I spoke with Nick Desai, CEO and Founder of World Peas Peatos, who shared the benefits of a diverse background when it came to second (and third and fourth) careers. Before dedicating his career to the snack industry, Desai’s experience spans over twenty-five years of operations, private equity/investment banking, and law.
EE: How did you get your start in business?
ND: I went to law school, and was an attorney for MGM, in the entertainment industry. After that I worked for a former ICM talent agent who started his own company, representing writers and directors, where I learned about the power of storytelling. In business, there are the numbers the story. When you are building a brand, the story is the part that people respond to most.
EE: What an interesting evolution in your career. How did you get from working at ICM to your current position?
ND: I pivoted into investment banking, working with middle market entrepreneurs, and helping them raise money. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so it was a natural progression. But when the market crashed in 2008, I migrated to the private-equity side of the business as a Managing Director at Shackleton Equity Partners, a firm focused on the lower middle market. I decided to buy a distressed company and fix it up and bought into a small software company with other partners. Within 90 days we turned it around. A little later, I wanted to do something in the food space—specifically the snack arena, because everyone is interested in food, and it’s a fun subject to tell stories about.
EE: What kind of snack food did you want to work with?
ND: I was born in the United States, but have family from India. I liked Doritos, Cheetos, and other salty snacks, which are all made from a corn base. But, I discovered the salty snacks in India are based on peas. They have the same sodium and fat level as American snacks, but contain more protein, and no GMO. Then in 2016, I came across a company called World Peas that was marketing wasabi pea and roasted fava bean snacks to places like Whole Foods and Sprouts.
We decided that our company would revolutionize American’s most beloved snacks, replacing the corn base with a pea base, and take it mainstream. Our goal was for the Kroger, Walmart, or Publix shopper to eat better and healthier without sacrificing taste.
It took us two years to replicate the taste and aroma you get from eating a bag of junk food but with a pea base, in Peatos snacks. In 2017, Kroger said they wanted to launch Peatos in 2000 stores. In May 2018 they launched nationwide.
EE: What’s next for your company?
ND: We want to remain focused on being the company delivering pea-based junk food in the U.S. We plan to launch additional products, and are going after the top 10 snack brands (like Frito Lay) in the country.
EE: Any advice for someone trying to start a business?
ND: Believe in your dream: When you start something new, want it bad, and be in it for the long haul. Grit and persistence will make you successful, not IQ.
Study the market Understand who are the competitors? If you are trying to build a business, you will need outside capitol. You have to convince people to join you in your big idea.
Hire smart: Have the right team. They have to see your passion and hiring and finding the right people. Understand what you bring to the table, what your wheelhouse is, and hire people to fill in the rest.
Never stop improving. Stay one step ahead of the competition. Try their products, read the industry papers, and talk to the consumer.
Trade Up:Find out the key trade organizations in your state and attend them to make contacts in your space. Make them mentors; put them on your board of directors.
Follow Estelle on Twitter.
Estelle Erasmus is a parenting educator, award-winning journalist, writing coach, and adjunct journalism instructor for New York University. She has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Family Circle Magazine, Parents Magazine and more. She is an ongoing guest editor for Narratively, and hosts the podcast for the American Society of Journalists and Authors ASJA Direct. Follow her on Instagram @EstelleSErasmus. Go to her website (estelleserasmus.com) to sign up for her newsletter.