Nicole Dawes Podcast

Nicole Dawes of Nixie: How Late July and Cape Cod Potato Chips Helped Shape Her Business Today

Nicole Dawes is no stranger to revolutionizing the food industry. Growing up amidst her mother’s natural food store and her father’s Cape Cod Potato Chips factory in the 1970s, Nicole knew that she was destined to create a lasting impact in the natural products industry. In 2003, she founded Late July Snacks, pioneering one of the first brands to carry the USDA Organic seal, and adding an exciting option to the food industry that both tasted great and helped consumers live a healthier life. 

In this discussion, Nicole talks to Elizabeth about her entrepreneurial journey, sharing the highs and lows of building Late July and navigating its eventual sale. She talks about her new business, Nixie, and what makes this sparkling water stand out from the crowd. She shares great advice about team building and creating a company culture, and how we can make organic and sustainable food and beverages more accessible, one refreshing sip at a time.

The most important step in starting your company is just a step, but you have to start.
-Nicole Dawes


Listen now: 

Podcast transcript below:

Elizabeth Stein 00:00
Hi everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Nicole Dawes. Founder and CEO of Late July and Nixie. Growing up on the counter of her mother's natural food store in the 1970s on the factory floor of her father's company, Cape Cod potato chips, Nicole knew that becoming a natural products entrepreneur was her destiny. In 2003, Nicole founded Late July Snacks, one of the first brands to carry the USDA Organic seal. Nicole has dedicated her life to transforming the food industry by creating delicious organic options. Now Nicole is proud to bring you Nixie so you can trust that the sparkling water you've been buying for you and your family isn't made with synthetic solvents, carriers, or artificial preservatives. In this episode, we talk all about Nicole's entrepreneurial journey from a young age to building in Late July and eventually selling to Snyder's. Nicole shares all about the roller coaster moments of her first business, working with her dad, what it was like selling and now starting the second time around. Tips for leading her team over the years and how she takes care of herself and her family while balancing it all. I had so much fun catching up with Nicole and hearing all of her stories, I could totally relate. Keep listening to learn more. If you haven't had the chance to try our grain-free granolas yet, head on over to Walmart to now find them in the gluten-free Healthy Living aisle and select Walmart locations. Our grain-free granola has crunchy clusters of nets, super fruit seeds, and creamy nut butter, all baked with organic coconut oil and sweetened with coconut sugar. They are gluten-free, paleo, and keto certified, use the link in the notes section to find Purely Elizabeth products at a Walmart store near you. Nicole, welcome to the podcast. It's so great to have you on as we were just saying before we started recording, it's so wonderful to speak with another founder and you are someone who I have just admired so much in the industry, you are an OG, one of the first brands in organic. And you've done it once. And now you're doing it again and just an incredible female founder and CEO. So, welcome.
Nicole Dawes 02:40
Oh, thank you so much for having me, I've been looking forward to this. It's just such a treat to get to talk to another founder. And obviously, I'm such a huge fan of yours. It makes this even more special.
Elizabeth Stein 02:53
So fun. We always start the podcast with your beginning journey. But your beginning journey started in childhood with both of your parents. So I'd love for you to take us back to your childhood and what it was like with a father in the food manufacturing business and a mother in the natural food space.
Nicole Dawes 03:12
I feel grateful for the background that I had because it influenced me in so many ways to do what I'm doing today. But my mom had a health food store in the 70s. So much of how I feel about my relationship with food and my relationship with sustainable food in particular, I got from those early days hanging out in my mom's natural food store. It's interesting, though, it influenced me in other profound ways, which was, my dad was a real foodie. He started Cape Cod potato chips. My dad was the person who would go to eight different stores if that's what it took to make whatever recipe that he was working on. And the one thing that I never could wrap my head around about my mom's natural food store was everything looked bland and tasted a little bit bland. The big treat in my childhood was carob-covered rice cakes and tempeh sandwiches.
Elizabeth Stein 04:16
And was your dad into eating all of that?
Nicole Dawes 04:17
No, he wasn't. He was supportive of my mom. He liked the idea of healthy food and caring about what you eat. But he loved to create different recipes. And he was really into the way the food tasted and how you combine different ingredients. And whereas my mom was more focused on just the health and sourcing. And we were macrobiotic, even for a while. It's just like they approach it from two very different places. Foodies in different ways. They had the same goals everyone wanted fresh, healthy food, but my mom was focused on health exclusively and my dad was more focused on taste and freshness. The other thing that I never really appreciated as a child was just because I want to eat organic and I want to eat healthy. That doesn’t mean I want my packaging to be bland and the graphics to look like round cardboard boxes. I appreciate fun packaging. I don't think those things have to be linked. For so many years in the natural product space, it's burlap and cardboard. And that's what natural products were associated with. As I look back at this combined experience from the counter of my mom's natural food store to my dad's potential company, my takeaway was to make foods healthy, make them organic, but also make them beautiful, and make them as delicious as possible, because there's nothing that sets back at the natural foods movement more than when products taste bad. That's a step in the wrong direction. So, I have built my career around making organic sustainable foods, and beverages as delicious as possible to try to bring more people into our movement. And because overall, that helps grow the mission. And people love the way it tastes.
