Nick Oliveri and Corey Nobile are the co-founders of Impact Snacks. They have been friends since 6th grade. They grew up together just outside of Boston, MA, and have had the entrepreneurial bug for as long as they can remember. Nick and Corey have long been interested in the world of nutrition, and have been trying to make it cleaner and more accessible for everyone since their high school years. What is now Impact Snacks arose from Corey getting cut from the high school soccer team.
In college, they started getting more serious about their business. They developed their proof of concept bar. They eventually sold through 5,000 units of it, selling to small retailers, direct-to-consumer, through subscription boxes and donating them to charity 5K’s. Today, Impact Snacks provides innovative, healthy, and carbon-negative snacks to encourage people to care about their effect on the planet.
Was it a lightbulb moment or gradual moment to start Impact Snacks?
Geo in high school: hm, I want to create low-ingredient powders from organic foods in the name of a cleaner, more effective option!
Geo to Impact: well that’s cool and all, but how can we make health-focused products while also avoiding contributing to the climate crisis (single-use plastics, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, etc)? Geo is the Greek prefix for “of or from the Earth,” which seemed like a contradiction because it was! Decided to build a snack that is truly sustainable, for people AND planet.
How did you get your first three customers?
Word of mouth, the first customers were our friends! When outreach permeated through our network/bubble into the real world, we initially caught traction via the usual suspects — Facebook, Google, influencers, etc.
Just a lot of trial and error experimenting with different growth strategies.
How did you validate the idea?
During our freshman year of college, we created a test run of 5K bars. These were marketed, tested, studied, and distributed by Nick and me until they sold out.
We also learned that one clear advantage of running a business on a college campus is the ability to survey a large pool of our target customers.
Did you have any experience/expertise in the area?
When Impact was Geo in high school, we experimented with and created many organic protein powders, which we entered into business competitions and sold door to door.
Have you raised any money? How much?
We’ve raised $300K seed.
What regulatory approvals did you have to go through?
- Third party product life cycle analysis
- Manufacturer is SQF certified and follows FDA-mandated guidelines
- Basic and boring business formation stuff
Who is your target demographic?
We’re gen-z founders, and this definitely comes through in our branding. With that said, our products aren’t just for gen-z, they’re for anyone looking to replace their traditional, unsustainable products with alternatives that actually move the needle in terms of positive impact. The desire for sustainability in our everyday lives transcends age/gender/career demographics, although gen-z’s fairly widespread love for movements and distrust for corporations does align closely with our values.
How did you fund the idea initially?
Ventures from middle-high school (Yeezy Marketplace, 3 Monarchs, Armory, etc.) and part-time jobs (Staples, waiting tables, juice bar, etc.)
Where did you meet your co-founder/founding team?
Met each other in 6th grade band class, not big trumpet guys.
Any tips for finding first employees?
Put this on LinkedIn a little while ago:
- If you choose to work in the startup world, expect to do more work than what the initial scope outlines. In the same breath, expect to be compensated and recognized more often for going the extra mile by solving exceptionally hard problems and capturing unusually elusive value.
- Some see the value in exchanging short term sacrifice/sweat/stability for long term rewards (beyond money)—find them and cherish them. So rare.
- As a founder there is nothing I appreciate more than someone understanding our state of vulnerability (most startups are in one for quite some time), knowing they can probably make more short-term money elsewhere, but having conviction in our ‘why’ enough to still bleed for us.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I like making things that I think will help other people/further a passion of mine
What were your family and friends’ first thoughts on your company?
Family: naturally skeptical but supportive. Friends: Some loved it and supported, some talked shit and didn’t. Just the way it goes. My dad said “you’ll be amazed by how many people support you that you never would’ve expected, and you’ll be amazed by how many people you thought would support you but couldn't care less” paraphrasing here
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
In the least cliché way possible, when I fail or something goes wrong, it just means I have one more lesson learned and a sea of possibilities that I can apply it to. Helps make better decisions, the end goal is to find a way no matter what. Things aren’t impossible, we just don’t know how to do them yet.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Try everything. Find people that are smarter than you. Avoid echo chambers at all costs. Debate the pros and cons of your own ideas until you have a strong argument for both sides. Let experts do their thing, but make sure to still contribute, guide the process, and challenge their ideas. Founder input is crucial, and it’s also balanced by the experience of experts around you.
What is stopping you being 3x the size you are now?
Funding, human capital.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
Moat by supply chain. Moat by true north/vision. Copying only goes so far. Moat by brand. Moat by customer experience
Do you have any trademarks/IP/patents?
Trademarks. Nearly impossible to get a patent for food
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without? Why are they essential?
- Social media
- G Suite
Soon, Zapier. Collaboration-first, Workflow automation and Intuitive UI/UX
What are your favourite books?
- How to be creative, Hugh MacLeod
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick
- Fallen Angels, Walter Dean Myers
What are your favourite podcasts?
- Not a podcast but love Kurzgesagt
- Joe Rogan has the best guests
- Lex Fridman
What are the next products you’re working on?
We’re coming out with a load of fantastic snacks—sweet, savory and much more— that are poised to be even more delicious and nutritious than our last. Although we are not yet formally announcing our next line of snacks, we can say that we are exploring a lot of exciting concepts such as deep sea minerals, algae protein, matcha and tea-infused, and even CBD!
More than snacks though, we are aiming to lead the new charge into revolutionized corporate sustainability and transparency through so many possibilities available currently and in the near future. We are aiming to become a beacon in consumer activism so businesses can closely follow suit.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
In 5 years, our vision has a lot to do with how the discussion, social infrastructure and reality around corporate transparency has evolved to the point where “sustainability” isn’t called that because it is so natural and expected from companies.
Our vision is that Impact Snacks has led—first with product and consumer delight— to then transition into a leader and authority in the space of corporate responsibility.
Would you ever sell?
For now, this is our dream being manifested right before our eyes. This kind of once-in-a-lifetime occurrence has no price.
|Nick Oliveri and Corey Nobile