Steve Savage for 15 years ran Boulder's Eco Products, which he founded with his dad, Kent Savage, who himself served as chairman of Eco-Cycle. Eco Products was one of the first companies to offer such items as compostable paper plates and plastic cups.
His current company, 1908 Brands, is named for the year his great-grandfather, William Kent, donated the 300 acres of land that became California's Muir Woods National Park to the federal government.
But now, Steve Savage is chasing an even bigger legacy: becoming "the next Boulder Brands," which in November sold for nearly $1 billion.
1908's recent purchase of Paleo snack maker Wholly Bites last month kicked off what Savage hopes will be a frenzied year of acquisitions. We sat down with Savage to learn more about his ambitious plans:
Longmont's Wholly Bites is your third acquisition (joining cleaning products brand Boulder Clean and home compost maker CompoKeeper) and your first food product. Are you moving away from non-food ventures?
Being here in Boulder and being surrounded by 200 natural food companies, we felt we should get into food.
Our recent staff meeting started in the snack aisle at Whole Foods. We were looking at all the things there, seeing where there were new trends, new opportunities.
What about Wholly Bites attracted you? Are you jumping on the Paleo bandwagon?
Wholly Bites is a great product, with a lot of opportunities. We're going to roll out Paleo bars, meat and veggie bars, next under that brand.
Paleo trends are translating across categories. Look at (meat snacks business) Epic. They sold last week to General Mills.
In general, I want our brands to be accepted in a Target. We always try to market to the conservative shopper and the LOHAS (lifestyle of health and sustainability) crowd.
What other companies are you looking at for 2016?
We want to have four to six new brands by the end of the year. Right now, we're having conversations with two dozen different brands.
That's an ambitious goal, and quite a bit faster than your previous growth. How are you going to do it?
We've grown quite a bit, from eight to 13 employees.
We've been doing this for five years. I've been trying to get the company to a point where we can handle this, and I think we can.
What's the game plan for reaching Boulder Brands status? Is there anything about their journey that you want to do differently?
The ultimate goal is one of two things: An IPO or a private equity sale. It could be a few years from now or 20 years away. As long as it's fun.
At Eco Products, after $50 million in revenue, it became nine hours of meetings to get one percent more in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). I gave up.
At 1908, our niche can be small companies: less than $5 million in revenue. They're the ones that need the most help.
Also, we're going to develop our own brands from scratch. We're actually launching our fourth brand — our first developed product — at Expo West. But I can't tell you what it is!
This is what I enjoy doing: creating brands.