Industry Stories — 24 March 2017

Propercorn share 5 top tips for growing a small business ‘Properly’

When you’re a start-up business and your first customer is Google, you might be forgiven for thinking you were doing well.  And then, when your product starts selling 3 million units every month, it’s probably fair to say it’s time to share the secrets of your success!

Well luckily for us, one of the co-founders of Propercorn came to visit us at Dropbox in London. A business that started as a concept for healthy snacks a few years ago, and now sells in over 12 countries.

Cassandra Stavrou, a former advertising executive, told us when trying to eat healthily back in 2010 the only snacks available were either full of sugar or fat (tasted great), or were bland and dissatisfying. So, she started working on the idea of creating healthier tastier snacks, trying various popcorn flavour combinations, all of which were well received by friends and family.

After a year of working on the idea alone, Cassandra sought the advice of her soon-to-be co-founder, and serial entrepreneur, Ryan Kohn, and team Propercorn was born. 7 years since Cassandra and Ryan joined forces, and Propercorn employs 40 people, operates from a central London office, and works with numerous partners across the globe.

Sipping tea and tucking into a bag of Propercorn – Sweet & Salty – Ryan told us “Dropbox has been a critical part of growing our small business; there’s not one area that doesn’t use it.  It’s simple, flexible and allows us to scale without damaging the bottom line.  Dropbox is making it easier for us to become a global brand.”

Now, with their eyes fixed firmly on conquering Europe, Ryan was kind enough to share with us his top tips for running a small business “properly” and the areas to focus on to reach maximum potential.

  1. Get a proper business plan in place: “It’s amazing how many people don’t do this.  Even something on the back of an envelope is better than nothing.  It really doesn’t have to be complicated.  A good business plan tells you the areas you should be focussing on, helps you avoid future bottle necks in your supply chain whilst also giving you a yard stick against which to measure yourselves. But it also needs to be agile, with enough flexibility to adapt as you grow and evolve.”
  2. Hire properly: “As your team expands, you need to find people with the right expertise to help you reach your business goals. You’ll only ever be as good as your weakest link so make sure you hire people with the right entrepreneurial spirit. Of the people that have left Propercorn, only one hasn’t gone on to start their own business.“
  3. Treat everyone properly: “From your interns to your top clients, look after the people around you.  We make sure our staff feel loved and wanted – part of a family.  It counts for our manufacturers too. If they have a great month of hitting targets then we shower them with cupcakes and thank yous. Your team, after all, is responsible for helping you grow your business, so make sure you treat them well.”
  4. Build your brand properly: “We’re not just building a business, we’re building a brand, and so should you! From your packaging, to your HR, to your customer care, you need to create a consistent brand experience – for employees, customers, manufacturers – regardless of how big your business grows.”
  5. Learn from others who do things properly: “One of our first meetings was with the founder of Innocent Drinks, who gave us some incredible advice and a helped us really grasp what it takes to build a brand in the food and drink industry.  Make sure you use other people’s expertise and advice to help you grow a small business. Never be scared to ask.”

So, there we have it, top tips from an entrepreneur who’s helped grow a great concept into a global brand. If you’re a small business owner wanting to grow bigger, or if you’re at that stage where you’re still ‘just thinking’ about turning your great idea into a great business, then you can find more inspirational SMB stories here.

For now though, we’ll leave the final words to Ryan. “At the end of the day, if you do things properly, if you’re best in class, you’ll win.”

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