O.C.-based healthy cookie creators get sweet deal on ‘Shark Tank’

Victor Macias and Kristoffer Quiaoit have brought their low-carb, low-sugar cookie company Nui a long way in a short time.

Two years ago the inexperienced bakers were huddled in Quiaoit’s mother’s Anaheim kitchen, trying to find the best recipe for healthy but tasty cookies without using sugar or flour. Both were on the keto diet, which is low on carbs and high in protein and good fats, and wanted something sweet to satisfy their sugar cravings.

On Nov. 25, the two Orange County natives were on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” dressed in matching black Nui T-shirts and accepting Alex Rodriguez’ offer for $300,000 in funding for their cookie business. They had impressed the so-called Sharks with their pitch about hard work and being the sons of immigrants — not to mention the $1.1 million in sales on their initial investment of $3,000 each.

“I connect with both your stories,” said Rodriguez, “A-Rod,” the former Yankee great who is a regular on the show. “Coming from immigrant parents as well, I can appreciate what having a Ph.D is really all about — being poor, hungry and driven. And I really feel that both of you have that.”

  • Victor Macias, a Santa Ana resident and CSUF grad, and Kristoffer Quiaoit of Whittier, meet with Alex Rodriguez after he agreed to invest in their business, Nui, which makes low-carb, low-sugar cookies, on the 11/25 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Photo courtesy ABC)

  • The selection of Nui low-sugar, low-carb cookes. (Photo courtesy of Nui)

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  • Kristoffer Quiaot, a Whittier resident and UC Irvine grad, and Victor Macias of Santa Ana make a pitch for their their Nui low-carb and low-sugar cookies on the 11/25 episode of “Shark Tank” on ABC. (Photo courtesy of ABC)

  • Kristoffer Quiaot, a Whittier resident, and Victor Macias, a Santa Ana resident and CSUF grad, make the pitch for their Nui low-carb, low-sugar cookies on the 11/25 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.” (Photo courtesy ABC)

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Macias and Quiaoit market and sell their cookies on social media, their website, and, recently, through Amazon.

Macias, 34, graduated in 2009 from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor’s in business entrepreneurship. He was working as a consultant at the Small Business Development Center in Santa Ana in 2012 when Quiaoit, who has a bachelor’s in economics from UC Irvine, walked in.

“We became friends because we had a lot of things in common,” Macias said. “As an entrepreneur it can get very lonely. We would go to coffee shops and share ideas.”

In his “Shark Tank” pitch, Macias said his parents had immigrated from Mexico and that his entrepreneurial drive started in kindergarten in Santa Ana. He would buy big bags of candy and sell the individual pieces door to door. He was also the first person in his family to graduate from college, he told the Sharks.

Quiaoit, 32, whose family comes from the Philippines, talked about how his father had worked four jobs and taught him the importance of hard work.

His mom would tell him, “if you don’t like something, don’t complain, just change it,” the Whittier resident said.

Taking his mom’s advice to heart, Quiaoit started the popular keto diet after he returned from his 2016 honeymoon with a “muffin top.” He said he liked his increased energy on the diet and recommended it to Macias, who lost more than 40 pounds.

And that led to the test kitchen in Quiaoit’s mom’s kitchen and Nui, which produces chocolate chip, double chocolate, peanut butter, Ginger Something and Snickerdoodle flavors. The cookies have 1 gram of sugar, which comes from almond and coconut flours, and are keto diet-friendly and gluten free, the pair told the Sharks.

Nui stands for greatness and abundance in Maori, according to Macias.

“What helped us was that we were the target market, at first, to fulfill our own needs,” he said. “Once we did that, we thought, ‘do other people want this?’”

Their research has shown that most of their customers are women who are on diets or looking for healthy snack choices, they said. The cookies cost $24.95 for 16 on their website.

John Bradley Jackson, director of CSUF’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Startup Incubator, said he has been thrilled with the progress his former student has made.

“To say I am proud of Victor is an understatement,” said Jackson, who serves as an adviser for the company. “When you are a professor, there are students in the room that kind of just spark with ideas and energy, and he was certainly one of those.”

“There is an illusion that entrepreneurs need to come up with something that is unique and disruptive and changes everything,” he added. “While that happens, and Uber is an example, there are everyday problems begging for solutions. And that ties into Victor.”

After raising $20,000 in a Kickstarter campaign in July 2016, Macias and Quiaoit moved the cookie production for a time to Fourth Street Market in Santa Ana. In May 2018 they got a production partner for the baking process, and now have four employees.

Since the “Shark Tank” episode was filmed in June, the pair have been in the discovery process with Rodriguez to get to know about each other’s businesses.

“They said we can’t talk about any of the details yet,” Macias said.

However, he did say that sales have jumped to $1.5 million since the episode was filmed, and that they are hoping to reach $2 million by the end of the year.

The offer inked on the show — after the Nui partners fielded several other offers and were left to make a split-second decision — gives Rodriguez 25 percent equity in exchange for his $300,000 investment. They had asked for 10 percent in their pitch.

But the two said the equity increase is a price they are willing to pay because Rodriguez connects with their stories and they want to go after a bigger market.

“We know this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Macias said. “We are excited but at the same time the team is working extra hard. We want to be sure and use this as a launching pad.”

 

 

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