“Weaknesses are only weaknesses if you don’t manage them.” That is what Snack Packers CEO Ali Cherry said in the first 30 seconds of her Movers and Shakers interview.
The Hamilton College and University of Maryland alumna is full of pith, creativity and spunk, making her a perfect fit for this series. Cherry launched Snack Packers, a healthy, eco-friendly food delivery service, in Washington, DC just over one year ago.
The former online marketing consultant parlayed her years of experience working with cause-based non-profits into a new gig as Snacker-in-Chief. “Trying to come up with innovative solutions for clients isn’t that different from [creative problem solving] an operations level,” she shared.
As in any good story, her trajectory more closely resembled a Sine curve than a straight line. A significant event came seven years into her career when she quit her cushy online marketing job to work for a startup in India.
“I wanted to get a little closer to the work and I was also interested in the hybrid model of social enterprise,” she said. The spirit of social enterprise is simply about “making dollars and making change”.
The jaunt “scratched three itches”: Working with a startup, living in India, and exploring social enterprise as a career path. Upon returning to Washington, DC, striking out on her own edged out the two other itches and Cherry began to scratch.
The multi-talented entrepreneur whittled down her strengths to a personal passion. “I just decided that what I know best and what I want to have the most influence on is helping people reach their potential through food,” she enthused. And thus, Snack Packers was born.
Working with non-profits had its own combination of “pickles, personalities and politics”. Similarly, running your own business presents myriad situations where you are wading through the same three things. Cherry credits her liberal arts education for helping her to analyze day-to-day operations. “I really credit my time at Hamilton…for being a problem solver and thinking… of everything as a piece of the puzzle,” the Massachusetts native said.
But all work and no play makes an entrepreneur a little dull. When she is not delivering goods to customers, Cherry uses comedy to exercise her mental muscles. Hedging, she insists, “I don’t perform that much just to be fair.”
The intermittent comedian sees much overlap between healthy snacking by day and making strangers chortle by night. “We are always collecting these thoughts. People are tweeting about them or texting people about them or you’re writing them down in some journal that you have and that you’ll keep forever.”
But in comedy the crème rises to the top. Comedians calculate: ‘we’ll pick up the best, put them into like a legitimate set and deliver it.” Like a new snack recipe from Real Simple, it can be a hit – or a tomato-dodging miss.
The decline in American consumers’ food IQ is no laughing matter. People spend little time exercising and considerably less time thinking about what they are eating. “Things like yogurt covered pretzels, which are basically sugar covered with flour,” do not do the body good even though they may taste great. As Cherry pointed out, they are “not going to do much for you from an energy perspective.”
Snack Packers offers an array of delectable alternative eats ranging from almond clusters to edamame crackers to mulberry and sunflower mix. Prospective snackers can order from a few plans, depending on what whets their appetite most.
Snacking “can either sabotage or enhance your behavior on other levels, especially eating.”
Speaking of sabotage, chuckling about a bad set, Cherry advised: “don’t make fun of smokers at a comedy club. It’s a terrible idea.”
Snack Packers is only available in the Washington, DC market and Cherry has an eye on organic growth that fits demand. However, if the last year is any indication, the D.C. area should be eager to see what she serves up next.