On one particular night last summer, Nic King had trouble sleeping. There was a lot on his mind.
The 34-year-old had recently left his corporate job. The Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd had just begun to spread nationwide.
It was out of this moment, one that he calls “divine inspiration,” that he came up with the idea for Proud Puffs, a chocolate-flavored, vegan cereal formed in the shape of a Black fist.
“I woke out of my sleep. It was a random idea that was on my mind,” King told HuffPost. “I’m thinking, where is cereal coming from? Starting a cereal company is a super bizarre idea to think about at 3 a.m. but as a man of faith, I’ve always believed if you get a random idea, God gives you an idea and you look into it.”
From there, King, who lives in Darien, Connecticut, spent the next several months conducting research on how to pursue his vision. He officially announced the launch of Legacy Cereal in December, which he says may be the only Black-owned business of its kind.
While the majority of businesses have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected due to the lack of support and resources. Yet, King pushed forward with his idea, even after losing his commercial kitchen in December because of COVID-19 restrictions slowed down the production launch of the cereal.
“I wanted to hit the ground running but obviously my company is easily identified as a Black-owned cereal company,” he explained. After his initial kitchen fell through, “while reaching out to co-manufacturing companies, I started noticing a trend where I don’t get callbacks or the numbers are inflated.”
Still, King realizes the importance of Black ownership, and he plans to invest in the community.
“I wanted to design a box that looks like us, that kids can see themselves on. They can see their family on, they can be inspired, they can be uplifted by it. It’s healthy for them, but it’s also owned by us,” he said. “So it gives us the opportunity to take that money that we do raise and invest that money back inside of our community.”
He wants to do more than just help his immediate community. One of his company’s initiatives, Operation Love, will work with local farms across the U.S. to address food insecurity in low-income areas.
The cereal won’t be available in stores for some time as King works toward mass production; he is currently crowdfunding its production. Customers can expect the cereal to ship in April. He hopes that Proud Puffs will appear on the shelves of major grocery stores one day.
But even now the interest in Proud Puffs is high. King’s been receiving over 600 preorders a week. “The community has really been standing behind me, and calling it ‘the cereal for the culture’ … it’s just been an amazing journey for me,” he said.
King said some people have told him they don’t even eat cereal, but want to support his cause — and to get ahold of the unique packaging. The characters on the front of the cereal box are his family: his sisters, nieces, nephews and son.
When coming up with the name of the company and designing the cereal box, King wanted to highlight the importance of family in his life. “I’m getting messages from people saying like, ‘Wow, my kids are excited to see a full Black family on the box,’” he said.
On the side of the box, consumers will find a list of influential figures in Black history, including pilot Bessie Coleman and boxer Muhammad Ali. Finally, on the back, there’s a word search where kids can find positive affirmations like “beautiful,” “important,” “kind” and more.
King was also very intentional about the type of cereal he wanted to put into the world. “My goal with this cereal is to uplift the Black and brown community. I needed to make sure I was putting something healthy and that had nutritional value back inside my community. I didn’t want to push another sugary cereal,” King said when asked about the choice to produce a vegan cereal.
Those themes are key to his mission: to be the brand where nutrition and representation matters.
“I think everybody should be able to celebrate their culture, should be able to celebrate their background and where they’re from,” King said. “I feel like everybody should be able to see themselves, identify themselves and be able to celebrate themselves as well.”