Robert Orion Sikes is a lifetime natural, competitive bodybuilder. He started training as a junior in high school weighing a whopping 115 pounds. In the beginning, he followed traditional, “bro-dieting” wisdom which consisted of eating 6 or 7 meals a day filled with carbohydrates and very high protein. This nutritional protocol led to a downward spiral of health issues and disordered eating.
After his third bodybuilding competition, Robert decided to try something new and began experimenting with a high fat, strict ketogenic approach to bodybuilding. He formulated his own approach to contest prep nutrition leveraging keto and earned his pro-status with bodybuilding in 2017.
He has since dedicated his life to learning and teaching others the benefits of following a well formulated, ketogenic lifestyle. The lessons learned led to his creation of the Keto Brick, a 1,000 calorie, ketogenic performance meal.
Robert now works alongside his wife Crystal and their amazing team to continually create content and add a ton of value within this community. His mission is, and will continue to be, empowering others to believe in themselves and truly tap into their full potential by optimizing their body and mind.
Where to Find Robert Orion Sikes
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For anybody that doesn't have a clue. What I would recommend doing is simply finding somebody that's doing something similar to what they can see themselves, one thing to do, and then just spend as much time with them as possible to see them in the highs and see them in the lows, and then make sure that's what they actually want to do.Natasha:
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It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Robert Orion Sikes is a lifetime natural, competitive bodybuilder. He formulated his own approach to contest prep, nutrition, leveraging keto, and in doing so developed the Keto Brick.
He earned his pro status with bodybuilding in 2017 and runs his coaching via his company, Keto Savage. Now let's get right into it.
Robert 01:41Keto Savage was formed in 2016. I just started the ketogenic diet, not long before that. And I wanted to just put myself out there in the business entrepreneurial space, and that seemed like a viable name.
I like the word Savage and it just fit. And then Keto Brick came much later as a, basically a way to scratch my own interest so to speak .During my 2017 competition prep, I was making foods that helped with my meal prep needs and the Keto Brick was born and it stuck. People liked it. There was a demand for it.
And my girlfriend at the time, wife now, rolled up our sleeves, made a food product business, and that became Keto Brick. So that's super high level.Natasha:
First of all, the word Savage and Brick, they have so much energy behind them. You're a little bit too nice to be called a Savage. I mean maybe you have a different persona.Robert:
Yeah, if you see me in a competition prep, I'm a little bit meaner then.Natasha:
So let's talk about the Brick. What's in it? It's not the size of a brick, is it?Robert:
It's pretty big. I mean, it's a thousand calories each. So like a typical bar is 200, 150 calories. This one's a thousand calories, so it's much bigger than a typical bar. And it is in the shape of a brick. So it's dense, it's calorically dense. It's also just a dense food product. So the term brick is quite fitting.Natasha:
And where is it sold? Where can people get it?Robert:
It's sold everywhere. We ship worldwide. It's ketobrick.com for the site there. And it's basically just a perfectly shelf-stable ketogenic meal replacement bar.Natasha:
Are you in stores right now?Robert:
Yeah. So most of our business direct to consumer, but we're really tackling the wholesale market, reaching out to various different retailers and have it in stock on the shelves there.
But yeah, we do all the production in-house. I've got my employees here in the warehouse right now, making these as we speak and we've done it ourselves form day one.Natasha:
Yeah, business to consumer is one thing. And if you start there then wholesale, that's a whole another game. How is that going through?Robert:
It's going pretty good. We hired a full-time manager slash wholesale extraordinary. So his name's Kevin and he's been making a bunch of sales calls. We're really just trying to target more mom and pop style shops as opposed to going for like a Walmart. Because a lot of times when you go to a Walmart or really big box retailer, they have certain demands on what they want from an ingredient standpoint.
