Pictured above: The Gnarly Nutrition team in Little Cottonwood Canyon participating in a graffiti cleanup with Salt Lake Climbers Alliance.
Living in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountain Range is just one of the perks of doing business in Utah for Eli Kerr, CEO of Gnarly Nutrition. “At Gnarly we want to live life so that work, home, play, and our social lives are all integrated. We love that we live in a community where we can do this,” shares Eli. “Our friends are our customers, they are our brand partners, they are the people we ski and run mountain trails with … this builds great solidarity and connection.”
Gnarly’s Startup Story
Eli Kerr started Gnarly Nutrition for one reason: to make quality natural sports nutrition products that people actually want to eat. Five years ago he set out to do just that, and today Gnarly is an authentic, inspirational, and national brand with a full line of products that help people push boundaries, accomplish goals, and reach their potential.
The company’s slogan is Find Your Gnarly, which is to experience the process of becoming more through a commitment to discover what you’re capable of. But this isn’t so much a tagline as a way of life for the Gnarly team. Eli believes that authenticity builds brands—if his team makes a mistake, they own it, correct it, and seek to be more deliberate moving forward.
Gnarly Nutrition is now a well-established brand and presence in the sports nutrition market, inspiring its customers and sponsored pro athletes to want more, do more, and be more. “We rely on that knowledge with things get tough,” says Eli. “Our team isn’t willing to give up; we have a lot of grit. It’s just the kind of people we are.”
How Gnarly Conquers Financial Challenges
Eli and his co-founders started the company with private funds. “It’s pretty incredible that we have built a solid brand with just an initial couple hundred thousand dollars,” he says. “We have been profitable ever since.”
While Eli and his partners have bootstrapped and been very careful about their growth and expenses along the way, like many product-driven small businesses, cash flow has always been an issue. “The list of challenges we have experienced is exhausting,” shares Eli, who adds that financial challenges have always been at the core of the business’s struggles.
Gnarly Nutrition turned to Lendio for additional lines of credit to ease this cash flow burden and pay for purchase orders of products that haven’t sold yet. “We never use the funds to pay for operating or marketing expenses,” says Eli. “We make sure those are budgeted directly from our revenue.”
Eli’s advice for fellow small business owners? Be persistent, but be careful. Sometimes you’ll be so passionate about an idea you’ll try to convince everyone it’s right when it’s not a good fit for your business. When you hit a barrier as a business owner, get back in the saddle and keep trying. While the entrepreneurial journey may not be the easiest, with persistence it will pay off.
Utah is tied with California at No. 1 on Lendio’s 2018 Top 10 Best States for Small Business Lending. Learn more about why the Beehive and Golden States are such thriving hubs for small business.