Ho-Ho-Kus entrepreneurs hoping consumers will go nuts over flavored walnuts
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
R.N. Nuts, Ho-Ho-Kus
Owners: Jim Harlin, Jeffrey Lefkowitz
Idea: Friends and family of Harlin and Lefkowitz had such positive responses to the sugared walnuts made by Harlin's girlfriend — Lefkowitz's sister — that the pair decided to start selling them as healthy snack alternatives to chips. They created variations of the original recipe, and after testing them on people they knew, they developed cinnamon bun and coffee flavors. "They're addicting," said Harlin. "Anyone who tried them felt the same way, so we felt it was a good business idea." The name, RNuts, is a nod to Harlin's girlfriend, who is a registered nurse. The business owners buy the walnuts wholesale and in bulk and have an arrangement with a local church to use its large oven to bake them. They purchase plastic bags online, make 80 bags at a time, produce their own labels, buy labels printed with nutrition facts and glue them on. Harlin said they've been selling the three flavors as a healthy snack to bagel shops, such as Ho-Ho-Kus Famous Bagels & Deli, and gourmet food stores, where their 6-ounce bags won't be overlooked and the homemade labels fit in. Their strategy is to make cold calls and then offer samples to the shop owners. After the stores agree to sell the flavored walnuts, Harlin and Lefkowitz give them samples for customers to try before buying. "Our advertising is small, but once we give out samples, the nuts tend to sell themselves," said Harlin.
Address: 227 Sheridan Ave.
Funding: About $2,000 from Harlin and Lefkowitz's personal savings.
So far: Harlin and Lefkowitz say they've sold about 200 bags, including a substantial number to friends and families through e-mail orders. They promote the product by taking it to social occasions and offering samples. They hope to get into supermarkets such as Whole Foods, the pair said. "Walnuts are naturally healthy, so they would be a snack that would fit very well with their product lines," said Harlin.
— Carol Lawrence
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