues are going to crap-talk you. If they do, who cares? What’s the worst that could happen?

That’s what I try to tell people about their personal journey. Yes, I’m in a place of an entrepreneur and I own my own company so the consequences are my own that I accept. That being said, I’m not saying to go share crazy things that I’m sharing. I’m saying to share journeys of your life that are inspiring and that cannot hurt anyone. There’s no pain from it, there’s no harm, and there’s no hate, it’s just love. There’s no private information.

Go out there and share. Try something and don’t look at the views, don’t look at the likes, and don’t look at the comments. Be proud that you shared it and then try again. I don’t care if it’s one word that says, “Let’s have a good day,” or something like, “I got promoted in my job.” Don’t be embarrassed by your successes. Don’t be embarrassed that someone’s going to make fun of you, and they will. The only reason why people make fun of you, remember this, is because it’s a them problem and not a you problem.

I deal with internet trolls all the time, they put me down, they see me in articles, and they’re like, “This guy is blah, blah, blah.”  I read the stuff and I’m laughing because I feel bad for the person. I don’t dislike this person. I feel bad that they’re suffering because what they’re suffering from is insecurity that either you are doing something that they want to do that they’re not doing or they have to justify that they haven’t done something like that so they have to put you down. The way that you have to handle these people is to be there for them, be there with them. Try to get them out of that phase.

Show them kindness but also show them you’re human too. Feelings do get hurt or stuff like that. Bring them to the human because we all are equal. Every single person in this world is equal. I’m no better than anybody and I don’t believe anyone else is better than me. Once you start to realize that, life is a game of chess. Do what you want. The rules are the rules you make. My two rules are to be kind every day and lead with an open heart. The second thing is to not do criminal activity.

Show them kindness but also show them you're human too. Click to Tweet

I agree. Scrolling through your Instagram, that’s Mid-Day’s Instagram, I feel you are trying to evoke a good feeling. When I take that chunk of Mid-Day Squares, I will feel good and that connects with all of the other content. It is positive on there. On your website, you claim it and you say it out loud, “We’re the first functional chocolate bar.” There is an epidemic of sugar in the aisles of supermarkets and all. You’re fighting something.

Why are you not being vocal about that fight and why have you chosen to go down the route of this emotive feel-good through Mid-Day Squares despite you being highly nutritious? The function here is superb. The moment it becomes available in the UK, I will buy it over and over again because it’s a healthy alternative to the crap that’s out there that we shouldn’t be eating on a daily basis but some of us do because they’re addictive and it is what it is.

We created a product that has low sugar, real food ingredients, plant-based, protein, and fiber to make your afternoon better. The goal was, can we give you an indulgence that’s clean and better for you and that also sustains your energy and keeps you full? We felt that no one was doing that so that’s why we created this product.

It’s working because people are having this dark chocolate bar at 2:00 PM and getting their enjoyment, the treat that they’ve wanted but also not getting bloated, not feeling crappy, not being tired, and not being hungry. We avoid that crash that everyone has. That’s why our products have the product market fit that I discussed earlier.

We want to become part of your lifestyle every day. We don’t want to be a dessert for you. We want to be your everyday afternoon snack, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s not using refined sugars, we don’t use that stuff. We use foods that, I believe, will be around forever, and real foods we could digest in our systems.

The whole idea is we like to say we’re a modern-day Hershey’s. I only say Hershey’s not because of the products that they crave, in terms of size, we want to be a new version of that. We want to be the better-for-you real chocolate bars, real foods, and relatable company that is culturally relevant. That’s not like them, unfortunately, but the size of what they are in the next 20 years, that’s what we want to do.

The reason I’m saying this is that other brands would say, “We are keto,” they’ll latch on to low sugar and they’ll latch onto certain terms. What you guys are doing on here is like, “Follow us along our journey. We’re building this chocolate company. We’re plant-based functional squares with the best chocolate.”

Every other thing down there never lays claim to the fact that you’re keto-friendly. Those technical terms are just fun, it’s mainstream. The Keto diet is a fraction of the population. You’re saying, “Everybody can be happy. We’re happy. This is our journey. These are the ups and downs of our company and we taste bloody good.”

