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Founder Interview | Charlie Bowker @ Native Snacks

Founder Interview | Charlie Bowker @ Native Snacks

Native Snacks was founded a year ago by myself (Charlie - I'm on the left) and my business partner, Darcy. It was born out of a frustration for the lack of excitement in the category and the amount of popcorn and crisp brands currently on the market.
We are on a mission to create a new generation of snacks inspired by the incredible street foods of the world. First is our range of Popped Lotus Seeds from the bustling streets of India.

(Click Here to Buy Native Snacks)

Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks? 

Darcy and I have been old friends for a long time and both have a passion for food, especially snacking! We were chatting one day and were both saying how we were frustrated by the lack of excitement in the category.

With us both wanting to set up a business, we thought this was the perfect opportunity.

What inspired you to do what you do?

Seeing a real opportunity to disrupt the category really inspired us to make it a reality. Having heard of Popped Lotus Seeds from a mutual connection, we started to research Popped Lotus Seeds and eventually travelled out to India to meet the farmers, try the product and start to set up our supply chain.

The more and more we learnt and the more we tried the product, the more we realised it would be a great crunchy and better-for-you alternative to popcorn and crisps.

What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market? 

We started testing some early prototypes on friends and family and they absolutely loved the product - which was really great to hear. We thought it's now or never and decided to dive in to start speaking with buyers, once we had packaging sorted and flavours nailed.

Securing early listings with the likes of Sourced Market, As Nature Intended and Selfridges gave us real confidence that our product would succeed.

By working with Burts Snacks, the UK’s leading independent snack manufacturer,  the quality and seasonings of our products are the best in the market, and we are very proud of our partnership with them.

What current & future trends does your product meet?

Native Snacks has a strong brand story, tapping into the booming street food category to create snacks with new ingredients inspired by the world's street food markets.

All of our snacks fit into the rapidly growing better-for-you sub-category, whilst also being vegan and free from all major 14 allergens.

We believe that by using our unique base ingredients paired with well-loved classic flavours, like salt & vinegar, with a strong brand, we can appeal to the mass market across a number of different channels.

What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

Darcy and I were both working in respective companies. I was working for a leading Financial PR company whilst Darcy was Head of Product at a Proptech company. We both wanted to work for ourselves and pave our own future and with this idea in our head, we thought we'd be the perfect team to execute it.

What has been the hardest part of starting your business?

It has been a journey to say the least. You need a lot of resilience when selling a product. You've got to expect a lot of no’s or being ignored but it's hugely rewarding when things go according to plan.

A real challenge, which has taken a lot of time, has been setting up a really strong and reliant supply chain and we've spent a long time doing this and are really proud with the suppliers we work with now.

What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?

I wouldn't say a mistake but certainly a learning curve was starting manufacturing in India. It had a huge amount of logistical challenges, but in a very ambiguous way, led to us partnering with Burts Snacks and moving our manufacturing to the UK. 

What keeps you motivated?

We have a real opportunity to disrupt in the category with our street food inspired snacks and so knowing this, gives a real sense of purpose.

We also give back for every pack sold to our charity partner and so to know we can make a real difference by selling our snacks is also a big motivation.

What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?

I like to read, cook, play musical instruments and play sports.

I tend to think about work most of the time though!

What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?

We are very lucky because Darcy and I have very different skills, which is very important if you are setting a business up with someone else. Darcy is very good on the operational side of the business, whilst I head up the sales and marketing.

But overall you need to be very resilient and almost not take no for an answer and try not to let things get you down. You get a lot of people saying "no" and for us it's been about harnessing this and turning it into a positive. 

What would you say is your biggest strength?

I would say one of my biggest strengths is building relationships with people/clients in a way that hopefully doesn't feel to "salesy"

What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?

I need to be better at making action lists and I'm overcoming this by using software such as Trello, which I have found is really helping.

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?

  1. Find a manufacturing partner in the U.K. from the onset that can grow with you
  2. Ensure your flavours appeal to the mass market
  3. Invest in sampling from the very beginning

Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?

We've got some really really exciting plans with Native, including some big stockist launches and product launches and a very exciting project that will be launching later this year. Unfortunately that's all I can give away at the moment ;) 

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