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Full Transcript


Sari  0:00  
Welcome to your Food Business Success. This podcast is for early stage entrepreneurs in the packaged food industry ready to finally turn that delicious idea into reality. I'm your host Sari Kimbell. I have guided hundreds of food brand founders to success as an industry expert and business coach and it's got to be fun. In this podcast, I share with you mindset tools to become a true entrepreneur and run your business like a boss, interviews with industry experts to help you understand the business you are actually in, and food founder journeys so you can learn what worked and didn't work, and not feel so alone in your own journey. Now, let's jump in!

Welcome back to the podcast. So glad you are here with me. You know, it's so important to have people in the space that you are collaborating with, that are mentors to you. You always want people in your circle who are further along than you. And then you always want to be helping others you know, lifting them up as well. I'm excited to have you listen to my conversation with Deb Mazzaferro, otherwise known as Coach Mazz. She is one of those legacy CPG industry coaches and consultants. And we got connected early on when I first started and it's so fun to have her on the podcast, just kind of sharing her insights and because she's been in this industry for so long, and I don't mean to make her sound ancient or anything. But she has done a lot in her career and was on both the selling side and doing the work in the industry, and then now she's on the other side coaching and consulting. And so I'm looking forward to you listening in on our conversation. And I hope you get something really useful out of it in your journey. I'm excited to welcome Deb Mazzaferro to the podcast. Welcome!

Deb  2:04  
Thank you, happy to be here.

Sari  2:06  
You know, when I got started, almost five years ago, around there, you were one of the only people really that I found in this industry, one of a couple. So you have a multi decade career as a sales and marketing executive specially food industry. You have a ton of industry experience around CPG, working with legacy brands, importers, startups, brokers and distributors. So you have a really deep understanding of this industry. If a lot of people can refer to you as Coach Mazz. Worried about the last name, and you are a coach and a consultant in the CPG industry. You also have credentials from the Gestalt Center for Organization and Systems Development. So this is going to be a really rich conversation, a deep conversation. You've been in this industry a long time, we talked about, you know, not coming off too jaded. But we're going to talk real deal, the real industry here for people.

Deb  3:18  
Whether you want to hear it or not.

Sari  3:19  
And actually, I remember we connected because you and I were in Terra Johnson's world. And you reached out to me, and that was really fun to have that conversation with you. So we connected quite a while ago.

Deb  3:36  
Yeah, they gave you as a reference for their program. So when I started like business in 01, I called myself a coach, I had a coach in my transition from VP of sales, you know, CPG company to start my own business, and I, you know, read books on consulting, which was really helpful to get my mindset right, and to set my prices correctly and everything but I also had a coach. And when I first launched, I thought I would be a sales manager for hire, you know, a partial, part time sales manager, you have three or four companies. Nobody was doing it at the time. It was a unique idea. And this was May of 01 and then in September of 01, 911 happened and people bought the WingTsun and it was really hard to get clients interested in that level of consulting. So I pivoted to the coaching model that I had learned from my coach. And I immediately signed like 10 small companies to coaching. There was an organization in Sarasota called the Greater Sarasota Coaches Alliance. And it took me a while because I was traveling so much, but I finally made it to one of their meetings, and joined and, you know, went to, you know, got really involved in line with a bunch of other coaches, and expressed my frustration with clients who have said, tell me what you did, you were so successful, tell me what to do. And then they wouldn't do it week after week, after week, they wouldn't do what you know, they said they were going to do. And I was, you know, complaining to my coach buddies about that. And they're like, well, Deb, you're a consultant, you're an expert in your field. But you're not a coach, you're calling yourself a coach. And if they're not understanding their resistance, go get a coaching certification. So that's when I went to the Gestalt, Organizational Systems Development Coaching program in 06 and 07. And it was the best thing that I did for my clients and for myself, because instead of being this, you know, hyper achiever, hyper rational, you know, just pick up the phone and do it, you know, Nike, just do it. I started to understand everybody's differences in terms of motivation and personality style, and you know, what they've been through before. And so I was able to, you know, take a big step backwards and be present with my client.

