Hi Reddit! My name is Roger and in May of 2015, inspired by a trip to a grocery store in China, I decided to start an online business to sell international snacks! Treats delivers a box of snacks from a different country around the world each month straight to your door! The moment of epiphany occurred when I purchased a Choco Pie (it's a Korea chocolate coated marshmallow snack), a snack that loved as a kid, and I remembered thinking “It's a real shame most people from outside of Asia will never have a chance to try this.”

At this point in time I’d recently quit my job to pursue my dreams of starting a business, so when I got the idea I dove right in. I went to the local ethnic markets around me and bought all the snacks I could find in order to determine if I actually enjoyed eating snacks from other countries. To my relief I did! And with that, it was off to the races. Over a period of three months, from the living room of my apartment (and with about $5000 in savings), I built a website, found a warehouse, and laid the groundwork for the launch of the company. At the end of July 2015 the website was live and the company officially in business!

The business has since grown exponentially and it’s been an exhilarating experience throughout. During the first six months I felt like I was in a constant fight for survival - to build the company, launch it, and grow fast enough before I ran out of money. To maximize the amount of cash that could put in the business, I put all my personal expenses on my credit card, racking up thousands in debt. I also took on personal and business loans to keep the company afloat as it was growing.

Throughout this entire process, I made a ton of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons, and I’d love to answer any questions you might have about my experiences, business, snacks, or anything! AMA 😃

Proof: www.facebook.com/trytreats and www.twitter.com/trytreats

In case anyone is curious, the website for the company I started is: www.trytreats.com

Comments: 2390 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

Herdnerfer2003 karma

Do you have a lot of issues with Customs or the health department? Does each food you sell have to get approval to be sold as food in the USA?

rainforest111984 karma

Great questions 1. Yes, every product is inspected prior to coming into the country, and needs to be approved by the FDA before we can receive the product and sell it 2. We rarely run into issues but occasionally shipments can be held up and delayed when they're entering the country, as the FDA needs to hold it for inspection (to make sure all of the ingredients are compliant to their standards)

Marquis77655 karma

Followup because I'm genuinely curious - how does that process work? I'd imagine that you must work very closely with the FDA on an almost daily basis to make sure that your business is not strangled by their inspections.

rainforest11819 karma

The issue only really comes up when it comes to the time where the product has arrived in a US Port from its origin country and is then held by FDA for inspections. We have no control over how long the FDA holds the products so we just have to wait and coordinate as they inform us of the status

TNRAOIH1253 karma

When you started, were you just reselling items that you bought individually, and did this lead to any legal problems? (I see some items in stores labelled "not for individual sale")

How do you get the inventory? Wholesale from places overseas, or are there places in the U.S. that you get it from?

rainforest111625 karma

From the very beginning we bought from wholesale suppliers and never re-sold individual items! In order to purchase at wholesale, I had to take an initial risk in ordering a relatively large quantity of products (and not knowing for sure if I would be able to move them.) It was a nervous first few weeks but luckily it ended up working out! We get our supply from specialized distributors in the United States as well as working directly with manufacturers and suppliers overseas!

seiriyu810 karma

I saw that you mentioned that you have contracts with all the suppliers and buy everything at wholesale. How did you even begin to get in contact with these people (and how did you know where to start)? Was it hard to do as just an independent person vs. a well-known/established company?

rainforest11826 karma

Good question! I found my very first suppliers through a lot of online and offline research for specialized distributors/suppliers (ie. attending a food trade show.) I learned the process as I went along and when it came time to place an order, I placed a relatively large order (based on how much I estimated I would be able to sell in the first month). The product was paid for upfront and without credit terms, so the question of if we were a well-known/established company at that point did not come up

chunami627 karma

There's a bunch of similar sites that offer international snacks like SnackCrate, WorldOfSnacks etc. Is there anything that makes you unique?

rainforest11664 karma

This is a great question. I frankly don't have anything bad to say about competition and I have a lot of respect for them as fellow entrepreneurs on the entrepreneurial path. One of my favorite sayings is "chase the dream not the competition." As a result, I honestly don't pay much attention to the competition . However from what I know about the competitors you mentioned and others, two points of differentiation that come to my mind are:

  1. We offer non-renewing pre-term (3 month, 6 month, 12 month) gift subscriptions if you ever want to purchase a gift for a friend or family member
  2. If you place an order today, instead of waiting for a certain time of the month (ie. April 15th, weeks away) to ship out your first box/order, we ship the very next business day. So if you placed an order on Sunday for example, your will be shipped out on the very next day (Monday)

Tusserte496 karma

7-figures of revenue just means that's how much you're selling, it doesn't account for the costs of running the company and buying supplies. How much money do you end up taking home for yourself?

