In Conversation with Laurel Orley of Daily Crunch Snacks

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Describe your business in a few words?

Daily Crunch Snacks is a new, award winning, new, uniquely crunchy, sprouted nut snack that’s KETO, non-GMO certified, Vegan certified and Paleo. Through a 4 day multi-step process, our almonds are soaked in purified water, activating germination, or “sprouting,” and then dehydrated. The result: a Uniquely CrunchyTM nut snack that is easier to digest and more nutrient dense than the traditional roasted nut snack.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

After working 13 years at Mindshare on the Unilever business, I found myself loving the consumer-packaged goods world, but wanting to work for a brand I could create from the ground up. While on maternity leave, I kept finding myself reflecting on how I was so inspired by Diane’s (my aunt) snacks and their differentiating factor in the marketplace. I then joined my aunt, and founder of Diane’s Snacks, Diane Orley, to launch Daily Crunch Snacks. When I called her I said ‘I know this is going to sound crazy, but do you want to make your nuts mainstream?’. She said she’s been looking for a sign (and I was the sign) and the rest is history!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Prior to owning my own business, I worked in the corporate world in media and advertising on accounts such as Diageo, Hasbro and Unilever.  While at Unilever, I worked on flagship billion dollar brands such as the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Hellman’s, Lipton Tea and the Suave portfolio.  In the 2012 listing of the Adweek 50 “people who make the machinery of media, marketing and technology hum”, I was ranked #20 where Adweek stated ‘She’s like a Velcro wall for Unilever—most everything related to the account sticks to her.”  In 2013, I was a Teacher’s Assistant for the Executive MBA Program at Columbia University where she taught a channel architecture course.   Unilever and being a TA grounded me to understand that any brand, big or small still has to go through a process.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Not at all. My husband is an entrepreneur and I never understood why he would want to work for himself! It wasn’t until I had children and was in my mid-30’s that I started to reconsider that. I wanted more flexibility and to build something from the ground up. There are a lot of risks to being an entrepreneur but it’s extremely rewarding. 

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

After more than a year in the pre-launch phase, we were finally ready to start selling Daily Crunch. Our go-to-launch strategy was to go big in Nashville and Detroit, where Diane and I are based, before expanding nationally. We launched in the beginning of the pandemic so needed to shift our strategy to more online retailers and Amazon vs grocery stores. This definitely set us back but we started to get PR and then Amazon began to grow month after month. We recently started working with a distributor and are now in 400+ grocery stores around the country.  We will be launching into our 1st major grocery store in April.  One thing to note is the NOT rush the pre-launch phase. Packaging of your product and creating a brand identity are imperative before you launch. Make sure you go through all the steps no matter how big or small your company is (ie consumer insights, competitive research, understanding your target, etc).

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Recently I hired a Public Relations person without doing a background check, only to find out she scams small businesses. Luckily I paid her via credit card and got my money back but this is a reminder that you always have to get references!

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

From a work perspective, it’s getting the Good Housekeeping Best Snack Award last year. We had a call with Hearst and had NO idea what the call was going to be about, we thought it was for an article. After giving our story, they told us we were going to be included in the list and it was an amazing moment. It’s one thing to have friends and family believe in your brand, but another to get the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval because they love that you stand for.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

We are very fortunate to live near an incredible University where we have MBA students interning on our team. I always ask them what their favorite snacks are since after all we are a snack company

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We had to shift our strategy to online vs in-store. 

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We will be getting into our 1st major grocery store later this spring, which I’m SO excited about. We will also be in Urban Outfitters beauty and wellness section this spring

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

With being an entrepreneur, things go a lot slower than expected. There is a reason why people say ‘don’t quit your day job’ until you get up and running.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

This year has been a roller coaster but what’s grounded me are family, friendships and really starting this business. It’s kept me focused and grounded even though we are in the middle of a pandemic.  Renting an RV and driving to Yosemite this past summer was incredible and also helped me reset/stay grounded. 

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

I think work/life balance is a very personal decision with what’s right for you and your family. My best tip is to own where you are and not to pretend that you can do everything. Sometimes I pick up my kids first from the carline and sometimes last. It’s OK to leave work at 5pm to pick up your child from daycare and not feel guilty about it. And if work is still giving you a hard time, maybe it’s not the right company for you.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I’ve been told since I was 13 years old that I look like Sarah Jessica Parker. I’m not 40 and moving to Nashville from NYC 6 years ago where people here still tell me I look like Sarah Jessica Parker! So excited for the re-boot!

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Remember it’s ALWAYS going to be 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Don’t let this get you discouraged. 
  • Not every day is going to be a ‘win’. 
  • A lot of people are going to say NO and that’s OK, keep on going until you get a yes! 

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means I get to write my own story. I look at it as an adventure and try not to take it too seriously

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