Founders Interview | Sameer Vaswani @ Prodigy Snacks
Hi, I'm Sameer!
I started my career in food as a Chef in my 20’s where I ran an Asian Fusion restaurant in Notting Hill.
I then relocated to West Africa and started a Biscuit & Confectionery manufacturing business and built our own brand….I managed to exit that business and relocated back to the UK.
I’ve now started yet again with Prodigy Snacks a Chocolate and Biscuit brand aiming to reinvent all the classic favourites but free from all the nasties including refined sugar and plastic packaging.
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?
I was thrown into the world of manufacturing snacks when I relocated to West Africa.
After that I got the “bug” and really enjoy the full spectrum of the business from creating new formulations and recipes, to building factories, the manufacturing process itself and of course brand building and marketing.
What inspired you to do what you do?
During my time in West Africa I became fully “aware” of the nature of the global snack industry : the jaw dropping way refined sugar is produced, the high level of processing involved in industrial ingredients and their impact on our bodies, the impact on our environment from irresponsible supply chain & manufacturing and of course plastic packaging.
After having my 2 kids – I had to do my bit to change the industry.
What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to market?
With my background, I always knew “it could be done” – ie. Produce a chocolate product that could be all natural and still nutritionally beneficial.
The Eureka moment came when I saw a glaring gap in the Impulse chocolate / biscuit market and decided that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but just take well established concepts and give them a new DNA !
What current & future trends does your product meet?
- Lower sugar consumption and refined sugar free
- The war on plastic / plastic free packaging.
- High fibre, prebiotics and gut health
- All natural ingredients
- Plant based / Vegan
- No Palm oil / Soy / Gluten / Dairy.
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
As outlined above, I am a serial entrepreneur and I am on my 4th Start up.
Its in my blood and I love starting and growing businesses and building teams.
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Finding the right talent to take a leap of faith on joining a start up, getting used to being ignored by retail buyers and distributors, and then navigating the complete uncertainty of building a business in the middle of a global pandemic!
Keeping your doubts and fears at bay and trying to maintain a positive mind set and fuelling the ambition.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Made quite a few mistakes and the important thing is that I always learn from them and something positive comes out of them.
Mistakes always happen for a reason.
What keeps you motivated?
Witnessing the individuals in my team grow and gain experience, as well as making progress and achieving growth.
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?
I enjoy playing tennis, I play drums and I love to cook.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
Tenacity, belief in yourself and your product / business and leadership skills that can give your teams the confidence and motivation to follow your lead (especially in times of crisis).
Also being a good “task master” – keeping on top of tasks and making sure assigned jobs to team members actually get done!
Plus knowledge of your market / industry.
What would you say is your biggest strength?
What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?
I have a lack of patience and want everything done yesterday.
Many times this approach leads to making too quick decisions which can lead to mistakes. Only growing as a person and with experience can this subside.
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?
Do a bit more diligence on things, ask more questions of the people you do business with.
Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?
Prodigy will be looking to reinvent classic biscuit favourites during Q4 of 2020 and looking to disrupt that segment.
I think a 2nd wave in the Autumn is somewhat inevitable as restrictions ease, loads of people travel for the summer, and restaurants and pubs open. It should be more contained given the lessons we have all learnt, but is likely to happen.
For digital and D2C businesses – this is of course ironically good for business.
However the economy will suffer some more as a result, stock markets will likely take a correction, and then its a slow climb all the way back up the recovery path for many countries.