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Meet Startup: Popcorn Flour by Sharyn Carlesso

Having developed a new flour and traversed the world of patents, this local business owner was looking for help to scale.
Startup Shakeup broke the isolation startup founders can experience by providing connections with other businesses going through their own journey.

Startup Shakeup definitely opened the doors to more networking and connections. That’s really important. For me it wasn’t just about connections that can help me, but also with other businesses that are going through their own journey of scaling.

– Sharyn

Tell us about your idea or startup.
I established King Valley Popcorn with salted caramel popcorn and through demand that became a business.
Everything we sell is natural and gluten free. My mum suggested that people who prefer gluten free foods often find it hard to get a cake for a celebration, so it might be something I could look at adding. She suggested maybe use a gluten-free cake mix and decorate it with the salted caramel popcorn. I looked into it and when I saw the ingredients on the cake mixes you can buy from the supermarket, I thought, I can’t on-sell that!
So, I started experimenting to see if I could make a cake out of popcorn. I came up with a popcorn flour that is still similar to wheat flour in that it makes fluffy cakes that hold together. We are 2.5 years into the process of getting a patent for the flour. We mill it on a small scale and are working to commercialise the product. We sell it at the moment as a flour or cake mixes, online, at markets, through some retailers and in our store.

What were you looking for when you came to Startup Shakeup?
I was at a point in my business where I needed to scale it and needed some help do so. I was also looking for help with my elevator pitch and shaping our products. I was going to do it myself. It would have been a natural progression, the next steps as I’m paving a new path. But I realise you can’t do it all on your own and I definitely needed to reach out and get guidance to help me make the best decisions going forward. I felt supported and working with Startup Shakeup definitely gives you confidence.

Please describe what Startup Shakeup did for you?
Startup Shakeup definitely opened up the doors to more networking and connections. That’s really important. For me it wasn’t just about connections that can help me, but also with other businesses that are going through their own journey of scaling. It just opens up conversations with others going through the same thing as it can be quite isolating sometimes.

What has changed in your business and/or life as a result of Startup Shakeup?
It definitely helps with your level of focus. You feel accountable to someone; it’s not just yourself when everyone else knows about it.

Where to next for you?
I will keep charging forward. And keep searching for solid connections in my network and sharing knowledge and gaining knowledge. I am looking forward to solidifying where I think I am and building a greater foundation.

What would you like to do next with Startup Shakeup and how will you continue to be involved?
I’d really like to see a workshop on commercialisation and scaling your business. It’s a really great topic. When you are at this stage you want more intense information. There are regular workshops for maybe early stage businesses that are about the basics but then you need more advanced courses.

What is your advice to other people in startup mode/other entrepreneurs?
Take your goods to markets for exposure. People at markets will help you find out what will work and won’t work. It’s a great opportunity to leverage as you don’t need a lot of money to set that up and people will give you a lot of feedback. The other bit of advice is to be open for all levels of feedback and constructive criticism.