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Cole Schaefer is the Co-founder of SMACKIN’ Sunflower Seeds, jumbo-flavored sunflower seeds roasted and seasoned to perfection. He is a self-starting college entrepreneur dedicated to creating products and services that improve the lives of others. Previously, Cole served as the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Blueprint Brands, a Venture Capital Analyst at Atland Ventures, and a Digital Marketer at Homi Inc. He holds a BS in marketing from the University of Minnesota.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:02] Cole Schaefer talks about SMACKIN’ Sunflower Seeds and its products
  • [02:53] Cole’s entrepreneurial journey
  • [03:53] The evolution of SMACKIN’s products
  • [05:00] Tips for growing your online presence as a brand
  • [06:44] Cole shares the challenges they faced while growing SMACKIN’

In this episode…

Are you a fan of sunflower seeds? Are you interested in finding sunflower seeds that offer unique and delicious flavors?

Sunflowers contain healthy fats, essential plant compounds, and several vitamins and minerals that can help reduce the risk of common health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and cholesterol. Sunflower seeds are becoming increasingly popular for snacking straight from the bag, in trail mix, multi-grain bread, and nutrition bars. However, finding unique and delicious flavors can be a challenge. This propelled Cole Schaefer to create a brand of better-tasting and better-for-you sunflower seed snacks people can enjoy.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Cole Schaefer, Co-founder of SMACKIN’ Sunflower Seeds, to share his entrepreneurial journey in creating a sunflower seeds brand. Cole talks about SMACKIN’, the evolution of its products, tips for growing your online presence as a brand, and the challenges he faced.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPOEOLending TreeFreshdesk, and many more.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here I am the founder and host of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today’s no different and this is a special episode. I am actually interviewing founders and CEOs live at the Sweets and Snacks Show. And so check it out. We have some amazing companies featured check this episode out and before I get to that this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. How do we do that? We help you run your podcast. We are an easy button for an organization or business to launch and run your podcast. I’ve been podcasting for over a decade now. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to do that than to profile the people in the companies I most admire, feature them on my podcast and shout from the rooftops so what they’re working on and what they’re doing. So if you’ve thought about starting a podcast you should if you have questions, you can go to or email [email protected] to learn more. Now check out today’s episode, live from the Sweets and Snack Show. Jeremy Weisz here live at the Sweets and Snacks. I’m here with Cole who is the founder of SMACKIN’. So Cole, tell people about the company and some of the products.

Cole Schaefer  2:02 

Yeah, SMACKIN’ is a Gen Z confectionery media company. Our current offering is sunflower seeds and favorite flavors is cinnamon churro. And yeah, we started in 2019 and our college dorm.

Jeremy Weisz  2:13 

So tell me, the media company part.

Cole Schaefer  2:16 

Yeah, we’re pretty big on social media. We have about half a million followers through our social platforms. And we post short-form content of just people trying our product.

Jeremy Weisz  2:25 

So what are the platforms?

Cole Schaefer  2:27 

Yeah, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, all under SMACKIN’? Yes. SMACKIN’ Sunflower Seeds.

Jeremy Weisz  2:33 

So did it start with a product with sunflower seeds or?

Cole Schaefer  2:37 

Yeah, sunflower seeds was the first product and we just started posting videos about it. Just the journey of building a business and having people try the product like it and not like it, like tweak the formulations. And we just kind of share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jeremy Weisz  2:50 

So talk about the journey a little bit. What’s the beginning?

Cole Schaefer  2:53 

The journey is hard. I mean, it took me forever to get where I’m at. But like we started in our college dorm, freshman year, my randomly assigned roommate Brian and I, hit it off, we tried to start some different businesses and one thing led to another we’re both big baseball players. And we knew that there was a need for and a desire for better sunflower seeds on the market, ones that weren’t small and didn’t cut open your mouth and didn’t have like, low-quality seasoning. So we took the hypothesis and we started making seeds in our dorm and tested them out with people. And we had to figure out how to sell it. And yeah, it’s been quite the journey.

Jeremy Weisz  3:25 

So were the followers from documenting the journey of the business? Or where did that come in?

Cole Schaefer  3:30 

Yeah, it’s mostly from documenting the process of building the business. And then just like sharing the product with people we just posted about it and I guess people enjoy watching it. It was never the intention, we just wanted to like, get the brand out there and like people latched on to it, I guess.

Jeremy Weisz  3:48 

Talk about the evolution of the product. Which flavor do you start with? And then what came after?

