When an award-winning entrepreneur of three decades tells you something, you listen – even if they’re quoting Star Wars. This uniqueness is what has set Arran Stephens, CEO and Co-Founder of Nature’s Path and his company apart in the billion dollar North American organic food movement. Arran transformed a dream and a $1,500 loan into an international company shelved beside Kellogg’s and General Mills, proving that you can be a success while staying true to your granola roots.
“Find Your Niche and Originality.” – Arran Stephens, CEO and Co-Founder, Nature’s Path
Arran grew up on an organic berry farm on Vancouver Island collecting seaweed and hand-planting corn, so opening Canada’s first organic vegetarian restaurant wasn’t far from his nature loving beginnings. Taught to leave the earth better than how he found it, Arran created an eco-friendly brand that customers can rely on to be vegetarian and organic without having to read the fine print. His niche product or service offering shows that consistent branding helps your customers know you’re a trustworthy source.
Nature’s Path didn’t offer 150 products overnight. “Many failures result in overexpansion,” Arran cautions, and that level of growth might not be right for your business. It took 30 years for Nature’s Path to go from a local restaurant to being sold in over 40 countries. Great entrepreneurs need to think big, but make sure your growth is smart, as well as ambitious.
“Do or Do Not, There is No Try.” – Yoda
It’s clear that Arran believes determination is vital for success when he quotes Star Wars. Though he’s expanded Nature’s Path carefully, when he makes a decision, he doesn’t do it in half-measures. His business is involved in growing, manufacturing and distributing its products, all of its offerings are third-party Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and it has acquired 6,600 acres of sustainable, co-op farmland since 2008.
Hire for Your Limits
“We hire qualified professionals, and frankly smarter people than us, who form the strong links in our team,” Arran jokes. He uses the example of his Co-CEO and wife Ratana Stephens, who keeps the company grounded. Her business acumen matched with Arran’s dreamer qualities keeps Nature’s Path true to its principles while following a smart business model.
No one is perfect. If you’re a writer and not an accountant, work with a financial expert. Know your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can create the best team for your business.
Craft a Healthy Culture
Nature’s Path crop shares with family farmers in its Saskatchewan organic farmlands, processes for many independent organic family farmers and many of its offerings are fair trade. Considering that, it’s no surprise that the Canadian company has repeatedly been listed as Canada’s Top Employers” and was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Best Employers to Work for in Canada” in 2014.
But Arran makes sure that Nature’s Path culture doesn’t rely on these honours, saying that “These accolades are transitory and it’s dangerous to rest on one’s laurels.” Because workplace culture changes over time, he makes sure his progressive, creative team focuses on Nature’s Path mission – to create delicious, organic food and to improve the environment for the future. Employee engagement comes naturally when everyone supports a common goal.
Stay True, Stay Driven
Companies depend on details like operations and logistics to keep them afloat, but entrepreneurs have to remember why they’re working so hard in the first place. Passion is vital to achieving your goals, your business and your vision.
Nature’s Path is guided by its central principles and is guided by the Sustainable Food Trade Association’s declaration of sustainability. It’s diverted over 92% of landfill waste and supports hundreds of organic farms to keep over 500,000 pounds of toxic pesticides out of the soil. “We need to achieve a better world for the next generation. And together, with the right effort and integrity, we can do it. We must do it,” says Arran.
Meet Arran on October 1, 2015 at INSPIRE.
Arran will share his business stories and advice on this year’s panel.
Leadership and Growth Strategies for Driving Bottom-Line Results
- Growing a lean start-up to an industry leader
- The importance of values and culture
- Techniques for lead your team and allow them to grow
- Working with purpose: looking beyond the money