Julie Maddox’s son Benjamin (nicknamed “Benji” or “Beeze”) was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at 3 years old. By the time Benji was in high school and playing after-school sports, Julie started to worry that there weren’t any protein snacks suited to his needs.
“After a literal vision in February of 2014, I got to work creating the solution to his need,” Maddox says. “It took almost two years and too many failures to count, but the result is a protein product that tastes amazing and has a unique nutritional analysis that can help others.”
When initially developing Benji Bars Make It Better almond and honey protein bars, Maddox struggled to achieve an appealing texture for her product.
“With no training or experience in baking, I made so many disastrous attempts that I would literally have to go purchase more pans to use,” says Maddox. “I went to a variety of stores to purchase them because I did not want the clerks to know how many pans I was using!”
Once she was satisfied with her protein bars’ taste and texture, Maddox still had to navigate requirements from the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration to bring her product onto the market. To ensure Benji Bars met all of the necessary requirements, Maddox submitted samples to a laboratory for nutritional testing, gluten testing and shelf-life testing.
“This was hugely expensive but I needed this information,” says Maddox. “The results were amazing! I knew it was time to go to market.”
Maddox found out about SCORE when researching local resources for small businesses. “I was so impressed with what I found out!” Maddox says. “So, I requested a mentor from my local chapter.”
Maddox was paired with mentor Bill Heitz, who has helped her with everything from writing a business plan to determining costs of goods, to most recently drawing up a profit/loss statement using tools from the SCORE website. She says that on top of working with her on a variety of business topics, Heitz has also encouraged her to attend SCORE workshops, some of which she has found invaluable.
“The one that stands out the most to me was a workshop on websites. My mentor sent me an email and encouraged me to attend,” says Maddox. “My mentor also attended and introduced me to the speaker at the end and that led to an amazing contact and connection for me. If it had not been for my mentor, I would have missed that!”
Maddox meets with Heitz every few months, exchanging emails with him in between sessions. She feels that he has been instrumental in helping her navigate the business world.
“My mentor has helped my business in ways that are almost too numerous to list,” says Maddox. “I understand so many concepts now that I did not before! It is no small thing to be able to tell someone that you do not understand something and then have them explain it in a way that you can immediately implement.”
Now that Benji Bars are on the market, Maddox hopes to expand her product’s reach in a way that helps others.
“This product could be beneficial in disaster relief, with first responders and the military,” she says. “I am working hard to make that happen.”
Ultimately, Maddox is relieved to have SCORE as a resource as she continues to navigate new aspects of running a small business.
“I am beyond grateful to Bill Heitz and to SCORE because stepping out into unfamiliar territory is scary — but then I found a guide — and he believed I could do it. So, I am!” she says.
Sugar Beeze, maker of Benji Bars, was named Outstanding Woman-Owned Small Business at the 2017 SCORE Awards.