Build buzz. Invest in your marketing and get in front of people. Say yes to press opportunities, send free product to influencers, hop on a podcast and set up those Facebook ads. Find ways to get more cost effective ways to get eye on your brand.
As part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line or Specialty Food”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Hamburger, co-founder and CEO of Quevos, an egg white-based chip company that just announced an investment from Daniel Lubetzky, founder and Executive Chairman of KIND Snacks and Guest Shark on Seasons 11 and 12 of “Shark Tank.” The investment aired on Shark Tank’s January 22nd episode.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
My co-founder Zack and I have always been very athletic and active growing up. Zack has a passion for running, and mine lies with tennis. We grew up going to school together and we always had a side hustle and grind. For instance, as early as middle school we showed our entrepreneurial spirit when we started selling premium Japanese sodas to the other kids in our class to make a little money. Unfortunately, we got shut down by the school but we always stayed motivated to start something else. We had other ideas all through high school and never lost that drive.
Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the brand you are leading?
Zack has grown up with Type 1 diabetes so he’s always had his eyes out for low-carb, diabetic-friendly snacks. His go-to at the time was making eggs at home and an idea sparked after loving the crispy edges of the eggs left in the pan. He wondered what it would be like to make a snack out of eggs that more closely resembled a chip. He looped me in and we got started creating what would become Quevos when we were both 18.
Can you share a story about a funny mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This story certainly wasn’t funny at the time but when we were just getting started, I took about 1/3 of the funds we had available to us and ordered some custom equipment to help us get started. Well, within 30 seconds of the equipment arriving, I knew it wouldn’t work and the manufacturers told us we were stuck with it — no refunds or exceptions. Looking back I can laugh because that was just one of many examples of my young naivety starting a snack brand, but what I learned from this is to do your research. There are so many resources available today to help young entrepreneurs get started, no matter what industry they are in.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the most common mistakes I see entrepreneurs make is creating a product that sounds good to you, but does not have broader appeal. Your product has to be rooted in a lot of other people’s opinions. My advice is to talk to people who you think are in your target market and see what they think about the product.
Another mistake I often see is companies not raising enough money. This is certainly not applicable to every company but if you are interested in raising money and want to grow quickly, you want to raise more than what’s necessary to get you through just 3–6 months. I recommend thinking more long term and raising enough for at least 18 months so that you have the flexibility try different things, make mistakes and pivot when necessary. This is why we are so grateful in Daniel Lubetzky’s recent investment in us after pitching him on Shark Tank. As the founder and Executive Chairman of KIND Snacks and Guest Shark on Seasons 11 and 12 of “Shark Tank,” Daniel has become an invaluable mentor and resource for us as we look to scale our business.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
First and foremost, make sure it is a product people want and then decide how you can validate it cheaply and quickly. Can you make it at a licensed kitchen space? Can a factory run a sample for you? Can you quickly get it researched and developed? These are the questions you must ask yourself to get the initial feedback and testing of the product. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself taking a huge risk by ordering a lot through a manufacturer. The other thing I’d point out is that make sure it is a product that can be made at scale. It’ll be impossible to go to market offering burritos that your mom, and only your mom can make!
Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?
I’d encourage people to err on the side of acting. Not everything needs to be perfect to get started, because frankly, things will never be perfect. Your social media post or e-blast will never be 100% when you’re starting out. I advise people to launch fast and adjust when you see what sticks.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I think that you are your greatest teacher. I imagine that a consultant can be extremely valuable to entrepreneurs but I am an advocate for trying things yourself and learning from your successes and failures that way.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
It really depends on where your business is at. If you can bootstrap your business, that is amazing. However, that can be really difficult and not always possible. Raising money, a process I really enjoyed, gives you flexibility. It allows you to hire people, order equipment, try marketing initiatives and the process lends itself to great mentors, like the one we’ve found in our investor Daniel Lubetzky. I’ve found that there’s a lot of hesitance overall since people don’t want to be responsible for money that is not their own or think they don’t deserve the money. I recommend giving it a shot, especially if your business is reliant on additional funds to move forward.
Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?
We are in the process of getting a patent so since we’re in the middle of that, I can provide some advice on other steps of the process. To source high quality ingredients, I couldn’t recommend Google enough. We are extremely fortunate to have so many resources available to us to do research. Search for the bulk ingredients you’re looking for, take a look at the process of sourcing the ingredients and see if it’s for you. On a manufacturing level, I recommend trying to make it yourself. Don’t be afraid! If you have a unique process, own that and find efficiencies in the process. Sure, it can be easier to work with a manufacturer but there is something to be said about having control over how your product and the extra effort you put into it because it is your own. When you have a finished product and are ready to move to retail, be prepared for the Wild West. I recommend finding the right buyer for your category, no matter how you can. Call, email, show up in person, send free samples. Reach out and follow up a few million times — you’ll get there.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food Line” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Decide if the need is there. Do you have a customer who really wants this? Is this a better version of something already out there?
- Determine demand. Is the need large enough? Will a lot of people want it? No matter how niche your product is, take a hard look at the audience you’re looking to reach.
- Elevate your packaging. There cannot be enough said about having a design that tells you exactly what the product is and makes it stands out on the shelf. It has to have a clear and unique identity.
- Build buzz. Invest in your marketing and get in front of people. Say yes to press opportunities, send free product to influencers, hop on a podcast and set up those Facebook ads. Find ways to get more cost effective ways to get eye on your brand.
- Hire smart. You have to build a strong team that has a mix of skill sets. You can’t do it alone so set yourself up for success.
Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?
My advice is to find a solution to one of your everyday problems. Then take a hard look at that solution and make sure it is high quality and is niche enough to stand out on its own.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Zack and I wouldn’t be where we are today without our mentors, like Daniel Lubetzky. Every time we had a question, needed advice or a pep talk, we had amazing mentors by our sides. To return the favor, I’ve tried to give back to other entrepreneurs as much as I can and support them the way I’ve been supported. I really believe in throwing back a rope as we all climb the entrepreneurial ladder. Additionally, once Quevos becomes profitable, we have every intention to donate a portion of our profits to organizations that are important to us and making a positive impact on the world.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I am very passionate about mental health and promoting education around Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). It’s long been on my mind to educate others on the powers of emotional regulation, meditation and finding aspects of life that ground us and give us meaning. I hope to use my platform one day to launch a more formal movement around these life-centering pillars.
There a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
I would be honored to share a meal with Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. These men are incredibly inspiring to me and their legacies have, and will continue to, impact many generations
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.