This is part of my Series on Entrepreneurial Culture.
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know a remarkable entrepreneur by the name of Jules Lambert, President of PROBAR. Jules was telling the story of his entrepreneurial journey, which, as is the case with most “natural born-entrepreneurs”, was essentially one and the same with his personal journey.
His entrepreneurial odyssey is as varied as they come. It took him from his native Northwest Washington all the way to the Ukraine, Russia and back- only to begin again with a journey that essentially saw him circumnavigate the entire expanse of the United States. In fields as varied as personal health and wellness to family-owned kitchen and bath design/build firms to the food industry, his distinctive brand of ingenuity, willingness to adapt to any circumstance and unwavering integrity has carried him through the ups and downs. As I do not have sufficient space here to relate his entire tale, I will begin at what was perhaps the most critical juncture:
In 2004, Jules, his wife and two daughters found themselves in a very tight spot. After almost six years in the family business in their hometown of Bellingham, WA, they sold the house and everything they owned and moved to Salt Lake and settled into to the basement of his in-laws. Sara was 7 months pregnant and Jules was looking for his next move- but money was extremely tight. Circumstances were in fact critical. As always, he remained positive, kept his chin up and was out in the field talking to people. Through one chance conversation he was introduced to the founder of PROBAR, a Utah-based maker of great-tasting (I’ve tried them) and nutritious bars containing 15 whole foods that are 100% vegan. Although he had no direct experience in the field, the owners saw something special in him and the CEO, Jeff Coleman made him a simple proposition: Sell bars and we’ll figure out the rest later. If not, well - no harm, no foul. As the first full-time employee/commissioned sales person for the company, Jules set out to build the sales and found immediate opportunities to implement systems and structure to the foundation of the new venture.
Jules and his family did not take this opportunity lightly. Recognizing this as a major opportunity in their lives, they, as a family, were going to make the most of it. Jules, his wife Sara and their (now) three daughters proceeded to embark on a two year road trip aboard a 100 sq. ft. RV bedecked with the PROBAR logo and provisioned with loads of cases of the PROBAR product. (You can see the photos of the family and the legendary RV above and below this post.) Five months into the epic journey, Jules parked the RV outside a birth clinic near Boston and Sara gave birth their first son, Nicholas in Milford, NH. Ironic but unplanned, Nicholas followed his father's footsteps as Jules was born in a VW bus 32 years earlier en route to a birth clinic in the Pacific Northwest. Embracing the gypsy lifestyle completely, Sara proceeded to home-school their daughters and Jules proceeded to sell and promote PROBAR all across the United States while crisscrossing the country. It turned out to be a transformative journey for the Lamberts and for PROBAR.
Today Jules is the President of PROBAR and is one of the owners of the company. During his tenure, he has, along with his colleagues helped transform PROBAR from a small, single product organization selling to a regional audience to an innovative natural foods company on a mission with 18 products on shelves across the US and Canada.
Here are some additional items of
interest about both the company and the RV journey:
*PROBAR now has 40 full-time employees
*PROBAR manufactures all of its own products
*Jules and his family traveled to 48 (mainland) states while in the RV - the RV wouldn't fit on the ferry to Hawaii, but it might on the Alaska Ferry!
*Backing up on a NYC highway to avoid one of the low overpasses is very difficult at night - but the kids never woke up despite the passing, honking drivers.
*Mission: PROBAR® creates delicious, convenient, healthy, plant-based food products. “We strive to become the leading provider of REAL FOOD choices, always maintaining our commitment to quality, sustainability, and fantastic taste.”
*Core Values at PROBAR: “Treat business like you treat family. At PROBAR® we recognize that growing our business goes hand-in-hand with nurturing relationships and encouraging personal growth. We create meaningful, long-term connections with our employees, vendors and customers in a community where trust rules. PROBAR® is not just a job, it’s a shared passion.”