Sari  6:33  
It's so true because I say it over and over again. But people think that they just want strategy. They think they just tell me what to do. But that's exactly why I went and got certified as a life coach because I realized that I could tell them all day long, I was telling them, I have a whole course I have a whole program, I'm consulting and yet, there's a yeah, there's resistance. There's an obstacle there. That is their mindset, but is their fears. It's their procrastination, it's you know, and like I said, for each person, it's a little bit different. So I love that we both came around to it's, it's, it's like, coachsulting I've heard, right, you're like consultant, and a coach.

Deb  7:16  
You know, so maybe we can, you know, let's talk about this a little bit. What's a consultant? What's a mentor? You know, what's a coach? And, you know, maybe there's another option in there, too. Yeah, so mentor to me would be somebody in your field, who takes a liking to you, and introduces you around and says, don't drink too much at this party. You know, don't wear high heels to the trade show because your feet are going to hurt, right? You know, that I'm going to take you to this baseball game even if you don't like baseball, or you're going to meet some cool people. So you know that your mentor, right? They're taking you under their wing, and they see value in bringing the next person on the line, right, and you want one of those, we want several of those throughout your career, you want to look for those people. And we've done a lot of that, and especially the food industry, we're in an Expo West, and you know, where people come successful, are generous with their time and their experience and whatnot. But their experience and their interpretation of their experience is not necessarily relevant to you and your product, and what you're going to go through. So it's good to know that it's expensive to do business with you when at buy, right. But that person is who successfully running 10 or 15, or $20 million business doesn't have time to hold your hand on every single issue. And so that's why you hire a consultant. So somebody can tell you how to interpret that contract and where the landmines are, when you say yes to free kill, or, you know, whatever other things that you might be contemplating you and I can talk all day about pricing, right? Because if you don't build enough margin in and then you go into distribution, you're not going to make any money because you haven't raised your product to cover all those costs. And people don't think they're just going to get on the shop the shelf and not have to promote, right?

Sari  9:42  
And all the things that come with it. You can sell a million units of anything, but if it's negative or zero margin, with getting money.

Deb  9:51  
Right. So you know, so that's your consulting your expertise and you're paying somebody so that you have a trusted advisor to talk to every other week or whatever your frequency is. And you bring, you know, they're like, you know, your advisory board of directors in a way. And then if they don't have the answer, they know people who have answers. So either they can introduce you, or they can go get the answer quickly, and come back with, you know, more up to date, and you've been doing this for so many years. I know when my information might not be 100% up to date, and I go get clarification, or, you know, I've been working a lot in in center, the store, and somebody's got a, you know, fresh product, I'm going to go make sure that I'm giving some, you know, the right information, because different categories have different requirements, right? And then, you know, and then the coaching. So those are those two, and then coaching of courses. I'm trying to help you be your very best self, not trying to change you. I'm trying to help you work through whatever it is coming up for you negativity, or, you know, we have coaching wheels, right, where it's not just about the work. I had one woman, she was Japanese, was a lovely lady, but of course, very self facing, you know, as an Asian woman. And, you know, she would come to me with everything, including sexual harassment, and to get, you know, propositioned by buyers at trade shows, and she would not know what to do. She's like, this guy keeps coming at me. And I am really, she goes, I don't know what to do. No, and other people have come to me and said, you know, I just hate working with supermarkets. And I'm like, so then don't.

Sari  11:58  
Right, giving people permission, I think a lot of coaching is helping them create a business that works for them, and what they aligning their life. Like, it's not just business or life, it's all of it. And why did you even get in this business in the first place, right? What are you trying to create, and can be really helpful when you get permission from people like ourselves in the industry to like, no, we can create a business for you that works for your life?

Deb  12:27  
What comes up for me when we're out of what you just said was, it's so hard to get people to their intention? Because a lot of times the intention is, I just want to make the best granola. And I go, I ate it. And I'm telling you, it's the best granola ever. So our business is done here now, right? We don't have to do anything else, because you've achieved what you wanted to achieve.

