With Jake Karls
Co-founder and Rainmaker, Mid-Day Squares

In this episode, Jake and Monica discuss the MDS brand journey from idea to international brand. Jake also shares his insights on entrepreneurship, the power of social media, continuous innovation and how MDS is growing its family business (and market share) in an industry dominated by CPG behemoths.

  • Transcript

    Jake (00:00):

    I think disruption is innovation. I think doing something different is what we consider innovation. It doesn't mean that you have to recreate the entire wheel.

    Monica (00:07):

    Hi, I am Monica and I'm here at Mid-Day Squares in Montreal, Canada. Mid-Day Squares, if you haven't yet heard about them, after today's segment, you will certainly walk away with your curiosity peaked. I'm here with Jake Karls, one of the co-founders of Mid-Day Squares. Jake, I am so thrilled. Tell me about Mid-Day Squares, the brand.

    Jake (00:42):

    Mid-Day Squares is a chocolate company. We're trying to build the next biggest chocolate snacking company worldwide. Forget about just Canada and the United States. We're trying to go global. And I think what's unique about our brand is it is something that's culturally relevant to today. We focus on telling a story that actually emotionally connects to the consumer. We show you the good, the bad, the ugly, reality show on entrepreneurship. Nothing about the product, more about how we build this business to hopefully a unicorn status or a failure. And I say both because it's possible that both can happen. And what that does is it creates a deeper connection with the consumer. When you go to that grocery store, you feel like you're buying from someone you know, a neighbor, a friend, or a family member. So that's the narrative we're trying to portray.

    Monica (01:20):

    Why chocolate?

    Jake (01:20):

    Chocolate is over $100 billion dollars annually. Health bars are over $20 billion annually. All we did was took a Venn diagram and just made the middle part of it, because that way if we said we were a chocolate bar, there's a whole market for that. And if we said health bar, that's an emerging category that's growing. So we want it best of both worlds, but we lean more on the chocolate side because there's no better vibes than chocolate. It makes you happy. It's a moment when you're sad you have it. Chocolate is what we grew up on and we want to basically make it healthier as we continue to grow older.

    Monica (01:51):

    So what kind of values do you say Mid-Day Squares, the brand, emotes?

    Jake (01:55):

    I think two are really important. Number one is good vibes. And I don't say good vibes only because you can't be good vibes only. We're human. So in our culture, we amplify that. We have this energy where we want our consumers to feel that, and our teammates. And the second thing is be right more than you are wrong. That's a really important value of ours because if you are, then by chance, by statistics, you likely will get somewhere over time.

    Monica (02:17):

    Who would you say your customers are?

    Jake (02:20):

    So I love this question because for us, we have many different types of customers. At first we thought it was just females between 25 and 60 years old. But then we started to notice a lot more customers were coming in from different angles. Our brand talks to the consumer that loves the hustle, that loves the radical transparency. But at the end of the day, our product is being bought by everyone that likes dark chocolate?

    Monica (02:40):

    Talk to me about being an entrepreneur. It is a 24/7 journey. Sometimes it feels like the challenges outweigh the benefits.

    Jake (02:48):

    It's painful, and I say this with the love for entrepreneurship. Coming to this journey, I didn't know how hard it was going to be. I thought you got magazines, you get revenue, you raise money, you do cool things. But then you start to see that there's a whole other side of the journey where it's pain and it's ups and downs. And if you can't figure out how to balance that, you're going to have a very hard time, because the pressure is a pressure cooker. And I think that that's what I've learned over the last decade of entrepreneurship, is that it's not just sunshine and rainbows. It's a lot of hard work, like you said, 24/7. But I believe so much in the vision of what we're trying to do, and the fulfillment for me is so powerful that I continue going on it.

    Monica (03:27):

    Where do you see Mid-Day Squares in the next five, 10 years? I mean, when I put my business hat on, are you building yourself up to potentially be acquired, or are you building yourself up to be this multinational conglomerate to do the acquisitions?

    Jake (03:44):

    It's a very interesting question, two-pronged, in my opinion. Because for us, our vision was to build the next biggest chocolate snacking company. Think what would a Hershey's or a Mandala's look like today, is what we're trying to accomplish. That being said, as we go, we're seeing how difficult it is to build that infrastructure. So for us, we're continuing our game plan that we've put forth to our investors, to our board, to get to where we got to get to. And for us, we're going to look at what's next when we hit $150 million revenue and then see if it's a sale, if it's an IPO, if it's acquiring more businesses. But for now, our strict focus is to get to that revenue, get to the margin profile we need to get to, and nothing else. So horse blinders, no noise, no distractions, just get there.

    Monica (04:22):

    Your use of social media to create brand recognition is commendable. Many mature established industries aren't even scratching the surface. What advice would you give them?

    Jake (04:34):

    So it's a very different game. Us being an emerging brand that's a disruptor brand, someone coming into the space with complete freedom and not as much to lose, so the consequence are obviously lower. I think what we all have in common though is authenticity. So if you as a brand find your authenticity, you have a real chance of connecting with today's consumer because today's consumers are craving genuineness, realness, some sort of authenticity. And I think that it doesn't have to be like what we do when we show everything behind the scenes. It can just be something like, what does your brand stand for? And tell that story every single day.

    Monica (05:07):

    So tell me about what you love the most about your role.

    Jake (05:10):

    My role is unique. I am the chief rainmaker. And what that means is I bring in the relationships for the Mid-Day Squares. My goal is to simply get you to like me, to then become a Mid-Day Squares fan. And then my team asks me to give them my Rolodex when they need help with something. So my day-to-day is simply make noise and be unapologetically myself. That's my favorite part, is that I get to be me every day.

    Monica (05:31):

    Your product, your strategy, your marketing approach are all truly innovative. Help me understand what innovation means within the four walls of Mid-Day Squares.

    Jake (05:42):

    I think disruption is innovation. I think doing something different is what we consider innovation. It doesn't mean that you have to recreate the entire wheel life, but changing slight little things that are relevant today. We actually do our own manufacturing. We stay true to that because that allows us to have something that's on the market that's completely different in terms of the taste profile, in terms of the texture that you have. But also, like I said, the marketing is also an innovation. So that creates an umbrella that we call Mid-Day Squares.

    Monica (06:10):

    Mid-Day Squares is authentically Canadian. It is made here. It started here, here being Montreal. Why Montreal?

    Jake (06:19):

    There's nothing like it when you do it for your hometown. The people here are amazing. The culture is so different than anywhere in the world. So we chose to stay here, and I think it'll be something really cool in the next 20 years if you could still have Mid-Day Squares here, but be in multiple different countries and people know, "Hey, I love Mid-Day Squares in China. I love Mid-Day Squares in the UK. I love Mid-Day Squares in Mexico."

    Monica (06:38):

    Will you always stay in the chocolate space, or can we see adjacencies happening in CPG?

    Jake (06:44):

    For now, we want to be known for our double air chocolate. That's what we want, the Mid-Day Square. And the reason being is we want to own that refrigerated space because it's a new set, it's fresh product, it's healthier, it's something that retailers are starting to get more behind. And eventually, if we have the capital, the resources and the time, we will hopefully innovate in other categories within chocolate.

    Monica (07:06):

    Ingenuity, transparency, authenticity are just some of the words that I would use to describe Mid-Day Squares. I'm Monica, and we'll see you next time.

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