And for us, like we were really specific on the quality of ingredients and what the actual bricks' design purpose was. So we're really targeting more of the niche markets, like the ketogenic retailers, things of that nature.Natasha:
Smart and then eventually one day you'll just cave and be in every store. What is the shelf life?Robert:
So we say it's a year, but it's technically longer than a year, but we just put a year on there to play it safe.Natasha:
I really pay attention to those labels. And I'm hearing in the news, they're arbitrary, or you can eat it or consume it so many months or weeks after. I just go by the label, which probably means I'm buying a lot more stuff than I need to.Robert:
Labels are tricky. I mean, now that I've got a food product business, I've learned so much that I would never have known otherwise, like there's like a 20% MST, one way or the other for the nutritional accuracy of those labels.Natasha:
One way or the other.Robert:
So you might be eating something that says it's a hundred calories, but it may only be 80 or 120, but you don't really know what's in it officially.
And like shelf stability is oftentimes not really accurate. There's a lot of inaccuracies in manufactured products, but that's another one of the reasons that we've just kept the production in house from the very beginning. So we just have complete oversight.Natasha:
Okay, one more thing about the Keto Brick. What does it taste like?Robert:
It does not taste like a Snickers bar, so if you're not following a ketogenic diet and you grab this thing and you're going to meet in a Snickers bar, it's not that it's not very sweet. By comparison it's quite a bit saltier, but once you become keto adapted to your flavor, palette changes considerably and you don't honestly want the sweetness.
You want more saltiness. The main ingredient is cacao butter, so it's like a chocolate. And like a dark chocolatey texture and each have various different flavors, but yeah, definitely not a Snickers bar.Natasha:
Okay. So you're running this business. What do you focus on and what do you delegate?Robert:
Yeah, so we all wear many hats. Small business, you wear many hats. So I do a lot of the business strategy. Like I do a lot of branding. I record podcasts, I'm running a book that's getting published this month.
So I'm doing a lot more of like big picture branding and strategy stuff. We've got my wife who does a lot of the influencer marketing outreach and she does like all the payroll, she pays the bills, all that stuff.
Kevin is our manager slash wholesale guy. And then we have administrative assistants, Ellen, who does all of our email correspondence. She packages and ships all the orders. And then we have a full-time media guy, Chip. He does all of our videography. He does all of our photography. He does all of our media work. And then we have two employees in the back making the bricks, Bryson and Dylan.Natasha:
You know the names of your employees right now. And sometime in the future, when it gets to potentially over a hundred, you won't. I know all my employees names.
I don't know all of my freelancers, but it's an interesting place to be in the life cycle of a business.Robert:
Yeah. It's interesting because, and I'd love to get your take on this. I don't know if you've got a specific direction when to take things here, but I've oftentimes thought what is the tipping point between scaling the business to the best it could possibly be, but then also retaining the cultural vibe that you cherish so much and being content.
Not necessarily satisfied, but content and happy with enough in the sense that you don't necessarily want to scale so much so that it takes away the joy of the business in the first place.Natasha:
I think this is a great conversation. I actually talked a little bit about this with someone that was interviewing me for their podcast about leadership in the future.
And what I was saying was, I think in medium and large scale businesses, the culture and leadership is so different because there's so many layers of management and you do lose that authentic relationship with your employees.
But I love the potential that you just said in scaling and growing your business, you may be subconsciously putting a ceiling on it, which knowing what you want to do is amazing because some people, a lot of people are like, I'm going to scale and grow to a degree.
I'm going to be a billion dollar company. But they're not thinking what does it take to run a billion dollar company? And is that really within your life frame of what you want to be doing? Some people, the answer is yes. Some people, the answer is no.
I think for me, A few years ago. I would've said I don't want a billion dollar company. I don't want anything to do with that. But the truth is now that I've been in business so long and I've done so many interviews now with great entrepreneurs, I realized that I could own and be the CEO of a billion dollar company.
You just need incredible people underneath you managing, running, doing everything so that I'm just the visionary and the strategist, and then everyone else is doing that.
But to answer your question about culture and keeping that, I think it's really hard. And I think there are ways around it, but that is extra employees and extra expenses that I think companies on the larger scale aren't necessarily willing to invest in, but probably if they did, they would see a great return on investment.
