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A Friendly Bread with Founder, Lane Levine feature #92 of Together Talks

"Together Talks" feature #92: A Friendly Bread presented by KLS, freight company

Some Background on A Friendly Bread

Today's edition of "Together Talks" campaign, KLS had the privilege to interview A Friendly Bread and Founder, Lane Levine. A Friendly Bread (AFB) makes Obsessible Sourdough Snacks. They started out as a sourdough bread company operating as the "milkman for delicious bread" in Baltimore, and now they take their delicious sourdough bread and turn it into snacks you'll obsess over - mainly their signature frozen product, Sourdough Grilled Cheese. AFB is a proud and certified LGBT-owned company.


Friend's task

Upon graduating from college, Lane spent 12 years in the non-profit sector. Incredibly he shared that he was never a bread person for most of his life. One night that would all change. Meeting up at a friend's house it was his task to bring bread to the group dinner. He left to go to his nearby bakery to grab a loaf only to discover they were closed. Instead of driving to another bakery, he decided to make a loaf of bread from scratch for the first time and bring it with him to dinner.


The spark was ignited.


Soon after, Lane found his way to the challenging world of sourdough bread, and he began baking bread every weekend. He would share it with friends and colleagues to get feedback and make changes. Over time he slowly started to turn into a bread person. Lane saw an opportunity to bring artisan sourdough to customers in Baltimore who were unimpressed with the current offerings in town. Before jumping in, Lane began an R&D phase by assembling a group of six taste testers, including his husband. Weekly they would fill out an excel spreadsheet, grading multiple aspects of the current batch. One of the last trials, his husband left in his comment section that he finally liked this version, and the bread "goes down easy: a friendly bread". With that the name was born.


Lane added that the name has layers behind it too. Sourdough bread is friendly for people with diabetes. Also, the culture of his company blends in with the business philosophy of being easy to work with and always trying to be kind. Once he came across the winning batch, he decided he needed to start selling it. He was on to the next phase of his bread making hobby.


Support and push

The next step was renting a commercial kitchen to produce at a larger scale. Lane joined a shared commissary called B-More Kitchen, while he still held his non-profit job. His boss was supportive of him during this time. "Every week I'd bring her a new loaf until she told me, 'stop bringing me free bread - I want to pay you for it.'"


He finally took his product to a farmers’ market where he spent two weeks selling it. It took off from there. Lane found himself at a crossroads. He believed he had a viable business concept, but still held a full-time position outside of breadmaking. He approached his boss, and she gave him the ultimate approval advising him to leave and go all-in with the bread. Lane was on to the next chapter.


A Friendly Bread focused on producing a variety of flavors of sourdough bread with different inclusions - such as olive bread, fig and fennel, sun dried tomato, and approximately fifteen other flavors. Each flavor had its own series of trials, adding up to hundreds of iterations over the years. He credited the success of the brand has been not sticking with one idea, but instead being willing to learn, grow, and most importantly adapt. Constantly challenging and being willing to change has allowed him to continue to elevate not only the product but the brand. Something unique happened when he was participating at samplings and farmers markets. Customers continued to tell him how amazing his bread was for making an old American classic, Grilled Cheese.


Lane had an opportunity in front of him.

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Sourdough Bread ---> Grilled Cheese

With this feedback from his consumers, Lane realized that it made more sense to transition from a fresh bread company to a frozen grilled cheese company. He cited the ability to store, prepare in bulk, and most importantly scale as deciding factors. He was all in and the pivot was underway.Being self-manufactured was a huge benefit in Lane's opinion as it allowed them to tinker with the product they were about to launch. 


The product itself is clear and meets a need that hasn't been filled prior. People love grilled cheese and convenience, and the frozen space is gaining more and more traction. There is also a push towards better and healthier options, where A Friendly Bread really excels. Providing a gourmet, restaurant quality handheld option that can be enjoyed for lunch, dinner, , in between work meetings, a family event, heck even a hungover college kid. 4 minutes in the air fryer or 10 minutes in the toaster oven and it is ready to be devoured.


Entrepreneur growth

When the company began selling bread, Lane mentioned the difference in the customer feedback loop. Selling direct to his bread customers, Lane was able to hear from people during the same week of a production run - and he could decide quickly whether to discontinue a particular flavor, or try a new sales tactic. However, the transition to retail spread out that timeline. The first phase of the company allowed him to take baby steps and learn many of the processes, whereas the retail side brought on larger decisions that could have much higher consequences. "One thing we learned the hard way was that when the stakes are larger and that feedback loop is longer, mistakes can be crippling at that stage," Lane shared.


Despite the challenges and overcoming mistakes, he mentioned that the moment of feeling some real traction was having his frozen grilled cheese line accepted onto the shelves of all 160 locations of The Fresh Market. He admitted that was a great source of validation. They succeeded in their set placement and were awarded with expansion onto a greater share of the shelf in that store chain. He mentioned how of all the gratifying moments, these types often carry the most weight because they represent not only the beginning of a sales relationship - but the success of one.


