EU Alumni | David Buckler
Owner, Buckleberry Foods
David Buckler graduated from EU with a BBA in 2007. While living in Barcelona and studying at EU, he developed an appreciation for high-quality fresh food.
He returned to the U.S.A. after graduating from EU and set about establishing Buckleberry Foods, a vegan, gluten free and raw desserts company. We caught up with David to find out more about his experiences.
Hi David, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Buckleberry Foods looks like a fantastic business – browsing your website has certainly made the office hungry! Can you tell us more about the process of creating and establishing Buckleberry Foods?
Buckleberry Foods was born out of a passion for healthy, innovative food. Living in Barcelona for three years was certainly a revelation for what is possible with fresh, natural food. When I moved back to the States, there was not enough of this going on for me where I lived. Over several years, I very carefully observed a movement towards veganism and gluten free and raw foods. I started making my products and brought them to dinner parties and social gatherings, getting great reactions! My first ‘certified kitchen’ was in my apartment at the time and two years later, we are in a beautiful new facility with two product lines, using two distributors who service all of New England.
Would you say that setting out as an entrepreneur has been an exciting journey so far? What has been the biggest surprise along the way?
Starting your own business is a bit like tightrope walking; you are excited to be doing it, but there are days when you look down and you don’t know why you put yourself in this place! Having my own business is a dedication and commitment beyond anything I have experienced yet, but the satisfaction gained can take you to new heights you didn’t think were possible before. There are surprises every day in the food industry, which is changing very quickly here in the States and is becoming very competitive.
Where do you see Buckleberry Foods in the future?
I see Buckleberry products on shelves across the country within a couple of years. Right now, I am focusing on canvassing New England and gauging demand for the rest of the nation. There is little competition for vegan, gluten free and raw desserts at the moment. I have created a ‘moat around the castle’ with a complicated artisan product that is hard to replicate. In the very near future, I would like to see 10% of our proceeds going to animal rescue organizations that help stop inhumane treatment of animals.
The boom that the gluten-free food market in the U.S. has experienced in recent years almost puts the big bang to shame! By 2020 the market is expected to be valued in the region of $24 billion. How has this growth affected your business?
This growth is the driving force behind our business model. This is one of the biggest trends in the country today as we steer away from foods that are harmful to our bodies. Added awareness of GMO’s, inhumane treatment of animals, veganism and other indicators, all point towards new customer creation. We specialize in desserts because it can be hard to find a gluten free treat that actually tastes amazing!
Congratulations on securing your partnership with Whole Foods – how was the process of developing that relationship?
I approached them with my first product line. They liked it immediately, but warned it would be a long process to get in; they now require a lot of paperwork and inspections from their suppliers. It was actually very helpful to go through all this to gain a deeper insight into the newest food and FDA regulations so the business can be as legitimate as possible. Working with a large corporate entity can put you in situations where you have to become very flexible with your plans and strategy. Sometimes you have to think outside of your own box and compromise to make the deal.
Starting your own business is a bit like tightrope walking; you are excited to be doing it, but there are days when you look down and you don’t know why you put yourself in this place!
You operate in Providence, Rhode Island – any plans for some spooky H.P. Lovecraft-themed cakes in the future?
Every day I think of a themed cake to do and I will add this to the list! We made a delicious Coconut Pumpkin Pie for the Holiday season here. It is raw, like all of our products, so nothing is cooked and you are eating live food!
What is the most valuable thing you learned at EU, which has helped you in your career?
I had some great teachers, notably Christine Clarke who was great at instrumentally teaching me to raise critical questions in real life management scenarios in her classroom. She taught me to question control and what that really is. When you are selling a product, you need to know what barriers or gates you are faced with and how you are going to overcome and surpass them.
What is the most valuable thing that you have learned in your professional career?
Do not depend on the world molding to your plan. It needs to remain flexible. Things will happen that you did not expect and when you are inflexible, barriers will appear. A business is a constantly morphing, living thing of your creation. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you down, but it will lift you up.
Very wise words indeed. Thank you for your time today David and we wish you the best of luck with your business.