In a candid conversation, Tara Bosch, the visionary entrepreneur behind SmartSweets, shares her inspiring journey of transforming the candy industry and her commitment to empowering young female entrepreneurs through her latest initiative, Bold Beginnings.
From her love for candy to her relentless pursuit of innovation, Tara’s story exemplifies the tenacity and vision required to succeed in the world of business!
The Sweet Beginning
How Tara’s SmartSweets journey began and the motivation behind it.
TB: I’ve always had a love affair with candy. Some of my fondest memories are when my grandma and I would get together and bond over a bag of our favourite candy. A conversation with my grandma where she shared she regretted having so much sugar over the years – especially from candy – was the catalyst that had me asking: ‘Why can’t you feel good about candy?’ I bought a gummy bear mould from Amazon and after months of recipe testing in my kitchen, I innovated the first delicious candy – without all the sugar – and the global vision to revolutionize candy was born. At age 21, I followed my intuition and dropped out of college to go all-in on bringing SmartSweets to life. I didn’t want to wonder ‘What If?’ for the rest of my life, and I’m so glad I made the jump. Today, SmartSweets has kicked over 5.2 BILLION grams of sugar out of traditional candy since our launch and can be found in over 150,000 stores while cementing our status of being the global leader in revolutionizing candy.
Navigating Challenges as a Young Entrepreneur
Q: As a young female entrepreneur, what were some of the most significant challenges you encountered while building your business?
A. You’re Going To Feel Lost (and that’s a good thing).
When I was in college, I had a hard time finding myself interested in anything I was studying. I actually ended up having a different startup that failed before I came up with the idea for SmartSweets! I’ve learned that failure is just your stepping stone to success and where you are meant to go. Figuring out what isn’t going to work out in life is just as useful as feeling like you’re heading in the right direction. The idea of being “lost” is part of life and the process of creating. Where I am today, I feel the same feelings that I felt on day 1 in SmartSweets. You might feel like at a certain point of success, you’ll have everything figured out, but that just isn’t the reality. But you just have to continue pushing forward.
B. Funding can look how you want it to.
At such a young age, it was really hard to gather enough funds to start the manufacturing process. I ended up being able to secure a $105K debt financing loan against my Honda Fit hatchback and life insurance- and did a convertible note once I launched initially, but relied on debt financing to scale the business. This allowed me to keep the equity I would’ve given away through equity financing to maintain majority control of the business, give meaningful equity to every single employee, and give equity to advisors whose support for our growth was crucial. There can be a lot of pressure to feel like you have to raise early on and that it’s a magic bullet to success- in reality, there are many different paths to funding your company’s growth and being crystal clear on the “why” behind the one you’re choosing is so important.
C. Prepare To Put In The Work.
I did not have the life of a typical twenty-year-old. I was working around the clock and often pulling all-nighters-, and I rarely gave myself a weekend off, or even holidays. This was all a choice of course, and every day I felt so lucky to somehow have the opportunity to bring our vision to life. Even so, It still was hard not to feel like I was missing out on my college years spent with family and friends, but at the end of the day, this was an active choice for me. I am so glad I put in all of the hard work, I did because it allowed us to expedite the pace at which we grew. There is no right or wrong intensity to grow a company, but for me, having patient urgency (running like hell every single day and having the patience to wake up and do it all again each morning) really paid off in actualizing SmartSweets being the leader in revolutionizing candy and In the global sugar reduction movement.
D. There Are ALWAYS More Lessons To Learn. To be successful, you need to be able to keep progressing.
You cant have a mindset that you have everything figured out. The more you learn, the more you realize no one has everything figured out. Be open to making mistakes and admitting them when you do, ask questions and be obsessed with improving yourself.
E. Be Prepared To Step Into The Unknown.
You will never know it all, but it is important that you have the confidence to figure it out! I can’t tell you how many ideas I had, but the lack of confidence to start them, which is a bummer. Looking back to when I first started, I’d say having confidence in yourself and your idea really is everything. Be confident enough to step into the unknown, and know that as long as you continue taking a step forward every single day, the universe will guide you to where you’re meant to go.
Empowering the Next Generation with Bold Beginnings
Tell us more about Bold Beginnings and the inspiration behind its creation?
TB: I recently launched Bold Beginnings, a $25,000 accelerator impact initiative to empower young women under 30 across North America to know that they are infinitely capable. I understand the challenges that female entrepreneurs face—feelings of self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and questioning their capabilities. My goal is that Bold Beginnings helps to normalize those feelings. Our mission is to allow women to tap into their limitless potential, receive unwavering support, and gain the knowledge necessary to support them in turning their visions into reality.
Bold Beginnings is more than just a grant or an accelerator. It’s a transformative accelerator that normalizes the fears and insecurities commonly felt by women entrepreneurs. It’s a celebration of the courage it takes to forge ahead, even in the face of uncertainty. When I think of my younger self, the girl starting out recipe testing in my kitchen, I wish this existed, so I’m so excited to now be creating an impact for other young women entrepreneurs.
A Vision for Positive Impact
The ultimate goal of Bold Beginnings and the plan:
TB: The best part of having success in life is to be able to use it for the greater good – No matter how hard one works, the universe, something greater than yourself supported you to get where you are, and it’s a huge privilege and responsibility to be a good steward of your success to create a positive impact in the world. Bold Beginnings is one impact initiative that I am really passionate about building to empower the next generation of young women entrepreneurs. I like to go to bed at night and stare at the roof and say: okay universe, please use me how I’m meant best to serve.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Q: Based on your experience, what advice would you give to aspiring young female entrepreneurs who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey?
TB: You are divinely blessed and infinitely capable. Your talents, abilities, and the way you think are unique to you and are exactly what’s needed to bring your idea to life.
If you’re a huge fan of all things sweet, check out these indulgent spots for an ice cream treat in Edmonton!