By Annette Pinder
The 43North annual competition, which began in 2014, is an event that hosts some of the world’s most innovative startups who want to call Buffalo their home. When I first met Rebecca Brady and tasted her truly amazing crackers, winning $1 million to help build her brand was the furthest thing from her mind.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Rebecca majored in marketing and management at Victoria College. After graduation, she embarked on an overseas experience in the United Kingdom, but took a detour in Japan teaching English, and meeting her husband William, from Ireland. When William’s job brought him to Singapore, Rebecca followed, accepting a marketing position at Hewlett-Packard. The couple’s son Caleb and daughter Jolie were born in Singapore, where they remained for 10 years before moving to Japan, where William worked for Moog, and the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter Naoimh (pronounced Neeve).
Unable to obtain a work visa in Japan, Rebecca cared for the children. She said, “We always made healthy foods from scratch in Japan. If we wanted peanut butter, we simply made it. I’ve always gotten high on healthy eating and loved seeds. When a friend taught me how to make a version of the sesame crackers popular in Japan, I began developing different ways of making them. They were delicious, and I began taking them to people’s homes. If I appeared without them, people were disappointed.”
In 2015, William was transferred to Buffalo. With the kids in school, Rebecca was ready to return to work, but her 10-year employment gap made it difficult to land interviews. Recalling the saying, “Do something you like, and you never work a day in your life,” Rebecca decided it was time to try something entrepreneurial, thinking, “Why not share my snacks with the rest of the world?” Reflecting on her love of sports, and knowing the top seed is given to the player or team with the highest ranking in a seeded tournament, Top Seedz was born in 2017. “It was really word of mouth, with me dropping off samples. Initially, the crackers were at Lexington Coop, Clarence Center Café, and Squeeze Juicery, before I got them into the right hands at Wegman’s, selling them first at the Transit Road store and then at Sheridan Drive.”
Winning $50,000 at Ignite Buffalo in 2018 paved the way for Rebecca’s entry into the 43North competition, where she captured the $1 million grand-prize in 2021. Top Seedz is now a family affair with Rebecca, her husband, and children all involved. They have a production, marketing, and procurement manager, and 20 refugee women making crackers. The women, mostly moms, are from war-torn nations, including Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Pakistan, and Eretrea, and work during the day, while their husbands work at night. Scheduling requires flexibility and accommodating the moms’ and children’s needs. Despite the language barriers they manage to communicate fairly well, sharing foods, traditions, laughter, and sign language.
Top Seedz has outgrown its location on Wehrle Drive, and Rebecca’s husband William is spearheading the purchase of a new 30,000 square foot facility. Regarding the company’s mission, Rebecca says, “It’s really about love for nutrition. We are what we eat, and believe that when we eat healthy, we create positive change within ourselves and the world.”
Regarding one of the most important things she has learned this year, Rebecca says, “Take breaks for your mental health. Attend your kids’ school events and share in their accomplishments. Working 24-7 is not healthy. Your kids will grow up quickly and be gone. Family is everything!” For those unsure of their career goals, she says, “Try to identify what you love and build it into something you can do to sustain your life. If you have enough passion for what you love, you’ll be successful.” Speaking of passion, Rebecca continues to love sports, especially tennis, squash, and golf, loves traveling, hanging out with her family, and eating, especially authentic Japanese food, which she says you can find at Kuni’s downtown.
Top Seedz crackers and seeds are available at all Wegman’s stores throughout the Northeast and North Atlantic regions and Rochester, grocery chains, and specialty stores. Now making raw seeds and cracker mix (liked box cake mixes), products are organic, gluten free, and vegan. Visit www.topseedz.com to buy seeds, crackers, find recipes, store locations, receive their newsletter, and special pricing.
“It took a life full of adventure and experience to create these better-for-you snacks, and I hope you enjoy them with your favorite dips, cheeses, and maybe even a glass of wine,” says Rebecca.