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The low calorie snack start-up that sold 140,000 products in the first eight months

The low calorie snack start-up that sold 140,000 products in the first eight months
Enterprise Nation
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Posted: Fri 2nd Apr 2021

Alexei Khatiwada quit a corporate job at a bank to launch Lexi's Treats, a range of low calorie marshmallow crispy snacks. 
 
In the first eight months of his start-up, Alexei sold an impressive 140,000 products which was driven by how he engaged a community of loyal followers on Instagram. 
 
He also started selling his products on Amazon's online store after taking part in a Bootcamp through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.  
 
Read Alexei's inspiring story.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I was working at a bank after a graduate training scheme but I wanted to do something that I was really passionate about. I love cooking and I was playing around with a few different recipes and ideas. One day I decided that's what I was going to do for a living; create healthy snacks that people absolutely love.

As someone who loves snacks, I still want to eat healthily and reduce my sugar, fat and calories intake. I felt that there was a gap in the market for healthier snacks that are also fun. There are a lot of a lot of products out there but they're often a bit sad and not necessarily a good enough replacement for the real naughty stuff. I wanted to bring joy back into healthier snacking. I've done that by launching my Lexi's Crispy Treat range which are only 99 calories.

How did you turn the idea into a business?

I made the first products in my kitchen and tested the concept with friends and family. I also sold them at stalls in various places including in my old office at the bank. I found that people loved the treats and I sold out every time I had a stall.

I then looked at how I could take it from a very fresh product that didn't have full packaging to the product it is today. I worked with a food developer to formulate a recipe and after lots of hard work I managed to find a manufacturer who was willing to work with a small start-up brand like mine.

My plan was to launch in coffee shops, cafes, offices and retailers but COVID-19 happened so I pivoted my strategy to launching online via Instagram and my website.

How did you find your manufacturer?

The Grocer produces a guide to manufacturers but it costs over £200. I discovered there's a copy you can use in the British Library Business & IP Centre in London. You can't photocopy it so I visited and wrote out every single manufacturer that could be useful.

What other research did you do?

I sat in the British Library for many days researching the market and making sure that it wasn't just me just doing something I love but that there was a real need for it.

The British Library is an amazing place and a massively useful free resource.

You've sold thousands of bars using Instagram. How did you do that?

I've never spent a pound on advertising but I've built up a loyal following.

They're really into what I do because I shared the journey from the start including the food manufacturing and the development of the products. I also got them involved to help shape the designs of the packaging.

When it came to launching, I was introducing a product to people who were ready to give it a try and were keen to support me.

How has COVID-19 affected the business?

It has actually provided an opportunity although at the start it didn't feel like that because it was scary when I had to pivot from my original strategy.

Buying snacks is traditionally an impulse purchase so I had to get my head around why would someone would buy 12 bars in advance online. The pandemic has made snacking more of a planned purchase.

We also cater to a wide range of people. The low calorie thing appeals to those who plan their meals throughout the week and the products also resonate with people who have allergies. I worked hard to make the range as accessible as possible and the products are free from 12 allergens. Those kinds of people have been searching a lot online for snacks during the pandemic.

Lexi's Treats

How did the Amazon Small Business Accelerator Bootcamp help you and what actions did you take as a result?

I made a lot of notes during the sessions and it gave me a really useful base knowledge of what selling on Amazon entails. Amazon is a big platform and there are a lot of things that you need to do and learn so the Bootcamp gave me a great sense of what's important and what's not.

It was also useful to hear direct from people at Amazon and I enjoyed listening to the other entrepreneurs who shared their stories of successfully selling on Amazon.

The Bootcamp gave me the motivation for launching on Amazon.

I launched with Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) and Prime Delivery and also invested in advertising. I would recommend FBA for anyone who is starting out. It's a no-brainer.

I also spent a lot of time creating the right product descriptions.

My Amazon sales have started well and it's growing 30% month-on-month. It is a really smart place to be and it will be one of our main channels of business for the future.

What are your tips for business success?

Do your research and understand whether you are properly meeting a need for your customers. We started with a really simple product. It's delicious but it also meets a lot of needs. I took the time to research so I understood the different features of my product and how they would be useful for people. I looked at what was out there in the world and whether it really was unique.

Start testing from day one. When I look back at the first product I gave to people it was the worst version but it allowed me to test and refine. Don't forget that everyone starts somewhere and if you're not looking back at what you did a few months back almost with embarrassment, it means you're not really pushing the boundaries. You need to step out of your comfort zone and hear real people say real things.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos. 
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
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