Originally appeared in Huff Post 06/27/2017 Updated Jul 03, 2017
Nutshell Founder Will D’Agostino went from Wall Street professional to nut bar enthusiast and he doesn’t miss the cobble-stoned corporate life one bit. After embarking on many hiking and skiing excursions, Will became disappointed with the limited food options that were healthy, energizing and good. In pursuit of the perfect snack food that took over hundreds of hours in the kitchen to create, followed by various taste testing sessions, Nutshell’s nuts, seeds and fruit bars were born in March of 2016. Currently, Nutshell is sold in cafes, like Café Xpresso, and natural markets around the Tri- State area. The handmade nut bars with oats in the ingredients are the latest on-the-go food that won’t ruin the insides of your purse. In this very special, “Person of Interest,” we talked to the founder of Nutshell about switching careers and making a living off his passion. Go inside the conversation:
What is Nutshell?
Will D’Agostino: Nutshell is a new, real-food company that is focused on providing nutritional snacks in a fundamentally different way than what is currently available. Nutshell’s core beliefs – highest quality ingredients, the freshest bar on the market and a true balance between taste and nutrition – guide us in creating an organic, vegan and gluten-free bar that tastes much more like a fresh baked good with the nutritional benefits of the best ingredients on Earth.
Why did you decide to quit your day job to make NUT bars?
I’ve always been a big skier and hiker; I’d bring energy bars on these adventures, but they were never satisfying. I always thought there must be something better out there. When I became frustrated that new bars kept coming to market without much improvement from previous versions, I decided this was something I could attempt. Once I determined the fundamental missing link – freshness – and saw what the juice community was moving towards, I decided that this would be my differentiator. So far it has proven to set us quite apart.
Was it scary at first?
I’m in the camp of believing that if something is not a little scary, it’s not going to help you grow as a person. I understand that not everyone is seeking out that scare factor, but I do believe most people that reflect on their life will quickly hand pick the times they were scared and overcame that fear as one of their greatest achievements. So yes, parts were and still are scary, but I have a lot of support around me from friends and family, and I chose an opportune moment in my life to take the leap.
Are you a good cook?
Although I don’t have a traditional culinary background, I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’ve never called myself a “good cook”, but I like everything I’ve ever made. I’m a big fan of wacky food combinations, so I like to experiment.
What was the tasting process like?
I started with my friends and family. We put together tasting parties, big and small. I received a lot of great feedback that spurred me to keep perfecting and creating new flavors. From there, the tasting and recipe improvements continued through my first summer at farmers markets in Connecticut which continue today.
What are the main ingredients?
We use organic Almonds, Puffed Quinoa and Brown Rice Syrup in every bar. Almonds are the most nutritionally beneficial nut, Puffed Quinoa – a gluten-free grain – provides a little crunch and some added protein, and Brown Rice Syrup is our binder, which we chose for several reasons. It is organic, gluten-free and vegan, made up of complex glucose molecules that absorb slowly and evenly throughout the body. It also has an earthy/nutty flavor that keeps the bar from tasting too sweet. On top of these main ingredients, we add different nuts, fruits, seeds and spices to get our 5 flavors. As you can imagine we can get pretty creative with our flavors since it’s all about freshness and doesn’t need to be preserved to live on a shelf.
What do people think of Nutshell bars?
At first glance, some people assume they are going to experience the same type of bar they have had many times before. Once people try the bar, they are typically blown away. Most comments are along the line of “Wow, this is actually good and really fresh”. It has become obvious that many people do not hold nutrition bars to high standards/ as a good tasting product. Our bars are softer, yet are ingredients are lightly chopped, leaving a lot of that desired crunchiness. The freshness alone provides a completely new experience from the bars on the market. The Nutshell recipe? Add in the highest quality ingredients and ditch all the fillers like oats and puffed rice – our customers are continually impressed and asking for more.
What’s the goal in the next year?
Our goal in the next year is to be in cafés, natural markets, delis and many other small businesses across the US. These businesses are constantly adapting to provide customers with their ever-changing appetites, and we hope to help them offer a truly outstanding product that they can in-turn offer their customers. We don’t see ourselves sitting on grocery store shelves as our product relies on freshness. We will continue to seek partners that believe in our product and have a similar mission. Meanwhile, we will grow our online store, and we have a few new flavors and product lines that are in testing phases. Our wrapper is biodegradable, and we hope to have the full packaging compostable by end of year as well. Nutshell is on a mission to deliver the freshest nut bar in a thoughtful way and lessen our impact on the earth.
What advice can you give aspiring young people to follow their dreams?
Get disciplined and organized. Take your current situation and make it as disciplined and organized as you can. Build that muscle memory now, because you will need it in the future. Completing daily lists, keeping a journal, clean inboxes, a healthy lifestyle. These are things you
can work on before taking any kind of leap and will make doing so that much easier. I also try to mediate. When starting your own business, it becomes everything you do, see and think about – it’s good to take a moment to reset and breathe in order to see things clearly again.