Industry Influencer

Meet Tara Bosch, Founder and CEO, SmartSweets

Tara Bosch is on a mission. The 23-year-old founder and CEO of SmartSweets wants to kick sugar, keep candy and create a food movement based on smaller portions, and smarter choices. Her weapon? Gummy bears that are low on sugar, and high on taste.

Battling the Fast Food Economy

The demands on our time have never been greater, while advertisements bombard us daily with slick commercials for fast food and sugary treats. The result has been an explosion in worldwide obesity levels, something Canada isn’t immune from.

According to a 2014 Stats Canada study, over 20 per cent of Canadians aged 18 and older (roughly 5.3 million adults) are classified as obese. If these trends continue, it’s forecasted up to 70 per cent of adults aged 40 and up will be overweight or obese by 2040. Clearly, something needs to change, and entrepreneurs like Tara Bosch are forming the first wave in the fight for a healthier future.

Drawing From Experience

For Tara, the decision to tackle this mammoth problem stemmed from her own experiences with food as an adolescent. “Growing up, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food,” she revealed. “It was affecting my self-esteem and body image, and I began looking into the shocking reality of what sugar was doing. It became apparent to me that healthy relationships in all aspects of life come from smaller, smarter choices.

“In a conversation with my grandmother at her kitchen table I learned she regretted consuming so much excess sugar over the years, especially from one of our favourite treats to enjoy together – candy. I did my research and learned that on any given day we consume more than 70 grams of sugar and Americans spend an estimated $1 trillion yearly fighting the damaging health effects of sugar. To my surprise, I found that not one confectionary company is addressing sugar reduction in a natural way. Equipped with my belief we should feel good about enjoying the foods we love, I bought a gummy bear mould from Amazon and began recipe testing in my kitchen on a quest to create the first candy that kicks sugar.”

Gaining Confidence to Act

Establishing a healthy relationship with food didn’t just set Tara on track for a healthier lifestyle, she also credits it with giving her the confidence to start pursuing her entrepreneurial ideas, even if they initially didn’t pan out.

“Early on, I had loads of ideas, but I just lacked the confidence to act on them,” she said.

“As soon as I turned 13, I got my first job at McDonalds, and I held two part-time jobs that equated to full-time hours all through high school. I’d sit in the evening and watch Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank religiously, keeping notes of all my ideas in my phone. But I lacked the self-belief to take the first step of turning my ideas into a real tangible thing. I believe ideas mean nothing unless they’re acted on, so this was a huge problem. It wasn’t until I had a healthy relationship with food that I had the confidence to begin acting on my ideas.

“When I finally found myself equipped with the confidence, I was in my second year at UBC. I launched my first business, selling vinyl and chalkboard wall decals for students/renters who couldn’t damage their walls. It was a pretty epic fail! But it turned out to be the biggest blessing as it gave me the golden nuggets of knowledge that made all the difference when I started SmartSweets.”

Turning To Help

Like countless entrepreneurs before her, Tara realized early in creating SmartSweets that she didn’t have all the answers. Turning to a network of mentors enabled her to turn her vision into a reality.

“From the get-go, I knew I wasn’t going to get there alone. From day one, I openly accepted that I don’t know what I don’t know. I had never built a business, let alone a global empire trying to #KickSugar! I knew if I wanted to make it a success, I’d have to find people much smarter than me who wanted to support me in bringing my vision to life.

“I went on a spree through Google, emailing people locally in BC who I thought could help. One of those emails turned into me attending a two-day “How to launch a food biz” crash course where I met two mentors that proved instrumental early on. I also looked for programs where I could immerse myself in an environment with other like-minded entrepreneurs. I stumbled upon “The Next Big Thing”, an accelerator program founded by HootSuite’s Ryan Holmes and applied on a whim thinking I didn’t stand a chance as it seemed to be tech focused. Surprisingly I was accepted! It was a total game changer as it hooked me up with incredible people, resources, and a physical space where I was surrounded by other young entrepreneurs going through the same highs and lows I was.”

Looking to the Future

Tara’s rise has been meteoric. SmartSweets is currently sold in more than 1,000 retailers across Canada, and online throughout North America. Plans are in the works for new product lines, and the company is aiming for $2 million in sales by the end of 2017. So, what’s next for Tara Bosch and SmartSweets? According to the Surrey native, global domination.

“My vision is to become the global leader in innovating confectionary products that kick sugar, while becoming a global leader in pushing back on foods with excess sugar,” Tara said.

“I want to create broad awareness that when you kick sugar you are investing in your health in a tremendous way. I want to empower people to live their best lives by giving them the choice to kick sugar.”