WASHINGTON -- Last week, local NBC "Today" show viewers may have seen a familiar face on its "Start Up to Success" series -- a three-week elimination segment that profiles entrepreneurs from around the country.
The familiar face was that of an armadillo -- or two armadillos, rather. And those armadillos are the brand behind one of D.C.'s blossoming start-up food businesses: 2Armadillos, a company that makes crispy chickpeas.
Co-founders Jimmy Edgerton and Greg Katz started 2Armadillos in the summer of 2013. They make their six chickpea flavors out of D.C.'s commercial food incubator Union Kitchen with a team of five employees.
Co-founders Jimmy Edgerton and Greg Katz met in college and started the company in 2013. (Courtesy 2Armadillos)
"We keep it simple and we make a lot of them," says Edgerton, 29, who works as a sustainable real estate developer in the District .
The idea for the healthy snack came from Katz, who works as a physician. He became fed-up with the late-night food options at the hospital, aka: a vending machine filled with high-sugar snacks and processed carbohydrates.
So Katz started making his own snacks to take to work: roasted chickpeas. When the other doctors and hospital staff started eating his homemade snacks, he knew he was on to something.
"It's basically like a round chip. You wouldn't think you're eating a bean," says Edgerton on the taste of a roasted chickpea.
It was in a beer garden on a European trip when the two college friends, Katz and Edgerton, decided to make a business out of the healthy snack.
"Everybody likes my snacks. You're eating them right now. In Prague. Why don't you just sell chickpeas? … It can't be that hard? Why not?" Katz told Edgerton.
And so they did.
For nine months, the business partners planned out the concept and locked in the company's Union Kitchen production location, which is home other popular local food products, such as Capital Kombucha, District Doughnut, Growl Coffee, Whisked!, TaKorean and several others.
Just a few months after launching the business, 2Armadillos secured a spot on the shelves of D.C.-area stores, including Salt & Sundry, Glen's Garden Market and Mrs. Green's in Fairfax, Va.
Soon, the chickpeas will be available in Whole Foods and Fresh Market, as well.
2Armadillos also sells its products online. And with the recent exposure on national television, business is booming for these armadillos.
"We did more sales in a one-hour segment after the ‘Today' show than we have done, combined, online recently," Edgerton says.
Sales after Katz and Edgerton's appearance reached about $12,000, or 300 orders, The Washington Business Journal reports.
Edgerton says 2Armadillos' success comes down to its ingredients, which include organic chickpeas and organic olive and coconut oils, and the company's commitment to sustainability.
"Sustainability is really about putting in some investment now for long-term gains that are much greater than some short-term initial gratification," Edgerton says.
While the rosemary flavor is the company's most popular, the cinnamon toast flavor is a hit among kids. The company uses stevia to give the garbanzo beans a little bit of sweetness.
"That allows for not having kids bouncing off the walls on a sugar rush, but they still get to have a snack that tastes like it should be guilty, but really, they're not committing any sin by eating it," Edgerton says.
Other 2Armadillos flavors include spicy cayenne and tomato basil.
A 1-ounce serving of the roasted chickpeas has 130 calories, 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. All of the products are vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, kosher and paleo-approved.
On March 4, Katz and Edgerton are scheduled to go back to the "Today" show for round two of the series. The first trip may have had the most charm, though.
"I had so much fun, from getting my makeup done next to Carson Daly, to getting a selfie with Jane Seymour," says Edgerton, who was also awe-struck when he saw Olympian Ted Ligety on the set.
"One of the most decorated American Winter Olympians was there, and he was this really calm, casual dude walking around with a gold medal."
As for the future of 2Armadillos, the D.C-based company says it is going to focus on what has worked so well.
"Right now, our plan is to spend the rest of 2014 and just knock crispy chickpeas out of the park," Edgerton says.
On March 4, the company progressed to the second round of the "Today" show competition.
2Armadillos Co-founder Jimmy Edgerton takes a selfie with Jane Seymour on the set of NBC's "Today" show last week. The business partners were back again on March 4.
Watch the "Today" show segment from last week, below:
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