Sari  12:59  
You know, I love a good farmers market. And they are an incredible amount of time, and energy, and money. And you don't want to just hope that you're profitable. Instead, I want you to go through this exercise, this free market planning tool, this checklist that Danny and I created as part of the Uplevel workshop, we are giving this to you for free, you just need to go to foodbizsuccess.com/marketplan, and you can download part of the worksheet that we gave in the workshop. It'll take you through the full exercise around planning for profitability. And making sure you understand what your break even point is. So important that you go into farmers markets with a plan, that you understand what it's going to take for you to be profitable, and then we can solve for that problem. Or you may decide that that markets not the right market for you. Either way, you'll be making decisions like a CEO. Go grab that free market plan checklist at foodbizsuccess.com/marketplan

Its gold star for you, but now what.

Deb  14:20  
Yeah. So, you know, where did you say you wanted to be in business? So do you want to be in business? Yeah, of course. And then I'm like, okay, so do you want to just, you know, make enough money to pay your bills? Do you want to have a whole bunch of employees? Do you want to sell your business to craft? Oh, yeah. And I want to sell my business to craft. I'm like, I can't spoon feed you this stuff, right? This is it's not like a box you check off. It's like, really, you have to go deep into your heart and how much energy and effort are you willing to put into this? Because if you want to sell your business to craft it's probably not the best granola in the world because the best granola in the world probably is pretty expensive. And you know, isn't going to have the kind of whatever appeal. And honestly, if people are just amazing, they don't want to give it any thought.

Sari  15:16  
Yeah, I have several podcasts and talk a lot about your why, you know, or EMyth Michael Gerber talks about your primary aim and you know what, what is this bigger thing that you want out of doing this business and helping people recognize that it's not just about your product, you have to like, fall in love with running a business, the product better be good, but that's kind of secondary at some point. It's about running a business.

Deb  15:46  
I love that you brought up the E Myth because I mean, how old is that? 50 years old? I mean, it's a classic. Absolutely.

Sari  15:55  
I think contribution is a big piece of our lives. And I think we always want to be contributing, that's where at least I feel the most alive, whatever my work that I'm doing, I want to feel like I'm making a contribution and growing. 

Deb  16:12  
Yeah, I mean, and I think for people, you know, so the people that were, you know, speaking to who want to have a specialty food business, right, their meaning is often about feeding the world better, you know, or bringing a legacy family recipe to market and have any more fun in their life, right? They think the food business is going to be fun, because they love food, they love to cook, they like to eat in restaurants, they like to travel, that they don't have any experience running a business. And so I often tell them, I always tell them, if I catch them early enough, go work for somebody, oh, I couldn't possibly, you know, go work for somebody for such low money, I go, no, instead, you're going to work for zero and blow your savings, and take on debt before you even know what this industry is about.

Sari  17:06  
You got to learn all the lessons that you need to learn. I do encourage people to maybe go volunteer, go work, you know, even if it's just for a short period of time, like go help out a brand, a small brand and go see what it's like, make sure you want to actually do this stuff, especially when they're convinced that they want to make their own product all the time, like manufacture, go work for somebody else for a minute.

Deb  17:38  
Yeah, and the biggest thing is that they don't understand the terms, right? Like, they think I'm going to make it and I'm going to sell millions, and every store that carries is going to reorder it every week, 10 cases a week, and just getting like their head around two pieces per SKU per week. Max on the shelf is you know, and that's how you build your business plan not, oh, I'm going to do a million dollars in six months or $12 million in six months. Yeah. Right.

Sari  18:13  
Which I think actually, you know, one of the things we deal with as coaches is there's fear of failure, but there's also fear of success. And people often go to these big places, and they haven't even started yet. And they're like, how am I going to handle selling, you know, a million units every three months, and you're like we got to has go. This is a long journey, and there's gonna be lots of steps to build on. I would love to talk about kind of where the industry was when you were starting out, you know, even in a one because just for context, I think people that a lot of times I work with are seeing all of these brands you know, maybe they're seeing stuff at the farmers market and they're also on the shelves and they see success stories like Justin's or purely Elizabeth or sir Kensington's or, you know, whatever XYZ brands and it seems so much more accessible. And so we have a lot more people jumping into it, but can you take us back in the wayback machine and give us a little context of what it was like when you were starting out?

