Artwork for podcast Bring Your Product Idea to Life
Creating a food business and getting stocked in major supermarkets - with Marieke Syed - Snackzilla
Episode 11220th May 2022 • Bring Your Product Idea to Life • Vicki Weinberg
00:00:00 00:37:58

Share Episode

Shownotes

Born out of a mum’s frustration to find healthy filling snacks for her two boys, SNACKZILLA soft-baked oat cookies are made especially for kids, supporting them to live healthier lives without compromising on taste or fun.

EPISODE NOTES

**Please remember to rate and review the podcast - it really helps others to find it.**

Marieke Syed is the founder of SNACKZILLA, who make soft-baked oat cookies made especially for kids, supporting them to live healthier lives without compromising on taste or fun. SNACKZILLA was born out of Marieke’s frustration to find healthy filling snacks for her two boys. Marieke’s products are stocked in Ocado, and will soon be in Sainsburys. 

Marieke is only the second guest I have had on the podcast who sells a food product. It was absolutely fascinating to talk to her and learn more about the process of mass producing a food product, getting stock in supermarkets and insider knowledge about the food industry.

Listen in to hear Marieke share:

  • An introduction to herself and her business (01:12)
  • What inspired her to start Snackzilla (01:54)
  • The journey from inspiration to creating her own recipe (04:17)
  • Working with food developers (07:06)
  • Selling her product to supermarkets (10:02)
  • Finding a manufacturer (16:27)
  • Growing her business, and making her first staff hires (20:34)
  • Advice for hiring staff (24:54)
  • Sourcing investment (26:18)
  • Industry specific regulations and challenges (29:43)
  • Her number one piece of advice for other product creators (34:35)

USEFUL RESOURCES:

Snackzilla Website

Snackzilla Instagram

Snackzilla Facebook

Marieke’s LinkedIn

Young Foodies

LET’S CONNECT

Join my free Facebook group for product makers and creators

Find me on Instagram

Work with me 

Mentioned in this episode:

Join my Free Facebook group for product creators & makers

Join my Free Facebook group for product creators & makers

Get your FREE product creation checklist

Get your free product creation checklist

Transcripts

Speaker:

Welcome to the, Bring Your Product Ideas To Life podcast, practical advice,

Speaker:

and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products.

Speaker:

Here's your host Vicki Weinberg.

Speaker:

Today on the podcast, I'm delighted to speak to Marieke Syed from Snackzilla,

Speaker:

born out of a mum's frustration to find healthy filling snacks for her

Speaker:

two boys Snackzilla soft baked oat cookies are made especially for kids

Speaker:

supporting them to live healthier lives without compromising on fun or taste.

Speaker:

I was really excited to speak to Marieke she's only the second guest

Speaker:

I've had on who sells a food product.

Speaker:

And in the short few years that she did running her business, she's

Speaker:

seen a massive success being stocked in both Ocado and in Sainsbury's.

Speaker:

Um, I learned so much about the food industry and retail

Speaker:

during this conversation.

Speaker:

Um, I had lots that surprised me and I think perhaps you will, you

Speaker:

know, you'll be surprised too.

Speaker:

Um, and I really hope as always that you enjoy this conversation.

Speaker:

So hi, Marieke, thank you so much for being here.

Speaker:

Thank you, Vicki, for having me.

Speaker:

Oh, you're welcome.

Speaker:

I'm really excited to talk to you.

Speaker:

So can we start by you please give an introduction to yourself,

Speaker:

your business and what you sell?

Speaker:

Yes, I'm Marieke and I am the founder of Snackzilla, which is a brand new

Speaker:

kids, healthy snack brand aimed at kind of five to 11 year old so primary

Speaker:

school age, um, we launched last year.

Speaker:

We have a range of soft baked oat cookies that are kind of ideal for

Speaker:

lunchboxes and afterschool snacking.

Speaker:

Amazing.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

And so let's start with what inspires you to start Snackzilla and how have you

Speaker:

managed to make what could be a relatively unhealthy snack, so cookies and how

Speaker:

have you managed to make them healthy?

Speaker:

So I apologize.

Speaker:

That is two questions in one.

Speaker:

So I'm a mum of two boys who are 11 and eight years.

Speaker:

And about four years ago, I started getting really frustrated at the

Speaker:

lack of kind of healthier options to put in their lunch box and

Speaker:

to bring as after school snacks.

Speaker:

And they had grown out of the baby and toddler products that they loved.

Speaker:

And I loved like Organix and some baby and Kiddylicious products.

Speaker:

They kind of weren't big enough.

Speaker:

They weren't filling out.

Speaker:

The branding was too babyish for them.

