by Gray Giaconia
Entrepreneur and recent “Shark Tank” contestant Evan Delehanty is the founder and CEO of Peaceful Fruits, a company that makes organic, non-GMO fruit snacks. Ingredients are sustainably sourced from the Amazon Rainforest, and all of the production is done right here in Akron, at nonprofit organizations Hattie’s Food Hub and the Blick Center, with production teams comprised largely of people with special needs. Evan is an entrepreneur who wants to succeed, but he is also dedicated to the other people involved in the business. Of his business ideal, he says, “Peaceful Fruits is a mission-based business. We are for-profit, but we think that profit should be more than just short-term and for just one individual. It’s about all the stakeholders in an organization.”
What do you wish you knew when starting Peaceful Fruits?
It always takes more, more, more, more than you think it should. It’s just a lot of moving pieces. So I wish initially that I had spent a little bit more time planning out the timeline and the budget. Everything has taken twice as long and been twice as expensive as I thought it would. I think in a way I knew that, but no matter what I guess, my guess is going to be wrong, so why the heck bother to guess? But I think those things are important, you know, looking back to say when I was initially starting to say, “Okay, we’ve spent 20,000 dollars. Is that too much? Is it not enough?”
What did you learn from being on Shark Tank?
In terms of what entrepreneurship is, the most impactful thing for me personally about “Shark Tank,” I mean obviously the most impactful thing is being on TV and that exposure is great for business. But personally, just to find people that don’t know you, that don’t like you, that don’t have any reason to like you, except for okay, we’re going to give you fifteen minutes of our time, or as much of our time past that that you earn, and tell us why you have value, and you can convince those people that you, not you as a person, but you as a professional, you as a business leader, you as a thought leader, you have value. That’s just such a source of validation, and it doesn’t have to be on reality TV, like that’s BS right, that’s total junk, but if it’s a professor or a local business owner, just somebody that you can network your way towards.
What do you consider your best decisions?
By working with Hattie’s, by working with Blick, we haven’t had to have any HR stuff because they help us manage that, we haven’t had to buy any machines because we partner with Hattie’s and they take on some of those things that take cash, take loans from banks, all that stuff that is super difficult for a startup. These are established organizations that are like “Oh you need some storage space? We’ve got plenty of storage space.”
Working with Hattie’s (Food Hub) has been one of the best by far moves and really working with folks in this industry in general, that being people with disabilities.
On those tough, existential dread days where you’re like “Are we on track? Is this the right life decision for me as an individual?” Then you walk into Hattie’s, you walk into Blick, and you’re like, “Yep. This is the right thing to be doing, and I’m going to do it as hard as I can and for as long as I can to support these folks.”
For more information, visit peacefulfruits.com.
Gray is trying to do his best but is afraid the publisher is plotting his demise.
(Featured photo of Evan Delehanty in the production facility at Hattie’s Food Hub by Gray Giaconia)