Following a Crooked Path with Peaceful Fruits Founder, Evan Delahanty

Evan Delahanty By on September 24, 2017

What is your mission?

Peaceful Fruits is on a mission to make delicious, healthy snacks that create sustainable economic empowerment in Akron and the Amazon!

Why was this created?

Two years ago, I came back from the Amazon as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I wanted to remain connected to the people there and build a business that would help others connect to the incredible, renewable vibrancy of the rainforest.

What is your background specifically that helped you launch this?

I come from an operations and project management background, including experience in the Amazon as a Community Economic Development Specialist with the Peace Corps. I’ve found that approaching a food company from a business perspective can be very helpful. Of course, you can never lose sight of the product – it must be awesome. But, everyone’s family has some awesome, unique recipe, then only a small percentage of those become impactful businesses. I’m working hard to make Peaceful Fruits an impactful business.

Do you have any co-founders and if so how did you meet them?

We originally had 3 co-founders, friend from business school and a friend from Peace Corps.  Over time, their roles shrunk as the realities of a startup and life took their toll. We still have very positive relationships, personally and professionally, but it goes to show the importance of communication and a well-thought out partnership structure.

How did you validate your business and what are the best ways you would validate a business?

We started at community events like CSA/Farmer’s Markets, food shows, or fitness events to get a sense of people’s response to our snack and story. It’s important to take incremental steps. The corner CSA cost nothing and led us to the Farmer’s Market that cost $75 and led us to the Food Show that cost $400 – and so on. With creativity and elbow grease, there are cheap ways to get feedback. I don’t think an idea is ever fully validated, but you get enough to make the “go/no go” decision that entrepreneurs face every day.

Take us through a normal day at work.

Wow, I wish I knew. Lots of emails and lots of snacks. I’m generally working IN the business; helping make snacks or at least working on the process to create greater consistency and efficiency for a few hours and, then ON the business for most of the time. I am working on the operations planning, fundraising, networking, community engagement, and sales strategy.

What is your business model?

Peaceful Fruits is a social enterprise. 100% for profit, 100% for good. That means that they aren’t even a little mutually exclusive. We work hard to take care of all the stakeholders, while going after customers who think believe it is worth paying for. That’s part of why Peaceful Fruits is about healthy, premium snacks. We sell (via the internet and on store shelves) fruit snacks at our price point and quality. The people in the aisle are ALSO highly likely to care about sustainability, mission, and simple ingredients. Essentially, it’s about product fit AND values fit.

What are you currently studying and why?

How to scale this thing up. We often face the chicken and egg problem. Sell more than we can produce and we get in trouble. Produce more than we sell and there’s trouble there too. We are working with investors to get out of this cycle, but it means we need to think a lot bigger and a lot more scalable!

What was the best piece of advice a mentor gave you, and how do you apply it in your business?

Listen a lot, but when it’s time to decide don’t hesitate.

How would you evaluate success, and how do you know you’ve achieved it?

I have three layers of goals. The biggest is about the industry of social enterprise: I want Peaceful Fruits to be a successful data point in the mainstreaming of social enterprise as good capitalism.  We’ll know if I succeeded when a major company buys in to the brand and mission. For Peaceful Fruits, I want to see us simultaneously scaling sales and mission, getting creative with our partners to keep costs and operations controlled, but also finding ways to keep people and the environment at the core of the company.

We have a large audience who want to be entrepreneurs that have day jobs, what would be the process that you would walk them through in order to be a full-time entrepreneur?

Think hard about what failure looks like. When is it good money after bad?  What’s the bottom you are prepared to see your bank account hit? How will you replace that structure? What will give you fulfillment and identity if your “day job” doesn’t?