Steve Broad hails from Marin County in Northern California, where the emphasis on nature and clean living is clear. In 2012, he and his wife Annie Chun created gimMe, the pioneer in organic, non-GMO seaweed snacks.
With an obsessive focus on quality and a unique vision on how to bring this traditional Korean side dish to Western snack aisles, Steve created a global leader in seaweed and a top-selling plant-based snack brand in North America.
What is your business and what do you do?
In 2012, my wife and I launched gimMe Snacks, the world’s first USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seaweed snacks.
What sparked your vision to launch your business?
After starting, growing, and ultimately selling our first natural food company Annie Chun’s, one of the leading Asian food brands in the U.S., we were inspired to do it again. We all love roasted seaweed and had been eating this healthy snack for years, so in 2011 when our family was sitting around the dinner table, our teenage daughter Mia had a great idea – let’s name our new company “gimMe”, because “gim” in Korean means roasted seaweed, and everyone will be wanting more! Annie pushed to make the product organic, which was a first and a lot of work to coordinate between the Korean and US Organic Certifying Organizations.
What has been your favorite failure and what did you learn?
I’m not sure any failure is a favorite, but there is one failure that came with a very important lesson. We had an exclusive supplier of our product which created a great partnership, but when our competitor bought our supplier, it became a big issue. The important lesson is to diversify supply chain, customer base, etc. Do not become beholden to a sole source or customer without a well understood “Plan B”.
What was your most memorable day of your career and why?
To be honest, the signing ceremony in Korea when we sold Annie Chun’s to CJ Corp (part of Samsung family), was a very memorable event for us. Annie Chun’s was CJ’s first foreign acquisition so everyone was very excited!
With respect to gimMe, two big events stand out: achieving organic certification with our Korean supplier in 2012, and the day Whole Foods accepted our Sea Salt and Sesame flavors nationally after being rejected the previous year. GimMe quickly became Whole Foods’ top selling seaweed, and is now their top selling premium plant-based snack, outselling fruit chips, kale, chickpeas, and vegetable chips!
How do you continue to learn so you stay ahead in your industry?
Embracing technology and change. Being able to embrace change and adapt quickly has been a key factor in making our business run more efficiently. Even during these unprecedented times, we’ve been able to deliver strong business performance and continue making products to meet consumer needs.
How do you manage stress from running a successful business?
It’s not easy that’s for sure, but exercise, sleep, good diet (including seaweed!), and being able to find time to disconnect works for me.
What is some bad advice you hear in your industry or with entrepreneurship that people should avoid?
I think there is an inherent drive entrepreneurs have to want to grow fast, and if that results in the company losing money, then they run the risk of timing with respect to raising capital. It can spell a premature end to the company. As they say, raise money when you don’t need it, because when you do, it is not your best negotiating position.
Where can readers find you on social media?