Laura Jane Jackson launched Popcorn Shed with her cousin, Sam after seeing a gap in the market for gourmet popcorn.
In 2018, Popcorn Shed is set to more than double their turnover from last year.
WeAreTheCity spoke to Laura Jane to find out how the concept was conceived, being bold in business, and shares the secrets to her success!
Tell us about your background: How did you get into business?
I worked as a management consultant for a large worldwide consultancy firm for over 6 years, consulting for a number of FTSE 100 companies. So, nothing to do with the food industry! However, I’m a foodie! Food has always been a central part of my life and family traditions for as long as I can remember…
My passion for sharing my food creations begun at the age of 9, selling homemade slush puppies to neighbours during a hot summer. I also sold fudge at food exhibitions during my time at university. My first job as a graduate “in the real world” was traversing the streets of London and ‘cold calling’ face-to-face in restaurants and cafes selling iced coffee (during what turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record!).
My cousin Sam and I during a trip to the US, discovered gourmet popcorn, and on returning to the UK we realised that great tasting and high-quality popcorn was not easy to source and spotted a gap in the mainstream market. We had always flirted with the idea of running our own family food business together, and in a moment of madness around our 30th birthdays,
“…we had a “now or never” moment and the idea of Popcorn Shed was born!”
How do you maintain a work-life balance? Any tips for our readers?
I’m not sure I do! I try and get up very early and doing some exercise. That way I can clear my head, have some ‘me time’ and hit the day running. When I have down time and I’m not at work, I try to not think about and not to talk about popcorn and work but that doesn’t always happen!
What does being a ‘female boss’ mean to you?
Treat everyone as you would like to be treated.
Sexual harassment stories have been prevalent in the press recently- can you share any experience of sexism or harassment in the industry?
I luckily have not experienced much in the way of sexism in the food and drink industry. It feels to me like a young, innovative, level playing field. However, I experienced quite a number of situations that made me feel uncomfortable working as a management consultant.
How have you navigated being a strong, successful businesswoman with this cultural conditioning that tells women how they should behave, look and act?
I am extremely fortunate to have such positive and encouraging parents. I grew up with three brothers and we were all treated the same.
“So, I guess from an early age it was instilled in me that everyone has the same responsibilities, capabilities and potential. Gender ‘barriers’ or ‘roles’ didn’t really come into it.”
Who do you look up to in the industry? Tell us about your role models.
Two other female food entrepreneurs who I really respect are Camilla Barnard and Pippa Murray.
Camilla is the founder of Rude Health (the healthy eating brand). They started their business with no food background in their kitchen and today they have a huge range, stocked nationwide and she launched it with 2 young kids!
I also think that what Pippa has achieved with her nut butter brand Pip and Nut is incredible and she isn’t even 30 yet!
What advice would you have for young women looking to start their own business?
My top tips would be:
Talk to everyone and share your idea. Feedback and advice is very invaluable. There is a tendency for people to feel like they don’t want to share their business idea for fear that someone may steal it. However, unless your idea is so revolutionary and the barrier to entry are very low, it is very unlikely to happen!
Be bold and just do it! What’s the worst that can happen? I always say it’s ok to try and fail but it’s not ok to not try.
Keep on top of your finances. I use cloud accounting software Xero and this is a life saver.
WeAreTheCity were gifted samples of Popcorn Shed’s gourmet popcorn; Pecan Pie, Salted Caramel and Pop ‘n’ Choc.
The popcorn was light, delicious and would make a great addition to any work function, event or party! We particularly loved the Salted Caramel, which won a Great Taste Award.