Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Batter Blaster

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Batter Blaster

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Sean O'Conner, CEO of Batter Blaster has won an innovation award from the Grocery Manufacturers Association for his ready to use pancake batter in a spray can; but has he won the acceptance of the grocery shopper?

In 2001 at age 34, Sean started a San Francisco restaurant three weeks before the bay area dot-com bubble went bust. The bust was a hard economic downturn for the area business community that was heavily based in the internet sector. The loss of the internet based companies also took down several other businesses in the area. With fewer paychecks and working lunch crowds some 700 restaurants went out of business in the bay area. Sean O'Conner's restaurant was one that survived. Knowing he had to bring something other than high priced unique yak and bear-meat burgers to the depressed market, he built a stage in his restaurant, changed the menu to cheap snack foods and survived as a music club. All those late nights managing the club meant fatigued mornings. Despite the fatigue, Sean wanted to be able to spend breakfast with his wife and kids and occasionally make his wife's favorite breakfast, pancakes. Making pancakes always meant a mess in the kitchen and more time and energy than he had, thus his idea was bom. Why can't the pancake batter be in a spray can just like the whipped cream used to top off the pancakes?

In 2005 Sean O'Connor quit the restaurant business and devoted his time to creating and selling Batter Blaster. Sean O'Connor teamed up with Nate Steck, who is a food manufacturing connoisseur, and together they raised $1.5 million dollars to launch the line and buy the equipment to manufacture what is now known as the Batter Blaster. With only eleven employees, Steck and O'Connor have managed to place their Blaster in over 10,000 stores across the country. Just five years later Batter Blaster has sold over two million cans in just one year. Since the creation of the Batter Blaster in Austin, Texas, the aerosol pancake mix has prompted an almost cult like following with constant blogs. Facebook groups such as "The Church of Batter Blaster" and a plethora of YouTube videos are examples of these cult-like groups. Recently history has been made with Batter Blaster when they and a local charity in Atlanta teamed up in May to break the Guinness World Record. They succeeded by cooking 76,382 pancakes in eight hours. However, O'Conner's blast into success did not come without some hurdles.

RAISING MONEY

To perfect the batter recipe Sean needed to work with a food science lab to develop the best recipe for use in a refrigerated spray can. To fund this research Sean O'Connor turned to investors. However, selling his idea to investors was unsuccessful. Potential investors were skeptical that the combination of pancake batter, especially the organic version, in a spray can would appeal to shoppers. After talking to a lot of institutional investors and private equity funds that invest in growing businesses Sean O'Conner came to the conclusion that many of them were more comfortable with a truly developed category like a new flavor of potato chips. Sean had difficulty in predicting the seasonal ebb and flow and the growth of his product to supply estimates to potential investors since there was no historical record for his product and no similar products. This raised a question: "Do investors really want innovation or do they want tried and true?"

To get the funding needed to perfect the product and build the manufacturing line O'Conner raised $6 million dollars from friends and family. One of those investors, O'Conner's father, is now the Chief Financial Officer and is a member of the board for the company. Sean can be described as a very hands-on CEO. He will thoroughly review Batter Blaster's billing to understand why it looks the way it does and how it affects the financial statements. Though, Sean vows not to become a micro manager.

INNOVATION AND COMPETITION

Sean O'Conner spent three years perfecting the formula, packaging, and production of Batter Blaster. …

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