Stamberger’s first important role in the food industry was at United Airlines as an entrepreneur-in-residence and investor in 2003. With United Airlines in bankruptcy and in-flight meals being removed, Stamberger was tasked with developing a business outside ticketing and flying. She considered “individually packaged single serve items with an extended shelf life that was also good food” filling the need for lunch or breakfast.
At the time, much shelf stable food was filled with high fructose corn syrup, colours, additives, and artificial flavours, according to the entrepreneur. It was this that led Stamberger to explore better-for-you food and the brands using ingredients that consumers could have in their own kitchen. We spoke to her to find out more.
The Planting Hope Company has male co-founders but an all-women board and C-suite. How do you think this influences your business strategy?
“It was a very conscious decision by all of us. My co-founders and I had built quite a few brands and businesses together over time and had spans in the industry of 40 plus years. In one case, none of us had less than 15 [years’ experience]. […]
“What that experience had shown us was that this interest in better-for-you food had created a market whereby large strategic [consumer packaged goods] CPG companies were coming in and snapping up these innovative food companies and very high multiples of revenue […]
“We had the opportunity to do things differently, [and] the opportunity to show that a woman-run company can produce excellent financial results. And today we decided to go public, to do that very publicly.”
Is the food industry a diverse and inclusive space in your experience?
“It wants to be and the people who start companies very much are. They come from all walks of life and they're typically doing it out of [...] passion as well as with a business motive.
“That can be good and bad. There are lower barriers to entry and sometimes people invest based on how the food tastes instead of the quality of the execution. In other words, this is a great product [and] it's going to be successful. The food industry is very hard, especially to scale a grocery brand. [...]
“There's passion, interest, drive, and a strong amount of diversity. It's a long and hard path to growth, and I think that's underestimated when people come to market and it's frustrating. Entrepreneurs who succeed or fail. It's everything about tactical execution and how quickly you can get your head around that and learn.”
As a serial entrepreneur familiar with the challenges of a startup, what piece of advice would you give to budding female entrepreneurs?
“One piece of advice that my dad, who was an executive his whole career, gave me was: [give] a firm handshake and look people in the eyes. You're a salesperson.
“Your sales skills, how you present yourself, and communicate are critically important at every moment. You could be doing an interview with the press… as an entrepreneur; you are the most important piece of your brand.”