Brand We Love: Peaceful Fruits
We often talk about how our time in Peace Corps Senegal inspired us to start Bokk Baby. This experience formed the relationships that are the foundation of our Bokk Bundle Donation Program, and instilled in us the passion and drive to build a social enterprise that can benefit customers while giving back to others and the earth. Not long ago, we met another former Peace Corps Volunteer who found similar inspiration to start an impact-driven business, and we’d like to share it with you.
You may have seen them on Shark Tank; meet Peaceful Fruits. Peaceful Fruits makes acai (ah-sigh-EE) packed organic fruit snacks that are both healthy and delicious. These superfood fruit snacks support organic farmers in the Amazon, while training and employing individuals with disabilities at their headquarters in Akron. This is a brand that truly goes above and beyond to do the right thing.
Read The Interview:
What is the mission behind Peaceful Fruits? Peaceful Fruits is on a mission to make delicious, sustainable, healthy snacks that do good at home in Akron, Ohio too. That's why we use 100% organic fruit (and only that) to give full wage jobs in synergy with the lifestyle of folks in the Amazon Rainforest. That's also why we make our snacks in Akron and give full-wage jobs to folks from under-served communities.
How did Peaceful Fruits get started? What were your first few months in business like? Peaceful Fruits began after Evan returned back from the Peace Corps and still wanted to maintain his connection to the Amazon Rainforest. He fell in love with tropical fruits while in the Amazon and realized that he could share this love with snackers in the US and support his community in the Amazon too: Making delicious, healthy snacks from tropical fruits found in the Amazon. And Peaceful Fruits was born! The first few months were trial and error: finding the perfect acai supplier, refining the best fruit leather recipe, and going out to farmers markets and seeing what people in Ohio think. It was a busy time and things have only gotten busier since!
Tell us a little about the brand's Peace Corps roots. How did Evan's Peace Corps service inspire or enable the company and its mission? While in the Peace Corps, Evan worked as a Community Economic Specialist, which means he taught people the tools to create a fair living for themselves. He also spent a lot of time embracing the Amazon Rainforest and learning the local way of life. A huge part of that way of life was fresh fruit: Evan and local kiddos would sit on the front porch, chat, and eat mangoes by the bucketful. Evan also learned about and became very familiar with a berry native to the Rainforest, acai (ah-sigh-ee).
Always trying to go the extra mile, Evan realized that his Peace Corps experience was only beginning on his plane ride home to the US. He could continue his mission of giving folks in the Amazon the tools to create a fair living for themselves, by creating a huge need for acai and tropical fruits here in the US. Each pack of fruit leather bought directly affects local farmers in the Amazon. The acai grows wild and abundant on the trees and we employ farmers to to harvest the fruit and give them sustainable full wages in exchange.
One of the first places Evan showed off his save-the-world snacks was at a farmer's market. It was here where he met AJ, a man with Down Syndrome, and his mom. Becoming quick friends, they chatted about the need for jobs in under-served communities and how Peaceful Fruits could become a part of that. Evan loved what they had to say about this idea of social good, or helping all stakeholders at every facet of the system, and worked to apply this idea to the community here in Akron too. That's why we give jobs to folks from under-served communities, like those with Autism and other health conditions through a collaboration with The Blick Center.
We know you're passionate about empowering the stakeholders in your supply chain, what have been your greatest achievements on this front? Our greatest achievement so far has been creating over 25 new jobs for folks here in Akron. We're still working on selling enough fruit snacks so we can double (or quadruple?!) our regular tropical fruit order - do you know a friend who needs some acai?
What was it like being on Shark Tank? What advice would you give another impact-driven business if they find themselves in the same position? Being on Shark Tank was an extremely gratifying, but gone-in-the-blink-of-an-eye experience. Hollywood and The Sharks were very good to us, but what was even better was the folks who saw us and supported us. After our first air, we had more orders overnight than we had gotten in the previous WHOLE year! Because of this, we were back-ordered for too many months and went into high rush mode to make fruit leather as quickly as possible. Because of this, our advice for another impact-driven business in this position is to have several "after-air" plans. One plan for a small bump in sales, one plan for a meaningful bump in sales, and another plan for what to do if things go unexpectedly well! In other words, make sure you have enough of what you make or the resources to churn them out quickly if you have to!
There you go, Peaceful Fruits crushing it at the social enterprise game. It’s hard enough to build a viable, profitable business, let alone one with a social impact mission fully baked into the model. We are still working on it, but with a little luck and a lot of learning from others who have done it before and done it well, we will be on our way to adding ourselves to the growing list of companies that are doing business better--with passion, purpose, and a desire to create meaningful change in the world.