SnackNation’s CEO Sean Kelly Shifts Business Model to Navigate COVID-19

Two weeks.

That’s how quickly SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly and his team were able to shift their company’s focus from supplying healthy snacks in the workplace to providing those same snacks to workers self-distancing at home.

SnackNation’s core business is providing scheduled boxed delivery service of innovative and healthy snacks, coffees/teas, and drinks to small and medium-sized businesses, ones that can’t necessarily afford Google or Facebook-style snack rooms, but still want to provide nourishing food to their employees.

This model was humming along smoothly until COVID-19 hit the United States, and states started requiring companies to shift to work-from-home models.

SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly and his team were able to shift their company’s focus from supplying healthy snacks in the workplace to providing those same snacks to workers self-distancing at home.“We had to look at this as a business,” says Kelly. “Not only is this going to be a problem for the world and for the health of our employees, but how are we going to maintain revenue and gross profit and not have to go through some major layoffs since over 80% of our revenue comes from delivering foods to organizations and offices?”

Turns out that the other portion of revenue was the solution: the company’s smaller B2C business, shipping boxes to members at home. Up until the COVID-19 crisis hit, this small portion of the business had been used primarily for collecting data and consumer insights. Suddenly, it afforded many new opportunities.

A B2B + B2C union

“We learned pretty quickly that we have the products, we have the shipping and fulfillment capability,” says Kelly. “All we need to do is marry two parts of our business that weren’t married before via a new technology platform. We had to marry B2B and B2C. We’d spoken about a work-from-home solution for years and this forced us to innovate sooner than expected.”

And that is what they did, and both existing members and entirely new companies have enthusiastically jumped on board, according to Kelly.

As soon as states began moving toward work-from-home scenarios, Kelly and his team reached out to members and asked if there was anything they could do for them.

In many cases, the response was similar: “We’re going remote. We don’t know how we’re going to deal with this since we’ve never had our entire company work-from-home. We’re adjusting to this new normal.”

Those responses helped guide the company, which was then able to reach out again and ask: “What if we could take the exact same revenue that you are paying us and break that down into a program that would be seamless and no hassle for you where you could get work-from-home wellness boxes sent to all of your employees to maintain some culture, productivity and show the families of your employees that you care?”

A huge percentage said, “Yes, we want that; we love that,” according to Kelly. But he and his team knew that employers are scrambling to adjust and busier than ever keeping their business afloat, so they wouldn’t have time or interest in finding and compiling employees’ home addresses, figuring out exactly what product mix each person wanted, and getting all of that information to SnackNation. Kelly wanted to make the transition as easy and no-hassle as possible.

So, the company’s tech team was able to quickly build a system that allowed employees to enter their address in the SnackNation mobile app after clicking on a unique activation link. All the company needed to do was send out an email explaining the new program with the link. To make it even easier, SnackNation gave members a template they could use. All of the employees and deliveries can be managed through an online dashboard.


A shifted business model was born

“We’re still adding to it and perfecting it daily,” says Kelly. “But it’s the proudest I’ve ever been of our team.”

Kelly is also thankful to the company’s members whose attitudes, he says, remind him all the time why he got into the business and the company’s purpose: “to nourish and inspire people to do the best work of their lives.”

Rather than cancel their March deliveries or ask for their money back, the majority of members whose companies had already gone remote asked to have their month’s boxes donated either to a food bank or given away through SnackNation’s partner, Feeding America.

“It has been beautiful to see how many members have said, ‘We’re obviously not in the office. Delay our snacks and food now, and just donate the entire month to our local food bank’” says Kelly.

“Even in tough times, people still care and want to do good.”

For more crisis leadership stories like these check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.

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