From her kitchen to a $360M acquisition, SmartSweets Founder Tara Bosch shares her inspiring story
Today on the show we’re joined by Tara Bosch, founder of the wildly successful candy brand, SmartSweets.
Since launching in July 2016, SmartSweets' mission to innovate delicious, low-sugar candy you can feel good about has remained the same – Kick Sugar, Keep Candy™. Envisioned as "the future of candy," SmartSweets aims to be a global leader in the sugar reduction movement by tackling one of the largest and most concerning ingredients in our everyday food – sugar.
In this episode, we cover Tara’s inspiring journey from starting this business in her kitchen right through to selling a major stake in the business for $360m. It’s a wild ride and I know you’re going to learn so much from Tara!
I couldn't believe how she only raised $3M to then go on to proceed with a $360M acquisition. Some seriously impressive stuff. Tara believes there to be so much stigma and idealization around raising as if that almost becomes the celebration. Realistically this can distract from the fact that the money is so you can grow your business, and those are the milestones that you should be celebrating. If you can raise no money that’s amazing, it’s much more beneficial for everyone.
There are some real nuggets of wisdom here that I know will benefit a lot of you. For example, how it may look like entrepreneurs with a certain level of success have it all figured out but that's very rarely the case. Tara thought that when you got to a certain level of success you just have this unwavering confidence that you know what you're doing and you've got it all figured out. That as you scale, this feeling comes automatically. But this just isn't the case. The feeling changes, but you rarely feel like you've got it all figured out. That's just part of the entrepreneurial ride, what keeps you going in some ways, and also something that's good to accept. There’s not one event that is the silver bullet to success, just accumulation that keeps that momentum going, and the snowball getting bigger and bigger. But you still have to push that snowball.
Stick around for the last part where Tara dives into her key piece of advice for entrepreneurs entering the candy space. For her, having a radical value proposition is one of the reasons at the heart of why SmartSweets scaled so quickly, and why they're continuing to be the market leader. To have a massively successful product and simultaneously better the world you have to take something that exists and create so much radical value that for people it’s reinventing the wheel in a very meaningful way, that sparks the emotional response of someone to your product. Make sure you have that radical value proposition.
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Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
So yeah, my name is Tara, I am based in Vancouver BC, up in Canada and my company is SmartSweets where we are on a mission to kick sugar, keep candy and become the global leader in revolutionizing candy my gosh! And you're absolutely crushing it, crushing that vision. I want to go back to the very beginning to what your life was like before you started the brand and what was getting you interested in starting a candy company in the first place. Yeah, absolutely. So I always had ideas growing up. You know, I was always watching Dragon's Den and shark tank and always I eat and writing my ideas down. But I didn't have the confidence to think that I could actually be capable of acting on an idea and making it successful and that didn't happen until I was in university when it developed a healthier relationship with food and then a healthy relationship with myself because of that. I had this confidence and belief in myself that I hadn't had before. And so in university I didn't know what I was doing wasn't passionate about anything, it was just floating along. I feel like there's so many people are just trying to figure it out and I ended up starting my first startup, which is called Jekyll doubt, and it was a vinyl chalkboard wall decal idea basically for students and home renters who couldn't damage their walls. So that was a huge learning lesson, had so many lessons in it failed miserably, but it wasn't miserable at all because it gave me the stepping stones of golden nuggets of knowledge that allowed me to apply it to my next idea, smart sweets and me just such a huge, huge difference and how I approached it, was there kind of like a lightbulb moment for you when you were like, oh, I'm actually gonna start a candy brand now, like this is going to be the next idea. Was there something that you kind of pinpoint as the very beginning? Yeah, so I was always a candy addict growing up. It was, it was like a day without candy was it didn't exist for me, I was having it all the time and so much joy in it and then I stopped eating it because of all the excess sugar and how that was making me feel. So when I was older and university I had a conversation with my grandmother who also loved candy and we enjoyed it so much together and she had shared with me that she regretted having so much. It says sugar throughout her life because of how it made her feel. So that was the moment for me where I paused and I was like, wait, you can go your whole life feeling bad about yourself because of what you're putting in your body, Why can't we feel good about candy? So that was really what sparked the idea. And then from there I just went dove in and to just taking a step by step each day not knowing what I was doing, but buying the gummy bear mold, buying the ingredients, Googling and stalking Lincoln's of people who had successfully built businesses that I now is aspiring to try and figure out to build myself. So yeah, that's what's practical. So were you like in