By Aly Rumel
About the Founder, Amie Kesler:
While many years in the making, it was in November 2020 that Amie Kesler turned her granny Carolyn’s favorite family party snack — a delicious, cheesy, cookie-cracker-combo — into a powerful female-owned startup that is on a mission to build connection, community, and a culture of conscious snacking, one Krisp at a time. Today, Amie runs Carolyn’s Krisps out of The Hatchery, a non-profit food incubator on Chicago’s west side. With three ridiculously addictive (and surprisingly vegan + gluten free!) flavors and plans to expand, Carolyn’s Krisps brings a fresh, plant-based spin to the spirit of snacking.
About the Author, Aly Rumel (Krisp fanatic and Carolyn’s Krisps intern):
Aly Rumel has spent the past few years in a quarter life crisis period of self-discovery, on a quest to pursue her passions and find meaningful work. Her journey has been filled with cookies and community (see: Aly’s Cookies and A Stoop Story), and most recently, a combo of both with Carolyn’s Krisps.
Hungry yet? Get your Krisp fix at carolynskrisps.com (nationwide shipping!) or around town at your local Foxtrot market. Grab a bag of Carolyn’s Krisps and join Amie and Aly for some Krisp kitchen table talk!
Aly: Tell us about Granny Carolyn and her history with the Krisps? How does she inspire you?
Amie: Granny Carolyn was known for her Krisps well before I was born. Holidays, special events, birthdays, book clubs, you name it, she had her Krisps in tow. I grew up on her Krisps at every family holiday and we always looked forward to those special holiday get-togethers when we could gather around a plate of Krisps. My mom helped her make them when she couldn’t anymore and eventually I would begin making them and carrying on her tradition.
When I think of Granny, I think of a motivated, determined, caring and humble woman who led by example. She was a trailblazer in her own right, who had a wit and refinement. She always said in school, she might not be the smartest person in the room but she sure would work the hardest. And there is that determination that is very much ingrained in who I am. Not to mention her love for community and caring for others around her. I truly believe it is an act of love when you create something for someone else and her Krisps were and still are very much that. That’s why we use the tagline “snack as you are” – because we invite everyone to the table.
Aly: When did you know it was time to take the leap to leave your steady job as a graphic designer to work on Carolyn’s Krisps full time? What advice do you have for other people who want to make a similar leap of faith with their careers (asking for a friend…)?
Amie: Hmm, I guess the funny thing is I knew for a while my role at the time wasn’t fulfilling my day-to-day joy of what I wanted my work to be. And sure, I had been planning (sort of) and slowly (very slowly) saving so I’d have the space to explore what working for myself would be like, but in all honesty I think the truth is, there really is never a “good time” to leave a job. We can make a lot of reasons as to why we should stay at a job that isn’t fulfilling, and why maybe next month is the better month to leave, but in reality it’s also a game of chance. At the end of the day, I was tired of not feeling excited to jump out of bed and tired of working for someone else.
There is a lot of trust involved in change. Trusting that what comes out on the other side could be way better and way more fulfilling than one could imagine. Or not. But I felt like it was worth the chance.
And yes, I now know having a cushion of savings to know I would be taken care of, that if I didn’t work for xxx number of months and if Carolyn’s Krisps didn’t succeed how I hoped, I’d be ok. But in reality, I think the time to leave found me, and I just followed. I have taken this mantra in the last few years of “following the energy,” which means to know when you are doing something, how does it make you feel, how does it make your body feel (your heart, your head, your soul, etc.), and if you are doing something that doesn’t make you feel good, maybe it’s time to start finding what does.
My advice for making life moves:
1: Start exploring and working to find what does bring you that joy and excitement before the leap. Start small, don’t put a lot of pressure in it, but follow the energy those things bring you. Get an “externship” ;), volunteer, play, explore, talk to others doing what you want to do or think you want to do. Aly, I think you are a great example of this, that’s how we met, you were working on Aly’s Cookies and wanted advice. We had coffee, chatted, stayed in touch and then boom, now we spend countless hours in and out of the kitchen working on growing this Krisp biz.
I’m going to do a 1.2 here…
1.2: Consider your options of how you can also make more time and flexibility in your schedule to spend working on your new business. Is it simply finding time in your day? Or is it going part-time/contract in your current position? Is it finding another job that is less taxing but just enough to help you out for a bit? I’ve honestly done all the above. I’ve convinced a job that I worked for to let me go part-time, which was a bonus for me and them. I’ve said this to people before, and they are like “my job would never let me do that.” And I thought the same, but it’s never a “no” until you ask.
2: Save. I hope my parents are proud of this one (ha), and I for the longest time lived under the premise that I don’t need a ton of money to quit a job and take that leap into something new. That I would just figure it out. Honestly, there is some truth to that sentiment, but I also think there is some comfort to having a bit of a cushion. I’ve lived both scenarios, quit with very little and traveled for a bit to work on my art because my soul needed the adventure, but then I’ve also done the second scenario of saving and then quitting.
