Today we’d like to introduce you to Nik Ingersoll.
Nik, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in the remote and rural countryside of Western Nebraska. My family didn’t have a lot of money and at times we relied on government assistance to get by. To get to where I grew up, you have to fly into Denver and drive 4 hours across 2 state capitals.
At the age of 13, I decided that education was the way to get out of where I grew up, to give myself the opportunity of success. My plan was to study hard, get straight A’s and get into a college in California. I had never even been to California before, but I it looked like the best spot to go. As a result, I always had some sort of job or hustle, so I could save all that money to later place a bet on the West Coast.
From the ages 13-18, some of the jobs and hustles I had included shaving sheep and selling the wool, bailing hay, delivering newspapers, branding cattle, making food in a retirement home, painting acrylic and oil pieces and selling them at galleries, selling collectible coins and cards, mowing lawns and shoveling snow. Anything I could do to get my hands on some skrill, I did.
When I graduated high school, I packed up and moved myself to California. After a 26 hour drive, I landed with the skrill I saved. I remember my dad grabbing handfuls of change out of his pockets and handing it to me with tears in his eyes, not quite certain if I would be okay. After all, no one in my family had ever gone to college, let alone been so far away.
From the start, I knew that if I didn’t find a legitimate part-time or full-time job quick, I had about 2 months worth of skrill before I would fail. Tuition, books, rent, food – it was all on me. There were no family financial resources to rely on. It was time to start hustling. Right away, I continued selling my paintings at art galleries and worked as a computer specialist at a local electronics store, all the while going to college full-time.
I was making about $13,000 a year and took out every student loan possible. My health wasn’t great, I lost some 40 pounds in the first six months of moving, standing 6’3” and 140lbs soaking wet. But, my grades were all A’s, I always paid rent on time, had a small but reliable income and knew that if I just kept doing that, I would make it eventually. Step by step by step.
Once the basic substance was finally achieved, I started creating businesses on a larger scale while in undergrad. I continued to go to college, ace my classes and graduate while building these businesses in between classes, at night and sometimes in class. I didn’t have a social life, but that was not my priority. My priority was growth. The first larger scale business, a boot-strapped medical marijuana collective.
The second, a venture-backed augmented reality and branding house, Candy Lab, where I served as CIO, authored and filed a patent for “Augmented Reality Content Delivery Systems”, created one of the very first AR systems based on geolocation and I continue to serve as an advisor to the company today.
Finally, the most successful business that I have started thus far, Barnana. A company that we have built it into one of the fastest growing natural foods brands in the world, sold in over 20,000 retail stores nationwide and in four short years took it from zero to 8 figures in revenue.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s certainly been a bumpy road, but two major struggles stand out. The first major and most persistent struggle: the lack of money and all the complications that come along with that.
It was having a family with zero financial resources or knowledge of how to get them. It was living in bad neighborhoods. It at times was dwelling in a pool of depravity. It was hiding it all, putting on my game face, and acting like I wasn’t living like that so potential investors and others wouldn’t look down on me. But I knew with enough hard work, that eventually would change. There are ways to get around that and plenty of people have just like I did. I worked and saved and saved and worked, then acquired skills and know-how that enabled me to raise money from people who did have the resources and believed in my abilities to make my entrepreneurial dreams happen.
The second major and most devastating struggle: My dad’s death.
We were in our first few months of launching Barnana and my dad passed away in a horrific car accident at the age of 48. He was my best friend, the best dad in the world who raised me and my brother. That was the single hardest thing I’ve ever had to overcome. I had to plan and somehow pay for the funeral, digest it all and make sure Barnana got off the ground. That was tough and I miss that man. The thing is though, once the worst thing that could ever happen does happen, everything after that doesn’t seem so bad. Resilience is an important part of the mind that must be strengthened.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Barnana – what should we know?
I am the Co-Founder, CMO and Chief Designer of one of the fastest growing natural foods startups in the world, Barnana. We make delicious organic snacks out of upcycled fruit and sell them at over 20,000 retailers nationwide in the US, Japan and Canada like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Costco and others.
In four short years, we built the company into an 8 figure business and raised capital from some of the leading minds in food. Ugly fruit needs lovin’ too and in a world where millions of people are starving, it’s insane that over half of all the food that is produced goes to waste, that’s what we are here to solve.
I was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 and have won a few design awards along the way. Barnana has been featured all over the place from Inc, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Men’s Fitness, Women’s Running, Outside Magazine and the list goes on. We are a certified B-Corp and believe in the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet.
We’ve created something really special to a lot of people and I am proud of that. There’s something different about founding a food brand. I’ve made fashion companies, tech companies etc., but with food, you are physiologically influencing the expression of people’s metabolisms which is a special responsibility.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Tenacity, relentless optimism, dreaming big, dedication to new skill acquisition and above all else hard work in executing on those things.
- Website: ingersollnik.com & barnana.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/ingersollnik & instagram.com/barnana
- Facebook: facebook.com/ingersollnik & facebook.com/barnana
- Twitter: twitter.com/ingersollnik & facebook.com/barnana