your kitchen at home making recipes to see what was good and like trial and error. That's how it started? Yeah. I was literally in my basement suite, like classic basement suite, just like super dark. Not very, very many windows are much light and I was just in there rest protesting all day long and just Googling food science journals and I'm pretty sure I could go at one point how to start a successful food company. Like I knew nothing and I was trying to find as much information I could to take the next step forward each day. How many like iterations or you know, trial and errors do you think that you did and how long did it take you until you landed on the product that you launched with? Yeah, hundreds for sure. I was, I was in my kitchen all summer long. I had found an accelerator incubator type program for young entrepreneurs and it was primarily tech focus. And so I thought, you know what, like, there's no way I'm getting into this, but I'm going to try because if you don't try then you just don't know and then got accepted into that. And that was at the end of the summer as my recipe was nearing completion. So it gave me and kind of office space environment to grind from each day surrounded by other young entrepreneurs. And then at that point I took my recipe and that was seeking a manufacturing partner to bring it to skill with. And are you still at uni or college at this time and doing this on the side or are you already at this point? Like I'm going all in and I'm going to drop out of college all in. Yeah. When I began recipe testing in my kitchen and it was very much still an idea in my head, I dropped out of college then I felt just such a strong sense of conviction in my gut that this is what I was meant to be acting on and that it just didn't feel random at all, that I had this idea and just the impact that I felt I could have in so many people's lives, if we could successfully kick sugar out of candy the most sugar packed I'll in the entire grocery store than it makes a much larger statement about why is so much added sugar in our foods today. So yeah, I just felt like such a strong sense. And then when I would sit in my kind of logical brain and go, you know what if it fails, that's okay. But that I know if I if I didn't for me go all in at that point I think I would have But in my rocking chair 90 years old and been living with like what if I did? Mhm. And so you're looking for your manufacturer to like bring this to life. I imagine in the candy industry the minimum orders are like hundreds of thousands if not more. What does that early piece of the puzzle look like in terms of, you know, your personal investment into getting your first batch of products ready and kind of like leading you up to launch. Yeah. So yeah, you're totally right. The minimums with manufacturers are definitely are definitely higher than would actually make sense. Both financially and just from a pure orders you have in in the beginning. So for me it was really finding a manufacturing partner who saw the vision and that was really what I focused on. It wasn't that my orders are going to be your absolute minimum or can we have the minimum to start with? It was if you come on this journey with me now, this is what, where the future of candy is going and we will be your partner for you to be a leader in that future. And so really getting them behind the vision was so, so important because From a logical standpoint it makes zero sense for anyone to partner with us both from the minimums. And then also for me when you're running, can be with no sugar on a machine that has only ran candy with sugar, it creates like so many issues operationally. Yeah. So it was really just getting them behind that vision to take that leap of faith when you say getting them behind the vision, do you mean like, you know, you had to pitch them with a deck just to like actually just get them to be excited or do you mean like, hey, let me give you equity in the business and kind of, you're actually in the business? Yeah, that's a great question. Yeah, not from an equity standpoint, more from a helping paint the picture so that they understand five years from now that smart sweets is going to be a big player and low sugar candy is going to be a huge segment of the candy industry and it's going to continue to grow larger and larger and larger and that this is really an opportunity for both of us, but for them and and that they will be the partner that has um the manufacturing of the largest company that's creating this, so it was really getting them behind that and just, I didn't even use a deck, I just sat down with them face to face, showed them the product and just like really painted the visual picture and although I was like terrified inside just speaking with that sense of conviction, you know, people get excited about that and and they want to be part of that, wow, that's so cool, so cool. How old were you at this point, by the way, you're in your early twenties when you first started? Yeah, I was 21 at that point. Oh my gosh, that is so cool, so amazing. And so something that I love to talk about before we get into kind of the launch and those early, early kind of year and hustle is the money piece of the puzzle, how much of your like personal kind of savings did you need to invest to get that first order up and running? And how were you thinking about capital? Obviously in CPG and in something like this where the minimums are really high, you need to have a lot of working capital and it needs to be something that you're already thinking about. So I'm interested to hear kind of what you had in your mind at the very beginning totally. Yeah, so I had, I really didn't have much savings at all. I had a beat up Honda bit hatchback And that was, that was what I owned in the world. And so I was