An 18-year-old entrepreneur on a mission to create better nut butters

We tend to think that aha! moments for entrepreneurs are these grand lightning storms of ideas. More often than not, though, they’re real insights discovered in real moments.

Charlotte-area entrepreneur Abby Kircher knows what that feels like.

“It was the summer of 2015, and I was at home, and I was a big peanut butter fan,” she recalls. “But I didn’t want all the artificial sugars or peanut oils that are found in traditional peanut butters.”

Kircher, a 15-year-old high school junior at the time, got an idea. She wanted to bring a new, healthy nut butter option to the world, so she started to whip up nut butters with just five real ingredients and zero artificial flavors. She avoided peanuts, using only cashews, pecans and almonds. And it tasted good.

After testing flavors at home for two weeks, Kircher went to her mother, Anna, with a question: “What if I start a business called Abby’s Better?” asked Kircher. They ran with it and took Abby’s Better from bold idea to budding business.

A few months later, mother and daughter went to the Davidson Farmer’s Market, homemade nut butters in hand. Customers couldn’t get enough.

In the weeks that followed, the Kirchers kept coming back to the market.

“We were selling out every single week,” Kircher explains. “We just couldn’t keep the butters on us.”

What started in the family’s home kitchen in Mooresville, N.C., was now growing outside the home. It was time for more product, which meant it was time for a larger kitchen.

Cue a commercial kitchen in Charlotte, N.C., which provided much-needed space for production. It also meant Abby’s Better could enter more local retail stores and more farmer’s markets. The company finally landed a spot inside a local chain store — Lowe’s Foods — in June 2016. The company’s CEO was 16 years old.

The young startup continues to evolve. Abby’s Better has introduced five unique flavors including strawberry cashew and coffee almond. The nut butters are made with whole fruits and all-natural sweeteners. They do not contain any processed foods or flavorings. And in lieu of peanut oil or palm oil, Abby’s Better uses coconut oil. That means the products are 100 percent accessible to those with a peanut allergy — now an important aspect of their company.

As much as the Abby’s Better story is about learning your customers and the products they want, it’s been just as much about Kircher and what she’s learned about herself on her journey as a young, female entrepreneur. That journey has not always been easy. Although she has been challenged by some, Kircher has found her overall experience to be positive as people are eager to hear her story.

“I’ve learned to surround myself with people in the business world who have done it longer than me and have expertise,” she notes. “In that, you learn humility, and [you learn] that you can’t do it on your own.”

Kircher attended an accelerator program in 2017 — The Food-X in New York — where she continued to learn and refine her expertise. The company’s products can now be found on the shelves of several chain stores such as Earth Fare and Whole Foods. You can also order online from their website, stop by the booths at the Davidson Farmer’s Market (they’re still there) or meet the team personally at upcoming fitness races.

Kircher, who is now 18 years old, is focusing her full attention on the business right now. Most recently, that took her to Milan, Italy, where she won the award for “Best Health and Wellness Product” and opened for Starbucks’ legendary CEO, Howard Schultz.

There and at almost every public event where you’ll see Abby’s Better, you’ll find Kircher there with an eager smile, ready to introduce potential customers to her nut butters. You’ll also find that as quickly as her company has grown, she’s never been closer to her original intent.

“It’s something close to my heart,” she gushes. “It’s something I care about, and my whole family cares about.”

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