Hi, I’m Edwin Proper, the founder & CEO of Proper Snacks and this is my story (in a nut shell 😉 ).
On an ordinary day, in my grade 6 classroom, our wonderful but eccentric teacher randomly yelled out, “QUIEEEET, do you know, only three of you will make a success out of your life!”, in an effort to cease the racket we were making. It was in that moment that I gazed across the awkward silence of the room, to identify who the other two individuals would be.
(middle back row, thinking how the heck am I going to do that!)
That single decision has driven me towards making a “success” out of my life, and I’m truly grateful for that.
Since then, I graduated with a degree in Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch. It was in university that I started my fascination with reading business and self-development books. And, I was the only guy to attend yoga classes.
I lived in Sydney, Australia, for three years. The first year I held down three jobs. I spent my mornings delivering newspapers in the CBD, my days behind the counter of a retail store, and my evenings working as a waiter.
I eventually found a permanent position at EATON Electric and endeavoured to work my way up the corporate ladder.
(My father, Hugo, and I outside the head office of EATON, Sydney Australia 2007)
During this time I also wrote, performed, recorded and released two solo albums, under the name WiNDE (upbeat, positive music for the soul was my tag line).
(Playing live in the Sydney pubs 2008)(Mastering my first album @ Sony 2008)
However, at the end of 2008, I quit my job and applied for permanent residency. Not aware there was an impending economic recession. When my application was put on hold, I had no choice but to head back home to South Africa.
While I was waiting, my father strategically asked me to plant 500 pecan nut trees on our family farm in Hekpoort, Magaliesburg. I hesitantly accepted the proposal because I swore, when I was younger, I would never work on the farm.
It’s funny how things work out.
(Preparing the land for planting, August 2009)
After planting the trees, I recognised a number of operational inefficiencies in the nursery (another business on the farm), and appointed it on myself to correct them. Within 5 years, I became General Manager and had more than doubled the turnover. I had gained a priceless amount of business and management skills that you don’t learn in an MBA.
(Staff photo, I’m in the front right seat, my younger brother, Hugo Jr., on the left 2015)
But I still felt like I hadn’t yet achieved “success”.
Hence, I started to notice the shocking difference in quality and taste of pecan nuts bought from the store compared to those from our farm.
(Retail pecans left, our farm pecans right)
Then, one freezing 2 am morning on the 9th of April 2015, it hit me like a ton of ‘nuts’. I can improve the freshness if I changed the production and distribution process. And so Proper Nuts was born, later changed to Proper Snacks (for reasons I will not dive into 😉 ).
After months of research I discovered three things.
I could make customers happier with fresher nuts, convenience & variety in snack mixes by using a lean production system, selling online and delivering straight to the customers’ door (my engineering & business background),
making it healthier by controlling the quantity to 30 grams (the daily recommended serving size for tree nuts) and,
making it earth friendly by using biodegradable packaging (I’m really passionate about taking care of this beautiful planet we live on).