able to secure 100 and 5000 debt financing and that supported me through getting the product on the shelf. And yeah, for me, I tried to be really, really intentional about being as capital efficient as possible. And so, and so I really looked at okay, what is the, what is, what is like the smallest amount that I need at a buffer onto that but really didn't want to give equity away when I knew that what that would mean for me right now, evaluation wise versus when I scaled the company would be just so so radically different and it was always important to me to be the majority owner of the company to have the autonomy and decisions and that sort of thing. And so when you kind of as you progressed were you, I wasn't able to see online whether you had specifically raised capital through VC or whether it was just through other forms of financing. Yeah, So I I in the beginning, first of the 105 K debt financing and then there was a period of time between raising that, that I wouldn't be able to access more debt financing until we grew a little bit, I didn't have any other personal items or any things to put a security other than my own life, which I already had through life insurance. I read that that's so random. Is that standard practice by the way? I have no idea. I just remember standing there and they were asking like I had to go through a a screening call and they were asking all these questions like have your toes ever had a disease, has your, anyone in your family ever had major chronic? And it's like all these things where I was like, oh my God, like this, this is really intense. But but yeah, so to kind of bridge the gap between being able to access more debt financing, I raised on a convertible note and so delayed, still putting off the valuation but was able to get that in between capital. And then I once we raised that we were at a point of growth where debt financing would be a feasible option again. And so we really scaled the company for the next couple of years with that. And then I had met someone who was just an amazing individual that had built in scale the business very similar to smart sweet and I really wanted him involved in the business as well as that, that that same timing, we really, really wanted to kind of for you on the fire from a marketing standpoint that we weren't able to do with debt financing, which we were able to use primarily for inventory and, And more operational, things like that. So we raise three million total from him and that was it. And then we just continued scaling with that financing holy sh it. So I read that it's reported that you sold the business for 360 million and you only raised like three million to get to that, That's like insane. Oh my gosh, go you, that is so cool. Yeah, I think there's such a stigma or like idolizing thing around raising, where it's like, oh, you raised from this person and this person or this amount of money and that becomes the celebration and then you get pr it's just, but I feel like that just distracts from the fact that actually that money is so that you can grow your business and those milestones are the ones to celebrate and if you can raise no money or as little money as possible, Amazing, because in the end, that's so much more beneficial for everyone, your team, everyone on our squad at that point had equity, It's a benefit for your team for you Just, yeah, it just ends up, I'm benefitting you in so many ways and yeah, we partnered with TPG and a majority partnership, so, um, yeah, they've been an amazing partner, but we're still very much on the journey, it feels like in some ways that it's still day one and we're just getting started, which is exciting. But yeah, that's so cool. I feel like I've jumped ahead. So I want to go back to around the launch and what was kind of like happening for you at this time where you've just placed this massive order, you're kind of just getting started, how are you getting the word out there and getting people to try your product and kind of starting to get, you know, your 1st 1000 customers for example. Yeah. So I had read a book by tim Ferriss actually, I think it was his blog on the book and he was talking about his very first book, the flower work week. And when he was writing that how he was deciding how to market it and that he was thinking, oh, this book could be applicable for everyone. But then he was like, okay, what niche can I really focus on? So all of a sudden this book feels like it's everywhere. And so that was really inspiring to me and what the hypothesis I took for smart suites was, okay, what niches can we really dive into where it's going to be creating radical value for them in their lives. They couldn't have candy before or for a very long time. Um, and it's gonna feel like smart switches everywhere. So I chose the weight watchers community and the the fitness community and within like a month in those communities online and social media, they felt like smart suites was this big company when really we barely existed in the world. And so that was just so, so powerful and that's really how we began building our life radical, radically passionate community that we call our friends. Oh my gosh, that is so cool. Can we break this down a little bit more when you say you targeted kind of weight watchers in the fitness community? What do you specifically mean? Like, are you sending emails to people who work at weight watchers to try and get in with the community or what does that look like? Yeah, yeah. So it was primarily social media. So I was, it was really a scrappy, So scrappy, fun and fruity, but I would be on my phone like 10 hours a day and just finding the key influencers, not, they didn't even necessarily have to have large followings. Just the people in that space, you really have a voice in their community and who