Growing up in Georgia, Chris Cage was no stranger to the outdoors, but it was during a long trip hiking 2000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail that he first discovered his struggle with taking in enough calories to fuel his adventures. “When you’re hiking and biking all day, you burn a ton of calories,” said Chris. “I was drinking olive oil and eating lots of peanut butter to maintain my weight.”
Building a Business Inspired by a Lifestyle
Being on a bike or on foot meant he had to carry his own supplies, sometimes for days or weeks at a time, which meant that every ounce counted. He quickly realized that there was a hole in the market for lightweight, packable food that didn’t require a camping stove — and that was both high in calories and extremely nutritious. While there were many other protein and energy bars on the market, they were often highly processed and geared at weightlifters or dieters, who have different needs.
So when he returned from his travels in late 2013, he posted up in his mom’s kitchen and set about testing recipes. His mission: to create the perfect backpacking meal. And in 2014, Greenbelly Meals was born.
From the Kitchen Table to the Warehouse, a Shipping Partner that Scales
By the summer of 2014, Chris was selling Greenbelly bars on Shopify, and doing the classic entrepreneur’s dance of handling everything himself, from marketing and bookkeeping to web design and customer service to shipping all orders by hand.
He found Shippo early on and was immediately attracted by the fee structure and ease of use. “The per label pricing was really nice in the early days when I was not making many sales, because I didn’t know if the business would work, so I didn’t want to be locked into monthly fees,” he said. “Plus Shippo was super easy and allowed me to spend less time boxing up orders and printing labels, and more time generating sales.”
As the business has grown, Greenbelly has gone from fulfilling small orders by hand to having a full-time fulfillment team, but Shippo has remained their shipping partner of choice.
“We’ve at least 10x’ed our growth since those early years,” said Chris, “and Shippo has done a great job of scaling with us the whole way.” Citing the simple interface, a variety of carriers available, and favorable pricing as his favorite features, he also points out that Shippo has been invaluable for the way it makes it easy to ship international orders that require customs forms.
He also appreciates the integration with Shopify, but notes that he uses Shippo to create labels for all orders — not just ones that come in through the website. “Although our focus is on e-commerce, sometimes we get a large wholesale order, and we still go into Shippo to create those labels,” he said. “It’s dead simple and it’s also always cheaper.”
The Freedom to Focus on Growing the Business From Anywhere in the World
Five years into the business, Chris has now created enough infrastructure for Greenbelly that he can do exactly what he set out to do when he became an entrepreneur: have the freedom and flexibility to be location independent.
His advice for others looking to adopt more of a digital nomad lifestyle is to hire or outsource for geographically-based operations tasks ASAP.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much I worked those first two or three years — making the product and fulfilling orders took up a lot of my time,” Chris says. “Getting people to help with that was huge, and it’s what made working from anywhere a viable option.”
He’s now set his sights on expanding market share and building Greenbelly into a more recognizable brand in the outdoor industry and is excited that travel still can factor into his professional equation. “A lot of people get caught up in the idea that you can either make a lot of money and work all the time or have a lifestyle you enjoy,” says Chris. “But a few years into building Greenbelly, I think it can be more of an ‘and’.”