Poor snacking habits aren’t easy to shake, and most of us are no stranger to the struggle of finding alternative, guilt-free options that are just as delicious as they are nourishing. To help change that, husband and wife team Brian and Lauren Back founded BackAttack Snacks. Their company offers tasty, healthy snacking alternatives, including certified angus beef jerky, vegan mushroom jerky and flavored oven-roasted almonds.

Lauren is also a graduate of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.

Excited to share her entrepreneurial experience, Lauren recently sat down with us to discuss how Backattack Snacks came to be, what separates her brand from the competition and her plans for expanding the business in the near future.

What inspired you to create Backattack Snacks?
My husband and I participated in a healthy eating challenge at a CrossFit gym in Dayton, where we lived at the time. The coaches suggested to eat nuts and jerky, because they are good sources of protein. In our meal planning at the grocery store, we looked at the back of these products and noticed they were filled with sugar and other ingredients that we couldn’t read or understand. So, my husband said, “I’ll just make it myself.”

He got a dehydrator for Christmas and started making beef jerky. We took it to the gym, we took it to church, and someone at church said, ‘I’ll give you this much money for a pound, this is the best I’ve ever had.’ So, we were going through 50 pounds of raw meat per week, making jerky out of our garage. Then, one day we had an extra bowl of marinade with no beef to put in it. So Brian looked in the pantry and found some almonds, and put them in the marinade—that’s how our original recipe almonds were born.

We did it as a side job out of our house, just for fun—for friends and family. Then life took a turn, as it often does, and we moved from Dayton to Cleveland. We took that as the perfect opportunity to pursue Backattack Snacks full-time.

What separates Backattack Snacks from your competition?
Backattack Snacks differs from our competitors because we use simple ingredients. We have no added process or refined sugar, no preservatives, no nitrates, acids or cures—it’s simply beef and spices or almonds and spices. It’s food, not science.

How did you connect with the Core City: Cleveland program? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who need help?
We applied for the Cleveland Chain Reaction Competition, and they sent out an email telling us to reach out to someone at JumpStart to help us with our business pitch proposal. I initially met with JumpStart’s Lorne Novick, and then I realized—wow, JumpStart has a lot of resources that would be useful for us in growing our business. I researched JumpStart and saw what you had to offer, saw that you had this program, and then I applied.

As for my advice, reach out to anyone and everyone that you can. Running your own business is difficult, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. Reach out for help, people are always willing to help.

What have been some of your biggest takeaways from the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program?
I’ve been partnered with wonderful advisors who know some things about the industry, but more so how business works, especially the financials. I’m a teacher by trade and knew nothing about running a business.

Meeting with them weekly, having them help me understand the concepts that we’re learning in class and even having them push me to go a little further than what’s expected of us in class has really helped me open my eyes to what it takes to run business. The wealth of knowledge everyone has, and their eagerness to share and help us be successful is more than I anticipated.

What are your future plans for your business?
We are in the process of acquiring our own production facility. We want to be able to produce our own products and hire people to help with the production and sales. We are on the verge of launching beef jerky in stores, so our wholesale operations will become larger. We also want to do a shared kitchen with a couple of other vendors, and co-packing as well.

In addition, we’ve noticed that there’s a huge discrepancy between small food service providers and distribution. A lot of companies that want to carry your product require you to go through a distributor, and a lot of the distributors want you to have a lot of stores carrying your product. There’s a huge disconnect in being able to acquire accounts, so we want to help bridge that gap and create our own distributorship to help small food companies get into more stores, more easily.

COre City: Cleveland

Gloria Ware

Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.