I put all my personal expenses on my credit card, racking up thousands in debt. I also took on personal and business loans to keep the company afloat as it was growing.

Have you paid your debt off yet?

rainforest11842 karma

To be honest, I keep most of the capital in the business as retained earnings and pay myself just a modest salary :). I have paid off all the debts I initially took out though!

psikic463 karma

Love Treats! We've been customers since almost when you started, only taking a month or two off here or there whenever we get the snack bin too full and can't keep up. Have you thought anything about creating some kind of "best of" box with assortments from a region? Such as best of Asia or best of South America? Also it would be great if you had a store so we could buy some of your surplus of things we really liked.

By the way, we are now addicted to the happy hippos in the freezer that you introduced us to over a year ago. Good luck and we hope you continue to do well!

rainforest11710 karma

Thats awesome, thank you so much!! Hm the idea of a "best of" box is a wonderful idea, thank you for sharing that! We already do a "best of" box of sorts in our monthly mystery boxes, but those are more of what we think are the "best of" from around the world. It would be a great idea to do a "best of" box per region! What was your favorite country so far, and what regions (for "best of" boxes) would you personally like to try?

Thank you so much as well for your suggestion to have an online store to purchase surplus items. That is definitely something we want introduce soon! When it is available you will receive an email letting you know its up :D

coryrenton437 karma

what's the biggest mistake you made in the process, what's the silliest mistake you made, and what's the most subtle mistake (it took you a long time to figure out it was a mistake)?

rainforest111008 karma

Hm... at the risk of sounding like I'm copping out to answering all 3 of your questions, my biggest/silliest/most subtle mistake can actually be answered in two anecdotes:

  1. Initially the company grew so fast that it caused other problems. For example, in the first six months we had already grown from 0 to several thousand subscribers. All of a sudden we ran into cash issues to support this growth, and I needed to take out business and personal loans in order to get us through this!
  2. I waited too long to hire more people! Even after our explosive growth, I was still the only person handling everything (from customer service to warehouse operations to marketing) and I think that slowed us down. As soon as I hired more people I immediately saw the benefit (it allowed me more time to focus on what I'm good at) and wish I had done it sooner.

Sylof305 karma

How did you get your first customers?

rainforest11708 karma

I got my very first customer by posting an announcement in my high school's Facebook Group! I went to an international school in Shanghai, China, and felt my classmates in the group might have the same inclinations as I did (in terms of wanting to eat foods from their childhoods in Asia even though they might live elsewhere now.) Other methods included printing and leaving flyers at high traffic locations (ie. coffee shops, restaurants), as well as sending boxes to bloggers who were interested in reviewing them!

melangel92256 karma

SAS Pudong grad here!

Congrats on your success.

rainforest11180 karma

Nice! SAS Puxi here, Class of '08. It's great to see other Alumni on here!

mrchristian7240 karma

I see that you do ship outside of the US, however shipping to Europe is 18$. Do you have plans make it cheaper in areas such as Europe?

rainforest11578 karma

Good catch and absolutely. I'm not too happy with the $18 price for international shipping, but we were limited on this end by the prices provided by the carrier we were using.

Starting from April 7th our cost of international shipping will actually drop significantly because we're using a different carrier to ship international boxes. We're still determining the final price, but the cost of international shipping should be closer to $6.5 for our Standard box and $9 for our Premium Box

CantGrammarGood228 karma

Your personal favorite international snack?

rainforest11459 karma

Happy Hippos by Kinder! They're great on their own, but even better when frozen (in my opinion)

Hades8998 karma

Inspiring story, and I hope your success continues.

My question/comments ultimately revolve around what it takes to step over the line and take the plunge. I suppose it starts with the idea, formed around a particular love for an industry or product.

Right now I feel like I'm at a crossroads, whereby I can either continue with the Monday to Friday, 9-5 (well, more like Monday to Saturday, 8-6) life, working to fulfil somebody elses ambitions (although I do like the industry, and it's very secure, potentially very well paid work); or go my own way.

I'm 28 in two weeks, and feel like I'm approaching the "now or never" point in my life. I've discovered that money isn't everything, but I'm not jumping out of bed in the morning and eagerly racing off to work, if you understand me.

I chose an "academic" route throughout education - what I thought I should do, rather than what I truly wanted to do - but now the yearning for a more creative pursuit is almost overwhelming, and every spare moment I have, I'm racking my brain for a way out; for a business I can put my own stamp on.

