Founders Interview | Adam Sopher @ Joe & Seph's Popcorn
Hi, my name is Adam Sopher and I am a co-founder at Joe & Seph’s – officially the best-tasting popcorn brand!
I started Joe & Seph’s in 2010 with my Dad (Joe), Mum (Jackie) and brother (Paul) from our family kitchen. Ten years later and we’re still a small family business, now with a famous range of over 50 exciting flavours and 49 Great Taste Awards!
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?
Well it is a family story really… My Dad (Joe) first fell in love with flavoured popcorn while taking regular business trips to the USA, each time returning with flavoured popcorn as gifts for friends and family. After retiring in 2010 he decided to try and make his own flavoured popcorn but even better, by using only the finest natural ingredients and air-popping his kernels instead of frying them!
After many burnt pans and late-night tasting sessions, my Dad created his first four gourmet popcorn flavours including a savoury one made with real cheese. As a family we decided to take Dad’s range of exciting flavours to a popular food show in late 2010, where we sold out in just two days… and before we knew it Joe & Seph’s was born!
What inspired you to do what you do?Before Joe & Seph’s, I had only worked in large corporate companies. Although I am immensely grateful for the experience and the valuable lessons I learnt, I found working in such environments frustrating, as it was so difficult to make a direct impact. It was this frustration and the desire to work in a close-knit team that inspired me to start Joe & Seph’s, along with my family.
What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?I first realised we had been lucky enough to create something special in November 2010, when we launched our gourmet popcorn at BBC Good Food Show in London. The reaction we received from customers was far beyond anything we had ever imagined, in fact there were queues lining up just to try our unique gourmet popcorn flavours. We completely sold out in just two days and were fortunate enough to meet the Selfridges buyer and achieve our first retail listing. Seeing the positive reaction from customers inspired us to push our venture forward and we have never looked back since!
What current & future trends does your product meet?
Our mission is always to create the best-tasting gourmet popcorn in the world and delight taste buds with delicious (and sometimes unusual!) flavour combinations. We put great taste first which suits “foodies” and the increasing trend for exploring new, adventurous taste experiences.
It’s also important to us that as many people as possible can enjoy our gourmet popcorn, so we’re proud to have over 50 gluten free flavours and after years of experimenting are delighted to now have a Vegan Caramel Popcorn range. Created for those with special dietary requirements who don’t want to compromise on taste!
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
Before starting Joe & Seph’s I worked at Dixons as a retail consultant, and prior to that I was a consultant at Deloitte.
I'm very much from a corporate background, but after a few years I found myself getting itchy feet with my job and yearned to do something new and exciting, where I could have real autonomy and make a direct impact!
My Dad was retiring and my brother Paul had just left university, so it turned out to be the perfect time for our family to combine forces and launch Joe & Seph’s!
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Because we’re obsessed with great taste, all of our gourmet popcorn is handmade by my Dad and his team of pastry chefs in our London Popcorn Kitchens.
We only use the finest-natural ingredients including fresh butter and real cheese in our popular savoury flavours. This often presents operational challenges and difficulties sourcing ingredients, but to achieve great taste we certainly think it’s worth it!
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, so I try not to see mistakes in a negative light.
In fact, we first created our Marmite Popcorn as a joke, combining our smooth caramel with the iconic salty spread we never expected the flavour combination to work… but to our great surprise it really did! We launched our Official Marmite Popcorn in 2016 and four years later it’s still one of our popular flavours!
What keeps you motivated?
Growing the team keeps me motivated – it’s so rewarding to see everyone in our team so passionate about our mission and pull together every day so we can collectively achieve our goals. It’s wonderful watching someone develop their skills and grow to take ownership of their responsibilities!
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?In my spare time I really enjoy cooking with my wife.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
Firstly, I think it’s really important to have a great-tasting product, without that you’ll never be able to really delight people or build a brand! Secondly, I believe being agile is key! Being able to adapt your strategy and pivot quickly when new situations arise is something we’ve had to do time and time again!
What would you say is your biggest strength?
Resilience! When facing big obstacles I’ve learnt how to pick myself back up, adapt and try again.
What would you say is your biggest weakness (personally) & how do you look to overcome this?
I’m very detail orientated and sometimes can find myself getting too bogged down in the nitty-gritty detail of everything that is going on. I’ve overcome this by hiring brilliant people to join the team and learning how to delegate responsibilities to them.
If you could sit down with yourself for a pint/glass of wine/coffee this time last year…..what would be the 3 most important tips you would give yourself knowing what you know now?
- Prepare for a pandemic!
- Take a holiday!
- Focus on improving every single aspect of the consumer experience!
Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?
Even as we move out of lockdown, I think the rise of “The Big Night In” is here to stay and we’ll see more people wanting to spend their evenings indulging at home!