I felt the product would, you should really authentically make it positive impact in their lives. And so I just started D M. Ng and and just like connecting is offering, hey, I, this is smart sweet. I love to send some for you to try and also just taking the time to like comment on something really authentic about their journey, not just a standard copy and paste and that went so, so, so so far we didn't have any budget to pay anyone to post the product was, was the gift and Like I'd say 90% of people that were sent products became then radical fans in our, in our community and our friends and began posting about it organically, Oh my gosh, that's so cool. And I love how you put focus on, you know, authentically commenting and authentically engaging to build that, you know, true relationship versus like just trying to slap it everywhere kind of thing. That's definitely what people should be focusing on, especially in today's world where it's so saturated in every industry totally. Yeah, 100%. It's like, yeah, you could copy and paste out 100 messages instead of 15 or 20 in the same period of time. But if you're not building that authentic connection and people can, can get that vibe from a mile away then it's not gonna go far, that's like kind of the beginning of your story and I know at some point you get on shark tank, tell us about that experience and what that moment kind of did for you and the brand. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So for us, I say throughout smart weeks entire journey when I started smart sweets, I always thought you know, there's going to be this milestone and this milestone and that will be our silver bullet to hock like a hockey stick growth and all these things and what I came to realize along the journey was, there's like not one event that is the silver bullet to success is just the accumulation, that kind of keeps that momentum going of like this snowball getting bigger and bigger and bigger, but you still have to push the snowball and I feel like it's part of life, it's always up a hill that you think it's gonna come roll down and kill you and with, yes, So it's shark tank, our version of that, sorry, Dragon's Den, Get them, get them confused. Yes, Yeah, there's a bunch of names for different ones. So that experience was just very serendipitous. A producer reached out and said, hey, I tried smart suites, would you be interested in pitching the, the dragons? And then two weeks later I flew out to Toronto um, and filmed it. I honestly blacked out just from the adrenaline, I thought I was in there for like two minutes and there they said, no, you, you've been in there for an hour or over an hour and I was like, wow, I can't remember anything that I said, so I hope I hope that I just, it all flowed well together. But yeah, it was a really great experience and scary as well um, and exciting and all the things, but I think just leaning into those opportunities that arise and saying yes is so powerful and goes a long way and, and we've gotten so much brand awareness particularly in Canada from the show and continued from the show now because it's on netflix by now you have heard me talk about our newest partnership with athletic greens, a product that I started taking last year when my gut health issues were at their peak. And why I love this company is because it was started when the founder was experiencing a ton of gut health issues himself and ended up on a complicated supplement routine to recover that cost him an insane amount of money per day, Like $100 per day. He created athletic greens to help other people like him and like me have an easy nutrition routine for a much cheaper investment into your health. I've been taking a G1 since last year and it's been just so easy to build into my daily habits for female startup club listeners. Athletic greens is going to give you a free one year supply of immune supporting vitamin D. And five free travel packs with your first purchase, all you have to do is visit athletic greens dot com forward slash startup. Again, that athletic greens dot com forward slash startup to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance. Where were you in terms of the journey when the Dragon's Den experience happened? Yeah, it was pretty early on. So at that point, I believe we were in 400 Just over 400 stores, it was our first year and when I was on the show, I had said that I thought we were gonna do over a million in the first year and we ended up doing 2.2. So it was very early on in our journey and I think similar with the manufacturing, but not a lot of the conversation on drake instead. I think that led to it just being a really productive and positive time on the show was the vision and just getting the picture painted for them of where we are today, but what this is going to be And it's so crazy like going on a show like this, you obviously get that national coverage and the pr kind of on the back end that just keeps on, keeps on giving. I guess if you had to distill, you know, from then until say, 2020, I read that, you know, you say you were in 400 and something stores and you did 2.2 million in that first year. And then I read by 2020 you're in like 38,000 stores, you've done like $100 million in revenue. What are the kind of key pivotal things that happened in that time to get you from 2 to 100. Yeah, I think so many things, I think at the very top of the funnel really being clear on what your vision is and and not just your vision in the sense of like, okay, this is what I hope that we're gonna be someday, but attaching a timeline to it, even if that timeline doesn't end up being your timeline just being like for me for example, I was like okay I want smart to use to be the global leader in revolutionizing candy. And so maybe that goal is the 10 year from starting