Upon speaking with Nicole Ingram, Bella Bars’ do it all founder and CEO, the word “inspirational” immediately comes to mind. She launched Bella Bars in January 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has steadily grown the business ever since. And as if that wasn’t challenging enough, Nicole is a full-time account manager with a global technology company. There’s more, she’s a mom with three children, all under five years of age. If you ask her how she does it all, she’ll tell you two things – first, that she has a very supportive husband, and second, that it started with her father’s advice when Nicole was 10 years old. He told her, “be an entrepreneur and start something that you love.”
Fulfilling that entrepreneurial passion, sparked by her father, was born from difficulty Nicole faced much later in life when she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Like many with special dietary needs, it was difficult for Nicole to find on-the-go snacks that were low sugar, gluten-free, and high in protein. And above all else, snacks that tasted delicious were even more rare. Rather than continuing to search, she decided to create. Her idea began with her own research and finding a recipe specialist that would lead to rigorously sourced ingredients. Snacks that deliver the nutrition and flavor profile Nicole would want for her herself and family.
From research to reality, Bella Bars were launched with three flavors, one of the first being peanut butter and raspberry. Since then, bar flavors change with the seasons but several fan favorites stick. Nicole hit on a winner with Cinnamon Roll and quickly figured out what made it so desirable. Nicole shared that, “the secret ingredient was sugar-free white chocolate – which brings about an icing-like flavor and texture.” Now more of Nicole’s delicious, high-protein bars, such as Lemon Poundcake for example, are adding this secret touch.
While Nicole is a sole proprietor, she does rely on expert advice from a variety of mentors – Jamie Underwood for recipes, Cassie Green for small business advice, and Derek Ramos, who’s with DFW CPG, for connections and contacts. Even though Nicole has expanded Bella Bars’ availability, her biggest hurdle from the start – like most first-time entrepreneurs – was and remains knowing whom to go to for a CPG start-up’s business needs. Everything from ingredient sourcing, co-packers, and distributors to retailer contacts – all of which are not easy to find. Nicole’s found a resource in DFW CPG that allows her to network, make the right contacts, and reduce the amount of time chasing down suppliers. As the business hurdles are lowered, instead of chasing suppliers Nicole has more time to enjoy keeping up with her three children, and of course, her husband too.
Going forward, Nicole is open for anything when it comes to Bella Bars future. Growing regionally is within reach and nationally is a possibility with retailers expressing interest. And while getting her kids involved in Bella Bars might be in the cards 10-plus years or so from now and potentially bringing on a partner as she knows that having someone come aboard would get Bella Bars to even more households looking for delicious snacks that are also nutritious.