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I know that's a little bit of a different intro. But I wanted to shake you up a little bit and get you into the mood to talk about the Holidays. And I'm so excited, I get to sit down with Jordan Buckner of Food Bevy. And we're going to talk shop and everything you need to know about Holiday planning. And if you want to get my Holiday checklist, go to foodbizsuccess.com/holiday, but you welcome to a special Bonus Episode, I very last minute reached out to Jordan Buckner of Food Bevy and said, hey, can we have a conversation about Holidays? And getting ready for the Holidays? And he was like, yeah, let's do it. So welcome, Jordan to the podcast.
Thank you. And of course, I'm like, Holiday Sari, it's July. Why should I be thinking about Holiday, a whole nother six months to go?
Right? That's the problem, right? We're all in our consumer brain are just like our shopper brain. But we're not in our retail. I'm a brand brain. So that's why every year, I have been putting on crazy Holiday sweaters in the middle of July cranking the AC up. And taking photos and videos to try to remind people that Holiday planning starts now. And I'm going to let people tell up, why don't you tell people a little bit, just some quick background. You've already been on the podcast, I coach in your program and we do a lot of stuff together. But just introduce yourself.
Definitely. Well, Sari as you know, I am on a mission to help founders grow their businesses from startup to scale, and do that through Food Bevy, which is an online community for food and beverage founders. And I love helping founders think about the problems and the obstacles that they are currently facing or going to face in the future and help them overcome that through various tools like building a community, doing mastermind workshops, doing group coaching, which you helped lead, and all around just helping brands make this journey of building their companies a lot easier. And then as we also talk about, I previously ran CPG brand T Squares for six years. So a lot of experience to share from that. And then currently, I also have another ecommerce brand, Joyful Co, which is a curated gift box where we create gifts for various Holidays and occasions throughout the year.
Awesome. So you have such a wealth of knowledge. And I just thought this will be a more engaging conversation than me just running through a list. And of course, if people want to get the full checklist, it's at foodbizsuccess.com/holiday. And I just thought it'd be fun to partner with you because you have access and so many, your community is amazing. And we'll put the link in the show notes for that. But I figured, like let's do this together.
I love it. It's perfect timing because I have been completely guilty myself of poorly planning for Holidays, from a business standpoint. And so I think this is awesome to get into what founders should be thinking about right now to make their lives easier.
So when I was at Whole Foods Market as the Marketing Director, I was probably right about this time of year was sitting in meetings at the regional office, about our Holiday plan, and I needed to have a full plan baked, you know, doesn't mean you execute everything, but you understand exactly what you're going to be doing for that season. What you know, in the case of the store, what decorations I needed, what end caps we were going to do, what new product launches, all that good stuff. And so by August, I was like, ready to go and feeling confident. But we all know what usually happens for founders is it's like, oh, I'll get to it. I'll get to it. I'll get to it. And then what end of September, October, also it's Halloween and you're like crap!
Well, I kind of say it like how I think surprising that is for a lot of founders who are going through it for the first time because at least for me, right, like I was running my business maybe like a month out if that and really like week by week me so reactionary. And when I sat down for planning sessions with T Squares, we may think about like yeah, we should plan to do things for Holidays and Black Friday, but didn't have a strict kind of plan on how to actually execute that or fully thinking about, and to know that retailers are thinking about planning Holidays six months plus in advance or even a year in advance like that is, it's mind blowing for a lot of founders who are like I don't know if I'm going be around in a year. You're old, like, how do I think that far ahead. And so I'd love to hear what you think in terms of like what founders need to do to be successful?
Yeah, I think what happens unfortunately is then, you know, if we think about, you know, and I do coaching in your program, think about the model, you know, the circumstance is just holidays, let's take Black Friday, right? Big holiday, that's a one that many brands want to engage in. If you wait until it's, you know, you're butting up against some deadlines and now you're feeling is stressed, and emergency and you know, and then you're frustrated and beating up on yourself. It's like the actions you're taking are so not in alignment with what you're trying to create, which is more sales, right? And so if we can be the CEO of our business now and pause and say, I know, I got all this other stuff going on. But let me take, I mean, it doesn't have to take that long, maybe a half a day to really think about your plan, and what do you want to do. And then you're going to be so much more ahead of the game, you're going to be thinking about partnerships and opportunities, and you're not going to be paying like last minute emergency fees and missing out.
