In the lead-up to FWE’s annual Gala on February 20, 2017, we sat down with Pitch for the Purse Finalist, Tara Bosch of SmartSweets who’s in the business of revolutionizing the way that we look at traditional candy.
Q: Why did you start SmartSweets?
Tara: I’m Tara, the 22-year-old founder of SmartSweets, the first smart candy that kicks sugar. Growing up I developed an unhealthy relationship with food, affecting my self-esteem and body image. As I got older, it became apparent that healthy relationships in all aspects of life come from smaller, smarter choices. Last year in a conversation with my grandmother at her kitchen table, I learned that she regretted consuming so much excess sugar over the years, especially from one of our favourite treats to enjoy together– candy. She shared how the affects of sugar on her health have been detrimental to her quality of life. It was this conversation coupled with my personal journey that sparked my exploration into the shocking reality of sugar. Equipped with my belief that we should feel good about enjoying the foods we love, I began recipe testing in my kitchen when I couldn’t find any confectionary products that naturally addressed sugar. I was on a quest to innovate the first smart candy we can feel good about enjoying. With a gummy bear mould purchased from Amazon, the journey began to create the first smart candy that kicks sugar. When fall arrived, I dropped out of university when SmartSweets was selected for the The Next Big Thing, an incubator for top young innovators founded by Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes. In less than a year I brought the idea of innovating smart candy that kicks sugar from my kitchen to store shelves nationally and online across North America. Today, I passionately lead SmartSweets in the movement to kick sugar, revolutionizing how we enjoy candy.
Q: How are you (is your business) different from the competition?
Tara: SmartSweets are the first smart candy that kicks sugar naturally. We are revolutionizing how consumers enjoy candy. In the 3-billion dollar North-American market for low-sugar/natural confectionary, not one player is addressing sugar reduction in a natural way. SmartSweets is tackling one of the largest and most concerning problems hidden in our every day foods. This is a large, urgent and valuable problem. It’s time for us to disrupt this market.
An entire bag of our initial Gummy Bear products (2 SKU’s, Sweet or Sour) contain just 2g sugar and are packed with 24g plant-based fibre.
Enjoy the first smart candy that naturally kicks sugar. SmartSweets are chewy gummy bears that are bursting with juicy, fruity flavour. Every ingredient we use is non-GMO, always real and never artificial. No gluten, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. Made with real ingredients that kick sugar so you can feel good about every bite! Be Smart, Eat Smart.
2g Sugar | 24g Fibre | 5g Protein | 9g Net Carbs per bag
- 2g sugar for the whole bag!
- High in Plant-Based Fibre
- No Artificial Colours or Flavours
- Colored with Beta Carotene & Carrot
- Dairy/Soy/Casein Free
- Peanut & Tree Nut Free
- Sugar Alcohol Free
- Corn Fibre Free
Q: What is the best business advice you ever took?
Tara: If you look at this journey as an adventure, you’ll never be disappointed.
Q: What was the greatest obstacle you overcame and the lesson you learned from it?
Tara: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt from obstacles is summed up into a quote from Barbara Corcoran. When asked what separates the über successful she said, “it comes down to how fast you can get back up when knocked down”. Christmas time last year my manufacturer fell through and I was sitting in my office wondering how the heck I was ever going to make this work, trying not to feel defeated, but the feeling was definitely lingering. On Christmas Eve I was curating lists from LinkedIn and calling investors, with no one wanting to try the product because the original name, Stevi-Sweets, had an association to stevia. This spurred the name change to SmartSweets. I knew the magnitude of the sugar epidemic, and that people deserve to feel good about enjoying the treats they love– I had no idea how to move forward from here, but I knew I would find a way. The belief that you just have to get up and keep going, as well as that in the tough situations the true golden learning nuggets are there to learn from, every failure and obstacle is a stepping stone to success!
Q: What inspires you to grow SmartSweets further?
Tara: The reality of sugar is shocking and is affecting society in a dramatic way. On average, on any given day we consume in excess of 70 grams of sugar and Americans spend an estimated $1 trillion yearly fighting the damaging health effects of sugar, ranging from obesity to cancer. SmartSweets is on a mission to kick sugar and create a movement on smaller, smarter choices. SmartSweets isn’t about being perfect. It’s about making smaller, smarter choices in every day life.
To say sugar is in many products and widely accessible in my opinion, is an understatement. Growing up having sugar-laden products around me all the time, from my school cafeteria to in my Christmas stocking, I formed the belief that sugar in everything was normal and accepted. If there was a possibility it could be bad for me, it wouldn’t be in my favourite breakfast cereals, or given to me in excessive amounts while celebrating holidays, right? Wrong. After growing up with the unhealthy relationship with food centered largely around excess sugar consumption, I only recently began to learn that simply because something is accessible doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
While recipe testing in my kitchen, I learned the extent of the “why” behind how come so much sugar is in what seems like the vast majority of all packaged food products. Learning that manufacturers intentionally add sugar to products, seemingly to make them more addictive/appealing so that you purchase more left me with a sour taste in my mouth and more passionate than ever to push back on excess sugar in food products.
As a young female founder, I am incredibly excited to be a leader in the movement to push back on products with excess sugar, driving change on the Kick Sugar wave that is gaining momentum and forcing multi-national corporations to address added sugars in their food products.
Q: Is there an app or business tool you use to help you stay focused and on track?
Tara: As a sole founder with one full time employee, I’m all about using apps and tools that allow us to streamline and automate as MUCH as possible…automate, automate, automate! Two tools I love are ActiveInbox & MixMax. Active Inbox allows you to turn your inbox into a scheduler/task list and Mix Max allows you to save templates, create email sequences, and schedule emails.
Q: If you’re awarded the $25,000 Pitch for the Purse prize, how will you use that money?
Tara: As an early stage company experiencing high growth in year one, 25K would SERIOUSLY be a game changer. With our rapidly increasing manufacturing runs, it would allow our next run to be increased by 30% in size, which means we would be able to comfortably facilitate the anticipated volume for the new stores we are launching in the spring (Whole Foods, Pharmasave, and Bed Bath & Beyond).