MEET THE ENTREPRENEUR: Sydney Chasin | Founder of lil’POP
Hi Sydney , please tell us a bit about yourself
I grew up in a tiny US farm town of 150 people and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland after never being to Europe ever before. I came over here to study Financial Services at Edinburgh Napier University and started my food company, The Healthy Crop, upon graduation. Prior to my degree, I attended boarding school for classical ballet.
Can you describe The Healthy Crop in 20 (or fewer) words?
We specialise in sorghum grain products, a gluten-free and drought-resilient crop. Our first product is lil’POP, a popped sorghum snack.
What is the best business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Trust your gut. There are so many ways to analyse and strategise, but above all, trust your gut feeling about things and don’t do things that simply don’t feel right.
How did you get to where you are today?
Surrounding myself with people who have “been there” and “done that.” Mentors and “friends of the industry” have shared their own experiences and provided advice to help me avoid pitfalls, streamline processes, and help shape strategy.
If the RSE Enterprise Fellowship were a person, what characteristics would they have?
The RSE Enterprise Fellowship is like your parents. Nurturing and supportive, but no-sugar-coating! Just what most entrepreneurs need! They want the very best for you and will do everything in their control to help develop you as a strong leader for your business.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs ready to commercialise their research?
Learn to love the problem you solve, not the technical solution.
Dead or alive, if you could have any mentor, who would it be and why?
Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea. He recognised a gap in a stale market, created a deliciously simple product, and built a value and ethics driven brand that competed with the largest players in the soft drinks industry.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What do you wish you’d known before launching your business?
I’m not sure I actually wish I knew anything previously! There have been many individual challenges that I wish I knew certain little things about previously, but in the big picture, I’ve actually benefited from having to learn things along the way. If someone had told me all the challenges you will face in running a start-up, I don’t think I would have ever taken the leap and taking the leap was the best decision I ever made. Having to “build the plane while flying it” has been the most thrilling and rewarding part.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
The big picture/dream and keeping the birds eye view. Sometimes the day to day running gets incredibly tough and you get into “fire-fighting” mode. If you don’t keep that aerial view, you can easily get caught in the smoke.
What makes a good day at work?
A good day is making little steps towards any goal or task at hand. The BEST days tend to be the days when we overcome the hurdles we faced on the challenging days.
What are you working on just now?
During my RSE Enterprise Fellowship I attended many trade shows in the UK and internationally, which allowed me to get my product in front of a diverse range of consumers and retail buyers. Listening to their feedback, what they loved and what they think could improve, has helped sculpt the next stage of product development. At present, we are working on making these changes for an improved snacking experience.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of applying for an RSE Enterprise Fellowship?
Apply apply apply! Having the support of the RSE Enterprise Fellowship team for a year has been life-saving and allowed me to re-evaluate strategy and make appropriate pivots for the business with financial security and business support. Additionally, the training is second-to-none. I’ve learned more about the business world in 1 year of training with RSE than I could ever have learned in any MBA programme. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely world, but having a cohort and support network for a year makes you never feel alone. The RSE application process, even if unsuccessful, is a great opportunity to reflect and analyse your business. Nothing more to say than….do it!