Peaceful Fruits CEO and employee

The future of business extends beyond profits

Austin Ambrose
April 5, 2017

Peaceful Fruits CEO Evan Delahanty walked away from the investors of ABC’s Shark Tank without an investment, but a grin still spread across his face after receiving affirmation that his model illustrates the future business world.

Delahanty’s mission exceeds the desire to make profit. He fused money and compassion into the new realm of a social enterprise: The idea that a business can both make money and benefit the community.

Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban acknowledged that Delahanty’s vision is indicative of the future model businesses will need to adopt.

“I try to approach the world by thinking in big dreams and little steps,” Delahanty said. “My dream is pushing the conversation about social enterprises and the mission of my company. Although I’m not sure if I’ll get a platform like Shark Tank again any time soon.”

A native of northeast Ohio, Delahanty graduated from Cornell University, where his grandfather taught, with a bachelor’s degree in business and government. He took a job with McMaster-Carr in the Cleveland area, climbing quickly through the ranks and through many aspects of the business, such as risk mitigation, call service and inventory.

While he valued the hands-on experience, he realized McMaster-Carr was not his long-term path.

“I was able to have a large impact on a tiny problem in my first job,” Delahanty said. “I wanted to make a tiny impact on the biggest problem in the world.”

In spring 2011, just under four years after beginning at McMaster-Carr, Delahanty joined the Peace Corps. He spent roughly two years working in the Amazon rainforest as a community economic development specialist, bolstering opportunities for its residents without taking away their way of life.

After fulfilling his commitment to the Peace Corps, it was time for Delahanty to practice what he preached and launch a business of his own.

Delahanty methodically began sifting through ideas for his business. He thought through all the connections he made in the Peace Corps and their skills. He considered options that ranged from woodcarving to lotions and oils before deciding to focus on the distinctive acai berry.

“It’s the world’s super fruit,” Delahanty said. “Food connects people. If you eat the acai berry and the rainforest goes away, you lose that food. I wanted to give a respectful opportunity to those who want to keep their way of life.”

Delahanty developed a fruit leather using acai berries harvested in the communities in the Amazon where he had served. He began giving away samples at a farmer’s market to see what people had to say. Among them were a mother and her son who would alter the trajectory of his business.

Peg and her son AJ, who has Down syndrome, fell in love with the product and Delahanty’s story. Peg told Delahanty that if he ever needed help to give them a call.  

Delahanty recognized a similarity between his friends in the Amazon and people with disabilities: the need to be respected and met halfway.

“They have so much value, so much to give, and can do great work,” Delahanty said. “The product is a perfect fit for them. Small batches made at home with love.”

He took Peg up on the offer, beginning the incorporation of people with disabilities as his employees.

With his mission evolving and his business expanding, Delahanty needed to take the next step in his company’s development: getting his product into consumers’ hands.

Delahanty connected with Ohio University’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (OU PTAC) in Akron through the Small Business Development Center office in Akron. PTAC helps in the process of securing government contracts.

With the plethora of fruit snack options in stores, it would be easy to walk by Peaceful Fruits. However, a contract places the product in the hands of people. Once the product becomes commonplace, then they will seek it out in the stores.

Beyond this technical assistance, PTAC suggests potential resources and networking opportunities with companies and business partners. This will continue to propel Peaceful Fruits into the national stage, because of Delahanty’s motivation and determination.

Delahanty frequently works 19-hour days and takes side jobs to earn money for himself so his employees receive paychecks. However, walking into work and hearing the overwhelming support and motivation of his workers encourages him to keep going. He continues to believe in his mission and knows that profit will come down the road. His objective is to ensure that through his profit making, he is benefiting communities.

“I don’t think the profit motive has to be dirty,” Delahanty said. “You can do the right things for a community and still make money. You just have to think a little harder. That’s what I challenge people to do.”