Mixing food, philanthropy and entrepreneurship

Posted 2020-07-08
It was a straight flush at this year’s BC Business 30 Under 30 Awards with four UBC Sauder alumni and one staff member making the list of B.C.’s most enterprising young business leaders. In this summer series, we interview one winner each week and find out what entrepreneurship means to them.

Ryley Humphry is fond of saying she’s an entrepreneur by marriage. Her husband founded Naked Snacks in 2014 and Humphry joined the team a few years later to help with grocery sales and building the online community. Naked Snacks carries over 30 kinds of health food snacks made with high-quality whole ingredients and catchy names like Ginger Staycation, First Date Bites and Morning Bestie.

The company launched as an online business then gradually began winning contracts with five-star hotels like the Fairmont and Shangri-la, as well as premium retailers such as the Nordstrom Ebar and Saks off 5th. While luxury hotels and boutiques are great places to showcase the lifestyle food product, Humphry is especially excited about landing Naked Snacks on the shelves of local grocery stores like Whole Foods and Urban Fare.

“For about a year, I cold-called and built relationships with grocery store managers, driving around the Lower Mainland to meet with them and share samples,” recalls Humphry. Getting into the grocery store vertical is tricky business: you have to be on enough shelves to hire a distributor, but first you need to get on enough shelves for a distributor to take notice.

“It was my job to get us onto 50 or 60 store shelves and get customers trying our product and showing distributors that these big grocery stores wanted to carry us,” she explains. “We now have a few distributors, so I manage the distribution relationship as well as direct-to-store relationships with store managers.”

This massive undertaking was achieved while Humphry was working full time in the world of philanthropy; as a Campaign Manager at United Way of the Lower Mainland and more recently as a Development Officer for UBC Sauder. This role entails raising philanthropic gifts for the school and the Creative Destruction Lab - West, a non-profit organization housed at UBC Sauder that supports massively scalable, seed-stage, science and technology-based companies.

“My 9-5 is at UBC Sauder, then before work and after work and weekends is my Naked Snacks time,” she explains with a laugh.

Humphry loves connecting with successful entrepreneurs who understand all too well the ups and downs of running your own business.

“Working with the CDL-West team and my geographic regions of Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay area, I am surrounded by these phenomenally accomplished individuals, many of whom are running more than one company at a time,” she says.

Having taken countless entrepreneurs for coffee, Humphry has discovered they all share two things in common: a non-linear path to success and an unwavering belief in what they’re doing.

“Most business owners don’t have steady, normal, successful journeys. There are times when you’re close to bankruptcy and you have to pivot, or change what you’re doing completely, so that belief in what you’re doing is just so important.”

Humphry’s husband, Neil Thomson, graduated with an MBA from UBC Sauder and worked for the school before founding Naked Snacks. The power snacks, which are sold on campus, are perfect for long hours at the library.

It’s clear that Naked Snacks has succeeded in a fiercely competitive market thanks to the hours and hours of physical and mental effort Humphry and her husband have put into the business. Their next challenge is increasing online sales in the U.S. and expanding their grocery coverage to Alberta and beyond – while staying true to the product’s playful, west coast brand.

“Our journey with Naked Snacks is really about so many incredible people believing in us when we were just a scrappy little start-up,” says Humphry. “Urban Fare and Whole Foods putting us on their shelves, Fairmont Pacific Rim carrying us, influencers like Jillian Harris sharing about us, and so many small businesses that are just a collection of friends and colleagues believing in us.”