This Family Business Innovates to Grow From Generation to Generation What was a family store has blossomed into a booming online family store.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Nuts.com is a third generation family business, based in Cranford, New Jersey. Kenny, Sandy, David and Jeffrey Braverman run the business selling dried fruits, candy, healthy snacks and, of course, nuts, which are now a minority of their sales. The Bravermans take being a family business to a whole new level. It's one of the reasons why they've experienced success and longevity.
You can brand your family.
"We're very proud of our family and where we came from, where we are and where we're headed. It resonates well with all our customers," Sandy shared.
Nut characters based on each family member guide customers around company website. The tagline, found front and center, is: A family business since 1929.
"All of our bags and boxes talk about the family. We have our own nut characters. We try to expose it as much as possible," Jeff explained.
Related: Converting a Family Business Into a Franchised Brand
Growing up in the family business, Kenny and Sandy witnessed first-hand what it means to have a one-to-one relationship with customers. "We all worked so very hard in the initial store to develop relationships with each customer. They bring you gifts during the holidays and birthdays. We wanted to carry it over into the Internet business," Kenny shared.
Vendors and suppliers receive the same warm treatment. Sandy shared, "We try to have personal connections with our vendors, like we do with our customers. They treat us well, also. It goes to every email interaction we have as well as phone calls. It allows people to relate to us as individuals."
Know when to grow.
Ken and Sandy have gone where few family business owners have gone before. They gave Jeffrey and his cousin David, the next generation, permission to innovate and make those changes.
Jeffrey did not start out working for the family business. When he graduated, he pursued a career in investment banking. Kenny shared, "Jeffrey wanted to come into the business and wanted to change it. I was excited about it. I told him, first we need to talk to your uncle. He came on board with a business plan and decided to work with the family."
Jeffrey explained, "They gave us the keys and we [Jeffrey and his cousin David] transformed the business. It became a whole new animal in the third generation and we're leading the charge."
Jeffrey is now growing the leadership team beyond the family. He explained, "We've had a lean management team and the previous generation has been reluctant to bring on managers. We're used to doing the work. If I could do it again, a couple of years ago I would have said, 'don't be so cheap.' Get a recruiter to hire a COO.To get to the next level, we need to put in more structure."
Jeffrey is also focused on growing their customer base by buying radio and television ads. It's a strategy they've never tried before.
Related: You Only Need Permission From You to Be an Entrepreneur
Engage the next generation.
"I would never force my kids to come into the business. Working with my father was tough," Ken shared.
Sandy and Ken agreed that it was the exposure to the business that made all the difference. Jeffrey said there are some adult children who might have considered joining their family in business if the founders had exposed them to the business.
"I've had friends who wanted to engage in the family business but the previous generation did not want to share information, or did not allow them to engage,'' he said. "When they grow up, they seek to work for someone else. They wish they would have been exposed and had the experiences I had growing up."
Running a family business and it making it front-and-center of everything they do has strengthened the Bravermans. Ken shared, "We're very close knit. When it comes to the business, or if something should happen to any of us, we can count on each other 100 percent. Maybe that's one of the reasons why we've been so successful."