So how do you do it? What mental barriers did you have to overcome (if any) to make the decision? My father did it at the age of 50, and until now, I didn't really appreciate the balls it takes to step away from the security of a regular job and give it a shot.

rainforest1189 karma

I totally understand where you're coming from! Ive always had an interest in starting my own business and before I quit my job and started Treats, I was also at a crossroads. I was comfortable in my previous job, but I realized I was getting too comfortable. The thought to leave and start a business was on my mind for a few weeks - I was determined and knew it was inevitable, it was just a matter of when - and one day I decided to just hand in my notice so that I could put my full attention into starting a new venture.

I totally understand where you're coming from and I hope you nurture and pursue your creativity and creative ventures. If you're not ready to quit your job, I would advise you to start a project you'd like to work in your free time after work and also over the weekends. This would allow you an outlet for your creativity, and as you spend more time on it the project could potentially become a business! Once the project or business is more developed and thought out, you could consider launching it and quitting your job when it begins to grow! Even if your first attempt doesn't succeed, don't give up!

jamesatreddit84 karma

Do you have contracts with the suppliers? Are you buying at wholesaler prices?

rainforest11101 karma

Yes we sign agreements with all of our suppliers, and everything we purchase is at wholesale price

IronThumbs67 karma

If you have/had a romantic relationship, how does/did starting a company and running it effect said relationship?

rainforest11140 karma

This is a great question. When I started the business I was not in a relationship at the time, and I think being single (and only accountable to myself) helped tremendously because I was able to focus 100% of my daily attention on creating, nurturing and growing the business.

Overall I think having a relationship and starting a business can very likely clash, because of the time commitment and energy required to start a business (which may take away from your significant other), but I also think the level to which it affects comes down to the couple and how well they understand, communicate, and are on the same page with each other.

thenewme2_067 karma

What percentage of your business is drop shipped?

rainforest11127 karma

All of our products are received and assembled out of our own warehouse - we don't do any drop shipping at all.

RaNDoMMAI56 karma

Is there a special Reddit coupon code?

rainforest11104 karma

Yes, thanks for asking! This code is REDDIT and it provides 20% off the price of your first box!

This coupon was actually originally shared on the sidebar of www.reddit.com/r/snackexchange, which is a cool sub to checkout if you're interested in international snacks!

shadyinternets55 karma

this is a really cool idea but as somebody with diabetes i dont think i could ever order completely random stuff like this since you dont list any of the nutritional info.... not that im expecting candy & chips to be "healthy" by any means, but some things are less unhealthy and might fit for a quick snack item when i actually need some carbs/sugar.

any chance of adding in nutritional data to the explore treats section? or allowing the user to pick which items they want to try?

i subscribe to graze which is a similar deal but it isnt candy or international snacks, just a variety of prepackaged snacks sent to you. whats great about it is through the site i can see the nutritional info for every available snack and i get to pick and choose which ones i want to try and which i dont. that way i am able to go through and pick out the ones that work for my nutritional needs and not worry about getting things i just shouldnt eat.

would love to try this out, but i dont want to have 90% of the things go to waste because i have no control over what im receiving.

rainforest11102 karma

Thank you for your compliment, and I totally understand regarding your concern about ordering but having dietary restrictions That is a great idea you have about adding nutritional data to the explore Treats section! At the moment, we do list the ingredients of snacks in our Explore page http://trytreats.com/explore/asia/driedmango - the snacks themselves also contain ingredients in English (this is one of the requirements of selling imported snack products in the US.)

We don't however display all of our snacks on the website at this time, and we don't currently have the option for the user to pick which items they want to try (although that is something we're interested in implementing at some point.) Our model is currently to surprise our subscribers each month with what they receive, but I also I totally understand your thought about not wanting 90% of the things to go to waste due to not having control over what you're receiving. Your feedback is super helpful in this regard, and I just want to you know that we are interested in incorporating the feature that you mentioned, and I hope you'll be able to give us a try when it's available!

BureMakutte51 karma

How did you deal with health insurance as most current health insurance plans are through their employers? Did the ACA help in any way allowing you to feel comfortable in taking that first step?

rainforest1172 karma

Good question! You're absolutely correct, when I first started the business I was able to get coverage through the Medi-Cal program in California and knowing that helped me with taking that first step.

greenspoons49 karma

Why are like half of your South American foods from a North American country?

rainforest1195 karma

That is admittedly a mistake on our website that we need to fix! We mistakenly classified Mexico as a South American country when it is in fact in North America

DancinWithWolves36 karma

Looking back now, do you feel like it was necessary to take out those business/personal loans in order to grow the company?

