We recently spoke with Grant Ellis, CEO and founder of Nashville's Nut Butter Nation to hear his story and how he's making it in the Nashville food biz. Read the full interview below!
How'd you come up with this (nutty) idea?
I come up with all my business ideas when I sleep. I dreamt about a big room with peanut butters and almond butters wall to wall and they were all different flavors but were healthy and natural with simple ingredients. That was really it. I woke up the next morning and told my wife. She's used to my antics because I've started several businesses in the past.
How have you seen growth since starting in 2015?
It's difficult. It's a really, really hard industry to be in. We've grown significantly since the beginning in 2015 when we started off in our kitchen with a bowl and a spoon. Now we have a 3,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and are carried in about 1,000 stores.
It's one of those things where it never seems as good as it really is. We're not even two-and-a-half years in and we've come this far. As a business owner, it's never good enough for me. There's a lot of people in between you and your customer that you've got to navigate.
What makes your nut butters the best?
There's a lot of good nut butters out there, but we felt there was a hole and a need for a peanut butter that bridged the divide between health and flavor. You've got a lot of nut butters that are simple with one ingredient, but my kids wouldn't eat them. On the flipside you have a lot of really good tasting stuff that has a bunch of junk in it like hydrogenated oils and palm oils. We use extremely simple ingredients, are non-GMO and gluten-free, but they also taste decadent.
Can we expect any new flavors anytime soon?
For right now, we're sticking with what we have. It's one of those things where we are always in the development stage, but it's a lot better to focus on your core. There's a lot of companies that spin out with new products all the time and they get watered down and don't develop any depth.
What's the biggest piece of advice you have for starting a food business?
My advice to anyone starting a food business is get to know and meet as many people who have done it before as you can. The biggest progress we have made has been from meeting with people. Dan was actually my first mentor in the business. He was the very first person I ever reached out to. I remember bringing him an old school jar with a computer-made label stuck on it. He's been a resource and a help for me and now a friend of mine. It's all about developing relationships with people who know more than you do.
If you had to eat at one Nashville restaurant for the rest of the year, what would it be?
Pinewood Social. I love the atmosphere. I've spent many days in there where I've had breakfast, lunch after work dinner and drinks—literally the whole day. They have a very conducive atmosphere for getting a lot of work done. You always run into 10 other business owners in there as well.