With so many challenges of running a company and learning a completely new industry, Lane said that he often is reminded by his support system what he is capable of. "I am so grateful for the friends I have made in this industry. These and other friends as well as my family, are instrumental in encouraging me to keep going. The moments when people have looked into my eyes and told me I simply can't give up - have been the most motivational."


Compassion

The biggest challenge for any brand in CPG is velocity within stores. Lane mentioned the feedback on the grilled cheese, whether from consumers or the retail partners, is strong - but unfortunately customers are not used to going into a grocery store to buy a frozen grilled cheese. Thus one of the challenges is educating consumers of this amazing product being available.


Lane had mentioned that he had a goal for this year to be in 700 stores. They not only hit that goal but exceeded it reaching almost 800 locations. While he was happy the company hit the mark, he mentioned it didn't feel the way he envisioned which he alluded to the rollercoaster daily of being an entrepreneur.


Lane explained that while the wheels are always spinning for innovation, they are committed to their 4 core SKUs and building that foundation for the company. Over the years so many bread flavors have been developed, which could all be used for new grilled cheese flavors - but the current focus is gaining exposure and enacting growth with their retail partners before unlocking even more delicious options for consumers. He mentioned that the best part of running his company is the thrill of getting a yes. Being able to work on something and then waiting and ultimately having it payoff is very fulfilling. He is also proud of the operational abilities of his small production team - they have managed all of the large PO's that come with retail launches, always delivering the goods on time and with full quality. He shared that in those moments he is not only proud of his entire staff but saw that the processes are in place to truly steer the ship and let A Friendly Bread grow.

Piece of Advice

The conversation with Lane ended with him sharing his piece of advice.

"Learning industry cultural norms and holding a goal of being as easy to work with as possible. There are times people have been unkind or done something that felt like it was unwarranted, and I had to weigh whether to be cruel back or to ignore or give them feedback. When I choose to do the compassionate thing, whether letting it slide - or giving critical but loving feedback, in the long run it comes back to benefit me time and again. I recommend finding the compassionate way to work with people, even when hard, because it will always pay off. You don’t know the opportunities you may be missing when you cut someone off."


Interested in being featured with "Together Talks"?
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Contact us as we would love to learn your story and share it amongst our audience.
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In Closing

KLS wants to thank Lane Levine, Founder, of A Friendly Bread for today's "Together Talks" feature. Keep up to date with A Friendly Bread by following their blog on their website, check it out here. Follow along for the A Friendly Bread journey with their social handles below!


Together Talks with A Friendly Bread feature #92 - presented by KLS, Klimson Logistics Solutions, freight company

Klimson Logistics Solutions - Together Talks with A Friendly Bread feature #92

*Klimson Logistics Solutions is an Industry Leading Customer Service 3PL. Our focus and commitment to our clients has us striving to be the BEST customer service 3PL for LTL, FTL, Reefer, and Drayage in the country. KLS, freight company, is a 3PL providing nationwide logistics solutions. KLS shipping services include: LTL freight, FTL freight, Reefer LTL freight, Reefer FTL freight, and Drayage. Klimson Logistics Solutions thanks you for viewing our marketing campaign, "Together Talks". If you have any interest in being featured or questions regarding your freight operations please contact us today!


Why KLS?

Our precise and reliable effort.

We handle every shipment with the exact same process. It does not matter if you move one shipment a year or ten per day, you will receive the same level of customer service from us. When we started this company, we had one goal in mind, treat every shipment like it was our own. With our vast knowledge of the industry, we understood what a customer would want from a communication standpoint. We applied that process to be the standard here at KLS. Our reliability and being able to depend on our consistency is why we have such long-standing relationships with our clients.


Our Process?

Every shipment in our industry starts with a quote. We are firm believers that time is money, thus we strive to have quotes back in a 5-10 minute reply time for LTL and FTL, any FCL quotes are at the mercy of the carriers getting back to us. For LTL we have the flexibility to quote both off of NMFC and also Density depending on the carrier. Utilizing our services, you’re allowing us to use our expertise to class your freight accordingly to ensure we are providing the best rate we possibly can.

Once a quote has been submitted and a client chooses to proceed with KLS handling the arrangement of the shipment our full process begins. We create the BOL that will be used for the shipment. If it is a new location for our system, we will obtain all the important/special details (reference numbers, contact details, shipping hours, closed for lunch, dock/doors, etc.). We meticulously build every detail into our software for all future shipments involving that location. After we have both locations built and necessary reference numbers have been applied we will tender the shipment to the carrier. We use this method because it provides us a real time pickup number from the carrier to obtain updates prior to pickup. Our staff will either email the BOL directly to you or to the shipper (at your request) the minute after the tender has been accepted by the carrier. LTL carriers require a 2 hour window prior to close time in order to schedule it for a same-day pickup attempt.

