We had the good fortune of connecting with David Downing and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, what makes you happy? Why?
Getting stuff done makes me happy. From the other perspective, sitting around, ideating, analyzing, and discussing things for long periods of time without actually DOING something makes me unhappy. When presented with a challenge or problem, I like to get moving and take a first step even if that means the step is in the wrong direction. This is both a strength and a weakness for me. Taken to its extreme, my desire to do things equates to impatience. I try to balance this out by listening to my team, my mentors, and my loved ones. They’ll often encourage me to take a breath and step back for a moment to make sure I’m not totally going down the wrong path. It’s challenging, but the more I’ve experienced the more I’ve been able to balance patience with action.
What should our readers know about your business?
ChipMonk Baking is a Houston-based specialty bakery that produces delicious low-carb, gluten free, keto, and diabetic friendly desserts. We sell our special keto-friendly cookies and cookie bites online (www.chiponkbaking.com, Amazon, Walmart.com) and in 100+ retail establishments across the United States. I started the company with my friend Jose Hernandez back in early 2019. Jose was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he was in college, so together we sought to create desserts that were safe for him to eat but had amazing flavor and clean ingredients.
We literally started in our apartment kitchen, baking a dozen cookies at a time and selling them locally at our office and farmers markets. Since then, we’ve built out our own commercial bakery and have a team of ~10 folks helping us with baking, order fulfillment, marketing, customer service, and sales. It has not been easy, but it has been a rewarding journey with lots of memories that will last my lifetime. Jose and I had no background in food, e-commerce, or consumer packaged goods, so we’ve had to learn everything ourselves along the way either by research or from trusted mentors and specialists. We take it day by day, with the goal of always getting better incrementally. I think that’s a key for startup success is to not necessarily aim to be perfect from the get-go. It’s better to put out a prototype, start small, but just start. Listen to your customers and your team along the way to slowly improve your product or service bit by bit. Avoid taking massive risks that could sink the company in one go, and over time you’ll be able to grow while creating an optimal company, product, and team.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love taking folks down to NASA to check out all the amazing history and spacecraft down there. Every time I go, my mind is blown by the achievements humankind made so long ago. I’ll usually combine that with a drive down to Galveston for a meal by the ocean and maybe some walking around the beaches or board walk.
Coming back to central Houston, I’d likely visit Rice University’s beautiful campus (I’m a Rice alum!) and then walk over to Rice Village to people watch and enjoy some tasty food and drinks. East Downtown and The Heights are also cool areas for a night out, but my introverted self usually doesn’t enjoy going out there too much.
I think Houston also has some great outdoors places to visit. I love going for walks at the cities awesome parks: Memorial Park, Hermann Park, Eleanor Tinsley Park, Terry Hershey Park to name a few. Going outside is pretty rough in the summer though!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The two biggest sources of support when it comes to my life are my parents (John and Gail) and my wife Michelle.
My parents set me up big time by investing all they could into giving me an excellent education. While growing up I certainly didn’t appreciate the rigors of going to an all-boy private school. In retrospect the academic challenges of those days really expanded my ability to learn, problem solve, write, and be confident in myself. My parents also taught me about the basics of “having manners”, treating people with respect, fairness, and kindness. Being a 1st generation immigrant family, they also gave me an international mindset when viewing what was happening both at home and abroad. Generally this helps me be more open-minded and willing to accept change.
My wife is my absolute emotional rock. She listens to me, calms me when I’m angry and supports me when I feel weak or scared. She makes me feel valued when there are days that I don’t believe I have any. I 100% could not do the things I do without her love and support, and one of my biggest motivations with building a business is to create opportunity and freedom for both of us to do what we want to do. I’m insanely lucky to have her in my life.
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