Cole Schaefer  3:53 

Well, we don’t even have any of our original flavors anymore. We started out, it was a Serato honey and a Nashville hot and we had a tangy backyard barbecue, which we have a backyard barbecue now, but like it’s way different. And our packaging and branding was totally different. I mean, it was clear college kid designed it and like but yeah, like we tried with those first three flavors and just, we bought the packaging, we got the seeds, we produced it and like we had to figure out how to sell it. Like it was cool. It was fun.

Jeremy Weisz  4:22 

What was the next product that’s kind of stuck around?

Cole Schaefer  4:25 

The next flavor. Well the next big player that came out was garlic parmesan. And then cinnamon churro came out as the next flavor after that. And those are our top two sellers. So we’re starting to build like quite a lineup around it. We’re launching five new flavors this year, that are more along the lines of like those crazy flavors like churro and garlic. But yeah, those are the heavy hitters.

Jeremy Weisz  4:48 

Cole, for some of the brands here at Sweets and Snacks, what can they learn from you or how should they be posting online to gain attention and to gain followers, and fans?

Cole Schaefer  5:00 

Yeah, just be authentic and be consistent. Share your story with the world and like, people appreciate it. And like be critical of yourself like, just because you think it was good doesn’t mean that like, some random person thinks it’s good and like, truly, like, work at it. And like, if you work at it, you’re consistent and like your authentic like, it’ll work.

Jeremy Weisz  5:20 

What’s some of the posts that you remember got the most amount of views that maybe you were surprised about?

Cole Schaefer  5:25 

I mean, I had this one, like, back in the day when we’re starting out and still trying to learn it. Like it took us like two years to understand how to make this content. Like we were doing this series where I like, opened up my seeds, a bag of my seeds every day and dumped it on my head to try to get Mike Trout who’s like my favorite baseball player to try it. And, like, he eventually like, DM-ed, like followed me follow the brand and like…

Jeremy Weisz  5:48 

So every day, you’d open a pack, and you dump them on your head.

Cole Schaefer  5:53 

I’d go like this, just yank it open, and then just dump it on my face. And then like, just post a video about it. And like, we’d say like, until Mike Trout tries, and we’re gonna do it every day. And like, eventually, like one of our fans, like, caught his attention in the DMs and like, he, like reached out for some seeds. And that was really cool. Like, I was like, one of those moments where, like, we’ve got a real community here, like, people are like, trying to help us out and like spread the name and the awareness. And it was neat.

Jeremy Weisz  6:15 

Mike Trout, eventually you got his attention.

Cole Schaefer  6:18 

Yeah, Mike Trout. Yeah, he’s a fan of the SMACKIN’ brand. I guess.

Jeremy Weisz  6:22 

Where are you based?

Cole Schaefer  6:24 

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our factory is in Salt Lake City and our business units are headquartered in Minneapolis.

Jeremy Weisz  6:29 

So where can people find it? Where do they get it?

Cole Schaefer  6:32, we’re working on launching in a bunch of brick-and-mortar. That’s why we’re here. But yeah, we’re right now.

Jeremy Weisz  6:41 

What were some of the challenges you mentioned?

Cole Schaefer  6:44 

I mean, bootstrapping a business, a consumer goods business as a college kid is not easy. It’s capital intensive, it’s labor intensive. And like, building a brand is really difficult, like, in order to get someone to, like believe, like, in order to get someone to buy a product that you created is really difficult. And like in order to, like, understand how to, like, accomplish that, and like sell a product, like it just kind of like that repetition, just like, yeah, just doing it day in and day out. Like, that journey is difficult, and it’s lonely. But like, it’s very rewarding as well.

Jeremy Weisz  7:17 

What’s been a proud moment so far?

Cole Schaefer  7:19 

I mean, I think like, just being here is cool. Like, being with my team. Just like selling the product. Like, I get to go live on my dream every day. Like, I go down to Arizona go to different stadiums, like, pass on my seeds to baseball players, and I have a good time. I’d say I’m just living the life every day.

Jeremy Weisz  7:35 

So who’s next that you want to get SMACKIN’ in the hands of the next Mike Trout?

Cole Schaefer  7:40 

I think we’re trying to go after some cultural icons instead of baseball players moving forward. So, we’ll see someone like Kilroy, Justin Bieber, Mr. Beast, not boys, like, I love baseball, but like we want to bring SMACKIN’ to everybody.

Jeremy Weisz  7:56 

So tell people, what’s the website people can go to?

Cole Schaefer  7:59

Jeremy Weisz  8:01, check it out. Thanks, everyone.