Ariel Barbouth CEO and Founder of Nuchas, Argentine empanadas, in interview about founding and the show Shark Tank
Please introduce yourself and your startup Nuchas to our readers!
My name is Ariel Barbouth I’m the CEO (Chief Empanada Officer) & Founder of Nuchas.
Nuchas is an American made but internationally inspired hand-held food Company that sprung from a kiosk in the middle of Times Square, New York City. It became known for its award- winning Nuchas, the ultimate evolution of an age-old concept: the handheld meal known as empanadas.
How did you get the idea of Nuchas?
15 years ago my friends Chisato and Dermot came to visit me in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Like every good host and entertainer does, I spent 6 days showing them my city, winning and dining out. On the last day, being too tired and literally fed up with fancy places, we decided to stay home and I ordered a box of Empanadas from the corner store, just like I did so many times before, only this box was different. This was the moment we called our “Empiphany”. When we opened that box we all knew what we needed to do. We were going to bring traditional Argentine Empanadas to NYC, that was the dream.
Why did you decide to start with Nuchas?
Initially, we wanted to bring our well- known Argentine empanadas to NY, the melting pot of the world. We thought about it as an opportunity to share our culture and a great proposal because of its convenience for this fast-paced city. After landing in NY we realized that the dream had changed. It was not so much to bring Argentina to NY, but the world to you. From traditional Argentine Empanadas to HandHeld Meals from everywhere on earth. We built this new category Handheld Foods which did not exist 10 years ago.
What is the vision behind Nuchas?
Whether in a stadium, airport, cafe, office or airplane, Nuchas aims to become the most appreciated and respected handheld food company in the US and in the world.
How difficult was the start and which challenges did you have to overcome?
We started Nuchas in 2009 but we really wanted to start in 2006. It took us three years to find the right time. After the bubble burst in 2008 we finally decided to come to the US. Crises are terrible times but they are also times for opportunities.
One of the hardest moments was when our investor pulled out 24 hours before we won the bid for TSQ location. For a moment I felt like it was over, but then I quickly realized that it was not a good enough reason to give up my dream and quit. There is always a way if we still have fight in us and the product is viable. It took us 3 days to make it up.
Who is your target group?
We have a broad target, mostly men and women 25 to 45 years old. Our goal is to make our product mainstream throughout the country. Nuchas for everyone.
What is the USP of your startup?
Nuchas is so convenient, so simple and so delicious. Perfectly baked and purposefully shaped to put all the flavors, aromas and colors that make our melting pot, in the palm of your hand. In a frantically- paced society, as digitally connected as it is culturally divided, Nuchas offers a timely marriage of culture and convenience no other hand-held meal on earth can. Nuchas is on a mission to bring the world together through unique flavors that remind us how delicious our differences can be.
You were in the show Shark Tank. Can you tell us something about it.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to be on the show. We received two very generous offers but we ended up refusing both. I jumped into the tank with over a decade of building Nuchas into a successful business. I was not only seeking a $2 million investment but most importantly I was looking for a true partner who sees the vision and the future that Nuchas holds and not just its bottom line. And I wanted to bring someone in with whom to elevate Nuchas into an iconic, relevant, global brand and a mission driven company.
I received 2 very tempting offers but neither one of these felt like the correct start for a true partnership, and it was not because of the money. Nuchas is my dream! So I turned down both offers and left with no regrets. While money is important, we are playing the long game in order to build an amazing brand which requires an amazing team all pushing in the same direction. Saying no made the following months significantly harder, but shying away from a challenge was not an option because it is there where the magic happens. Work hard, let go and trust. “Suelto y Confío”
Who was your favorite investor in the show Shark Tank?
I was looking for Marc because of its sports connections and Damon for his branding expertise. But certainly it was Lorey with her expressions of kindness who helped me the most to feel comfortable at the beginning.
What happened after Shark Tank?
Great things have happened since Shark Tank. We opened at two convention centers, New York and Atlanta. We built our own direct to consumer platform nuchas.com and now we are able to ship Nuchas nationwide. And we just launched a vegan line in collaboration with The Cinnamon Snail: CinnnamonSnailxNuchas.com. We also are about to launch at over 50 stadiums and arenas for all major sports around the country once they reopen.
Can you describe your typical workday?
For the most part it is paving the road for the future. We have an amazing team in place that makes the day to day run smooth. Of course, 2020 has been a transition year where nothing was taken for granted. Our goal was to keep our team safe and the business running, which we have managed. Right now I am focused on preparing to pick up where we left once things start to reopen. We have lots of opportunities for our brand across multiple channels and throughout 2020 we have invested heavily in brand & team building to come out swinging once it is safe to do so.
Where do you see yourself and your startup Nuchas in five years?
Our line of products is getting traction a lot of traction across multiple channels and that is giving us the validation that we set out to get 10 years ago when we started building the brand. The goal was to make empanadas or as we call the Hand-Held foods mainstream and we are there. I see Nuchas at Airports, Convention Centers, Transit hubs and stadiums and arenas across all sports nationwide.
What 3 tips would you give other founders?
Love what you do and before you start not only research it but practice it before leaping forward. I have met many people that jump too soon even before testing the market with those close to them. If you have a product, make it for friends and for people you don’t know.
Reach out and ask for advice. You might not get answers a lot of the time, but if you are persistent and reach out to enough people, the odds are in your favor.
It is all about timing, so do not rush. It is easy to start a business, the trick is to exit it successfully. In our case, while the idea for Nuchas came in Early 2006. I’ve waited until 2009 to start building it out. Between 2006 & 2009 not only did I do the research and prepared the brand and model, but most importantly I’ve waited for what I thought was the right moment to start. Right as the recession was deflating the bubble that existed when the initial idea materialized.
Thank you Ariel Barbouth for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.