by Amy McGarry
Plenty of activities can help kill time on a long road trip. Some can even be the source of inspiration for “creating a lifestyle brand.”
Just ask Nate Millspaugh, owner of Nate’s Nuts in Spokane. That’s exactly how he came up with his idea for gourmet peanuts as a “lifestyle snack.” He spent the rest of the road trip building the business plan, which he described as a “fun way” to spend that time.
That plan, however, sat dormant, out of sight and out of mind, for two years while Nate worked at a job to support his wife and six children. “Money was tight,” Nate says. But he managed to save up $35. A true entrepreneur, Nate invested his savings in a candy vending machine. Then another. And another.
Nate saved all the profits from the vending machines until he had enough capital to start a business. But what kind of business should he start? “I was throwing ideas at my wife all the time. Ninety-nine per cent of the time she either laughed at me or said, ‘You’re an idiot’,” Nate says good-naturedly. “I’m lucky to have her,” Nate explains. He says it was incredibly helpful to have such honest feedback.
When Nate finally remembered his business plan from the road trip, he shared it with his wife. For the first time she said, “That might work.” With her encouragement, Nate followed up on the plan. In 2016, Nate’s Nuts was born.
No birth is painless, and Nate and his nuts have gone through their fair share of labor pains. For starters, Nate says, “I realized everything in the business plan was wrong. I created the right pathway but failed in the processes. It failed in every aspect. Within six months of the launch of the business, everything almost fell apart.”
With an obvious optimism, Nate explains that he was able to learn from his mistakes, like expecting the business to simply “take off” on its own. It didn’t. So, Nate experimented with different avenues for distributing his gourmet nuts; places where people buy snacks, like bars and breweries, convenience stores, and mechanic shops. He also experimented with different styles of gourmet nuts until the two most popular became clear: Just a Little Hot and Spicy Gourmet Peanuts and Sweet Gourmet Peanuts.
Other hurdles were far less in his control; like when his supplier raised pricing 20 percent and slowed their distribution by weeks. Nate was forced to choose between becoming his own supplier by manufacturing the product himself or quitting. Since Nate is no quitter, he purchased his own machinery. This put Nate in control. He saw a market for vegan friendly and gluten-free gourmet nuts. He even orders special gluten-free paprika for seasoning his gourmet peanuts. (Who knew that paprika contains gluten?)
As pandemic restrictions relaxed, Nate bought a space in Famous Joe’s Vending Emporium located on the corner of Sprague and Argonne in Spokane Valley.
Nate is an idea man and is excited to venture in new directions. One such direction is providing fundraiser packages for groups like sports teams, churches, and schools to sell Nate’s Nuts to earn funds.
Nate is skillful with brand awareness and is passionate about promoting a brand designed for those with active and fun-loving lifestyles. The key is in the packaging. Whether hiking, cycling, snowboarding, or skateboarding, the “easy to open and resealable packaging” of Nate’s Nuts allows for healthy snacking “throughout the day or even the week.” Nate’s goal is that the adventurous “take us with them on their adventures.”
Nate’s products are not limited to nuts, however. Everyone can sport Nate’s Nuts t-shirts, baseball caps, and beanies, all with the logo, “Put ‘em in your mouth!” Other “swag” includes bags, stickers, and even Nate’s Nuts air fresheners for the rearview mirror of your car.
Nate is dedicated to giving back to the community. Nate’s Nuts has supported many local charities including Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, Outreach Spokane, and Giving Back Packs Spokane. The business also donates baskets as raffle prizes to support organizations such as CDA Sk8park, Northeast Youth Center, and various sports teams. Nate’s Nuts even sponsors an adult recreational hockey team.
For the future, Nate is already working on his next big idea. Starting next year, Nate plans to create an annual skateboard tournament which he intends to join with ranks of Hoopfest and Bloomsday and become the biggest skateboard tournament in the country.
You can visit Nate and shop for Nate’s gourmet peanuts, gifts, and swag at Famous Joe’s Vendor Emporium or check out the products at www.natesnuts.net.