Creating a New Line of Protein Bars

Tony Leonardi and Lori Aleks,

MuscleUp Bars

December 10, 2018 -

Tony Leonardi and Lori Aleks created Muscle Up Bars as a response to there being no other protein bar available that was sweet potato based. By working with the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, they were able to secure a loan and grow their business in order to continue expanding.

Business start

Business Start


capital accessed

Capital Accessed

$320,000 DECD Loan

jobs created

Jobs Created




Owners: Tony Leonardi and Lori Aleks

Business Start Date: April 1, 2016

What Does Your Business Do?:

We are “The Original Sweet Potato Protein Bar”.

What Inspired You to Start Your Business?:

The idea literally came from a dream that Tony had about making sweet potato-based protein bars. After researching the market, we found that there were no bars in existence that were high protein, low sugar, and no chemical sweeteners. Additionally, there were no bars on the market  made with mother nature’s favorite carb, sweet potato.

Before Coming to the CTSBDC, What Were Your Primary Challenges and/or Needs?:

We started our business with a small investment from both owners, and we had no experience in marketing food products. SBDC, Nelson Merchan, helped us with our business plan, and helped us obtain a small business loan that we used primarily to launch our second bar, Peanut Butter.

How Has the CTSBDC Helped You Overcome Your Challenges?:

CTSBDC has opened our eyes to the various opportunities available to us as a new small business in CT, introduced us to other small business owners for networking and helped with marketing and promotions in addition to helping us secure a small business loan.

What Have You Learned/Changed Since Working with the CTSBDC?:

CTSBDC has been a terrific source for networking connections. We are doing our best to take advantage of all of the educational opportunities presented to us as well.

How is Your Business Doing Now? What Does Your Future Look Like?:

Our business is on track to double sales over last year, and the future looks very bright. We anticipate doubling every year for the foreseeable future, with the help of CTSBDC.

What Was It Like Working with Your Advisor?:

Nelson Merchan has been a pleasure to work with. He is knowledgeable, and he is a great net-worker. Nelson also helped us to secure a $30,000 Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) loan.

What Words of Advice Would You Give to Small Businesses Looking to Work with CTSBDC?:

There really is no downside to working with the SBDC. At the very least, they can help introduce you to other business owners that can be helpful to you in growing your business. The networking opportunities are vast, and the potential to obtain loans and/or grants could be key to getting a small business off the ground and to the next level of growth.

“Tony and Lori are passionate about life and business. They wanted a significantly better protein bar and made it a reality. The bar is popular among CrossFit lovers and others. Tony and Lori are very comfortable working with numbers and that is a great advantage when starting and growing a business.”

Nelson Merchan, Business Advisor

Learn more about Muscle Up Bars: