Why I Quit My Job & Turned Down a $100,000 Salary to Join a Snack Bar Startup

The greater the risk, the greater the reward.

I am a junkie for excitement, new opportunity, and in the end, a good story. So when my phone rang early this summer and Brooke and Sean Muldoon asked me to be a co-owner of brüks bars, their burgeoning startup selling healthy, allergy conscious snack bars, I said, ‘Yes’ without hesitation. Details can always be figured out, but how often will I get the opportunity to help build a business with a product and bottom line I truly care about?

Yes, I could make a lot more money by returning to management consulting in the northeast. I might see more immediate impact housing homeless families for the local nonprofit in Raleigh, NC. But in the middle ground between those two professional paths, there is an opportunity for me to grow while changing the world the way I see fit – encouraging people to care about their health and wellbeing by producing a product that I find fulfilling and delicious. There is a way for me to do what I swore I would do if I emerged victorious from a four-year battle with Lyme disease: embrace happiness and spread it. I don’t take this decision lightly, but as entrepreneur Jonathan Fields said better than I can, “Entrepreneurship is not just a way to create something, but is an astonishing channel for personal growth.”

Sean Muldoon is a Strength and Conditioning Coach for a handful of University of North Carolina - Charlotte’s varsity teams, and in addition to his tremendous wealth of knowledge about nutrition and athletic performance, he is our Senior Flavor Master, or Vice President of Strategy and Development for those collecting business cards. brüks bars started in Sean and Brooke’s kitchen one night three years ago because Sean, with food allergies himself, needed a nutritious gluten, dairy, soy and egg-free snack bar to eat during practice. Two years after starting to sell the bars, brüks bars can be found in more than 50 retailers and is expanding rapidly across the nation. Brooke, branding and marketing extraordinaire (and Sean’s newly devoted wife) serves as CEO, living and breathing life into brüks’ brand while being the face (and the inspiration behind the name) of the business.

 And me? Well, I bring a few major lessons I have learned about life into my role as Chief Operating Officer: 1. I need excitement, challenge and a constant learning curve to be engaged. 2. I need a bottom line I care about – people over profit – to be fulfilled. 3. Without good health, nothing else matters. I have climbed mountains in New Zealand and slept on the dirt under the African sky. I have seen the inside of the nicest hotel suites as well as the inside of hospital rooms. I worked for the NFL League Office, transferred to Harvard, studied abroad in Fiji and traveled to over 20 countries because each opportunity felt like a risk, and I intrinsically know that each risk brings a wave of fear that propels me to work harder, learn more and constantly seek to improve.

Each experience, each lesson, each exciting, scary, and beautiful moment led me here. I grew up in a nontoxic home with a food co-op in the garage next to our compost pile. My parents went through a “macrobiotic” phase before anyone knew what that meant. I ate organic and was told that there are three things in life worth spending money on: food, education and travel. And so whatever financial issues we endured, I was privileged to enjoy a roundtable family dinner every night, where the kitchen served as centerpiece for a family of six boys and two busy parents.

The opportunity to work with two friends – two successful, talented business people – in a city known for entrepreneurialism, creating a product that betters our world with no ceiling in sight, is still a risk, probably the biggest I have taken in my professional life. But in the end, we will learn, we will grow, and we will work to handcraft a company that is about so much more than profit. Our brand is not simply about healthy snacks. It is about joie de vivre, a term shared with me by a French client in New York who explained that the literal translation, joy of life, is incomplete. With a culture devoted to food, and with food as the key to happiness, joy of life is truly a joy of food and of health. So we at brüks bars choose to produce snacks that create a better us and a brighter, healthier world. A product that promotes and shares our joy of life.

Our vision is to change the world, one person at a time, one bite at a time. We ground our principles of good health, improved performance, allergy conscious snacking and a commitment to deliciousness in a company philosophy focused on real food for real people. We bring inquisitiveness, open-mindedness and humor to this mission, as delicious snacks are best when accompanied by knowledge, honesty and genuine happiness. As we develop a national presence, we maintain our commitment to excellence, creating products grounded in our organic, locally grown roots. We believe that what you put into your body is just as important as what you think, how you feel and who you want to become. So we put love and care into each snack bar, shaping the perfect ingredients for fitness, energy and passion, the fuel for YOU to change the world. Join our mission, share our vision. Eat for health. Eat for excitement. Eat for life.

Thank you for reading this and for supporting my journey. Now it’s time to take over the world!

To deliciously good health,

Pete Smith


Typically I don’t like to read but I loved reading that! You will do great!! Really want to taste a bar :)

Posted by Jacki on September 14, 2015

so proud of you ! We will miss you but look forward to hearing about your new adventures !

Posted by Kim on September 14, 2015

WOW! Pete, so wonderful to read your words, feel your commitment and sense the energy you are bringing to bruks bars. Nothing but the best to all of you. So so exciting.

Posted by Belkis Muldoon on September 14, 2015

So happy for you Pete!! Look forward to following you all on your journey.

Posted by Angela Powell on September 15, 2015

Pete.. Wishing you and your company the best of everything.. You have endured so much yet, have enjoyed so much.. May The Cup Runneth Over.. Blessings.. Jeanne S

Posted by Jeanne on September 15, 2015

I can’t wait to read more about the adventures of Peter Smith and bruksbars!

Posted by Jacqueline Reiter on September 15, 2015

This is awesome, Pete! I’m excited for your new journey.
Good luck!!!
- Kat

Posted by Kat Bodrie on September 15, 2015

Wonderful piece of writing, Pete, and it so clearly reveals your spirit and ideals. I fervently hope that you find a fulfilling path here toward your heart’s desire and your way to serve fruitfully in the world.

Please stop by when you are in the Triangle. Best of luck!!!

Posted by Laurie Lindgren on September 17, 2015

It’s an understatement that Pete is a junkie for excitement! He is also thoughtful, kind, super smart, and out to improve the world! Gotta love Pete!

Posted by Robin on September 28, 2015

Big fan – long time – more reasons now! Just finished my 2nd flavor and I know why Pete has made this change. More power to you, Pete, and the team in this exciting endeavor. Reading this, eating a yummy apple pecan bar and listening to your “e-20 Podcast”! I am inspired! Hugs and love. . .

Posted by Mindy on November 12, 2015

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