The Entrepreneurial Journey Of Oz & Kat (Founders Of Sprout)

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When Oz had her first baby girl, as a biochemist by education, she was already into health, nutrition, and well-being. In addition, as a serious hobby chef, food chemistry and the science of cooking was (and still is) her obsession. But being a mother brought this equation to a new level.
Given her background in science, Oz started investigating and researching nutrition and how nutrition works in our bodies on a molecular level, therefore, she redesigned all the family recipes to maximize nutrients and minimize disease.
Katerina shared the same vision: to use science and data to create and promote the healthiest food for kids on the planet!
As the two incredible ladies joined forces in 2019, Katerina used her marketing and tech skills to help build Sprout as a brand that other parents like herself could rely on for healthy, trustworthy, delicious food for their children
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Did you face any challenges at the beginning?  
Within two weeks of opening our doors for business and starting to accept orders, the UAE went into lock down amidst a pandemic! That required a huge pivot on our side as we needed to readjust some strategies.

Logistics: people did not trust having deliveries from random drivers, so Oz & I started delivering the meal boxes ourselves.
Marketing Plan: Most of what we had planned was event and partner-based; we, therefore, had to shift to digital as much as possible.
Banking: Opening a business bank account was a bit of a tedious and lengthy process – more than we anticipated- It took much longer and a lot of follow-ups! As a startup with limited staff, these types of “problems” can take away lots of time that is already limited.
 

What makes your business stand out? 
Sprout has a health-first approach. As a result, our food is unlike any other food on the market. Designing our foods with a nutrition-science system means whatever is “better-for-your-kid” will always be the top influence on our decisions, over price, convenience, etc.

For example, we use only Cold-Pressed-Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in our meals. Another example is that we pack our meals in glass jars- as it’s the only way we can 100% guarantee there will be zero plastics leaching into the food. This is not the most cost-effective solution. However, we promised ourselves and our customers- that we would make all decisions on whatever is scientifically proven to be the most nutritious. 

And last, as parents ourselves, we understand the struggles- The feeding problems don’t lie in “healthier” chicken nuggets or baked fish sticks. 

However, the struggle is REAL regarding legumes, veggies, and whole grains. And the reason these are so important is the fiber, which should be a massive priority for all parents feeding their children. All our meals are 100% whole-food & plant-based. That’s how we ensure they are rich in protein, fiber, complex carbs, vitamins & minerals, but also, it’s how we help parents get the nutrients into their kids.
 
What advice do you give entrepreneurs who are just starting? 
Get ready! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!!! Also, get ready to pivot… a LOT! 
Circumstances will constantly change, and be prepared to embrace the changes. Nothing is constant except your values and mission- Be clear about those. If your mission aligns with your values, the path will sometimes be fuzzy, but you will know exactly where you are going.

Also, we suggest you find a partner with different strengths than you but who shares your vision. If you prefer not to have a business partner, then find a mentor or someone to use as a soundboard that you respect enough to disagree with and walk away with some knowledge.
It’s easy to get stuck in the moment or drown in something you thought worked (but doesn’t). Having a soundboard that shares your values and mission is critical. They can help you envision other alternatives that perhaps you didn’t see as you’re driving the car and keeping your eyes on the road.
 
 
Would you do things any differently? 
Yes, we would invest more in people and services that were over my budget at the start. 
We now know that trying to hustle and constantly try to save money on tech, talent, or services for our business would have probably cost us less, in the long run, had we invested in them from the beginning. 
We would have spent more of my budget on things like our tech, the CRM, and other systems for a proper setup versus trying to save money. Especially on your core business base. Our advice would be to do your research and due diligence and hire only reputable people or businesses with proven track records. 
 
How did you market yourself at the beginning with limited funding? 

We ran some ads on Instagram and Facebook, but we also invested quite a bit into our SEO set-up to ensure we appear early in a google search for children’s food. That proved to be quite valuable for us so that when the lockdown happened, people were able to find us easily on the front page of Google just by searching for “kids food”.
Also, we grew quite a bit organically and word of mouth. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth! Since we were handling all our deliveries ourselves, we would speak to our customers every week, get their feedback, suggestions, etc., and did our best to implement it and become a better brand for their homes. This open line of communication also allowed us to ask our customers to spread the word about Sprout. We’re currently working on launching a referral program so we can reward our customers for every Sprout recommendation they make.

How do you describe your company culture?
Connected, open, honest, collaborative, inclusive, and driven by innovation and impact. We support (and actively promote) individual independent efforts, but our team also drives us.
Our work and office are not driven by sitting at a desk, clocking in hours, or micro-managing people and tasks. The latter suggests you will likely not last at Sprout!
 We are a team of very driven, hard-working (mostly) women who value our own and each other’s time. We are mostly parents and flexible to work beyond the 9-6 pm timeline- and that school pick-up is more critical than lunchtime!
We try to nurture an environment that allows our employees to flourish and give them opportunities to try projects, tasks, etc .. that they are interested in trying- even if it’s not a part of their job description. We also foster an environment where we hear every opinion and point of view, which may spark something else in our thought process.
 
What makes a good entrepreneur, in your opinion? 
A person with a solid determination to succeed, passionate, yet mature enough to let go of a thought or idea which stops servicing the brand at some point. 

What advice do you give mothers looking to open a side business? 

We have 2 bits of advice: 
1) Hire in the areas of weakness and learn to delegate. Let it go if you feel passionate about an idea that delivers less than 80%! 
When we first launched, we would get so hung up on the details, but that can delay your thinking, production, turnaround, etc. If a task is done by someone else, ask yourself, is it 80% ok? If so, then let it go. If not, only then work on it. 
2) Write yourself a letter on why you are opening your business. Stick in an envelope, put it in the drawer, and read it every time you need to. If you’re not the type to write a letter, at the very least, write down your values and the reason you started your business- leave it somewhere in your workspace where you can access it every time you’re having a tough day and need a daily dose of your love.

www.sprout.ae

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