Kristy Mangia’s story is an inspiration to all food entrepreneurs. Giddy Up Nuts products that began in her kitchen in Southern California are now sold at the famous Le Bon Marché in Paris, as well as US retailers.
She describes herself as a “self-made gourmet.” Since both of her parents worked, she experimented on her own in the kitchen. “At 3 or 4 years old I loved being in the kitchen. I would take everything out of the refrigerator and combine it. I made a mess,” she happily admits. “My ‘recipes’ were my version of coloring on the walls. And, of course, none of them were edible.”
As Kristy got older, she was drawn to baking. “My mother and I would make my birthday cake together, and I made the dessert for every family function.”
In college she studied biology and became fascinated by food flavors and where in our mouths those flavors are perceived. Of all the foods she’s tried in her life, she says that the only one she didn’t like was crocodile.
“I particularly love baking because it’s part science and part art. The kitchen has always been a place where I feel relaxed. Whenever I feel disconnected and frazzled, I realize it’s because I miss being in the kitchen.”
Her hectic job in health care didn’t satisfy her need for creativity. She wanted to invest her energy in a business that she loves, and that meant food. Becoming a consultant, she was initially creating a “side hustle.”
“I made the original spiced almonds for Christmas gatherings for the entire family. They loved them. Then I took them to work and enlisted my colleagues as mini focus groups. Then I began selling at the Calabasas and Agoura Hills farmers markets, which were a vital step. Shoppers at those markets are outspoken and honest, so I got very valuable feedback, especially with new flavors. They also give you a read on who your core customers are.”
Though Los Angeles is not a big hub for country music, Kristy is a fan. “The messages of many country songs make me feel grounded. So, when I was brainstorming with friends about the name of my new company, we came up with Giddy Up Nuts to capture the country vibe.”
As Kristy’s company has grown, she is completely committed to making the flavors of Giddy Up Nuts the best they can possibly be. “I know everything will be easier if I stick to my vision, remember my love of the product, and why I wanted to do this.”
After Kristy passed the MCAT exam for admission to medical school, her father expected her to take that path. Now he is the biggest booster of Giddy Up Nuts. “Half a million dollars of education is standing on a corner selling nuts,” he jokes. “My dad is a dentist, and I’ve gotten new customers, because he gives my almonds to his patients. Obviously, he’s glad that I didn’t go into making sugary candy.”
“I’m grateful to have been able to incorporate all the important elements of my life in this business. I love the relationships with customers, from the farmers market to Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres Market, all the way to Le Bon Marché in Paris.”