Every one of us has been hit with a massive sugar craving. We give into it, indulging in gummy bears or chocolate or donuts, only to be met with a massive crash about an hour or two later. But the story doesn't end there, because those sugar cravings always end up coming back.
As much as 40 percent of health expenditures in the United States are closely tied to overconsumption of sugar. There's also evidence that sugar has negative physiological effects on the brain. As a society, we're addicted to it. That's why Tara Bosch, CEO and Founder of SmartSweets, is riding a sugar-free high from revolutionizing candy consumption.
“Our first and foremost mission is really addressing the sugar and making sustainable eating choices that foster a healthy relationship with food. I really focus on encouraging and empowering a sustainable relationship with food and then ultimately themselves," says Bosch.
In just under a year after conception, SmartSweets expanded from Bosch's kitchen in Vancouver to shelves across Canada. Bosch herself went from a college student, studying arts, to a bonafide CEO. Now, SmartSweets has evolved even further, taking over grocery chains across America. Having launched in Whole Foods in March of this year, SmartSweets has increased its reach from 2,500 doors to over 10,000.
The 23-year-old founder says a conversation with her Grandmother gave her the idea to give sugar the boot. “She shared with me that she regretted having sugar, and so much of it for so long," says Bosch. “For me, it was really shocking because growing up I had an unhealthy relationship with food because of all the candy I was eating. It sparked my inspiration into sugar, what it's doing to us as a society, despite that it's never been more available in packaged foods today, specifically in the candy industry where it's the epicenter of sugar in excessive amounts. It inspired me to begin my quest and make the first candy that kicks sugar."
From there, Bosch began recipe testing like a madwoman. Her secret? She utilizes tapioca and chicory root as natural sweeteners. These ingredients also help you feel fuller longer and have the added benefits of plant-based fiber, she says.
Besides the lack of sugar, the most important thing is for SmartSweets to be comparable to the taste of the gummy bears we've all grown up with. “If people are to make a smarter, more sustainable choice it has to taste like the real thing," explains Bosch. “For us, we have 3 grams of sugar for the entire bag, whereas Haribo would have between 25 to 35 grams, and that's not for the whole bag. That's just a 50-gram serving."
Bosch is beating sugar at its own game, but success didn't come without risk.
She secured her initial funding through debt financing before getting SmartSweets onto shelves. “I signed my life away, essentially, but we launched with 120 thousand of debt financing, and that's what got us basically from the point of ideation to launching on our first shelf." says Bosch. "In January, we just raised 3M and before that I had done a convertible note, and that's really fueling our U.S. launch and really getting us to the place where we're able to sustain ourselves organically through our margins.
She learned to do all this through a resource already at anyone's fingertips - Google. “Everything is on google," advises Bosch. “That's how I found pretty much everything from our first raw materials to our manufacturing partner."
Bosch credits her success to her team and an accelerated business program she was accepted into after dropping out of school. “I'm probably the stupidest person on my team," she jokes. “Not in a self-deprecating way, just being brutally honest about what I'm not good at, and the knowledge I don't have, and then making sure to surround myself with the people that do. SmartSweets has been really lucky because I was accepted into an accelerated program when I dropped out of university, and as a sole founder that was really great because all of a sudden I was no longer in my kitchen by myself."
Bosch says she envisions the SmartSweets brand becoming a global leader in confectionary products that eliminate sugar, and a thought leader in empowering people with the choice to remove sugar from their diets.
As for the immediate future, SmartSweets will be launching two innovations each quarter. “At this time next year you should be able to go to your favorite store, choose your favorite candy product, whether it's Starburst or Skittles or licorice, and Smart Sweets be the brand delivering on the promise that we're using no sugar, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners."
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.