Recipe for Success

Jeffrey Slater and Ra EL Remez in 1979 at Rachel's Brownies

Having built a successful small food business, I am often asked for advice and counsel how to be the next Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields or Rachel's Brownies. It takes hard work to grow a food business today with so much competition. In 1975 when my wife and  I began our journey building our brownie business,  we were not trained business professionals but devoted foodies who really liked to eat. But we did do three things really well.

The following list illustrates those three critical things that we learned.  

The product

Mamma Chia- Seed the Moment
Without something that is truly different and spectacular, you are wasting your time. Of course there are plenty of people with mediocre products who sell lots of average foods. With something different you have a chance to really stand out from the crowd and be special. If your product can do the “heavy lifting” of your marketing effort, it allows the focus to stay on the food. And if you are just another cupcake, no one will care.

Ever hear of Mamma Chia? I stumbled upon it at Whole Foods this weekend. Chia seeds are an ancient grain that the Mayans and Aztecs for their healing powers. This drink is rich in Omega 3, fiber, anti-oxidant and protein. And, I have never seen a drink that looks like this with its bits and particle of chia seeds. Read more about this product and watch how well this food business creates a unique product and communicates it on package and online.

Find a point of difference. Find a unique way to package. Find a position that is fresh and innovative. Stand out from the crowd.
Maya Kaimal's Tika Masala -
An Indian Simmer Sauce with a great story
The Story

Food marketing is story telling. Don’t expect that by having a sensational product that you’ll have a rush of business quickly. Public relations (earned media) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) will fuel your awareness and growth. If you have a great product you also need to have a compelling story. With both product and story together, you will get the chance to slowly build a successful business. The story helps you take your main character (the product) and put it into a plot (the story).  

Why did this product come into existence? What role did happenstance play on it being sold? Who is the special human being behind the product? Where did the vision come from? What makes this more than a cookie, brownie, muffin or cupcake? Why is it packaged the way it is on a stick or in a ready to bake format? What the heck is a simmer sauce? 

Maya Kaimal is a brand of Indian Simmer sauces that I recently discovered. Maya's story is rich with her Indian heritage. Maya’s fascination with Indian food began in her Aunty Kamala’s  kitchen. It was there she first experienced the heady aromas of fresh curry leaves crackling in hot oil with mustard seeds and dried chilies. At home, in Boston, Maya learned how to cook her own Indian food from her physicist father Chandran Kaimal—an excellent cook with a knack for writing foolproof recipes. You can read the details of her story here:   

(Hint: I love the Tika Masala and I love the idea of positioning this as a easy-to-use simmer sauce). And oh yes, I love Indian flavors and spices. 

The Tribe

Seth Godin, one of today's great marketing expert, writes about how important it is to build a community that cares deeply about you, your product and has a connection with other members.  He calls it your tribe. 

Through this tribe, they will be your most effective marketing force helping to spread the word about your creative inspiration. A tribe is critical as they will be the basis for your business to be maintained and eventually to grow. Don’t let them down by cutting on quality or service. If you disappoint them, they will share it with fellow club members and before you know it, your reputation goes stale. There is nothing harder to deal with than a moldy brand.

Tinkayada Pasta 
Letters from their Tribe
My wife and I try to eat gluten free foods at home since my wife has a sensitivity to gluten. She discovered a pasta called Tinkyada that tastes great, is light and gluten-free. They have a place on their website to share stories from the community of folks who love their products. It builds a connection between others who are also looking for an exchange or recipes or innovative new gluten-free products. Learn more about their products and join the tribe at

So if you are thinking of starting a small food business, the first course is clear. Let these three ideas marinade in your mind before you begin your business. 

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