Sweet Success: How SmartSweets’ Tara Bosch is Empowering the Next Generation of Women Founders

By Lance Chung

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As the founder of Vancouver-based SmartSweets, Tara Bosch is not just a candy entrepreneur—she’s a visionary paving the way for the next generation of women founders. Her journey, beginning from her fond childhood memories and evolving into a mission to revolutionize the confectionery industry, is a testament to her boldness and ingenuity. At just 21, she left college to pursue her dream of creating a healthier candy option, a decision driven by her close relationship with her grandmother and a desire to kick sugar out of sweets.


Bosch’s approach to building SmartSweets was unconventional. With no formal background in food science, she taught herself through Google searches, scientific journals, and a whole lot of trial-and-error. Her clarity of vision and relentless drive turned SmartSweets into a multimillion-dollar success, culminating in a $360 million acquisition by TPG Growth just four years after its founding. Demonstrating her commitment to her team and leadership perspective, Bosch ensured her employees had equity in the company, allowing everyone—from top executives to entry-level staff—to share in the financial success.


Through her new initiative, Bold Beginnings, Bosch aims to support and inspire women entrepreneurs, offering grants and mentorship to help them navigate the challenging startup landscape. By sharing her own experiences and normalizing the founder experience, Bosch is opening doors and creating opportunities for the next wave of innovative women leaders.


Below, the 2024 30X30 cover star sits down with Editor-in-Chief Lance Chung to discuss her entrepreneurial journey, leadership perspective, and the road ahead.

Tara Bosch on a GLORY magazine cover. She is wearing a white shirt and staring off camera against a lavender background with copy overtop.
Tara Bosch for GLORY 30X30 | Photography by Joshua Louie

A lot of our formative years are tied to the brands that we grew up with. What’s your fondest memory around candy?


Tara Bosch: As a young terror growing up, it was my whole life. I would have penny candy almost every single day. It brought me joy. My oma, who was my grandma, was my best friend in the world and also loved candy. I had so many memories tied to enjoying candy with her, which made it like just extra heartfelt and nostalgic for me.


Often, our grandparents play such a big role in those early years and you had a very, very close relationship with your oma. How did she inspire the beginnings of what would ultimately become SmartSweets?


Tara Bosch: She was the reason why I chose to act on the idea for SmartSweets. I loved candy growing up, but as I got older, I realized all the excess sugar I was consuming made me feel bad about myself. Many years later, I learned it’s not about giving up your favourite foods but finding smarter choices. My grandma once told me she regretted having so much excess sugar over the years because of how it made her feel. That conversation made me think, why can’t we feel good about candy? That was the moment I decided on SmartSweets.


At 21, you dropped out of college to fully invest your energy and time into bringing SmartSweets to life. Was that a hard decision for you to make? 


Tara Bosch: For me, it was an easy decision. I was in college at UBC but wasn’t passionate about anything. I started learning German just to speak with my oma. But the idea for SmartSweets was the first time in my life that I felt pulled towards something. I thought, if we can successfully kick sugar out of candy, it makes a larger statement about why there’s so much excess sugar in our foods today. I didn’t want to live with any “what ifs” at 90 years old. Worst case scenario, I could crash on a friend’s couch if it didn’t work out. So, it was an easy decision. 


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Did you grow up in an entrepreneurial family or environment? 


Tara Bosch: No, my dad worked in a lumber mill, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. Later, it was just my mom and I. I didn’t have entrepreneurial influences, but I watched Dragon’s Den religiously. Seeing people act on ideas planted the seed that you can create a vision out of nothing. 


Where did you start when it came to acquiring the skills to create your initial product? 


Tara Bosch: The amazing thing in today’s world, and it’s so normalized now, is that Google is this amazing resource. I read food science journals from candy scientists and looked at innovative ingredients used in other verticals like ice cream. I got samples from raw material suppliers, a gummy bear mold off Amazon, and went at it in my kitchen.

Tara Bosch holding a pack of SmartSweets eating a candy with others in the air.
Tara Bosch for GLORY 30X30 | Photography by Joshua Louie
Tara Bosch wearing a fuschia blazer against a wall of SmartSweets candy
Tara Bosch for GLORY 30X30 | Photography by Joshua Louie

What has been your personal algorithm for success?


Tara Bosch: For me, it was getting clear on the vision of what the world looks like with SmartSweets in it five to ten years from now. I felt a strong pull towards something larger than myself. SmartSweets could be a leader in revolutionizing candy and moving the needle forward in the global sugar reduction movement. I wanted to honour everyone who joined the journey, including my oma, by being successful. 


Today, if you had to summarize everything you’ve been working on into an elevator pitch, what would that be? 


Tara Bosch: We’re on a mission to kick sugar and keep candy. 


How do you measure success through the lens of your business journey, and what have been some major milestones?


Tara Bosch: The startup life is hard. You need a clear ‘why’ that’s larger than yourself. For me, the ‘why’ was making candy people could feel good about and driving the sugar reduction movement forward. Also, empowering other young women with ideas became a big motivator for me. Normalizing conversations around imposter syndrome and self-doubt was important. Many successful people feel those feelings but keep taking steps forward. 


What’s your philosophy on approaching problems and innovation?


Tara Bosch: I love reframes. Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. Early on, the company’s name was StevieSweets. Two weeks before the manufacturing run, the manufacturer increased the required run size, and I didn’t have the capital. I had launched the business out of debt financing and signing my life insurance and Honda hatchback that was breaking down in order to secure that. Investors didn’t like the name because of the connotation of Stevia and its aftertaste. I changed the name to SmartSweets, which resonated much better. What seemed like a mountain was a blessing.