in my kitchen recipe testing goal and then I was like okay, well that means that we have to be the leader first in Canada and the U. S. A. And and then I was like okay and this doesn't exist today, but I really believe that the sense of urgency and speed on this needs to be quite intense because this is going to exist. And so also thinking with the mindset always that there are 10 other people working on this to really keep that sense of urgency and then just peeling that back. So I was like okay, so we need to scale rapidly across the USA and Canada um from a product standpoint, but also just from a brand awareness and distribution standpoint and so that really informed the more micro decisions, one of them that played a huge role in that was deciding to go national in each country from um from the launch there, so a lot of food companies to start a regional kind of building your own backyard, build the ground presence there expand. And my hypothesis was, you know, with social media these days, that one you can create that brought awareness to get that push that you need into this store, and secondly, that it could actually frustrating alienate people if you're not available nationally because they'll see you on social media and be like, oh, I can only get you in this province, I don't live there. So that was a really key decision for an example of a decision that ended up really serving us in the rapid expansion we were able to do, but it really just tied back to continuing to reverse execute from that end vision and and then being like, okay, what does that mean for me right now, I want decisions, do I have to make? Mhm. I love that while you're like, kind of touching on social media, I'd love to understand how you're approaching in general, your marketing and your social media and the way that you were reaching your customers, Especially in that early kind of first year or two. Yeah, absolutely, so yeah, so we were, we were so scrappy. We really didn't put any money towards social media ads or things like that really in a meaningful way until year, year three. So it really for us was just that just that head down being on, on the phone, finding these people, creating the spreadsheet of, of our influencers and um that really was such a huge way and then to scale our awareness and just our brand strength and social, we did a lot of partnerships with other brands in this space giveaways, things like that. We partnered with our retailers where traditionally they would be wanting to like charge us to be in their e newsletter, so we would go to them and say, hey, like what if we actually put you on our social media and like, really shouted you from the rooftops, so do some marketing for you, and um and many of them would waive fees and things like that. Yeah, so that that really there there wasn't really anything complicated about how we scaled our brand awareness and then also from a pr perspective, we would find articles and message the editors when I say we in that really first year was myself and our first squad member beth he was still with on the squad and with smart suites today. And so it was also came down to just how many hours there are in a day with two of us. Um, so she, she like took on so much of that and and just having that man power, woman power between the both of us was also really, really critical because I could not have done that alone, but was for my just sheer number of hours or on a day. And then also she was such a Einstein in her ideas and she had an amazing graphic designing background and so she was creating all of our content and just brought so much to the table that weren't my strengths and so we worked really well together. So I would say also finding, finding someone with the aspects of if you can of course from a financial perspective that will really get in the trenches with you. I love that shout out to beth I think as well, like what I take from that is a lot of people seem to complicate things or think that there's some, you know, magic bullet with doing all these fancy things and hiring all these external agencies and things like that. And it's like if you just take it back to the basics and in the beginning you just invest your time in like doing it consistently every single day, showing up, messaging as many people as you can. Getting as much product in the hands of people as you can slowly, that will start to build attraction and that's what pays off in the big picture. 100%, yeah, yeah, it's, it's so true. It's, I thought the same thing as well, like surely there's you know, when we get this pr when we get this or this and those are all amazing things and some of them really kind of put the accelerate, but none on things, but 100%, there's there's no secret formula or things like that. It really comes down to just putting your head down and and just being consistent and what I found really helpful, especially in the early days was to keep a spreadsheet of the small winds because in the day to day it is so hard, you were in it sometimes you don't see any progress in the day to day and it can be so tough mentally as well to have that grip, you just keep going and going and going and so keeping a spreadsheet of the small winds, even if it was something like X Y Z retailer didn't email me back, but I saw that they opened my email and celebrating that as a win doesn't have to be huge, but for me I found so much motivation in that to just keep going when it just feels like you're grinding and grinding and grinding, but haven't had any of those larger milestones that you're hoping for yet. Yeah, I love that and I'm actually just feeling like I'm gonna take that as inspiration and literally stick a sticky note on my computer like under my computer and write my little wind so that I'm constantly looking at them and then at the end of like the week or the month, you look back and be like, oh wow, I actually do have some great things, especially if you're having a low day, I'm taking that, I'm going to do that, that starts today, thank you, I love that for me too. It's kind of crazy when you think about how much tech we use daily, we use all these different platforms to do all these different things and to be quite frank, it can get really overwhelming. So imagine if you could streamline those routine operations and admin tasks that eat up all your time, things like lead management, employee onboarding or even customer support. The average tapia user saves over $10,000 in recovered time every year and it's so easy to get started. 