After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Amazon Rainforest, Evan Delahanty created healthy snacks company, Peaceful Fruits. He makes delicious fruit snacks out of nothing but fruit. The company was born out of a desire to share a feeling of peace, love, and health with more people. And not only do they employ adults with disabilities, but they are proud to have created full wage job opportunities for over 40 adults with disabilities.
The company now makes $20k a month with 6 employees in the team. Looking forwards, they will continue to innovate and launch new products that drive the conversation in the snack industry around sustainability, healthier ingredients, and really really good food that also makes a difference. They’re also on track to break even this year. Discover more about the ethos behind the brand and how Evan started it all off.
Who are you and what brand did you start?
My name is Evan Delahanty and I am the founder and CEO of Peaceful Fruits. We make delicious fruit snacks out of nothing but fruit! We use the best fruit — ethically sourced from the Amazon Rainforest where I was a Peace Corps Volunteer — and beyond. We employ adults with disabilities in Ohio to make all of our products and we love to be creating a healthier option for kids and families everywhere. In addition to earning recognition for our snacks, I am proud to have created full wage job opportunities for over 40 adults with disabilities since we started.
How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Peaceful Fruits?
After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Amazon Rainforest (a little country called Suriname), I wanted to maintain my connection to the people in that region and continue to help them improve their lives. That’s why I decided to launch a brand that tied back to the story of family empowerment, sustainability, and the best that Mother Nature has to offer.
You can see that link in our name – I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and I started Peaceful Fruits! I wanted to share that feeling of peace, love, and health with more people – which you can see reflected in our logo. However, we are also a business and that’s why I decided to make fruit snacks. I saw an opportunity to do the same thing for fruit snacks that others have done in chocolate and coffee, for example – update it with the kind of story, ingredients, and approach that modern consumers want.
Describe the process of launching Peaceful Fruits?
I started at my parents kitchen table and local events, then went through a social enterprise accelerator and used that to help launch a KickStarter campaign. From there, we were able to land a spot on Shark Tank and things really sped up. Overall, it’s all about developing personal relationships with people and being super clear – with yourself and others – that sets you apart from everyone else.
A big issue is that it definitely takes money. Building a brand, especially around a physical product that you can’t contract manufacture out, is a huge investment. You have to find ways to refine your focus, tighten your belt, and do more with less. Though Shark Tank was obviously the biggest example of that for us, we’ve been able to leverage our story to create a deluge of free, positive media coverage since the beginning.
Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?
Food is food and it’s got to be good. The quality of your product is the single most important thing. However, quality is also about the way you make people feel – and that comes back to service and story. We try to make people part of our story so they feel invested and want to help us grow.
With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?
For us, a huge chunk of our business is online even though brick and mortar is still the dominant way to buy food. Our product is great for e-commerce (compact, shelf stable, etc) and with our media successes, we have that benefit over many other food companies.
At the same time, in our market, digital sales are rarely enough to build a food brand where the playing field is so crowded with options and deep pockets – because ultimately people want to taste the food if they aren’t familiar with it. So for us, it’s combining physical stores with an online experience that draws people in.
How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?
Our goal is to continue to innovate and launch new products that drive the conversation in the snack industry around sustainability, healthier ingredients, and really really good food that also makes a difference. We are about not sacrificing anything – let’s do everything right.
We are on the path to break even in 2020 and our goal is to grow and partner with larger companies to, hopefully, spread our philosophy of sustainability and community impact to more and more businesses.
What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?
It’s almost impossible to build a brand and make a physical product at the same time – either build a team that includes both skill sets or, better yet, figure out which one you can give up or outsource. And by the way, you can’t outsource your brand building, at least not early on.
On that point, in my experience the best brand building activities are either free or $10k+. If you are spending $1000 on facebook ads, depending on the market of course, odds are it’s about as useful as spending $0. You need a plan to really break through the noise – anything below that threshold doesn’t get you much.
What are your top 3 tips on how to setup an Ecom store for success?
Order from your competitors – both the ones at your level and the ones you want to be like in 6 months or 6 years. Check out their websites and figure out how to share the most important messages and make the process as simple as possible – clean, easy, and visually pleasing. And here’s the other thing – don’t underestimate the actual real costs of fulfilling orders.
One of the best things we did was to “outsource” that to a local nonprofit that works with adults with disabilities – they managed inventory, put together orders, and would include those little personal touches (from thank you notes to “packed by Lindsay with Down Syndrome, thanks for helping her have a job!”) that make such a big difference – and remove a big source of costs and distractions from your day.
What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run Peaceful Fruits?
ShipStation is where it’s at. Super useful.
*Find full list of tools/platforms at the bottom of the page.
Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?
Customers. Listen to what they say. It sounds dumb, but you really have to do it. Even more important, listen to what they don’t say.'Customers - listen to what they say, and even more importantly, listen to what they don’t say'Click To Tweet
Any other advice you’d like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The only way to do it is to start. Just start. Get started and figure it out as you go – there is no way to plan for everything.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?
We are always open to talk to potential investors, but we are not currently hiring remote positions.
Where can we go to learn more about your current offers/promotions/programs?
Check us out on peacefulfruits.com and Amazon!