We’re here to make real food products that taste good and give you an alternative that is better for you at an affordable price. We want to be around for the next 100 years as a staple in people’s homes. Hopefully, we could do that. Food should not harm you, it should be helping you.

Let’s talk about your milestones. In 30 days, Mid-Day Squares sold over 115,000 bars. Since 2008 when you launched your Condo Kitchen, it had the capacity of making 80 Squares a day. Now, you’ve hit the 90,000 capacity in your facilities. What do the operations look like? What does it look like behind the scenes now at this scale? You seem to be growing over and over. You’re in Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods. How does it feel churning this out from an operational standpoint? I know you are not involved in the operational day-to-day.

Our whole vision is to get to a 60% gross margin after trade spend and that’s where we’re trying to get to. We own our manufacturing and we built it out of necessity. When we were trying to scale this product at the beginning, the idea was to scale it. We went to 26 co-manufacturers and each one of them told us that they can’t produce this product.

We had to go build a factory and it took a long time. It took three years to build. It’s all custom machinery. It’s about 96% automated. If we’re pushing the three shifts, it could support 90,000 chocolate bars a day, which is about $70 million output of revenue. We’re not there yet. In year one we did about $1 million in sales. In year two, we did about $3 million three, In year three, we did $9 million, and then $17 million. Hopefully, the next year, $30 million to $35 million. Our fiscal year is May so that’s how we calculate it.

I was going to ask whether it’s 2023 or not. It makes sense.

In May 2023, hopefully, we’ll get to $17 million. May 2024 will be $30 million or $35 million. We have four SKUs right now. We’re in about 4,000-plus distribution points across Canada and the United States. Our turns are very high. What we focus on is depth. From an operation standpoint, it’s hard building a CPG company at scale and getting the margins to where it is. We’re still burning a ton of money. We hope that will go into the black as of May 2023. That’s the vision and the goal still. We want to grow between 50% to 100% year over year, that’s the focus. The goal in the next three years is to get $100 million in revenue with a 60% gross margin. That’s the game that we’re playing.

That revenue will get you to unicorn status quite easily. You’d be a target for Hershey’s eventually. It makes a ton of sense. From a headcount standpoint, where are you at the moment?

We’re at 60 team members, 60 amazing folks that are working their asses off.

What’s the split?

It’s mostly manufacturing, I’d say 60% manufacturing.

You’re still based in Quebec?

Yeah. We have some teammates in Toronto, Texas, and Arizona but mostly in Montreal.

You’re doing Canada proud.  


You’re talking about gross margins. When do you think you’d be able to hit the 60% gross?

In a year and a half, hopefully.

From a company structure standpoint, you did raise money. What was your capital-raising journey like?

We raised about $20 million and then $4 million from debt from the government for the factory. We’ve raised in the end of year 1, at the end of year 2, and then at the beginning of year 4. Okay.

Did you raise from Angels? Was it PE? Was it VC?

We’ve raised with venture funds and some entrepreneurs and operators that have added value in the skillsets that we’ve needed them to add value. The fundraising journey has helped us. It’s not been as difficult for us because we build publicly so people see our journey and they can trust us and they like it and they already have a sense of who we are. If they’re interested, they’ll reach out.

What’s your evaluation now?

Our last valuation when we raised my last year was $35 million pre-money so with $10 million, it’s about $45 million post-money.

Do you plan another further round?

We plan on potentially taking this company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In Canada, that’s an IPO or big private equity comes in and funds or a family office funds the long term of this journey. We’re not here to sell the company necessarily, we’re here to build it long-term. We want to be a functional chocolate company in the world not just in Canada and the United States. We have a vision of global expansion. Chocolate snacking is a $140 billion market cap, it’s huge. There’s room to play. Why not think big?

What does your channel marketing look like? What stores are you in? I mentioned a few. I’m sure you’re in a few more.

We’re in Target, the United States, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Wegmans. In Canada, we’re in Walmart, Sobey’s, Metro, and all the natural and health food stores. 30% of our business is D2C via our website at Amazon and 70% is retail. We’re located in the refrigerated section so it’s a bit unique in terms of placement.

How do you do fulfillment with cold items?

We put them in insulated packs with reusable ice packs. Sometimes our retailers pick up refrigerated in their trucks.

