Honey Stinger hopes to create buzz with new CEO, campaign
Richard Thompson joined Honey Stinger in early 2022 as an interim CEO, and it was not long before the businessman took a more permanent interest and a more permanent role in the honey-based, sports-nutrition performance snack company.
“After I looked around and saw what was going on, I decided that Honey Stinger was the opportunity I was looking for,” said Thompson, who accepted the permanent role as CEO in January. “In the last five months, I have put my touch on everything.”
That includes adding a basketball court smack dab in the middle of the company’s headquarters, as well as several other features including workout rooms where employees can ride Pelotons, lift weights and take a Yoga class.
Thompson, who founded Factory LLC in 2018 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, along with partners Tim Pollack and Keith Caldwell, said the history, people and promise of Honey Stinger impressed him immediately. More important, he wanted to be a part of the company’s rise to the next level.
“We’re going to have fun. We’re going to be sports. We’re going to bring people up here, and we’re going to show them what sports nutrition is about,” Thompson said. “I don’t care who you are. If you have a passion — whether it’s fishing, or golfing, or running, or hiking, or biking, or skiing or swimming — whatever it is, we want to be able to cater to all those people.”
Earlier this week, Honey Stinger invited its partners and the community inside its headquarters at 3495 Airport Circle, next to the runways at the Steamboat Springs Airport, as the company launched its first-ever brand campaign, You Don’t Have To Be A Pro.
It was also a chance to introduce the new CEO to the community.
“People like you and I, we have full permission now to use Honey Stinger. We don’t have to be an Olympic champion, or the World Cup guy or somebody that wins all the races,” Thompson said. “Everybody’s got a mission in life. It may be walking a mile, running a mile, but whatever that might be, we want to tell people that we have products to help them prepare, perform and recover.”
Thompson could not be at the event, but he joined the ceremony through Zoom alongside Honey Stinger athletes such as Los Angeles Clippers star Robert Covington and Robert Paylor, a former collegiate rugby player who was paralyzed in the 2017 Collegiate Rugby National Championship.
He shared his inspirational story of walking across the stage in 2021 to accept his diploma from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley during the school’s first live graduation ceremony since the start of the pandemic.
The kickoff party also included a live appearance by another Honey Stinger athlete, Taylor Fletcher. Fletcher is a four-time Olympian, and local Nordic combined icon who retired at the end of the season. Fletcher spoke to the crowd and took questions from the audience.
It was also the first chance for Thompson, who still lives in Pennsylvania, to interact with the community of Steamboat Springs.
Thompson said he has been looking for a home in Steamboat, but has yet to find the right place.
“I’ve made an offer on several properties, but you know, if you don’t make the offer the day or the week it goes on the market, it’s sold,” Thompson said. “So, I’ve become really good friends with the people over at the Marriott Residence Inn.”
Thompson currently splits his time between Colorado and Pennsylvania, leading this one-of-a-kind investment company that — in addition to capital — provides strategic guidance to food, beverage and pet entrepreneurs in areas like marketing, supply chain, new product development and sales.
“Factory is an innovation center, and a scale-up center where we invest in smaller companies under $20 million … and then we take our talent, and our resources, and help them scale up sooner faster,” Thompson said.
He has said he is a Kansas farm boy who spent two years in college before starting a career building companies. Some of his successful endeavors include the American Italian Pasta Company, which was the largest producer of pasta in North America, along with Meow Mix and Freshpet. Thompson led these three emerging companies to exits valued at $3 billion.
Thompson is founder and managing partner of Factory, which manages the Honey Stinger brand along with other upcoming brands such as Mikey’s, Stuffed Puffs, Pipcorn, ROAR, Partake and Sampler.
One thing that was clear is Thompson is excited to be in Steamboat and excited about where Honey Stinger is headed.
The company announced it has added new products including nut and seed bars, and mini-waffles, as well as a new line of hydration mixes. There are also new flavors such as cookie and cream waffles, as well as mango melon and Stingerita Lime chews, plus new variety and sampler packs.
The places offering Honey Stinger products has also grown with distribution at Walmart, Target and Kroger.
The company is also growing its Hive, which encompasses a range of supporters from elite level athletes to lesser-known individuals. Thompson said the Hive currently has 300,000 members and is growing.
“The products were always in the bike shops, and REI, and sporting goods stores, and what we’re doing now is taking it to the retail customers,” Thompson said. “It’s like the best kept secret is Honey Stinger, and we’re going to share with the rest of America.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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