Elizabeth Stein 06:20
Absolutely could not agree more. It's all about like not having that trade-off. Didn't have to be a trade-off.
Nicole Dawes 06:25
No, it absolutely shouldn't be a trade-off, because you're going to lose people in the long run.
Elizabeth Stein 06:29
Totally. And it's certainly in a much better place than it is today. Even when I started in 2009, my reasoning for getting into it was gluten-free. It was such a trade-off that you had to make with not only ingredients but taste and all the things.
Nicole Dawes 06:48
Oh, absolutely. And people settled for that because there was nothing else available. If you were trying to follow a specific diet or you were putting the environment first, you're willing to make those trade-offs. But to make that tent as big as possible, there can't be a trade-off.
Elizabeth Stein 07:08
Yeah. Was your dad always in food? Who started in the industry first? Your mom with the store, or your dad?
Nicole Dawes 07:18
My mom. My dad was somebody who was always going to be an entrepreneur of some kind. He was a really interesting person, he put himself through college working on a fishing boat, where he also was the cook on a fishing boat. He hitchhiked from Massachusetts to Alaska to work on another fishing boat. But then he ended up with this friend who didn't get the job. So instead of him doing the one fishing job and his friend doing a different job, they both just became firefighters.
Elizabeth Stein 07:50
Change of events.
Nicole Dawes 07:52
Yeah, he did not follow a straight line with his career path. But he was always interested in food. He loves to cook. And because my mom had the health food store, he saw the same thing I did, which is like everything in there was just bland and boring. And he felt potato chips were something that just should be natural. There's no reason to use a bad oil, there's no reason to add strange ingredients to it. The whole idea behind Cape Cod potato chips was that it was just all-natural, with very clean ingredients, a simple recipe, handmade, and the best potato chips. That was his whole idea. He wasn't guided by health necessarily, but he was guided by clean ingredients. And just simplifying the process of doing by hand and craft and putting that care into what the product tasted like. My mom was first in the food world. But my dad, again, was destined to be an entrepreneur. We didn't have any money. A small natural food store in the 70s was in the…
Elizabeth Stein 09:12
… Cape Cod, nonetheless.
Nicole Dawes 09:15
It was not. And my dad had done a bunch of different jobs when he got the harebrained idea to start a potato chip company. It was a terrible disaster at first. Honestly, it could have gone out of business at any moment in those first few months. And I'm pretty sure everyone in my family's life was convinced that this was the worst thing that my dad had ever done because they had a child, they had no money and he was now risking whatever little money they had on a potato chip company, which back then people didn't do that.
Elizabeth Stein 09:52
What year was this that he started?
Nicole Dawes 09:55
He launched on July 4th, 1980. It wasn't like there were a million little craft CPG companies back then, that just wasn't a thing that people did particularly also on Cape Cod. But it wasn't an overnight success, to say the least.
Elizabeth Stein 10:16
So was that part of the naming of Late July, having anything to do with that?
Nicole Dawes 10:21
My dad had another company called Chatham Village Foods, and he'd always use geographic names for his companies. And I love that because I love the Cape, it's where I'm from. It is where I am right now and consider myself an ocean person. And I feel very lucky that this is my home. But I also feel like part of what makes it special is it's summer. So when I was trying to encapsulate that feeling of what makes this such a special place to me, Late July was that moment. It's that sweet spot of summer. If you're a kid, you're not thinking to go back to school yet. But you're also in the groove of summer, so you're finally a little bit relaxed. My husband's from New Orleans, and we work together. And New Orleans doesn't have that same feeling about Late July, because it's hot. But as I was talking to him about it, even in a place like New Orleans in Late July, we're not talking Cape Cod level, in the weather department. But you're taking extra time off, you're spending more time with your family and friends, and if you're a kid, you're still out of school. So even if you don't have the Cape Cod summer experience, Late July is still a special moment for most people. That's why we went with it.
Elizabeth Stein 11:37
Absolutely. All right, so you are growing up in this foodie world. And from what age did you say to yourself, I'm going to start a food company? Or what was that like?
Nicole Dawes 11:51
In hindsight, I always knew it was what I wanted to do. Cape Cod potato chips, I think of it like a sibling I grew up with.
Elizabeth Stein 12:04
Did you grow up working there?
Nicole Dawes 12:07
I mean to the extent that a little kid would. I was there all time because my parents didn't have help with me. And they both worked there. Eventually, my mom went to work there, too. So it was just I was always there. I don't know I loved that place. It felt like home. So I had my first food company when I was 12. I started a cookie company with my best friend. And we had a customer, which is a deli in our town. You won’t believe is like a thing, but we used to deliver twice a week to this deli, and they would sell our chocolate chip cookies at the register. My dad helped me work out the margin. And we figured out what to charge, we kept all the books, I mean I had the P&L, the whole thing,
Elizabeth Stein 12:57
That's amazing.
