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Author Katarina Todorovic
Katarina Todorovic
Created on Aug 16th, 2023
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The Cracker King 2023: A Black Owned Gluten-Free Company!

In a world where dietary preferences and health-conscious choices are more diverse than ever, entrepreneurs like Jovani are breaking new ground by combining culinary innovation with inclusivity. As the visionary owner of The Cracker King, a proudly black-owned business, Jovani is rewriting the narrative of snack time. But it's not just about the crunch and the flavor – it's about embracing a gluten-free lifestyle without compromising on taste or culture. In this exclusive feature, Delivery Rank delves into the inspiring journey of Jovani, exploring how he's shaping the snack industry, celebrating his heritage, and redefining what it means to create food that's not just nourishing, but also deeply meaningful.

The Cracker King stands out as a black-owned and gluten-free company. Could you kindly share with us the narrative that led to the establishment of your brand and how it mirrors your personal journey and values?

It all began when I was fired from another job. My wife was pregnant with twins, and we had an eight-month-old. I was uncertain about my next steps for work, truly clueless. I grew tired of facing the reality that as an African American male, I was often the last to be hired and the first to be let go. In essence, I had to put in five times the effort to secure a job compared to others. I reached a point of exhaustion and thought to myself, why not start a business? Starting a business would mean something that couldn't be taken away from me. It would be something I could present to my children, something they could take pride in. But I didn't have a clear plan. I had no idea where to start. Would it be something tech-related, an app perhaps? But I wasn't tech-savvy. Still, I was trying to figure it out, seeking a path.

I turned to my wife for advice. Her suggestion was simple yet strikingly accurate—why not do something with food? After all, food was a subject I constantly discussed. She was right, but the question remained—what kind of food venture should I embark upon? Would it be a taco stand? The uncertainty persisted. Seeking guidance, I visited my mother, who unexpectedly handed me a batch of incredibly delicious homemade crackers as I left her house. Their taste was exceptional. When my wife and I stepped outside, she turned to me and said, "You should make and sell these crackers." And that marked the inception of my business journey.

While my wife went to work, I cared for our three kids under the age of three. In the evenings, I headed to a shared kitchen to craft the crackers. Meanwhile, I drove for Lyft and Uber throughout the night to make ends meet. On weekends, I participated in farmers' markets. During my rides as a ride-share driver, I would strike up conversations with passengers and mention my newfound cracker venture. One day, a passenger named Cheryl Phillabaum changed course. As I shared my aspirations, she revealed that she worked for a company called New Seasons and offered to introduce me to their buyer. This connection became our first account, a turning point in the journey.

Why did you choose to blend crackers with gluten-free options? What was the driving force behind your decision to enter this specific gluten-free niche?

I started looking into the market, and a friend of mine suggested, "Why not create gluten-free crackers?" Intrigued, I examined the market landscape. Breaking into the gluten-free cracker industry appeared more feasible than the broader gluten-free realm. The latter was dominated by major players, making it a challenging arena to enter. In contrast, the gluten-free niche provided a smaller, more manageable audience where I could effectively establish a presence. The decision was largely driven by marketing strategy, aiming to cater to the celiac community and health-conscious individuals seeking gluten-free options.

Transitioning to gluten-free was a logical step across the board. It not only aligned with market potential but also fulfilled the demand for a nutritious gluten-free alternative. This shift was motivated by a desire to provide a healthier option and make a positive impact. To bring this vision to life, my mother joined me, and together, we crafted the initial recipe. This marked the genesis of the gluten-free journey, and from there, we forged ahead with determination. Hustling became a way of life as we embarked on this venture.

The name "Cracker King" is both catchy and memorable. Could you please share how you came up with this name and whether anyone assisted you in the process?

I had a thought. My last name is Prince, though that wasn't relevant to what I was pondering. There was this little character in my mind, resembling an elf, much like the Keebler elf, but with notably lengthy dreads. These dreads were really long. I kept envisioning this figure being part of the packaging, and I dubbed him the Cracker King. The reasoning behind this concept wasn't entirely clear; I simply aimed to inject an element of fun for children. Later, I shared this idea with my wife, discussing the notion of incorporating this charming character. Her response was straightforward, "Why not just call it the Cracker King?" I realized she was right, and that's when it clicked – the name should indeed be the Cracker King. The process was entirely natural and spontaneous, every element falling into place organically. The people's response to it was also genuine and uncontrived.

