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Trendsetters: Gifting Gurus

The season of giving is here and many people choose nuts as traditional – and healthy – holiday presents for family, friends and business associates. With Georgia producing more pecans than any other state, the owners of Augusta-based Watanut thought a gift-oriented business featuring homegrown pecans made sense. But, if you Google pecan gift products, more than 16,000 listings pop up. That begs the question: What does Watanut do to differentiate itself and its products? The relevant adjectives are whimsical, handmade, locally sourced and customized.

“Gifting is personal, and we wanted to put a personal spin on it,” says Kam Kyzer, who opened Watanut in 2012 with her husband, Brian. “We’ve tried to set ourselves apart with flavors and branding. We’ve done everything from scratch and by hand, from naming the company to the product lines and packaging. It’s all original. We’ve worked hard to help [givers] stand out with personalized gift boxes.”

The Augusta natives opened their Watanut store after “a good bit of research” and a desire to involve the whole family in the business, says Kyzer. They ramped up their online presence and focused on rapidly responding to orders for their unique nut mixes, which include sweet flavors like Nut Nog, How ‘Bout Them Apples and Nut Your Average Cup of Joe, and savory blends like Ale Yeah and Roasted Rosemary. About two years ago, they began offering nut-infused cookies that are handmade, like the nut mixes, in the commercial kitchen attached to their store.

Today, the Kyzers buy more than 30,000 pounds of pecans annually from local farmers along with the ingredients used in their nut mixes. Helping the two of them in the store are both sets of their parents, and Kam’s aunt is the full-time baker, averaging about 7,000 cookies each year. It’s frequently all hands on deck – including the Kyzer’s teenage kids – when it comes to assembling customized nut and cookie combinations for corporate clients and online buyers, especially during the holidays.

To offset the seasonal nature of their business and grow year-round revenue, the Kyzers are pursuing wholesale clients. They’ve grown the number of Watanut’s retail partners from two last summer to more than 75 across the country now. These include boutique gift shops, gourmet grocery stores and farmers’ markets. They’ve also created special products and programs, like in-store sampling, to make Watanut more attractive to retailers.

“We’re finding ways to keep growing,” Kyzer says. During Watanut’s first few years, business tripled every year, and she says the company’s growth continues to double annually.

“It’s challenging to start a business from scratch,” Kyzer says. “You have to learn a lot by trial and error. But persistence, passion and an unwavering belief in your product is what it takes to be successful

watanut.com

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