Nicole Dawes 12:58
I don't know. I love the occasions around food. I feel like the fact that we can make a product that people go and enjoy with their family and friends and you're like a special part of their life, it's just such a cool thing. But that's what I get to do for my job. I don’t know if I always knew this is what I wanted to do, but I never seriously considered anything else.
Elizabeth Stein 13:24
Totally. Every time you go to the store and see your product on the shelf, do you still get excited by it?
Nicole Dawes 13:30
Yes. I get so excited. And the funny thing is my dad passed away quite a while ago now. But there are some stores where I'll go and I'll see Late July and Nixie and Cape Cod potato chips, and even Chatham village foods. It just makes me feel close to him. And if I ever see anyone buying one of my products, oh…
Elizabeth Stein 13:58
Do you say something to them? Or did you just watch it?
Nicole Dawes 14:01
If I have coupons with me, I do. Because I love to give people a coupon to get it for free and I happen to see it. But I don't think people realize how grateful as a founder we are for every single time someone purchases our product. I don’t take any single purchase for granted. Every time someone chooses to buy my product at the store, that is so huge. And if I see it, yes. I try not to be too much of a stalker, but…
Elizabeth Stein 14:36
but it is. I feel like every time you say it's like the first time that I've seen it like it's on the shelf. Oh my god. Someone's putting it in their cart.
Nicole Dawes 14:45
And honestly, I do that with friend companies too. If I see a big display for a friend or if I see somebody buying it, I'll text them. Even with Late July, even though I sold it, I'm so proud of that company. I still feel super proud every time I see it anywhere someone buying it.
Elizabeth Stein 15:10
As you should. It's an incredible business that you built and sold. Let's get into a little bit about the beginning of Late July. I didn't realize that you started with crackers. So I'm curious to hear because we too, did not start with granola and people are always surprised to hear, “Whoa, what did you start with?” So I'm curious to hear how or why you went from just doing crackers into chips becoming such a big piece of the business.
Nicole Dawes 15:41
It was a very interesting evolution. First of all, snack food and potato chips are obviously what I know. But my dad was very apprehensive about me going back into snacks. It's just a really tough business.
Elizabeth Stein 15:56
Was he like, what are you doing starting your own company, to begin with, or he was supportive?
Nicole Dawes 16:01
No, he was super supportive of that. But he was nervous. He liked the cracker category because it wasn't as competitive as chips, it was a little more forgiving. And the reason we started with crackers is I was pregnant with my son who's 21, this summer. I was living in New York City, and I was wandering around looking for crackers because I wanted organic saltines. In my neighborhood in New York, I had four natural food stores in very close proximity.
Elizabeth Stein 16:33
Where were you living?
Nicole Dawes16:35
I was living on 13th Street, right in the Union Square area. None of them had organic crackers of any kind. I explored the category more in-depth. And not only did they not have organic, it was like the aisle that time forgot. It was like you walked around the perimeter. And there was all this beautiful organic produce and organic dairy, and then you walk down the cracker aisle. And it was I'd walked back into a time machine in my mom's 1970s natural food store. And I was like, what is happening in this aisle? Why does everything look and taste bad? And it's also not organic. They weren't even using organic anything. So, I realized that I'd stumbled into an opening. And as you know, the most important step in starting your company is just a step. You're gonna pivot, you're gonna evolve.
Elizabeth Stein 17:36
You don't need to have the whole business plan.
Nicole Dawes 17:39
Yeah. But you got to start. You somehow got to start. To me, this was my opportunity. It was a real need I had. And I figured, if I have this need, other people will too. So lucky for me, that was the thing people wanted. It was so funny, though, when we launched, we had this beautiful packaging, and our products I thought tasted like regular crackers that you would buy in the conventional aisle. They were crispy, and all the things that you wanted. And one of the first things people wrote about in Late July, was that column that used to be called supermarket sampler. And one of the people who were like the junk food junkie, half of the team, said, “What was Nicola Bernard Dawes thinking?” she named dropped me. And said, “No one who buys natural foods wants them to taste conventional. These should have hemp or ginseng in them or something. And I'm thinking, first of all, it's so insulting and completely unnecessary. I’m a new entrepreneur and I just started this company. But also, so not true.
Elizabeth Stein 18:50
Like the exact opposite.
Nicole Dawes 18:53
Nicole Dawes
Yeah, just because I want to eat sustainably, doesn't mean that I don't want to taste delicious and look pretty. But honestly, was like, am I the only one? Does no one else feel this way?
Elizabeth Stein 19:05
Must’ve been pretty insulting early on.
