When it comes to blazing trails, Kelli Koehler likes to do it her way. After all, who goes to college and heads off to the “Big Apple” to follow her dreams, then decides she’d rather help people eat that apple and live a healthy lifestyle instead?
But that’s just what Kelli and her husband Kyle chose to do. The two were living in New York City, working the dream jobs they thought they wanted after graduating from Texas A&M. But they realized it wasn’t their dream. “We wanted something that aligned more with our active lifestyle and something that served a purpose and was more fulfilling.”
They moved back to San Antonio to create something from the ground up, jumping into entrepreneurship with both feet. Following their passions for health and nutrition, together, they founded Wildway to inspire others to live a healthier, fuller life. “We make fuel for life’s daily adventures. We use 100 percent real food ingredients, and that is it. Our mission was to use the cleanest ingredients possible. It just so happened that all of our products fit all of these diets that are so popular. Everything’s paleo and gluten-free and vegan and plant-based, and all of these great things we never set out to be. We just wanted to use the purest realist ingredients possible.”
Starting in their own kitchen with a lot of experimenting, Wildway has evolved into three different lines: fruit and nut snack mixes, grain-free granolas, and grain-free instant hot cereals, all with no added sugar. “We’re very transparent about our ingredients. We know a good life starts with the food that you put in your body. That’s our mission: to inspire people to lead healthier, fuller lives. We think that every day should be an adventure. That’s why we quit our jobs, to start our own adventure, and we hope to inspire other people as well.”
Not many people would take that leap, but Koehler sees things differently. “I don’t think that there is one path to success, and I’m very passionate about highlighting different ways to get to where you want to go.
“I am super passionate about going against the grain and not following the path that everyone else follows. It’s why we started our company, right? Society tells you, you start a job, or you finish college, you start a job, you buy a house, work your way up the corporate ladder, you know? But after a few years, I looked at myself and said, this is not the path for me. I want, I want to forge my own way in life.”
The idea that Koehler was starting a company didn’t surprise anyone who knew her well. She started her first company at the age of 11, putting on a dance and cheer camp for the kids in her neighborhood. “Taking risks and living big with my life has always been a central theme for me. Being an entrepreneur has always been in my blood and in the works.”
One of her mentors prepared her for what was ahead. “He said, ‘You’re going to get punched in the face a lot in the business, but you just have to keep showing up.’ And that’s what we’ve done. I feel like 95% of success in business is to keep showing up.”
She’s also learned a lot along the way. “Whenever a fire comes, or a challenge comes, you have to keep going and know that the only option is to make it happen, and doing whatever it is in my power to keep things going.”
Koehler believes you can always be better. “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. I always like to look back at what we were doing six months ago. If I’m not embarrassed by it, then I feel like we didn’t take enough risks. We’re always in the mindset and attitude of constant improvement. Put something out there, let people react to it, you know, then edit it as you’re going along. Make improvements along the way. Being quick to market and quick action has been key to our success.”
Working alongside her husband means her personal and work lives are completely intertwined. “The lines are completely blurred, or maybe they don’t exist at all. I’m not sure that I feel like balance is necessary. I feel like people who want balance are missing something in one part of their life or the other, whether it’s at home or work. And I don’t feel like anything’s missing for me. I am completely fulfilled and passionate about what I’m doing. And so there is no need for this idea of balance in my life, which is good because it would not exist.”
She credits her open mindset for helping her get to where she is, especially being open to mistakes – and working hard. “We’ve made a lot of them. We’re quick to action. We want to be nimble and flexible, try new things, and take risks. And with that, we fail sometimes. And just knowing that you can always reverse the situation, fix the situation, adapt, and change course.
“Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom and put in the hard work. I think too many people nowadays want to start at the top or they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty and put in the hard work. Some so many people aren’t willing to do that. If you are willing to, you’ll be guaranteed success.”
“There will always be someone who’s smarter than me, more talented than me. Another company that’s more funded than me with more resources. But I don’t give up. I will stop at nothing to make sure that Wildway is a success.”
“Wherever I am in 10 years, I know that I will be doing nothing less than what sets my soul on fire.”