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Leading Through a Crisis with Goo Goo Cluster’s Operations Exec

Laurie Spradley, vice president of operations and brand development at Goo Goo Cluster, explains how she’s helped her team navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, one candy bar at a time. 


When COVID-19 forced Goo Goo Cluster to shut down their retail store off lower-Broadway, Laurie Spradley knew she would need to lean on her team to help find ways to pivot. As vice president of operations and brand development for the Nashville-based candy company, Spradley wanted to make sure her employees felt informed and united.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, but at the same time I think it was important for our employees to know that we didn’t know, because they didn’t know either,” she explained. 

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, recorded at 3686 Festival 2020, Spradley shares some of the strategies she’s used to navigate the challenges of the pandemic. She also describes some of the new experiences and offerings Goo Goo plans to roll out this year.



If you’re interested in hearing more conversations like these, join us at the next 3686 Festival this summer! More information about official dates, speakers, and networking opportunities you won’t want to miss will be coming soon.


Pivoting in the Midst of COVID-19

Before the pandemic, almost half of Goo Goo Cluster’s revenue came from the downtown retail store, so when the store closed suddenly for over a month, Spradley and her team knew they needed to shift their strategies.

For example, although Goo Goo already supported wholesale commerce, but they began to focus more on getting their products into essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies. 

“In many cases, COVID hasn’t necessarily been a catalyst for change, but it’s really accelerated it. For instance, we were already doubling down on our digital strategies as king of a targeted area for growth, and that goal has become even more important today,” Spradley explained. “That means updating our website, improving our ecommerce capabilities and coming up with ways to serve our clients digitally through one-on-one interactions and event styles.” 

To help with this, Goo Goo Cluster expanded its online offerings to include care packages, options to send Goo Goos to front-line workers, an online version of the “Design Your Own Goo Goo Cluster” experience, and kits to let people make their own candy bars at home. 

As they look ahead to new opportunities, the team is also planning to redesign the retail store to make it more experiential and focused on the Goo Goo story. 

“It’s been a challenge, but very fun,” Spradley admitted. 


Leading With Transparency

When reflecting on the early days of the pandemic, Spradley believes that her team’s commitment to clarity and collaboration was vital to their success.

“We are a very transparent team and leaders. We want our employees to understand exactly what we’re going through and facing and how we plan to tackle those situations. I think we’ve created a pretty safe space for them to share their thoughts, their suggestions, their fears,” she explained.

This not only helped employees feel reassured in the midst of unknowns, but it also allowed them to share ideas and work together to adapt to COVID-19.

“We’ve gotten through it as a team, and I think they know we’re not hiding things from them, and hopefully we never will in the future. It leads to a really strong team that’s going to stick together, which is actually one of our core values,” Spradley shared. “At the end of the day, I think this COVID stuff has made me appreciate community a lot more. Everyone really has each other’s backs.”

Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season of Disrupt the Continuum is powered by Pinnacle Financial Partners. We’d love for you to join us next year at Launch Tennessee’s 3686 Festival to hear more stories about innovation and entrepreneurship. Watch this space for more information about 2021’s Festival, returning this summer.

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