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Client Spotlight: Step One Foods

WomenVenture loan clients, Liz Klodas, Barb Birr, and Bill Alldredge, are the owners of Step One Foods in St. Louis Park

As a cardiologist, Liz Klodas has seen many patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases and she’s always shocked and frustrated with how they struggle to make the necessary dietary changes to effectively manage their health. Rather than relying solely on medications to manage risk factors, Liz set out to create an easy-to-understand, beneficial health product that she could recommend to her patients. A mutual friend connected Liz with Barb Birr, a food consultant and marketer, and Bill Alldredge, a financial analyst, and soon after, Step One Foods was born. 

Established in 2009, Step One Foods offers a line of food products high in fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, plant sterols, and antioxidants—all of which are proven to reduce cholesterol and boost cardiovascular health. “Cardiovascular diseases are really food and lifestyle related,” says Barb. “People don’t have good information and it’s hard to make good choices.” To help reduce the guesswork, their product line includes bars, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and yes--even chocolate. 

During their startup phase, Liz and Barb needed funding to manufacture their products and establish offices in St. Louis Park. Lacking operating revenue, they were turned down for financing by traditional lenders. So they reached out to WomenVenture, who reviewed their business plan and collateral, and offered them a loan. “When we were getting started, some days just keeping the lights on was the hardest thing,” admits Barb. “WomenVenture was so helpful in giving us a loan that no one else would give us.”

By 2015, Step One Foods had 5 employees, a solid client base, and were ready to grow their business. Hoping to gain the trust of medical practitioners, they set out to validate their products as an alternative to prescription drugs by conducting clinical trials at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB. Because of their trusted relationship with WomenVenture, they came back for a second loan to get the clinical trials off the ground. 

Although they don’t yet have the results of the clinical trials, Liz and Barb are optimistic about Step One’s potential for growth. “Being able to say that our trial was done at the Mayo Clinic is a tremendous endorsement for us,” says Barb. The second trial conducted in Manitoba will enable them to enter the Canadian market and sell their products across the border. 

In addition to the two loans, Barb notes that, “the networking and introductions received through WomenVenture have been incredible. Many doors have opened as a result.” WomenVenture connected Step One Foods to the MN Cup at the Carlson School of Management, which got the attention of many of the big name distributors they had been pursuing. 

Because of the tremendous amount of support Step One Foods has received, they don’t hesitate to recommend WomenVenture to other women entrepreneurs and they look forward to continuing the relationship. “As long as they will support us, we’ll continue to work with them because they stood up for us before anyone else would. That means a lot to us.”

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