Corporate Essentials is excited to have formed a recent partnership with Rule Breaker Snacks. Since March is Women’s History Month, a Q&A with the founder of Rule Breaker Snacks, Nancy Kalish, feels appropriate! First, some background information on Nancy and her company.
Nancy Kalish is the founder and ‘Chief Rule Breaker’ of Rule Breaker Snacks, which sells healthy, delicious snacks both online and in-stores.
Before Rule Breaker, Nancy worked as a health journalist for 20 years, writing for many major health magazines. These include the official Health magazine as well as Real Simple. She has interviewed many doctors and nutritionists, who shared valuable knowledge that helped in her pursuit of a healthy alternative to traditional sweets. In addition to this, she is a Certified Health Coach.
A Healthy Alternative
Rule Breakers are a chewy, flavorful treat that offer the taste of traditional sweets such as brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Here’s the twist: the first ingredient in their creation is chickpeas. With this in mind, the snack “breaks the rules” on what a sweet treat can be made of.
Rule Breakers are promoted as a great food to eat at any time of the day. They also have broad appeal by being free of all top 8 allergens including dairy, peanuts, wheat, and more. You can read all about the ingredients found in each snack right here, courtesy of the official Rule Breaker website. Corporate Essentials is excited to include these additions to our online snack options available for purchase.
Questions and Answers with Nancy Kalish
What was your driving motivator to create your own company?
“Honestly, I have a terrible sweet tooth, and always have. I would listen to what the nutritionists were saying; on one hand, I would hear about what I should be eating, and on the other hand I’m struggling because.. All I want is Oreo’s! I would go to the health food store and try to find something that satisfied my sweet tooth, while having all of the important elements for me (not too much sugar, good and clean ingredients, vegan, gluten-free). This was five years ago, and frankly, many healthy snacks have gotten a lot better. Back then, I couldn’t really find anything. A lot of the stuff tasted like sawdust. I’d take one bite, I’d throw it out. It would leave me still craving the regular sweets. I felt very frustrated.
I had read about bean brownies on the internet. So I looked up a few recipes, tried making some, and they were terrible! They smelled like beans, they tasted like beans, it was bad. But, they had a really great texture. I love to bake and I love to cook, so I thought, ‘I’ll just keep at it.’ This was while I was a journalist; no thoughts of starting a food company. Over about a year, I kept working on the recipe. Finally, I got something. I managed to get the bean-y taste out of there, and I had something really great. I started giving it to my friends and family, who told me that I should sell this! And then I thought to myself, I kid you not, ‘how hard could it be to start a food company?’ Really hard, it turns out! I left writing, and decided I was going to start this food company. I booked a booth at the next trade show, and we made prototypes of our products, and the rest as they say is history.”
Were the eco-friendly benefits of Rule Breakers important to you from the beginning?
“When I was a journalist, I learned all about food allergies, sustainability and the environmental impact of food products. So I kind of, naively, wanted to be everything to everybody. I decided I’m going to be free of all of the allergens, be non-GMO, we’re not going to have any preservatives. Chickpeas are a very responsible ingredient because they use so much less water than it takes to grow something else, like soy or wheat for instance. I researched all of that stuff and it was very, very important to me.”
How many Rule Breaker snacks are baked regularly?
“We are made at an amazing woman-owned bakery in Pennsylvania, but we don’t bake every day. So, I would say it’s about 45,000 every two weeks.”
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
“In general, it’s basically that a lot of food is.. How can I describe it? I’d say it’s kind of like a living thing. It’s not like manufacturing wing nuts, or something, where you get the specs, you figure out how to manufacture it, and it stays the same. It’s always changing. Stuff like the temperature outside, the humidity, the chickpea crop; there are so many variables that actually affect your recipe, and you have to be ready to adjust accordingly. Dealing with a product, a recipe that wants to change and you have to keep control of it, has made me have to become much more zen. Because, every day, I face what really could be almost insurmountable problems. The truck doesn’t show up to pick up a delivery, an ingredient doesn’t arrive, a baker we need calls in sick… There are so many things that go wrong. It’s challenging to keep all of the moving parts moving in the right direction. I’m very, very involved in every single aspect of the business.”
As of this conversation, your company offers four types of Rule Breaker snacks (Birthday Cake Blondies, Deep Chocolate Brownies, Chocolate Chunk Blondies, and P’Nutter Chocolate Chip Blondies). Do you have a favorite?
“The first one we ever created, which is the deep chocolate brownie. I have at least one every day! I will say that the breakout flavor seems to be birthday cake. We really nailed that birthday cake flavor.”
How old is Oscar? (He’s the top dog at Rule Breaker).
“He is six! And he is basically a very good boy. He’s a Goldendoodle.”
Where do you see Rule Breaker in the next 5 years?
“I aspire to spread out nationwide and become a national brand, and even a global brand. That’s not just because I want to make some money, which I do, believe me. It’s also because I really feel there are a lot of people out there who want healthier options. It’s very heartwarming to me, and important when I get emails (it’s very easy to reach me!) from customers. I get a lot of customer interactions.
I feel like there is enormous demand, and people still don’t know about our brand and a lot of other healthy brands. My goal is to spread out, to become more national, and even global.”
What advice would you give to women looking to start their own company?
“I’ve got two pieces of advice. The first is to not be afraid to do things differently than the guys. You don’t have to pretend to act like a man to do business. There are a lot of women out there who will be supportive of you. You don’t have to hide your personality. You can be tough, in your own way.
The second piece is a really good, practical piece of information. Become a certified woman-owned business. Big retailers (Krogers, Wal-Mart) charge big fees to go on their shelves. They charge something called slotting fees, which can be $10,000 for a SKU or flavor to get on their shelf. It gets very expensive. Some of these big companies want to encourage women-owned businesses. If you become certified as one, you are exempt from those slotting fees. The bad news is that it’s a very long and labor-induced process that involves submitting all kinds of documents, as well as having an office visit. There’s lots of proof that’s required. It’s about a six month-long process, I’d say. For a female entrepreneur, I’d say as soon as they form their business as an official entity, it’s something they should look into right away.
The only other thing that I would say about it is that you need to maintain 51% ownership. You can also have women, in general, owning 51% of the business (it doesn’t have to be one person). Women have to own the majority of the business in order to be certified.”
Nancy Kalish and Rule Breaker recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for their newest lineup of snacks, aptly called Rule Breaker Bites. You can read more about it on their Kickstarter page, which is active until Thursday, April 18th. Give it a look!