People have been rooting for Rebecca Brady’s artisan cracker startup for years, especially after the company came home with a $50,000 prize in the Ignite Buffalo competition in 2018.
But 2021 was the year Top Seedz emerged into the broader public consciousness, winning the coveted $1 million top prize in the 43North business competition.
Not only that – Brady will use the cash to build a larger factory in Western New York that will help her accommodate the national demand for her products.
Not bad for an entrepreneur who formed a business idea out of her own oven, where for years she baked healthy snacks for her children.
Brady’s 20-employee base primarily consists of refugee women from Buffalo. The team makes handmade crackers and seeds that can be found in Wegmans and Whole Foods stores.
“The whole community is excited,” she said. “Even my employees — I underestimated how excited they would be. But, of course, they are. We are one big team and this is their life, too.”
The key now will be to replicate the quality of Top Seedz products in a more automated environment. Last year, she bought a $50,000 oven that is the size of a refrigerator.
But to reach $100 million in sales within five years – the goal she set forth during 43North – everything will be much bigger in scale. (She projects the company will do $2 million this year.) When she took a reporter’s call recently, she was shopping for an oven the size of a house.
Brady’s ambitions for Top Seedz were never modest, but there’s no denying that her business is entering a new phase. Creating a new factory with large equipment is likely to cost more than $1 million and she is considering taking on more investment. She has always been the sole Top Seedz sales rep – but now she will hire a team of people who can handle enterprise business accounts in food service. She has a major real estate decision on her hands, and then she has to build out a factory while running her existing one on Cayuga Road, which she plans to maintain.
That new factory will then require laborers and operators.
Brady’s products have always met with rave reviews; now it’s about building the production and sales infrastructure to reach more retailers, and ultimately, consumers.
“We’re going to grow our sales team at the same time we build a new facility that can help us supercharge our growth,” Brady said.
The prestige of 43North won't shield Top Seedz from the grand journey ahead. But Brady meets challenges with a particular brand of enthusiasm.
“I've always thought, ever since I started this business: 'Just break it down, do it one step at a time, and it's manageable,' " Brady said. "At the end of the day you back and go, 'OK, we did it.' "
Location: 247 Cayuga Road, Cheektowaga
CEO: Rebecca Brady
Local employees: 20
About: Makes handmade crackers and seeds
2021 highlight: Winner of the $1 million grand prize in the 43North business competition Oct. 28