From the USMC to Expedition Fuel: Interview with Deed, the Founder of RecPak

  •  Can you share a bit about your backgrounds and what led you both to start RecPak?

I was an officer in the Marine Corps, and the idea for RecPak originated from my experiences leading troops in training and in Afghanistan. When I got out, I went back to school and then into tech, and during this time spent years on product development, working with top sports dieticians and food scientists on the formulation.

I met Joy, an outdoor educator and NOLS guide, while on a mountaineering course in Alaska, and she came on to grow the brand. In addition to understanding the huge need for a product like RecPak, we bonded around the opportunity to build a small business from scratch and support the communities we cared most about. 

  • As a military veteran and a mountain guide, how have your experiences shaped the vision and mission of RecPak?

Our firsthand experience in extreme outdoor environments was foundational to RecPak’s mission. Outdoor meals like MREs take time to prepare and can’t be used on the move, and energy bars are mostly carbs and high sugar. Whether in the mountains or on military operations, we intimately understood the need for lightweight, calorie-dense, complete nutrition that could be consumed quickly on the move. This drove our focus on developing a product that provides balanced sustenance to keep outdoor athletes and adventurers fueled and focused without weighing them down.

Beyond the product, our service orientation in the military and teaching outdoor skills has shaped RecPak’s commitment to making an impact. We support outdoor veteran organizations, have donated to aid organizations in Ukraine run by U.S. military veterans, and are members of 1% For The Planet.

  • What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in transitioning from your roles in the military and mountain guiding to entrepreneurship?

As a solo founder initially, the sheer breadth of responsibilities in starting a business was daunting compared to more defined roles in the military or in a big company. Being responsible for everything from product R&D to marketing to operations, everything that does or does not happen rests on a founder’s shoulders.

Bootstrapping the business also required significant personal financial sacrifices and living with uncertainty. We still need to balance RecPak with our day jobs, which is a constant juggling act. However, being in the military and in the backcountry is a great teacher to stay calm and resilient under pressure, and to identify and prioritize the important stuff. 

  • Could you share a particular moment or experience during your journey where you felt particularly proud of what you were building?

We’ve supported climbers summiting Mount Everest, to the first Black female team climbing Kilimanjaro, to explorers venturing to the South Pole and everything in between, it’s so touching to be a part of people’s journeys and provide the right fuel.

But, the most touching moment was a few months after we launched and we received a long email from Gary, a retired, disabled Air Force veteran. Gary had just completed a 100-hour ultra-marathon running race and was able to complete a total of 200-miles fueled by RecPak. His story was incredibly inspiring, and when we hear people’s reactions, saying this is the product they’ve been waiting for, it feels like an affirmation that we’re contributing something valuable – truly fueling people’s adventures.

  • How did your professional experiences influence the design and functionality of your product?

RecPak’s form factor is unique – there’s nothing else like it on the market, and our military and mountain guiding backgrounds were instrumental in shaping RecPak’s design and functionality. The original inspiration was a food product that would be useful to a Marine scout sniper operating in remote, arduous environments. I intimately understood the need for lightweight, compact, and durable gear that could withstand harsh environments. The ability to get good nutrition while staying focused on your mission or outdoor activity was critical. Similarly, I lean on Joy’s experience as a NOLS educator and guide to provide feedback on everything from ease of use during different backcountry activities and to make sure that our flavor is as good as possible.

  • What were the key factors you considered when designing your product to meet the needs of outdoor enthusiasts?

Nutrition: Top sports dietitians optimized the macro and micronutrient profile for endurance activities. 700 calories is a great amount to keep you fueled without weighing you down, and it’s a good or excellent source of 23 nutrients, so you don’t need to worry about meal prep.

Just Add Water: As a powder, it cuts on space and weight. As a liquid, it fuels and hydrates and the nutrition is absorbed more quickly. 

Packability: At 6.6oz with no need for a stove, gas, etc, we engineered RecPak’s packaging to be lightweight, compact, and minimalist to maximize packability and portability.

Durability: Outdoor gear takes a beating. The packaging and design was selected to withstand the toughest environments, from punctures to moisture to extreme temperatures.

Taste and Texture: We tried to make it tasty and have a nice mouthfeel without being overly sweet or feeling like another protein powder. 

  •  In what ways has your military experience influenced your business practices and leadership within the company?

