Office Hours: I used to be a director of business development at SoulCycle. Now I run my own low sugar candy brand.Featured

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @mayssachehata!Elphas – please ask @mayssachehata your questions before Friday, October 1st. @mayssachehata may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
vanessaw's profile thumbnail
Not sure if it's too late to put in a question, but might as well! As someone who has spent my whole career so far in tech and mostly at large to midsize companies, I'm really curious about what drove that transition for you to building your own company? Was there anything that scared you about making that leap into scaling your own thing, especially in the consumer goods space (since I'm coming from tech, the world of physical goods definitely scares me a bit)?
brianarani's profile thumbnail
Hi Mayssa - thanks so much for joining Elpha for Office Hours! What was your inspiration to start a candy brand? And what are some of your favorite candies?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Briana! My inspiration was really simply that I love candy. I could never give it up, but as I got older and wanted to eat healthier the candy products I loved were no longer a good fit. I tried to find better replacements and came up empty handed. That's how the idea was born. My favorite candy is of course BEHAVE, but some of my throwback favorites are Twizzlers, M&Ms, Butterfiner, and Percy Pigs (these are British and so amazing!).
aviaggarwal's profile thumbnail
Hi @mayssachehata, thank you for sharing your journey with us - very inspiring to aspiring food founders (incl myself)!! Was there a learning curve with entering CPG? How did you learn the industry quickly? What was harder than expected, and what was easier than expected as a founder? Would you recco others to spend time at a growing food business before founding their own food brand? How did your time at Daily Harvest influence your approach?What is the best training for marketing & brand-building? How can someone new to these functions catch up to speed?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Avi!The best resource for me learning CPG was reaching out to founders who were a little bit ahead of me in their journey and asking their advice. My favorite question is what's something you wish you knew or a mistake you wish you could have avoided when you were at my stage of the business.I expected it to be hard, and it's hard :) but as cliche as it sounds I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else, and I'm loving the journey and feel extremely grateful everyday.It was great to get exposure to a food business before starting BEHAVE, but I don't think it's necessary. I do think however if you want to get into CPG, exposure to some kind of CPG company is very helpful, even if you just pick up a small freelance project with one.My time at DH definitely had a huge influence on me! It impacted my approach to eating which ultimately was the impetus for me seeking a healthier candy and coming up empty-handed, and it was an amazing lesson in early CPG consumer brand building. I'm very grateful for my time and experience there.I noted some great resources in response to Amelia above, and would add that as much as I'm trying to reduce my social media usage and unplug more myself, being tuned into what other brands are doing via social has been a great way tobe plugged in and get inspiration.Hope this is helpful!
aviaggarwal's profile thumbnail
Really helpful responses - thank you so much!! Will definitely check out the DTC resources you mentioned - have also been recommended the book "Ramping Your Brand" by some other founders in case that one is not already on your radar.
AmeliaR's profile thumbnail
As a newbie to large DTC companies what is the best place to learn about the organizations of the Ubers of the space? Any events, associations you might recommend?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Amelia! If you're looking for exposure to the DTC landscape, some resources I definitely recommend are the LeanLuxe newsletter, Nik Sharma's newsletter (he's also a great person to follow on Twitter), and the How I Built This podcast. I drew a lot of inspiration in years that I was preparing mentally to start my own CPG brand from listening to the stories of other founders who had done the same and been successful. The Brand Builder podcast is another great one for the Food and Beverage space.When it comes to the industry, almost every industry has a trade association, and I definitely recommend getting on their newsletter to get exposure to the important new stories in your industry. For us, that's Candy Industry and the National Confectioners Association (NCA). The NCA also hosts a trade show called Sweets and Snacks which we attend every year.Hope this is helpful!
