It all started with a little red wagon and a family recipe.
When Joel Clark was a kid, his mother, Penny, was a bit of a natural foods pioneer. It was the '80s — Jane Fonda was making workout videos and most people had no idea what kale was. But Penny would make homemade green smoothies and grind her own wheat. She had a recipe from her dad for healthy, whole wheat pancakes, which the family loved.
Then when Joel was 8, his mother helped him package the pancake mix into brown lunch bags with the recipe written on the outside. Joel piled his inventory into his little red wagon and off he went, selling the mix to his neighbors in Salt Lake City.
Back then, it was simply a fun summer activity. Now, decades later, Joel, 43, has built a booming brand around the pancake mix and is expecting to hit well over $100 million in revenue for 2018. His Kodiak Cakes is even the top-selling brand in the pancake mix category at Target, beating out big brands like Aunt Jemima and Bisquick, according Target data provided by Kodiak. Target declined to comment to CNBC.
But it took decades of hard work — and a failed pitch to investors on ABC's “Shark Tank” — to build the business.