Founder of Kids’ Snack Company Fills Need, and Tummies
By Lauren Brown
PHOTO BY John T. Consoli
There was no Velveeta or Wonder Bread in Mary (Owings) Schulman’s lunches. Her mom sent her to school with sandwiches on a hearty, healthy round bread that she declared “awful.”
Now that she’s a mom herself, the 1997 alumna packs her kids’ lunchboxes with her own all-natural—but much tastier—fare: cheese puffs and baked fries that she created and built into the multimillion-dollar Snikiddy snack food company.
The name comes from Schulman’s mother and company co-founder, Janet Owings, whose own health-conscious mother disdained the processed school lunches of the 1950s and sent off her four children with simple, fresh alternatives.
A teacher once called her brother “persnickety,” and soon they were all nicknamed the (easier-to-say) Snikiddy kids.
“There was no possible solution other than to call the company Snikiddy,” Schulman says.
After earning her degree in finance from Maryland, Schulman went into sales in the banking industry. But a decade later, pregnant with the first of three children, she began thinking about starting her own business in natural foods.
I wanted to offer something that parents could be pleased to give to their children. And I love snack foods.
In a deliberate fashion, she scouted out manufacturers who could meet her criteria of creating a kid-friendly, low-in-sugar snack with no trans fats, chemicals or preservatives.
Soon she was pitching her product to retailers with just zip-lock bags of her cheese puffs and photos of her planned packaging, and the first shipment of the snacks and cookies (which were later dropped) went out to Sam’s Club and Whole Foods Market in early 2007.
A few years later, she launched the baked fries and Eat Your Vegetables, a chip made from sweet potatoes, carrots, navy beans, kale, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, beets and shiitake mushrooms.
Now the Snikiddy line is sold in 4,000 stores nationwide including Giant, Target and Safeway, and Schulman expects that number to balloon to 6,000 by the end of this year. She has 12 employees based at the company’s headquarters in Boulder, Colo., (a natural-foods mecca and home of her CEO), while she works out of her house in Bethesda, Md.
Her husband, Brett Schulman ’95, has just as hectic a schedule as CEO of the Cava Mezze Grill restaurants in the metro area, but she still proudly says she doesn’t miss her kids’ school events.
“We work all hours, but we also know what the most important thing is in life,” she says.
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