Atlanta dad and daughters take on snack industry with Symphony Chips

1:30 p.m Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 Business
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dondre Anderson (left) and his two daughters, Amari (center) and Amina (right), are owners of one of the world’s few black-owned potato chip companies. CONTRIBUTED BY DONDRE ANDERSON

Dondre Anderson is the master chef of his household. But if you ask his daughters, Amina and Amari Anderson, to name his specialty dish, they’ll have trouble choosing just one.

“Definitely the Italian beef. That’s good. That is the best,” Amari said with confidence.

“Yea, but my favorite is the teriyaki chicken with rice. It was inside of a pineapple. It was awesome,” Amina declared.

Dondre has his own pick. “I have my famous mac and cheese,” he argued. “It’s something real.”

The mere mention of the delicacy caused the teenage girls to perk up in their chairs and release a collective, “Ohh yea!”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Symphony Chips, which currently offers one flavor, are gluten-free, MSG-free and all-natural. More flavors are planned. CONTRIBUTED BY DONDRE ANDERSON

But despite their differences, there’s one food they agree will always have a special place in their kitchen — Symphony Chips.

It’s a brand of gluten-free, MSG-free and all-natural gourmet potato chips, and it’s their newest family business. Currently offering one Original flavor, with plans to release the Smoked, Au Jus, and Bouillon flavors later, the entrepreneurs are causing quite a stir among snack-lovers and beyond.

In fact, they’ve already marked their place in history as one of the few black-owned potato chip companies in the world.

“I thought, ‘Wow! That’s cool.’ I did some research and found out there were only two others,” Dondre explained. “It’s one thing to be recognized for having a good product. It’s another thing to be recognized for doing something positive as a black family. That feels really good.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Dondre Anderson (center) and his two daughters, Amari (left) and Amina (right), launched Symphony Chips in 2015. The snacks are now available in four locations in Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED BY DONDRE ANDERSON

Dondre never had an issue persuading his girls to join the business. They’ve been a part of the process since the family successfully launched a line of seasonings called All A’s Spices in 2010.

It’s the dishes and the laundry he has a hard time convincing them to complete.

“The business is set. You get orders, and you know what you need to do to get them done,” he said. “When it comes to the chores, that’s a different story.”

The girls’ immediate laughter seemed to affirm their dad’s sentiment.

Their love for food, however, is a sure thing. Symphony Chips was a bit of an accident, though.

When they were testing the spices, they sprinkled the signature Symphony one on some homemade potato chips during a demo at Sevananda Natural Foods Market in Atlanta in 2015.

Pretty soon, there were no more chips to hand out and no more seasonings to sell because customers had completely wiped the shelves clean.

“It happened every time we sampled the seasonings on the chips. People would say, ‘Oh my god! I want a whole bag of chips.’ That’s when we kind of knew we had something,” said Dondre, who works as a full-time software engineer.

The trio received even more confirmation when they landed a deal later in 2015 with an Ohio-based potato chip manufacturer that would help package and distribute their goods.

With an agreement in place, they rebranded the product, giving it a new look. They also relaunched the website and created social media accounts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, with one on Snapchat coming soon.

But they didn’t change the name. Symphony just stuck.

“My dad, who worked in a Nevada steakhouse as an executive chef for years, always had this saying — ‘Food should be an experience.’ It should take you on some kind of journey. If it doesn’t, don’t eat it,” he said. “That’s why we named it Symphony, because everything should be harmonious. It should all come together.”

The growing success is like music to their ears. The chips are now available in four locations in Atlanta, including the Atlanta Symphony’s concession stand and Sevananda Natural Foods Market, and have been sold in 41 states across America, including Hawaii. The treats are available online (symphonychips.com) for wholesale and retail orders, too. Now, they have their eyes on international buyers.

As young businesswomen, the North Atlanta high schoolers have front-row seats to the world of entrepreneurship. Amina, a sophomore, and Amari, a freshman, are soaking up as much knowledge as possible, and the booming business is even influencing their career choices.

“I don’t know what college I want to go to yet. I want to major in business, because this entrepreneurship is cool. I know you get brownie points if you start a business before 18, because people always love the cute little faces,” joked Amina, who also plays tennis.

And Amari, a bass player, is already cooking up the family’s next product.

“I’m still working on the name and the right mixture, but I’m trying to make gluten-free chocolate bread,” Amari said.

“Now that the chips are out, I’m going to follow them with more spices, which Amina is working on. When the spices begin to take off, I’m going to follow that with Amari’s mix,” Dondre added.

It’s safe to say the Andersons are in it for the long run, so there’s no doubt the girls are learning the importance of responsibility and family. As for the chores, they’re still working to master that lesson.

“It’s the folding and putting the clothes in the closet that’s a lot,” Amina giggled. “There should be a machine that does all of that.”

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