Speaker:

And they really wanted junk food products.

Speaker:

They wanted me to take, you know, Oreos and they wanted Maryland cookies.

Speaker:

They wanted adult products to eat kind of as a snack.

Speaker:

And I thought there must be something in the middle.

Speaker:

That's kind of aimed and targeted at kids nutritionally and

Speaker:

size wise and branding wise.

Speaker:

But is healthier then the kind of adult products that they crave and there

Speaker:

really wasn't anything on the market.

Speaker:

So it was a kind of massive, I saw it as a massive opportunity to create a brand and

Speaker:

a product that was kind of specifically aimed at primary school aged kids.

Speaker:

Um, so that was the real inspiration behind it.

Speaker:

And then to start the process going, I decided to go down the

Speaker:

biscuit, route cookies, cause I thought who doesn't love a biscuit.

Speaker:

Um, and there was already so many kind of snack bars on the market.

Speaker:

Um, And there wasn't that many healthier biscuits.

Speaker:

So I took my great-grandmother's oat cookie recipe and I started working with

Speaker:

a food developer who helped me adapt the recipe to try and make it healthier.

Speaker:

So that's kind of the start.

Speaker:

That's amazing.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

Um, and I'm completely with you my kids now are six and nine and we're definitely,

Speaker:

it's definitely getting harder snack wise.

Speaker:

Um, because as you say, once they move out for those baby snacks,

Speaker:

there's nothing your're right there's absolutely nothing apart from your

Speaker:

products between the baby products and the adult things, which you don't

Speaker:

necessarily want them to have, because apart from anything else, portion sizes.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

And even an ad of healthy-ish adult snack is still not the

Speaker:

right portions for a child.

Speaker:

So yeah, there's that I can definitely see the need.

Speaker:

And so what happens after you had the inspiration and you

Speaker:

started adapting the recipe?

Speaker:

Um, what happened from that?

Speaker:

So, um, Uh, about the roundabout, the same time that I started this, the government,

Speaker:

the UK government was starting to get even more concerned about childhood obesity

Speaker:

rates in this country, because now we're in a situation that one in three kids

Speaker:

is leaving primary school overweight or obese, and they're trying to do as much

Speaker:

as they can to obviously reverse that.

Speaker:

And the talk about four years ago was that.

Speaker:

Something similar to the sugar tax for soft drinks, but to make that

Speaker:

applicable to other categories of food.

Speaker:

And so those kinds of murmurings on the horizon that they were going

Speaker:

to start regulating, um, food for children, a bit more heavily in terms

Speaker:

of, uh, restricting how it's promoted, how it's advertised, uh, to try and

Speaker:

reduce the amount that is sold to parents and subsequently given to kids.

Speaker:

So they stood, there was this kind of equation that, um, the Department

Speaker:

of Health had written, which is called the nutritional profile model.

Speaker:

And I decided to use that as a kind of a benchmark, um, and that

Speaker:

they use that with Offcom to decide what products can be advertised.

Speaker:

So I thought, right, I do want my product to be advertised to

Speaker:

kids so it needs to be healthy.

Speaker:

It needs to meet these benchmarks.

Speaker:

And that took about two to three years to get the product, to meet those,

Speaker:

that criteria because you're taking a product that is inherently unhealthy.

Speaker:

It's a combination of carbohydrates you know flour usually butter and sugar.

Speaker:

And that combo of those ingredients is what makes it a biscuit.

Speaker:

It makes it melt in the mouth.

Speaker:

It makes it bake well it makes it taste nice.

Speaker:

And as soon as you start taking the sugar out and the fat out and the carbs

Speaker:

out, you no longer have a biscuit.

Speaker:

And so it was a real kind of scientific endeavor, um, for about three years to

Speaker:

get that perfect recipe in that still.

Speaker:

Acted like a biscuit tasted like a biscuit, had that mouth feel when you

Speaker:

put it in your mouth, of a biscuit still had enough sweetness that

Speaker:

kids would see it as a sweet treat.

Speaker:

Um, but it couldn't have too much sugar or salt because we wanted it

Speaker:

to meet these new guidelines that are coming into place later this year.

Speaker:

So, yeah, it took so much longer than I ever expected to get the product ready.

Speaker:

And then in the meantime, whilst working on the product, it was

Speaker:

also trying to create a plan.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

And you mentioned you worked with somebody help you with developing the recipe?

Speaker:

Yes.

Speaker:

So there are loads of amazing food developers out there who work with

Speaker:

small startups, but also they work with massive corporate brands to help

Speaker:

refine a recipe to make it sweeter saltier, tastier healthier, um, cheaper.

