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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founder: Richard Pauwels of Rich Nuts

Richard Pauwels of Rich Nuts

Richard Pauwels was a health-conscious firefighter who needed quality food to fuel him through long shifts. After lots of research and experimentation, he created the snack of his dreams.

Rich Nuts are soaked and sprouted to promote better digestion, bioavailability, and all-around nutrition. Lovingly seasoned with carefully-sourced superfoods, they’re the perfect snack for healthy snackers, grab-and-go gourmets, and everyone in between.

Recently, we caught up with Rich to learn more about his journey and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

Brilliant Balsamic flavor

1. Why did you start Rich Nuts?

I worked as an L.A. County firefighter and paramedic for 20 years, including 12 years in Malibu where I helped to fight the huge brush fires that ravaged California. Sometimes, we’d spend days in remote areas without access to food, so we were given little more than ready-to-eat meal kits and prison sack lunches. I didn’t want to eat them, because I care too much about my health and what I put in my body. 

Instead, I kept organic raw cashews in my go bag, thinking that the healthy fats and proteins would provide me with energy. However, instead of getting the fuel I needed, I started experiencing gas, bloating, aches, and even bouts of brain fog. I did some research and discovered that these symptoms are possible when the nuts are not sprouted. I then began sprouting my own cashews and noticed an immediate difference. The only problem was they were mushy. 

I dried the cashews with my dad's old dehydrator and added some sage and rosemary from the backyard, creating my first batch of Savory Sage nuts. They were a hit with my friends, family, and my fellow firefighters. After a while, I realized that I was spending about $700 a month on cashews, so I started telling people I’d have to charge them. They’d say, “Great! How much?” So, once I retired due to injuries sustained on the job, I launched Rich Nuts.

2. What obstacles did you face along the way?

I have had so many people ask me if being a firefighter was scary. I have to say that running into a burning building was far less scary than starting my first business! I had never started a business before, nor had I ever worked in the food industry. The learning curve was steep. And, yes, we bumped up against a bunch of obstacles along the way, like a trial by fire. 

Sprouting is still an emerging market, so we have had to get creative about educating customers on the process, the benefits, and, frankly, why our nuts cost a bit more than others. Due to the sprouting process and the way we develop our gourmet flavors, we’ve also had to manufacture our own product as a team of four. Now, we must continue to scale effectively as we continue to grow.

Rich Nuts on cookies

3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Don't try to do it all yourself! I thought I could do it all myself, but that mindset only led to burnout. You have to find partners, business associates, and experts who can do things better than you. That way, you can spend more time operating in your own zone of genius. 

There are plenty of production tasks that I can handle, but it's not always the best use of my time. Instead, I serve as our brand’s biggest ambassador by creating educational and engaging content, doing podcasts, and fielding interviews. 

So, let go of things, but make sure you hand them off to the right people. Choose your partners as if you're choosing a mate. You wouldn't marry someone that you don't trust completely. Don't overlook flaws or red flags. Trust your gut instinct because you'll be deeply and intimately wedded to this person as long as you're in business together. Set boundaries in a legal context that makes sense for both of you. Early on, I had a partner who used emotional blackmail to try and gain more equity. It was difficult to split, but in the end, it was the right decision. Just like a bad divorce, this creates years of stress in your life. In the end, nobody benefits from opaque or blurry boundaries.

4. What’s on the horizon for Rich Nuts?

We’re tapping into new distribution models that are much more brand-friendly and conducive to young, rapidly growing brands. We’re also leaning more heavily into social media, where I can work in my zone of genius. I strongly believe that education is key, so we will be creating lots of great content for fans to help them live a healthier lifestyle.

We also have four great new flavors in the works, along with some very exciting products in the pipeline.

Go Nuts & Berries flavor

5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

I have always been fascinated by nature. My father encouraged my passion through fishing trips, unusual pets like snakes, turtles, and iguanas, and even a home vegetable garden. Being in nature keeps me balanced and alive. I also maintain a healthy schedule of practices that align me with my purpose. 

Events like Burning Man and other festivals provide me with opportunities to play and have experiences that keep me feeling young and alive. Traveling is one of my favorite ways to explore the world, as it allows me to taste, smell, and immerse myself in other cultures, which deeply inspires my personal growth and drives me to be the best version of myself.

Meet the Founder