Gazeboshop tips to scale up your food business

[Big Cheese Expertise Guest Post] Hi, my name is Craig Pannozzo and I’m the general manager of Gazeboshop. We’ve worked with brands of all sizes for over a decade and have seen the essential stages needed in order to scale up your start-up beyond the kitchen table. Here are our top tips for your food or drink business.

Planning to scale up? Take it one small step at a time…

There’s so much to consider when trying to grow a business that marketing may end up taking a back seat in the early days – yet getting out there and promoting your offering is one of the most crucial elements to a successful venture; you may have the best products in the world but that doesn’t matter if no-one knows about them!

At Gazeboshop, we’ve helped hundreds of food and drink companies raise their profile through local, national and international events and trade shows, and have witnessed how they’ve grown from their humble beginnings to well-established brands within the industry. These are the steps we see most of them following to scale up their business from ‘home to high street’.

1. The value of face-to-face selling

If your family, friends and neighbours are your go-to product taste testers, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and attend an event. This type of scale up step can be as big or as small as you like – if you’re a parent, for example, you could run a stall at your child’s school summer fete.

If you want to take your food and drink business to the next level, you should always offer free samples and take some marketing materials with you such as flyers or brochures. A 10% discount, which can be redeemed online at a later date, would encourage new and repeat business and give you the means to analyse how certain events have benefitted your sales.

Events can be daunting for even the most extroverted entrepreneurs but they are so important for face-to-face interaction as you will be communicating with lots of people in a short space of time, therefore gaining feedback from a bigger sample size in one go.

Once you’ve got into your stride, it’s time to step it up a gear by creating a dedicated marketing calendar. As someone who helps businesses raise their profile through events, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this.

We ran a campaign to find out how other entrepreneurs – including food/drink businesses Popaball and Little Moons – had gone from ‘home to high street’, and so many of them recognised the value of attending trade shows, events and exhibitions. It’s also a great way to scope out your competitors as they will probably be attending too.

Start by working out a marketing budget, and determine how much time you can realistically dedicate to attending events on a monthly/quarterly basis (especially if you work on your own). Eventbrite is a handy place to start when creating a calendar as it allows you to break events down by type, location and date.

Top tip: don’t just think about your products, think about the packaging too.

The design will go a long way, but even more essential than that is choosing packaging that will preserve your product. 

There’s no point putting a delicate or greasy item in a brown paper bag, for example.

2. Pop-up shops: the halfway house

Pop-up shops have become more and more popular over the last few years, helping to fill otherwise empty spaces in towns and cities. They’re a good halfway scale up point between events and having your own full-time premises as the contracts are temporary, which in turn, equals cheaper rental costs.

There has never been a better time to invest in a pop-up shop, with one recent survey revealing that over 42% of consumers now prefer small businesses and independent retailers over larger brands.

As with events, they’re great for providing face-to-face interaction and allow you to attract passing trade. Samples will always go down well (who doesn’t love free food and drinks?), as will a nicely decorated shop front and interior.

Even if you don’t end up investing in full-time premises afterwards, pop-up shops give you a chance to collect feedback on everything from the taste and quality of your products to how much people would be willing to pay for them.

3. Showcasing your products through suppliers

Want to go even bigger? How about taking the plunge and contacting a few suppliers?

Start small by taking your products to a local café or delicatessen and ask the staff to test them. If they’re impressed, they may decide to order some stock – which is an exciting milestone for any growing business. It’s a good sign if they make repeat orders, or increase their order volume over time, as it shows that their customers are buying and enjoying your products.

Once you have secured smaller, local suppliers, it’s time to think bigger. Browse stores that stock similar or related items to find the best retailers for your business. You will then need to be able to explain how your products fit into the retailer’s current selection and why they are different to what they already sell (your USP).

Always expect to discuss numbers – if you’ve ever seen The Apprentice, you’ll know the drill.

Big businesses will want to know cost prices and discounts for volume. Do your research by understanding where your products sit within the retailer’s current pricing structure too.

They will be unlikely to stock something for £8, for example, if they already sell a similar item that is luxury or premium at £7.

A surefire way to increase your chances of making a sale is to develop a relationship with a retail buyer. This can be achieved by attending trade shows and exhibitions, as discussed earlier, or attending networking events. Every event should be seen as an opportunity to build your network and explore how new contacts may be able to help your business move forward!

The final piece to the puzzle is to prepare for your pitch. Samples will be expected, alongside:

  • A product brochure
  • A price list that includes wholesale and retail prices
  • A list of places you currently supply your product(s) to
  • Marketing and promotion plans; events calendar, in-store demos, point-of-sale displays, advertising and PR activity
  • Evidence of the potential for a large sales volume
  • Manufacturing information to provide evidence of your capacity to handle mass orders

4. The next stage in your scale up

Once you have gained wider exposure from events and pop-up shops, and through building relationships with key suppliers, you’ll definitely find yourself in the position of needing to ramp up production. This could involve taking on another member of staff or expanding into another area of your house (i.e. the garage). A natural progression from there is to take on a rented central production unit.

Wherever you decide to make your products, it is critical that the location meets regulatory requirements in terms of food and safety hygiene.

Food business premises must be registered at your local authority’s environmental health service at least 28 days before you are due to open.

Therefore, if you have already been making homemade jams in your kitchen to sell and want to take it to the next level, we recommend contacting your local environmental health department as a priority. Being able to demonstrate that you and your employees understand the principles of good food hygiene is part and parcel of growing a food and drink venture.

Taking your start-up to the next level is both a daunting and exciting prospect for any ambitious entrepreneur.

There may be times when you feel like your humble company is the underdog in a battlefield of big name brands, but in reality, the food and drink industry is full of supportive people that all want to help each other.

The last piece of advice that I will leave for those of you looking to scale up is to find support and seek advice from experienced entrepreneurs with expertise in the food and drink industry. By regularly attending networking events or reaching out to people on LinkedIn, you can rest assured that guidance is only an email away.

*** Special Offer for Smoothie PR Readers! ***

Every reader can get 10% off any online item at Gazeboshop by using the discount code ‘smoothie10’. This offer is limited to one discount per user and valid until September 30th 2018.

If you have more questions about how we can help, you can contact us at any time and follow us on Facebook. Since its beginnings in 2005, as a supplier of quality gazebos and marquees, Gazeboshop has helped hundreds of small businesses like yours prepare their stands for indoor and outdoor events.

More food for thought…

Hey, Charlotte here, thanks for reading through to the end!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like How to get stocked in farm shops and delis and How to get your food and drink products into retailers.

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