Tara Bosch standing in a fuschia suit wearing black shoes and smiling against a beige background.
Tara Bosch for GLORY 30X30 | Photography by Joshua Louie

What makes a great entrepreneur today, based on your experience? 


Tara Bosch: Having clarity of vision is powerful. Being able to visualize and articulate where you want to go helps you take steps towards it, and the universe supports that. Also, leading with heart and having the humility to be the stupidest person in the room without ego. 


What unique perspective do you bring to the business world, and how has that influenced the way you’ve led SmartSweets? 


Tara Bosch: Embracing authenticity and your quirks is important. For me, I always wore crop tops and backward hats, no matter the meeting. Sticking to who you are is powerful. Also, being led by heart and something larger than yourself. Following your gut and heart as primary drivers, even over numbers, has been crucial. 


Anyone who doesn’t take you seriously because of your authenticity isn’t aligned with your path anyway. There’s power in keeping your head down, having clarity of vision, and knowing that time always tells. 


The CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) space is notoriously difficult. What factors drive success for new brands entering the space? 


Tara Bosch: Having a radical value proposition is essential. It’s about innovating by bringing a product to market that creates substantial new value for consumers, rather than just being a little bit better. For us, it was about candy that tastes good but has low sugar, allowing people to enjoy it as an everyday snack instead of a once-a-week treat. Having a clear value proposition that offers a radical improvement drives brand love and builds a loyal consumer base, which we call our friends, to reach that tipping point.


Candy wrappers and packaging often have distinct designs that evoke nostalgia and memories. How did you approach the visual identity for SmartSweets, and what role does packaging play in telling your brand story?


Tara Bosch: When launching our product, I noticed that candy displays looked chaotic, like a unicorn threw up on the shelf. We started with white bags for simplicity but soon realized that the fun colours of candy are essential for emotional connection and nostalgia. We evolved our packaging to be bright yet simple. Inspired by brands like Halo Top, we made our value proposition clear on the packaging by prominently displaying the grams of sugar per bag. This immediate clarity was crucial for consumers to understand and pick up our product.

Tara Bosch side profile looking into the camera. She is wearing a fuschia blazer and white shirt against a beige background.

In 2020, TPG Growth acquired SmartSweets for $360 million, just four years after you founded the brand. What was that experience like, especially with the pandemic starting around the same time?


Tara Bosch: Remarkably, we never met them in person, even to this day. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to partner with a global company to scale our operations. By our fourth year, nearing $100 million in annual revenue, I realized I couldn’t see the future clearly and questioned if I was the best person to lead the company to the next level. Finding a partner with experience in taking companies from startup to global scale was essential. 


What advice do you have for others navigating similar M&A scenarios?


Tara Bosch: The best time to have clarity on your vision and cap table is from day one. [You should] decide if you want to be acquired, go public, or remain private. This clarity guided us to focus on profitability, which is crucial for acquisitions. We ensured every employee had equity, so everyone shared in the benefits when the transaction happened. Everyone was truly sharing in the benefit when the transaction happened. This approach honored our team and maintained control to follow our gut as we grew.


Community impact is crucial for many entrepreneurs. How has SmartSweets engaged with the community, and how has that shaped your business ethos?


Tara Bosch: We focused on changing the conversation around enjoying foods while treating your body well. We created an impact report tracking how much sugar we helped people kick, reaching 3.6 billion grams by year four. We also valued our consumers, responding quickly and showing that we cared. This authentic engagement was vital to our mission.

Tara Bosch for GLORY 30X30 | Photography by Joshua Louie

Bold Beginnings is an initiative you recently launched. Can you tell us more about it and why it’s important to you?


Tara Bosch: Building SmartSweets, I often felt imposter syndrome. Bold Beginnings aims to normalize these feelings and empower women with big ideas. It includes a $25,000 no-strings-attached grant to support women in their early stages. If we can help even one woman feel capable and supported, that’s success for me.


I like to share when I joined the first accelerator program which was out of Hootsuite, called The Next Big Thing. I was at a kickoff event myself with another woman in the accelerator program. It was the end of the event and there was a platter of sandwiches and we stood there and we were like, we’re broke, should we go take a couple of sandwiches home with us? And as we stood there hesitating, one of the guys took the whole platter. 


That made such a big difference in SmartSweet’s journey—not hesitating to just go and seize the opportunities and have the confidence to take up space in the world.


What common questions do you get from women in this program or other entrepreneurs seeking advice?


Tara Bosch: Many ask about distribution strategy and fundraising. I always advise getting clear on your ultimate vision first. Think big, then think even bigger. Set a grand vision without limits and work towards that.


What would you say is like your grandest vision for Bold Beginnings?


Tara Bosch: I believe in the universe guiding me to serve my purpose. After SmartSweets, I’m passionate about supporting and empowering women. With Bold Beginnings, even if there was just one woman who came out of it feeling infinitely capable, I would feel great. Of course, it would be amazing if that were hundreds and thousands of women. For me, that’s what success looks like for Bold Beginnings. With a toddler now, I feel a deeper purpose to show courage and authenticity, hoping to inspire others.


Finally, what is your ultimate mission and purpose?


Tara Bosch: My mission is to serve my greatest purpose in the world. I feel incredibly lucky to have had opportunities and want to give back by serving in the most meaningful way possible, whatever that may be. Thank you for this insightful conversation.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.