This is a good story that starts and ends in the middle. There’s no conflict, so no need for resolution. The narrative is written with some thoughtful dialogue, provides inspiration, and teaches a lesson or two. The plot includes, some would say, a bit of a mystery. Readers get to decide that last part for themselves.
The setting is a commercial kitchen somewhere in Waukesha, Wisconsin. There are many characters in the story that play, paradoxically, both bit and critical parts, and they’re all nuts. Our two heroes are small business owners Melanie and Darryll Fortune. Currently, this couple has built an impressive list of accomplishments for their company, FortuNuts, LLC, a supplier of packaged gourmet cashews, pecans, spicy almonds, and classic almonds. Here’s the short list:
- $10,000 grant from Fiserv’s Back2Business COVID-19 relief program
- Long-standing association with Albrecht’s Sentry Foods in Delafield, Wisconsin
- Steady stream of corporate clients and a loyal following
- New partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks
- Business growth requiring a rapid ramp-up of FortuNuts’ social media presence
Quality, consistency, customization, and gratitude are key components to the success of FortuNuts. Melanie and Darryll are just as focused on branding. These core components sound simple enough, but experienced entrepreneurs know very well the effort required to pull it all together and prosper.
“We use premium nuts to begin with and I would put our ingredients and taste up against any other nut provider. We won’t compromise on that,” says Melanie. She and Darryll frequently receive feedback from customers, family, and friends telling them just how good FortuNuts compare to the competition. Some of those endorsements can be seen on the Testimonials page of FortuNuts.com. What do Melanie and Darryll think about all these unsolicited comments? They say, “We take them very, very seriously.”
They’re just as firm about their business’s “visual identity,” an important part of branding. With a background in communications and broadcast and having done it for major corporations, Darryll says, “I understand the need, importance, and consistency of visual identity.”
He adds, “The primary aspect of branding is what do we stand for? I mean, we’re a husband and wife team. We’re a family-owned business. We’re a minority business, and those are important principles to us. So all of those elements go into our brand and what we stand for and what we’re about.”
The Fortunes have been very careful in growing their business (as in not too fast) and they try to “focus on something that’s going to give [them] consistent repeat business as much as possible.” Melanie explains, “Consistency is always good. How did McDonald’s get as good as they are? Because the Quarter Pounder® with cheese or their Big Mac, it looks and tastes the same each and every time, whether it’s in Kansas City or somewhere in Scandinavia.”
Corporate customers are their biggest clients, but the Fortunes give equal care and attention to all the individuals who place orders with them. That includes people hosting birthdays and holidays, brides to be planning weddings, and neighbors wanting to send “we’re thinking of you” packages. Melanie and Darryll can customize boxes, baskets, favors, and labels.
Giving credit and showing appreciation is an integral part of doing business for the Fortunes. During the course of just a 30-minute conversation, they made it a point to stop along the way and commend many different parties, acknowledging the significant impact they’ve all had on FortuNuts.
“I want to give them absolutely full credit for following through, calling us, and giving us that opportunity. We’re extremely proud of that,” says Darryll about the Milwaukee Bucks, who have given FortuNuts a stand on the main concourse at Fiserv Forum during the Bucks vs. Nets second-round playoff series. He adds, “And it all happened because of the grant through Fiserv’s Back2Business program and the Milwaukee Bucks.”
Of FortuNuts’ collaboration with Albrecht’s Sentry Foods, Darryll says, “I want to give a shoutout to Albrecht’s Sentry Foods in Delafield. We have been in that family-owned store since 2013 and they have just been wonderful.”
In closing the discussion, Darryll said, “Just the one thing I did want to add is to give appreciation and thanks to the taverns, coffee shops, bakeries, and cigar shops. I mean, that’s how we began. From the small taverns and bakeries all the way up to the Milwaukee Bucks, we appreciate all of that clientele.”
Let’s finish this story pretty much right where we picked it up in the first place, on a high note. The business practices kept by Melanie and Darryll will, hopefully, inspire and teach others; some of their warmth and compassion surely came through in the direct quotes. Not a rags to riches or comedy or quest, this short story does leave its readers happy. “But wait,” some might ask, “what about the mystery you mentioned early on?” The best was saved for last.
When asked to what they attribute their business success, Melanie shared, “We’re spiritual people. We have abundant faith in God. I believe this was just divine order. We have worked hard to have a quality brand and a great service and an awesome reputation for delivering excellence. Yes, we have. But at the same time, there’s no way we could have just made this happen. It was a blessing.”
So, what do you think…is it possible they achieved their success without a higher power?
To reach Melanie and Darryll Fortune, send them a message through their Home Page, email them at Fortunutsllc@att.net, or call them at (414) 791-3678.