Business Development Center Food Entrepreneur Program
Entrepreneur Ryan Nelson was about as strong a candidate as they come to be successful once he set out to bring a family concept for an organic and vegan energy bar to market.
Nelson, 26, of Ocean Township, thrives on the hard work that it has taken to get his Viva Energy Bar on the shelves of over 100 retailers in the tri-state area since launching his business a year ago. He has since brought on two associates who continue to work with him tirelessly as they bake, package, and deliver bars by the thousands.
Nelson was in Interfaith Neighbors Business Development Center’s (BDC) first group of potential entrepreneurs in a program that is partnering with Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center to help teams or individuals create a product and bring it to market.
“I grew up in and around the organic retail industry and learned at an early age the values of entrepreneurship and the enjoyment that comes from building a company based around a fun culture,” Nelson said.
His family owns Dean’s Natural Market in Ocean Township, Shrewsbury, Basking Ridge and Chester, and has been a supporter of youth development programs in Asbury Park and of other nonprofits.
Ryan’s entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic have helped him in launching his successful business. Instilling those values and skills is a big part of the Interfaith BDC program.
“A lesson that we try to teach is there’s a lot more to getting a product to market than just having a great concept,” said Gillian Edgar, Business Development Center Associate. “We give all of the teams the same guidance that we gave Ryan, and Ryan was able to capitalize on that because of his work ethic and what he could bring to the table.”
Of his time in the program, Nelson says, “It was a stimulating four months where I was able to build the brand and different flavor profiles. If you have a product that you want to bring to life, the Food Entrepreneur Program can be the stepping stone to take your product from idea to fruition.”
The organic energy bars come in three flavors: Oats, Nuts & Chocolate; Peanut Butter & Chocolate; and Coffee. Viva Bar’s mission is to bring the highest quality ingredients together to provide their consumers with an awesome-tasting clean product.