Shannan Swanson, 37 (left), and Liane Weintraub, 42
The Goods: Two best friends dream up an organic, health-conscious take on fruit snacks—and win fans of all ages.
Their Dilemma: "Our kids"—they have four between them—"were always asking for handfuls of those popular gummy vitamins," recalls Swanson, "but you're supposed to eat only two at a time, and they're full of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors." Unable to find a more nutritious substitute for their kids to snack on, Weintraub, who'd been a local TV reporter, and Swanson, a former cook at one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants, decided to invent one.
Their Process: The pair took their idea for organic gummy candies to a local manufacturer, where they worked with a food scientist to devise a recipe. "If we loved a flavor, we gave it to our kids to try," Weintraub says. "If they liked it as much they like Doritos, it was in." To court taller customers, they devised an electrolyte-spiked "sports" gummy, which was quickly embraced by skateboarders, triathletes, and distance runners. Swanson and Weintraub eventually hired eight full-time employees to help meet the demand; the company turned a profit this year, four years after its founding.
Their Many Hats: For these small-business owners, there is no typical day on the job. "One morning I'm in Whole Foods meeting customers," Swanson says, "and the next I'm at Costco helping move boxes of our products with a pallet jack—which is not something I ever thought I'd be able to do."