Deb  19:29  
So my degree was in business and my major was in retailing. So you know, back when department stores were a big deal, right? And I worked you know, my whole high school and college career in different you know, everything right, from shoes to men's socks to kids wear, everything. And it was all my experience wasn't ready to wear. So I get to my first, you know, junior executive job and you know, they have a great training program. They're like the crown jewel of the May company at the time, you know, it was. And I moved, you know, to Pittsburgh and I get this little apartment. And they they go, so where do you want to? You know, what department do you want to be in? I'm a team player, you know, so I go anywhere you want to put me. They put me in the candy department. This is how I got in this industry. So the candy buyer bought candy and what they called Epicure gourmet foods. So long story short, four years later, I'm the buyer. I'm making squat money. I'm working crazy hours. And I want to buy a house and you can buy a triplex in Pittsburgh for $30,000. And I can't afford to buy a house. So I go to the library, and I'm like, what am I going to do, I go back to school and get an MBA, and I get it. And I find this book. The best way in the world for a woman to make money, and it was about the Evelyn would speed reading course. And this was a guy who was hired to promote this new product, which we've all heard of. And he's scratching his head going how I'm going to get to sell this. So he goes, you know what, I bet teachers will be good at selling a reading program. Long story short, most women, most teachers are women. And he learned that women were more empathetic and better listeners and therefore better salespeople. So, but at the time that I was a buyer, 80% of my department, the gourmet food department, the candy department was. I mean, we introduced the Russell Stover company, you know, 60% of my business was Russell Stover. We had local candy maker. We had, you know, nuts and jelly beans and Jelly Belly was new on the market. Reagan had just made that popular. We introduced the guy but you know, so we were like people here to spend $16 and pounds. That's what it was back then. I think it's like 35 or 40. But my gourmet food department was 80% imports. Okay. Everything was ethnic foods. Yeah, you know, it was not specialty foods. There was 100 year old company called John Wagner and Sons that made their own preserves and ice cream sauces and bag teas and things. They were a supplier. I actually went to work for them as their national sales manager for seven years. Many years later, we crossed paths. So I went to work for an importer distributor called Victor Brothers time. And they had bought a company called AMA foods. So they were an importer and then a distributor. So we had some brands that were ours exclusively. And then we had brands, we call them the two brands, but brands that were like cars, crackers that everybody carried, nobody had an exclusive to. So that's kind of how the business was in the, you know, early 80s. And while I was at Richter, we were opening new stores like crazy because people wanted to be in the food business. So we opened coffee shops and cheese shops and gourmet shops. So that's how people got into the food business was small retail locations in farmer's markets were becoming popular then now. I was in the Philadelphia area. So with the Reading Terminal Market, you know, that's been there forever and a place called the commissary which had restaurants and you know, takeout and things like that. And they were newbies, but then towards so I was there from 80 to 87 towards the end of that we started to see things like the sushi, sushi, shaft wine, which you're familiar with, right? The black labels. But she came out of Wall Street. She was you know, and she was like, I want to have my own business. And she did all this research in sushi was going to be an up and coming thing. It was nothing at the moment. So you started to have lines like that. There was a brand that failed, but was very popular at the time called Blanchard and Blanchard and they were kind of like a stonewall kitchen of that era, right? Packaged nicely, a whole range of things, they probably didn't make everything themselves and probably co packed a bunch of it and maybe made some things. And so Palette was a brand at that time, Dean and DeLuca had its own imports. So we were, you know, we were such a big entity that they would, that kind of like what people do now they establish themselves somewhat in you know, shipping by UPS wasn't that expensive back then. So they could go to a show, you know, have a few 100 customers and then come to a distributor like us and say, can you take us to the next level. So the way it operated was pretty standard operating system then and still is now. Then the prefill stuff started. And nobody really sold it, the supermarkets had ethnic departments. And they maybe had a little gourmet section where they had you know, crystallized ginger or, you know, some oddball things that people would look for if they raspberry vinegar, right? It would be in recipes, and bon appetit people would be like, all crazy trying to find that one item. So that's kind of how things all you know, happened. And then instead of people starting retail stores, they said, well, I'm going to sell my mother's cookies, you know, or my grandmother's granola or, you know, whatever. And, yeah, so I moved to Florida and I started working for that John Wagner and Sons company nationally. And by the end of that was about seven years as well, at the end of that. The Republican T 's dorm and things, you know, so we were 150 year old tea company, but my boss was, he wasn't going to change a whole bunch less than he got, you know, in his late 60s, he got lung cancer data. And, you know, unfortunately, he sold the company to people who ran it into the ground, which was unfortunate. But companies like Republican team revolutionized the tea industry. 