Well, and I think it really starts with understanding like, what are your goals for the Holidays, and what you want to get out of it? So that's really clear what the point of all this really is. So you have a clear understanding, like, oh, this is actually important for my business, or maybe in some cases, just a little less important, right? Depending on what your your products are. And so I think that's really key to kind of start with those top level goals that you can really be aligned in your team on what you're going to be doing.
Yeah, because there are brands that, I have a couple brands, I'm like, they're like, yeah, my holiday really isn't until January. I'm more of a New Year's resolution kind of thing. And that's great, but still get ahead of it, right? Maybe Black Friday is not your main thing. So the checklist I give people breaks it down into a couple of categories and you have expertise in a couple of them. But the checklist is really about wholesale. So I'm selling into retailer, and then that direct to consumer, which is oftentimes online, through various channels, and then also markets, right? And that's what I love, right? That's my jam. But I think that holiday markets can be such a great way to improve your cash flow, get things going. So looking for Fall Holiday pop ups and farmers markets that might be in your area.
No, I think that's awesome. So I know you to talk through like what to do for wholesale direct to consumer, ecommerce. And I love some of these other things that a lot of founders don't really think about. So a T Squares of one of our top holiday partners was a curated gift box service. And they, I think in like December, like they usually put an appeal, there's like $25,000 of product, which was huge for us and was able to negate the drop in sales that we had from just like our business, it was only energy bars, and so fewer people are looking for energy bars during like the holiday times. But by being part of this gift box service, it allowed us to see actually an increase in revenue for that month, instead of a decline because we had this partnership and so I love things like that.
Oh, I love that example. Let's just take that a little bit further because those partnerships probably start long before October, right? You have to be having those conversations, those companies working out gift baskets and I work with a gal in Fuel, Maggie and she puts together Fuel boxes for us and she has her own gift boxing with those margaritas salsa, little shout out to her! You know we're talking about that now, because then we need all this lead time, right? Like they have to work it out and get all the pricing and they got to get all the commitments and then you get the PO and then you have to provide product long before those boxes ever go out, right?
Completely, and so I think those relationships happen like early in the gear and so start thinking about that now as you mentioned start reaching out to those gifting companies, see what they are because a lot of times I'll tell you actually having to curate a gift box company now it's about people being top of mind to say hey, that's a really unique product and we'll try to fit that in if possible.
And did you work with a co packer for T squares or were you making them yourself?
For the most part we made them ourselves. There's a whole nother story about going back and forth.
Well either way however like product has to be made so either you got to start planning ahead for, then you got to buy ingredients well before, right? If you back it all the way up, I need to get product to them by end of October. I got to book time in my kitchen, I need to make sure I have help, if that's what you're going to have. I need to make sure I have ingredients and packaging. Oh the packaging company takes six weeks, right? So we back it all the way up. And we're basically in July.
So here's one of my questions for you, when thinking about retail and planning around Holidays like, what can brands really start to do to think how their brands might show up and the retailers that they're selling?
Well, I think it's important to think about trends and where you can fit in to that sort of Holiday scheme. Whether you're giftie, you know, are you a great giftable? Or are you part of that Holiday meal? I mean, you know, Whole Foods Market, Thanksgiving was our number one Holiday with Christmas and New Year's being kind of the latter ones. I mean, they were so big, but you know that those foodie holidays, right? So do you fit into that keto baking set, right? That there may be focused on because that's a trend. Or do you fit into that specialty department with our chocolates and their, you know, fun little gift things that they put together?
I love it. What are some of the things that you can do though? Like, can you reach out to the buyers there? And just say like, hey, like, is it asking them like, hey, we love to participate, what opportunities do you have? Or is it kind of coming down with like, fully baked ideas?
I think you know, earlier, the better if you want to kind of bounce ideas around, but because think about it, you know, if you're like, oh, let's go ahead and do a four pack of our chocolates. Now we got to think about packaging, and we got to think about other things, we're going to get the product in the system. And, you know, or if you want to do a exclusive flavor that's just for that store or something like that. So the earlier, the better on those conversations, but certainly right now, you could reach out to your buyers at any of your stores and say, hey, I'm getting ahead of the Holidays. And here's some ideas I have, I want to be a great partner. And like you said, it's top of mind, right? I'm like, oh, they want to be a partner. I love that, right? And so all of a sudden, I'm thinking about well, let's see, I have this display that I want to make sure, you know, has this and this. And I'm like, oh, that's a great partnership. You know, I'm glad they reached out. And it's good to think about what could you offer some incentives to stores ahead of time to get those early POs. Write those purchase orders so that you can start knowing how to plan. I think that's the hardest thing is like, well, how much do I make? You can get commitments pretty early in the summer and say, hey, you know, let's decide and then put some purchase orders together. And then that way, you can actually be working with your co packer or buying, you know, the ingredients that you need, well ahead of time to be ready.
