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Little Duck Organics’ USDA-Certified Organic Healthy Snacks For Babies and Toddlers

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Zak Normandin is the founder of Brooklyn-based Little Duck Organics, a USDA-certified line of little-kid-friendly fruit snacks (Tiny Fruits), and cereals that feature ancient grains. Even though we are supposed to be grownups, we are totally addicted to Tiny Fruits in our office! And we are in good company: Ashley Olsen was spotted nibbling Tiny Fruits at a party last week.

After a stint in the Coast Guard and work as a graphic design consultant to two food companies, Normandin launched Little Duck Organics two years ago. It is now a best-selling line at Whole Foods, and can be found in 10,000 stores around the country. The 30-year-old father of three sat down with OSM to share some of the secrets to his success.

Why did you name the company Little Duck?

When I went through the process of creating the brand, I was looking for a symbol that fully defines childhood. The goal was to create something with a visual appeal that kids would be drawn to. All kids can relate to a rubber duck.

Why do you think the brand became so successful so fast?

We are genuine, we are transparent, we are authentic. We are really trying to push the boundaries of what the consumer interaction with the brand entails. For example, anyone can text us anytime—our number is on every package.

Success is all relative. When I look at the big picture and think about what I’d like to achieve, I have so much more to go. But we’re in 10,000 stores now, customers are very loyal and it’s definitely the core demo I wanted to attract.

You are a member of B Corp. Why is that important to you?

When I was in the Coast Guard, we did lots of work in South America, Belize, Haiti. I saw a lot of difficult situations with parents scrounging their life savings to get their kids on a boat to enjoy what we take for granted here. I don’t think business should shoulder the responsibility of solving the world’s problems, but B Corp looks beyond the fundamentals of business, which is just making a buck. They ‘re looking at what’s beneath the surface: Are you building business in an ethical way? Treating employees well?

We had an opportunity from the beginning to do things right while building a big brand. This B Corp movement of businesses is a very exciting and compelling thing to be part of—businesses that want to give back.

What’s the best thing about having your own company?

I would be remiss to say it’s all fun and games. There’s a lot of stress as a leader of the company.  But there is also a tremendous amount of creative freedom. I’m only 30, I’m still young, but I’ve always been searching for an outlet to come up with an idea and execute it in a create way. Most times you are at the mercy of other people’s creative visions, and it’s such a cool thing to be able to execute mine.

I ran the company by myself for a year and a half. Then we picked up our first investors in July 2011. That’s when we were able to create a team. I never went to business school, I learned on the go. I love a challenge. I went into fundraising with a do or die mentality. I have three kids [ages 7, 5 and 3]. I was supporting a family and I had maxed out my credit cards. I had dug myself into such a hole that the only solution was to make it work! It’s amazing, if you put your mind to it, what you can achieve. But if I didn’t have kids I don’t know if I would have been so motivated.

Plans to expand your empire?

2014 will be a big year for us. We’re planning lots of fun stuff.  We’re venturing outside the baby area, into other areas of grocery.

Right now, parents go thru a very emotional process of buying into a brand for their children’s first 6 months. They say, OMG there are hundreds of products here! What do I want to buy? They end up sticking with the brands they decide on for typically two years. Then, they go to cereal aisle, grocery aisle, etc. We’re trying to be the first brand to have visibility in baby and carry that through to other categories.

I heard that you are redoing your offices? What’s this about a playground in the office?

We have a humongous sandbox, swings, hamocks in the office space. I really want people who are exposed to our brand to remember what it feels like to be a kid. Nostalgia is very powerful. I want to bring people back even for a moment to that place where they were carefree. There’s not enough of that in our lives.

Best thing about being green?

The satisfaction, at the end of the day, that you’re doing the right thing. There are so many shortcuts in business, but it brings peace of mind to know that we are doing what we can, and that’s a lot.

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