Speaker:

And so you can work with, with a company and they will help you um,

Speaker:

they, their background is usually quite technical, but also need nutritionists

Speaker:

and they can help you adapt and create a recipe according to your brief of the.

Speaker:

So, yeah, I worked with, um, some great people over the last few years.

Speaker:

All kinds of different expertise is a lot of people with expertise in biscuits,

Speaker:

um, to really help me kind of to get the perfect recipe at the end of it.

Speaker:

Thank you for explaining all of that, because I really think that

Speaker:

people wouldn't necessarily know how long it can take to refine a recipe.

Speaker:

Um, because obviously it's not just, as you say, it's not just the taste, but it's

Speaker:

the texture and the nutritional values.

Speaker:

Um, I certainly wouldn't even have thought about all of the

Speaker:

things you have to consider.

Speaker:

So thank you for being so honest about that, because I think that would be quite

Speaker:

eye opening for people to realize just how long it takes to develop a new product.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

I mean, I never realized it starting out.

Speaker:

I thought it would take six months, maybe a year, max.

Speaker:

I think it's a process that actually never stops with a lot of food brands.

Speaker:

You're constantly trying to tweak it.

Speaker:

There could be an ingredient that you use that suddenly shoots up in price.

Speaker:

And therefore it's no longer viable for you to use that.

Speaker:

And you have to swap something out.

Speaker:

It could be that there's new legislation that comes in.

Speaker:

That means you can no longer use you know, you need to get your fat down and

Speaker:

your calories down, or it could be a pricing issue for a lot of companies.

Speaker:

They're constantly changing the recipe.

Speaker:

And as a consumer, you would never realize because sometimes they

Speaker:

advertising new improved recipe at, but the most part is a tiny tweak.

Speaker:

They don't want the consumer to actually realize they, you know, you wouldn't

Speaker:

know the difference in the taste.

Speaker:

But companies you keep having to, to refine reformulate

Speaker:

and improve as you go along.

Speaker:

So I realized that it's a constant journey of improvement and I

Speaker:

don't think it will ever stop.

Speaker:

Really.

Speaker:

That's so interesting.

Speaker:

I had absolutely no idea, but that would be the case.

Speaker:

That's so interesting because you assume that companies, especially the

Speaker:

bigger brands you assume they also get the recipe down and then they

Speaker:

have a big factory and just churn them out by the day and that sorts of it.

Speaker:

So that's really interesting to know.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

It's yes.

Speaker:

I know.

Speaker:

I didn't realize at all.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

It keeps you on your toes.

Speaker:

Makes it never dull in the kind of food world.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

That's actually really surprised me, but yeah.

Speaker:

Thank you for sharing that.

Speaker:

And so once you've got your recipe sort of ready to launch, let's say, let's, go back

Speaker:

to then and because I know you'd like, as you say, you're probably consistently

Speaker:

tweaking a recipe once you've got it ready to launch and you've got your branding.

Speaker:

So what happens then?

Speaker:

How do you get from that to having a product available, to sell.

Speaker:

Um, yeah, it's, it's again, a hard slog and that is contacting, uh, buyers at

Speaker:

shops and supermarkets and pitching your product to them and, you know,

Speaker:

selling your product, sending them presentations, going for meetings and

Speaker:

selling why your product is unique what makes it different to the products that

Speaker:

they already stock and something that I never realized before going into the

Speaker:

food industry was, you know, when we put a new product on the shelf, that means

Speaker:

something else is coming off because the shelves are not constantly growing shops.

Speaker:

Aren't constantly growing in their size.

Speaker:

So for you to come in on that shelf, something needs to leave.

Speaker:

So your argument is about why your product is better than.

Speaker:

X product, why you need to take their place.

Speaker:

So that's really fascinating.

Speaker:

You really need to think about what, not just that you're filling

Speaker:

a gap in the market, but your, you need to replace something.

Speaker:

That's, that's already there and it's already selling well, and it's probably

Speaker:

already owned by a massive company that's pumping a lot of money into it.

Speaker:

And how is your, you know, startup product going to sell better than theirs?

Speaker:

The supermarkets all about.

Speaker:

Shifting stock shifting products.

Speaker:

They don't want products sitting on shelves.

Speaker:

They need it to be constantly daily emptying shelves.

Speaker:

Um, so that was really fascinating.

Speaker:

So it is a massive sales exercise.

Speaker:

So it was contacting supermarkets that I wanted the product to be in.

Speaker:

And that's again, a long process.

Speaker:

We, uh, my first one I pitched to, was Ocado 'cause I thought that's

Speaker:

absolutely prime target for us in terms of our shopper profile and our customer

Speaker:

profile and it aligned to theirs.

