Founder of PROPERCORN, Cassandra Stavrou, successfully conquered the notoriously difficult snack food industry with her delicious, and genuinely healthy brand PROPERCORN - “popcorn done properly.”
Since launching PROPERCORN in 2011, the business has boomed. PROPERCORN sells around 1.5 million packets a month and can be found everywhere - from Waitrose, to LEON, Harvey Nichols to Selfridges and in several countries.
We caught up with Cassandra to find out how she came up with the idea, and turned it into successful brand.
What inspired you to launch PROPERCORN?
On leaving university, I began working for an advertising agency in Soho. I noticed that everyday, without fail, the team would pop out for snacks in the afternoon and come back with unhealthy treats that left us feeling guilty. Snacks appeared to either compromise on health or taste and I wanted to create one without the trade-off. My mum was amazingly supportive when I shared my idea for PROPERCORN with her, and reminded me that one of the last presents my dad bought me before he died was a vintage popcorn machine. Thanks to her belief and this little sign, I had the confidence to quit my job the next day.
How do you differentiate yourself from other popcorn brands?
We have a really dynamic team working at PROPERCORN who put incredible amounts of passion and energy into everything we do. Our lack of experience in this industry, gives us a boldness which allows us to constantly challenge the status quo, approach things in a unique and personal way and really stand out from the crowd. As our name suggests, we like to do things properly. It doesn’t matter what we are working on- flavours, packaging or clothes- we believe the experience should be as amazing as it possibly can be and we are continually striving to be better.
How did you choose which flavours to launch?
We don’t really have a formal process when it comes to deciding on new flavours but it’s very much a team effort. We will always initially consider what we like and what we would like to serve to our friends and have regular tastings in the office so we can share trends, thoughts and opinions. The real make or break is taste and ultimately it comes down to finding a flavour which delivers real, uncompromising impact.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I am, personally, inspired by other creative businesses. Whether it is a gallery, a publication or a fashion house, I am interested in the way that aesthetics and creativity can be used to offer genuine value and utility to a customer.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I think right at the very beginning, it was a challenge to be taken seriously by manufacturers and production houses. I was a young girl with no prior experience in an area which is dominated by men who have been in the industry for years.
What have been the best moments?
Honestly, being part of such a fantastic team.
How have your foreign markets differed to the UK?
It’s fairly early to tell, but I think one of the biggest learnings is that every market requires a bespoke and personal approach. Cultural differences can affect everything from flavour preference, to snacking behavior and attitude to price but we’re really excited by this challenge.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone looking to start their own business?
Go for it! Don’t dither or be risk adverse, everyone has brilliant ideas but the biggest barrier is that people are afraid to make the leap.
PROPERCORN will be appearing in Old Street Station until the 16th January: www.oldstreetunderground.com/brands