READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CARON PROSCHAN, FOUNDER OF @SIMPLYGUM & LOOK OUT FOR HER CURRENT @SPOTIFY PLAYLIST!
Photography: Vlasta Pilot
WORDS: Caron Proschan, Nazz Ebrahimi
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
I was motivated to start Simply Gum after I learned that regular gum is filled with artificial substances, such as plastic and aspartame. And it turns out that many of these ingredients are hidden in the term “gum base” on the label. As a consumer, that really upset me. I looked for a natural alternative, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find one. That’s when I decided I would do it myself. I chose the name “Simply Gum” because we only use a few simple ingredients!
Who are your ideal customers?
Our goal is to be a better alternative to conventional gum. People are drawn to us for our natural, quality ingredients and our beautiful packaging.
How many retailers can Simply Gum be found in? Any advice on getting your product in front of retailers?
We’re sold at over 5,000 stores and our retailers include Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters, and Vitamin Shoppe. When we look for retailers, we are less concerned with what category they are in, and more focused on whether they align with us in terms of values, aesthetics, and customer base. What we’re seeing is that savvy retailers understand that consumers are demanding natural, better for you products, and they want to curate interesting and unexpected items for their customers to discover.
What was the packaging process like in terms of design? Can you share with us how you chose to use biodegradable packaging?
Regular gum is made of a plastic base, which means that’s not biodegradable. Since we only use natural ingredients, our gum is biodegradable and we designed our packaging to match that. In terms of disposing our gum, we do recommend spitting it out when you are finished, and so we offer “post chew wraps” in each box. These are little wrapping papers that are tucked into the back of the package for quick and clean disposal when you’re done chewing. People love them. Because how many times have you been in a situation where you need to dispose your gum but can’t find a napkin? Our post chew wraps solve that problem!
How can future business owners create a business that ''gives back’’?
Create a product that empowers consumers to make more sustainable choices.
How do you feel one should approach potential investors, or ask for funds?
Once you have a viable product to work with, get it out there. Network, cold email, be confident. And listen to feedback. Sometimes people who don't invest end up giving really valuable feedback that can help you improve your ideas.
Advice on standing out in a crowd and maintaining a competitive edge?
Be innovative and be a leader. We strive to be a leader in the category in terms of product innovation. It means we take more risks, but it's worth it.
What are the challenges and rewards of being a female CEO?
I think that being a CEO, regardless of whether you are male or female, has challenges and rewards. It's obviously very stressful, but it's incredibly rewarding to grow a company, both in terms of providing opportunities for your employees as well as offering customers something that they really love.
What kinds of products do you see Simply Gum launching next, or in the near future?
We’re working on a few brand collaborations that we’re really excited about. Stay tuned!
What are the most important characteristics you look for in employees?
I look for employees who are smart, creative, and passionate about our product.
Fear can stop us from achieving necessary goals for growth. How have you managed to take risks in your life as well as business, that allowed you to overcome the fear of failure?
Risk taking is scary, but it's absolutely necessary if you're going to start a company. Someone gave me great advice once - "Start a company. If you fail, start another one." There's no reason to fear failure. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and try again.
How can future entrepreneurs get their products sold on a nationwide/global scale?
Create a product that people love. If you have something that customers want, retailers will want to carry your product.
Which countries besides the U.S can Simply Gum be found in?
We’re available in the U.S. and you can also find us in select locations in Canada, South Korea, and France.
Best lesson you've learned in business:
The one piece of advice I give to young entrepreneurs is don’t worry about raising millions of dollars. There are lots of inexpensive ways to test your product and you will learn what customers like, how to tweak things, and how to iterate. Just start!