A new business on Nash Street has found the sweet spot between furniture and play for children.
Nugget, a business whose beginnings are rooted in a viral kickstarter campaign in January 2015, has moved into a capacious portion of the old Bellevue Mill buildings. This location is the epicenter of all operations, deemed “Nugget HQ.” They previously operated out of a east Durham Warehouse and worked out of the American Underground in downtown Durham.
Nugget sells one primary object: a brightly-colored foam couch-like object that can be folded into different shapes and sizes for nap times, lounging for all ages, and imaginary castles, race cars, and pirate ships.This nugget is created by different shapes of fabric-covered foam pieces: two triangle pillows, one seat cushion, and one foldable base piece.
With booming growth and high demand during the holiday shopping season, purchasing a nugget as a Christmas gift was impossible after Dec. 2, as orders could not be guaranteed to arrive before Dec. 25.
Parents have raved over these nuggets, but before they were for kids, they were for college kids – or at least that’s what founder David Baron intended.
Nugget’s foundation was a solution to a problem. Baron, a biology major at UNC-Chapel Hill, now 2012-alumnus, noticed a trend on move-out days. Students would discard cheap dorm room futons into dumpsters, which were inevitably then tossed into a landfill.
Baron couldn’t shake the environmental harm from these careless disposals.
He figured there was another option to replace the cheaply constructed and bulky futons with something lightweight, comfortable, and durable. Coming up empty-handed, he dove into entrepreneurship and the nugget was born.
Baron nixed screws, bolts, and large pieces of metal, reverting to materials that could fold into a compact shape and unfold into a functional seat.
He sought the help of his friend Ryan Cocca, a UNC-Chapel Hill student at the time who, while in college, opened and owned Thrill City, a sports T-shirt company on Franklin Street.
They created a few prototypes and began marketing the nugget to college students. The project didn’t receive the attention they anticipated. It was difficult to break the consumer pattern of online shopping, or just going to WalMart or Target to stock up on all college necessities.
They sent a nugget to their college friend and then-teacher Hannah Fussell to place in her 3rd and 4th grade classrooms.
“It was so nice to have this cushion-y, soft, little couch that I could plop in the middle of the room for movies, or have kids read on it,” Fussell said. “My kids were obsessed with it.”
She relayed this excitement to Baron and Cocca. Soon, they pivoted their audience to children and families. They created an online kickstarter with a $20,000 goal. The kickstarter “exploded,” Fussell said.
$20,000 was raised overnight. By the end of the first week, funding had surpassed $80,000. In the end, 574 backers pledged $84,748 to help create Nugget.
With washer-safe fabric covers, soft-edge pieces, and foldable cushions for easy storage, comments on all Nugget social media sites are filled with parents lauding the nugget.
Fussell joined the team in 2017 as Nugget’s marketing director. In the past year, Nugget’s has seen exponential growth, prompting the team to relocate to a larger space.
“We manufacture everything in house,” Fussell said. “It’s something we’re super proud of.”
Nugget HQ is fixed in a 12,000 square foot location, previously Southern Seasons, rented from neighbors Redeye Worldwide.
They’ve opened up once-covered historic windows to let light in, added an extra story inside thanks to high ceilings, and have installed a photo studio for all marketing needs. The walls are lined with shelves and the expansive warehouse is where all nuggets are designed, marketed, processed, manufactured, and shipped. Once a crew of part-time employees, the staff has increased to ten full-time assembly team staff on the floor and five people in the office.
The space does not currently allow for a storefront, but the company has planned pop-up markets in 2019.
To get your hands on a nugget before buying, one can see them at select locations, including Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, the Chapel Hill Public Library, and Kidzu Children’s Museum in Chapel Hill.