Blake Sorensen didn’t start a business to make money. He started a business to solve a problem. Four years later, that business — Blake’s Seed Based — is taking off and making life easier, and tastier, in the process.
Sorensen, now 34, was just two years old when his parents discovered he had a nut allergy.
“I’ve grown up my entire life avoiding certain snacks,” he said.
So when the 2007 Eden Prairie High School grad was tasked with solving one of his own problems while working toward his MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, he looked to that old nut allergy nemesis for inspiration.
“I was frustrated with the snacks on the market,” he said.
But rather than just create a PowerPoint with a business proposal for nut-free snacks and call it good, Sorensen took the project to his kitchen and got to work creating a tasty snack he could safely eat. He bought a food processor and hit the grocery store to stock up on healthy ingredients free of the top food allergens (including dairy, nuts and soybeans).
Building a business
Through some trial and error, Sorensen eventually came up with what would become the first generation of snack bars for Blake’s Seed Based – a trio of flavored bars containing seeds, bits of fruit and pieces of chocolate.
“I would bring them into class in a Tupperware and have (my classmates) vote on flavors,” said Sorensen. The bars were a hit.
His professors and his classmates encouraged him to keep going. “They were very supportive,” he said. “I owe a lot to them.”
Sorensen forged ahead, securing a nut-free facility that could make his snack bars and launching a Kickstarter campaign. He aimed to raise $20,000 for the first production run, but the response was greater than he could have ever imagined. Sorensen met his fundraising goal on the first day.
“I realized, OK, there’s actual demand here,” said Sorensen.
Retooling and rebranding
Blake’s Nut-Free (as it was originally named) was born in December 2017. The first production run resulted in three snack bar flavors. Sorensen said after the first few months, they took time to evaluate the product. “It was a great product, but it got hard after 4-5 months,” he recalled.
So, Sorensen retooled the recipes and rebranded the company to Blake’s Seed Based. He said the name better reflected the company’s intentions to provide a snack that appealed to the health and wellness market as well as those looking for an allergen-free option.
“I didn’t want to create a brand just for people with food allergies,” explained Sorensen.
Blake’s Seed Based officially went on the market in September 2018, available for purchase on its own website and on Amazon.
Sorensen also took to the streets to hunt down buyers. “I was knocking on doors,” he said. “The goal was to get it in as many places as possible.”
The hard work paid off. Currently, Blake’s Seed Based snacks are in 2,000 retail spaces, including locally at Festival Foods locations. “The plan is to double that next year,” said Sorensen.
Sorensen said Blake’s Seed Based products can also be found in both collegiate and professional locker rooms across the country. And he is working to strike a deal with airlines to get Blake’s Seed Based offered on flights.
Meanwhile, the Chicago-based company continues to create new snacks for the market. “We want to solve every need,” said Sorensen.
In addition to snack bars, Blake’s Seed Based has rolled out a line of crispy treats and a series of flavored sunflower seeds. And in December, they are launching a chewy bar, said Sorensen.
Sorensen’s personal favorite, and the company’s bestseller, is the birthday cake crispy treat. He is also a big fan of the blueberry lemon snack bar — one of their first offerings — and the honey-roasted sunflower seeds.
Four years after hitting the market, Blake’s Seed Based continues to grow and expand. Sorensen may not have planned to go into the snack business, but he couldn’t be prouder of what that class assignment has become. “We started with the right intention,” he said. “We weren’t doing this to make money. We just wanted to solve a problem.”
Solving a problem is one thing, but starting a business is a whole other beast. “We were really naïve, which was a good thing,” he said.
Sorensen said he has learned so much every step of the way. And now, others are learning from his journey, too. Today, the rise of Blake’s Seed Based is literally a case study in entrepreneurship. According to Sorensen, his alma mater — the Indiana University Kelley School of Business — has incorporated his company’s evolution into part of the curriculum.
Comments aren’t allowed on our site, but we do offer several ways to provide feedback, and have your voice heard. If you believe the story has an error, or would like to get in touch with the author, please contact us. If you would like to respond directly to this article, we welcome and encourage Letters To the Editor. You can find details on how to submit a letter on our contact page.