So that's future forward for both of us.Robert:
Yeah. No, for sure. It's always good to think preemptively about that, as opposed to just always seeking a larger, gross revenue, as opposed to what you're actually trying to accomplish by having that larger gross revenue, that might get away from you.Natasha:
Exactly. So we're talking numbers now. When we talk about gross revenue, let's talk about what is a healthy net revenue, net profit look like for you and your industry. And let's talk about the keto bar, the brick, instead of everything else that you're doing, because there are different margins for the different things that you're working on.Robert:
Yeah. So by just the food industry standard, we're probably far below what is a healthy net revenue from a food product. Most food product companies, they put quite a bit of a margin on their food product. So they then offer a bunch of discounts like within the nutritional bar space, especially like if you go into a grocery store and you go down to the bar aisle, like it fills the entire aisle. There's just so many bars out there nowadays.
I also didn't want to compete in that market because it just becomes a race to the bottom and then you would have to sacrifice quality. You'd have to cut corners. I didn't want to do that because for me, the business was built on the need for the product for myself personally, I wanted to manifest that and offer as a value, add for the people in the community.
So we don't do discounts. We don't do a lot of the things that a lot of the other bar companies do. We've carved out a unique niche for ourself that's not even really technically in the bar category. It's like a meal replacement in its entirety.
And we've really just focused on the organic marketing so that we're not doing all these discounts, aren't doing all these things to try and compete with other bars and drive the market down. So we operate on a much thinner margin than other bar companies do, but we offer a higher quality product than they do. And I'm totally fine with that.Natasha:
Do you consider the Keto Brick a compliment to your other businesses where you're willing to not really pay attention to the most profit you can get out of it for now? Is that what I'm hearing from you?Robert:
Yeah. There's so many different avenues of the business. Like the Keto Brick entity brings in the vast majority of the cashflow, for sure. But there's less margin on the Keto Bricks relative to like my online coaching or the books or the online courses, which are mostly on digital products.
So by having all of those in tandem, we can stay safe. We're also actually starting an apparel company where we're going to do all of our own screen printing and handle our own apparel design. So that'll be a great margin as well, relative to the food product. So really just figuring out different demands within our target market and then giving the people what they want in that regard and staying on brand across all the different sub brands.Natasha:
Yeah. I love that you're really expanding into your brand with things that are really relevant. And it made me wonder, so you're a bodybuilder, you're an athlete, health guru slash health net, whatever. But you're an entrepreneur and I can really see the wheels turning. Did you know that you are going to be an entrepreneur and in your own business as a younger person?Robert:
I knew that I wanted to, I didn't know how to. So I had done all kinds of get rich quick online schemes. I'd done all the YouTube gurus for ways to make money online, drop ship products, sell on Amazon, all that stuff. And nothing really worked for me until, a big pivoting point for me was when I read Gary Vaynerchuck's book Crush It.
Because that was all about doubling down on your passion, add value, live and breathe that. And that's what I started doing because I was so passionate about fitness, nutrition, bodybuilding, and the ketogenic diet. So combining all those passions and creating a business and value out of that led to where we are today.
And it's just for me, it's very invigorating because I get emails single day about something I've said on a podcast or some form of content I put on a YouTube video or the bricks themselves have had a positive impact on people's health. And for me, that's what it's all about.Natasha:
That's awesome, you mentioned Gary V who, at one point he turned me off and then he really just broke through to me and I really do like what he stands for and what he's putting out there on the world. So I'm going to ask you, are you moving into NFTs and crypto and anything along those lines within your business?Robert:
I am not. Not that I wouldn't in the future, but I have not pulled that trigger yet. Honestly, I haven't watched much of a Gary V's stuff lately. For a while there, he was used to getting very repetitive and he'll admit to that as well, but that's like the beauty of what he says, like it works, he just keeps saying the same thing.
And once you've heard it enough times, you just need to stop listening to it and apply it. So that's what I've been doing. I've just been having my head down and putting in the work and not really doing much consuming of content because I'm doing much more creating of content. But yeah, I know he's hot on NFTs right now.
And I haven't had enough mental bandwidth to dive into that world just yet, but I probably should.Natasha:
Yes. I was telling the guy that was interviewing me yesterday. NFTs, the metaverse, all of that stuff, it's not the future. It's actually right now. And I can't think of anything right off the top of my head, that would be an absolute fit.
