When was the last time you were being told “No”? And how far will you go to overcome those rejections in life and becoming a better you.
We interviewed Evan Delahanty, the founder/CEO of Peaceful Fruits, to share his journey of ups and down and knowing when to persevere and stay on the course, even after being rejected constantly and building the necessary skills to transform the “NO” into opportunities to grow.
From a martial arts master in the Peace Corps to launching Peaceful Fruits – what made you decide to make this significant change in career?
After the Peace Corps, I knew it was time to go after my dreams. One dream was to become a professional martial arts instructor and the other to launch a business of my own. I pursued both but found out pretty quickly, that one was a part-time passion and the other, Peaceful Fruits, was what I wanted to build full-time.
After spending close to two years in the Amazon teaching entrepreneurship program and supporting small businesses, I knew it was time to do it or stop saying I wanted to.
Peaceful Fruits hires individuals with disabilities. Tell us about your hiring process.
We partner with Blick Center, a local non-profit that helps adults with disabilities to get jobs and be successful. We hire adults with disabilities, and they help us manage the program to ensure our folks are getting the support they need to be successful. It’s really a great partnership.
Blick’s clients get access to meaningful work at a cool start-up, and we get an incredibly motivated and dynamic workforce. It’s good for everybody, and with a little grant support, it makes good business sense. It’s a win/win/win!
Either find a way to outsmart the problem and solve it cheaply or freely, or pay for the quality you want.
What’s driving you even after manufacturers rejected you when you initially began?
It boils down to timing and looking for a silver lining. We couldn’t find packers early on because we didn’t have the scale. This forced us to really dive into our own products and become experts. That’s now helping us drive new product development.
You received a call from Shark Tank. What was the experience like on it?
Awesome – most incredible ride of my life. It was an incredible opportunity to show that Peaceful Fruits and I could compete on that level. We didn’t get a deal, but we showcased ourselves well and started the process of building a national brand.
You put your head down and do the hard work – from formal pitches to 2 a.m. kitchen shifts to everything in between.
What were the toughest moments in the beginning?
It all comes down to two things: the existential dread of knowing that everything is on your shoulders and that it may not work – either because you’re not good enough or due to something beyond your control. And, I’ve never been sure which is worse. The other one is money.
Both of these are hard work, but you deal with them the same way. You put your head down and do the hard work – from formal pitches to 2 a.m. kitchen shifts to everything in between.
Incremental steps vs. overnight/viral success?
Somebody said it took me 10 years to become an overnight success, and that’s been our approach. We are building this the right way to be a sustainable business – not a flash in the pan. We are at the forefront of trends that have serious staying power. It’s not about chasing fashion. We want to build meaningful connections with consumers.
What are the primary things you learned from the past five years of running Peaceful Fruits?
Either find a way to outsmart the problem and solve it cheaply or freely, or pay for the quality you want. Deals, bargains or discounts that seem too good to be true always are and the same goes for experts, consultants and anyone trying to sell you something.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Build a good team.
What are the books, people or places that have impacted you the most?
My parents are a huge source of inspiration in my life – they’ve walked a lot of roads and are people I’m proud to emulate. The people I employ through Blick Center also inspire me day in and day out. What we do every day is creating a real opportunity for them.
Finally, the people in Suriname where I was in the Peace Corps are always in my thoughts. The rainforest and Mother Nature, more broadly, are what makes life possible, and we always need to be thankful for the support of the earth under our feet.
Where can people try Peaceful Fruits or reach out?
Yes, join us in our mission to help preserve the environment, while helping families everywhere enjoy the best of what Mother Nature has to offer at Peaceful Fruits.