New Mexico Magazine
Originally Posted: January Issue
By JIM O’DONNELL | Photography by MINESH BACRANIA
IN THE WINTER of 2010, more than 200 inches of snow dumped on Taos Ski Valley, and Kyle Hawari and Brooks Thostenson, twentysomething buddies from Texas, didn’t waste a flake: They rocked an impressive 90 days on the slopes that season.
“We worked as night janitors at the gym so we could ski all day,” says Hawari, a towering former All-Ivy lineman at Yale. “It was an awesome year. But by spring we wondered: What do we want to do with our lives? We’d experienced the ski-bum life. We wanted to build something deeper.”
In the next year, they launched Taos Mountain Energy Bars, and success started coming as fast and steep as the slopes that inspired them. By 2015 they were selling 100,000 bars a month and racking up more than $3 million in sales in more than 1,500 locations nationwide. When the company opens a new production facility in Questa this spring, it will mark another landmark step. It will allow them to add another 15 employees to their operation, for a total of 30, and set their sights on annual sales of up to $50 million. That’s a lot of energy bars.
Friends since third grade, Thostenson and Hawari had discussed starting a business together as kids, but they went their separate ways after high school. Thostenson graduated from Southern Methodist University and cut his teeth selling life insurance in Dallas. Hawari’s career at Yale was interrupted by a severe knee injury his sophomore year; his search for a place to mend landed him in Taos, working at a coffee shop, biking, and taking physical therapy. Back at Yale a year later, Taos was still on his mind. He returned during the winter of 2009–10 and invited Thostenson to join him. They resumed their childhood conversation.
“Living in Taos, we saw this opening for food for an outdoor-lifestyle-oriented demographic,” says Hawari. “You know, something local, organic, that tastes good and appeals to people on the go.”
They envisioned a product that could meet the needs of a serious mountaineer like the legendary Everest guide and Taos ski patroller Dave Hahn. He says that when an athlete is under serious physical exertion in high, cold places, the appetite for dull food evaporates into the frigid wind. It’s hard to eat, yet you need to put fuel into your body.
“That’s what we wanted,” says Hawari: “a fundamentally different snack for outdoor athletes, inspired by the outdoors. It had to be created in a kitchen, not concocted in a lab. It had to taste good, provide a lot of energy, and reflect that ethos we found in Taos, both for quality ingredients and creativity.
“It took a lot of trial and error, but we got there.” READ MORE