Nicole Dawes 19:09
It was almost immediately. But then Florence Fabricant, who was the food writer at The New York Times did a big pretty piece on us. And I was, okay, not everyone agrees with that. And then the reason we pivoted into chips was because I had my second son, who ended up having some pretty serious food allergies. He was anaphylactic to peanuts and tree nuts. I'm also lactose intolerant. I felt like crackers could not be inclusive foods without doing things that they didn't want. You had to make some modifications that I thought made them taste bad. I thought it was very difficult to make them full food for everybody without doing things to them that I didn't like. Whereas when you use corn, you can easily make things gluten-free, you can easily make things allergy free. And to me, this felt like a great extension of what I wanted Late July to be, which was a company for everybody that cared about things I cared about. And it allowed me to make inclusive products, and almost anybody could eat. And it fits with our mission of being healthy, delicious, and also organic.
Elizabeth Stein 20:36
I've heard that you're one of the first brands to utilize the USDA Organic symbol. Especially corn tortillas having organic in that category must have been huge.
Nicole Dawes 20:52
Yeah, we launched with the seal. We didn't have the USDA Organic seal on our products. And it was interesting because when we first started, it was really hard to get certified organic ingredients. After all, we were launching all together with the seal. And it was very limited, we had to do a ton of intense R&D for things that should be simple, but wasn't because no one else was doing it. As a consumer, you wouldn't know how hard the R&D was, because it wasn't something you could see. But just like the dough conditioners, we couldn't use in flour, and organic flour changes its percentage of the whey protein present. Every batch is a little different, but you can't use a lot of the processing aids that conventional can use. But a consumer doesn't see that.
Elizabeth Stein 21:51
Or even understand how hard it is just to get the organic ingredient. Period.
Nicole Dawes 21:57
It's interesting because it was new. Organic is such a complicated concept for some people too. All naturals are easy to understand, even non-GMO is a little easier to understand. There was just so much confusion around what it meant initially. And I remember we were doing a parade one time, and we were handing out crackers. I heard a mom tell her kid, “Oh, no, we don't eat organic in our family.” It's just like a lot of that in the early days when they didn’t understand what it meant. And that's true with organic in general. We still have such a long way to go to help people understand why it's important, why to do it, and what it's for. Because it is a little bit of a tricky concept.
Elizabeth Stein 22:44
Yeah, it is. And now you're adding regenerative organic to it, which is also making it complicated and a whole other conversation.
Nicole Dawes 22:53
Yeah, I don't think we have time for this.
Elizabeth Stein 22:56
No. That's like a part two.
Nicole Dawes 22:59
Yeah, for sure.
Elizabeth Stein 23:00
Since the beginning, Purely Elizabeth has been committed to the healing power of food. We believe there's a direct connection between the health of our farms and soil and the health of our food. That is why I'm so excited to announce our newest product launching. Our number one selling original Ancient Grain Granola is now available in an 18-ounce value size made with regenerative organic certified coconut oil and coconut sugar. For those who are not familiar with regenerative agriculture, it focuses on improving soil health, which is known to help improve crop yields, biodiversity, carbon emissions, and water conservation. You can find our value size at your local Whole Foods Market or on our website at If you're interested in learning more about our sustainability journey and how it impacts the delicious food you enjoy, please visit purely Enjoy. So as you were building the brand, we were talking about this before we got started, was there a moment where there was a real pivotal point where you were like, we're gonna make it and this is going to be something massive? How are you envisioning it as you went along?
Nicole Dawes 24:23
As an entrepreneur, I tend to be very in the moment. Because you're in a constant state of triage. Every day, you just wake up and deal with whatever a million problems you have that day. You never know ahead of time. So that's why it's like literally you walk in and you're like, all right, let me see all the patients. At Late July, we had a lot of really early success right out of the gate, because we were the first. We got the national distribution of whole foods. Just so much stuff happened right away. And then not very similar to what we're experiencing now in this country, not pandemic. But we had a recession in 2009, and it was just a devastating year for Late July. Our growth slowed, almost stopped, and we had positive growth but it was a tough year. My father passed away, we had our loan call because of the death of a member clause in that loan. We weren't part of it. But there was a huge peanut butter recall. And because one of our products had peanut butter from shelves, it was one thing after another. One of our main ingredients burned in a warehouse fire. It just was every single possible thing that could go wrong in one year went wrong all in the same year.
Elizabeth Stein 25:50
And how did you deal with that?
Nicole Dawes 25:54
There's one thing that is just great entrepreneur advice. And how I dealt with that year, it was a Lincoln quote. It's like your commitment to success is what ultimately determines how successful you're going to be. And I put them in the same camp as you wake up every day and decide to have the day you want to have. Those are two things I live by. Even as bleak as it was that year, I don't think there was any moment where I ever said, we're done. Because I always knew that we would figure it out. We would just take the next step and the next step and the next step. And ultimately, we managed to get out of that year. That's when we decided to bet the entire company's future on the launch of the chips. And we honestly never looked back. It was like we went from our lowest point to our highest point within 12 months, essentially. You have to be like that to start a business, because so many terrible things happen daily, that you have to have that will to succeed. And you also cannot let the negativity ever take over. Because if you do, you're done.
