The spiritual side of the nut-butter business

Nut-butter guy: In balancing business with his spiritual leanings, Jack’s Nut Butters founder Jack Fischer does battle with his capitalistic urges, aiming to keep it all in tune. Photo by Kathi Peterson, AdvantageWest

“I’m learning a lot about money and how we relate to objects and food,” says Jack Fischer, who founded Jack’s Nut Butters in early 2011. With a background in art, physical movement and Eastern religion, Fischer approaches his business from a philosophical, political and spiritual angle. And in talking with him, it’s clear that sometimes these leanings do battle with his capitalistic urges.

“One of my missions in life is to be authentic in whatever I do,” Fischer says. “But in marketing, there’s a fine line. When people ask about your business, you want to tell them it’s going well, even if it’s not. And in our culture, shopping and buying things is supposed to feel good.” He adds, “So even if I’m having a bad day, I need to wear my sales persona. But the aim of authenticity motivates me to be present to the customer and relate to them. So my strategy is not to worry if they are going to buy something, but just to have a good interaction with them like they’re my neighbor.”

This measured and thoughtful approach permeates every area of his endeavor. While the business is a full-time job for Fischer, he is adamant about maintaining a healthy work-life balance. “The people I know who work in food companies are working ridiculously hard, and have amazingly good intentions. But in my opinion, some of them work too hard for their health.”

In order to avoid burnout, Fischer makes it a point to get both physical and mental distance from his business from time to time. “Most of my work is in front of the computer,” he explains, “so I try to get outside as much as possible and exercise, meditate or travel. I also try not to over-identify with my business — which can be tricky because the business is named after me! But I make it a point to attend some social events where people don’t want to talk about business.”

The satisfaction that Fischer finds in the business stems from its creativity and complexity. “Since my hand is in every piece of it — from the manufacturing, to the label design, to the delivery — it’s really an expression of who I am,” says Fischer. “It’s like an artist’s painting — it’s a reflection of myself.” He also enjoys the recognition he gets from the community. “I’m a total Leo, so when people say, ‘Oh, you’re the nut-butter guy,’ I get a sense of accomplishment that can be hard to find in our culture.”

To get to this level of recognition, Fischer has worked with several local organizations. He used Mountain BizWorks’ classes and coaching in business planning and financial management to start his business. His product is manufactured at Blue Ridge Food Ventures’ shared-use commercial kitchen with the help of six part-time employees. “Blue Ridge Food Ventures has great facilities and equipment, and the team is really supportive of the products,” says Fischer. “They also encourage us to be in accordance with regulations even before they’re enforced, so we’re never surprised when a new requirement comes along.”

So what’s next for Jack’s Nut Butters? Fischer is at an interesting point in his business’ development: deciding whether to grow or stay small. In the coming year he will cut back on tailgate market sales and focus on finding larger wholesale partners. Fischer is also negotiating with a major grocery chain; the outcome “could be a deciding factor in whether I decide to go up in scale or keep the scale the same.”

No matter what happens, Fischer says he’s grateful to be part of the Asheville small-business community. “It’s a real blessing to be in a community where people support products that they believe in — products that are very personal undertakings for the people who make them. That’s a really beautiful thing. It also means that, on the macro level, things are changing in how we deal with our food. And it takes a lot of grace to move through that.”

Jack’s Nut Butters products are available at www.jacksnutbutters.com and at a variety of local stores. They are also included in Blue Ridge Food Ventures Holiday Gift Boxes, which are available by visiting www.blueridgefoodventures.org or calling 348-0130.

Mountain BizWorks supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training. For more information, visit mountainbizworks.org.

To learn about business classes at at the nonprofit, visit www.mountainbizworks.org/calendar or call 253-2834.

Anna Raddatz is development and communications coordinator at Mountain BizWorks.

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