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Entrepreneur Interview: Fruigees' Founder and CEO
We spoke with David Czinn, co-founder and CEO of Fruigees, an organic fruit and veggie snack company created to provide a convenient way for people of all ages to eat a healthy snack on the go. Here's what he had to say:
1. What's the best piece of business advice you ever got? (Or advice that you're glad you ignored?)
My great-grandfather was an entrepreneur in New York and I've been told he always said, "Never leave the table until both sides are happy." That's the philosophy I go into every negotiation with, regardless if it's the largest retailer in the world or our cardboard supplier. It's helped us build strong, long-lasting relationships with everyone we work with because it demonstrates we're in it for the long-term and have their best interest in-mind just as much as our own - and when you're in a collaborative industry like food, that's essential to not only success, but survival.
2. What was the first big milestone for your business that you were proud of? What did you do to make that milestone happen?
Looking back on it, I'd have to say our debut at Expo West in 2014 was the earliest milestone that had the biggest impact. It's the largest natural foods trade show in the country and we were exhibiting next to brands that had been in business for years with awesome booths. But we were totally new and just came in and set up our farmers market gear and had no idea what to expect. When those doors to the convention center opened up, it was chaos with dozens of people at the booth trying to get a sample! Fortunately, with our previous year of farmers market experience, handing out samples while talking about Fruigees, answering questions about our ingredients, and bringing in more people was second nature. It's easy to get overwhelmed or get lost in the crowd but we maintained focus, kept our cool, and caught the attention of Meijer, Kroger, and Wegman's. We went from the farmers market one weekend to working with some of the biggest retailers the very next.
3. What did you want to be when you were young?
Most of my family is involved in some aspect of health or medicine so naturally I wanted to be a doctor. After getting my BA in business and working in finance I decided to pursue that goal and then went back to school to study pre-med. It was during that time when I had the idea for Fruigees after seeing students eating baby food out of pouches in class. I thought the pouches were awesome but knew there had to be a better product to put inside them that would have been more appealing to all-ages. While I left the program soon after and will most likely never be a doctor, my desire to become one lead me on the path that allowed me to be where I am today.
5. What's your favorite part about the food industry?
I’m a live to eat kind of guy and a people person, so being able to try so many new foods and meet so many awesome people in the industry behind great brands that I've been inspired by really makes this the perfect space for me to work in.
6. What about your brand makes you most proud?
Without a doubt it's the feedback we get. An e-mail from a mom telling us it's the only pouch her kid will eat or a review from a runner that they ditched their energy gels for Fruigees - knowing that people genuinely enjoy something we created and that they're taking any time out of their day to encourage us, it's just an awesome feeling.