Never was there a man more self-made than Nelsonâ€™s Pic Picot. The New Zealander has started a stupendous amount of businesses â€“ flogging handmade sandals to his schoolmates before taking his hands to furniture making, giftware, cannabis fertiliser (no joke) and a whole darn restaurant, sailing school and laundrette. Then came Picâ€™s Peanut Butter â€“ just a little something he whipped up in retirement â€“ thatâ€™s now one of the fastest growing companies in the country. Currently working out of its fourth factory (with a fifth in construction) Picâ€™s is the bestselling peanut butter in New Zealand, fast-spreading its way across Australia, the US and Asian markets. And did we mention Picâ€™s eyesight started failing at 50, and heâ€™s now considered legally blind?
Hereâ€™s some sage advice from this seasoned entrepreneur:
FIND WHERE YOUâ€™RE NEEDED
Pic started his first business in high school, making leathergoods for his mates. â€œBut I discovered that my mother and her friends had far more money, so I made bags that old ladies would like.â€ Years later, as owner to a catalogue of charter boats, the classifieds section of a boating magazine changed his tack (â€œthere were two or three pages of charter boats for hire and about 16 pages of sailing schoolsâ€) and he started a sailing school. â€œThe neat thing about peanut butter is that everybody eats it, so Iâ€™ve got something to talk to anyone about,â€ says Pic, adding that aside from the odd allergy sufferer, the stuff is a sure-fire people pleaser.
â€œThe idea that you go off and develop drawings and prototypes and go to venture capitalists â€“ itâ€™s tragic. It stops people from actually getting stuck in and doing stuff.â€
MAKE AN EXISTING PRODUCT BETTER
â€œI started doing a bit of peanut butter for myself after I got really cross with the rubbish stuff I was buying at the supermarket. It was the sugar that got me.â€ So Pic made his own out of pure, Aussie-grown peanuts. â€œIâ€™m working on baked beans now, because I think theyâ€™re the same. Every supermarket tries to sell baked beans for under a dollar, and theyâ€™re horrible! But nice baked beans are such good food â€“ beans and tomatoes are such a wonderful combination. So thatâ€™s my pet project at the moment.â€ As is an electric baby stroller â€“ another bright idea that currently has Pic adapting half a dozen golf buggies.
Picâ€™s 15,000-jar a day outfit started with an oven and a Vitamix in his kitchen. As demand rose (and the Vitamix went bust), he found a supplier in Australia who sold him a tonne of peanuts on the cheap, and had a rotary roaster made out of a concrete mixer. â€œSo I stuck that in the garage, bought a little grinder and made the peanut butter on a Friday morning and sold it at the market on a Friday afternoon. That was where it started. I had no more intention than to get my $200 back,â€ says Pic. â€œThe idea that you go off and develop drawings and prototypes and put together a fancy brochure and try and go to venture capitalists â€“ itâ€™s tragic. It stops people from actually getting stuck in and doing stuff.â€
Many years ago, Pic was in a friendâ€™s shower, where he noticed a bright green bottle of shampoo. â€œThe label said something like, â€˜Bobâ€™s Shampoo. It smells like mint sauce.â€™ And I thought, man! This is so wonderful! And I felt such a surge of affection for this bloody shampoo because it was really honest, you know? I thought, if I ever make something like this, Iâ€™ll just try and do it as if youâ€™re talking to somebody.â€ Which is why Picâ€™s peanut butter comes in a plain glass jar with a brown-paper label â€“ saying little more than â€˜Picâ€™s really good peanut butterâ€™.
Picâ€™s 15,000-jar a day outfit started with an oven and a Vitamix in his kitchen. As demand rose, he found a supplier who sold him a tonne of peanuts on the cheap, and had a rotary roaster made out of a concrete mixer.
LET THE PRODUCT DO THE MARKETING
Itâ€™s widely known as the stuff with the red star on the lid â€“ that Pic only put there because early on, his supplier said â€˜if you order 100,000 lids, you can have free printing on themâ€™. â€œItâ€™s totally unregisterable,â€ says Pic, of whatâ€™s become the brandâ€™s signature symbol. â€œWe canâ€™t trademark it or anything, but the really cool thing is that people hang on to them. So you get a jar of chutney from your aunty and the chances are itâ€™s going to be in one of our jars. These things get reused all over the place and everybody knows theyâ€™re our jars.â€
The underside of Picâ€™s shipping boxes reads: â€˜please respect the privacy of this carton and avoid looking at its bottom,â€™ there are poems tucked away behind jar labels. Then thereâ€™s the airstream he converted into a giant toaster. â€œI thought Iâ€™d like to do a peanut butter tour,â€ he says. â€œIâ€™d always fancied airstream caravans and I could justify [buying one] by sticking toast in the top, so that was really fun. I towed it from one end of the country to the other and people would see us coming and theyâ€™d turn around and travel for miles to catch up with us.â€
BUILD A TEAM YOU CAN TRUST
A staunch soloprenuer, bringing on a team was a new thing for Pic. â€œAll these businesses Iâ€™ve had in the past, Iâ€™ve always been pretty much by myself. I would get gifts from suppliers saying, Merry Christmas from Bob and the teamâ€™, and Iâ€™d think, team? Horrible, awful, ridiculous nonsense. But actually getting to be part of one now, itâ€™s so cool,â€ he says. â€œInitially Iâ€™d be in there sort of throwing in my 10 cents’ worth about why a machine wasnâ€™t working as it shouldâ€¦ but [now] I donâ€™t. I completely trust the guys that weâ€™ve got here.â€ Heâ€™s got 35 on the books today â€“ not to mention Fido the guide dog.
â€œA lot of people come to me and say, how do you get into the supermarkets?â€ says Pic, who likens supermarkets to trucking companies. â€œTheyâ€™re just part of the route along the way between you and the customer. The supermarkets donâ€™t eat anything. But the guys who work there eat stuff. The buyer eats stuff. And Iâ€™m happy if I go into a supermarket and sit in front of a buyer and get them to eat itâ€¦ because itâ€™s people that drive it. Itâ€™s not the product and itâ€™s not the advertising; it’s people who feel engaged with it and like it. And I see our company as being the heart of a community of people who love what we do. Thatâ€™s our thing.â€