Company offers healthy snacks in compostable containers
When Kate and Bryan Flynn were contemplating a name for their new business venture — organic, vegan, gluten-free snacks — they wanted something that would reflect where they live — Santa Barbara. And they envisioned a broad portfolio of foods.
Sun & Swell worked for them.
Launched in 2016, the business now offers more than 100 products that include California Medjool dates, mango slices, rolled oats, raw cashew pieces, walnuts, hemp hearts, trail mixes and coconut shreds. The products are sold at the business’ store in Ventura.
“Our first product was Date and Cashew Energy Bites, and they are still among our best sellers,” said Mrs. Flynn, who grew up in Ohio and North Carolina and came to UCSB to earn her bachelor’s in economics in 2007 and her master’s in business administration at Harvard University in 2012.
After working as a certified public accountant in Orange County, she moved to San Francisco to become a growth strategy consultant in the retail and food industry.
“I was working long hours and needed healthy snacks, which were hard to find. I was looking for something made with real food found in pantries. When I checked the ingredients on most of the snacks, what I found was sugar and preservatives,” Mrs. Flynn told the News-Press.
Sun & Swell Foods are sold in 16-ounce packages that range in price from $5 to $15 depending on the ingredients, and two-ounce grab-and-go containers sell for about $3.
“We use only real foods that are sourced from farms in the area. For example, our dates are from Coachella Valley, and our trail mix has pistachios from Santa Barbara Pistachio Co.,” Mrs. Flynn said.
New products to be launched in the fall include fig-filled Date and Cashew Bites, dried soups and baking mixes.
They are available online, at the store in Ventura and locally at Whole Foods and Tri-County Produce Co. and Lighthouse Coffee.
In 2018, the couple put compostable snack food packaging on the market for the first time.
“Our packages look like plastic, but they are made from wood pulp, which turns back into the soil that can be reused on farms within months of entering the waste system,” said Mrs. Flynn. “As our company grew, we were having increasing concerns over our use of single-use plastic packages that ended up in our oceans and landfills.
“We’re willing to put forth extreme effort to make these changes because it’s about more than just food to us. This is about a massive problem that needs fixing. This is about fixing a broken system that’s gone unbroken for far too long. It can no longer be acceptable to ignore the last stage of a product’s life and continue to fill our planet with trash that will outlive several generations of humans to come. We know we are just one small family company, but we have to start somewhere.”
While getting their fledgling business off the ground, the couple also faced the challenge of becoming first-time parents when Leila was born in June 2020.
“I thought it would be a problem to manage Sun & Swell and be a new mom, but it has made me a better business owner. I prioritize better, and I’ve learned to delegate,” said Mrs. Flynn who also offers tips for those thinking about starting their own businesses.
“My biggest advice is to recognize that at a certain point, if your goal is to grow your business, you have to look for leverage wherever possible. I’ve had to become comfortable with handing off more and more things to my amazing team. This was difficult for me because for the first couple years, I had complete control of everything.
“I’ve also found it so valuable to leverage tools that help me do my job more efficiently. For example, using Quickbooks for accounting, Asana for project management and Dropbox for document management. These tools cost a fee, but it’s always worth it when you realize how much time they save and how much easier they make your job.”