Episode #18 – Nancy Kalish: Breaking The Rules of Snacks
Listen here or on iTunes.
“Being in the food business, something literally goes horribly wrong every single day. And you have to learn how to stay extremely zen about the whole thing.”
To start a food business, solving a problem, preferably one that you experience yourself, is just as essential as starting any other business. Nancy always had a sweet tooth and she started her brand of allergen-free, vegan snacks (brownies and blondies made with chickpeas) to improve what was available – or rather, give an option that was actually healthy, not just ‘healthy’ because it says so on the packaging.
There was a lot of prototype-testing going on in the early days, before she officially launched. That part is probably easy to imagine when you’re thinking about a food business. What comes next, though, how to get from figuring out which legumes to use for your brownies to landing a contract with Whole Foods, that’s the part of the journey that can drag a fledgling company down faster than you can say ‘shelf-life’.
Nancy had to learn everything on the go – she literally started the company with no previous experience in the food business whatsoever.
And was the one running the business and baking the brownies at the start.
And bootstrapped pretty much everything.
And went through a recent name change due to a trademark that fell through.
And today, Rule Breaker Snacks (formerly known as Pure Genius Provisions) are available in over 60 Whole Foods stores, a number of smaller local outlets, as well as online. The Brooklyn-based company is still very much bootstrapped and Nancy does a lot of everything (minus the baking), but when you listen to the interview and check out their website, you’ll see the team she’s put together is more than capable of handling things when they go horribly wrong.
This episode is a great walk-through of all the necessary steps you should take when starting out as a small plant-based food business, from getting the right advice before you begin, linking up with the right suppliers and knowing when you should outsource things, to details that can stop you cold if you’re not ready for them.
(And incidentally, black bean brownies are a recipe Maya and me have made many times when we needed to impress non-vegans. So even though it was impossible to get some samples from Rule Breaker Snacks down across the border, I can safely say that brownies with beans are an excellent idea!)
Official Website and Online Store: Rule Breaker Snacks
Check out some of Nancy’s articles
The starting point: Food + Enterprise Summit
Biggest natural products trade show on the East Coast: Expo East
Nancy’s Brand/Packaging Designer: Miller Creative
Distribution Partner for Rule Breaker Snacks: UNFI
Consultants and CFO/COOs for Rule Breaker Snacks: Relish Food Project
Source of (minor) crowd-sourced funding: Kiva Zip 0% crowd-funded loans
*This is an affiliate link – purchasing through it won’t cost you extra, but I’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which I’ll gratefully use to create more great content for this site.
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