Sari  27:26  
Interesting. Well, we have Whole Foods starting in the 80s. And so they would kind of accept small brands. But, you know, I just think about the logistics, and the amount of investment that it would take to really get something like that going had to be a lot more than it is now. I mean, there's so many, they didn't have co packers as many as we do. Now, there wasn't commissary kitchens, like we have now. There wasn't cottage food where people could start at home and kind of, you know, test the product and see if they actually want to run a business and things like that. So, I mean, you had to go to trade shows, sell there, and then sounds like go into into a distributor, but I would imagine it took a lot of capital and investment on those brands part to really get going. 

Deb  28:15  
Well, I just think, from what I've seen, it's always been regretfully hard for companies to get to scale, right? So they could do $65,000 a year. And, you know, I mean, I had somebody call me one time, because I used to go to Vermont, to speak to the specialty food groups out there. And this woman, you know, when I was up there we met, and she called me some time, I want to sell my business, I have a national brand. I'm like, okay, what, you know, I just can't take it any further. She's doing $65,000 a year. And I'm like, you know, just because you selling into several states doesn't mean you have a national brand. And, you know, she was tapped out. And you know, she couldn't take it any further. And I think that this is, you know, this is what happens a lot. You know, I had failed businesses, I had a direct mail business. And, you know, I paid a franchising fee and, you know, dipped into my own savings for a while to maintain my lifestyle, and finally just said, this is ridiculous, you know, keep doing this. And I think that's what people have to understand. You gave it your best. But when you pull the plug, you know, and other people are, I'm like, okay, now, you know, we have to raise money, let's think about how we're going to raise money to get to the next level. Well, I can't give up any portion of my business. And I'm like, so would you rather have $100,000 business. A 100% of that, or would you rather have a $10 million business and have 30% of that.

Sari  29:58  
So that's kind of the past If you've been involved, you have posters on your wall from fancy food shows of bygone days

$100,000 business 100% of that? Or would you rather have a $10 million business and have 30% of that?

So that's kind of the past and you've been involved. Do you have posters on your wall from fancy food shows of bygone days?

From the 90s? I think.

Oh, nice. So you've seen a lot in this industry. I'm sure even that show has changed significantly. But as you look forward, are there any trends that you're seeing that brands could take advantage of now? Like, where's the silver lining for brands, amongst all the competition?