AmeliaR's profile thumbnail
@mayssachehata Incredibly helpful, thank you!!
fzhakam's profile thumbnail
Hello hello Mayssa!I am launching a sustainable bean-to-bar chocolate company (we had connected on instagram)- We are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free with a focus impact on girls' education in West Africa, which is where we are sourcing our cocoa beans from. Since our product is considered a premium, gourmet, luxury item - we are targeting boutique coffee shops, gourmet & lifestyle stores, and spa's/hotels for our distribution channel. Given the fact that we are just starting up and cannot afford a broker, is there any other strategy and avenue that you. can recommend to get in touch with buyers apart from cold calling & Linkedin?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Fatima! Great to connect again, so excited about your brand. We're on a platform called FAIRE which connects you to 10s of 1000s of independent retailers like this and has been a great platform. Shopify also has a marketplace called Handshake which is similar.
cattxx's profile thumbnail
I'm obsessed with candy, especially sour candy. Can you ship to London quickly?? haha
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Love it! Hopefully soon 🇬🇧🍬
KatrinaKordowski's profile thumbnail
Hi @mayssachehata - amazing to hear about your journey new company! How did you transition within different departments at different companies (people tend to put other people in buckets and it can be hard to move from BD to partnerships then marketing etc.) so would love to hear how you did it and how you built the connections to start your own business. Thanks so much and all the best!
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Katrina! When I started my career, I was in a rotational program which was really helpful because it exposed me to several different departments within one company, so I got to hone in on a variety of skill sets, and also quickly identify things I didn't enjoy doing. I think this broad exposure in my first job (and also multiple internships that were quite varied), along with joining Uber early in my career (which was still operating like a start up at the time) taught me that the most important thing in almost any of these functions is to be an amazing problem solver. So I focused on being able to identify problems and find + execute solutions.Being in partnerships and BD roles while at Uber, Daily Harvest, and SoulCycle also really helped me build a strong network with many people across multiple brands, industries, and positions. Something I always focused on in relationship building is that I actually think the "ask" - what you're reaching out to or connecting with the other person about and trying to achieve - come second. Connecting with them on a human level comes first. Some of my closest friends today are people I met via a cold outreach for something work related, but by allowing work and social to overlap, I found more success in those relationships professionally, and am very lucky to have made some of the friends I have today!
Yufa01's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for offering your invaluable time, Mayssa! I am curious to learn what are your suggestions for building a brand as a startup as what you are doing now for Behave Candy! :)
teresaman's profile thumbnail
Just checked out Behave! So happy to see that you're using monkfruit and not things like Aspartame or Sucralose... ✨
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Thanks! Yes, we very intentionally don't use any sugar alcohols, and chose monk fruit over stevia given a lot of customer have an aversion to the taste of stevia.We work with an incredible celebrity chef, Elizabeth Falkner, who creates all of our recipes, and a huge part of our brand ethos from day one was that if we're going to make healthier candy, it still has to taste amazing!
KateHo's profile thumbnail
Hey Mayssa,Is it possible for you to describe a bit about how you might approach building a biz dev team at an early stage startup?cheersKate
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Kate! Business Development teams can vary so widely depending on company. I think the key when it comes to building a successful BD team is very clearly identifying the objectives - is this a purely sales/top-line revenue-driven BD team, or do they have other goals such as building brand awareness, improving customer retention, increasing average order value, etc.Laying the objectives out before you begin the process of building the team will help a lot in the hiring process to find the right people, and in setting expectations and clear objectives with the team once hired.I also personally believe that in an early stage startup (unless it's a SaaS company with very rigid sales targets), providing flexibility to BD teams leaves room for creativity and important insights to the product and business that might be missed if the BD team's objectives are too narrowly defined. If the team is told to strictly sell sell sell, they might not be seeking feedback from customers about the product that they can relay back to the product team to make improvements. Or they might turn down an opportunity that isn't going to generate big $$$ but might have helped elevate the brand or put it on the map in a different way, leading to more brand awareness and increased sales down the road.So offering some flexibility and space for creativity is something I definitely encourage and have always tried to create in the BD teams I've built and been part of.
sylviamendez's profile thumbnail
Hi Mayssa, I love candy, will have to try out Behave. What do you think are the top skills for anyone trying to break into business development and partnerships?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Sylvia! My biggest advice in partnerships and BD is to bring your personality into it. When we try to be super professional I think it actually hurts in BD, versus trying to be your most authentic self and connect with your partners on a human level, which I feel leads to the best deals and partnerships getting done!
hhay's profile thumbnail
I'm so curious how you integrate DJing into your life! How did you get into it? How often do you do events and what kind of events? Did you or are you intentionally trying to grow that piece of your life pie or is it more of a hobby you're happy to do occasionally? I've always been intrigued and inspired by people who DJ, seems like a really fun way to spend your time
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Helena! Love that you're interested in DJing, we need more female DJs :)The way I started DJing actually bears a lot of similarities to the journey of starting a company. Basically - just start, throw yourself into it, ask for help, and see what happens :) I was always talking about how I wanted to DJ, complaining about the music when I was out, etc. and one day a friend called me and said why don't you DJ an event I'm throwing. It'll be low pressure, we'll have all the equipment, just put together the set and play. So I make my set list and show up - and I have no idea how to use any of the equipment (!) I basically ended up just playing my music off a Spotify playlist and pretending to use the decks, but I got so many compliments about the music, so I was motivated to keep going.The next day I bought a starter kit (Pioneer SB3) and posted on IG asking if any friends would let me buy them lunch in exchange for a lesson, and I had a few friends come over and give me lessons to get started. In tandem, while I was still figuring out how the controller worked lol I was telling people I was DJing now and started getting hired or invited by friends for various events. I even started charging, and pretty quickly - as my skills and comfort level also improved - I was charging in the 4-figures for sets. So I guess it's a mix of delusional confidence, taking action, and some friends to help out. Before starting the company and COVID I'd play a couple events per month, but now I'm playing my first event since COVID started soon and I can't wait! It's definitely harder to fit in now with the company but I still play / practice at home from time to time and it brings me a lot of joy and is a way to unplug from work and plug completely into something creative. But I live for playing live, so excited to incorporate that back in.
joclark's profile thumbnail
@mayssachehata first I checked out the website and LOVE your branding! Also, hoping you expand to low sugar/ non artificially sweetened chocolate (see Ghirardelli's 92% dark chocolate squares) and not use artificial sweeteners (there are a ton of us out there that don't like the overly sweet taste plus it's still bad for your blood sugar if something is super sweet despite not being from real sugar). Anyway that's all I wanted to say. Good luck as you grow!
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much Jo! We have some exciting new gummy products coming, and I'll just say that chocolate is never off the table 😋
Kory13's profile thumbnail
What was the sweet and sour (easiest and hardest) moments of starting a candy company?
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Kory! I love this question (and the pun!). The Sweetest has been getting to build and work alongside and incredible team of women to bring this product and brand to life. And the Sour, or hardest moment, has been building out supply chain. Gummy manufacturing is challenging for a number of reasons, so it's certainly been an uphill battle, but that makes it all the sweeter ;) when we reach the top of the hill.
Sambhavi's profile thumbnail
Hi @mayssachehata,Wonderful to read your journey from BD at SoulCycle to founding a Candy brand. 🤩Curious to understand how you manage with the logistics, manufacturing, packaging, and all these. How did you build relationships in this totally new area? Where did you actually start? Down the line, even I think of opening a "green" store for many products that we use on a daily basis, both edibles, toiletries and much more. It's more towards zero wastage and using natural products. But then, I have no clues as to how to source things, how does this entire ecosystem work. Best wishes on your venture 🍭
mayssachehata's profile thumbnail
Hi Sambhavi! This question admittedly brings up some PTSD 😬 This was the most challenging part of launching BEHAVE. I had some exposure to food operations from my time working at Daily Harvest, but this was overall completely new to me and, as a solo founder, I had to run into this fire alone in the beginning.Finding a manufacturer that had available capacity and was willing to take on a small, pre-launch brand like ours was tough. I spent over a year reaching out to any and everyone in the US and Canada who could make gummies (which isn't many factories), the minimum orders were very large, and many of these factories were booked out for 2+ years. It's maybe not the most helpful answer but it was really persistence and belief that we would find a solution that helped me just keep pushing forward, keep Googling, keep attending trade shows to try to meet factories, keep asking anyone and everyone I could if they knew of any factories, and finally connecting with a factory that was willing to work with us.From there, I worked with a consultant who helped us find and setup our warehouse, and we were already working with a branding agency who helped us collaborate with our factory on sourcing packaging. I will note that we had raised capital prior to launching that allowed us to hire this kind of support.Once we launched the company, I'm very lucky to have met an incredible woman who would join BEHAVE as our COO and who now oversees this side of the business. I was happy to hand it over :)
Sambhavi's profile thumbnail
Wow, that's totally impressive 💚, your go-getter attitude is what kept you going I suppose. It was really helpful, and I will definitely remember these. Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply. And sorry that my question kindled your tough past. 😥