How It Happened: The story of NAKED nut butters through the eyes of Founder Meredith Sides

I think most people who have lived in Beijing for over two years can agree that it’s a black hole. Often, you come for “just one or two years” with the intention of returning to “the real world” someday, and then you wake up one morning and you’ve already been here for 7 years. At least, that’s what happened with me. Upon graduating university in 2011, I came to Beijing with a couple of friends to teach English for a year before returning to attend medical school in the States. Seven years later, I’m still here and have no intention of leaving anytime soon. I did get close to leaving at one point a couple of years ago, when I figured my time here had run its course, and then NAKED nut butters came to life and I knew I couldn’t leave just yet.

How it started.

I met my now business partner, Katie, two years ago when we moved in together with a mutual friend. We hadn’t met before then, but we got along instantly. We learned a lot about each other very quickly, and it was only after a few weeks that she learned of my nut butter addiction. On more than one occasion, she walked into my room, and caught me snuggled in bed with a jar or two of nut butter. This addiction wasn’t easy to feed- it was only when I took a rare trip back to the States that I could bring back precious jars. Katie, as a lover of all things homemade, took it upon herself to try and make me some homemade nut butter. After making a few batches and realizing how amazing it was, we decided to bring it to a small, local flea market to see if anyone else would buy it. The demand for this foreign commodity was intense, and that’s when we realized we had stumbled upon something incredible.

How it grew.

After realizing that there was a sizable market for nut butter, we decided to commit ourselves to growing this business, which, as two foreign owners in Beijing, is not easy. Mentors in the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry told us from the start that it would be better to bring on a Chinese partner, but we were intent on growing our company as a WFOE (Wholly Foreign Owned Company). If we hadn’t had such a great network of friends in F&B to give us advice, and hadn’t already had years of experience working in China and knowing how difficult it can be, we certainly wouldn’t have made it to where we are now. To make things even more difficult for ourselves, we decided to forgo the typical route of finding an established factory to produce our product and instead set up our very own factory, also against the advice of some veteran business owners. Two women with zero background in manufacturing managed to put together a working nut butter factory in less than a year. What a learning curve!

The road ahead.

Now that we’ve finally set up our business and have a running factory, we’re on to the next challenge, which is marketing a foreign product to Chinese consumers. Navigating Chinese social media is a job in itself, but we’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make our business a huge success.

Advice for other budding entrepreneurs.

My recommendation to anyone considering starting a business, whether in China or anywhere else in the world, is to take the advice of others with a grain of salt. Yeah, it’s nice to hear from people who have been through it all and more often than not their advice is pretty sound, but your business is YOUR business, and you shouldn’t let others dictate your success. You can make it happen, no matter where in the world you find yourself- even the black hole of Beijing.

Want to get your hands on some Naked nut butters? Naked nut butters will be at two local markets August 18th and August 25th. Follow their wechat account for more info: NAKEDnutbutters拿颗酱

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