Top Seedz is a great Buffalo story. But it’s also a wonderful entrepreneurial story. Rebecca Brady, the company’s founder, is originally from New Zealand, though she spent many years in Japan and Singapore before winding up in Buffalo. When she did move year, five years ago, she was facing a ten-year gap in her marketing career due to having children. Although she felt that her corporate work experience would land her a job fairly quickly, she soon realized that employers were not so forgiving. Also, the marketing landscape had changed with the advent of social media.
Brady quickly realized that she needed to reinvent herself. That’s when she decided to rely upon something that she felt was a tried and true aspect of life – crackers. She had been making crackers for years, and everyone she knew loved them. But the cracker market, much like the cereal market, was filled with all sorts of competition. So she decided to do some market research – something else that she was good at. What she found was, there were expensive crackers that tasted great, with catchy packaging, though little nutritional value. Then there were the nutritious crackers that didn’t taste very good, and weren’t marketed properly. Brady knew that she had nutritional crackers that tasted great – all she needed was to get the marketing square.
As the name alludes, Top Seedz is built upon the idea that seeds are nutritious… and are perfect for making crackers! “You call it granola,” explained Brady, when I asked her about one of the two products that she sells. “We make honey, and maple syrup. We started off with the honey, and then made the maple syrup for the vegans. Now the maple syrup outsells the honey. Then we have the crackers – cumin, rosemary, plain (with sea salt), and grain free. We replaced the corn starch in the grain free crackers with arrowroot (the binder), and added different nutritional seeds.
Once Brady had the “granola” and crackers in hand, she began to test out the market. But first, she needed a commissary kitchen, which she found at Quaker Bonnet on Buffalo’s West Side. “Due to the seeds, I was not allowed to make the products at home,” she told me. “Quaker Bonnet had four tiny little ovens, but just to have access to the facility was incredible. It was the perfect place to start, plus the expenses were low because I didn’t have to buy an oven – I could just rent the space by the hour.”
Brady’s foray into the retail world was selling her products at Horsefeathers Winter Market on Connecticut Street, back in 2017. “I was so nervous,” she told me. “It was a great start though. I also sold at White Cow Dairy (on Ashland), one of the other best places to start. From there I sold at a little café in Clarence, and then O3, Salt, and Squeeze. I remember when the owner of Squeeze asked how many cases? – I didn’t even consider cases at the time. He bought three cases. Then the Lexington Co-op and the East Aurora Co-op placed orders. They are great, because they can make quick purchasing decisions. Then someone at Wegmans tried the crackers and I ended up getting into the Transit location. They turned out to be incredible supporters, expanding store to store. I’m in 50-ish Wegmans markets right now, and I may be in all 103 soon… I’m trying to stay calm, but wow, wow!”
Wegmans was not the only major grocery market to give Brady a shot. “We got lucky when Whole Foods opened in Western NY,” she told me. “I ended getting into rest of the 40 North Atlantic stores, and now with Florida locations that’s another 30. Whole Foods has been another supporter, with the expanded markets. It’s hard work – I am constantly going on the road as much as possible, doing demos, and getting the crackers into people’s mouths. I’ve also had some luck along the way… with Whole Foods opening when it did, and Wegmans finding my crackers.”
When asked about a crucial lesson or two that she has learned along the way, Brady said that she never went beyond her means. She was profitable since day one because she never knew any better. “I did it the old fashioned way,” she maintained. “The hard work is the lesson. I never took a loan. I didn’t hire anyone else for a long time. The growth pains were good problems to have. I also networked a lot with NAWBO ( National Association of Women Business Owners). It helped to talk to other business owners.”
Her persistence and hard work also paid off when Brady won $50K through Ignite Buffalo. The winnings allowed her to leave the commissary space, rent a larger space, and purchase a massive oven that could bake 80 boxes at a time. The growth in business allowed her to employ refugee women from Journey’s End, which she feels has been a rewarding relationship on both sides. “I have been lucky enough to always end up in welcome situations whenever I moved to new places. These refugees should also feel welcome. They have taught me a lot at the same time. I recently discovered that one or two of them are learning English from me, as we talk throughout the day. Now they have New Zealand accents!”
Next up, Brady thinks that she might try her hand at experimenting with something spicy, and she has a couple of new products in mind, although she would not divulge what they were. “I would also like to see my crackers in New Zealand,” she said, laughing. “But there are so many hungry Americans to feed here first!”
To learn more about Top Seedz, click here.