The reality is also that a startup company requires capital and if you don’t have investors or grants or loans right off the bat, you will want at least the peace of mind knowing you are taken care of. And it doesn’t have to be a ton, but just enough to give you a little buffer. Not to mention, starting a company/new career/anything is stressful, and to have the fear of needing to know how you are going to pay your rent and bills, is really going to influence your decisions and next steps for growing that soon-to-be thriving company.
3: Just know, it’ll be scary. And you might feel crazy at times. No matter how prepared, how organized you think you are. That oh sh*t moment will hit. And it will hit hard. You might feel like you are falling and probably ask yourself what you are doing (multiple times), but the important part is letting the fall happen and enjoying the ride because you have to realize if it were easy and not scary everyone would do it. It’s also your life, your story, and no one else’s. I’ve definitely had a few people be like, “so what are you doing again?” Selling your grandma’s crackers? Lol. It requires a lot of hard work, a lot of persistence and patience, and most importantly trust (trust in yourself and the universe), but I guarantee if you are following what brings you that excitement building something bigger than yourself, you’re going to be just fine.
Aly: What’s it like working out of the Hatchery?
Amie: I feel so lucky to be a part of The Hatchery community and it’s program. And community is truly what it is. Working aside and with so many different companies and people at The Hatchery has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of this journey. The collaborations, the support, the friendships. The Hatchery is such a strong network of individuals and leaders, and honestly without the space this process would have been so much harder. If there is ever a question or problem we’re facing, whether it’s the Hatchery leadership team or other entrepreneurs, there is always someone there to turn to and talk to.
Aly: What’s a problem you frequently face as a founder?
Amie: That is an ever shape-shifting question. Haha. Honestly, at this moment in time it is changing almost day-to-day. I heard on a podcast (probably NPR’s “How I Built This”), that in reality being a founder is being a professional problem solver and that couldn’t be more true. There is always something cropping up, and usually as much as you think you can plan something, then something you didn’t even consider needs attention. Kind of like a game of whack-a-mole. Problem to your right, bam. Problem to your left, bam.
If I look at the bigger picture, I don’t think it’s a problem per say but something I have become very aware of, and that’s the need to find time for myself. My schedule is all over the place and while I tend to thrive in a little bit of chaos, this is also a long game, not a sprint, and finding ways to take care of myself (whether it’s walks, working out, meals with friends, meditating, etc) has become very important.
Aly: How do you stay motivated through the ups and downs of growing your business? (Especially during a global pandemic!)
Amie: I truly believe I just have such a bigger vision for what Carolyn’s Krisps can and will be, that if there is a tough day, I think back to that vision and keep going. And not to mention the people I’m constantly grateful for and surrounded with, looking at you Aly. I am very frequently humbled by how many people are constantly cheering us on and offering a helping hand, and because of that it constantly inspires me. The feeling that we aren’t on this journey alone. To come full circle, it’s really the Krisp community that is growing around this brand. It was built on community and growing because of it.
Aly: One of my favorite things about talking with entrepreneurs and creators is witnessing the spark and the passion when someone is clearly “in the zone.” How do you know when you’re in a state of flow?
Amie: Well, you’ll probably find me with a notebook and pen in hand (or frantically taking notes in my Notes App), but it’s when the internal chatter quiets and the ideas start flowing. This is when new flavors, new marketing ideas, clear visions come my way. When I hit that flow state, things just start to fall into place in my head.
Aly: In the kitchen you and I joke (but it’s serious!) that we’re building a Krisp Empire. In your eyes, what does the future Krisp Empire look like? What do you envision for Carolyn’s Krisps and the larger Krisp community in the coming years?
Amie: Haha, yes, we do, and it’s very serious. On a product level, it’s the vision of expanding into more retail locations nationally (and eventually internationally) and continually collaborating and creating experiences for people around food in unique ways. Food brings people together and I want to continue this idea of community and collaboration around our brand.
I also have a dream of creating jobs on a larger scale and really helping give back to our community, whether it’s through helping fight food insecurity, providing skills training and learning opportunities, or building more environmentally sustainable business practices. I believe the world is a better place when people are empowered to pursue their passions and share their unique gift with the world – Carolyn’s Krisps has been that outlet for me, and I hope that it will be the catalyst for many others as well.
Amie’s Quick Hits:
- Favorite Krisp pairing? Cheddar Krisp + pepper jam + pecan on top (that sweet heat gets me every time)
- One song you could listen to on repeat forever? Doo Wap by Lauryn Hill
- Zodiac sign? Sun: Cancer, Moon: Aries, Rising: Cancer
- Best thing you’ve read/listened to/watched so far in 2022? Any and all How I Built This episodes, and Dare to Lead with Brene Brown (her episode with Dr. Maya Shankar on Courage in the Midst of Change was really inspirational)
- Something you’re looking forward to this month? Moving closer to obtaining a private kitchen space (currently we work out of the shared kitchen space at The Hatchery).
Aly’s Quick Hits:
- Favorite Krisp pairing? Cinna krisp + manchego cheese
- One song you could listen to on repeat forever? Gypsy by Fleetwood Mac
- Zodiac sign? Capricorn (does it show??)
- Best thing you’ve read/listened to/watched so far in 2022? Queer Eye Season 6
- Something you’re looking forward to this month? New Krisp apparel coming soon…!!