Founders Interview | David Folkman @ Cheesies
Snackfully catch up with Cheesies co-founder David Folkman, on why they started the business, the challenges that they have faced and Cheesies future plans...
What inspired you to take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I started my early career working for global multinationals, Mars and then, Nestle. They’re great businesses but I never really found my footing and got frustrated with the pace of change. I was then fortunate to work for innocent drinks where I found the entrepreneurial spirit suited me. It wasn’t too much of a lead to go from there to start a business with my co-founder, Craig Jones.
Where did you come up with the idea for Cheesies?
I’d love to say Cheesies was born from consumer extensive research and carefully identifying a gap in the market. The reality is that Craig and I went out for Thai and over few beers and we spit balled a bunch of ideas for a start-up. Cheesies was the strongest and based on seeing a similar product in Whole Foods Market. Ideas that ended up on the cutting room floor included digitising till receipts and using tiny cameras in supermarket shelves to spot when products go out of stock.
What struggles have you run into when starting your business & how did you overcome them?
That’s a tough one as it feels as if there are struggles every day. The past year has been particularly difficult with the cost price of cheese increasing significantly and having to absorb the impact. It’s simply the case of trying to break down each problem as they come along into manageable chunks and then working through options and choosing the best route or least painful. That, and a heavy dose of optimism and perseverance.
What sort of support network should you create when taking the leap into starting your own business?
Craig and I were lucky that we have a strong group of connections to help us get going through working at innocent. My advice for anyone looking to start of food or drink brand is to just get going and ask for help along the way. It’s an incredibly friendly industry and other entrepreneurs are often happy to help and make introductions.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
You need to be able to balance having an eye for detail while at the same time think expansively. That and work hard to find great people who’ll work hard for the mission.
What is your No.1 unbreakable brand value?
Taste. This sounds obvious but our no.1 value is creating incredible products. I think sometimes brands can forget that if they try to cut costs too much or over focus on the latest health fad.
What current & future trends do your products meet?
I’m not sure if great tasting products are a trend, but it’s certainly something that people have always looked for in the past and hopefully in the future.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Good question. It’s perhaps a mistake in the context of following the traditional path of starting a business but when we got Cheesies off the ground, we didn’t write a business plan, or really have a clear idea of where we’d end up. It was more organic than that, keeping everything in-house from packing bags with cheese to designing labels. It was a good lesson that something it’s better to give things a go and learn by doing rather than spending too much time on formalities.
Do you have any big plans for the future?
We’re quite strategic about our growth and believe that the development of Cheesies is a marathon rather than a sprint so there’s nothing ground-breaking coming up for us. Instead, we’re focused on distributing and sampling Cheesies to as many people as our budget will allow.
What is your favourite meal?
Tough one as I have plenty and it depends on what mood I’m in. The most favourite meal I’ve had was when I was 18 and went inter railing with friends. We had no money so took an overnight boat trip from Italy to Greece that was included in the ticket, then got off and back on the same boat for a second night of free accommodation. We thought we could buy food on the boat but there was nothing, so when we arrived back to Italy, we were starving. The first thing we found was a stall selling slices of Margarita pizza, which was by far the best meal I ever had.
Finally…What’s your FAVE Cheesies flavour?
I tend to swap between Chilli or Goats’ Cheese depending on how I’m feeling.