So much of who I am and the values that I try to live and instill in others comes from the hard lessons learned in the Marine Corps. One that I try to apply in all areas of my business is that you’ll never have perfect information and information often doesn’t get better with time. So, I try to make the best decision I can at that moment, observe the effects of that decision, and then adapt and adjust as needed. Often running a startup feels like you’re bouncing from one critical decision to the next, never knowing what was the “best” action, but learning and doing the best you can to maintain momentum. 

  • How did you identify the market need for RecPak, and what steps did you take to ensure it would resonate with your target audience?

I started with the goal of creating a product that I would use and feel proud about giving to my friends to fuel their biggest challenges. Next, I sent out prototypes to outdoor athletes and professionals for their feedback. Ultimately though, I’ve found that the ultimate test is whether a person who has never interacted with the brand will look at the product for the first time and make a purchase. So we launched a Kickstarter campaign to test this theory and help fund the first production batch. The validation process is ongoing, we continue to have extensive conversations with mountain guides, endurance athletes, military personnel, and many others about their needs in the outdoors and how RecPak can support them.

  • What strategies have you used to differentiate RecPak from other products in the outdoor nutrition market?

RecPak is a unique concept that naturally requires some customer education. To differentiate, we emphasize our qualities versus outdoor snacks that are more sugary and single-macro, and freeze-dried meals, which take time to prepare and can’t be consumed on the move. In person sampling at meetups, tradeshows, and trailheads is a time intensive but important way to get in front of our target users and introduce who we are and the product. I want to build our community with those who serve, so we offer generous first time and permanent discounts to active duty, vets, first responders, and guides (ask us if you are one!). Our backgrounds in the military and guiding builds trust and credibility, and folks like to support a business that’s just getting started and that gives back.

  • Looking back, what is one piece of advice you wish you had known at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey?

When I first started out, I thought that leadership as a founder was pretty straightforward: once I hired experts in areas such as nutrition and marketing to help, micromanagement was an ugly word. What I’ve been constantly reminded of over the years is that everything is on a founder’s shoulders. When all success or failure ultimately rests with you, “trust but verify” is not something to be taken lightly: every important decision must be made and overseen by you, to a level that might be uncomfortable or exhausting. This is the only way things get done well.

  • What have been the most valuable lessons learned from building RecPak?

The two most important lessons are to be insanely curious and to develop more grit than you think you’ll need. Everything flows from there.

  • How do you see the company evolving in the next five years, and what markets or areas are you aiming to expand into?

Our aspiration is for RecPak to become the go-to, trusted meal for outdoor athletes and professionals on demanding, multi day adventures. We’ll expand our product line to cater to different dietary needs, such as using plant proteins, and activity types, like higher-carb or savory options. Clean ingredient sourcing, eco-friendly packaging innovation and nutritional optimization will remain focal points. Our long term aim is to supply military and first responder organizations at scale.

  •  What advice would you give to other veterans or outdoor professionals considering a move into entrepreneurship?

For veterans and outdoor professionals contemplating entrepreneurship, I would advise:

  1. Really understand your “why” – the purpose behind your venture. When you haven’t had a day off in weeks and you’re burning through your savings, what is keeping you going?
  2. Define your target community and validate your concept with them exhaustively. Start small, iterate relentlessly and let real customer needs guide you. Don’t chase perfection.
  3. Tap into the veteran and outdoor networks, the camaraderie and support are game-changing. Folks like supporting their own, especially when you’re just starting out.
  4. Get used to discomfort. Expect timelines to take twice as long and that you’ll need to send that email 2-3 times before someone responds.
  •  How can aspiring entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry prepare for the challenges and opportunities of starting a business?

To prepare for the challenges and opportunities, I recommend:

  • Understand your market and the basics of business. Devour information about the outdoor industry across business functions, from branding to unit economics. 

  • Build a network of mentors who have walked the path and can offer guidance. Nothing is new, someone else has already learned your lesson.

  • Pressure-test your product or service with a minimum viable product. Be honest with yourself, is your product unique or compelling enough to survive against the rest?

  • Cultivate mental resilience and self-awareness for the long journey ahead. Meditation, exercise, whatever keeps you calm and focused, you’ll need it.

  • Understand how much runway you’ll need. Start saving or secure investment wisely. Cash is king.


Deed is a USMC Veteran, Mountain Athlete, and Founder of RecPak. RecPak is an ultralight, on-the-go meal replacement option designed for Mountain and Military Athletes. Learn more at

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