Elizabeth Stein 27:30
It's almost like an American unrealistic optimism. But you have to be on the cusp of this crazy optimism that you just believe in it so strongly to your core that nothing standing in your way, like you said, it's just figuring out the next thing and the next thing.
Nicole Dawes 27:50
Yeah, it's true. I mean there's a little bit of delusional optimism, for sure. It's true. And the other thing, now that I'm on round two, is I realized that those instincts that we have. And whatever it is, you wake up, you solve your problems, whatever. Those aren't instincts anymore. You've been doing it for 14 years, I've been doing it for 20+ years. That's experience. We now have experience and it teaches us what to do next. Let's hope we've learned a thing or two. Because I also think that every entrepreneur year, it's like a dog year. I don't know if it's seven years, seven to one, but you pack it in in an entrepreneur year.
Elizabeth Stein 28:42
So you eventually go and sell the business and was that part of the plan? How did that happen? And what was that like for you selling your baby?
Nicole Dawes 28:55
It wasn't part of the plan. I never started a company with a plan to sell it. You shouldn't because you don't know what the future is gonna hold.
Elizabeth Stein 29:02
Did you have investors?
Nicole Dawes 29:06
We did. We had wonderful investors, just fantastic investors. We had a strategic investor, Snyder's the pretzel company. Then when they got bought by Campbell's, that was ultimately what precipitated our sale to Campbell's. I would have loved to keep the company, I love that company. And, when you sell a lot of times, you have to do a non-compete, but honestly, I don't even think they needed to let me do that because I didn't want to compete with that company. It's a perfect company. I want it to succeed. I don't want to make it not succeed. I root for it every single day. And it was such a strange transition to move on from Late July.
Elizabeth Stein 29:54
Did you move on right away or did you stay on…?
Nicole Dawes 29:57
I moved on pretty right away. That's what they want. I stayed for a couple of months, but…
Elizabeth Stein 30:03
Do you think that was easier looking back?
Nicole Dawes 30:07
Yeah. Because ultimately I'm probably not a big company person. They knew what they wanted to do.
Elizabeth Stein 30:20
I feel like it'd be so hard. In my head, I'm like, well, I want to stay on, but it would be so hard to see other people doing things with your baby.
Nicole Dawes 30:28
It depends on how you stay. If they want you to run it, that'd be one thing maybe. But if you're just more of a creative director, I think that’s when it gets tricky. As entrepreneurs, we have to recognize that we have strengths and weaknesses, and listening to other people might not be one of my strengths. I did start Nixie almost right away afterward. That's maybe the only thing I wish I'd waited taking a little bit of time off.
Elizabeth Stein 30:57
At what point did you have the idea for Nixie? And then how quickly after did you start?
Nicole Dawes 31:01
Almost right away. It took us a while to R&D and everything. But my husband and I have now worked together for so long. It's like you know all this stuff, it's I hate to waste. It took all these years to learn all these, I've made so many mistakes, I have to put those to work now. And a lot of our team, they weren't keeping either. We had some built-in employees. It took us a while to do the R&D and Nixie. We didn't hit shelves until December 2019, which was just in time. That was a fantastic little turn of events.
Elizabeth Stein 31:51
well, I love the brand that you have created. And I believe you guys use tarmac to do your design, which we use just to do our rebrand, a phenomenal job on that. It's a fabulous product that you have. Two things that you just said that I'd love to dive into. One is the mistakes and the lessons you've learned that you have now taken into Nixie. And the other one is about the team. And the fact that you've built an incredible business, built an incredible team and culture, and brought some of those people with you to Nixie, says so much about you. So, I'd love to hear that. Start with that, I'd love to hear about what you learned as a leader in Late July that you have brought to Nixie and any tips around leadership.
Nicole Dawes 32:45
It's such a different world than it used to be with hybrid work environments. One of the things I'm still trying to figure out is how you help nurture young talent in a hybrid environment.
Elizabeth Stein 33:02
what is your hybrid situation?
Nicole Dawes 33:08
We’re all over the place. We have an office, and we're going to be opening a second office. And we have pockets of people in different places. But in Late July, we had one office where everyone was together. But I do think that's old-fashioned. That's not the best way to work. But I do think it is the best way to help nurture young talent because you learn and grow so much faster when you can be with a mentor. That's the one thing that I can't quite figure out how to translate perfectly in a hybrid work world. It was a big part. It is really hard. So many of the mistakes made, I don't think we have enough time to dive into them all. One of the biggest ones is there were so many things I thought of leaving it to the experts, other people that know more than me about different things. And in hindsight, sales was one of those areas where I had a lot of apprehension in my early days. Because I did not feel like I was good at sales, and I've never really done it. And I'm also an introvert.
Elizabeth Stein 34:19
I was gonna say when we chatted last, how we're both introverts and that we probably hadn't met. That's so funny. And I felt the same way beginning about sales.
