Daniel Nicholson

CEO of NadaMoo!

Daniel Nicholson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2007 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Soon after, Daniel left for Madrid, Spain, as he was accepted into the Fundacion Consejo Espana-Estados Unidos program. The program landed him with a 9-month job with Iberdrola Renovables, where he enjoyed working in the sustainable energy sector, as he had a desire to be a part of the industries of the future. When the program was completed, he moved back to Austin and began reconnecting with his friends and his Austin network. It was at this time that he was introduced to a product that would change the trajectory of his life. Daniel discovered NadaMoo!, for himself, in 2008 after an introduction he received to the founder and her CFO business partner. Since immediately falling in love with the product and brand, NadaMoo! has become his sole focus for the past 13+ years. He started as the Controller, and after 3 years of this accounting, operations-related work, the founder of the company was ready to step out to pursue other opportunities.

At that moment, after much thought and reflection, Daniel decided to step into the role of President & CEO, and he never looked back. Since 2011, the company has grown its revenue over 50x, from being distributed in just a few hundred stores to now when it is in over 10,000 stores nationwide, and it is beginning to be distributed more widely in Canada. NadaMoo! has been the driving force, for Daniel, to help build awareness around health, wellness, and sustainability. These are the problems he and the NadaMoo! the team want to continue to solve.

Where did the idea for NadaMoo! come from?

Before the company and the brand existed, it was a homemade recipe concocted by our founder for her newly dairy and gluten intolerant sister that absolutely loved and couldn’t live without ice cream. Because the product tasted so good and because its texture was so on point like the more traditional ice cream products we are all nostalgic about, our founder figured there may be a larger opportunity for her recipe in the marketplace. One day, while sampling what would soon be known as NadaMoo! at a local Austin juice shop on Barton Springs, a man walked up and asked for a sample. He was so blown away by his experience that he looked at our founder and let her know that he was a buyer at Whole Foods Market. He told her that if she could successfully build a brand and put this product into packaging, they’d put it on the shelf at the Whole Foods Market flagship store. This was an exciting and serendipitous moment that pushed our founder to create the company in 2005. She worked with a local Austin marketing agency, and they landed on NadaMoo! as the brand name, simply meaning No Dairy. The rest is, as they say, history.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

In my experience, it’s been important to start my day with some type of exercise. Whether it’s jogging at Town Lake, lifting weights, or yoga, starting my day with physical activity clears my mind and allows me to tackle the grind of the workday. Roughly twenty percent of my day is spent on emails. However, the majority of my time is focused on connecting directly with team members through meetings, phone calls and work chats. I find a more interactive and personal approach with the team ensures we are all more prepared and confident to accomplish the tasks at hand. In my experience, productivity comes by being efficient with time drilling through highest to lowest priorities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Any idea that we conceptualize as a team is discussed thoroughly before proceeding with an action plan to ensure we are able to bring it to life in a cost-effective manner that brings value to the business and customer. We have a lot of different team meetings where there are opportunities for people to share and discuss ideas and/or concepts on their mind, and it is our belief that all ideas should be taken seriously and discussed in depth before scrapping or further pursuing them. Everything must be tested out in numbers to ensure it’s a viable idea/solution to pursue further. When all that work is done, we work diligently as a team to pursue the end result.

What’s one trend that excites you?