One thing that I've been really inspired by is, if you're on LinkedIn and the CPG community there. There's a lot of great merchandisers who are building these awesome displays for different brands. And while they have their own kind of company sets, right, a lot of times these retailers are ordering sometimes 50-100 cases a product to build these displays. But even if you're just a small team, there might be opportunities to say like, hey, we are perfect for X, Y, and Z Holiday. And we'll even come in and discover you and the founders and friends and like build a display for you to help with that. With building that display, the retailer will actually buy dozens of cases extra. Those are yields coming in the door. And so by adding that little light will actually come into the store and help work with you and the team that do it. That can make a big difference.
Oh my gosh, again, that's just being a great partner and realizing like I know, we all love to like trash on all the stores right now and everything that's going on. But you know, the buyers are in a tough spot too, like they're getting squeezed. And you know, they just don't have as much time as they used to, the marketing folks, the buying folks. So anything you can do to give them time back and make their lives easier. Also get your promotions in well in advance, you know, as soon as you possibly can think through, you know, what are the right times? You know, are you Thanksgiving Holiday thing? Or are you Christmas thing? Are you, you know, New Year's resolution thing?But get your promos in early and then also, can you get your demos scheduled in early? Because the last thing you want is like, again, October where you're like, ah, I really want to be in the store the week of Thanksgiving. And they're like, sorry, you know, it's taken. Anything else to add about wholesale, thoughts that you've seen?
Yeah, I think it's really understanding just what you're committing to and if you want to go on their holiday or not, because it can be a big, that's a lot of time and planning there. I guess the last thing and that quickly is what about creating like Holiday specific flavors for retailer like that can be a big investment. What happens if you don't sell them?
Yeah, I mean, I have a couple clients who do have Holiday flavors and so again, the sooner you can get them out to buyers potential, you know, especially like gift shot. And this isn't just like a Whole Foods or Natural Grocers, this is think about gift shops as well. But you want to like really leverage those relationships that hopefully you've spent time building. You know, it's like, don't just show up on my email, like in October, like, have you been nurturing the relationship ahead of time? And that way, when you're like, oh, you have this peppermint flavor now, or this, you know, apple spice or whatever it is, it's like, okay, sure, yeah, I'll take a chance with that. But the more you can get pre commitments ahead of time, that way, you don't go to all in, and then having a multi channel strategy. So can you, you know, have other outlets so that if you don't sell as much as you thought in one area, can you run it on ecommerce or Amazon or something like that? There's so much to think about. And I just, you know, I have a spice co packer, that I refer people to a lot, and he's, you know, we just had a conversation. He's like, yeah, remember, August, I started filling up, right? Again, everything backs out. So you're like, oh, well, I need my containers, I need my ingredients, I need my labels. And so this is definitely the time to be working on that Holiday plan. So let's talk a little bit about e commerce because similar, there are some similar overlaps is certainly around production and things like that. When it's wholesale, you're dealing with the retail buyer and getting commitments ahead of time and what they want. Whereas ecommerce, you're directing the ship, it's all up to you, for better or for worse.
Yeah, and I think the thing I see brands at the early stage teetering on is like, for Black Friday through Holidays, like how much do I discount my product? Am I even like making money? Is it a loss leader to get new customers in the door? Like how should I even be thinking about like, the strategy behind what I do for those events?
Again, just like with the buyers don't show up in November on their email doorstep with like, hey, remember us? Hopefully even nurturing your email list ahead of time. And it's good to even ramp it up a little bit in like September and October, just reminding people who you are, what's special about you, not necessarily selling, like not necessarily a lot of promotions. You really want to be nurturing that relationship and sparking it back up. You want to remind them about all the cool things that you are and the products that you offer, and why they should pay attention when the holidays come.