But I would encourage you to start looking at that, whether it's Gary V or Mark Cuban or whoever touting it. It really is now, and you have such a young, incredible brand to be able to introduce something to your market that seems like it's ahead of times might be cool.
Okay. I don't know how this turned into me giving you advice that you didn't ask for, but -Robert:
It's always good.Natasha:
What is the biggest challenge that you're facing today in running, scaling?Robert:
Having a physical product these past two years have been interesting from like a supply chain standpoint, because all the prices have increased. Like FedEx and USPS have all increased their prices on me, like six times, I want to say in the last two years. So really making sure that it doesn't cut too deeply into my margins and then just being strategic in how I continue to brand and grow the business. It's been good.
All of my suppliers, their prices have increased on ingredients and things of that nature. So staying ahead of the curve in that regard has been challenging. I think once you have employees, I feel like managing people is without a doubt, the hardest overarching aspect in a business.
I've hired several people. I've fired several people. I've learned a lot in every interaction. I'm really proud of the crew we have. I don't see any crazy issues in the near future. Hopefully that's the case, but managing people is without a doubt, the most challenging thing that I've dealt with.Natasha:
I would agree with you. I have a great team. It wasn't always that way.
And really you have to look to yourself and what you've done to learn how to write a great job description and outcomes, how to interview, how to source and qualified candidates, how to develop them. It is like we have to do so much as entrepreneurs. It's so much work and then you enter other human beings into the equation and oh my God, it is not easy.
Anyway, thank you for sharing that. So what are you looking at this year to 2022 as a big strategy for growth?Robert:
So we have a lot, like I've got a lot of digital services coming down. So the book is launching the 30th of this month. I'm really excited about that.Natasha:
What's it called?Robert:
Ketogenic Bodybuilding. So it's all about competition money building from a natural competitor standpoint, leveraging the ketogenic diet.
I'm going to be building out a companion course that accompanies that. Later in the year, I've got a baby on the way in may, due in May. So that's amidst all the business stuff is going to be interesting for sure.Natasha:
Get a night nurse, if you have a night nurse, I've heard, I did not get the opportunity to do this, but it sounds so luxurious.Robert:
Yeah, it'll be interesting for sure. I'll be wearing even more hands when that comes around, but yeah. And then we've got seven new flavors coming out within the Keto Brick business. We've got the apparel company that we're going to start ramping up here as well. So lots of irons in the fire for sure.Natasha:
That's a lot irons. Wow. Okay. So last question that I'd like to know is what is one thing you wished you knew about starting and running a business that you didn't know before? Is there any shockers, both positive or negative.Robert:
I was lucky because my uncle owns his own business. So I was able to work for him.
I worked for him every summer for many years when I was in high school and even in the college. And I had the luxury of just seeing his highs and lows, I was able to really grasp what that was like. So that honestly shed a lot of light on the entrepreneurial world for me.
There's definitely things that I've learned, like the extent of the sacrifices you make once you get into business. The hurdles that come your way, that you would never even anticipate coming your way. And then if someone was to give me a list at the beginning of all the things that I would have to do to be successful in business, I don't think anybody would check off on that list and say, "Okay, yeah, this is what I want to do with my life."Natasha:
No, we shouldn't let anyone know this because nobody would say, "You know what, that's for me."Robert:
It's daunting and overwhelming, but once you start getting into it, you start getting some momentum. You just start tackling those obstacles one by one, one day after another, and you're able to make it through it all.
But for anybody that doesn't have a clue, what I would recommend doing is simply finding somebody that's doing something similar to what they can see themselves, one thing to do, and then just spend as much time with them as possible. See them in the highs and see them in the lows and then make sure that's what they actually want to do.
Because the entrepreneurial life is not like glitz and glamor life that everybody likes to tout it as, that's just not the reality. I love the life of an entrepreneur, but it is not for everybody.
So really putting yourself in somebody's shoes that is in the trenches doing it so that you can gain a clear perspective of the highs and the lows is going to be really good.Natasha:
Robert talked to us about maintaining culture in business, how he approaches quality and profit with this food product, and all of the things he's building to augment his company this year. For more information, go into the shownotes for your listening to this podcast.
Want to know more about me? Go to my website, officialnatashamiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS