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This CEO Raised Over $3M to Beat Sugar At Its Own Game

People

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."

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.