Meet our CEO & Founder, David Rohde!
Posted on December 07 2018
My name is Dave Rohde and I am the CEO and Founder of Paleo On The Go. You might also see David Rohde. I’ve been using that more lately. More appropriate for a fancy CEO? Totally kidding. I guess I have to decide and keep it consistent. The tough decisions in life, huh?
Instead of starting from the beginning, I’ll start with right now. I joke about the tough decisions in life, which the list does not include choosing a name. Running a business can be extremely rewarding, but it can be insanely stressful. Those of us in the Primal/Paleo/AIP community know that health and well being aren’t just about eating healthy food. It’s your entire lifestyle; which includes sleep, work-life balance, stress management, and more. Owning a business can directly conflict with that. Can both things actually be done?
Some of you know, and some of you don’t know some of the details of how and why 2017 and the first half of 2018 was beyond a challenge for Paleo On The Go. I started working on Paleo On The Go in late 2011, incorporated the business at the beginning of 2012, and have had ups and downs all along the way, building and managing the business almost all from cash flow. We had a few small investments, which were essential. But it takes an incredible amount of time, work, and capital to start and operate a business that fully prepares full meals for a very specific diet that you believe in, consists of ingredients that are very expensive and hard to find for commercial purposes (You can’t just pick a distributor and order for a weekly delivery), and that you are unwilling to compromise on no matter the circumstance. The ups and downs I speak of weren’t from ups and downs in revenue. We have had very strong and consistent growth for almost seven years. Seven years….wow! The challenges were multi-faceted, but had a lot to do with that growth; with innovating, changing, improving, being the best we could be, building teams, adding value beyond just our finished and shipped products. I made a lot of great decisions, but of course, made some poor or premature decisions as well. It was a fight, but it was a labor of love.
You don’t build out your ideal facility with some saved up money from cash flow. You need a lot of expensive equipment set up properly by coordinating contractors with different specialties (but only after getting the work permitted). This takes a lot of capital and is only a very small part of just this one piece of the business. We have to fully cook meals using professional chefs and cooks, follow very strict regulation to properly cool, package, and freeze that food, and then we have to ship out orders expeditiously in high-quality coolers and dry ice, and lastly hope that our shipping carrier gets there before the food thaws. Our shipping carrier does a great job, but there are mistakes and there is bad weather that nobody can do anything about. Of course, there are 10,000 other moving parts that can make your head spin. And which, I could easily write 10,000 more words about. But I fear that I’ve already said too much.
But this write-up is about me, and Paleo On The Go has been on my mind for almost every waking hour for seven years now. The challenges, the wins, the losses, the countless hours can’t really be separated from ‘me’. They shaped me. Currently, I feel so great about where POTG is at and where we are going. I’m excited about so many things that we have coming up for our current and future customers and fans. But this doesn’t take away all of the stress. It is just a different form of stress. Don’t get me wrong, I’d 100% take where I’m at right now, over July 19th of 2017 through October 20th of 2017, where we had gotten behind on a few really important things, made some less than great decisions, and had some toxic people around. This was a time where I vowed to fight to the greatest detriment to my health if it meant saving Paleo On The Go, our employees, and our customers. I even did a Go Fund Me page, to appeal to people that care about us and were able to financial help. I didn’t have backup money. Although embarrassed as I’ve ever been, I did a video to plead for help. The campaign was very successful and was integral to our survival. I was also emotional moved beyond words by the support, both financial and/or kind words. I’m still touched by the experience and I know I always will be. So all of the things I’ve mentioned so far affected greatly and shaped me. They affected my health and my life path. However, they still don’t define me.
Many of you have read notices and updates from me, about the company. You’ve seen the plea for help. You’ve seen commitments to improve something. You’ve heard about my health challenges and how that lead me to the idea of creating a business to serve others in the same metaphorical boat as me. I’ve dealt with crappy health conditions since I was a kid. I have autoimmune diseases. I was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis. I can relate to our customers very much. I can empathize with their health struggles, improvements, food needs, food consequences, triumphs, etc. These things made and still make a huge impact on every business decision I make. Sometimes good intentions led to a decision that we weren’t ready for and ended up hurting us. It was always about quality and giving people that needed our help, the best possible solution or product. It just took a long long time to find a balance.
So again, I touched on business instead of fun activities I like to do. Like I said before; although everything I’ve talked about was a huge part of my life, it doesn’t define who I really am as a person. It does, however, have a lasting impact. Wounds of any kind need time to heal. I agree that this is an intense summary of me and my experience of with running POTG, but I really didn’t mean it to be negative! There is much work to do, but so much of my team and my hard work is really paying off! I’m really excited about 2019. Paleo On The Go has so much great stuff planned. One goal of mine is learning to choose the most important things to focus on and execute on those, delegating certain things, and better structuring my day.
Other goals include working on creating a better work-life balance. It wasn’t all terrible. I think a still need to find hobbies and other fun activities. I’m working on that. I also need to make more of an effort to talk with family, which seems to get more and more spread out. I think this will get easier when I get some energy back. But I’ve made a lot of progress even through the darkest of work times. I have to thank my girlfriend Katie. She has been such a positive influence. Sometimes Paleo On The Go stories can be too much for her (haha), but she is always there for me. She is full of energy and a true extrovert. We have a lot of fun together, and we laugh a lot. We live in St. Petersburg, FL and get to enjoy some pretty awesome weather. We play in a bocce league, which is very fun. We happened upon a open-house one night, tried it, and decided to give it a shot. Four seasons later and we still look forward to every game. We recently bought a couple of kayaks about six weeks ago and we’ve already gone kayaking several times. I still haven’t forced myself to try paddle boarding, but I hear good things. I’m on the fence haha. Thankfully we both enjoy a good mix of going out and staying in a watching shows and movies.
A little about me: I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois. I moved to Marietta, Georgia the summer before entering my junior year of high school. I stayed in Georgia until moving down to Tampa Bay, Florida in 2012 to start POTG. I love to work out, but I usually have to modify my workouts due to health limitations. Growing up, the three things I loved the most were rollerblading, baseball (I played baseball in college), and playing the drum set. I’m just getting back into the drums. I definitely want to make more time to practice and get good enough to find a band and play gigs at a beach bar or something. I also bought a piano, spent about two months practicing, before temporarily quitting. I will definitely get back to it. I’m no handyman, but I’ve been attempting to take on some more projects lately. I picked up a couple tools at the store. I hope to be able to use more of them haha.
So those are a couple things that are starting to balance my life out a little bit. It’s nice to find simple joy in things. With a renewed energy, I’d really like to have a successful year in 2019 in every way. I consider Paleo On The Go a major success, no matter what happens, simply because of the tens of thousands of people that we’ve been able to help. I will be very mindful of my own stress and mental state while continuing to give POTG all I’ve got…just maybe not so much when I’m trying to sleep. It’s been a pleasure sharing this information from you. I greatly appreciate everyone in the Paleo On The Go family. I wish you a wonderful and happy holiday season and an amazing new year.