Nic King still held his position in corporate retail when COVID-19 showed up and shut most places down. Nearly a year after the virus arrived in the U.S., he quit. “I left my corporate job, I would say probably mid-pandemic,” King told Inside Edition Digital. King initially made the move to spend more time with his 15-year-old son.
He wound up making history.
From his Connecticut home, King created Legacy Cereal Company. It is believed to be the first Black-owned cereal brand.
The first release from the Legacy Cereal Company is Proud Puffs. “I was going to take a year, a year and a half to really focus on being a dad. But the cereal idea kind of came like two months after that, give or take. Right after Breonna Taylor, right after George Floyd. I like to call it divine inspiration. (At) 3a.m., I just kind of woke up with that idea, and just being a man of faith I was like, let me do some research. And I googled black owned cereal company real quick. I didn't see anything. And you know, fast forward, here we are now.”
Somehow, King managed to keep the whole endeavor a secret.
“When I left my corporate job, I didn't tell anybody. I didn't tell my friends. I didn't tell anybody I was launching that company until the day I was actually going to make the announcement. So I called my family on FaceTime, and I pulled the box out. I was like, ‘got something to tell you.’ And they were like, ‘What the?!’"
Proud Puffs is a chocolate-flavored cereal with a healthier twist.
“We used real cocoa. The biggest piece of it is, when putting together the nutritional value of it, I wanted to make sure I didn't just kind of give back the community a big-box of sugar. So I was like, ‘you know what? I want to do vegan, plant-based, gluten-free. I want something healthy.’ And then just kind of looking at the sugar contents of it, I was like, how do we leverage it to where it's not that high, natural sugar? So we use the monk fruit, which is a natural sweetener. So it's a plant-based chocolate cereal,” King said.
Literally starting from scratch, King is narrowing down production plants and kitchens where the cereal can be produced en masse. Unfortunately, he’s facing a familiar obstacle.
“I think the most difficult part is, to be honest and transparent, most companies ask you like, ‘Hey, tell me about the company. Do you have a website?’ That's what, unfortunately, I learned that that was going to be the most difficult part. Easily identified, you go on my website, it's a black owned cereal company. I started to notice the lack of returned phone calls, lack of email responses,” King began.
“I think that's the most disappointing part. It makes you think that those conversations of diversity or diversity equity inclusion were talking points. Like you said, this has been so many months after, what has been invested back in the community? What has been invested back into minority owners and things like that? So to go through something like this so early on in building up the company, obviously we know that the cereal industry is what, $30, $35 billion industry. It's like little old me, can't even build out my company to start it without these hurdles. But like I said, it's just that fire under me to say, ‘you know what? What I'm doing is making an impact.’ So I'm going to keep pushing and create that change instead of just waiting for it.”
This is also true when it comes to funding. Taking Proud Puffs from an idea to a live product was 100% crowdfunded, King said.
“So far so good. At any chance that I can, I let people know that the negative stereotype that our culture doesn't support us is, like that's not a real thing. I've been getting so much love, so many emails, DMs look crazy. It's really hard to navigate those. I'm missing so much, because the outpouring of love has been great.”
Since officially launching on February 1st, 2021, King has been selling Proud Puffs through his website. He promises more flavors that are, for now, a secret. King’s goal for Proud Puffs is to get on the shelves of big-box retailers nationwide. The cover of the cereal box is bright purple and features cartoon images of King and his family members on the front and a word search on the back.
However the front panel is one thing King says potential investors have wanted to change.
“I remember being in a pitch room and saying, ‘This is the idea, this is what I'm going for.’ And I had an investor say, ‘Maybe it's a little too urban. Maybe if you pull off the family and make it a little friendlier…’ and from there, I was just like, not going to go that route, because automatically it's like you already want to change the product before I put it out there, and I know the intent of why I'm actually doing it.”
King says he walked away from a six-figure check during that conversation but is open to having others, under the right circumstances.
“I would think that the biggest piece is majority ownership. That's the biggest piece of it, again. Thinking about Legacy it's like, what do I want to leave for my family?” King started. “And as long as they don't compromise the integrity or change the impact of really what I'm looking to do for our community, I would be interested in having the conversation for sure.”