I think that, if I were going to start something from ground zero, which I wouldn't. I would go find a company that's doing $100,000 or $250,000, and buy it. Because that person is burnout, and is ready to pass it on, or be a partner. You know, something like that. I mean, it's really hard, you know, you can test this, that the beginning ramp up, and the sweet spot for me, has always been people who've hired brokers and got burned, went with a distributor and got burned but now they've survived, and they're doing a million or $2 million in sales. And there's now they're posting, but they want to grow. And that's when I can go in and say, okay, you weren't ready for a distributor, or you didn't have enough margin, or you didn't promote or whatever numerous different things that we would uncover, where you don't have a salesperson, you know, I mean, running this business and you don't have a dedicated sales, person who really can sell, who answers the phone and takes orders. So you know, that's what I have found over the years are the people that I can help the most, right? They've stopped their toes, they skin their knees, and they know enough to know they need help. And they can maybe sell finance, you know, their growth. Often it's, you know, husband and wife, and one of the, you know, one of them still works, or they have equity in their home or something, right? All of that. So, but if I were going to start from scratch, the trend I would use today is data. I would not say I'm going to make my grandmother's cookie, or maybe I would call it my grandmother's cookie, but who would be the wiser, right? I would not hesitate to create a story, doesn't have to be true life down to every detail story. But I would use data. And I would go out and say what is missing in the field? What is it that the consumer wants and isn't getting? So I was on one of these webinars a couple years back. And gosh, I can't remember the name of the company who does this data. But they were showing, they were just launching, and they were showing how all the new products were in these five flavor profiles. But what was getting all the buzz on social media were things like tumeric, and, you know, mushrooms and things. And nobody was doing this. They were all doing this. Because they go to the show and it's infectious, right? Like, oh, they have they have chocolate chips with the cranberries. Let's do that. They're doing it just be good. You know, instead of saying what is it that, what's all the chatter about? What's, you know, what can I jump on in terms of the flavor profile or something that the consumer isn't able to find? And that's what I found as a National Sales Manager, as a VP of Sales was when I was out in the road with John Wagner and sons, for example. I would come back and say to my boss, we need to have a mustard. And he's like, What are you talking about? There's so many mustards out there. I go, there's this thing called honeycup mustard and it sells for $5 a jar and people can't keep it in stock. We need to have it. We introduced the spicy sweet mustard and we sold $250,000 like that. First off, we had the customer base, so all we had to do was sell everybody two cases, you know. And we had a manufacturing facility that could make that so we were set up for success. Because we were we did hot beverages. Tea, we did flavorings for coffee. I came back and I said on the West Coast everybody's got these flavored hot coco's in individual sessions. They can't get enough of it, right? The manufacturing hasn't kept up. So we found somebody on the East Coast and we did it. And we immediately, you know, had an instant chunk of business. So it's, you know, travel. I mean, my most successful client from scratch, she came to me with, you know, one of my two day workshops, came to me with a bad Bloomingdale's bag this big. And she goes, I've been to every show, and every store and everything. This is all the stuff I found that interests me, let's make something like this. And it took us over a year and market research to come out with, you know, to come up with a category and then to find a manufacturer. And then, you know, I kept saying, we're not doing this unless the margins are right, right? She came to me in 2010. We launched in January of 2011. Our first trade show, we had 13 distributors. It made a product at the right price with the margins built in. And it was gorgeous packaging, and it was category that was wanting, needing a new entry. That's how you do it.

So I mean, there's a level of patience that she had to have, right? As well as some finances to kind of ride that out and make the investments. But I think the difference and this isn't, you know, it's not wrong. But I think a lot of people I work with have that amazing product, and then want to turn it into a business. Versus you're saying, let's go find the data, let's find the trends, I think it can be dangerous to get a little too far out into the trends. You kind of need something to anchor it into, you know, some education is expensive. If it's like way out there. But going where the whitespace is, you know,  where's there that hole in the market? Where's that sleepy category? Where is there a place I can reinvent, versus let me just create my amazing granola or cookies. 

Do you have an example that, you know, somebody that came to and they had an amazing product, but you tried to find the niche or the trend? Or you know, whatever for them? 

I mean, you know, granola and cookies are kind of a classics, right? Like, because granola is a nice, it's easy to make, it's relatively low margins, usually are good margins, are low cost of goods sold. But there's a lot of competition there, right? So how do you try to tack on whether it's maybe its flavors, like some new trends in flavors, and maybe it's around the paleo or keto or different movements like that. But you kind of have to be careful that you're not getting in too late in the game, right? Like keto has kind of come and probably had its heyday and is on the downward. So finding those sweet spots, right? And so spending some time with the data and being open that your product right now that you have, like being open and flexible may not be exactly what you go out to market with.