I think that's huge because every advertising avenue is incredibly expensive around the Holidays, because you're not only competing with other brands of your size, but all the major players. And so as much as you can leverage your email list to sell, it will drastically reduce those costs, right? Imagine if some people were spending $25 to acquire a new customer around that time on Black Friday. And what if instead, you gave a $20 discount to your existing customer on the email list, right? Would have spent that money anyway to acquire a new customer. But now you're able to use that to discount to your current customers. And so really getting some more than like, as you mentioned, building your email list early. So then you have to spend less on paid advertising than you might have otherwise.
That's so good. And I'm actually in August. So I am a huge fan of lead ads. I don't know. Are you familiar with lead ads? So I love them so much. And I've been using them personally, and they've been working really well. And then I have some clients who I've trained. And so we're going to be doing that's our, one of our calls in my group in August, will be how to do lead ads. And I have a brand who is getting leads at 31 cents, qualified leads each. Now they're getting them on their list now, right, in the summer. And imagine if you keep you know, 31 cents a lead. Now you start nurturing them with those emails as you crescendo up the holidays. And like you said, now you've only spent 31 cents, you can give bigger discounts, or you don't have to give this as much, you know, you just keep more money because you're not trying to compete with everybody else.
No, I love that. I think you mentioned about like building those relationships early. And then putting those seeds of ideas in their minds of like, hey, this is a great giftable item or if you putting together those like special gift collections, that people start to think like, oh, you know, I probably should start thinking about holiday gifts. I'm really bad at it. But this can be a great gift for my son. So before they start making plans and going out and finding other gifts.
Yeah, it just kind of warms them up and that way when you know you know how any emails you get around Black Friday. And I look at them more as like sport because I'm just always curious. But I know you'll be like, I hate all the emails I get. But if you've already warmed them up, and they're like, kinda like, you're ready, then they're more like, it's okay. I'm going to delete all those other people who I'm just now hearing from. We have all this emotion on our emails. And remember, you know, you're going to have to, I know, people are like, I emailed them once, like, yeah, okay, but they have a million other emails. So, you know, don't assume people saw that one email, like be willing to email them more. And in the Holiday Bootcamp that I'm running in August, I'll have my amazing email gal Jane Hamill come and talk about the right amount of emails to send, and what to send, and help people clarify that. Email is your, you know, you got to go get the email leads elsewhere, like on Google or Meta, Facebook, whatever, but then you own them. And you get to your customer. And you got to do the work and email.
I think a lot of things that founders make mistake of as well is once they acquire those customers, especially around those big acquisition periods of the Holidays, a lot of them founders aren't doing a lot enough to nurture them and getting that second order, right? So if someone's finding your brand, for the first time, they're trying it out, they're unsure how it's going to work, they're not going to fall in love the very first time. It usually takes two to four purchases to start building something as a routine in their lives. And so what are you doing to get them coming back a second and a third time, so that they continue to purchase with you. And if you can focus on that, you know, increasing that three month, I will solve a three month lifetime value of a customer so getting them come back as much as possible during a three month period, then you can start building. They can start building that habit of using your brand throughout their their lives and maintain that kind of purchase frequency throughout the year.
That is so true. So important to keep the customers you have. Any other ecommerce tips? Because I do want to talk about your gifting. You have your own e commerce. Yeah. So you know, I'm curious because we were talking about earlier like have you already planned out your Holiday packages?
Yeah, for Joyful Co we have already planned out our holiday assortments, those are set. So hopefully aren't taking, I'm not taking any new ones right now for this year. And it's really to start getting ordering and to get everything set. We're building out our marketing now, to really make sure we're hitting on those those those key periods. And so all that planning is happening now as well.
In general, it's probably too late to get into somebody else's gift boxes, you never know. But I love to see brands collaborating together and working out partnerships. There's no reason why you can't create your own curated bundle with partnered products.
I think there's a big missed opportunity in terms of creating giftable package collections, right? Like a lot of brands will just sell their same case of six of their products or a single product. And just frankly, a lot of consumers aren't looking for that at the time of the year. Either they're looking for something nice for themselves, or for family members or friends. And so as much as you can do the gifting work for them, then it's a great way of getting your product into more hands. As you mentioned, there's great partnerships you can do with a similar brand or a complementary brand that you know, are founder friends and say, hey, let's create this curated gift box. And then someone can take the lead, you put together a budget, how you want to promote it, and really just start getting that out to your audiences either in like a paid way or in just through your own email list. So you're creating those curations from the beginning.