Nicole Dawes 34:30
Yeah. Honestly, when I was in college, I did sales for one of my dad's companies. And I like having this vivid experience like sitting outside of the store for 30 minutes because I was too afraid to go in. And that's something that just as I look back, obviously, I didn't do that with Nixie, as the founder and CEO, you are in half to be the best salesperson of your product. This isn't to say you didn't have amazing salespeople on your team, because you should. And technically, they're a lot better than I am at not dropping the ball and doing everything the right way. Future customers get what we promise. But you have to be the most passionate advocate for your products. And I was so afraid to do that in the early days of Late July, and I trusted brokers about the way customers wanted to hear information. And even when it didn't seem right to me, those are lessons that probably cost me years with certain customers. I had a broker tell me that Costco didn't like to meet with founders.
Elizabeth Stein 35:42
Which is the exact opposite.
Nicole Dawes 35:44
I know. And it didn't seem right to me at the time. And they weren't inviting me to the meetings. But I trusted them because they had more experience. But the reality was they just wanted to control the relationship. They were also telling Costco that I didn't want to come. So it was just a double whammy. But again, I didn't fight it, because I was afraid. I didn’t have the confidence to think I could be good at sales.
Elizabeth Stein 36:13
But also a good lesson. In your gut, you knew that it wasn't right.
Nicole Dawes 36:19
It did. That didn't seem right. And that's the thing. It's taken me years to realize, and I mentioned this earlier, but it's like those instincts. It's just experience. You've been doing it long enough you got to trust your experience. Something doesn't seem right. It's probably not.
Elizabeth Stein 36:36
Totally. It must have been so exciting for you to start Nixie. I just think if I were to start from the beginning, even simple things of deductions, or this or that, like I know all this stuff now. And here are all the things that I can at least not waste the mental energy on and be able to focus on driving the business and what makes you excited about it.
Nicole Dawes 37:04
Yeah, and simple things like you said. I've resisted spending money on data for years in Late July because it just seemed like such a waste of money. Because I was like we need to know what our best sellers are, we need to know what our velocity is. Because you can't fix problems if you don't know about them. We bought data basically out of the gate. Just all the software stuff that I didn't waste time trying to figure out, we have our Expensify, Gusto for payroll, and the systems in place. That part was just 1000 times easier the second time around. Those are the unsung heroes, the important things. And those do help with a hybrid.
Elizabeth Stein 37:59
So, what was the inspiration for Nixie?
Nicole Dawes 38:01
Well, again, it was very similar in a lot of ways to what inspired Late July. But throughout all of Late July, we were always being displayed and doing partnerships with beverages. And one of the things that we very quickly realized is that in next time, you're in the supermarket, walk down the beverage aisle. Again, it's shockingly behind the times. It's just filled with single-use plastic, first of all, for no reason. There's no need to have that much single-use plastic in the beverage business. It's filled with sugar, and there is almost no organic. And that if we're looking at the aisle that's gonna have the biggest transformation over the next decade, it's the beverage aisle. You're seeing it. People are trying to make products healthier, people are reducing sugar, and people are reducing single-use plastic, but it still has a long way to go. It's like we've taken a baby step in that aisle versus the whole rest of the supermarket. And that to me is very exciting. I want to be a big part of pushing that aisle toward the future and a healthier, more sustainable beverage business.
Elizabeth Stein 39:23
So what is your vision for Nixie over the next couple of years? Do you envision staying in sparkling water? Do you envision going into other places for a beverage?
Nicole Dawes 39:35
We talked about this a little bit before we started but it's a little bit tricky out there with retailers. You don't want to bombard them with too many new products. We've been very thoughtful about how many we introduce each year because it's a different world. And the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on the supply chain. I try to be thoughtful about what we bring to our retailers. At the same time as I previously just mentioned, I think the beverage aisle has a long way to go. And I see Nixie being a driving force to creating that future beverage business to be this healthier, more sustainable, and also fast growth. That is the part of the business that's growing. But again, it has the smallest part of the aisle. If you think about that, there's just such huge potential for healthy beverages in general over the next decade.
Elizabeth Stein 40:34
At this phase in round two, what keeps you up at night? And are they the same things that kept you up at night before? Or different things?
Nicole Dawes 40:44
It's pretty similar. The one thing that I forgot, is by the end of Late July, we were pretty big. In a lot of situations, we would be the place’s biggest customer. And I forgot what it's like to be the smallest customer. It is just a tricky supply chain world right now. You're fighting a little bit for the share of a customer when you're not the biggest. And you're trying to remind people, well, we're not the biggest yet. But we know how to become the biggest and you support us now. And we'll stick with you. So it's just a little bit of that. It's just very hard to be a small business right now. The whole universe is not set up to support small businesses these days from a capital standpoint, from a just supply chain standpoint. Everything favors the large business right at the moment. But again, at the same time, I love what I do. What keeps me up at night is just wanting to do it more and R&D. I'm just so excited about our future that just the potential is what keeps me up at night.
Elizabeth Stein 42:06
Don't you just feel so grateful that you have had two brands that are your babies that you just feel so passionate about and can wake up excited every day this many years later after doing it?
