Cassandra Stavrou launched PROPERCORN in 2011 with her best friend and business partner Ryan Kohn, after they spotted a gap in the market for snack brand which delivered on both health and taste. PROPERCORN, was listed as one of the fastest growing start-ups in the UK by The Sunday Times and Cassandra has been nominated for the New Generation Award at the 44th annual Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards. PROPERCORN is now stocked across the UK in stores including Waitrose and Tesco, and the brand has started exporting to eight European countries including Ireland, Holland, Germany and Denmark.
“…I have always wanted PROPERCORN to be a global snack brand so it was a question of when, not if…”
Cassandra, please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to become an entrepreneur?
I was only two years out of university when I came up with the idea for PROPERCORN, so my career to date has been pretty consumed by popcorn! I studied law but had always had a real entrepreneurial itch, constantly searching for a business idea that I felt truly, truly passionate about. When I was 25, I quit my job in advertising, moved back home and looked to make PROPERCORN a reality.
Please can you tell us a bit more about PROPERCORN and what makes it so distinctive?
We are a popcorn snack that is genuinely tasty and satisfying but which also doesn’t make you feel guilty afterwards. I passionately wanted to create a brand that was rooted in real creativity and entrepreneurialism, two pillars that as a business we are relentlessly pursuing.
You brought a friend on board in the early days of the business as a co-founder. How has this helped?
Starting a business can be incredibly lonely at times, so to be able to be accountable to each other, offer support and have a friend next to you the driving seat is pretty special. Ryan and I have always found it very easy working together and it definitely makes the day to day even more fun.
What made you decide to start exporting and how did you go about this?
I have always wanted PROPERCORN to be a global snack brand so it was a question of when, not if. We needed to make sure we focussed on the UK first but as soon as we were ready, Ireland was our first international market quickly followed by seven more European countries.
Did you have to make any adaptations to the products or your promotional messages in different markets?
We are sensitive to local nuances and preferences, which is very important as we grow. We have a bespoke approach to each new market, as it would be arrogant to assume that what works here will necessarily be the same abroad – ingredients like our Worcester sauce don’t always have the same resonance in the rest of Europe, so we have to be pretty agile and reactive to international trends and tastes.
What sort of support did you receive from UKTI?
In the initial stages of exporting, UKTI [UK Trade & Investment] were useful in sanitising some of our assumptions and offering insights and some introductions.
Congratulations on your shortlisting for the Next Generation Award at the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards! What did this mean to you?
Thank you! It’s always wonderful for me and the team to get any kind of recognition, and hugely flattering. As in previous years, there are some amazingly inspirational women in the running, so we feel very honoured to be a part of the process. Fingers crossed I guess!
What is coming up next for you and PROPERCORN?
I can’t reveal too much at this stage but we have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline for 2016. We’re always innovating in order to keep the category fresh and exciting, so watch this space for new flavours and formats. Hopefully you’ll also spot us a little further afield as well- we have plans to venture into three more international markets.