Ones to Watch: Sydney Chasin, lil’POP

Sydney Chasin (credit: SIE)

Ones to Watch: Sydney Chasin, lil’POP

Sydney Chasin runs a healthy snack food company, lil’POP, and the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) are supporting her as one of their ones to watch.

SIE is the national organisation for the promotion of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland’s universities and colleges. Since 2000, SIE has helped identify and support some of Scotland's most promising entrepreneurial talent at an early stage in their journey who have gone on to become some of Scotland's brightest young stars. These include Rebecca Pick (Pick Protection), Victoria Hamilton (VH Innovation) and many more!

Nearly 400 students entered SIE's enterprise competition in 2016-17, representing an excellent pool of potential new talent. BQ & SIE have come together to present a series of interviews showcasing some of the best students and graduates who were recognised during the process; entrepreneurs who are starting out and have the potential to make it big - the Ones to Watch!

Describe your idea in no more than 100 words

lil'POP is an exciting new snack food company specialising in popped sorghum, which looks like miniature popcorn, but is made with a super-grain that is better for the environment and better for you! A drought resilient, eco-friendly, nutrient-packed crop, sorghum is predicted to be the next quinoa. Best part? Doesn’t get caught in your teeth!

How would you describe your innovative idea to an elderly relative?

Teeny-tiny popcorn, but made with a different grain that is water-resource saving and nutrient-rich.

What led you to come up with this idea, and how does it differ from others?

I came up with this idea off the back of trying the US version of popped sorghum in Washington D.C. and realising the UK popcorn market is booming! I entered the idea in an SIE competition and further developed the idea from there.

To my knowledge, lil’POP is the first popped sorghum product in Europe. Each lil’POP is sustainable, healthy, and cute as can be!

What inspired you to start developing your idea?

For my honours dissertation I interviewed young entrepreneurs in Scotland. Each and every one of them had a unique and invigorating story. They inspired me to embark on this entrepreneurial journey.

Where do you get advice, support or help?

  • Scottish Institute for Enterprise
  • Bright Red Triangle - Edinburgh Napier University
  • Princes Trust
  • Business Gateway
  • Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Enterprise Nation

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Getting the grain to pop! At the beginning, I thought this would be a simple task, but the grain proved to be rather finicky. The first test batch smoked out my kitchen and approximately 3 seeds popped. It took me months to find the perfect grain variety and methods that yielded the perfect popping percentage!

What are the biggest challenges you face when trying to develop your idea?

Scaling production. It is a big challenge to create a bulletproof supply chain from importing grain to managing shelf life to manufacturing minimum order quantities. 

Additionally, it is a challenge to convey our key brand values on limited packaging space. It is a difficult to educate consumers about limited water-resources, when water scarcity is not a commonly highlighted issue in Scotland, but is huge issue globally.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I see myself having a UK leading health food brand specialising in a line of sorghum grain products.

SIE says: Sydney is a natural entrepreneur who has spotted an opportunity in the market and is using her considerable sales and marketing skills to make it happen. Lil POP is the only popped sorghum business in Europe. She's now tackling the technical issues and has set herself the mission of making sorghum the next pinot noir!

For more on SIE, including detailed case studies and more on its educational programme go to the SIE website: www.sie.ac.uk