Nancy Kalish

Founder & CEO Rule Breaker Snacks


What inspired you to start your business?

As a former health journalist and certified health coach, I knew exactly what to eat to be healthy.  Trouble is, I’ve always had a very unhealthy sweet tooth and could never find any treats that satisfied it AND weren’t full of sugar, preservatives, and other bad ingredients.  I also wanted treats that I could feel good about giving to my family. So I created my own and Rule Breaker Snacks was born.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Keep your eye on the ball, or in my case, the brownie.  It’s easy to get crazy upset when things go wrong.  In my business, something generally goes horribly wrong every single day.  Accept that this is going to happen as a matter of course, and don’t let it get to you.  Instead, stay focused on your long term goals and solve the problem to get there.

What three traits define you?

I’m passionate, bulldog-tenacious, and have developed a VERY high tolerance for stress.

How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?

Being WBENC-Certified has given my business an enormous boost.  For example, when my brand first got into Kroger, being certified allowed me to avoid $40,000 in slotting fees (the cost of getting on-shelf).  Then when we couldn’t get a meeting with our buyer, the Kroger Supplier Diversity contact, whom I had met at your event in Baltimore, helped me get the meeting and attended it with us! Being certified continues to open the doors I’ve been banging on for years!

What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?

Both the coolest and most important trend in snack foods is thinking outside the oven to create plant-based, better-for-you foods.  A bunch of us are literally reinventing the way food is made and getting incredible results with a whole new set of healthy ingredients.  For example, instead of flour, we use roasted ground chickpeas as the first ingredient in our brownies and blondies.  But you’d never know.

As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?

Like most of us, it’s money.  In my case, we’re growing very fast, and it takes a lot of cash to get where we want to go.  So I’m always thinking about how much we’ll need and where I’m going to get it.

What do you love about being a business owner?

Getting fan mail from people who love our products, especially parents with kids with severe allergies who can finally have a real treat that they can take to school.  That never gets old.

·What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?

I think the hardest part, or at least the scariest part, is not knowing what I don’t know.  Before starting Rule Breaker Snacks, I had no experience in the food business—or any business at all.  I actually thought to myself, how hard could it be to run a food company?!  I’ll try it!  Well, I’ve found out exactly how hard.  But I’ve realized I don’t/can’t know everything, so I’ve surrounded myself with people who do and take advantage of every opportunity to learn, like the Sage Advice program.

What’s your favorite career moment?

My favorite moment was when I went to my local Whole Foods to shop and saw a big display of Rule Breaker Snacks. What a thrill!

If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

Wow, that would be amazing! I’d put 40% of the extra time into my business (maybe it would give me a little more breathing room during the day), 10% into exercising (just think how empty the gym would be at 2AM), and spend the rest with my family, dog, and friends (assuming they don’t have to sleep either—my dog is probably the only one who would go along with that).

What are you reading or listening to now?

I am positively addicted to NPR’s How I Built This podcast.  So entertaining, and I always learn something new.

What’s the best way to start your day?

Coffee and the New York Times on my terrace overlooking Brooklyn.

Fill in the blank:

When I face a challenge, I... take a deep breath and tell myself I can do it, and then I do.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… it will (mostly) all work out.

The one thing I couldn’t live without is… coffee.

By this time next year, I will be… bigger and more widespread (my business, hopefully not my body).

To get my creative juices flowing, I …just sit down and do it. I never wait for those creative juices to flow.

The best thing that happened to me last week was… we found out that we had gotten into a big online retailer.

Rule Breaker Snacks

Rule Breaker brownies and blondies break all the rules (no flour! no eggs! no butter!). Chickpeas (that's right, beans) are the first ingredient. But you'd never know. Rule Breaker Snacks are free from nuts, which means they’re safe for school, certified gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and kosher. They contain only clean ingredients that you can pronounce, and no preservatives. That means you can feel good about eating Rule Breaker, and giving them to your family. That’s why our tagline is “Snack Time Solved!”

Learn more.