Chew On This!

Caron Proschan loves healthy living.  She also loves gum.  After finishing an energizing workout at the gym one day, she reached for her pack of gum and realized a huge disconnect.  With plenty of healthy, all-natural food and beverage options, why was her gum a troubling shade of alien blue and packed with un-pronounceable chemicals that would pollute her body?  This a-ha moment led to the launch of a dream and a company – Simply Gum.


Turns out, the gum industry is big – $4 billion in the U.S. and over $20 billion worldwide.  It also turns out the industry is controlled by deeply entrenched giants, with two conglomerates accounting for 95% of the gum sales in the U.S.  The idea for an all-natural gum seemed cool, but how could Caron possibly take on the industry behemoths?  How could a bootstrapped entrepreneur from Queens, New York stand a chance against the lab jackets and deep pockets of her billion-dollar competitors?

In a recent interview, Caron shared her approach with me.  She embraced three key strategies to launch her company, which is now sold in over 1200 stores and is enjoying explosive growth.  The simple playbook of Simply Gum can help you take on your own giants and boost your success:

1. Embrace Dissonance– That little feeling of discomfort, knowing that something isn’t right, can be a fabulous heat map to opportunity.  Caron’s desire for a healthy gum in an unhealthy industry led to her breakthrough idea.  Look for moments of frustration in your own life, which will help forge a path to fresh ideas.

2. Focus on Differences– Most people in most industries follow the industry norms, and then wonder why their results are ho-hum.  Simply Gum, on the other hand, defied tradition.  Beautiful packaging, transparent, all-natural ingredients, and unusual flavors such as ginger, maple and coffee help Simply Gum stand out instead of blend in.  To truly triumph, focus more on what makes you unique and then scream those differences from the mountaintops.

3. Iterate Fast– Simply Gum is constantly refining their manufacturing processes, flavor profiles, and distribution strategies.  Speed is a powerful weapon against those slow, clunky incumbents, allowing this startup to adapt, learn, and grow faster than the big boys.  Rather than waiting until something is perfect, launch your product, service, or solution fast and then adapt quickly to refine and optimize your offering.

So far, the sleeping giants haven’t fired back at Simply Gum.  Caron is soaring while her competitors remain stuck in the mud. She’s using this precious time to grow and solidify her new approach to a stale industry.  In the same way Red Bull disrupted the beverage field, Caron and her team at Simply Gum are using these three killer strategies to carve out their own field of dreams.

Follow the lead of this creative entrepreneur.  Seek dissonance.  Stand out instead of blend in.  Adapt Fast.  You’ll likely enjoy a big boost of growth, and you’ll give your competition plenty to chew on.