Everyday seemed like groundhogs day. I routinely pulled myself off the floor after being told ‘no’ more times than a toddler at a toy store by people whom I was asking to help me solve product manufacturing issues. Through sympathy, compassion, and my desperation, I managed to talk a few small chocolate companies into helping me. As I soon found out when looking for answers, normally one finds more questions than solutions.
So there I was, funded by credit card debt I made the necessary travels and met with a plethora of chocolate artisans and graphic designers over the course of 18 months in hopes of having a breakthrough. My goals were attainable, but one has to be a little crafty when launching a startup on a budget of nickels. I have since dubbed this strategy “maximization of minimal resources.”
Thousands of miles, and thousands of dollars later only disappointment came to greet me with zero empathy. Because everything seems to happen in threes, it seemed appropriate for one more kick in the balls to come along. During what would be one my last big business treks looking for the ‘golden ticket’ of product solutions, I arrived back in Michigan after pulling a 31 hour day only to find my safe had been broken into. My entire cash savings (roughly 10k) from working odd jobs to pay bills, and fund my newly birthed startup had sprouted legs and vanished. Turns out an ex-best friend of 13 years needed the money more than I did.
Drowning in debt, disappointment after disappointment, and feeling like my nose was barely above water, I moved out of my condo and sank to a new low unlike I had ever experienced before. With no money, no home, and hope fading quickly, the elusive dream of a company I had been fighting so hard for, now seemed more impossible than ever.
Enter Alex Clark from Bon Bon Bon:
Desperate and looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon a story in a local news article in Detroit about a chocolatier who studied the art of chocolate in Paris, and had built her own reality around a retail location that sells an assortment of hand-crafted bons bons in Hamtramck Michigan.
I felt this individual was worth at least speaking to, and maybe, just maybe, she would have the golden ticket of answers to my plaguing problem of product manufacturing issues. So, I did what any persistent entrepreneur would do. I called multiple times a day, direct messaged on multiple social media platforms, and emailed a litany of emails everyday until she responded with a phone call one evening. (Some would call that a desperate stalker, depending on who tells the story.)
Because of the awesome person Alex is, she agreed to meet with me at her retail location after she had closed for the night. At the very least, I was convinced she was curious to meet this crazy guy who seemed unresponsive to normal social cues of not taking no for an answer.
Once our meeting of the minds ensued and my diarrhea of the mouth like explanation of trial, error, and failure of the last 18 months had ceased; Alex went to work on the problem at hand. Never before had I witnessed such creative genius at work. I could feel her positive energy flowing all around us. It was the closest thing to magic that I had ever witnessed.
As soon as I thought she was on to something, she took all of the dough-like hand formed balls, I gave her to figure out how to make a mold for, and smashed them on the counter destroying my hard work before my eyes. Resisting to scream out, and ask what the hell she was doing, I trusted in her process and let her proceed with zero interruption from the peanut gallery. Alex skipped to her double boiler with chocolate already melted, and poured liquid brown chocolate goodness all over the mash and then sliced an apple, then a banana, then a wafer, then dipped all of them in the chocolate mash and before she could say a word, her eyes said it all. “Holy shit this is amazing, you gotta try this!” she said.
An epiphany also known as the “aha” moment that all entrepreneurs desire with such ferocity ended up being the pivot which is now nakee butter. The next six months were spent in my girlfriends home kitchen perfecting the ingredient formulation. Me, my dog (baxter), a food processor, and the sounds of Billie Holiday consumed our days until a formula of persistence, and perseverance was created and presented itself in the form of nakee butter.
With zero culinary skills and/or background in food science, I did not mean to become an owner of a food company, it just…kind of happened. And now the story continues to organically evolve with everyday that passes.
I want everyone reading this cliff note version of three years of my entrepreneurship journey to realize I did not have angel investors, family assistance, or venture capitalists handing me stacks of money, nakee & co was boot strapped by pure innovative craftiness.
It is true that if you hold onto a dream long enough, want it as bad as you want to breathe, and can push through the manic moments by pulling yourself off the floor after being told no more times than a toddler at Toys R Us, you can literally manifest your dream, and make it a tangible reality.
The nakee mantra is simple: By persistence, determination, and optimism you can attract anything you desire. Remember to stop and appreciate the present moment, because life is about finding joy in the journey, not the destination.
A very special thank you to my girlfriend Kate—I owe her more, than I could ever repay. If it wasn't for her, nakee & co would not be where it is today. She always understood my vision for nakee & co, but neither one of us predicted working together would create a balance the company needed to thrive. With my vision and her creative intelligence, we are able to share nakee butter with you.
Shit—I guess every dreamer does need a realist—we are such a cliché.