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Exploring the Challenging Landscape of the Chewing Gum Industry with Caron Proschan of Simply Gum

When you think about Chewing Gum, which brand do you typically think of first? Probably someone like Wrigley, right? But did you know that most traditional chewing gums are made with plastic, synthetic ingredients, and artificial preservatives? (I sure didn’t!) I recently had the chance to sit down with Caron Proschan of Simply Gum who talked to me about the lack of all natural chewing gum products, why it’s been an interesting challenge to enter this space, and how she plans to make a difference both in our stomachs as well as in the world at large with her venture into gum manufacturing.

Learning to Hustle in a Brand New Space

“I’ve always been into healthy living and natural foods. I’d never been able to find a gum I wanted to chew.”

That’s an odd thing when you think about it. Our grocery stores now have whole aisles (or even entire store concepts) dedicated to organic and all-natural foods and, yet, gum was never part of that offering.

As Proschan explained, she really wanted to fill that gap by creating an all-natural chewing gum that was free from all those ingredients and preservatives that were not only toxic to our bodies, but to the environment. As she started looking into this idea for her new business, however, she soon realized there were a number of barriers to entry.

For one, there were no manufacturing companies they could outsource the work to, which meant all the product development and testing had to be done by Proschan.

Finding and employing a workforce was another challenge as Proschan was unfamiliar with how to handle a workforce for the manufacturing side of her business.

Every #smallbiz faces challenges, but Caron Proschan didn't expect this when she started @SimplyGum.
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She also had to learn how to manage her own supply chain. With little data to work from, it took time before Proschan figured out what the right amount of ingredients or packaging would be, or how to properly forecast their sales, which sometimes left Simply Gum in the unenviable position of being short on products or late on deliveries.

While it’s been a few years since Proschan launched Simply Gum and worked on tackling each of these obstacles, she now seems to have a really solid footing beneath her. In fact, her advice regarding distribution is a great reflection on how much she’s learned about succeeding in the food manufacturing space:

“Getting into the store is just step one. Getting your product to really move is what matters. It’s about getting out there in a small way and doing it yourself.”

So, what did she do? She started locally and went out there on foot, going to stores like Whole Foods and other natural grocers around New York City. If you want to hear more about Caron Proschan’s personal hustle, you can listen to the full audio of our interview here

Chew on This

Before I wrap up here, I do want to touch on a few more points that Proschan brought up during our conversation. Even though her company is still relatively young, I think she’s been able to learn a lot more in that time than many other entrepreneurs who enter into industries with more established processes and support. Here are some of the points I want to bring your attention to here:

Lesson 1: Once you have a viable product to work with, get it out there.

Lesson 2: “You’re gonna hear a lot of no's. You’re gonna encounter a lot of challenges. But you’ve got to keep going.”

Lesson 3: Remember that when money comes in from investors, that doesn’t mean it’s time to start spending it all on fancy offices downtown, pool tables, and free food for employees. If you can maintain that bootstrapping mentality, you’ll find that avoiding that waste will get your company a lot further.

Lesson 4: Entrepreneurs focused on building a quality product and not on spending money to create a certain reputation will attract a higher quality of talent.

Lesson 5: If you want to do some good and give back with your success, you don’t always have to boldly advertise it across your product. It’s better to be authentic and to find a cause that aligns with your product or service.

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