Home-Run Snack Line Launches In Just Weeks
Cole Schaefer was born an entrepreneur. He was also born with a serious love for baseball, playing the game since the age of three. Growing up in the sport, he quickly became an avid lover of, you guessed it, sunflower seeds.
As a middle school baseball player, he grew bored with the sunflower seeds on the market, noticing a major void in the flavored options available. Because of this, he decided to start making his own flavored seeds.
While Schaefer first made the seeds for himself to enjoy, he quickly noticed that his teammates, coaches, and friends loved them too. He started selling them in small bags to fans throughout middle and high school. His first flavor in those early days was buttered popcorn. Today, Schaefer sells three flavors of sunflower seeds (Sriracha Honey, Tangy Backyard BBQ, and Nashville Hot) in custom, digitally printed stand-up pouches from ePac.
And while the Smackin’ Seeds product launch was only a matter of weeks, the company itself was years in the making.
From Hobby To Business
Sunflower seeds have always been a part of Schaefer’s life, but it wasn’t until he was a junior at the University of Minnesota that he decided to turn this passion into a legitimate business.
“I got backed by independent investors who were interested in helping entrepreneurial kids like me. That’s what set me in motion, and got me to start doing the seeds full time,” says Schaefer.
And the beginning stages proved challenging as he worked to turn his plan into action. At the young age of 20, Schaefer felt the stresses of being a business owner and being his own boss, all while maintaining his schoolwork.
“The main struggle is having the motivation… being your own boss, no one holds you accountable. You have to do that. Also, finding a work-life-school balance can be a challenge,” he says.
But Schaefer is used to working hard and doing his own thing. While he runs Smackin’ Snacks alone, he has support from family and friends.
“Lots of people want to help because I’m a young kid. That’s been one of the best aspects of running the company so far,” he says.
Schaefer started working on the sunflower seed company full-time in April 2019, then officially launched Smackin’ Snacks two months later. And he is the definition of a one-man company, seasoning, roasting, packaging, marketing and selling the seeds all by himself. Schaefer rents out space in a commercial kitchen near his apartment, putting in hours every chance he gets. He also does samplings around town so people can try the seeds before they buy.
“When you see people eating them, and enjoying them… it’s definitely a rewarding thing,” he says.
Flexible Packaging for Seeds: From Concept to Print in Weeks
When it came time to find a packaging company, Schaefer knew he needed quality. He also knew he needed a partner with the right technology to accommodate the needs of his small, start-up business.
“The low minimum quantity and fast lead time is great for a small company, and allows us to have multiple SKUs in a single order,” says Schaefer.
ePac ultimately delivered competitive pricing, the convenience of a local company, a wide selection of pouches and films, and a fast turnaround. In fact, Schaefer took his proof of concept to full-on product in a matter of weeks.
The seeds are packaged in stand-up pouches that feature a reseal zipper for easy snacking and storing. Tear notches, a hang hole, resealability, and ease of use are all key for his sunflower seed packaging. Add in the unique design and soft-touch finish, and you’ve got a high-quality stand-up pouch that stands-out in the competitive snack food market.
“The ePac team gave us great feedback on the packaging and offered suggestions. Plus, they were able to work around my busy schedule, and timeline,” he says.
ePac provided him with unique, high quality, and differentiated packaging for his sunflower seeds in 15 days. While the flavored seeds are the only goods in Smackin’ Seeds line-up today, Schaefer has bigger plans for the future.
“My goal is for us to be a large, healthy, and flavorful snack company. We aim to provide quality ingredients in quality packaging that people will enjoy and continue to come back and eat over and over again,” says Schaefer.
Today the seeds are sold at Bobby & Steve’s Autoworld stores, the largest gas station chain in the Twin Cities area. By 2020, Smackin’ Seeds will be available to purchase in all of their stores, and online at www.smackinsnacks.com.