They say each dark cloud has a silver lining, and for Winnetka’s Brett and Christine Bowman, that adage certainly rings true.
While Brett battled cancer and Christine a rare heart condition, the couple embraced the healing powers of a hobby. Despite the engulfing fear and uncertainty, happiness and health emerged, as did a full-fledged business venture known as B’s Gourmet Nuts.
For years, Brett had earned a reputation among friends for making a unique snack of seasoned cashews known as the “Insatiable” and the “Decadent.” Those who knew and loved the snack encouraged Brett to take them to market. With three kids, a full-time job and a mortgage, however, time never allowed for such a pursuit.
Brett’s perspective changed when diagnosed with throat cancer, leading him down an unexpected and therapeutic path.
“There was no more time for excuses. The treatments were tough and I needed to put my mind and energy into something positive to help me get through it all,” Brett explained. “I also realized that there were others out there who were struggling with illness. I just hoped my product could spread some goodness.”
To further challenge the Bowmans, around the same time Brett battled his own diagnosis, Christine too was faced with a medical journey.
Doctors discovered that her relatively innocuous heart murmur was actually much more severe. Fortunately, the condition was identified early, and Christine is feeling better than ever.
She’s also proving to be the best business partner that Brett could ever ask for. Along with handling social media marketing, Christine determines B’s messaging three months in advance.
With a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Cancer Wellness Center, Christine finds ways to provide ongoing support. She organizes, styles and sets photoshoots to include holidays and partnerships.Over the past year, Christine has built relationships with influencers in specific markets who use the product in their charcuterie boards, helping to get B’s name out to their followers and customers.
“Christine is amazing and handles so much. I still have a full-time job outside of B’s, so I couldn’t do this without her,” Brett said. “Most of all, it’s so fun doing this together.”
B’s has been going strong for nearly one year now, gaining an impressive presence along the North Shore and around the country.
Nearby, the product is found at Schaeffer’s wine and liquor store, Chalet Nursery, Paulina Meat Market, The Grand Food Center and Sunset Foods. In addition, through Brett’s full-time work and natural ability to network, B’s is found in Michigan, Indiana, California, Wisconsin, Louisiana and North Carolina.
After a successful first year, Brett is dreaming about what else may be possible. He and Christine continue to connect with charcuterie aficionados, sommeliers, cheese purveyors, boutique hotels and more.
Brett is also focused on the upcoming holiday season. He reminds customers that the cashews pair well with various wines, making them an ideal accessory in soon-to-be holiday gift baskets.
While the success is certainly heartwarming, Brett explained this journey transcends profit. In fact, it’s led to a greater calling.
“This is so much more than selling a product,” he said. “I’ve found this journey has led me to others who have faced similar challenges as myself. It’s great to be able to share my story and focus on the positive aspects that have risen from all that I’ve gone through to provide a connection or comfort to others.”
While Brett is keeping his focus on cashews for now, he isn’t limiting a future evolution.
“Right now, we just want to keep creating a high-quality product, but we are certainly open to growing the product line, when the time is right,” Brett said. “Fortunately, when that time comes, we have the scalability to make that happen and a strong commitment to spread happiness to others along the way.”
Beyond it all, Christine noted how this new venture teaches their three children — in Grades 9, 8 and 5, respectively — about passion and the value of a strong work ethic.
“They see our excitement when we bring in a new partner or state and celebrate with us,” she said. “They are absolutely a part of the process and see how hard we work by coming to the farmers markets on the weekends.”
“The biggest gift I hope to give them is just going for it. They see we took a dream and turned it into a reality. In the early days — last year — we had a chalkboard that we repurposed to be in the kitchen.Our initial goal was to be in 10 stores that first month.We would celebrate as we counted down and it was fun to see them notice the number change and hear the pride in their voice.”
To learn more about B’s Gourmet Nuts, visit www.bsgourmetnuts.com.