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Snacking for a Cause with CEO Sean Kelly

For a nation as wealthy as the United States, the statistics are both surprising and alarming. Some 40 million Americans struggle to put food on the table every day, and one in six children may not know from where their next meal is coming.

But charitable organizations, such as Feeding America, are trying to put a dent in these numbers. This year alone, more than 46 million people will turn to the Feeding America network for help.

To continue providing its services to so many people in need, Feeding America counts on partners like YPO member and SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly. For every box of snacks the company sells to its customers, Kelly and the SnackNation team donate 10 meals through Feeding America. Since partnering with Feeding America, the company has donated more than six million meals.

“That feels really good,” says Kelly. “Our number one desire as a company is to create impact, and this is just one example of how we are doing that.”

Meal replacement

Kelly is no stranger to food distribution. He was the CEO and Co-Founder of SnackNation, a franchisor of automated retail businesses focused on increasing access to healthier foods and drinks via healthy vending machines, micro markets and snack delivery services. Currently, he serves as CEO of SnackNation, which supplies healthy snacks to small and medium-sized businesses.

As snacks have quickly begun to replace meals for many younger workers, Kelly envisioned bringing healthy-snack vending machines to businesses of all sizes. But the machine model proved too costly and therefore impractical for smaller businesses. He then came up with a more cost-efficient and convenient solution: scheduled box delivery services brimming with a variety of innovative and healthy snacks.

SnackNation was born.

“Now these companies can have Google and Facebook perks while still being small enterprises,” he says.

With younger employees replacing many of their meals with power snacks, the time was ripe for a business focused on quick, healthy, clean snacking choices. “Our vision at the end of the day is to provide everyone everywhere with access to clean, delicious food,” says Kelly.

Impact is in Company’s DNA

Teaming up with Feeding America felt like a natural extension of the company, and donating meals was something Kelly chose to do right from the start. He says he couldn’t imagine it any other way.

“That impact is part of our DNA,” he explains. “The reason you create a business, the reason you start a company, is two-fold. One reason is to create positive impact, and the second is to build a meaningful community of wonderful people who can come together to do more than if they were on their own. Those are the only two reasons you build a company.”

Doing it for the right reasons

The most powerful positive impact touches far more people than just those within SnackNation’s walls, says Kelly. He encourages all businesses to partner with charities – but to make sure that they find the right fit and that they are doing it for the right reasons.

“We’re not doing this for marketing,” he says. “We’re doing this for ourselves, and we’re doing this for our team to feel better about what we’re doing day in and day out and to see the impact that we are having. That was something that was essential and ingrained in our DNA from the very beginning.”

“Our vision at the end of the day is to provide everyone everywhere with access to clean, delicious food.”  Sean Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of SnackNation

This was part of the reasoning behind SnackNation’s partnering with Feeding America. The charity works on the local level with 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs around the country, including the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, “right in our backyard,” he says. SnackNation is headquartered in Culver City, California, USA.

When SnackNation was first starting out, the whole team would volunteer at the food bank together. Now that it has grown in size and number of employees, the visits are broken up into smaller groups, and some employees choose to make additional visits on their own.

“Make sure your team has tangible access to the charity, to the people you help,” says Kelly.

One interaction at a time

When it comes to having impact, Kelly tires quickly of hearing the phrase, “I want to change the world.”

He explains, “I just feel the world needs more people doing the little things right and not being so attached to making sure the big things happen exactly the way they want. If we really want to change the world, I think the easiest way to do this is through our personal interactions, how we empower people, how we are empathetic and compassionate with them, how we treat them in the small moments in life, whether that be a direct report meeting inside or whether that be through interactions with our kids or our significant other in the evening, or the courtesy we show our Starbucks’ barista on our way to work.”

Clearly, Kelly and SnackNation are doing a lot of those little things right. The company was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces in 2018. In addition, it was recognized as one of the best places to work in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, was named one of the nation’s Top Company Cultures by Entrepreneur Magazine and is a certified great workplace by Great Place to Work®.

YPO is the premier global leadership organization for more than 27,000 chief executives in over 130 countries and the global platform for them to engage, learn and grow. YPO members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact. Today, YPO member-run companies, diversified among industries and types of businesses, employ more than 22 million people globally and generate USD9 trillion in annual revenues.