Darien man launches Black-owned 'legacy' cereal brand

DARIEN — Nic King woke up in the middle of the night last spring and couldn’t fall back asleep.

“I was sitting up in my bed and pulled out my phone and started scrolling in my phone seeing all these scenes from Minneapolis. And seeing a lot of companies talking about their initiatives involving Black creatives and going forward to help out the Black community,” King said.

Protests arose since May as millions demanded equality and an end to police brutality against Black people. The protests stem from the death of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck.

Then he decided to search online for Black-owned cereals and couldn’t find anything.

The idea for a cereal just “came to me at 3 a.m,” he said. “... I thought, ‘I think I have something here.’”

King, who grew up in Stamford and graduated from Stamford High School in 2003, said he then went downstairs to continue the thought process.

“I’m a man of faith, so I said, ‘God, this is your idea. I have nothing to do with it. Before I leave this kitchen, I’m going to drink my orange juice, while you give me a (product) name,’” King said.

He’d had the word “proud” on his mind, and when “Proud Puffs” came to him, he admitted “I screamed a little bit.”

King, like many others, left his job eight months ago. But unlike others, he opted to leave before the pandemic as working long retail hours managing T-Mobile provider locations meant he missed out on time with his son. King kept the decision quiet because because he suspected he’d be criticized since he was doing well financially.

“I didn’t want to let anyone project their fears on to me,” he said. “... I’d leave at 8 a.m. and get home at 7 p.m. He’d be off to school and then be off to bed,” King said. His son, Sincere, is now 15.

The cereal idea came to fruition recently when King launched a social media crowd sourcing promotion to mass produce the cereal. King said he has built up a “nice little following of people who believe in me.”

The initial batch of the chocolate-flavored cereal in the shape of a fist was created in a private kitchen.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he said.

While currently not in talks with any major grocery chains seven days into his crowd-sourcing campaign, King said he “has the work ethic” to start small.

“I am completely fine with doing it grassroots, and selling them from the website,” he said.

King said he moved to Darien eight years ago and said the he’s gotten positive local feedback so far.

“I go to grocery stores and hang out in local restaurants, and the response to the cereal is pretty good,” he said.

While he said the promotion of the cereal has been tied to Black Lives Matter, he said the term has come to mean signify more political motivations.

“There’s a difference between the actual movement and the one tied to politics,” he said.

For King, his efforts to create a Black-owned business is more about celebrating and embracing his and his family’s culture.

“Everyone should be able to embrace their culture. I go to Irish bars and they are celebrating their culture,” he said. “Legacy is the name of my company — its the theme. It’s a business. I just plan on making delicious cereal.”

King said people have asked him why it is important that he mention his company is Black-owned.

“Systemically, it has been difficult for Blacks to own businesses. It is a sense of pride and excitement that I own this product. But it doesn’t mean only Black people can buy it,” King said.

King also said that he was deliberate in the box’s packaging.

“The characters on the box are my sisters, nieces, nephews and my son. I’m all about the generational wealth, so having my family on the cover was important to me even though the designers cringed at 10 characters on one box,” King said.

King also said he thought about “how great it would feel for a young Black boy or girl to be walking down the cereal aisle and to see kids on a box of cereal that looks just like them.”

“The whole box has meaning, from the characters to a two-parent Black household, to the positive affirmations on the back of the box, as well as the facts on the side about iconic Black legends that helped shape our culture,” he said.

King added that he believes a product like this is so important in today’s climate.

“We’ve been dealing with blatant racism, why Black Lives Matter too, diversity inclusion, systemic racism and so much more. This cereal isn’t only for black people but rather it is a cereal owned 100 percent by a Black man,” he said. “... I would honestly say my purpose in life is to spark people to do the unthinkable, and to change the financial trajectory of my family forever, and I’ve made both of these values my mission ever since. I realized what I believe my purpose was to be,” he said.

Information about the cereal can be found at proudpuffcereal.com.