Q&A with Adam Sopher

This is the first in a series of Q&As with people who have worked, hustled and made stuff happen – they’re the doers of the world.

Adam Sopher

Adam co-founded Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn in 2010.

Joe & Seph’s is a family business who launched in 2010 with a mission to produce the best tasting popcorn in the world. All of their popcorn is handmade in London, by a small team of pastry chefs. They now have a range of over 40 flavours of gourmet popcorn, 6 varieties of caramel sauce, and have won a total of 24 Great Taste Awards.

We had a chat.

How did you come to found Joe & Seph’s?

For years my dad loved popcorn. Making it, eating it. One year he went to the states and brought back so much popcorn that he said, ‘I should start my own company’. That was 20 years ago. He’s since retired.

In November 2010 we rocked up to a food show with our own four flavours of popcorn, and we sold out in two days. The Selfridge’s buyer spotted the line snaking around. That led to a listing, and that’s how we launched.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There’s everything and anything. There’s stuff like discussing new product ideas and pricing meetings. There are one-on-ones with the team. I speak with customers. That sort of thing.

I tend to start around 8 o’clock. I’ll leave the office around 7 or 7.30. But I don’t really stop then. We’re growing fast. We don’t over-resource. We wait for the growth, then we resource. So we’re always fairly busy. It’s always been like that, and I’ve always liked that.

What are your ambitions for yourself and/or the company?

We want to be the world’s best-tasting popcorn, and be available in every premium store and online. There’s a lot of growth to be had, and we’d like more listings. Incidentally, we launched the world’s first official Marmite Popcorn, which we’re really excited about.

Speaking of new product development and growth, you launched your range of caramel sauces.

The rules of the game are to stick with your core product. We never were ones to stick to the rules. We saw the opportunity after so many customers requested the product, and we took it. Now we sell the sauces that are on our popcorn, and people can have them on ice cream or a crepe, on brioche or a cake.

What challenges have you faced?

Cash flow, as always. We haven’t taken on any external funding. We’ve tried to grow within our means. At the beginning we had a small overdraft with NatWest.

Operationally, managing our own production facility has its own challenges. I’m fortunate that I had my dad and mum as the other directors. We attack a problem together and balance each other out.

If you could start all over again, would you do anything differently?

Now that I understand the industry a little more, things are a little easier. Starting out you make a lot of educated guesses. That meant we’ve approached people in quite a different way from how people typically go about it. Which actually helped. So no actually, probably not.

What does success mean to you?

Seeing the development of the team we’ve got. How in some cases they’ve started as interns and gone on to manage their own teams.

And I still get a kick out of going into a store and seeing people pick up the popcorn from the shelf. And seeing on social media when someone says they love the popcorn.

What do you do when you’re not working?

When’s that?

I like to go on holiday. I think you don’t get perspective on things unless you get away. These days you’re always contactable. Just this week I’ve been contacted on WhatsApp, phone, voicemail, email, Facebook, and Instragram. You never really can detach. There are so many ways for people to contact you.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs starting out, or just anyone who’s pursuing a goal?

Do it.

A good idea is 90% execution. The idea bit is quite easy. Go and execute it and do it really well. So, really nail how you’re going to go about doing it.