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So, so for me, I always felt like since day one, I always felt clarity that at some point in the business it's going to make sense to partner with someone who can really equip us with the resources to accelerate the mission in a much deeper way than we would have been able to do without without that kind of partner. For me, it was always a matter of when and for me I wanted to scale the company first and then, and then bring on that partner versus raising from VC or be super early on and that sort of thing. Um, so in finding a partner, what was Really important to me was finding someone who 1,000% gets the vision. And so it's more, it's more like this partner is joining us on the mission and accelerating it, not that they're joining us and Changing the mission in a way that it doesn't feel like the same one from day one. And, and so TPG has been such an incredible partner and they have done exactly that. So they've equipped us with their resources and just the different things that when, when the company's going to its next phase and growth that we definitely wouldn't have needed in the early days. But now they started just those things were starting to slow us down. So kind of bringing the systems and the maturity and the next level talent and all of these things so that we can really execute at a much more efficient pace and quicker than we ever have been able to before. And that's what I find most exciting. I think now about the company is like in the early days we would kick one million grams of sugar in like two years and now it's like we can kick one billion g of sugar in one quarter and that's only getting faster and faster and faster in large part because of the TPG partnership and what they're equipping us with to be able to execute on. So my role as well has has shifted and and kind of throughout the entire smart suites journey, one thing that I always tried to ask myself was to pause and be like okay, where do I best serve at this part in the journey and where am I perhaps holding us at and what do I just plain stuck at that. It doesn't make sense for me to be doing anymore. Um and so in the beginning, you know, it's all the things doing the box is doing the labeling and then as as you grow it it shifts and and for example finance, I, I didn't even know there was some function on my cell when I was doing my spreadsheets for my debt financing. So we brought on someone to lead our finance much earlier than most companies would because that was a weakness of mine but it was so incredibly important. So yeah, with the TPG partnership, I've really been able to now like fully lean in and having a and also having an incredible new Ceo lead our leader squad really been able to lead into product and just supporting the overall strategy and being on the board and having those strategic conversations now, whereas when I was to see all, I was always very much in the day to day execution and at the stage of growth we were at, I knew with clarity and sitting and asking myself okay, where do I best serve, where am I holding us up? That whether we brought on a partner or not, it would have been the right time for a new Ceo and just having no ego about, about asking about what's coming up for you when you're asking yourself that question because it's about the mission at the end of the day and where everyone on the squad including myself is just a conduit, a very necessary conduit to achieving that mission and the impact for people in the world. Yeah, I love that. I love that so much. And it reminds me a lot of what Ben Francis did with a company called gym shark, which is based out of the UK, I'm sure you know it, but he also removed himself from that Ceo position. He's actually back as the CEO now, but he took himself out for a number of years, let someone else kind of run the business so he could focus on what he did best with Brandon marketing. And I just think it's like if that's like the way that founders want to go down that pathway, it's like absolutely, you should lean into that and just do the things that you love and not like force yourself through the things that you don't love Yeah, 1000% and it's also for sure, like a luxury to be able to get to the point of growth to do that in the beginning. For sure. It's like you have no choice, you're packing the boxes, you're doing all the things, but totally like when you can at those small bits begin delegating what us that suck at a 100%. Is there anything that you wish, someone told you when you were starting out that you can pass on to an early stage entrepreneur? Yeah, I mean so many things, I think, I think one thing that really stuck with me throughout the journey that I was just continually surprised about in the beginning, I always thought that like when you get to this certain point of growth or achieve X number of sugar kicked or retailers or dollars in revenue, so you just kind of have this like unwavering confidence that you just kind of like know what you're doing, you figured it out and you just, and for me throughout this entire journey, I