We had the good fortune of connecting with Nik Hawks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nik, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I’ll only talk about the businesses I’ve started. My wife and entrepreneur hero is the one who got me into it, and all of the businesses I’ve run have been with her help. I started my first business (building “green” in high threat, hostile, and post disaster environments) because I was curious and thought I could do something that wasn’t being done. It failed because of my usual staggering ignorance. The second business (mobile notary) was an instance of jumping on an opportunity, and it paid all our bills for a few years. The third business (t-shirts) was a “follow your dream” deal, and while it had high points like getting into Nordstrom and Fred Segal, it was swallowed up in a combination of bad decisions and economic recession. On that one we went bankrupt. Luckily I also had a W2 job at the time. While it wasn’t a pleasant experience to declare bankruptcy, the steady income from the W2 job kept us alive, fed, and sheltered while we navigated the turbulence. The fourth business (ATMs at a Farmer’s Market) was in response to a clear need. From a profit and cash flow perspective it was easily the most successful. It was also boring and an anchor on our time, so we eventually sold it. The fifth business (Paleo Treats) was an attempt to create something that didn’t exist but that we wanted to. Within 2 years of starting Paleo Treats I’d quit the W2 job. The sixth business was a short lived (less than a year) run at contract work providing anti-piracy services to giant cargo ships in the Middle East. Technically I owned my own business, but in fact I was just working to build and support someone else’s dream. By this time, over a decade and a half of starting businesses, I’d changed my self-identify so much that working for other people in order to build their dream was not something I was able to maintain. I’ve had a couple more small gigs here and there working for others, but for the purposes of finding a “real job” I had become more or less unemployable. Paleo Treats (business number 5), continues to be our main source of income, joy, frustration, and pride.
What should our readers know about your business?
At Paleo Treats, we’re most proud of staying the course we set back at inception in 2009: To add beauty, quality and joy to the world. To have f*cking fun To make money Normally a business grows best and fastest if you just focus on the money, and while money for a business is like air for a human, we cannot live on air alone. The biggest lesson we’ve learned along the way is to just try “it”. Whatever you think of, whatever you come up with, there will usually be a ton of reasons for not doing it. Many people will tell you it can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t be done. Just do it. Know that you’ll occasionally break things, that you may lose money, that you’ll sometimes look silly. All that will pale in comparison to the trail of effort you’ve put in along the way. You’ll learn far more by trying and failing then you ever will by hitting a home run every time you step up to bat.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well, the first thing I’d make sure of is that they ate with us as much as possible. Lee is a tremendous cook, and through our deep connections in the local food world, we usually end up eating Michelin quality meals every night. Meat from Da-Le Ranch, produce from Stehly Farms and Garden of Eden CSA, figs or peaches or pomegranates or mulberries from our trees in season, along with all our garden veggies. Meals are such an important source of joy for humans, and the healthier the ingredients the more joy we can support and share. Second, I’d get any visitor out to the wilder parts of San Diego; the ocean and the backcountry. Whether surfing, sailing, hiking, or flying a paraglider, this part of the world holds tremendous potential for exploring radical forces of nature and still making it home in time for dinner. Third, I’d bring ’em to the MoCA downtown. Art is inspirational to us all, and I’ve never visited that place and not come away transformed in some way. Fourth, I’d head over to the Aerospace Museum, just to see the SR-71 mounted there. That thing is a work of art and a technological tour-de-force. Fifth, I’d head out to Oasis Camel Dairy out past Ramona. The feeling you get out there of bucolic perfection mixed with the giant and exotic friendliness of a herd of camels is unlike anything else I’ve experienced. Finally, if they were up for it, I’d arrange a tandem mountain flight on a paraglider. San Diego’s backcountry from the air is gorgeous, and with a few of the most reliable mountain flying sites in America right in our backyard I’d be remiss not to get them to experience the joy of a sunset flight.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife is my entrepreneurial hero. She’s been starting and running her own businesses since she was 18, and her tenacity, gut feeling for what will work and what won’t, and her willingness to put in the effort required is a source of inspiration to me.