Hey, I’m Cathy & I’m The Kernel (Boundless Activated Snacking’s Founder).
I started Boundless a couple of years ago in my kitchen, and since then it’s been a pretty wild ride – with my brand now listed in over 3000 stores in the UK, in major chains like Holland & Barrett and Sainsbury’s, as well as over 10 countries worldwide. It’s crazy to think that when I’m in bed at night, someone could be picking up a bag of our Cayenne & Rosemary in Pret A Manger Hong Kong!
I started Boundless as a way of calling time on snacks that slow you down. Our mission is simple: we make activated snacks that are healthy by nature and bold in flavour. We’re about being kind to the gut without ever compromising on taste, and proving that healthy doesn’t have to equal boring.
As a nation, we snack more than ever – our own consumer research has shown that on average our customers snack 2-4 times a day. However, trends are also showing an increased demand for healthier snacking choices. It makes sense; if we’re consuming more than ever, we want something good to come out of it, right? Not to mention people are seeing beyond the marketing spiel & looking at what’s really in their food. Consumers want something tasty & healthy, and Boundless fits both of those brackets. At Boundless, we vow to use 100% natural ingredients, keeping the list as short as possible & only using words people understand. Activation is all about good gut health- looking after your body, made easy.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
To put it simply, no. I kind of fell into my first career as a Commodities Trader – and ended up there for over 20 years. I enjoyed my time in the city, but I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever, definitely not.
I’ve been a passionate foodie since day 1 – in fact, my dream job as a child was a dinner lady! Speaks for itself really, I’ve always wanted to feed everyone and loved coming up with new recipes. Boundless kind of grew organically from the street food business I started after leaving London. Originally, Boundless was a snack I took for long shifts as when you’re feeding others, you rarely have time to eat yourself.
As a gluten intolerant self-confessed snacker I was SO bored of the cardboard tastings, sugary, overpriced rubbish found in stores, so came up with the idea of activating nuts (kinda worthy & boring) and baking them with incredible & unusual flavours (far more exciting) to create a truly healthy and enjoyable snack. It was only when family & friends started wanting my snacks more than the meals I was cooking that I thought “I might be on to something here…”
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I think every business faces challenges along the way – unless you’re one of the big guys, you’re always going to hit bumps. I don’t want to say that Boundless has hit more than anyone else, but in a way we have, or at least had some unique bumps.
It was near impossible to get Boundless made in the first place! Our method is totally unique, and hasn’t ever been done before. Trying to convince a manufacturer to take a risk on you, buy in new specialist equipment for a brand that nobody knows and a product that doesn’t exist for consumers, and sign up to exclusivity and NDAs? Most people would laugh. So that one was a pretty big hurdle!
Boundless is also all about challenging the snacking market whilst promoting good gut health – without people automatically associating you with something found in their grandma’s cupboard next to the prunes. We use unusual flavours that, unless you try them, you might not have any familiarity with. Then there’s trying to convince people that there’s more to nuts than dry roasted peanuts / a dry and bland seed mix. We’re not boring, far from it, but people don’t usually want to invest in a brand unless they know that they like it, and there’s a huge preconception around nuts & seeds as a snack. It’s either boring, overpriced or too worthy. That’s been a big hurdle for us, and still is every time we reach a new listing in a different avenue.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’d say it was our launch into Sainsbury’s, post Taste of the Future trial. We were barely 18 months old, a female founded & led brand, a team of 4. It was just crazy, all of a sudden we were going to be nationwide.
As I’ve said probably 15 times in this interview, we’ve created a snack that’s genuinely good for you without compromising on taste, or ethics. We really are a challenger brand. It would be impossible for us to get our product into consumers hands and give them a product that genuinely benefits them without a mainstream listing. We’re so proud to sit alongside brands that we know are nowhere near as good for you, at a price point competitive enough that people will pick us up instead. We’re accessible and affordable, and I’m really proud of that.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
It has to be the team I’m surrounded by. We are so close knit and celebrate every success, because every member works so hard. We live and breathe Boundless, and I know my team love the brand as much as I do. There’s no greater feeling than celebrating a success with people you know are just as excited as you are.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I absolutely love mentoring, and I am both a mentor and a mentee. You can never stop learning from those around you, and I embrace just as much from the wisdom imparted by my mentor as the fresh eyes I see in my mentees. I think it’s so important to pass on your knowledge and help anyone in any way you can.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
This is a topic extremely close to my heart, as I’m sure it is for most women (and hopefully men) out there. Trying to decide on just one thing is tough, but for me it would have to be equal pay. Money equals choice, and in a world where women earn 52% of what men do, due to not only earning less than men but being more likely to sacrifice the chance to earn a wage for their family, this is crucial. Increases women’s pay benefits both genders; it would help reduce reinforced gender stereotypes of stay-at-home mums and breadwinner dads, and would inevitably give women more power & recognition in their workplace. I hate the fact that it is the case, but money does equal credibility and recognition. Especially for those with outdated and sexist views, if earning the same as men is what it takes for women to be taken more seriously in the workplace, we need urgency to make that happen.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
The next challenge for Boundless is taking the business on the smoothest road we can in the current crisis the world’s facing. It’s a pretty scary one we’re navigating right now, but the biggest achievement to come out of it will be just that- coming out the other side, with my team happy and healthy.
WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.