Rhythm CEO and Incubation Station/SKU board member Scott Jensen talks about kale, BBQ, and supporting the Austin community.
Rhythm strives to be a transparent company, to the point of having an actual window to the product on every bag of Kale Chips. How does that concept carry through from production to the marketplace?
We’re getting fresh kale from a farm, mixing it with all kinds of wonderful ingredients, dehydrating it, putting it into a bag, sending it to a store, and then standing in the store with a table and offering people samples to try what we’ve just made. It doesn’t get any more transparent than that.
How does thriving in the city of Austin affect what you do?
A big part of my early career in Austin was an iconic BBQ brand (Stubb’s) and an iconic live music venue/restaurant (Stubbs BBQ) which is where I started. It’s on the stage. There’s no hiding from it. You can’t hide what you’re doing with BBQ, you can’t hide what you’re doing with live music. You’re open to critique on a daily basis, because the public decides whether they like your product or not.
How does that window relate to what I do? Both of these things are incredibly open to view, for people to see everything we’re doing. We’re right out there: standing with people, hearing that they don’t like this flavor, or that they love that one, or this one has too many crumbs. Or, of course, “why don’t you make another flavor that’s a little like this?”
How do the ethos of transparency and the relationship to Austin carry over into Incubation Station/SKU?
We open up Incubation Station to all people, and 75% of those people are from the Austin area. We have public happy hours for any startup companies that want to come and rub elbows with angel investors and mentors. So, coming from the Rhythm area, where everything is out in the open and there to be seen – we’re still doing it the same way.
When I think about the integration of what I do for a living as the leader of Rhythm, as well as a leader of the Incubation Station/SKU…these are two very publically-faced companies. We are out in stores meeting with hundreds of consumers every week. If you’re working at a public utility, generating electricity, the only interaction you have with your customers is the bill that comes to the house. You could be in some huge office building where no one has to sit there and take the beating of answering to bad service. But, we are. We are selling directly, indirectly, and standing in front of people in the supermarkets in the town we live.