Member Profile: Louis Armstrong
October 3, 2016
Louis Armstrong, founder of Killer Whey, has always loved being active: hunting, hitting the weights, and enjoying the great outdoors.
After a workout with a friend, Louis was joking about how nice it would be to get his protein after a lift simply by enjoying a serving of ice cream. Somewhat of a joke at the time, this concept would soon become a reality.
In 2012 Louis began the planning process of founding his company. Jumping forward a few years later, Louis has now finished developing the Killer Whey formula, a 5 oz. serving of ice cream, available in both chocolate and vanilla flavors, packed with sixteen grams of protein.
Killer Whey is sweetened with xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plants that holds multiple health benefits for consumers. This sweetener reduces the product’s calorie count, and effectively takes away the sugar crash associated with everyday sugar. The ice cream is also a fat reduced product, but is not completely fat free. According to Killer Whey’s founder, consumers actually need a healthy amount of fat in their diet.
Looking to get your hands on some Killer Whey? The product is currently available in freezers at Hyde Perk Coffee House, Flex Nutrition, Arbor Crossfit, and Camp Rhino Boise. Freezers are currently being set up in new locations around the city, so be on the lookout for the updated list of locations on the Killer Whey website! You can also find Louis pedalling around town on his ice cream bike, outfitted with a portable freezer and stocked full of his product.
Louis came into Trailhead one morning to outline how Killer Whey is becoming “The coolest whey to get your protein!”
The following comes from the Q&A with the founder himself:
Where did you grow up and what brought you into the food industry?
I grew up in Kamiah, Idaho, a town of about 1200 people. I graduated with 38 kids, and went on to pursue a degree in food science from the University of Idaho. I’ve been in the food industry for over ten years now, mostly working in and around dairy products.
While I was still in college in 2006 some dairymen decided they wanted to start their own creamery. They ended up buying property on Eagle and Fairview, the busiest intersection in Idaho. I interned there helping them start up the creamery, and ended up helping them run it for about two years.
In 2008 the craziness hit and the place was shut down. Resultingly I made the move up to Sandpoint, Idaho and began working for Litehouse Foods in cheese production. I ended up getting about five years of corporate experience at Litehouse. Though, eventually I decided the corporate lifestyle wasn’t a good fit for me at the moment, and went back to the same creamery I had originally worked a few years back. One of the partners from the original creamery on Eagle and Fairview had set it back up, and this is where I am currently making my Killer Whey product. When I am not working on Killer Whey I spend my time working as a consultant for them and a few other customers involved with cheese production in the surrounding area.
How would you describe your business to a stranger on the street?
Killer Whey is protein packed, no sugar added ice cream, that still tastes like the unhealthy ice cream we all know.
I grew up in it. My stepdad was a commercial pilot, logged in his off time, was a commercial fisherman in Alaska, was involved in farming, got into real estate, etc. He was always busy doing a bunch of different things, and was an entrepreneur at heart himself. As a result I grew up with the “do what you want” mentality. I got my college degree, went into the corporate world, had a great job, and was reporting to the CEO, but I ended up getting a little bit bored. I realized I would rather work for myself, and wanted to do more work that aligned with my own interests. These thoughts pushed me to start consulting here in Boise and pushed me to found my own company.
How did you hear about Trailhead and what made you decide to become a member?
Someone mentioned Trailhead to me in conversation and I took a look at the space online. I swung by for a quick tour, really liked all the resources offered here, and found out it all came for an awesome monthly rate. It was the perfect thing for me working on a startup, not having the resources to go out and buy my own office space. Trailhead is the perfect place for me to come in and have meetings, and work to grow my company. Trailhead has been great.
What stage is the company currently at?
I am already selling the product in Boise, having entered the launch stage. I am currently selling my product in four locations, and many more will be coming in the future. Currently I am building my product around the fitness crowd, but eventually I want to bring it to all consumers.
What are your most important short term goals for Killer Whey?
I want to get more freezers set up. After I have about six or so freezers I’ll start getting more strategic with where I put them. Short term I want to blow the brand up as fast as I can here in Boise, and really just get my product out there to customers.
What is your long term vision for the company?
I want to get Killer Whey into some retail locations, such as Whole Foods Market or the Boise Co-op. I am currently getting a full wrap logo put together so that the product can be scanned in these types of stores. The end game has always been to get into high-end retail.
What has been your favorite Trailhead resource thus far?
Jeff Reynolds has been great; I’ve met with him a couple times. We bounced company names off of each other for quite some time, and eventually he mentioned “killer” as a cool active verb. That stuck with me, and actually pushed me towards the Killer Whey brand.
What has been your greatest success with Killer Whey?
Committing to Killer Whey and actually having a product I can sell is really cool. I’m happy I got the product launched, and am ready to start selling!
What have been some of the greatest challenges faced in starting your company?
Funding. I’m bootstrapping Killer Whey. I recently got married, am consulting to make some money on the side, and am also working on Killer Whey. Working out this balance has been tough, but I’m figuring it out more now. I am finding ways to spend a lot more time on the company.
Also, through my past experiences in the food industry I have become very accustomed to the production side of things, and have been confident in the development of my product: finding ingredients, conducting research and development, and scaling the product.
On the other side of the business I don’t have much marketing and sales experience, so that might be more of a struggle down the road. I was involved with a couple of product launches at Litehouse, so I have an understanding of how to stock places and how to prepare for product launches. I have had a glimpse of this side of the process, but I haven’t been the one in charge of it. This could pose a challenge for me down the road.
What are the greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs in Boise?
Startups are hard. There is so much unforeseen stuff for any type of product. Coming from the food industry, I knew what was coming. I am always dealing with permits, and constantly trying to find the right permits for certain situations. Dealing with regulation can be tough. This is an example of how some things simply aren’t clearly defined for startups. Getting people to believe in your product can also be pretty challenging.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?
I think diving in and just getting after it is important. You can have an idea for the longest time, and plan, plan, plan, but you just have to commit to it. Get a product rolling and get it out there. I wish I would have launched Killer Whey right after I developed the formula a year ago. Do whatever it takes to plan, and strategically get it out there fast. Committing to your idea is the hardest part.