Published January 27, 2014
Being a successful entrepreneur is all about finding a void in the marketplace and filling it.
And that’s exactly what Corin Mullins, founder and CEO of Holy Crap Cereal, did.
At the recent Annual EY Strategic Growth Forum and Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program (EWW), women entrepreneurs from all over North America gathered for the awards ceremony and shared stories and business insight.
At the conference I had the opportunity to speak to Mullins about why she launched her business and got her best tips for budding entrepreneurs. Here’s what she had to say:
Dr. Woody: Where did the idea for the cereal come from?
Mullins: Our cereal is a chia-based cereal and we originally started the cereal itself because my husband has problems with wheat and swallowing, so chia is a seed that you mix with water and it becomes pudding like. It’s very easy to take. The name [Holy Crap] came from one of our customers. We used to sell the cereal at a farmers market at a little table and three days after they bought the product they called us and said ‘holy crap this really works!’
It’s very high fiber, has your omegas, it’s non-GMO, and it’s gluten-free.
Dr. Woody: So, the phrase “Holy Crap” caught you.
Mullins: It did. It caught both of us. Of course my husband said let’s use it. But I didn’t want to use it. He convinced me to do it for the summer because we were semi-retired. And he said that all our customers would be tourists that we’ll never see again.
So, we were doing everything at home and that’s what we did. The first day I was selling Holy Crap Cereal I sold 100 and I never looked back. I haven’t looked back at all. It’s in the name and it’s a phrase that people use, it’s an expression.
Dr. Woody: So, as part of the journey you’ve now gone from idea to entrepreneur to now running a business. So what have some of the challenges in that transition been for you?
Mullins: One of the challenges was staying where we were in a small town and having everything brought in. We were heavily criticized because it’s so expensive to bring everything in, but what we do is called back-hauling. So, the trucks are going back [out of the town] empty, so [instead of going back empty to their distribution centers] they take our product back [to go to market]. So everything came into place. So that was a challenge we overcame in a very positive way.
We’ve hired all our friends and family, which is another challenge in a different way. We have 20 full-time employees and two contract employees.
Dr. Woody: For you as an entrepreneur and now a business leader, what are some of those core values or guiding principles that are personal to you that you have relied on to make this journey through a lot of uncertainty?
Mullins: I wanted to give our customers a sense of confidence that we were honorable honest people. Whatever I put out to them I eat at home and all our staff eats at home. This was very important to us. Really all you have is your word. Once you’ve lost that no one is ever going to trust you again. So for us, it’s our honor, our word, our integrity. These are all old-fashioned words, but they are still true today because if you lose any of that you lose credibility and that’s all you have is your word.
Dr. Woody: How do you take that and instill it in the organization and the people working for you? Because it’s one thing to have these values yourself, but as the organization grows how do you make sure it reflects you values?
Mullins: We like to hire slow and fire fast. We’ve been very fortunate in that for the three years we’ve been in business we’ve only asked two people to leave out of almost 25 people that we’ve had come and go through the company and we still have 22 with us. They are like-of-mind and have the same core values. We all believe in the product. We are very excited about it and we all take pride in what we put out there.
We take very good care of our employees as well. We are on a medical and dental plan. We make sure that all the families get weekends off so they can spend it with their kids and take their kids to soccer or hokey or whatever. It’s very important to us.