Nicole Dawes 42:24
Yeah, it's so important to love what you do because you spend a good chunk of your life doing it. I love what we do, and I believe in the mission of what we do. The fact that I get to wake up and do this job is incredible. I don't take that for granted ever. I feel incredibly lucky.
Elizabeth Stein 42:46
What do you do in your day or night to feel your best, to take care of yourself beyond work?
Nicole Dawes 42:55
It's a couple of things. My family is very important to me. My kids are getting older. And there are a couple of things. A family dinner is probably one of the most important moments of my day. And we have worked hard through the chaos to maintain a family dinner. Not every night, obviously, but as much as possible. And that's something that I look forward to. It just brings us all together. It's just probably my favorite time of day. And then walking outdoors. There was a moment in Late July when I did not prioritize my health. I couldn't even have 20 minutes for my health. And I swore the second time around, I wasn't gonna let that happen. And you can always go for a long walk, but you certainly can get outdoors, at least get some fresh air. My husband and I do together a lot because we work together. And as you know, entrepreneurial businesses are stressful. And my husband and I have worked together for almost 20 years now. We find these walks to be an important part of not only our mental health but just a way to clear our heads. We talk about work a lot. I'm not gonna lie that we don't discuss work.
Elizabeth Stein 44:15
That was going to be my next question. All right, we're gonna move into some rapid-fire q&a. What's the best advice you've received that has helped your business?
Nicole Dawes 44:30
My dad was a big believer and always asked for the sale. That's great advice. Because first of all, yes, always ask for the sale when you're getting a sale. But to me, it became more than that. You can't get what you want if you don't know what you want. I morphed that into clearly defining your goals and you can achieve them.
Elizabeth Stein 44:56
I love that. It's so great. How do you feel about Nixie?
Nicole Dawes 45:00
I was so mad at my dad when he started a second company, I just let him have it. I was like why would you do this? This is terrible because it's stressful too. And over the summer, sometimes whenever one or both of our kids will come with us, my older son is a musician, and his schedule allows him to be with us on occasion. So he'll come with us, and sometimes we'll talk about his business instead of ours. But those are two things that I prioritize and are very important to me both from a mental health perspective, but also physical health.
Elizabeth Stein 45:42
Yeah. Well, they say just walking 10 minutes a day will lead to greater happiness. The proof is in the pudding now that it's something that I feel like people inherently knew, but now there's the data to say, yes, this affects your mental health.
Nicole Dawes 46:01
You can find 15 minutes in your day. I'm pretty sure he would enjoy giving me a hard time. So yeah, he would have enjoyed probably giving that back to me.
Elizabeth Stein 46:15
Yes. Three things that you're currently loving.
Nicole Dawes 46:21
I feel like I'm so behind the times on this one. But the SmartLess podcast. We watch the documentary. I don’t know if it's a documentary exactly which was on HBO, or whatever it was. But the SmartLess, they’re on the roadshow. Then we went back and started listening to all the podcasts. Love it. It's just nice. They're pretty quick too, so I can make time for it. I also recently enjoyed the show Shrinking. I think it's on Apple TV. I was a huge reader in my early life and I abandoned reading at one point. And during the pandemic, I became a rabid reader again. So I've been reading a ton. The third thing I just finished, is this book called The Lioness of Boston. It's like a historic fiction about Isabella Stewart Gardner. I loved it. I went to boarding school outside of Boston, and I used to just go. Did you ever go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner…? It was beautiful. I used to just go hang out there. I just thought she was such a cool person. I always felt really bad that she lived in this time when she couldn't do anything. She was just so restricted by the time. And if you're even remotely interested in her life, I tried to read her biography. It was too dry, couldn't get through it. And The Lioness of Boston is like a fictionalized version of her biography. It was written by one of my friends from boarding school. But I just read it in the afternoon, and I just finished it. It's an excellent, quick read. And Isabella Stewart Gardner is a super cool, interesting person. And the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is also an interesting place to go if you're in Boston.
Elizabeth Stein 48:16
Love that. What do you want more of in your life?
Nicole Dawes 48:20
I feel like there's just so much chaos in our world right now, I would just love for even one day to go by in our universe where something completely insane didn't happen. Just like a little bit of calm in this crazy world right now. I don't think that's possible these days. But wouldn't it be nice?
Elizabeth Stein 48:43
That would be nice. Let's put that out there into the world to manifest that.
Nicole Dawes 48:48
Energy is out there in the world. It's not like some once-in-a-lifetime cataclysmic event isn't happening now.
Elizabeth Stein 48:56
Yeah. Favorite words to live by?
Nicole Dawes 49:00
Again, we've already touched on this. But I'm always telling my kids, you wake up every day and you have the kind of day you decide to have. Bad things are gonna happen to us. That's just like life. It's a roller coaster. But only you can decide. Whatever inputs are coming your way, you can decide how you're gonna react to those. And that's just like something that I live by. I constantly stop myself. I feel it also really helps your mental health. If you're not focused on the negative all the time, you're just going to be a happier person. You can easily slip down the negativity rabbit hole. And every day, you have to wake up and decide not to do that.
