Interview with Cathryn Zielinski, founder of Simplyseedz

Find out how being made redundant was the push Cathryn Zielinski needed to launch her healthy breakfast and snack business Simplyseedz.

What’s your career background?

Originally my career was in corporate travel and then corporate expense management with American Express. After 19 years service, and due to  the financial crash of 2008, I was made redundant in July 2009.

While my background was not from working in the food industry, it gave me business knowledge to be able to start working for myself.

Where did the idea of Simplyseedz come from? 

The idea of Simplyseedz came from creating my own healthy breakfast and snacks following a personal health scare (a pulmonary embolism from a long haul flight).

Because of the limited choice of truly healthy products in the supermarket, I started making porridge, muesli and toasting seeds just for my own family to enjoy.

After redundancy, and not knowing how long it was going to take to get a job, Simplyseedz began as a kitchen table project to prevent the grey matter going greyer! It was a seed of an idea.

Who’s your target audience? 

I felt that there were more people like me that wanted honest, transparent and sustainable breakfast and snack choices that weren’t laden with salt and sugar.

Our customer base is quite wide, from children to adults of all ages but it is those who either want or have a need to follow a healthier lifestyle.

We have many sports people (runners, cyclists, triathletes) some professional, Olympian’s and paralympians who use our products as part of their nutrition plan. 

How did you transition from idea to actual business?

After being made redundant I ended up getting a job, just as I had got approval to start producing and selling porridge and seeds at our local farmers market.

However, I continued developing the idea and testing flavours and range over 7 years before taking the plunge for Simplyseedz to become a serious business opportunity.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

It’s been a lot of networking, events, festivals and social media which have all helped spread the word.

Offering tasting samples at events such as the BBC Good Food Show gives consumers and buyers the opportunity not to just taste our range, but also provides a chance to find out more about our business and plans.

I love nothing more than telling my tale of how Simplyseedz came about, sharing recipes and serving suggestions to enjoy the range even more.

We even appeared on Dragons Den, which was scary, but we have retained a lot of customers and followers who are still with us on our journey. We also had a recommendation in the Mail on Sunday recently which generated more customers, again our consumer base continues to grow.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

As a small business the biggest obstacle we face is cash flow. We do not have the banks to easily turn to for funds and therefore have to manage the finances carefully.

For example, it is economically better value to buy packaging in bulk but then you do not want all your money put into a load of labels etc. Any profit at this time has to go back into the business for stock production.

Why is work so important to you? 

I am passionate about healthy eating and get frustrated when I see a product on a supermarket shelf purporting to be healthy with it’s very glossy, funky design.

When you check the back of the pack at the nutritionals, you find it’s not what you have been led to believe. I’m on a mission to challenge the cereal aisle with transparency. I think the public deserves better.

Who inspires you?

I get my inspiration from many sources. This includes the usual rags to riches biographies but predominantly my inspiration comes from my customers. Listening to their feedback is still really key, as without them, I wouldnt have a product.

How do you balance your work with your family?

It’s so important to have and maintain a good work/life balance. I’m fortunate that I live in a small rural Worcestershire village. I can escape my desk and take a good walk with my two dogs across the fields. It clears the head and allows me to have some thinking time.

I also cycle. I have a road bike, but also an e-bike which is great fun! And when we get a chance, my husband and I love to take a holiday to Croatia or head to the alps to ski.

Find out more about Simplyseedz.