Exeleon Magazine

Ashley Rogers – The Evolution of a Taste-Maker

Ashley Rogers_Dynamic Entrepeneurs_Exeleon Magazine

A little snack can be a perfect friend in a lot of places. From movie theaters to binge nights at home, munching a little nothing can deliver a sense of satisfaction. Moreover, those who have tried it during brainstorming sessions can surely vouch for its productive sides.

People in the food business know this by heart, which is why cafeterias or places that offer tidbits are mushrooming. In fact, restaurants are scoring well by serving such snacks under a more gourmet-fashioned name ‘appetizers.’

But are they healthy?

Consumers are getting more and more health conscious. In tandem, entrepreneurs are trying products with nutrition value like chickpeas or cauliflower, but they lack the appeal. When Ashley Rogers got to know about brands trying out these products, she got perplexed. She wondered why no one picked sweet potato as a favorable snacking option? It is a lip-smackingly delicious treat and can be healthy as well.

Here in the States, sweet potato is quite popular as a snack. Fried sweet potatoes are widely available across eateries, which also explains its market potentials. This little insight inspired Ashley to come up with a new brand called ‘Spudsy.’

The company serves only baked products and is “vegan, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, and free of the top 8 allergens.” While launching Spudsy, she gave the brand a delightful twist. The result is Mr. Spudsy, a cute and fun mascot that provides the brand with a definite identity.

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What Was The Journey Like?

Spudsy is Ashley’s second venture in the F&B industry. The first one being Buff Bake. In many ways, Buff Bake acted as a stepping stone for Spudsy.

Ashley got no formal training in entrepreneurship, and Buff Bake helped her learn all the little details of running a business. It was like going to college, only that it was more pragmatic. She learned real fast to make things work in her favor. That is how she got to know much about “sales, marketing, logistics, distribution and how to work with manufacturers.”

She also “learned that in order to be successful in the food world TASTE IS KING.” The product has to hit the ball out of the park in its first go as there will be no second chance. This helped her immensely in developing business plans accordingly for Spudsy.

While building the premise for Spudsy, she took the time to set each stone right and create bonds with her distribution partners. It was crucial to make Spudsy evolve as a household name. According to Ashley Rogers, for any entrepreneur, “getting people to buy your product off the shelves is the hard part.” This is where the time spent on bonding with retailers comes in handy.

She mentions, “when you enter new retail stores, you have to support that retailer with promotions, secondary placement, etc. in order to get the consumer to notice your product…especially when you are a new brand they have never seen before!”

But this style needs changes “when you enter too many retailers nationally at once, it is really hard to support all those retailers,” both financially and logistically. So going slow and being strategic about when to engage retailers is the KEY.

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What Has Changed?

The COVID-19 crisis has been a real eye-opener. It made sure that companies review their steps to learn more about possibilities. Sales dipped for the companies but Spudsy braved the storm and opened up new avenues. The company is now a part of 600 Kroger doors and closed its Series A Raise with a great fund and won $100,000 as prize money from the PepsiCo 2020 Greenhouse incubator program!

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The Process

When there is a talented bunch of co-workers to back the progress, the going gets more comfortable. Ashley has a co-packer who is a certified B corp. As a result, they take the employees, the community, and the environment very seriously. The collaboration ensures proper reviewing of all aspects of the business to inspire decisions that are environmentally conscious and socially responsible.

If truth be told, this adherence to principles goes beyond the production where the company follows strict codes of conduct for all suppliers it works with. Ashley’s team ensures that the supplier meets GFSI standards to maintain a safe food standard without compromising. Besides, the “ingredient review process includes sampling, testing and a thorough document review to ensure marketing claims such as kosher, vegan, gluten-free, or non-GMO can be met.”

As an additional measure to increase its credibility, Spudsy follows GSSI standards, which is the Global Food Safety Initiative.

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The Coming Days

Ashley believes that Spudsy is a great salty snack that can grow big in the coming years and she is committed in making it a household name. She has been putting in a lot of effort in making that a possibility and has a dedicated team who are equally involved in the process.

She has earned her team’s support by showing great respect for her co-workers and staying true to herself. As she asserts, “I talk to everyone as if they are my friend and never change my tone. I am simply always ME and you either like it, or you don’t.” It is always about sounding authentic and maintaining healthy relationships. Ashley Rogers’ advice for that is simple, “Be You!”

Ashley Rogers is banking on her dreams and resilience to move ahead and pave a path. For her, these traits build the character of a dynamic entrepreneur. As a beginner, one starts his or her career by listening to many ‘NOs’. In those times, resilience and the drive to do something acts like motivating factors. It worked for her as well and she has evolved from there. She now knows how to take the challenge upfront and turn that ‘NO’ into a ‘YES.’

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