Being a black-owned business holds both social and economic significance. How do you envision your role in advancing diversity and inclusion within the food industry? Could you also elaborate on any challenges you've encountered along the way?

I am currently facing challenges, particularly now when we have some significant accounts with Allied, and securing funding is proving to be difficult. The obstacle lies in how people perceive us as a black business. I am actively seeking individuals who might be interested in investing, perhaps by purchasing shares of the company. However, there's a tendency for people to scrutinize and mistrust us. This mistrust is rooted in a history of society not trusting black individuals, particularly black men. This skepticism isn't grounded in any specific actions on the part of black men; rather, it's a societal perception that has been ingrained.

At this juncture, I am waiting for financing to materialize for these substantial accounts. One would think that obtaining funding for this purpose should be straightforward, especially considering that we are the sole black-owned gluten-free Cracker Company in the nation. This unique status should stand in our favor. Moreover, our aspirations go beyond merely producing crackers. We envision becoming a gluten-free snack food lifestyle brand. Our intention is for our logo to be synonymous with gluten-free products in the market. Although the Cracker King branding might evolve to TCK, the essence will remain recognizable. No one else is pursuing our particular vision, except perhaps figures like Paul Newman’s Own Brand. We hold the vision and the position. We are truly distinct in our endeavors.

Yet, even as we possess something remarkable and magical, seeking support to scale has proven to be quite challenging. The situation we find ourselves in is quite perplexing. Given the innovation we offer, we should not be encountering such obstacles. Nonetheless, our unwavering belief in the special nature of what we offer continues to drive us forward.

Creating a brand necessitates creativity. Can you explain how you incorporated cultural elements and personal identity into your products and packaging, especially?

Well, to begin with, referring to a black man as a king is inherently beautiful. It's a way of elevating and celebrating black identity. By acknowledging this, we are highlighting that our contributions and impact are meaningful. This message holds significance not only for the black community but also for the broader food community. It demonstrates that we, as black individuals, have valuable offerings and can create positive change. This realization carries immense weight.

Moreover, this concept serves as a catalyst for change on multiple levels. It fosters an environment where the next person encountering me or my product is more open to acceptance and love. It paves the way for embracing diversity and recognizing that we are all equals. For instance, someone might meet me, interact with the Cracker King brand, and come away with a positive impression. This experience can reshape their perspective when encountering other black individuals. They might shed preconceived notions and biases, realizing that there's no need to search for negatives. By witnessing my achievements, they might think, "Look at what he has accomplished." This ripple effect can extend not only to my children and the local community but to the global stage.

My mission is straightforward: I want to contribute to making the world a better place. Selling crackers is just a small part of the equation. Our aspirations extend far beyond this. We are planning to expand into potato chips, cookies, and beyond. The ultimate goal is to foster unity and bring people together, particularly through the universal language of food. Food has the power to bridge gaps, promote love, and create connections. This vision encapsulates my mission: to effect positive change in the world, promoting understanding, unity, and love through the medium of food.

Supporting local communities is a prevalent theme among small businesses. How do you contribute to your local community?

We engage extensively in local initiatives. We generously donate a significant number of crackers to various homeless shelters and similar organizations. This is a cause we wholeheartedly believe in and actively partake in. In addition, we have contributed items to different schools, participated in various raffles, and consistently seek ways to provide support to our community. Supporting our community remains a priority for us, and this is a path we are resolute in pursuing.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for Cracker King? How do you visualize the brand's growth while staying true to its commitment to gluten-free offerings and cultural identity?

I aspire to be recognized as the foremost gluten-free snack food lifestyle brand worldwide. That's the path I'm set on – becoming the global leader in gluten-free lifestyle brand Marketplace. I want to be the first black man to successfully expand a gluten-free product across the entire market!  In this journey, I aim to uplift others as well. For instance, when we attend events like Expo West or the Fancy Food Show, it's evident that there is a stark absence of black representation among food companies. We are distinct, and this uniqueness is driving our opportunities. Major corporations are showing interest because there's nothing quite like us out there.

If you would like to find out more about The Cracker King, visit https://thecrackerking.com/

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