Start-Up Stories – Not.Corn
This week we got to hear about the story of Not.Corn. Founder, Rushina Shah, tells all about her idea, journey and what we can be expecting in the future. Read on to see all about Rushina’s awesome Start-Up Story…
What’s Not.Corn all about? How did you think of it?
Over the years, I had been searching for snacks which not only taste delicious but do not contain any refined sugars & ‘nasties’. I became fascinated in nutrition & realised that a lot of products, which claim to be healthy, are in fact not. When I saw my aunt popping a grain (sorghum) which was not the traditional corn kernel, I became intrigued. She was familiar with it’s amazing benefits having eaten it as a child in India. But my instinct was one of apprehension as I had already seen a number of products which claimed to be ‘healthy’ & were not. I wanted to learn more about it & spoke to experts and farmers in India to understand more. The nutritional testing results were staggering & one that I could not question. I then decided to develop Not.Corn to offer others a genuinely healthy snack & allow them to experience a sense of discovery given that it is the first of its kind to the UK!
There have been a number of popcorn brands to launch into the industry over the last few years, but the only innovation has been on
flavour, which has ultimately saturated the market (causing shoppers to switch between brands rather than driving new shoppers into the category).
We are, therefore, disrupting the snack category by going #AgainstTheGrain and launching a ground-breaking innovation with
“The FIRST ever popped sorghum product to the whole of Europe!”
Where popcorn uses corn, we use an alternative grain called sorghum, which is set to be ‘the next big superfood’ according to Women’s Health Magazine.
Not.Corn is really innovative in the following ways:
- It is an absolute nutritional powerhouse – it is high in fibre, gluten-free, vegan and even GM Free
- Harvesting sorghum uses a massive 50% less water than corn to grow, helping to preserve water and promoting sustainability.
- 72% of 180 UK shoppers asked said that they do not eat popcorn during the day, as they are conscious of the hulls getting stuck in their teeth. NotCorn solves this problem as it contains no hulls!
What actually is popped Sorghum?
Popped sorghum is an ancient Indian/ African grain which has been eaten in these countries for decades. It is an absolute nutritional powerhouse and has been called out by Women’s Health Magazine as ‘the next big superfood!’ Here are some links with more information about the health benefits associated with sorghum:
We pop the sorghum grain. Where popcorn is empty calories, this is actively good for you! Popped sorghum has even been called out by Oprah in her list of favourite things and Andrew Zimmerman (‘Bizzare Foods’) said that ‘this is going to be the next big thing!’
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur? What were you doing before Not.Corn?
I decided to take the leap in 2017 to leave my corporate role in Brand Management (at Procter & Gamble having worked on brands such as Pantene, Flash & Ariel Megabrand in the FMCG industry for over 5 years). I also had previous FMCG industry experience having worked at Reckitt Benckiser (on brands such as Durex, Gaviscon and Nurofen) and a previous creative background having also worked at Saatchi & Saatchi and McCann Erickson.
“I decided to take the jump to start up my own business, as I have always had an entrepreneurial spark from a young age.”
At the age of 14, I set up my own business through a Business Enterprise Scheme. I sold heat sensitive mugs which revealed a picture when a hot beverage was placed inside it. The business was a great success and me and my team made £1,500 profit within a month. I also organized a charity event at the age of 15 where 1,000 children attended. I made £15,000 for an orphanage in Goa where I opened up a library with the funds that I had raised.
I have always known that I would eventually start my own business and have always been driven to do so. I, therefore, gained the relevant experience that I needed within the FMCG industry to learn how to manage and sell a product so that I would have the knowledge to do this for myself.
What was the transition from working at Procter & Gamble to founding your own business like?
The transition was exciting but extremely daunting. The most difficult part was not having a team and having to keep an everyday routine to ensure that this didn’t impact my mental health.
“The start-up life can get pretty lonely, so I ensured that I worked in co-working spaces and around friends who had also set-up their own businesses.”
This gave me more of a routine and ensured that I was still surrounded by people and other entrepreneurs who were experiencing the same. Having my own business was also scary (especially without a salary coming through each month), but I kept inspired knowing that if I don’t make my business a success, no-one will. I, therefore, regularly take time to remember what stimulated me to be an entrepreneur – the thrill of building my own enterprise, the sense of accomplishment when reaching a milestone and my vision of where I want to take my business. I also continuously learn from other founders within the industry in order to keep me motivated.
I have experienced that being an entrepreneur is extremely challenging, but also rewarding! An example of where I have experienced a challenge but had to have a ‘never give up’ attitude is during the manufacturing process of Not.Corn. It is extremely difficult to produce Not.Corn as the sorghum grain does not pop in the same way as popcorn. I was faced with a number of contract manufacturers who simply said that it was IMPOSSIBLE to produce. However, hitting these roadblocks made me, even more, determined to find a solution. The most satisfying moment was asking a contract manufacturer to try something that they had never done before and finding a solution to the manufacturing process which I had been told was IMPOSSIBLE. Making the supposedly impossible happen was extremely satisfying and showed me that the more difficult it is to do something, the more difficult it will be for someone else to replicate and the more rewarding it was when I finally found the solution!
This, I believe, is the entrepreneurial spark needed as an entrepreneur, especially as you face daily challenges which can knock you back! You just need to pick yourself back up again! You also need to take risks when having your own business, but these risks are a 100 times more scary when it’s your own business vs. being in a corporation. One small mistake in a large corporation wouldn’t wipe out your entire business like it would if you made a costly mistake for your own business!
When creating a new product, what would you say is the most important thing to do first?
Research. Research and then research some more. You need to make sure that you are actually producing/ creating something that others genuinely want and that there is a genuine gap/ need for your product in the market. You wouldn’t want to spend money on creating something that eventually does not sell!
If you had to describe Not.Corn in 3 words, what would they be?
Unique, disruptor, #AgainstTheGrain!
What’s been the best moment of your journey so far?
We sold our news packs at Wanderlust festival a few weeks ago. A kid came up to the table and said ‘Mum, I really want this!’ She responded by saying that he had a £10 note and that he had just got there so to wait to see if there was anything else that he wanted as that £10 note had to last him for the day. He was adamant that he wanted to buy a pack so took out his crisp £10 note and bought a bag. About an hour later, he came back and asked for another one! Towards the end of the day, his mum came back to the stall and said that as he loved it so much, he wanted to buy a box so that he could take a bag each day to school as part of his packed lunch box and show his friends! This put a massive smile on my face and made everything I do so worth it!
Where can people find your awesome snacks?
You can purchase Not.Corn on our website here, via Yumbles online and Amazon. We are also just about to announce a couple of very exciting stockists over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on our social media channels!
What can we expect from Not.Corn in the next year?
World domination 😉 (And also listings in a number of exciting retailers! We also have some fun brand partnerships and marketing campaigns coming up!) Keep your eyes peeled!
Not.Corn is ready to take on the world! We can’t wait to see where they are in a years’ time, and the awesome campaigns they have coming up.