Published June 21, 2013
Phil Anson has the entrepreneurial dream all figured out.
After tiring of the restaurant scene in 2002, he decided to pursue a love of burrito-making.
“I had a life-long passion for food and, at the time, I was fresh out of college, doing a lot of rock climbing,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Hey, what if I just quit my job, make burritos, and sell them to rock climbers at the canyon?’”
Except, it didn’t turn out exactly how he imagined. After hand-rolling a batch of burritos in his kitchen, he packed them in a cooler and headed to El Dorado Canyon to sell his fresh-made goods to rock climbers.
But no one wanted to buy them.
“It was a complete failure,” Anson said. “But I ended up throwing some labels on the burritos and selling them door-to-door to coffee shops and convenience and gas stations. I ended up getting some kitchen space and before I knew it, in a few months, I was running a made-fresh-daily burrito company.”
Turning Phil’s Fresh Foods into Evol
Anson was determined to make his burrito-making venture into a success story, and in the summer of 2002, his 18-hour days spent rolling more than 500 burritos by hand allowed him to finally make enough money to cover his living expenses and make a little profit under the product label Phil’s Fresh Foods.
“I think it’s really important in the early days to take a risk, to be comfortable failing and to be super introspective and to reflect on your successes and failures. And know what you don’t know. The best decision that I ever made in the company was the decision to bring partners into my company,” he said.
In 2009, Anson partnered with Brendon Synnott and Tom Spier, entrepreneurs from Bear Naked granola. Together, they re-branded Phil’s Fresh into Evol -- “love” spelled backwards.
Now, more than 12 years later, Anson has a full-fledged food company featuring not only his original product, but also a whole host of others including flatbreads, pizzas, and entrees like truffle mac and cheese. Evol products have expanded from the convenience store into retailers nationwide, including Target and Whole Foods.
“(We) came into this period that I call the golden age of the company,” he said. “It’s explosive growth, super exciting. But even beyond that, hopping on my Facebook account every day, looking at consumer sentiment, ways consumers are interacting with our brand and what they’re saying…that’s really created the feeling of success.”
Never Taking ‘No’ for an Answer
In his quest to become a national company, Anson faced his fair share of challenges. He said the competition in the industry was perhaps his biggest hurdle.
“The competition is really unbelievably incredible when you start a company – you say ‘hey, I just want to sell some burritos to some rock climbers’ – you’re not saying, ‘hey I’m going to go into the consumer products business or the consumer goods business’ but that’s what I did and that’s where we are today,” he said.
It would have been easy for Anson to quit from the start – after being rejected by his target audience as he peddled his cooler full of homemade burritos around Colorado’s El Dorado Canyon.
But his desire to make his dream a reality kept him in the game a little longer.
“I think that entrepreneurs always look for opportunities to make their dreams work,” he said. “And in those early days, the idea is just about surviving. You need to survive long enough to kind of evolve, to get lucky. And that’s what I did. I learned over the years, I made a lot of mistakes, but I kept iterating and evolving the approach, and that’s what led to the Evol brand.”