I had a granola client, was really a good product, really delicious, and innovative in the sense that she made single serve. And you know, we built a little tray. So they stayed on the shelf and all that, all we got from the buyers was the pushback about where's your 10 ounce bag? Or where's your 16 ounce bag? So you know, you couldn't be ahead of the curve too, unfortunately. You know, we felt like we had the 100 calorie trend, the single serve trend, low sugar, we had so many things going for it. And sometimes the buyers are so locked in, and so go back. And so this was an up years ago, the data wasn't readily available. Whereas if we were doing it today, and she had money to spend, I probably would have gone datasets just to show the trends ahead of time. And a lot, it was much harder to get those kinds of products into foodservice and I probably was happening today. I would say we're not doing retail we're doing food service and that doesn't mean you can't do food service, right? You're going into a different department head a different category buyer. But, you know there I mean, we tried everything. She's spend honestly millions. And you know, it just didn't work, which was really devastating. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of flavor profiles, like I had a client for eight years. They came to me when they were 15 years old, I think. One major retailer was a big part of their business. And they knew they needed to diversify that. No sales manager, no distributor program. They were in distributors, but they fought with their distributors all the time. And every distributor had a different price, right? And so, you know, first thing I do for a workshop with a company like that is, give me your sales data, and I break it down 80-20 rules. And I'm like two of your eight flavors, I think that eight or nine flavors are 80% of your business. Your original flavor, 67% of your business. So, and every time they got into a new distributor, the original sold and they'd be waiting and waiting and waiting for a reorder, because they buy five flavors, right? And the other stuff didn't sell. So we changed it up. And we said for the first year, you can only have the original. Oh my god, sales went crazy. People bought. So then eight years in, he's like I have all these cool, you know, R&D projects, let's introduce a new flavor. I say great, what do you got? So we sell them pumpkin spice. And I said, alright, this is how we're going to do it. We're going to introduce it in January, for October or September delivery. So we ran it for nine months on, really by promotion, and you couldn't get it as a regular stock. You had to pre book it. And then we only ran it to fill those orders. So it was very efficient. His production guy was praising, you know, praising that option, because he's like, I don't have to keep stopping the line and making pumpkin spice because somebody ordered two cases.

I love that strategy so much and it takes an incredible amount of discipline and constraint on the CEO to hold tight to that. Because what happens is, once it's working, we're like, let's just keep doing that. And then we get all over the place again. 

It comes back to me in January. And he says that was so great. We did X percent of our sales and let's keep it as regular line. I

We need the season all booze. Yeah, a hundred percent. 

Another seasonal flavor. So I worked with a broker for seven years. And they had a similar experience with, you know, with a major retailer, who, you know, they were selling this goat cheese. And they're like, we have goat cheese coming out of burgers. So this really smart salesperson, she says, what do you do? Let's do a promotion every month. So she got like 1200 cases per quarterly for each store is in and out. So in the spring, they took blueberry and in the fall they took pumpkin and with Christmas they took cranberry. She booked it all at the beginning of the year, the manufacturer knew what he had to make when, the retailer knew when to expect it. They put big display. That's the other thing, you don't want to sell one case. You want to sell five cases, because then it's a big display. And the consumers eyes drawn to it. It doesn't even have to be on sale during that period of time. 

As long as there's something new to promote.

A big pile of the sign on it. People, oh, what's this? I'll try it. 

I love that. Well, we do have to wrap up for time. But you have a book about trade shows. So I want people to know about that. Where can they find that? Because we were talking, before we started recording you said people actually follow that, have the most successful trade shows ever. So I'll brag on you. So where can people find that book? I think it'd be such a good investment if you're going to trade shows.

Thank you. So coachmans.com, he has a section that says trade shows and you know, there's a list of trade shows there as well as the book itself and you can buy the book and just download it and be on your way. Or there's an option to buy it with some consulting. And this is the perfect time to I mean, this is April and the Fancy Food show is two and a half months away. So it's a perfect time to like, tune up your show experience.  There's a lot of myths around trade shows like, oh, we're just going to test the market, and we're going see what people's reaction. I'm like that's $10,000 to see what people's reaction.

Maybe there's some other ways. 

Let's try and write some orders. You know, everybody says it's not a writing show. I'm like, because they don't try and write orders, right? So there's a lot of valuable information in there. And it also talks about are you ready for a show? And what can you do with you? Don't want to spend a $10,000 on a show? What are the other ways to use that $10,000 or whatever one you happen to have, etcetera?

I think that's cheap now, depends on which show you go to if you're going to Expo, you got away with 10 grand. 

Yeah, again, you know, booths used to be $3,500. And now they're.

