'Representation matters': Darien man's Black-owned cereal company gets nationwide attention

DARIEN — A flurry of publicity for Nic King’s Black-owned cereal creation, Proud Puffs, has gotten him additional crowdfunding resources and national attention.

King, of Darien, appeared on “Inside Edition,” was featured on Kelly Clarkson’s talk show, and has been featured on a variety of radio stations, podcasts and online news sites throughout the country in the last few months.

While his newfound fame was mostly positive, it also brought King some criticism, attacks and racist insults, he said.

Despite this, King said he’s about “nothing but love” and positive vibes. In some cases, he said he used those moments as an opportunity to educate and communicate with his detractors.

King, who moved to Darien eight years ago from Stamford, came up with the idea for Proud Puffs after being unable to sleep watching the protests and racial unrest last spring and summer.

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 decided to take his life in a different career direction when he realized he wanted to spend more time with his son, now 15. The cereal idea came to fruition in the fall when King launched a social media crowdsourcing 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.

While he previously 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 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 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 he believes a product like this is important in today’s climate.

As a result of the publicity, his crowdfunding is two weeks from being fully complete, and he should be able to fill his online orders for the cereal in the beginning of April.

“I’m looking forward to putting it back in the hands of the community. I just want them to enjoy the cereal as much as I enjoyed making it,” he said.

Grocery and big-box stores have expressed interest in carrying King’s product when it’s ready, he said. For that to happen, he needs the right investor, and he’s hoping all the publicity will deliver that soon.

Though most of his feedback was positive, supportive and encouraging, some was the opposite.

“It was a really hard realization that the more visibility I get, it unfortunately showed another side of the world that is not ready to see or have a conversation about how representation matters and minority ownership,” King said. “... In one case, someone asked me why it mattered that it was a ‘Black-owned’ cereal company.”

“The confusion is people ask me why I have to divide by calling it Black-owned. It’s not about that for me. I wear it like a badge of honor, not to be divisive,” King added.

King called the negative responses “annoying and a little said” but said “it doesn’t hurt me.”

“Representation matters. The majority are ready to have that uncomfortable conversation. I’m ready to have it,” King said.

His hometown, however, has had an entirely positive reaction, according to King.

“I’m so proud of Darien. To my recollection, it’s been all positive. I get comments like ‘I love what you’re doing,’” he said.

To those who criticize him, he says they just need to get to know him, the product and his goals.

“They need to understand more about the product. It is all about love, and empathy first. Nothing negative. No hate. All love,” he said.

King is optimistic about the future, noting Proud Puffs is only the beginning of his creative vision.

“There’s a lot more to come,” he said.