Pennsylvania equity firm invests in Honey Stinger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After years of being chased by potential investors, Steamboat Springs’ homegrown energy food company, Honey Stinger, is finally taking on a partner they feel comfortable with.

“I don’t even think of them as an investor but really as a brand incubator,” said Bill Gamber, Honey Stinger co-founder and president.

Gamber is talking about equity investor Factory LLC, based out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

While Factory is loaded with a quarter billion dollars worth of capital, which they use to invest in unique food, beverage and pet health companies, it was Factory’s team of experts that lured Honey Stinger to the table.

“Other than the financial backing, they have an entire product development team … packaging specialists, sales and marketing support. It really expands our resources,” Gamber said.

Gamber declined to specify the amount Factory invested in Honey Stinger, which remains a private company.

While Steamboat residents were shocked at a recent announcement that Smartwool would be relocating its headquarters to Denver, Gamber said that’s not going to happen with Honey Stinger.

“With the partnership itself, there is no loss of jobs, and if anything, we’ll be expanding,” Gamber said. “I would say we’ll continue to grow the business here in Steamboat with a lot of support back in Pennsylvania.”

In 2016, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger moved their headquarters to a 20,500-square-foot building they purchased from Vectra Bank on Resort Drive. The move allowed the companies to consolidate and have all their employees under one roof.

Factory is known as an operating company that specializes in “scaling up” its partners’ businesses. In other words, Factory helps get more product out and put that product in more places.

Rich Thompson, Factory founder and managing partner, said most investment firms’ idea of a partnership is putting people in a conference room and “talking about a marketing plan.”

A photo from inside Factory’s Innovation and Scale-Up Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Thompson, who’s overseen the growth of big names like American Italian Pasta Company and Meow Mix, said their 40,000-square-foot “scale-up” center in Pennsylvania allows Factory’s partners to grow quickly.

“We’re excited to work with Honey Stinger,” Thompson said. “We have social media labs … an innovative kitchen to help with recipes … a great management team … a lot of different things we can do on site.”

“There’s a whole group of entrepreneurs in an environment that feeds off each other,” Thompson added.

In fact, Factory turned an old steel mill into its current corporate campus and works with several universities to help educate students while also utilizing their brain power.

Gamber started Honey Stinger in 2002 and is known for his other local-grown businesses — BAP and Big Agnes — that specialize in outdoor recreation.

Gamber’s family was originally known for the honey they first produced in Pennsylvania and the famous honey-bear shaped container, now seen throughout store shelves everywhere. Honey is now a key ingredient in Honey Stinger’s energy waffles, chews and bars.

Honey Stinger can be found throughout stores in North America and parts of Europe and Asia. Most of the company’s 50 employees are based out of Steamboat with food factories located in various parts of North America.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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