This is the fifth installment of an interview series with the 2021 Target Takeoff Food & Beverage cohort. Participating founders are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Takeoff Program Management Team.
Meet Lil Bucks.
TT: Describe Lil Bucks in one sentence.
Emily: Lil Bucks is America’s buckwheat brand, making addictively crunchy snacks and breakfast toppings from sustainably-sourced sprouted buckwheat… always served with a side of Aussie-inspired good vibes!
TT: What inspired you to start your company? What makes your product unique in the marketplace?
Emily Griffith: The idea for Lil Bucks was born by the beach in Sydney, Australia. I enjoyed a life-changing açai bowl (for real), where the cafe used sprouted buckwheat seeds on the bowl instead of a standard sugary granola. I was obsessed with the unique crunch from the seeds, especially against the cold smoothie base, but even better, I felt amazing after finishing the bowl, rather than sluggish after I sometimes feel after eating sugary granola.
I went back to the cafe and asked about these magical crunchy seeds, and learned that sprouted buckwheat is actually grain-free and gluten-free, and is high in protein and fiber, so that’s why I felt so good!
I started noticing buckwheat seeds used in tons of products and as a crunchy topping in many restaurants and cafes, so it became a normal part of my life there. When I realized no brands in the U.S.A. were sharing the love of sprouted buckwheat, which happens to grow well in my homeland the Midwest, I moved back to Chicago with the mission to spread the buckwheat love in the U.S.A., while promoting the fact that healthy eating can taste AMAZING, and improve soil health in the USA too.
TT: How did you decide it was the right time to join an Accelerator program? What are you most looking forward to getting out of the Target Takeoff experience?
Emily Griffith: Target is always on the cutting edge of trends, and has mass-market reach. You see a brand launch in Target and it looks like an “overnight success” but often that’s not the case – businesses launching in Target often spend years building up their brand awareness and customer base, perfecting their product and learning about retail.
Our goal is to bring the love of buckwheat to the masses, improving soil health on a larger scale each year by contracting with regenerative organic farmers whenever possible (our first farm is in Minnesota!). We have spent over three years refining our products and building the case for buckwheat, and now we are ready to learn the next step to bring buckwheat to the masses with a trendsetter like Target. This is the ultimate channel to expand our reach and get these deliciously crunchy super-seeds in the hands of as many Americans as we can!
We are so excited to learn about what it takes to succeed with such a big company like Target, and are excited to meet so many experts from Target. Most people only get one meeting with Target and we get five weeks, so that’s pretty special.
TT: What’s a problem you frequently face as a founder?
Emily Griffith: Hah, one night it’s thinking about manufacturing challenges and the next it’s dreaming up our custom Lil Bucks VW van buildout. But truly, it’s hoping that everyone is always having the best experience with the brand, from our customers to our stores to our team to everyone who helps along the way. The goal of Lil Bucks is to have a positive impact on America’s health and soil health, so I only want people to have positive experiences with us, even if something doesn’t go the right way at first. Every source of distress from a customer or employee, no matter how big or small, impacts me personally so I learned to manage that, but I can’t help but care so much as the founder!
TT: How do you stay motived through the ups and downs of growing your business?
Emily Griffith: I have a deep conviction for the “Why” of being in this business. Lil Bucks has already improved thousands of meals in the U.S.A, adding a delicious crunch and health benefits to our customers’ days. We’re also having a measurable positive impact on soil health by working with regenerative farmers. I think of that moment of excitement when I first discovered sprouted buckwheat in Australia, and I just know there are thousands of Americans out there who will feel the same when they experience the crunch and how amazing they’ll feel!
I also think it’s important, beyond the business’s why, to understand what motivates you from a personality perspective. I am an extroverted enneagram 7 (love travel + adventure) and am driven to create. But a food business isn’t all exciting sales meetings, sampling your products at a cool beach or designing the packaging. When I do have to do more corporate, operational or financial tasks that aren’t as naturally exciting to me, I of course have the Lil Bucks business “why” at my core, but I keep myself motivated even more by knowing I will build in business activities that also light me up so I’m more motivated to do the hard stuff.
TT: How do you see Lil Bucks growing after this experience?
Emily Griffith: We hope to grow from a team of 3 to 6 full-time members, and plan to be expanding nationally in retail to start reaching most corners of the U.S.A. with our sprouted buckwheat goodies, hopefully with Target as a partner! The buckwheat rocket ship is taking off!
To get your hands on this superfood, go to lovelilbucks.com!