had like massive imposture syndrome in the beginning first because I was just so like every single day having to like really reaffirm for myself, I can do this, I can do this, I'm capable, I'm capable like reading a different book pages listening to um podcast, like those motivational soundtracks that are the cheesy ones, just really anything to just cling onto, not getting stuck in the paralysis of fear and as I scaled, I always thought, okay that will, that will go away, but for me it became way more intense in different ways than we had this team and I was like, wow, we have this A team of 40 people who are have chosen smart suites, mission to entrust their time, talent and energies to and I'm I'm entrusting me to to guide us in the right way. Every time I would hop on a team meeting right before going on zoom or when we were in person, in person, I just would have the biggest impostor syndrome or being like, what do I say, I don't know, are like these people are also incredible and talented, like what could I possibly say that would inspire to be of help to them. So that was really interesting learning for me that, oh, this is actually normal and nobody knows what they're doing at any stage. We're all just figuring it out as we go, wow, that's amazing. Gosh, crazy that so many people do have these feelings and suffer from the doubts and the inner kind of dialogue that the negative inner dialogue even when you're at the level that you are, it's really crazy. Yeah, yeah, totally. It really is what's your number one top piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are entering the candy space specifically, I think the candy sweets specifically, I think having a radical value proposition I think is one of the reasons at the heart as to why I'm smart sweets Scaled so quickly and why we're continuing to grow and be the market leader. And then that's the global leader. I think you it was inspired by Peter Thiel's book 0-1 the the concept that to have a massively successful product and company and then simultaneously impact in the world. You can't just take something that exists and make it a little better. You have to take something that exists and make it creates so much radical value that that for people it's it's kind of reinventing the wheel but in a really meaningful way that sparks the passion and enthusiasm and just the emotional response from someone to your product. And so I would say that above all is make sure your product has that radical value proposition. I love that everyone listening, take your notes. Radical value prop, We need it. This has been so cool Tara, thank you so much for sharing all of this amazing journey with us.
So question number one is what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing every day? My why in the beginning was my Oma and the conversation I had with her and it very quickly became I think so my wife became feeling like and really realizing that everyone in their lives at some point has struggled with eating something they love and feeling bad about it. Woman in particular with body image and self esteem and and just seeing the impact that smart suites is having on people's lives that was so powerful to me where like someone would go to the candy island be like I cried and now we get invitations to weddings to and so that very quickly became the why that there is everyone. This is a universal feeling and it's so much more than enjoying candy giving people back that joy that they had when they were a kid enjoying something so special to them and really empowering them in their lives that they can have the foods they love and feel good about it and then that snowballs are feeling confident and making the decision so today that makes you feel like you're living your best life. So yeah, that's that's the line now and still my OMA of course, that's so cool. Very special. Question # two is what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? I think one of my favorite ones, my favorite ones are kind of ironically the funny ones are sometimes the ones that don't go as planned and in the early days like we were just, we would always say, well okay, we'll come up with a hypothesis. If you have an idea, it's a hypothesis. Let's test it in a small way. If it lands great, play it bigger. If it doesn't land, then we take the golden nuggets and learnings and move on. So we did this campaign because our product is high in fiber, but it's really easy on your tummy and digestive and typically traditional sugar free candy uses loads of sugar alcohol that causes digestive upset. So we launched this campaign, which we thought was genius at the time called We Should You Not. And we send like shit emoji pillows to all of our influences. I don't and retail partners like literal posters with shit emoji next to the biggest smart suites, which didn't really make a whole lot of sense in terms of like what you want to be associated with. But at the time beth and I thought this campaign was just like be like next level of genius, what was the feedback most retailers didn't take it because it makes sense. Like it's a shit emoji next to like the food product, even though we were saying this will not make you shit. And um, but some consumers, I think they thought it was funny, we thought it would go like viral and all these things and it didn't, but it gave us a good memory a good story. For sure. Question. Number three is what's your go to business resource. You've already shared so many good ones. But if you had to kind of pick a book podcast or a newsletter that you're tuning into, Oh yeah, that's a good one. You know, I think in the beginning one book that was hugely hugely impactful to me and I would literally rip out pages and just, I, I still have them like highlighted and now like framed just because this had such deep impact on me. The book's name is so cheesy and like I don't like it, but the content is amazing. It's called How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis and it's just so powerful because it really just breaks down for you that it's not this far success and the impact that you want to create in the world is not a far fetched idea that is really within your arm's reach. If you just have the determination, the grit and um the persistence and all these things. And so I clung to those words when I was like, I have no idea what I'm doing and just feeling terrified. I love that we're going to link it in the show notes for anyone who wants to check it out. I'm going to add it to my reading list as well. