Family cracks market for shelled nuts

Being unique and putting a new spin on an old idea will get your product noticed among the blur of booths at craft shows, say two entrepreneurs.

“Walk around and see. Think outside the box,” said Brenda Siemens of Elrose, Sask.

She, her husband, Dean, and their teenagers, Randy and Bailey, create and sell the Easy Crackin’ Nutcracker at craft shows and on-line for shelling nuts.

“If it’s going to be pottery, have something no one else has thought of making. Be your own person,” she said.

Dean also encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to stick with it.

“You’re not going to become a big business in the first couple of years,” he said.

The biggest selling feature for their nutcracker is its ease of use and mess free design. The nut rolls into a bowl, the nutcracker is turned and the nut is shelled rather than smashed.

It’s a far cry from the hand pinching pliers type, they say.

The Siemens haven’t applied for a patent, which would force them to reveal the “trade secrets” that make their nutcracker unique.

“It’s not so different, but people just haven’t thought of it,” said Dean.

Eye appeal and price are key, the couple said, noting their $25 nutcrackers come in a variety of wood stains. Instructions are also provided to make shelling nuts such as Brazilian and walnuts easier.

Brenda said they have seen others sold online but for twice as much.

“That’s out of reach,” she said.

Their market is principally the pre-Christmas craft show season, and the Siemens attend nine major events a year.

They built the business gradually over the last five years, and it’s getting closer to being able to sustain the family. That includes sales internationally and into retail outlets.

For now, both work at other jobs: she as the town postmistress and he as a school bus driver.

The Siemens say they created the business to provide employment for their family in a small town where jobs are scarce.

Manufacturing the nutcrackers is a family affair at their home, a refurbished former Legion hall.

They usually make about 50 at a time in assembly line fashion, with the couple doing the wood turning and dowel making, Bailey managing the threading and Randy creating the bowl section.

Randy, an admitted introvert, prefers that to attending to the steady flow of customers filing past their booth at this month’s SunDog Arts and Entertainment Faire in Saskatoon.

“I’d rather be in the shop building,” he said.

For the future, the Siemens would like to tap into tourist markets with nutcrackers labelled with the location where they’re sold. They already personalize some with labels such as “dad” and “grandpa.”

In addition, they are pondering ideas for creating a boxed gift set that includes nuts.

Contact karen.morrison@producer.com

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