Cashing in on your chips ...

Stacy Madison never intended to be an entrepreneur. She started her career as a social worker specialising in helping pregnant women with drug problems in Boston, Massachusetts.

When an opportunity arose to move to Hawaii with her boyfriend, she took it.

While there she got a low paid job in a brand new restaurant with the promise of a bonus if the launch went well.

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The bonus never came - after months of gruelling work, the owners fired Madison as a way to avoid paying out.

It was a crushing blow - but not enough to deter Madison from continuing in hospitality.

On their return to Boston, Madison and her boyfriend spent their last $5,000 on a converted hot dog cart and began making and selling pita bread sandwiches.

At the end of each day, they would bake the leftover pita bread into chips, add a little cinnamon-sugar or Parmesan cheese, and give this away free to their queuing customers.

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To their surprise, they realised people really liked this improvised snack. So they decided to charge a dollar a bag.

It was not long before it became the main focus of their small business, and they decided to launch Stacy’s Pita Chips.

They had modest ambitions for this new enterprise. They thought it might do well in Boston. Maybe, eventually, it would grow to become known across Massachusetts.

But they did much better than that. They sold the food cart and moved into wholesale.

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“At first we would walk into local grocery stores with a bag of chips and ask them to sell for us,” Madison has explained.

“We went to a lot of industry trade shows. We couldn’t afford booths early on, so we’d just walk the floors and hand out our product.

“It helped us focus our efforts on what customers wanted to buy.”

Just a decade after launching Stacy’s Pita Chips, they sold it to Frito-Lay (part of PepsiCo) for $250m.

By that time the company had grown to annual revenues of $65m and a staff of 300 - everyone of whom received a sizeable bonus.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design

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