Posted: Wed 30th Mar 2016
Quality popcorn is big business these days and one of Britain's best companies is PROPERCORN. Founder Cassandra Stavrou shares the story behind her brand and offers her tips for entrepreneurial success.
Cassandra is a speaker at the Go and Grow Online Summit, the must attend digital business event of the year, in London on 15 April. Book your ticket here.
How did you come up with the idea for PROPERCORN and turn that idea into a business?
I first came up with the idea for PROPERCORN when I was 25. I'd always wanted to run my own business but this was the first idea I felt really passionate about. I spotted a gap in the market to create a snack which delivered not only on health and satisfaction but which people would also be proud to be seen with. When I told my mum of my plans, she reminded me that the last present my father bought me before he passed away was a vintage popcorn machine. It was this little bit of serendipity combined with my entrepreneurial itch which gave me the confidence to quit my job and give PROPERCORN a go.
I moved back home and took on various temp jobs to raise money to kick-start the idea. This was followed by two years of seasoning popcorn in a cement mixer and a healthy amount of blagging to make PROPERCORN a reality!
What start-up challenges did you face in the early days and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was getting people to take me seriously. I was a 25 year-old girl with absolutely no experience, so attempting to command respect in the male-dominated world of manufacturing proved more than a little tricky! I was told on several occasions to go and ask for my old job back but eventually found an amazing manufacturer willing to take a punt on me. We still work together to this day.
Another challenge was handling the loneliness which often accompanies the start-up process. I was totally passionate about our product and what I was trying to achieve but you still find yourself questioning the decisions you've made. Building an equally passionate and dynamic team around you is the best way to deal with the challenges and uncertainties that inevitably come your way.
How have you managed to convince major retailers to stock your products and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs wanting to do the same?
Ultimately you have to believe in the product that you are trying to sell. Have absolute passion and conviction and it will be much harder for retailers to say no! You should also be able to demonstrate empathy; they get approached by so many people, so be personal, concise and, most importantly, get on with them. On top of all this, major retailers just want to know that your product sells. We were able to demonstrate such compelling sales in the few places we first launched, that the big players had confidence enough to take us on.
How have you used the internet to grow your brand? How has your approach to using the web changed as your business has grown?
Having only launched four years ago, the internet has had a big role to play in the growth of our business. Whether through e-commerce, profiling of the business in online media or our own social media channels, it's been a vital tool for brand building and awareness. Last year, we re-launched our website to make sure it provided a lens on some of the creativity and content we produce. We wanted the site to act as a window to showcase the full breadth of our activity, from new popcorn flavours to our clothing and artist collaborations. It needed to be rooted in design and lifestyle not echoing more traditional snack brands.
How do you use social media platforms to promote your business and what advice would you offer to other business owners?
Social media is such a powerful tool for businesses if used in the right way. For us, it's not about farming new customers but is an amazing way to personally engage with our core followers, whilst showcasing some of our work and creativity. Instagram has proven to be the perfect platform for us and a great deal of care and attention goes into curating our page. It's a very vibrant celebration of all the things that make us tick and a real reflection of our team's passion for creativity and style.
Cassandra is a speaker at the Go and Grow Online Summit, the must attend digital business event of the year, in London on 15 April. Find out more here and book your ticket below.
The event is part of our Go and Grow Online campaign which encourages more businesses to get online and supports existing online traders to grow. Go and Grow Online is supported by Microsoft, Dell, BT Business and .COM.