No doubt you've heard of Propercorn (and probably snacked on it), because despite being a relatively new start-up, the gourmet popcorn is sold everywhere - from Waitrose and Leon to Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. Cassandra Stavrou launched the company at the height of the recession and against some huge competition, but has made it a resounding success. Here, we caught up with the super-cool entrepreneur to pick her brains on how to launch a start-up.
How did you go about setting up your own company?
‘I have always wanted to run my own business for as long as I can remember. I think having a very clear goal or end point in sight is crucial to staying on track as a million things will come and knock you sideways along the way.’
Did you have any setbacks along the way?
‘A few people in the industry pulled me aside when I was starting out and made it clear that ‘the big boys’ were soon to launch and that I should probably give up and ask for my old job back. It only served to make me more determined.’
Describe your typical working day.
‘I try and walk into work every morning, it takes around 45 minutes but is the best way to start the day and turn up to your desk with a clear head. My day can then vary immensely, from working on the product and exploring new recipes, meetings with lawyers, bank managers to brainstorming new ideas for our marketing plans, the best bit for me has been the 360 degree experience of a business. I genuinely am learning on a daily basis. It also provides a platform to meet some really interesting people in a broad spectrum from industry leaders to incredibly talented creatives.’
Who inspires you?
‘At the risk of sounding cheesy it’s very much my father. The popcorn machine my father bought me as a gift was the extra reason I needed to quit my job when I first had the idea for Propercorn. An idea rooted in passion and real sentiment is far more powerful.’
What do you love about having your own company?
‘I love my job and I think the thing I am often most proud of is our team. We are all incredibly committed to keeping our standards very high and I am continually bowled over by the level of integrity and care that every member of our team demonstrate. It really does make the whole business feel that bit more special.’
What have you learnt along the way?
‘Trust your instincts; in the age of analysis and data it is easy to lose sight of the gut instinct, but it’s incredibly important not to.’
How valuable is social media when starting a new company?
‘It is a fantastic way of speaking with our customers directly and letting people know what we are up to. But, I also think it’s important to not lose sight of our core focus; making sure our product is as good as it can possibly be. The number of likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter should never become more important than that. It’s a simple point, but I do see businesses who regularly lose sight of this.’
What’s your plan B?
‘I would love to curate a restaurant; life without good food makes me unhappy.’
What skills do you look for in new employees?
‘Unless you are a neurosurgeon, most jobs require skills that aren’t un-teachable and therefore the most important thing to look for is the right attitude – you can’t teach dedication and commitment.’
Tell us your five-year goal.
‘From a business perspective it is to grow the brand globally in a way that is authentic and to never drop our standards in order to achieve growth. I passionately believe this is achievable. From a personal perspective, I would like to buy my mother a house with a view of the sea.’
Get more great career advice from our MC@Work section.