Elizabeth Stein 49:55
And realize that you're the one who's in control of how you react to things.
Nicole Dawes 50:00
Yeah. I just think that's probably more than anything else, particularly in this profession. It's been instrumental to my success and my mental health.
Elizabeth Stein 50:15
Have your kids done a good job listening to that advice?
Nicole Dawes 50:18
They kind of have, honestly. We've never had a nanny. Our kids just we're in chaos with us all the time. And it's interesting, neither one of them wants to become food entrepreneurs. My older son is a musician, and my younger son wants to be an artist. But particularly my older son, I see him practicing that lesson a lot. And he mentions that a lot. So I know it has made some an impression. When you put creative work out into the world, you get a lot of judgments. And I think it's very important. Similar to what we do. You have to learn how to process this healthily.
Elizabeth Stein 51:08
A favorite book, or podcast for personal or professional growth?
Nicole Dawes 51:18
With books and podcasts, honestly, I almost always use them for recreation, because I feel like I have so much coming at me from just work and reality standpoint. I just don't read a lot of books that are focused on business. I think you get lessons from everywhere. I've read a lot about introverts and helping introverts in the workplace. I can't think of the name of the book. I’ll get back to you on that one. But there were a lot of really interesting lessons in there for me, because I feel that way about myself. But I also want to make sure that our work is a safe place for introverts too. We don't favor the extroverts or we're helping people speak up in meetings. That is the one area where I have done some work with different books. There's a good one. I can't remember the name of it right now, but I will get back to you on that.
Elizabeth Stein 52:21
That's a good tip. Favorite Late July and Nixie moment. One of each.
Nicole Dawes52:31
My favorite Late July moment is kind of easy. Because it was after that disastrous year that I had just told you about. My dad had passed away and I had now officially taken over all sales because I had to. We just launched the chips. And we needed a distributor because you needed to go DSD with chips. But I couldn't get the distributor unless I got this one customer to say yes. So, I needed the customer for everything to go right. So I left my house at two in the morning to get to the airport, because Cape Cod to Logan is pretty hard drive and my flight left early. So I was exhausted. And I get to this meeting. One of those meetings where you need the customer to say yes. It would be so devastating that you can't think about the enormity of that at the moment. I was sitting in front of this customer and the meeting I thought had gone well. So I was like this is going well. And he turns to me at the end. And he's like, “Is there anything else that you want to know before we wrap up?” And I just remembered the advice of my dad and I was, “Well, there is one thing I'd like to know. Are you going to say yes?” Honestly, this has never happened since but he looked right at me. He goes, “Yes, I am gonna say yes.” It never happened. Honestly, I thought I'm gonna get out of here before I mess this up. I was exhausted because I’d been up since two and I get back in my car to drive back to the airport. I was so excited. I couldn't believe that it happened. And it honestly was so important. Without that yes, I don't know what…
Elizabeth Stein 54:31
Where is that buyer today?
Nicole Dawes 54:34
He left and then I kept track of him to another job. I don't know if he knows how important it is to us. Nixie, we're still so in it. It's like every day we have that situation. But I would have to say that Sprouts took a pretty big chance on us. Brian Alford, he's still the current buyer. And it's been huge. They believed in us and have been supportive. Partnerships like that, you're so grateful for. As we talked about earlier, there are so many customers that I'm grateful for. But in the early days, when a big customer does take a big chance on you, it does feel pretty enormous. There have been other big moments too. Our lime ginger is the number one SKU in some chains. And obviously, I have each one of these milestones benchmarked. But the partnerships are what make this business so fun and so interesting. So when you have a great partnership with a retailer, that feeling is pretty hard to be.
Elizabeth Stein 55:52
Okay. And lastly, what's your number one nonnegotiable to thrive on your wellness journey?
Nicole Dawes 55:58
We've already talked about that. But it's the walks. And I do the peloton. I feel like to get some good like exercise, I do other things. But the walks are so important for me. Because just being outdoors, it helps me clear my head, it helps me center myself. Not that it's the best form of exercise that I do, but it's the best when you think about your mental and physical well-being. It's an everyday thing. Plus, my dog would probably want to too.
Elizabeth Stein 56:41
I agree with that one. Nicole, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This was so much fun. I could have chatted with you for another hour and gone down so many rabbit holes, but you have built two incredible businesses. I just look up to you so much for all that you've accomplished.
56:59 Thank you. Honestly, like I said earlier, being an entrepreneur is like being in a state of triage all day. I can't even thank you enough for giving me this chance to, first of all, talk to you this time, which is something that we never get to do. We'll make a goal of that.
Elizabeth Stein 57:19
Yeah. Thanks, Nicole. Thanks so much for joining me on Live Purely with Elizabeth. I hope you feel inspired to thrive on your wellness journey. If you enjoyed today's episode, don't forget to rate, subscribe, and review. You can follow us on Instagram @purely_elizabeth to catch up on all the latest. See you next Wednesday on the podcast.