Entrepreneur turned “Dadpreneur” Johnny Kien launched Keen Bean, the highest funded baby food campaign in Kickstarter history. Keen Bean is packaged in a convenient soft pouch and uses super-foods such goji and acai, hemp hearts and chickpeas, and offers vegan and gluten free options.
We spoke with Kien about how Keen Bean got started, the life of an entrepreneur, fatherhood, and more.
How did Keen Bean get started and what makes it different from other baby foods in the marketplace?
Keen Bean Organics was founded from the need to feed my own children real food. When it came time to start solids for my first child, my wife and I spent hours flipping around jars and pouches looking for real nutritional content. We had trouble finding any. We were also surprised by the expiration dates.
We took on a mission to minimize time spent at the supermarket and in the kitchen.
At the supermarket, we were trawling through multiple packs, pouches and jars, looking for fresh, nutritious, and convenient baby food. Baby food that had it all, not some of what we wanted for our child. It didn’t exist. Just a few of the things that came to mind were:
“How can these ‘foods’ sit on a shelf for so long, and still offer the vitamins and nutrients that my baby needed? The fresh food we fed ourselves only lasted a few days. It also lived in the fridge, not on a shelf.”
The outcome was healthy, functionally nutritious, guilt free convenience for parents everywhere to feed their children.
In the kitchen, making our own purees, we were spending hour upon hour peeling, chopping, steaming, blending, dividing … does it ever end? And the mess? This introduced a whole new set of problems. It was a challenge to find, purchase, and prepare a variety of ingredients that met the nutritional requirements of our baby.
We were stuck between two worlds, both drastically cutting into family time, and neither solving our problem completely.
Our background in cold pressed juice led us to developing Keen Bean Organic Blends, a fresh, healthy, safe, functional, and convenient baby food that would use methods from cold pressed juice on baby food. The outcome was healthy, functionally nutritious, guilt free convenience for parents everywhere to feed their children.
Our difference is our process, the functional nutrition and the taste – we start from raw and use cold pressure technology to maintain the integrity of the ingredients we use. Rooted in science, focused on health. We come from a cold-pressed juice and food service background.. We hand picked our farms to work with the most nutrient dense produce for our baby approved recipes. Keen Bean Organics was curated for optimal nutrition in the most efficient way possible. Our food naturally contain tons of nutritious essentials for healthy growth but we really keened in on helping our little ones obtain iron, protein, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B, and omegas. Our food is functional. We include 1 billion CFU of probiotics to aid in digestive health, support immune health and to improve protein utilization. Unlike others, we are never cut with cheap fillers. We are 100% organic, 100% non-GMO, cold-blended, cold-pressured in a zero waste facility. We are the first functional HPP baby food. We are the future of baby food.
This isn’t the first business you’ve started. What have you learned about yourself through the process of being an entrepreneur and what advice do you have for someone who wants to take the leap to start their own business?
The process for being an entrepreneur is different for everyone. I look back into my journey as an entrepreneur with only a few regrets. I definitely have made some dumbass mistakes along the way as well as having some huge triumphs. I believe everything happens for a reason, good or bad. People come in and out of your life for a reason and I have learned that everything happens so that you can grow as an entrepreneur and ultimately as a person. I have learned that the entrepreneurship lifestyle isn’t always glamorous and for you to succeed you have to always be working on your craft. Being an entrepreneur can be hard. You need to have drive and a will that does not take “no” for an answer. Recently, Keen Bean was being considered for a cohort of an accelerator program but failed to make the final cut. Our team poured a lot of work into the submission but ultimately we were too early stage. Most people would be down at this point but I used this rejection as fuel and applied to 15 other programs that very same night. We ended up being asked to join a couple and are in consideration for a few more.
I’ve learned that to really grow and evolve as a person you must always ask questions. You can never stop challenging your assumptions about how things “just are.” And you must learn to accept that sometimes things just change and you have to grow with it.
I’ve learned that taking a risk is a powerful thing. If an opportunity presents itself you should take it. If you’ve been dreaming of starting a business you should just do it. Whatever the risk is, the worst thing that could happen is you fail and you don’t learn from your mistakes. To avoid the mistakes, planning is crucial and the ability to adapt or pivot when things don’t go according to plan. Failure should be a part of the plan.
When I look in the eyes of my two sons, I see the future and that gives me the motivation for today.
Although I do have regrets on some decisions, I have no regrets on the path I have taken. The things you will regret most in life are the risks that you didn’t take. For those looking to take the leap my advice is to be sure this is something you want to do, then consider what needs to be done, then go out and do it. Execution is 99% of being an entrepreneur.
What does it take to be a good leader?
From world leaders to quarterbacks, the truest form of what it takes to be a good leader is someone who can earn the influence of others towards a common goal. Leadership is something that is continuously developed over time, through mentoring and staying curious. Different attributes bring out different styles and different leaders. The best leaders are always learning about themselves and by doing so develop the intrapersonal skills needed to lead. Being a good leader takes time and patience, but if you work hard at it, you can create a culture that is happy, healthy, and productive. A great leader does shit that matters.
What helps you stay motivated? Are there any podcasts or musicians you listen to regularly, or books or magazines you turn to?
My motivation comes from my family. It first comes from my parents who fled Vietnam as refugees of the war to come to Canada in 1980 to start a new life. As immigrants, they worked multiple jobs with long hours to provide a better life and better opportunities for me. When I was young my dad would drop me off swaddled in a blanket (cold Canadian winters) in the early morning to a babysitter because they had to work and I wouldn’t see them until it was almost bed time. They showed me what it means to sacrifice for others and to never give up. Now that I have a family of my own, I fully understand what it means to want the best for your children and the drive to provide. When I look in the eyes of my two sons, I see the future and that gives me the motivation for today.
I read a lot of biographies to gain insights on how people think and why they did what they did. Lately I have been reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss for motivation as it is one giant book of condensed biographies. Highly recommend.
How has fatherhood changed you?
Fatherhood has made me evaluate what is really important in life. Before, we were lost in the busyness of everyday life, happy to look forward to the weekends. We would wait for these two days to catch up on life. When my son was somewhere between the ages of 1 and 2, I took a weekday off to spend time with him. Being so young, he had the ability to live in the moment, something so many adults struggle with.
We didn’t do anything extravagant that day. We went for a walk. I held his hand and watched him as he picked dandelion after dandelion to throw into the sewer … but it was the best day. I wanted more days like this – to just be. That’s when I knew we needed to find a way to reclaim some precious time to live in the moment with my little guy, guilt free.
How can others learn more about you and Keen Bean?