After 3 years, we publicly opened the doors on May 17th 2012 for beta testing, which is scheduled to run until September of 2012 when we officially launch.
We are creating this company on a shoestring budget and have opted to go the route of zero investors. All of the Founders work separate full time jobs on top of creating and working for PBL. This has caused some very long days, weeks and months with a lot of personal sacrifices for all of us.
Though going this route has slowed the overall process down, it has allowed us to maintain control and focus of how our business operates and what our company stands for, which we think is pretty darn important.
The History of the Peanut Butter List:
The concept of the Peanut Butter List is a common thought as it’s pretty common with most families who have kids at home.
We (Brand and Adam) have a family of 5, along with 2 dogs, 2 cats and a fish. The idea of needing and wanting to save money on groceries is constant with us having that many mouths under one roof. We were always searching for new ways to save money on our groceries.
We never really got into the coupon scene as it always appeared to be too much hassle to save a few cents and took too long to get organized.
Like most families, especially with 3 kids, we are always running and always busy. Time was very precious and adding in sorting and clipping coupons didn’t seem to fit into our schedules. Both of us work at grocery stores, and have for several years, so we saw first hand how the prices went back and forth between high and low.
I (Adam) was a vendor, so I was in several different stores everyday, while Branda worked at Safeway, so she was only able to see those prices. We went about our days watching the prices and recognizing a few deals when we saw them. Though we watched for deals and good sales to stock up with, the idea of how valuable this information was didn’t dawn on us until we started watching people do their shopping.
We would see people grab products from one store at full price when 2 blocks away the very same item was on sale for a far lower price. Then we started noticing a few people who went from store to store grabbing the best deals from the printed ads. We would see the coupon’ers pushing around huge containers filled with coupons, walking out of the store with carts full but only spending a few bucks. There was the people with neatly hand written lists on a special notepad, to the person with a couple things wrote on the back of an envelope. There was even a guy with his list written on his arm.
For the most part, most people would walk the whole store wandering around grabbing everything they think was a good deal or like to eat. It all just seemed so chaotic and unorganized.
The original idea for PBL came into light one evening at a dinner party, Dan and Jo Lynn were over at our house (Branda and Adam) for a nice steak dinner. The conversation led to the costs of the steak, and sides, and wondering if they may have been cheaper at a different store, or the ‘what if’ factor of buying the items during a previous sale.
We talked about how people are shopping and the things we’ve notice happening in the grocery stores recently. We started to wonder if there was a website to find out all of the stores prices before you left home and how if there wasn’t one… there should be.
With that conversation the seed had been planted.
- The Drawing Board…
Over the next few weeks we searched all over the web for grocery comparison websites and where to find current sale prices on more than just the few items from the stores printed ads. We couldn’t find what we were looking for online, though there are millions of websites that can help you save money at the grocery stores, we didn’t find one that went beyond the printed ads and coupon matching.
There are a lot of great sites out there and a few that just plain don’t make sense. Based on everything we found we decided to layout what we would need to do in order to build our own site, how it would work, what we would include, and how we would be able to make a bit of money with it.
We wrote out a basic business plan of what we would do and how, along with how we can make some money. Then the four of us sat down again over a dinner and went over everything again and finalized the overall concept. At that dinner we decided to move forward with our plans to form a company.
Our original concept was to create a list of 200 to 300 grocery items and compare them side by side at the top 3 to 5 grocery stores. You would choose which store had the best deal for the week and create and print a grocery list before you left the house.
We thought it was perfect and would be something we would use ourselves to save money, so why not others as well.
We decided we would have both banner ads as well as charge a very small membership fee to access the website. It all sounded easy enough at the time.
- The Year of Research…
The next year was spent researching every possible thing we could find out about the grocery stores, coupons and the entire grocery industry as a whole. Even to this day we spend a lot of our time researching the industry and how to improve our service. In this time we decided to go with the top 3 grocery stores with a Hi-Lo pricing strategy as they offered the most potential savings. (King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons)
Since none of us had ever been in any sort of tech field, we also had to learn about the internet and how to use it, some coding, social media, blogging, domains, and everything else that would allow us get online.
Once online we had to learn about websites and how to build and integrate databases of information and the tools we would need to make the website work.
Needless to say, we learned more in that first year than in 4 years of high school.
I had been researching Price Books, what they are and how they work etc. So, for some time we called ourselves the Price Book List or PBL. This was a decent name and we were fairly satisfied.
During this time of research someone stumbled across a video of an elderly lady talking to a news reporter about how she decides which grocery store has the best prices for the week, she said, “I look at the price of peanut butter, and the store that has the lowest price for the week is where I shop that week.”