The following morning you’ll receive an email from us. It will either provide the reason the pickup was missed (driver’s trailer filled up, driver missed the close time, truck broke down, shipper said no freight, etc.) or if the pickup was successful you will receive the PRO (tracking) number from us, along with the eta for delivery. Our staff will track it throughout the duration of transit and advise if anything happens that will alter the estimated delivery date. The day the shipment delivers we will email you with confirmation and the POD (Proof of Delivery), should you require it.

Your shipment has been quoted, scheduled, picked up, and delivered. The next step is waiting for the carrier to invoice us and make sure the rate matches up. If it does, we close out the invoice from the carrier in our system and automatically your invoice is created and sent to the requested party at your company. In the event the carrier has an additional charge on their invoice “Variance”, we will never send you an invoice with an additional charge without first identifying you of the charge.

Let us repeat, NEVER WILL WE JUST BILL OUT AN EXTRA CHARGE WITHOUT YOU BEING NOTIFIED.

You are our customer, we represent you. Should the carrier provide an extra charge on an invoice, “Lift gate, additional weight, reclass, detention, etc.) We notify you of the charge via email first. Second, within that email we identify what is required should you choose to dispute the charge. Again our goal is to honor your request, if you want to dispute, we will dispute. During a dispute we will provide you updates every step along the way. Once a dispute is closed out, whether it is approved or rejected, then we will invoice you as the invoice has been resolved.

For reference, our company only had 6.2% of all shipments go to dispute in 2022 and we successfully won 91% of those disputes on behalf of our customers.

This is our process for every single shipment you move with us. We don’t cut corners, we don’t hide from difficult situations. We believe in being available, honest, and transparent. We don’t ever want to tell you that a shipment is lost, damaged, misrouted, but it is our duty to notify you the second we find out something has gone wrong. We hate to present bad news, but it is part of the job. What you can guarantee is that we will work a shipment all the way through and turn over every stone until we get a resolution for our clients.


Services offered?

Our core business is LTL and FTL. Within these options we have options for both dry and refrigerated/frozen. We also offer FCL/Drayage options. Our company as a 3PL has nationwide options and services clients across the US.


Let’s breakdown our services more in-depth

LTL: Standard and Guaranteed CFS (Imports & Exports) Tradeshows Hazmat Anything that is on a pallet can be moved LTL. Typically LTL is up to 10 pallets, but the sweet spot for a carrier is 6-8 pallets at most for an individual shipment. LTL quotes are good between 5-30 days depending on the carrier. LTL can be quoted either via NMFC or density to determine the class (we do this for you).

Volume: Anything over 10-12’ of space in the truck is the technical rule for a volume shipment. When we run a quote for you we will determine if it qualifies for volume and provide you a rate if available. Volume moves allow you to get a reduced rate for larger shipments. The caveat to volume shipments it the quotes are only valid for 3-7 days and they move on capacity between terminals. If a terminal is backed up they will move their LTL freight first before the volume freight, which can lead to longer transit times for volume moves.

FTL/Dedicated/Expedited: 53’ Dry and Reefer 26’ Box trucks with lift gate Sprinter Van The main difference for FTL vs LTL is space and transit time. For standard pallets you can fit either 26 or 30 pallets in a 53’ dry van. The other main difference is transit time, for FTL each day counts in the transit time, whereas LTL does not count the day of pickup, weekends, or holidays in their transit time.

Reefer/Frozen: LTL and FTL We specialize working in the CPG space with food manufacturers. We regularly deliver to the following locations: Kehe UNFI Core Mark DPI Wegmans Cugini H.T. Hackney Netrition HEB ALDI Chambers and Owens EBY Brown Nassau Candy Harris Teeter Wakefern NU INC Long Distribution

What makes KLS different?

There are thousands of freight brokers and 3PL in our industry. Barrier to entry is rather easy and agents or owners will often hire sales people without any intention of properly training them. It results in high turnover for many freight companies and a forgettable experience for the client. We choose to operate differently through our consistency. We truly care about doing right by our clients and prospects too. While we would love to help provide our services to every company we speak with, that just isn’t realistic. We won’t always be the right fit for every company that moves freight and that is ok. Our authenticity as a shipping company sets us apart from the competition and that is backed up by our testimonials. We also run a marketing campaign bi-weekly called “Together Talks”. We interview, highlight, and promote two businesses every week. Our goal is to grow our network, make new connections, and learn something new with each collaboration. Check it out on our website and if you’re interested in being featured reach out.

Our company also runs a year long charity promotion. Book your first shipment through KLS and we donate to the charity of your choice in your name. Our way of thanking you for giving us an opportunity to show you the KLS way and what makes us one of a kind. This entire package is what we offer to every prospect and every client. Our goal is to help provide answers that customers may have when it comes to shipping. We want to always be available as a resource and will always offer a lending hand whenever we can.

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