Q&A with Nikki Azzara of P.S. Snacks Co.
If you guys haven't tried P.S. Snacks healthy cookie dough - what the hellll are you waiting for?! It's one of the best things I've put in and/or around my mouth in a WHILE. And their founder, Nikki, is a badass businesswoman who I had the pleasure of interviewing today. Next steps: read this interview & buy some healthy 'dough. You're welcome.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Nikki! I’m the founder of P.S. Snacks Company. I am 26 years old, I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC and went to Wake Forest University. I am very passionate about health and wellness, I love to cook, and exercise + coffee are built into my daily routine. I have one older sister, Alex – we currently live together in Manhattan. When I am not working, I love to spend time with friends and family, travel, explore, read and watch movies.
What was the inspiration behind P.S. Snacks?
During my senior year of college I was taking a bunch of interesting classes, including entrepreneurship, consumer behavior marketing and a writing for advertising/PR course. The inspiration from those classes combined with my passions for health, wellness, exercise and cooking led me to launch my own brand, Slender Seven, an online cookbook where I shared my healthy recipe creations that use 7 ingredients or fewer. During my sophomore year of college I had found out I was gluten intolerant, so I was constantly concocting fun and simple recipes that were healthier alternatives to my favorite meals. I decided to start sharing these recipes on social media (this was only 4 years ago and definitely pre- “influencer” days), working with my favorite brands on recipe development and co-promotion. That summer after my graduation in 2014, I was interviewing for jobs while working hard on creating content for the blog. I had that “aha” moment when I saw an opportunity to launch a few of my Slender Seven recipes – the cookie dough made from chickpeas and black beans – as products in the retail market.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own brand/business?
Passion + People + Professionalism + Pivot.
Be 1000% passionate. While I would never shoot down someone’s dreams of starting a business, I think it’s very important for people to know that entrepreneurship is not always glamorous. I’ve seen firsthand how starting a brand/business requires time, energy, blood, sweat and tears, and often times it’s my passion alone that keeps me motivated and excited each day. If you’re not passionate, it will be way too easy to get burnt out, and when your venture starts feeling like a chore, you’ll not want to put in the time and energy that is really required to make it successful.
Surround yourself with the right people. The BEST people. I have been lucky to have amazingly supportive family and friends that have literally stayed up with me until 3 AM making cookie dough to hit a production deadline. Your people are the ones who keep you going. I also make a conscious effort to meet and learn from people that are smarter, older and more experienced than myself – people that can be resources and mentors when you need help (which is a lot!).
Professionalism, or as I like to call it: “fake it till you make it.” I started this business right out of college, with little to no job experience, let alone real life experience. You will likely not know all the answers, but I have found that acting bigger and more confident than I often am has, in turn, enabled me to learn so much. I am also very proactive about networking, asking questions and having an open-mind, and I have found a community of mentors that are excited and willing to help me grow, both professionally and personally.
Lastly, it’s really important be agile, with an open-mindedness and willingness to pivot when something isn’t working. Being able to pivot requires an ability to rid yourself of ego and stubbornness, but it’s also really refreshing. It makes people want to help, genuinely. As an entrepreneur, your first idea is likely going to take many shapes and forms, so being able to pivot early on is key. For example, our cookie dough was originally branded as Slender Seven on shelves. It was sort of working, kind of not. So I pivoted. Rather than give up, I learned what was working (the cookie dough), what was not working (the branding), shifted gears (said goodbye to my “baby,” Slender Seven), re-branded and re-launched our product. It was, by far, the hardest yet best decision I have made to date.
What do you love most about your job?
I love being passion-driven to work everyday (literally everyday) without it feeling like a chore.
What do you love most about yourself?
I am easily amused and love to laugh, and I have been told my laugh is infectious. So I love the fact that something so simple can positively impact others!
Take us through a day in the life of Nikki. We want all the deets!
Ah. This is one of the best parts, no one day is ever the same. Lately, I have been traveling all over the country trying to grow this biz, so I’ll walk you through a day in the life when I am home in NYC – today, in fact!
- Woke up, 8am-ish. I try to sleep in a little when I’m in my own bed, because I usually average less than 5 hours per night and all the traveling and lack of sleep ends up catching up with me!
- Coffee, first and foremost. I have been doing my own version of bulletproof and it’s game-changer.
- I spent the first few hours of my morning submitting our online orders, answering/sending emails and doing general administrative work – including preparing for my meetings in Boulder next week (Because I have been traveling so much since moving to NYC back in August, I have yet to get an office space! So I usually work from my apartment, a nearby coffee shop or I go to the WeWork with my friends, the Sunnvia Super Coffee brothers).
- Next up, calls. Sales reps, account managers, retailers, my advisor, my manufacturer, etc… cold calls, conference calls, interviewing summer interns. It’s not always exciting and it’s a lot of work -- my day-to-day tasks are usually centered around making our brand and products accessible to customers all across the country. There is always work to be done!
- Lunch break – blended a Daily Harvest smoothie!
- The fun part – I had to take photos for some upcoming giveaways so I got to play with food, take pictures and edit those to send! I love collaborating with other brands and bringing food to life through images.
- I then prepared our Friday newsletter, which we send out to our 1100+ subscribers each week, usually just updates, recipes, recaps and fun tidbits.
- I’m on my phone most of the day managing our social media, but I allocated about a half hour in the afternoon to respond to DMs and comments on our Instagram account!
- Snacked on the new Purely Elizabeth grain-free superfood bar… so yummy.
- My last conference call ended at 5:30, then I did my favorite NYC 5-mile running loop from SoHo to Battery Park and back. I make time to workout every day – it’s just part of my daily routine and helps me stay balanced (and sane!!). I either run or workout/do yoga at Equinox.
- For dinner, I cooked paleo taco bowls for my sister and I (I love to cook… she does not)
- Shower, pajamas and all that jazz
- Emailed from my bed
- Caught up with my friend on the phone
What's on the horizon for you in 2018?
A lotttt. Brand and packaging revamp, new flavors, growing the team, potentially a move and MANY more stores… plus new products on the horizon. I created P.S. Snacks as a brand platform, and I am on a mission to modernize familiar treats by using unconventional, plant-based ingredients to create nutrient-dense snacks. So cookie dough is justtttt the beginning!!!
And lastly, what makes you feel like a kween?
I believe that “success” is all relative, but I feel like a kween knowing that I have achieved the greatest success I could have imagined – being able to turn a passion project into a sustainable business as a 1-woman show at the age of 26!
Order our cookie dough online and use the promo code ‘KWEEN’ at checkout for 30% off your order!!