This founder took her vegan snacks brand from $1.3 million to $52 million in retail sales value over a decade. She says naivety is the secret weapon for success.

Cassandra Stavrou CEO and founder of PROPER

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At 25, Cassandra Stavrou left her ad agency job to launch the vegan snacks firm Proper.

The company is best known for its colorful bags of healthy popcorn, Propercorn, but it now offers a variety of vegan snacks.

Stavrou started making her first snacks with the popcorn machine her dad bought her before passing away when she was 16.

Ten years on from its founding in 2011, Proper claims to be the UK’s best-selling vegan snacks company, with double-digit growth for two consecutive years and more than five million monthly snack bags sales across 11 European countries. Citing IRI retail data, the company said it posted bigger UK sales than any other 100% vegan snack brand.

Proper reported $20.5 million in revenues in 2019, from $16.5 million the prior year. The company told Business Insider that the retail sales value of its products grew from $1.3 million to $52 million over the last decade. The retail sales value is how much consumers pay to buy a product from a retailer, while Proper’s revenue is how much money the firm gets after the middlemen take their cut.

In 2019 Stavrou received the Order of the British Empire for services to the food industry and exports.

She also serves on the UK government food and drinks sector council, representing all start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses in the UK food sector.

She told Business Insider her journey to success wasn’t straightforward:

“I have made tonnes of mistakes and actually I have learned to embrace making them because it’s when you learn the most,” Stavrou said.

Here are her five key lessons for success:

Naivety is a secret weapon

Mistakes happen — and it’s best to make the most of them.

When Stavrou made her first order, she misunderstood the shelf life of products.

She put in a big order for a product that came with six months shelf life and thought she had six months to sell it.

But stores need at least four months, and that left her with only two months to move the entire order. “It could have bankrupted us, but we sold harder than we ever thought possible and … it drove the momentum and it was the kickstarter of our growth trajectory,” Stavrou said. 

“Early naivety was a defining moment of our early years,” she said. PROPER went on to secure Google as its first client.

Most attempts at innovation fail, but you can learn from that failure 

Stavrou’s favorite Proper product was Crunch Corn — half-popped popcorn — but the supply chain proved difficult and, with only a small budget to target consumers with this new product, the company realized it had overstretched itself.

Stavrou has carried these learnings forward into how she approaches new product development.

Innovation isn’t always the answer: Testing products, keeping the most successful but cost-effective, and not being afraid of leaving behind what is not working even if innovative is key to success, Stavrou said.

The team is everything — invest in recruitment

 “Make it hard to get a job at your company, take your time, be totally sure of …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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