Jamie Kim ‘19 has been baking since high school, but it tastes like she’s been doing it for several lives. At least, that’s what hordes of students, Manndibles cafe, successful chefs, and her friends and family might tell you.
In high school, Kim baked granola as gifts, experimenting with different spices and herbs unique to granola, like lavender and rosemary, which would soon become her signature touch on what seemed to be a saturated market.
The idea for bumble & butter started in October 2016, originally intended to be a breakfast company–selling pastries, as well as granola. As a student in the School of Hotel Administration, Kim pitched the company in her marketing class. The idea started to gain traction, but the taste of the granola spoke for itself.
bumble & butter granola is a different type of granola, savory, as well as sweet, and not just for yogurt toppings. For example, rosemary and zante currants granola is exquisite on a simple chopped salad–there is a unique crunch and unexpected flavor that melds with all of the components, making you wonder why no one has ever thought of this before. Potato gratin, roasted asparagus, tomato cheddar soup–you name a dish, you can top a bumble and butter granola with it. However, the best way to consume this granola, isn’t on any dish or yogurt, but simply by the handful, which is easy to do, as Kim bakes the granola in large chunks. At first bite, you’re hit with the butter base and the bright, lightly sweetened honey. Keep chewing and your mind is pulled in different directions. The complexities and layers of flavor make you want to grab more, to experience the whole thing all over again.
As product demand increased, Kim knew she needed to recruit passionate students to her team. Part of the initial challenges in creating a company from the ground up was the sheer amount of work to do. It was difficult for Kim to even organize her timeline and goals. Kim tackled everything from developing the recipe, baking the product herself, designing the packaging, configuring the pricing structure to compete with larger producers, and sourcing her organic ingredients. Stretched a little too thin, she built a team to support her. Her team of “Bumbles” consists of VP of Marketing & Communications Jamie Wong ‘19, Administrative Assistant Morgan Train ‘19, VP of Business Development Katie Lee ‘19, and Brand Representative Ward Simcox ‘19.
In addition, Kim reached out to mentors and resources, including her successful friends who launched their own consumer packaged goods in New York City and the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship. Through launching her business, Kim said, “I’ve learned so much more than I would in a classroom. Everything I learn in the hotel school definitely complements what I’ve been learning with bumble & butter, but actually going out there and doing it is a whole new learning experience.”
So what differentiates bumble & butter in the crowded market?
“We want to focus on introducing creative flavors and baking with high-quality ingredients such as local honey, produced in Ithaca and grass-fed butter,” said Kim, explaining the namesake for the brand. “We wanted the name to represent the product and its ingredients with simplicity and alliteration.”
Kim currently works with Ithaca Honey Works, choosing to support the small business after reading their compelling story online. bumble & butter uses organic ingredients and grass-fed butter instead of refined oils to add flavor and nutritional value. Their diverse array of flavors includes vanilla bean and dried cherries, rosemary and zante currants, and sharp cheddar and cracked black pepper.
With so many startup costs and initial investment, Kim had to find funding. In January, she launched a successful bumble & butter Kickstarter campaign, with little preparation behind it. “The Kickstarter was actually really surprising to me because we didn’t do that much preparation for it. I just wrote out the campaign and put in a couple pictures and submitted it without realizing how much more work other people put into this,” Kim said. Successful Kickstarters usually have video campaigns and have set backers ready for them before launching, she realized as she did research after the Kickstarter’s launch.
Despite this, the Kickstarter results were immediately fruitful; the campaign was funded completely in two days. Kickstarter chose to feature bumble & butter as one of the “Products We Love.” In the end, bumble & butter raised $2,282, double their initial goal of $1,000, with many of the backers coming from outside of the Cornell community.
For Kim, bumble & butter is only getting started. She hopes to add new seasonal flavors, as well as a tea-inspired collection with matcha, chai, and milk tea granola. In addition, Kim announced that bumble & butter will be featured in Manndible Cafe on Cornell’s campus. Kim hopes to continue the conversation with other retailers in the local area, with sights on expanding to major cities.
Ten years down the road, she would love to open her own brick & mortar cafe to showcase her granola. More importantly, for Kim, her end goal is “getting my product out to people and having them taste better granola. That’s just really exciting for me and that’s what motivates me in the end.” When people first bite into Kim’s granola, the change in their facial expressions is palpable and nearly universal. Their face shows bewilderment, contemplation, and then finally, content. Each time, they ask for more.
“That’s the whole goal of the business – to reinvent granola.”
Looking back, when it comes to advice she would give to fellow entrepreneurs, Kim encourages people to focus on getting the product out there. “What stopped us and extended our timeline was our hesitation and wanting to make the product absolutely perfect before getting it out to market, but I realized that it can’t really reach perfection unless you start experimenting.”
Be sure to taste her granola once it hit the shelves in Manndibles!