The nakee journey
Kate 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 the nakee lifestyle with you. Shit—I guess every dreamer does need a realist-what a cliché.
Without angel investors, family assistance, or venture capitalists handing me stacks of money, nakee & co. was boot strapped by innovative craftiness with maximization of minimal resources. 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.
Here is our story:
I hated the bullshit, fake, niceties that spewed from those assholes on a daily basis. After 10 months of self-torment, I quit my corporate I.T. recruiting job that turned me into a wretched human being. I was off to start my own organization where I would dictate the culture. But, before you start thinking of the startup life as a glamorous lifestyle full of relaxation with days spent at the local coffee shop with just you and your laptop--enter, 'oh shit' moment. This new reality bitched slapped me hard, when I started living off credit cards within a couple of months of quitting that J.O.B. It turns out that bills don't stop just because you have an epiphany to set out and make your own lifestyle in the world. I needed cash flow to pay bills while formulating my grandiose business idea into a tangible reality.
If I had to work a J.O.B. I wanted to do something that would allow me to advance the company forward rather than just collecting a paycheck and falling further behind everyday I wasn’t working on it. After much deliberation, and help of Kates persuasion, I settled on substitute teaching. My thought was I could rep my company to all the students while I babysat for the real teacher. Within 8 months of writing nakee's Twitter and Instagram handle on the board under Mr. Weber, I had a healthy following of high school kids that were eager to buy nakee products and be part of the tribe.
2 months before the school year ended, I was fired for nakee & co's “not school appropriate” brand that ONE teacher found offensive. (POST PICTURE OF LETTER HERE) She must have went onto our instagram or twitter feed, (we did not have a website during that time) and became appalled and offended enough to get me fired. Just imagine, a middle aged woman, hates her life, hates her husband, and the only joy she finds is to bring pain to others around her. We have all seen this type of bitch before, this is the kind of miserable hag who only has sex with her husband on their anniversary night, and strictly for procreating purposes only. So lets keep imagining...the first the phone call she made was to the office about how offended she was at the name nakee and the sexual suggestive undertones that the brand stands for. What a fucking travesty! These are the types of people I LOVE offending. If this person is you, and you are somehow still reading, please stop now. You are not us, and we are not for you.
Back to the glamours of entrepreneurship. I soon found myself selling anything I could find of value on Craigslist, which included things out of my condo, and items I found in the garbage that people no longer wanted. Between the random Craigslist selling and working odd jobs to pay bills, I struggled on a daily basis to keep the nakee vision alive. This would come to be my reality for the next two years.
Everyday seemed like groundhogs day- I routinely pulled myself off the floor after being told NO, by people who’s help I was asking for. Through sympathy and compassion I managed to talk a few small chocolate companies into helping me solve my nakee production problem.
Funded by more personal credit card debt, I made the necessary travels and met with many chocolate artisans and graphic designers from the upper peninsula of Michigan, to up and down the north east coast of this fine country. The goal was to have the "professionals" help me find solutions to issues such as:
1) Create a working package design
2) Develop a viable product that was worthy of shipping
Thousands of hours, miles, and dollars later-only disappointment prevailed. I had more questions than answers than when I first started this journey.
Because everything seems to happen in 3's, One sunday afternoon I came home from pulling a multiple day, cross country business trek, only to find my safe had been broken into, and my entire cash savings from working those odd jobs to pay for living expenses, business meetings, and float my newly birthed startup had sprouted legs and vanished. In case you are wondering...$8,120.00
And I know your next question...Who did it Evan?
Answer: Ex-best friend of 13 years that I was letting stay with me for free because he had fallen onto hard times.
Question: Did I get the money back?
The irony is thick...I know.
Drowning in debt, disappointment after disappointment, and feeling like my nose was barely above water, I could not afford living at my condo any longer, and sank to a new low unlike I had never experienced before. With no money, no home, and hope fading, the elusive dream of nakee 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 about a chocolatier who built her dream around a retail location that sells an assortment of hand-crafted bons bons, called Bon Bon Bon.
My hope was that Alex could provide me with an improved way to produce the product I had been trying and failing at the last year. I was beyond stressed out of my mind at this point. Everyone I spoke to was full of shit. Every path I took, disappointment in multiple forms followed. So when she finally called me back, she must have felt my desperation, and felt bad for me because she agreed to give me an hour of her time and meet at her chocolate shop. After an hour of my diarrhea of the mouth like explanation of every method of which I had tried and failed at, we still had nothing.
As we both sat at her production table in deep contemplative thought, I looked over at her and it was as if she was in a different world looking down at the samples I brought her. She focus was uncanny for such a late hour in the evening. She took all the samples I brought and began forming a big ball of playdoh like batter, then she promptly jumped up to go warm up some chocolate. I sat and watched her dump the bowl of chocolate over the table covering the batter mix. Then she sliced an apple, cracked a few wafers out of a package, then I before I could ask what she was doing, Alex’s face lit up as she said, “Damn you gotta try this!” I couldn’t deny how awesome it tasted and how great the concept was. nakee butter was born.
Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy for contemplating a product pivot before the product even launched, I called Kate on the drive home from the meeting to verify the concept. I will never forget Kate’s response. Before I could finish my sentence, she already knew what I was going to say, and could already see the concept from start to finish. With my anticipation escalating awaiting her response to this crazy idea, she concluded that it was genius.
That was the validity I needed.
Like all good pivots, it seemed so obvious. It was the holy shit moment, the light bulb flash, that elusive 'aha!' moment we entrepreneurs desire with such ferocity. It was exactly like being bitched slapped.
The next following few months were spent in the kitchen. Me, Bax man, a food processor, and the sounds of Billie Holiday consumed my days until a workable formula of ingredients were created to form the nakee butter you now see.
The nakee mantra is simple: By persistence, determination, and optimism you can do anything you desire. Ive'd learned that sometimes I need to slow down and remember to stop and appreciate the present moment, because life is about the journey, not the destination.
Live a few years of your life like most people won't, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. Above all else ENDURE, because like Mr. Calvin Coolidge once said, "Persistence, and determination alone are omnipotent."