KC Natural Owner and Founder Shares His "Why"
KC Natural was founded in 2015 with a purpose: To make delicious gluten-free BBQ sauces accessible to all BBQ lovers. Read on to learn more about one of the bestselling brands on ShopAIP and its founder, in an interview between Sandra Dorst, Founder of ShopAIP, and Brendon O'Neill, Owner and Founder of KC Natural.
Sandra: Thanks for chatting with me and helping our shared customers get to know your brand. Number one, who are you?
Brendon: I'm Brendon O'Neill.
Sandra: Haha, hi Brendon. When and where was KC Natural founded?
Brendon: We were founded in Kansas City around 2015. I started it just as a hobby when I was working in advertising, because I really liked barbecue. I'm from Kansas City, obviously, which was where I got the name for the brand. I just started messing around making clean barbecue sauces because I found that I had to be gluten free for my own health. I had started eating cleaner and looking at labels, and just really being more aware of what I was eating. And then a friend of mine who lives in Kansas City approached me while I was at a food show in Chicago, and she asked me if I could do a nightshade-free sauce for AIP people. I honestly didn't even know what that was! So I was like…let me see if I can do that. I guess it started out as a fun challenge, you know, could I do something different? And I came up with the Mastodon sauce, which took off. And so then I realized, wow—I can either keep making stuff that a million other people can have, or I can focus on stuff that people really want that they just can't find. No one else was making these sauces, so I did.
Sandra: After launching Mastodon, how much time went by?
Brendon: I launched Mastodon like a year and a half later, but I really started the company in 2013. But it wasn't called KC Natural yet. But then around 2018 is when I said to myself, “Man, I should do a pasta sauce or ketchup.” That's when it really took off.
Sandra: What do you feel like are some of your ideal pairings for your products?
Brendon: I think just anything that you've been missing as far as your traditional comfort food type stuff, you know, like basically the stuff that you wish you could eat, but you can't because you're AIP. So that's why I have a whole line of those substitutes. Oh, you want salsa? I’ve got that. You want barbecue, you want ketchup, mustard...
Sandra: And is there anything unusual you've paired with your sauce that maybe some people aren't thinking about?
Brendon: Sometimes I do some fun combinations. I'll make sloppy Joes and I mix like, like two thirds of the ketchup with 1/3 of the Mastodon and it tastes like Manwich sauce.
Sandra: Oh, yeah? See, that's interesting! I don't know if I've seen an AIP Manwich sauce out.
Brendon: Yeah, it's so good. You should try it.
Sandra: I'll have to look into that. Okay, and then, what is your personal favorite? Is it too hard, or can you pick up a favorite out loud?
Brendon: Definitely the ketchup.
Sandra: Yeah, how do you usually use that?
Brendon: You can use it on anything, I use it in breakfast scrambles and meatloaf. It's so versatile.
Sandra: And what do you think we can look forward to from KC Natural in the coming years?
Brendon: Gosh, I don't know right now. I just put out the ranch, and I feel like I'm in a good place to just, you know...slow down. I've created so many products. I feel like I just need to kind of pump the brakes actually and sit with all the things I’ve made.
Sandra: Just enjoy what we have, right? Yeah. Personally speaking, what is your favorite way to sort of decompress, relax, refresh? As we know, it's stressful times for everyone. And certainly as you're making all these new products and getting those things out. How do you take a break?
Brendon: I like to do yoga, I like to work out. I also like to just chill out with my daughter. We'll play video games or watch some mindless TV every once in a while, or I'll just read a book, but kind of typical stuff. You know, I definitely have to work out and exercise, that's for sure.
Sandra: Is there anything that you feel like you wish customers knew about KC Natural, but somehow they don't? Or do you feel like you're pretty well-represented out there?
Brendon: Oh, yeah I get a lot of people that think I'm some big huge company, which is kind of a laugh because three years ago, I was Uber driving and freelance writing and working in a factory while I was still doing very well with KC Natural. It's not what people always think, I'm not some big corporation with 50 employees. And I think sometimes people position it that way. Not at all! I'm just some guy, and not a mega company. You know, it's just funny but it's also a compliment, because it shows that people believe in the quality of the company, and see the capacity to make great products. So I think it's kind of good and bad. You know, I like people to know that I'm a small business, but if they want to think I'm a big business, that's great too.
Sandra: Take it as a compliment. Yes, exactly. Well-respected and well-received from the community.
Brendon: Awesome. Yeah I always appreciate that.