And then once again, all those things take time. Because if you think about like, I'm like a ninja project manager. So it's one of those things like it comes so naturally to me, but I've realized like, oh, not everybody's brain thinks this way. So let's just back it out. So like, you want to be live by let's say, you know, November 1st, so you need photos ahead of time, you need all the marketing copy, you need, you know, all the pricing and everything up on the website, you need packaging, well in advance like photos, you know, you might need to get three, four weeks in advance. And then like somebody's got to take the lead on it and like these things just take a lot more time than we think they will. And what people usually do is like either they have to say no to things because there's just no way or they're then running around really, really stressed out. And it's not a good experience for anybody.
No, it's so true. And I think two pieces of advice that would give us one as you mentioned, think about that timeline and actually put on your calendar, like block out a three hour block or four hour block or one hour block to say, hey, plan for this event and have committee follow ups throughout that time period, is the first thing. I think the second is, I usually recommend for founders to like, either like go all in to doing it and promoting it, or don't worry about it this year. Like if you don't have time, think about because you're launching other things like don't have do it and just put them together like a bad offer, because you're going to spend more time creating something like that with little impact, and then just be frustrated by the results. So either kind of plan and commit to go all in and doing something a certain level or just worry about it the next year. You don't have to do everything, there's a lot going on as a founder. And so you don't want to over stress yourself with things like this.
And the more you do the planning now, you can decide ahead of time and to go back to what we said the very beginning, like what are your goals for the Holidays? And we always overestimate what we can do in a short amount of time. And I would say even like five months, basically, is a short amount of time or four months, whatever until whatever your holidays are. We always overestimate and so know that ahead of time, make decisions. I'm going to do these three things. And these are my priorities. And I want to grow sales in this category by X amount. And then keep a list, right? I think everybody wants to do everything all the time. But keep a parking lot lists, have a note on your phone or something that you just keep that list of like, maybe that's the next year thing, right? It's okay, if you missed the boat on this time, or it's a good idea but it's just not in your plan. As CEOs, we have to constrain and we just can't do everything all at once. But put it on your list, then you can revisit it for next year, next summer, when I find a new holiday sweater. Not reminding you that it's time to plan for the holidays in July, right? And think back to what you wish you would have done last year, right? Or what you wish you could have done better or what you didn't like, didn't work.
I think those are some really great holiday tips. Anything else who thought on that you want to make sure we add?
No, I think that's pretty much it. I think after listening to this episode, give yourself a couple hours to plan out what your ideal how they will look like where do you want to focus when we don't want to focus is equally important, as you just said to know what he wants to no too. And start working on that plan today.
And I'm also on a mission. I mean, I want you to grow your sales. But I'm on a mission for you to actually, this sounds crazy, Jordan, but enjoy your Holidays. Like what if you actually could enjoy Thanksgiving and you were, all your emails were done and everything was worked out ahead of time? And you were just like, yeah, it's all on automatic. It's fine. I'm not getting, you know, pulled away by my phone. But if you actually enjoyed your own Holiday season, and you were making money,
Mind blowing, Sari, like that's something that's so foreign to founders.
It is possible but it starts now. So you can go get the checklist, we'll put the link in the show notes. And for the Holiday Bootcamp, there's information on that page. And we are doing something special for Food Bevy members, which you got to be in the Slack channel to go learn about it. Be sure to check that out because if you have trouble forcing yourself to make that time, then like you strategic accountability and go sign up for the bootcamp and then you'll make the time, and I will force you.
You're great at doing that.
It's such a great opportunity to hook your future self up. Hook your November self up and give her a break.
Perfect. I love that.
Well, thanks for joining me. It was fun little chat, and I think it'd be really helpful. Well, I'll put on my Santa hat one last time. There we go. Holiday Season.
I'll need to get one for the next one in my sweater.
All right, we're going to see, we're going to have the ugliest sweater next year. All right. Thanks, Jordan. Appreciate your time.
That was awesome. I had so much fun talking chat with him. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you got some new ideas out of it. Things you want to start doing right now. Now's the time. And spots are limited. But come join me in the Holiday Bootcamp because this is work that you have to do. But come do it in a group setting. Come do it where I'm giving you tools and you're not just sitting down going, now what do I do? They told me stuff and I don't remember. And I always make things fun. I have some great guests coming. And we're just going to have a good time and we are going to get work done. And then you're going to feel so good going into it, knowing I got a plan. And now I just have to go execute it this fall. Boom. All right, go to foodbizsuccess.com/holiday to get all the details. Until next time, have an amazing week!