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Daniels alum and co-founder of The Honest Stand finds success with vegan cheese-style dips

For Jeremy Day, the smell of his mom’s four cheese macaroni roasting in the oven could be considered the smell of his childhood. So, when he found out as an adult that he was lactose intolerant (and therefore unable to indulge in his mom’s signature dairy-filled dish), he was a bit distraught.

But Day is not one to cry over spilled (almond) milk. Instead of wallowing, he teamed up with his friend and former University of Denver classmate Alexandra Carone (MSW 2014) to launch The Honest Stand—a food manufacturing company and brand that uses plant-based, organic ingredients to create dairy-free cheese sauces.

Day and Carone—Co-founders of The Honest Stand

The first product the company made was, of course, a mac and cheese sauce. “[Alexandra and I] made it for ourselves but realized we might be on to something when friends and family loved it too. They told us, ‘you could sell this stuff,’” Day said.

Day, who was pursuing his International MBA from Daniels when The Honest Stand launched in 2014, said that he and Carone started selling their dairy-free cheese sauces at farmers’ markets in Denver before expanding. Now, The Honest Stand’s products are available in hundreds of stores nationwide, including major chains like Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Market and The Fresh Market.

The company also just closed a million-dollar fundraising round. As more consumers look for ways to reduce their dairy consumption, products like The Honest Stand’s cheese-style sauces are in high demand.

“About 40 percent of the people in the United States are looking to minimize their overall consumption of animal products,” said Day, who is CEO of the company in charge of brand development (his business partner Carone is president and COO). “So, there is an opportunity for brands like us to make an impact and provide consumers with plant-based foods made with whole ingredients.”

The Honest Stand offers five dip flavors—cheddar style, garlic parm, spicy nacho, mild nacho and smoked cheddar style.

The Honest Stand’s cheese sauces are created with simple ingredients that could be bought at a grocery store. Ingredients like vinegar, potatoes, carrots, onions, cashews, as well as different seasonings and spices. “And with that, we are able to provide folks with comfort foods that also meet certain dietary restrictions. Our products are vegan, paleo and keto-friendly; and they are flavorful, which is king in our culture,” Day said.

When asked what advice he’d give aspiring entrepreneurs who want to launch their own successful startup, Day offered some helpful nuggets of wisdom.

“Be willing to step into the unknown and deal with uncomfortable situations. You need to be willing to solve problems and help people,” Day said. He also emphasized the importance of asking questions—a skill he honed as a student at Daniels. “My professors were always willing to help when I came to them with a question.”

The Honest Stand’s products are available in grocery stores nationwide, including major chains like Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Market and The Fresh Market.

Day said that self-awareness is also key. “Know what you do well and what you need help with. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I try to wake up and ask, ‘Okay, what can I do better? What can I do to help move us forward?’”

Fortunately for Day, the future of The Honest Stand seems as bright as the brand’s packaging. “Going forward, we will continue to develop plant-based comfort foods,” he said. “Right now, we have more savory [products], but plan to move to sweet as well. We want to be a company that provides a holistic experience when it comes to your consumption habits, while still maintaining those principles and values—ingredients you can understand, a great nutritional panel, and also being dietary friendly.”

In the end, Day wants to make an impact, while also giving consumers a taste of nostalgia. “Food is very experiential, it’s bonding. For me, it’s my mom’s four-cheese macaroni. I remember the way the house would smell when it came out. Being able to share a comforting meal with friends and family, that’s what we aim to do.”