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your am and PM rituals or habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated. Yeah, it's changed a lot since the beginning of smart sweets I think mindfulness in general now much larger part of my day. However one thing since the beginning that was always served me so well in the morning but especially at night I would just sit there and lie at night and just stare at the roof and just reflect on what I was grateful for that day and like how lucky I felt to have the gift from the universe or God or whatever it is you believe in to be on this journey. I just like could not believe it that like wow like this is actually my life. I actually get to build this candy company and and just having the gratitude for that always brought me back to like in the hardest and like darkest of days just being like you know what I've like being in gratitude and then putting it out to the world and saying you know I've done everything I possibly could have done today and now it's, it's the universe has a larger plan and that there's always everything's happening for you not to you. I found to be so powerful and to always think everything's a opportunity hidden in disguise and it always always has been so yeah, bringing yourself back to gratitude. I found so hugely helpful. I love that. So true. So true Question # five is what's been your worst money mistake and how much did you lose? I think the worst mistake I would say which again? I don't, I can hide them. Like it's not really a mistake ended up being an opportunity hidden in disguise. We got some really great people involved in smart suites through it. But when I was launching the first manufacturing run, everyone would say to me, you know, make sure that your projections aren't outlandish, like make sure that they're realistic, make sure that they're realistic. So I made sure that I felt they were realistic and they ended up swinging way too low. And so then I was in this position a month after launching being like, shit, I don't have capital to do another run that's larger. I can't access more debt financing. And so the convertible note we did was really because I took too small amount of debt financing. So I would say yes. Have realistic projections. But the thing that you also have to have is like, what if things go really, really well and make sure you're planning for that scenario as well. Great piece of advice. Love that. Very cool. Thank you. And question # six, last question, what is just a crazy story you can share from the journey of building this business, good, bad or otherwise. Yeah. Oh gosh, so many. That's the bad thing about startup life. I feel like it's like it's It's so crazy. It's truly a rollercoaster one hour. You're like, who? The next hour you're like in the depths of despair. But I feel like the, yeah, this serendipitous moments and just the crazy things were like, how is this even real life right now? Make it so fun. One thing that was like pretty serendipitous and just crazy was that we were still very small in Canada only like less than 100 stores. A producer from Fox business reached out and it was like, we would love to do a feature on you and smart suites, can you come to new york and film the segment next week? And I was like needle in a haystack because we did not exist in the world. I was like shocked. I was like, I was just in complete shock again, leaning in and saying yes to opportunities when they present themselves. So we were like, yeah, of course. I went to um there the next week from this segment and like 10 minutes later I got an email from the global confectionery buyer at whole foods saying we would like to discuss the global launch and from that email at first I thought it was spam or junk mail or something because whole foods like doesn't just come knock on your door step and offer a global launch. You know, you have to go find the bio or grind, like do regional, all these things and that led to our nationwide usa launch less than a year later at whole foods and the buyer came to find out he doesn't need watch box, he actually hates Fox, he was just growing through the channels and it just happened to be on. So that's one of those moments of just like it's too crazy to be random and it felt like just a nudge from the universe being like just keep going and that was consistent, the whole dirty, whenever things just felt like really, really hard and how are we going to possibly solve this? There would always be a match from the universe in small ways or big like this one where it would just be like we got you like keep going, keep going and just kind of helps to shepherd us a lot and I really believe that you know, it speaks to the testament of just having a really good product that people can instantly be like, I recognize what this is. I'm on board. We see the mission and you have a great product so we love it. And you know these things of course come from that. You have to have a good product 1,000% yeah Tara, this was so cool. Thank you so much for coming on female startup club and sharing your journey.