Joel Clark: Perseverance with a dash of hard work.

Author:Astin, Kaylie
Position:Around Utah: Spotlight

If you ask Joel Clark how Park City-based Kodiak Cakes started, he'll take you back--back before he even had a driver's license.

When Joel was eight years old, he loaded his wagon with the pancake mix his mother had made (stuffed into brown paper bags) and roamed the neighborhood in search of hungry customers. "The little red wagon was the root of Kodiak Cakes," Clark remembers, although he didn't realize he was building a future business at the time.

In 1995, when Clark's brother, John, wanted to start a business, their mother suggested he try her pancake mix recipe again. The brothers tinkered with the recipe until it was healthy, tasty and easy to use, and persuaded local gift shops to carry their product.

Two years later, John offered Joel Clark ownership of the business. "I told John I'd take it, put a little office in my parents' basement, and started running Kodiak Cakes," Clark says.

The business grew, but gradually. It took 16 years for Kodiak Cakes to hit a million dollars. The company's slow growth was discouraging for Clark, who considered quitting multiple times. The uncertainty of not knowing whether he could pay himself, whether his dream was destined for failure or whether he'd land in the unemployment line haunted him constantly.

Clark persevered by setting goals. He created six-month benchmarks and promised himself that if he failed, he'd get a real job. Each time he reached a goal, he repeated the process. "A lot of people don't give their business enough time to see if it can work," Clark says in hindsight.

Today, Kodiak Cakes is thriving. With 43 employees, multiple products and $50 million in revenue, Kodiak Cakes plans to become a billion-dollar company. That's a lofty goal, but Clark believes his team can help make miracles happen.

By creating a culture where people...

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