Hard boxing also. It makes a ton of sense. From a channel expansion standpoint, do you lead that or do you have a channel expert who’s calling and knocking on the doors at groceries?

We’re still growing and this 2023, we’re going to focus on continuing to win at Target and the larger retailers while supporting our independence, those are our bread and butter in terms of brand building and support. We’re going to expand into the larger retailers, potentially Costco Canada, and potentially Walmart in the United States by the end of the year.

We see the value. Once you understand those retailers, the volume is crazy. You need to understand the logistics game of that and you need to have brand awareness and that’s what we’re focusing on this 2023, building the brand awareness up, continuing to celebritize this brand to get the views and the fans, and then getting the distribution along at the same time to support that. You want to have stores where people can go within 5 kilometers or 5 miles to get any Mid-Day Square they want.

Do you think there’ll be other characters coming into the story further down the line if you wanted to expand it?

In terms of characters from a storyline perspective, our teammates are characters and they’re going to develop their stories as well throughout the journey. From a new product standpoint, we have four SKUs in this functional chocolate bar, and we’ll probably go to about six in terms of flavor profiles. After that, we should be able to get to $100 million in revenue in the United States and Canada. We’re going to expand globally but at the same time, we’re also going to innovate potentially on other functional chocolate snacks like cookies. We want to be a chocolate company with subcategories. That being said, we want to be known as a tight SKU count for our chocolate bars, our new versions of chocolate bars.

What’s your take on channel marketing? What are the wins? What should readers take away from channel marketing? What are your big ideas?

I like retail, retail is a game. If you understand it, you could make a lot of dollars. You need to understand logistics and be able to manage your distributors and your brokers properly. Once you have that intact, the volumes are insane. D2C is necessary to have as a way to have a channel but that’s for us. Shipping refrigerated chocolate is expensive. It’s for our loyal customers to buy bulk and then also for some people that want discovery and convenience fast. Otherwise, it’s there as a marketing tool.

Do you deploy equity capital into paying invoices? When I mean invoices, I mean for stock. Do you finance that with debt? Do you use equity for your market and growth?

Equity is for raising money and stock options. From a standpoint of all the funding, it’s the money in the company that’s doing it. We do have a line of credit from one of our banks that helps. We’re looking for non-dilutive capital to support some of that working stuff that needs to keep going every day. That being said, we go to the black as of April 2023, which is super exciting. That will hopefully generate more cash for the business. D2C drives cashflow up because it’s paid in three days. We use that as a way to keep cash in the business as well. These are the strategies that we’re using.

The final question has got to do with your D2C retention rate. What retentions are you seeing? Do they have a save and subscribe option for instance?

They don’t have a save and subscribe option. We’re seeing a lot of customers staying for two months on our website and then going to retail to buy the product. After that, they find it in their local retailers and they’re like, “We don’t need to buy necessarily two boxes at a time. We could buy 4 or 5 bars at a time at the retailer.” That’s where they fade off and they stay into the retailer, which is great for us because we want to be a stronger retailer business anyways.

This segment of the episode is done. We’re about to get into the evergreen rapid-fire question section. I’m going to ask you a few questions, 5 or 7 questions. If you could use a single answer to answer each of the questions, I’d appreciate it.

Go ahead.

What advice would you give yourself five years ago?

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Are you a morning person?


What’s your daily morning routine like?

Wake up at 5:00. I go get a coffee and then I read for about 30 to 45 minutes. Before getting injured, I would work out and then I start my day at about 7:30.

What two things can’t you live without?

Books and working out.

Speaking of books, what book are you currently reading or listening to?

Competing Against Luck, it’s all about innovation.

Finally, what’s been your best mistake to date? By that, I mean a setback that’s given you the biggest feedback.

Trying to manage people. I tried to operate, be the CMO, and manage people, that’s not my skill. I learned that you play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. A weakness of mine is being a leader that manages, that’s why I don’t manage anybody in the company.

Great stuff. Mr. Jake Karls, Co-founder of Mid-Day Squares, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the 2X eCommerce show. I enjoyed this convo.

I appreciate you dearly. Thanks for having me and giving me a voice. I love you and thanks to everyone reading.

I love you too. I appreciate the energy. Cheers.

About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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