Katlin Smith

About

Katlin Smith is the founder and CEO of Simple Mills, a brand at the forefront of the clean-ingredient, natural food movement. Katlin has a knack for simplifying the complex, whether it is ingredient labels or the various issues entrepreneurs face. She began her career as a Deloitte management consultant and launched Simple Mills in 2012. Today, the brand is the fastest-growing in its category, recipient of multiple awards, and among the most visible of a new wave of companies ridding packaged foods of nutrient-void, artificial ingredients.   A few years ago, Katlin Smith arrived at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business with a solid product and modest goals. She had developed a tasty gluten-free muffin mix without preservatives and additives. She thought her company, Simple Mills, could be a player in the natural foods market. But when clinical professor of entrepreneurship Waverly Deutsch tasted—and loved—Smith's muffins, she counseled her to think big. "Be the Betty Crocker for the 21st century!" Deutsch says she told her. "I coach women to think bigger. And Katlin responded to that."   Last year, Smith won Booth's New Venture Challenge, which netted her and her teammates $30,000. Soon, Simple Mills mixes, made with almond flour and natural flavors such as coconut nectar, were among the top-selling muffin mixes, gluten-free or otherwise, on Amazon.com.   Chicago-based Simple Mills now has six full-time employees and a cash infusion (Smith won't say how much) led by Charlotte, N.C.-based Charlotte Capital Partners. It just launched three new mixes: pancake and waffle, vanilla cake and pizza crust. Though she won't disclose revenue or say whether the company is profitable, three-year-old Simple Mills outsells all other natural baking mixes nationwide, says Schaumburg-based Spins, which provides retail consumer insights and analytics. Her store count has expanded ninefold to about 450 in the past six months—mostly Whole Foods in the South and Natural Grocers in the West and Southwest—and online sales continue to grow.   The MBA is on hold. "I never said I wanted to be an entrepreneur," says Smith, who created her product after discovering a gluten sensitivity and despairing of products with "ingredients I couldn't pronounce. But my father and uncle started businesses, so I guess there's a little bit of genetics there."
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