Interview: SnackPackers (2012)

WJF’s Sarah Wester recently sat down to talk snacks with Ali at the Affinity Lab. Snack Packers was a finalist in the 2012 WJF Competition for both the DC Prize and the Idea-Phase Prize.

Are you in business, or still planning?

In business.

What problem is Snack Packers trying to solve?

On the one hand, 2/3 of americans are overweight or obese and 1/3 of snack packaging is disposablesingle use waste. On the other hand, people are looking for better, healthier snacks all thetime. Snack Packers is marrying the two problems – the social problems of obesity and waste with the basic need that people just want better stuff and can’t find it.

How did you become interested in this problem?

I’ve always loved snacking. I would call myself a snack aficionado before I’d ever call myself an entrepreneur. I was seeing companies advertising snacks as healthy that simply weren’t (yogurt covered pretzels, for example). And individual portion sizes, which are useful for weight management, are incredibly wasteful. Someone recently said to me, “entrepreneurs are often mildly aggravated.” I am more than mildly aggravated by 100 calorie packs, which are often just bad food in smaller portions.

What is your solution to the problem?

We provide healthy, eco-friendly snack subscriptions to DC workplaces. We like to call ourselves watercooler delivery for healthy snacks. We bring a snack pack of individual servings of healthy, delicious snacks and swap the empties for full ones each week.

Who are your customers?

Snack Packers delivers to companies of 7-70 people that are looking to bring healthy, conscious snacking into the workplace. Specifically, we target companies that are professional service companies where employees work long hours, spend a lot of time in front of the computer, and don’t necessarily have time or energy to find healthy food to keep them going. We also have a few nonprofit clients and an association client.

Where are you located?On a bicycle! We’re operating as a delivery service so we are mobile, roaming around Washington, DC.

Has WJF competition and mentoring program helped you on your way?

When I think about starting a business, the scariest things are questions. It can be stressful to have people poke holes in your idea. But those holes are necessary for building a solid foundation.

Through the WJF process, more than 20 reading judges, 3 in-person judges, and many other contacts asked me really hard questions about my business that I wouldn’t have thought about. The process of answering these questions was incredibly helpful to make sure that I thought through all the different elements of what goes into a strong business.

What other resources have you found that are particularly useful for social entrepreneurs?

William James Foundation is my #1 resource. I’ve been a part of a lot of startup/entrepreneur/small business events and circles, and the WJF is just so dense. It’s just a bunch of really smart people.Also, piece of advice: talk to everyone about your idea. Strangers on buses have givenme ideas that were solid. Be open to all and everyone.