PlayHard GiveBack was sparked during a father-son road trip along the coast of California in a vintage Winnebago. The son, a hockey player named Spencer, was enjoying his last summer break before returning to the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. His father, Jeff—a serial entrepreneur and athletic in his own right—knew Spencer wanted to stay in athletics post-college. Without sacrificing the start of Spencer’s professional career, the father-son duo dreamed up what would eventually become PlayHard GiveBack: a nourishing snack that also makes the world a better place.
Although Jeff and Spencer had minimal capital and equally primitive knowledge of the snack food industry, they remained steadfast in their vision. Ultimately, they decided that trail mix was the perfect vehicle to spread their message, Play Hard and Give Back. Unbeknownst to them, a large gap existed in the snack market industry; snacks with high-quality ingredients and creative healthy flavors were few and far between. As they traveled along the California coast, Jeff and Spencer pitched their idea to athletes such as Travis Ganong, Marco Sullivan, Lakey Peterson, and Todd Rogers. The more consumers they approached, the more positive feedback they received. With an initial investment of $7,000 from one of Spencer’s college professors, PlayHard GiveBack (PHGB) was founded. Their goal in mind was to leverage the influence and social following of athletes to build a giveback movement—one that fuels positive social change and universal awareness.
Collectively, testing for PHGB took over two years. They combined a variety of different trail mixes and offered them to athletes and patrons at countless sporting events, farmers markets, and grocery stores. Eventually, they were able to hone in on PHGB’s messaging and handmade product line: Jeff and Spencer curated three crowd-pleasing sports bars and three unique trail mixes. Discovering that the hospitality industry was ripe for new products and socially conscious initiatives, PHGB snacks began popping up in high-end luxury hotels across the country. This niche in the market gave PHGB the momentum and traction it needed to remain both sustainable and profitable. Today, PHGB sports bars and trail mixes can be found in locations nationwide— coffee shops, sports concession stands, hotels, ski resorts, and grocery stores—and are a favorite snack among athletes, adventuresome millennials, healthy-minded moms, and more.
PHGB sets itself apart from other trail mix brands with its socially conscious business model and emphasis on customer engagement. For example, PHGB donates 5% of its gross revenue to Hope Sports who provides life- changing opportunities for athletes to engage with one another while also building houses for families in need. PHGB is proud of its partnerships and the collaborative impact they’re making. They hope that everyone will join the PHGB movement, One Nut at a Time.
FROM THE CO-FOUNDER
My name is Spencer Brendel. The idea of PlayHard GiveBack was born when I was 24 years old playing NCAA hockey at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Realizing the influence athletes have on others, I wanted to leverage this opportunity to create social change using the voice of outstanding athletes and a consumer product. In 2013, I received my first investment from my college professor after turning in my Sr. project and an additional entrepreneurship grant from Wildgift.org. PHGB launched shortly after!
Today, PlayHard GiveBack crafts uniquely flavored trail mix that fuels adventure and funds social change. Our artisan snacks are handmade in the mountain town of Sun Valley, Idaho and five percent of our revenue helps provide opportunities for others to giveback through volunteer programs such as HopeSports.org. Our PHGB ambassadors our recognized for their giveback efforts as athletes and leading by example. We aim to inspire the masses to join the PHGB movement by snacking with a purpose!
As consumers continue to aspire to better health and healthier eating, we look to bridge the gap between nutrition and indulgence with tasty, portable, PHGB snacks.