How This Retailer Turned Challenging Times into a Passion-Driven Business

b's gourmet nuts shopify retail story

Brett and Christine Bowman have a passion for the meaningful conversations that arise from small gatherings. Sitting with friends and family surrounded by charcuterie boards always felt like a safe, loving place.

For the Bowmans, those slow moments filled with connection became the light at the end of the tunnel when things turn a turn in 2017.

One year after Christine underwent life-saving surgery for a heart defect, Brett was diagnosed with cancer. He spent the next few months in surgery of his own and undergoing chemotherapy.

Eighteen months later, the cancer reappeared.

The Bowmans had two options: let cancer take over their lives, or fight back with positivity and resilience.

They chose the latter.

Turning hardship into inspiration

Brett recalls his mindset at the time: “The business came about after my second cancer diagnosis. Having the business forced me to…not put my head down and think about how much my situation sucked. That would bring my mentality down. Thinking ahead, up and out, kept the focus on what was ahead of me instead of the surroundings I was dealing with.”

Their hardships inspired Brett and his wife to go for their dreams. “We probably wouldn’t have started my business without my diagnosis,” he explains.

B’s Gourmet Nuts is an extension of the passion the Bowmans' share for the small, intimate moments. Their nuts are crafted to be the perfect addition to charcuterie boards and gift baskets, with cashew flavors like black truffle or rosemary and “a hint of heat.” They saw a gap in the market—and charcuterie boards—when it came to nut selection and knew they could fill it.

b's gourmet nuts shopify retail story

“I was making the rosemary cashews forever and everybody was telling me we should sell them. That’s when that light came on and we realized it was something we should look at. Everything aligned and we realized there really weren’t great nuts on charcuterie boards,” Brett says as he looks back on the moment the concept of B’s Gourmet Nuts solidified.

Brett and Christine kept their first business goal big yet simple: get their products onto the shelves of just one store.

Starting B’s Gourmet Nuts

“It started out in our kitchen, where every idea comes,” Brett says as he thinks back to the inception of B’s Gourmet Nuts.

As the Bowmans kept their sights on growing their business, they knew where their products fit into the grocery store. The key was getting the store to say yes to selling them.

“Our first placement was inside our local grocery store. We sit in the specialty cheese section to go with charcuterie boards. Our thought was that there are so many great meats and cheeses, we wanted to complement them.” Brett and Christine started to talk with the cheesemonger of their local grocery store.

“Marleen was the cheesemonger and I kept going in to talk to her about B’s Gourmet Nuts,” Brett says. “I’d show her the design of the packaging and get feedback.”

Soon enough, Brett and Christine reached their goal. B’s Gourmet Nuts sat proudly in the specialty cheese section of their local grocery store, The Grand.

b's gourmet nuts shopify retail story

Next, it was time to take things online.

“We didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars creating a website when we didn’t have any revenue,” Brett says. “We started looking at Shopify and said, this is absolutely perfect. We were up and running and it was such a relief because I didn’t have to do any coding.”

By using Shopify, B’s Gourmet Nuts has set itself up to grow as much as it would like: “The website offers the scalability I’m ready for.”

Brett decided to hire a consultant to focus on building out his website and found it incredibly easy to find somebody with Shopify expertise. “I can get a consultant versed in how to set things up and I don’t have to spend…thousands of hours on the website. I can hire somebody to work on it for a few hours who knows what they’re doing.”

Two and a half years into the business, Brett has a fond perspective on B’s Gourmet Nuts. “We are putting goodness out there. People try the black truffle cashews and they just light up. It just brings happiness to them," he says with a smile. "We’re putting positivity out there, one cashew at a time.”

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Challenges behind the brand

B’s Gourmet Nuts products are currently in over 300+ stores. While the business has provided relief from thinking about the family's health challenges, it has still come with its fair share of adversity.

When asked about how he deals with burnout, Brett says, “You have to love what you’re doing because it takes away from family time and obligations and puts more of a burden on them. That’s definitely the toughest part.”

Brett still works his full-time job in real estate while growing B’s Gourmet Nuts on the side.

Recently, he’s started to look for help and found himself at a roadblock that most entrepreneurs experience: “Finding good quality people is difficult. It’s scary to let go of the reins and have someone else do something. It’s like your baby, and it’s hard to hand off. Being able to trust other people is challenging.”

b's gourmet nuts shopify retail story

For B’s Gourmet Nuts, the ideal employee is a college student looking for summer work who can help out with in-person events. Brett explains that he’s hired somebody through Taskrabbit, and another employee through a personal referral.

Despite the challenges, Brett is passionate about B’s Gourmet Nuts and the gatherings they get to be a part of. “I could do this all day, every day because I love it so much,” he says.

B’s Gourmet Nuts in the community

B’s Gourmet Nuts helped the Bowmans find joy and a new focus during Brett’s second cancer diagnosis. Now, the Bowmans are giving back in any way they can. 

“One of the things we’re focused on is giving back to the Cancer Wellness Center,” Brett explains. “Not just giving a donation, but connecting with people who are going through difficult times—just trying to provide inspiration.”

Brett recalls what it felt like to get his first and second diagnoses. He wants to help those in a similar situation get the relief they need through a shift in their focus. “They have their head down and are thinking about their situation. We want to elevate their eyes up and help them focus on something positive,” he says proudly.

“If we can be a light or help them create a light at the end of their tunnel—that’s what we want to do.”