And then I love that you do offer these two day workshops, and you do have like a jumpstart one. So if there's a early stage brand, you'll walk them through all the things, they're in person, which is really cool. And then I think it'd be so appropriate for a brand that's like buying to go the next level, and you really dig into their financials, and will 80-20 rule and see opportunities. And I think just, we all need to know what we're getting into. And you know, I do the same as well, it's like, you know, you don't know what you don't know, and work with people who do and can help you steer clear of the pitfalls and the landmines. And just so you know what you're getting yourself into.

You know, push back on, why do I have to have a price list? You know, we're going through a distributor. I'm like, what somebody's going to say, can I have your price list? And what are you going to say, I don't have one? Take the price, you know, just things like that. And you know, in the workshop kind of thing, it's like, we're doing some business with, you know, UEFI, we should go after that. And then when you actually peel back the layers, you go, you don't have a distributor program. Let's get that organized first. You have 10 distributors, they're all doing something different. You're not offering them any promotions, you're not supporting them, you're not educating their sales team. You're not getting up. That's the low line fruit. Yeah, but I really want to, you know, work on my Whole Foods Business. Okay, so let's do that. When we get that to X, you'll have the money to invest in Whole Foods business.

Yeah, it is an investment.

Right, you have a strategy and the tactics. And by having everybody in these workshops, be a stakeholder, from the different functional areas of your business. Everybody understands, the accounting person understands, the marketing person understands, the manufacturing person understands, and everybody's pulling the wagon in the same direction, instead of people going, we can't make that or I can't account for that. 

Well, I think we're very complementary, and that, you know, Food Business Success, let's get you launched into 100k. And then I have my next level program as to your business, let's get you to 300k to 500k. And I think your sweet spot is really working with those people, like how do we get you to 1 million, 10 million. I hate going beyond that, because that's stuff I don't want you to worry about when you haven't even launched. But we need different coaches and consultants at different stages of our business. So I appreciate you being a mentor and collaborator with me, I hope we've talked about doing some stuff in the future sometimes. So it's been a real pleasure to have you on and introduce you to my audience. So anything you want to leave people with, as like that last piece of advice?

Go work for somebody first. If nothing else, you'll end up with some connections that will be valuable when you start your own business.

Community and connections are everything in this industry. It's a really small industry.

And if we said this, people are very generous with their time, so it's fun. You know, we're not doing surgery or you know, launching rockets or any crazy kind of thing that's not super competitive. People want you to be successful. And so go work for somebody.

Go start building your connections. I love that, perfect advice. Well, thank you, Deb.

Thank you, Sari. 

All right. Have an amazing rest of your day.

Thanks so much. Bye.

Alright, I hope you got a lot out of that conversation. Some good takeaways, always interesting to hear somebody's perspective who's been in this industry for a long time and what they would and wouldn't do. And I also wanted to comment on her kind of last takeaway about going and working for someone else. And that may not always be feasible, I totally get it. What I would suggest, and I suggest this a lot to my clients and Fuel members, is can you go volunteer with an organization? Can you get into somebody's business in another way, that maybe you're not in a full time job with them, but it gets you learning about the industry and getting some mentorship. For instance, I had a client, multiple clients, I think that went and did this where they, I had a client who did their own production, and I was like, hey, you're in the same area, I'll connect you and then offer to go help with production. Somebody is going to be way more willing to share with you all of their insights and all of that if you are working side by side along with them. We have to be mindful of how much we're taking, taking, taking. And instead, is there a way for you to offer value for you to say how can I help you? Can I come and work with you at the farmers market so I can learn how to do farmers markets and ask you questions? But I'm also doing, I'm also helping you. So as much as possible, I love that strategy for you to go and do some volunteering, offer to give value for no other reason. Then you just want to be around the organization. It's really powerful, and it will further your business and get you where you want to be so much faster. Alright, until next time, have an amazing week!

The smartest thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to invest in a who to help you with the how to speed up your journey and help you skip the line. When you are ready for more support and accountability to finally get this thing done, you can work with me in two ways. Get me all to yourself with one on one business coaching or join Food Business Success which includes membership inside Fuel, our community of food business founders that includes monthly live group coaching calls and so much more. It's one of my favorite places to hang out and I would love to see you there. Go to foodbizsuccess.com to start your journey towards your own Food Business Success.


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