Five years ago during a walk through the Boulder Farmer’s Market, I spotted a steady crowd of happy snackers. Attracting the crowd was a delicious display of almonds, reminding me of the sweet cinnamon roasted nuts I loved as a child. When I tried a sample I was surprised by the complexity of flavors and spice…these nuts were the grown up version of my childhood favorite. I knew at that moment that I was forever hooked.
Fast-forward to 2013 and Olomomo is now one of the fastest growing natural food products in Boulder and beyond. Originating from modest roots, Justin Perkins started Olomomo in 2008 as a side business and labor of love. While working full time at Care2.com, Justin built Olomomo’s success in his off-hours. In the past few years, the company has received many awards and recognitions (see them on the Cooking Channel), and attracted seed funding. Olomomo’s distribution has grown into over 200 coffee shops and is on the shelves of natural grocery stores including Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and Akins and has sold over 100,000 units.
How has Olomomo managed to rise above the noise in the natural foods market and achieve growth and success? We connected with Justin Perkins to learn how he has built the company to what it is today.
Olomomo has a list of “impact commitments” integrated in to its business model. How do you measure your impact?
“I started OLOMOMO because it’s hard to find healthy snacks when you’re on the go, which is driving the obesity epidemic in the U.S. Try finding anything healthy in most airports, for example. Even nuts – which are pretty healthy on their own – are drowned in sugar, salt, and added oils.
Food companies like OLOMOMO can help impact consumer behavior through designing products that are tasty, but very nutrient dense. We can control the quality of ingredients so customers concerned with overeating can still have a satisfying snack without having to worry about the cumulative side-effects of junk food.
We’re conscious about providing flavor without overdoing it on sugar and salt, so our customers can enjoy a bag of nuts and feel satisfied knowing they’ve just indulged on goodness for their bodies that’s fun for their palette, too. We are planning a “portion control” pack with measured servings for folks like me who love nuts a little too much.”
How do you integrate the Triple Bottom Line into your operations, and how does it positively impact Olomomo’s success?
“We’re inspired by tea, wine, beer, chocolate and coffee brands in particular who have been able to integrate a healthy supply chain including fair trade and organic ingredients. With the exception of a few niche organic and fair trade nut brands, we’re not aware of a brand that has really set the bar in the nut industry on a large scale the way that companies like New Belgium Brewery, Theo Chocolate, and Conscious Coffees have done for their industries.
We juggle the financial realities of a nascent business against our idealism, and so as we ramp up, the realties of “no margin – no mission” is our modus operandi in the short run. Though we’re already doing a lot of good on a small scale, our long-term goal is to be the leading nut snack brand in the world with the most robust portfolio of goodness available. That’s why we’ve drawn a line in the sand and defined our product as The Good NutsTM .
“The Good Nuts” is a lens we use when making decisions up and down the supply chain, in how we treat people inside and outside of the company, and what the OLOMOMO brand is all about. We aim to create products that will be a replacement for the most popular nut snacks available, and will make people feel good and wow them with unexpected flavor combos. And on top of that, we also intend to use our marketing expertise and the popularity of our branding platform as a megaphone for various good things – ranging from healthy eating education to support of causes we’d like to impact.”
There is a fair amount of romanticism about being a small business owner…what do you find most fulfilling about running your own business?
“I very much started OLOMOMO with a small business owner mindset – namely thinking of it as a local hobby or lifestyle business based in farmers markets. And when you’re going through all the creative process of starting something like this, it’s super romantic. Then, after the fifth all-nighter, your 100th hour standing in the hot sun at a farmers market after a full week of travel for your day job, and the scramble to cover the next farmers market when your sales person bails the night before, and your spouse isn’t happy with you compromising family time, etc., etc., it’s safe to say the romance wears off.
Fortunately, we realized pretty early on that there was a potential to scale this way beyond a small business and create a high-growth venture, and to build a national brand that would be the all natural and organic counterpart to brands like Planters. That vision has given me many, many ‘second winds.'”
What advice do you have for someone that is on the cusp of starting a socially and environmentally conscious small business?
“If you have an idea that you think is unique, get it out in the world, quickly, and you’ll find out if there are others who share your perspective. If you “know” that you have a big idea – and have tested it in the market – don’t be grabby or over-think things. Involve as many people as you can sustain to back the idea.”
Olomomo’s commitment to doing good, the triple bottom line and sustainably sourced product is embedded deep within the company’s foundation. Read more about how Justin and his team incorporate impact into their business model on their website’s causes page. Next time you’re at Impact Hub Boulder, get a bag of Olomomo nuts at our very own Morey’s Market.