For me, personally, the trend that excites me the most in today’s food and beverage industry is our evolution to pursue plant-based alternatives, even more importantly we believe organic, regenerative farming practices are the way to go about harvesting the raw materials for the plant-based movement. It is very clear that we are misaligned with mother nature, and it is our belief that if we make more mindful consumption choices at the shelf level and more generally with all of our food and beverage choices, we have an incredible opportunity to undue a lot of what we’ve done wrong over time.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I habitually do whatever necessary to put enough back into myself. I’ve been at it now for 13 years, and I don’t believe a single one of those years has been easy. At each stage of the business, there are new challenges, and you are constantly learning how to elevate yourself above the obstacles being put in front of you. I believe personal health and fitness are a priority, and I believe rest is a priority. You have to care for yourself. You have to recharge your battery to ensure you constantly have the clarity necessary to continue to rise.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Value your time and your energy above all else. When we are younger, we are always just flying by the seat of our pants, never really acknowledging that fact that our time and our energy are limited. If we want to maximize our potential while here on this planet, we have to value what is finite. Use every moment as wisely as possible per what it is you are wanting to do with your time here.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that the continued subsidies of the dairy industry, among other industries, by the government is not good policy as we approach solutions to the sustainability problem. Prices on many products that very clearly negatively impact our health and the health of our planet are artificially low, and if we want to see a quicker adoption of the alternative industries that will give us greater hope for a more sustainable planet, we must roll them back to allow the consumer to make more holistic, mindful decisions at real market rates.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One of my biggest breakthroughs was when I began to get more comfortable with letting go of responsibility and hiring highly capable and talented team members to take on roles and responsibilities that I needed to get off of my plate to continue to elevate myself. Behind every successful business, there is a highly engaged and collaborative team of people working day in and day out to execute plans.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It was around 2011 when I took the reins of the company after the founder stepped out. I had a lot on my plate, but I was determined to continue operating the business and preparing it for additional growth. We had found a new raw material supplier for our organic coconut milk that could create substantial savings for the business. After reviewing the spec sheet with our production manager, we believed that it was a great match to our existing source. We decided to proceed with making the supplier change to reap the benefit of the cost savings. At this time and for all the years leading up to this moment, we were operating the business on a shoestring budget, so we didn’t think it necessary to run any pilot trials since the spec sheet indicated a statistical match. As it turns out, when it came time to run the product, the end result was something that was definitely not NadaMoo! It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t NadaMoo! We knew we had a problem on our hands though. We really could not afford to scrap all of the product that we had run, so we knew we had to let it go to market. The customers immediately knew that something had changed. We were bombarded with social media outreach and email outreach from our beloved consumers. They wanted to know what was going on. One by one, I personally crafted responses to each customer who reached out simply letting them know the truth. Everyone was so appreciative of our openness and our honesty. They, in most cases, admitted they still ate the entire pint, but they wanted to let us know they noticed the difference. It was a fairly large batch of product that went out there like that, and we had to wait some time for our customers to support us through the consumption of all of it before we could get back to the usual NadaMoo! standard. It is my belief that transparency and honesty is always the way to go. Integrity is one of our core values of the company, and any time we are presented with challenges, we always lean into this value to get to the other side. We just want to continue to be authentic and real with everyone who ever experiences our brand.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think a lot about soil whenever I have some freed up mental capacity. One thing I’ve been pondering is if there is a business solution to effectively free large swaths of farmland from all chemicals and pesticides that have been used in their harvesting practices. Can you dig deep enough and potentially burn off chemicals and pesticides to return the soil to a more natural and fertile state to be able to produce organic raw materials again? Just a thought. We have to save and nurture our soils. It’s absolutely imperative.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best money I’ve spent recently was the money that went into a 12 week, small group personal training program that has elevated my physical performance to a new level that I have not experienced in a while. I’m looking forward to continuing to elevate myself from here. It is so important for us to take care of our bodies, so they can drive our multi-faceted performance levels, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual, to achieve optimal life outcomes.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Microsoft Office tools and their ongoing evolution for businesses have been essential to workplace communication and productivity. Teams has proven a valuable service before and throughout the pandemic to ensure our team can stay in constant contact and communication very effectively. This remote world we are working within, while difficult in some ways, has also created a lot of value and efficiency.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

At NadaMoo!, we are huge proponents of Conscious Capitalism. The 4 tenets of Conscious Capitalism are: Higher purpose, Stakeholder orientation, Conscious leadership, and Caring culture. It is very clear that, more generally, our capitalistic system is imperfect; however, there are some businesses out there outperforming others by being more conscious in their pursuit of profits. As we approach the future, it is becoming more clear that this is a better path forward, a place where Conscious Capitalism can prosper and become the new standard that will help to create a better world for us all.

What is your favorite quote?

One of my favorite quotes is one that reminds us of the importance of humility. “Be humble or be humbled.” No matter where you go in life, in my opinion, it is so very important to exercise humility. We live on an incredibly beautiful and vast planet, and we should all remember how significant yet insignificant we are when we think about the magnitude of everything on our planet. We all need to keep one another in mind with the decisions that we make. Our connectivity with one another, people, plants, animals, and beyond is absolutely sacred.

Key Learnings:

Value your time and your energy above all else.

Get comfortable with letting go of responsibility and hiring a highly capable and talented team.

We should all remember how significant yet insignificant we are when we think about the magnitude of everything on our planet.

Be authentic and real with everyone.