Every year I go to the Fancy Food Show to Sample and Schmooze
Im blown away by the number of women who are starting food businesses. They are turning their passions (cooking, retail, and baking) into profits. I wrote an article about this trend for the Huffington Post a few years back, and it doesnt seem to be subsiding. But how do you stand-out in what may be becoming an overstuffed industry?
Nibble on This
- One of my fave foodiepreneurs is Jen of Pipcorn. She and her brother had a unique product idea, were first to market, sought out the help they needed (on Shark Tank), and went from $15 in the bank to $3 million in sales. When I spoke to Jen at a food show, she was super-nice and humble (which are always a great qualities for a female founder) and she told me that having the right manufacturing/shipping facility and the best possible team around her were the keys to their growth.
- I met Shira Berk of Goodie Girl Cookies when she was just starting in business. Her brightly-colored trade show booth stopped me in my tracks. Now I see her brand everywhere. In her early years she generously donated product to one of my events and that has always stuck with me. (Again, the kindness thing goes a long way!) Having come from a background in PR, she knows that product quality (you would never guess that her cookies are gluten-free), great packaging, and perserverence in the face of rejection are useful in any business. She now sells to Walmart, Whole Foods, Faiway, and lots of other places too.
- Following in their foodsteps is the small and mighty (but not for long) Nicki Bandklayder, who just launched her crowdfunding campaign for The Cookie Cups. She is targeting to open her retail location early 2017, after market-testing her products at farmers markets, festivals, and even in the Mall of America. Fine-tuning your recipe before you launch through consumer research is critical for any food brand, says Nicki. Im also making my first store deliberately small (700 square feet). Too many food retailers go big first time out, and they drain their capital on rent and staff expense.
- Erika Kerekes, goes by the title Condiment Queen and CEO of Not Ketchup. Her business is three years old, her all-purpose sauces are available on Amazon and in select Whole Foods, and she is in the process of taking all the added sugar out of her products, after listening to consumer feedback. What customers want is always changing, and you have to be willing to throw caution to the wind and go in a new direction. She also talks about how food entrepreneurs should resist the urge to expand too quickly. Receiving an order from a large retailer is a great ego feed, but make sure you can handle their demands. Plus, getting on the shelf is just the first step. But you need to put cash and time aside for marketing, sampling, social media, and other promotional techniques.
Sadly, most food businesses fail within their first year. Following these critical steps and learning from women like these three can be the recipe for success. And here are some tips on how to rock a food demo.
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