Ashley Nickelsen

Ashley Nickelsen

Ashley Nickelsen

Founder & CEO, B.T.R. NATION

With B.T.R., Ashley is on a mission to fix our broken food system, one snack at a time.  She creates incredibly flavorful, on-the-go snacks that you’d typically find in your average vending machine, just without all the sugar, additives, and junk.

I first learned about B.T.R Nation from a dear friend and Integrative Psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Kraker, several years back during a Furthermore Supper Club discussion.  I asked each dinner guest to share a couple of her favorite women-owned food brands, and Jenn immediately shared B.T.R. Nation –  a brand that she regularly supports and recommends to her clients.  Given my passion for integrative nutrition and knowing that Jenn would recommend only the healthiest of products, I rushed to investigate what Ashley Nickelsen was building with B.T.R. Nation and rush-ordered a sample box of Ashley’s bars and a bag of each of Ashley’s Nut Butter chocolate truffles.

I was incredibly moved by Ashley’s story and impressed to see what Ashley created in her bars – familiar, nostalgic flavors with real food goodness and no garbage. I contacted Ashley to learn more about what she was building and how I could support.  We met in person shortly thereafter, at which time I was confident about investing in Ashley and the growth of B.T.R. Nation.

I have my favorite bars – both the Dark Chocolate Brownie Bar and the Strawberry Shortcake Bar.  But just wait until you try the new Protein+ Peanut Butter Crunch Bar and the Spiced Cookie Dough Bar created in collaboration with and available exclusively at Blue Bottle.  Don’t get me started on the Nut Butter Truffles – the perfect little tasty two-bite snack!

Please meet and follow Ashley – you too will have so much respect for her tenacity and incredibly vulnerable and authentic social posts! Learn more about how she got started, what keeps her going and what we can all do to support.

Buy your bars direct from the B.T.R. website, Amazon, Thrive Market, Blue Bottle of course, or a store near you!

With gratitude for this community,

Q&A

What inspired you to create B.T.R. NATION?
I started B.T.R. NATION as a tribute to my parents. B.T.R. stands for be “BOLD, TENACIOUS & RESILIENT” which is my parents’ personal mantra. When both my parents were diagnosed with rare forms of cancer, we spent 4+ years in and out of hospitals eating absolute junk out of hospital vending machines and cafeterias. I took to the kitchen to create something better for me and my family. When the doctors, nurses, and other caretakers fell in love with B.T.R., I knew I had something. After my parents passed away, I knew I had to bring these nourishing snacks to market in their honor. Today we’re reaching hundreds of thousands and helping to fix our broken food system, one snack at a time.

What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Spaghetti & meatballs 🙂 I come from a large Italian family, and my grandmother taught me how to cook all her Italian favorites.

What is your most treasured kitchen possession?
A painting of NYC that my dad sketched and painted for me.

Which cookbooks do you refer to most regularly?
I’ve become obsessed with Carissa Stanton’s (@broccyourbody) new cookbook, Seriously So Good.

Which podcasts do you listen to regularly?
The Kara Goldin Show, In the Sauce, Female Startup Club, Work Party, Healthier Together, How I Built This, The Dream Bigger Podcast, and a whole bunch of others!

What are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m most looking forward to our big launches in the month of June. We’re launching into the Costco Southeast region, onto Thrive Market, an incredible, exclusive bar in collaboration with Blue Bottle, and and we’re launching our brand new product line, PROTEIN+ with 15g of organic complete plant protein.

What is your latest grocery store impulse buy?
Probably Siete Chips or Brami Beans.

What is your most used kitchen appliance?
Blender for smoothies!

Tell us about a few of your current brand obsessions?
Arrae’s supplements. Love them! Jones Road everything. My sense of style needs work, so I signed on with Stitch Fix for a few boxes, and I’m super impressed.Now, I have all the basics plus a few signature pieces.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in establishing and building B.T.R. NATION?
Each phase brings new challenges. In the very beginning, you’re working 24/7 to identify product market fit. Once you’ve locked in product market fit, you’re starting to enter growth mode. Growth is SO exciting. But it requires capital. You’re building, fundraising, growing a team, creating a culture, innovating, overcoming operational obstacles, you’re doing it all. There’s lots of challenges, but when your why is locked in, your vision begins to unfold before your eyes.

What are you listening to when in deep “create” mode? 
Ah…deep “create” mode is my favorite. I’m either listening to nothing and VERY in the zone working on specific projects or listening to powerhouse female artists like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lorde, Sia, etc.

Where do you get your energy and drive to persevere?
My parents. My daughter. The need for better in this food system. To be a role model for other female founders trying to make it in a challenging industry. So many things motivate me every day. I want to make a difference in our food system, so in 5-10 years, consumers don’t need to check ingredient labels and wonder what titanium dioxide and Red 40 is.

What snacks do you not leave home without?
Always always have a B.T.R. NATION Bar with me – either Cinnamon Cookie Dough, Dark Chocolate Brownie, and/or Strawberry Shortcake. I’ll typically also have nuts in my bag too!

How can the Furthermore Ventures community best support you?
I’m so grateful that B.T.R. NATION is a part of the Furthermore Ventures community. Support, resources, access to IRL and digital events, and connections to other like-minded founders and investors are amazing ways to support B.T.R. NATION. I would also love to be a support system and mentor to other founders building and growing.

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