Would you in hindsight be happy to bootstrap with a lower spend and maybe take a little more time to grow? Ir was the spending imperative to growth?

Thanks! Big fan of the service!

rainforest1173 karma

Thanks so much for your kind words, and good question!

It wouldn't haven't been necessary to take out those loans if I had managed the growth a little better, but in my mind at that time I was just trying to do as much as I could to grow and reach a volume where we could be profitable. In hindsight (and if I could do it again) I would grow the business slower and manage the growth rate. What I didn't realize was that with increase in growth, there is also an increase needed in capital requirements in order to support that growt

greenlegend199826 karma

What kind of degree do you have? How hard would it be do the things you did without a somewhat related degree?

rainforest1188 karma

I have a bachelor's in finance! I can honestly say that my degree has played little to no role in my career or work related skills up to this point - most of the things I encounter on a daily basis are entirely different from what I learned in school. In my opinion you don't need a degree to succeed, just a curiosity for knowledge and willingness/ability to learn the new relevant subjects you need to learn on your own (for whatever endeavor you're pursuing)

rainforest111 karma

I have a bachelor's in finance! I can honestly say that my degree has played little to no role in my career or work related skills up to this point - most of the things I encounter on a daily basis are entirely different from what I learned in school. In my opinion you don't need a degree to succeed, just a curiosity for knowledge and willingness/ability to learn the new relevant subjects you need to learn on your own (for whatever endeavor you're pursuing)

explorer9318 karma

How hard was it starting the company by yourself?

rainforest1149 karma

It wasn't as hard as you may imagine - the main thing about starting a company by yourself is you are now completely accountable only to yourself, and that means you have to personally take on the responsibility to do what you need to do (for any tasks that come up) and learn what you don't know. As an entrepreneur one of your main constant tasks is to solve problems that come up, and as a single founder the onus is entirely on you to solve these problems when they appear. It can be lonely at times, but also exciting! The Pros of starting a company by myself is that I enjoy the independence and it allows me to make decisions quickly.

Cuttyboi12 karma

How did you begin to Advertise your business? Any prior knowledge in building an effective Website that people will see?

rainforest1119 karma

Through telling friends/family, physical flyers and sending boxes to bloggers were the ways I began advertising! I did not invest in paid advertising (online ads) until we were already profitable. As per your second question, I informally taught myself user experience (UX) design for websites a few years ago (its a subject that interests me) and I think my past experience helped me design the website relatively quickly!

diegojones48 karma

Are you hiring accountants?

Also, from my time working with people from different countries, this is a really good idea because people miss that taste of home. What do you do to ensure you are getting the freshest?

rainforest1113 karma

About accountants, not at the moment, but thank you for asking! Thank you as well for your compliment. In regards to what we do to ensure that we're getting the freshest, we always emphasize to our suppliers to send us the freshest products that they have. We have to emphasize this because sometimes it can take a while for product to transit from an international country to the United States, and certain products (such as chips) have shorter expiration dates than others (ie. crackers)

lcPASCAL-6 karma

When you started you had nothing but an idea, and nobody knew about you or it. So how on Earth did you go about telling people and garnering traction to your business? Thank you :)

rainforest116 karma

Good question! There are different methods for getting the word out when you first get started. What I did was tell all the friends and family I keep in touch with, leave physical flyers everywhere in my city, and reaching out to online media publications who might be in doing a story on us!

Pale_Wisp1 karma

I purchased a Choco Pie (it's a Korea chocolate coated marshmallow snack),

Is that the same as a moon pie?

rainforest110 karma

It's very similar! According to Wikipedia:

In 1973, a member of the R&D team of the Korean firm Tongyang Confectionery visited a hotel in Georgia, US, and was inspired by the chocolate-coated sweets available in the hotel's restaurant, He returned to South Korea and began experimenting with a chocolate biscuit cake, creating the choco pie as it is known to Koreans.

"Tongyang Confectionery" (now named "Orion Confectionery") was actually the first company to create the Korean "Choco Pie", and I believe the "chocolate-coated sweets" Wikipedia is referring to is in fact the Moon Pie

the_second__lurker0 karma

Why do you still live in an apartment making seven figures?

rainforest114 karma

Just a point of clarification, 7 figures is the revenue, not profit, and to be frank I enjoy apartment living and maintaining a modest lifestyle!

Elehhhhna-8 karma

Why are you sharing this business plan, do you want competition?

rainforest1112 karma

I don't think I'm sharing anything that would jeopardize my business plan - What I'm sharing is my story, which I hope will help or inspire others out there. Even if I received more competition as a result of this post, there's a huge amount of hard work required to start and grow a business and success is not guaranteed