As simple as that, our Price Book List (PBL) became the Peanut Butter List (PBL).
Since that day we haven’t been able to find that video or anyone else on the planet who decides which grocery store to shop at based on the price of Peanut Butter.
- The Moment of Realization …
Somewhere in the middle of our research we realized that this small list of a few hundred items was going to be complicated to build, hard to maintain, and very difficult to gather all of the information. We were having a bit of trouble finding a designer capable of tackling the project with any success.
So, naturally, we decided to make it harder and multiply the scope of the website tenfold.
To put it all very simply, what we discovered was that there’s a lot of groceries, a lot of coupons, a lot of information, and a lot of people with different tastes. With an average of 45,000 grocery items in a single store and thousands upon thousands of shoppers everyday, we knew our 200 to 300 item list wasn’t going to cut it.
If this company was going to make an impact on how people shop…
- We would need to include 80% or more of what ‘everyone’ buys from the grocery stores.
- We would need to offer the ability to save 50% or more on every grocery trip with or without coupons.
- We need to be able to do all of this in the easiest and most simple way possible so that the busy families of today can use the service without slowing down their day.
- The New Idea…
Determined this would work, even without having a web designer at this point, we set out to the stores and made a huge list of nearly 5,000 grocery items, of which most were line priced items where one price covered several varieties of that item. Next we matched as many of those items up at the 3 main grocery chains in Colorado, which cut the list down closer to 3,000 items. Then we eliminated items that were part of the same line of products and were generally on sale for the same price point from week to week.
There it was, our list of more than 2,500 items that considering line priced items covers about 80% of the grocery store (minus Health and Beauty, personal hygiene, and seasonal).
Now we just needed to figure out how to gather 2,500 prices at 3 different store chains every week and put it online so that everyone in the entire state could access and use it.
No problem, piece of cake… oh, except we still didn’t have anyone to design and build the website.
- Fate Steps In…
Through a series of chance events we were asked to meet a web designer in Woodland Park to see if he might be able to give us a hand and help us build the site.
At this point we had a lot of the features and website drafted out. We went to Woodland Park and presented the materials rambling on and on about the website and then finished with the irresistible clincher to the whole deal… “Oh, and we can’t pay you anything right now.”
His name is Jordan Richmeier, a young web designer working from home doing whatever web design job he could get to pay the bills. We still don’t know exactly why he said “yes” that day, but I can say that he has been an instrumental part in getting us to where we are today.
He started working on PBL in late October of 2010 and is still hard at work making PBL perfect in every detail. He was given a blank canvas and a book of crazy ideas that we wanted to incorporate into the website. In a week he has mock ups of the website and in as little as a years time, we had a working (rough) model of PBL.
Starting January of 2012 we had a mostly functioning website where we could actually start uploading massive amounts of data every week and see the results online. In fact, the first week of 2012 marked the first week we uploaded prices for all of our items to the website and started building our massive database of price history. Since then and to the present we have not missed one weeks’ worth of prices and continue to have everything updated before Friday morning.
In addition, we’ve been refining the details, perfecting the features, adjusting the algorithms, and have made everything as close to perfect as possible to meet our official launch scheduled in September of 2012.
The Peanut Butter List has gone from this small idea of a list of a few hundred items to becoming the world’s largest side by side grocery comparison website. (As far as we can tell)
- We’ve grown from a simple idea to help a few people save money on groceries, to expanding our scope to include entire cities and states at once giving anyone the chance to save a lot of money in a very simple way.
- We’re developing programs to interact with and help raise hundreds of thousands to possibly millions for local schools and charities.
- We’re creating an affiliate program to offer our members the chance to earn cash and make money with PBL.
- We’re limiting our advertising to ONLY include local businesses and offer even the smallest business access to a large amount of traffic at very little costs.
- We’re integrating local businesses directly to our website making it possible to make money and new business by offering our members special deals and discounts.
Our small idea has transformed into a great idea with limitless possibilities and vast potential.
It has been a long journey to this point, a lot of personal sacrifices were made and a lot of blood, sweat and tears have been put into PBL. No one on our team from 2009 to present (Aug. 2012) have been paid or compensated for their efforts. I am truly amazed and thankful for the love and passion that has built PBL to where we are today. Our time is coming and we will make an impact and a difference for a lot of people.
For everyone who has left, and everyone who is still with the Peanut Butter List and who still believe in this idea… from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
~ Adam Hebert
Founder and CEO, Peanut Butter List L.L.C.