It’s hard to keep track of John Pepper.
The cofounder of the Boston burrito empire Boloco left the company abruptly in 2013 after a dispute with several board members about an investment he wanted to make.
After stints driving for Uber, developing an app, working on a book, and spending a month in Costa Rica, he bought the company back this summer, hiring a CEO to run it.
Now though, Pepper has once again taken the helm as Boloco’s chief executive, deciding in the end that he was the right person for the job after all.
“Nothing is by the book right now,” he said.
Among the unexpected changes he’s proposing: empowering workers to “question everything” about the Boloco business model to generate new ideas. He also wants to give most of the 340 employees a $1-an-hour raise, boosting the company’s minimum wage to $11 an hour, despite the fact that it has been struggling — closing five stores in the past year.
He estimates the raise would cost half a million dollars a year, but would lead to a more dedicated workforce.
Even though he’s the burrito king again, Pepper, 46, is striving to keep spending more time with his wife and three kids. The name of his 2-year-old son, Bo, might sound like it hints at where his loyalty lies, but it turns out it’s short for Bowman, not Boloco.
His 9-year-old daughter, too, has an unitentionally perfect name: Isabelle Pepper (say it slowly. . . .)
Maybe they’ll both follow their father into the food business.
Topo taking big steps in the running shoe world
Taking on the big boys in the running shoe industry isn’t easy. That’s why Tony Post knows he’s lucky he landed more funding from Norwest Venture Partners, to give his company, Topo Athletic, the resources it needs for an international expansion. It was worth it, he says, even though that meant losing a controlling stake in his Newton firm.
California-based Norwest now has the majority share, after leading a $2.5 million round of funding for Topo; Post says he kicked in about 10 percent of that amount. Topo’s running shoes are now in about 300 stores, Post says, nearly twice the number from a year ago.
But that number is still tiny compared to titans like Nike and Adidas. So Post says he’s embarking on an international push. Most of his business takes place in the United States, with an increasing number of sales in Canada and small amounts in Spain and the United Kingdom. Next up: Hong Kong, Thailand, Denmark, and Norway.
Topo will have some help in this expansion from two new board members, Second Time Around CEO Kristin Kohler Burrows and Jef Holove, the general manager of Intel’s Basis wearable device business.
Even with the extra money, Topo doesn’t plan to spend a ton of money on traditional advertising. It’s more cost effective, Post says, to spread the word in social media and through the company’s 33 “ambassadors” who talk up the brand in their own communities. They get paid in shoes for their efforts. For some fitness fanatics, that’s enough.
Dorchester Brewing Co. bound for South Bay area
Dorchester Brewing Co. founder Travis Lee has faced setbacks finding a location for his forthcoming beer-making company, but this week brought a big win. The Zoning Board of Appeal approved plans allowing the company to open a 25,000-square-foot facility at 1250 Mass Ave. near the South Bay shopping center (the former site of sheet metal contractor M.A. Peacard Co.)
Plans include a large tasting room for the general public and a three-story silo made of shiny stainless steel.
After a proposal fell through for another site in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, Dorchester Brewing Co. bought the new building for $3 million and will rent space to aspiring microbrewers who want help with packaging and distributing.
Lee said he has raised about $2.3 million to buy brewery equipment and begin renovations. Five unnamed investors have pooled $1 million toward the effort and the business has also borrowed $1 million through the US Small Business Administration and $300,000 through city and state loan programs.
The startup has also hired a new chief executive, Matt Malloy, a former Zipcar marketing executive. Felipe E. Oliveira, the owner of Percival Beer Co. and maker of Dot Ale has left the management team.
Alnylam CEO calls out drug profiteers
Attention drug price gougers: Bay State biotech leaders think you’re giving them a bad name.
John Maraganore , the biochemist who serves as CEO of Cambridge’s Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc., became the latest Massachusetts life sciences executive to call out high-profile profiteers who buy up prescription drugs and jack up prices.
“The actions of a small number of bad actors and the resultant political demagoguery to paint those actions with a broad brush on our entire industry are both unfortunate and misplaced,” Maraganore told investors on an earnings call this week. “This is not what we do in biotech. We are about innovation, patients, and 21st century medicines.”
Maraganore didn’t name names. But other chief executives, including George Scangos of Biogen Inc. in Cambridge and Jeff Leiden of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Boston, have criticized Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC chief executive Martin Shkreli, who acquired a generic parasitic infection medicine and hiked its price from $13.59 to $750.
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