It's because of her dad Corky's nut farm that bad jokes and an incredible walnut business are thriving. Nicole Facciuto took those fresh walnuts for granted until her husband Eric Hargrove bought her ones from the supermarket, and they were rancid. Nicole segued from hosting HGTV shows, to running a seasonal nuttery in California’s Capay Valley.
New Harvest Walnuts
Only picked once a year, and only available on Corky's website, these nuts are crazy fresh. They're crisp and definitely crunchy (not old and soft. Insert nut joke).
A Conversation With...
When did you come up with the idea of selling seasonal, fresh, organic walnuts?
The idea for Corky’s Nuts came to me when my now-husband Eric (Hargrove) offered me a bag of store-bought organic walnuts from a very popular supermarket. They were rancid, and I literally spit them out. When I realized most people don't have access to the same great-tasting walnuts we harvest at the peak of freshness on the farm, I knew the current system was broken. It was at that moment I wanted to help transform the way people experience walnuts. It was the best, bad gift ever.
We launched the Corky’s Nuts website on October 1, 2015—just two weeks before our annual fall organic walnut harvest. We knew we either had to go for it right away or wait another year.
The company is named after my father, Corky. It’s been his nickname since he was a baby, and I loved the idea of Corky’s Nuts and all the various meanings. You bet we get silly with nut puns. All day, every day.
We started the business with $100 to set up our website. Since the walnuts were still growing on the trees and hadn't even been harvested, we launched with pre-order sales for our upcoming harvest. Kinda like a Kickstarter for walnuts. We used the money from our pre-order sales to continue to build and fulfill our 2015 season. That $100 is the only money we have spent out of our pockets to create the company. The rest has all been sweat-equity and bootstrapping creativity...a LOT of it!
Where do you source the nuts?
We grow all the walnuts on our 69-acre family farm in northern California’s Capay Valley. We hand-sort and hand-pack every product. Everything is made in micro-batches with great attention to detail and flavor. We even label each bag by hand.
We also make a nut butter from our smaller, odd-looking (yet so yummy) walnuts that don’t make the cut for our bags. No nut is wasted. We also use those nuts for our award-winning Cold Pressed Organic Walnut Oil. I’m still amazed that we have created an “award-winning” oil. Eric had no prior experience in the consumer packaged food industry or food production—and I barely do. My first dabble in the food industry was as a food runner at Danny Meyer’s New York City restaurant, Blue Smoke, when it first opened. It was a brilliant introduction to the food service industry.
Did you ever consider giving up?
I can’t even keep count of how many challenges I’ve faced. Every year. Sometimes monthly. During our first year, we were featured in Sunset magazine and grew 585 percent. My background in design and TV production helped me to think quickly and outside the box, while under extreme pressure. I know that whatever the challenge, I’ll be able to figure it out. It might not be easy, quick or exactly perfect, but it’ll happen. And I’ll learn something from it. That first year I learned how to “proof” a label correctly. Because of my background as a designer, my heart broke when I realized I had ordered thousands of labels in a glossy finish instead of matte. It was too late to do anything about it—and now I know how to “proof” a label.
What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
Does babysitting count? I definitely learned about making and saving money when I earned just $2/hr. The only salaried job with benefits I’ve ever had was right after college, and it lasted nine months. I quit to attend art school. Then I quit art school a semester shy of graduating to live in New York City and put my education to use. Notice a theme here?
I think quitting gets a bad rap. After all, quitting can become the opening for something else to appear.
A theater grad, with an “almost” art degree, turned NYC food runner/server, who then launched an interior design career, followed by years of hosting and designing homes on tv, to become a food entrepreneur talking about nuts all day. I can only look back and think I’ve gained almost all of the skills needed to create a company and a product that people love.