As Co-Founder of the UK’s number one premium popcorn brand, in just six years, Cassandra Stavrou has grown Propercorn from a kitchen table startup to a healthy snacking staple.
An award-winning brand with global distribution — currently sold in 14 countries across Europe — Propercorn is a market leader, producing 3 million packs each month, while Stavrou and her team of 40 continue to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit that kickstarted the brand.
From her light-bulb moment to securing Google as the brand’s first stockist to international expansion and product innovation, Stavrou’s journey has taken her from an armchair entrepreneur to co-running the 5th fastest growing independent business in Europe. Her drive and resilience have enabled her to navigate the challenges of launching and growing a startup and now she hopes to inspire and support the next generation of entrepreneurial talent.
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which runs until the 19th November, Propercorn has chosen five aspiring self-starters to take up residence in its Old Street offices. The chosen entrepreneurs will enjoy breakfast and lunch from its in-house chef, grab coffees with the company’s founders and workshop ideas whilst sitting alongside its team. The week-long initiative aims to bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.
The life of an entrepreneur is filled with excitement and highs, but it can also be uncertain and isolating. However, learning from those who have already been through the process can help to unlock potential and facilitate change.
With that in mind, here Stavrou reveals the strategies that have helped her navigate the challenges of life as an entrepreneur……
Find your mate
Starting your own business might sound full of glamour and adventure, but the reality for most is far from that.
I found the early days of starting my own business massively lonely and spent hours working from my mum’s kitchen table on my own. I was totally passionate about what I was trying to achieve, but you still find yourself questioning the decisions you’ve made.
One of the best bits of advice I was ever given was to find myself a business partner — building a passionate team around you is the best way to deal with the challenges and uncertainties that will inevitably come your way.
Be resilient, don’t retaliate
I built Propercorn in a fiercely male industry, so have come to understand the importance of resilience.
Aged 25, I spent months traipsing up and down the country trying to get manufacturers to take me seriously and on several occasions was told to go and ask for my old job back. I found the experience deflating, patronising and lonely – I simply couldn’t make myself heard. I soon realised that I wouldn’t get where I needed to by simply shouting louder. Standing out from the crowd does not mean standing up to the bullies or conforming to traditional, masculine notions of toughness. Instead, be strategic, creative and empathetic – not just “strong” – in the way you overcome challenges.
Face your fears
For a lot of people, the biggest obstacle to founding a business is a confidence issue — and fear of failure can seriously stunt success.
But the tides of female leadership are changing and we’ve got successful founders inspiring more women into business than ever before. So, look for those who are leading by example – these role models and mentors may just be the boost you need when your confidence waivers.
Strive for success that’s gender-blind
As a woman, you’ll undoubtedly experience inconsistencies in the way you’re treated in the world of work. The days of the exclusively all male, suit and tie boardroom are gladly behind us but it’s still a struggle to be recognised as a successful person, rather than a successful woman.
Talent, not gender, is the real arbiter of success, remember this and go for the big win.