Speaker:

And yes they said, yes.

Speaker:

And then it's been nearly three years since they said yes.

Speaker:

And we only launched with them two weeks ago.

Speaker:

That's how long it takes, um, or can take, I know for some people

Speaker:

they can get on really quickly, but for us, um, COVID, didn't help.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Working with supermarkets is, is a long, is a long game.

Speaker:

So I'm talking to some of the big supermarkets.

Speaker:

Um, but it could be years before the product actually goes into them.

Speaker:

I saw you in Sainsbury's I saw that on your Instagram.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

So we went on, Sainsbury's have this great scheme where they test

Speaker:

out, um, future small brands.

Speaker:

And so we were on Sainsbury's on trial and that finished at Christmas.

Speaker:

So you got, we got 13 weeks on shelf in 70 different stores across the UK.

Speaker:

And then that kind of gives you a taster of what it's like to sell into this,

Speaker:

a big supermarkets and a little trial.

Speaker:

And then hopefully this year we get the opportunity to,

Speaker:

um, get a permanent position.

Speaker:

But we find out in the summertime,

Speaker:

I see it really is a long process to come off the shelves in December and

Speaker:

then wait six months to find out.

Speaker:

I had no idea that because you kind of assume that you go in you pitch,

Speaker:

they say yes, and you know, a couple of weeks later you send your stock in.

Speaker:

So that's fascinating.

Speaker:

And coming back with seasonal, where you fit and you mentioning that

Speaker:

for you, your products go on the shelf, something else has to leave.

Speaker:

Obviously don't share with us the who or what, but do you

Speaker:

actually have to be that specific?

Speaker:

Do you actually have to say our product is better than X product?

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Wow.

Speaker:

Okay.

Speaker:

So you really have to know the market then.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

You have to know the, by the market, you have to know really how many they

Speaker:

are selling every week and you need to be confident that you're going

Speaker:

to be able to sell more than that.

Speaker:

Um, so yeah, you do need to know the specifics of where you're fitting into

Speaker:

that category to convince that buyer, to take a chance on you, because it's

Speaker:

a massive chance they're taking on you, especially if you're a small business.

Speaker:

'cause you don't have that.

Speaker:

You might not necessarily have a team around you that expertise, you

Speaker:

might not have the financial backing.

Speaker:

Um, and they need to ensure that if they pick a product to go on their shelves,

Speaker:

that it's going to be successful and it's not gonna, you know, the company is not

Speaker:

going to go bust in three months time, you know, they need to have faith that

Speaker:

your product, isn't just a tasty product uh, there's this kind of all this, the,

Speaker:

the process and the system behind it is there to support kind of a big listing.

Speaker:

So that's what has taken so long for me, it's kind of creating those

Speaker:

foundations, getting all that, right.

Speaker:

So that we're ready to kind of start growing.

Speaker:

Oh, that's really ruthless.

Speaker:

Isn't it it's sort of have to sort of call out.

Speaker:

Okay.

Speaker:

I think you should get rid of this one and stock ours.

Speaker:

And I'm not that I'm not knocking that by the way, but I'm saying it,

Speaker:

I didn't realize how it would be, and it's made me, it's actually made

Speaker:

me sort of question whether this happens in other industries as well.

Speaker:

And I'm assuming it does because most stores, wherever they stock

Speaker:

clothes or whatever, they only have a certain number of shelves and spaces.

Speaker:

So I had no idea that it would, that it would be like that.

Speaker:

And everyone always competing.

Speaker:

It is a massive competition and you just want it to be a fair competition.

Speaker:

It's not at the moment.

Speaker:

It's not that fair because you've got massive conglomerates

Speaker:

owning a lot of food brands.

Speaker:

Um, you know, the big, big guys Unilevers and the Mars and Kraft of this world.

Speaker:

Um, Nestle, et cetera, they own a lot of food brands.

Speaker:

Um, and so it's very hard for a small business to kind of wrestle and get a

Speaker:

place on their shelves in between them.

Speaker:

Yeah, I can imagine.

Speaker:

And I suppose as well, there's also in the eyes of the supermarkets, there's

Speaker:

also probably a challenge around production and we'll can you actually

Speaker:

produce enough packets of biscuits to stock 70 stores for for as an

Speaker:

example, and to keep them replenished?

Speaker:

Um, which leads me on this is how I'm assuming you've had to find

Speaker:

a manufacturer for your biscuits.

Speaker:

Um, how did you go about doing that?

Speaker:

Because again, I'm sure that's also not an easy product, not an easy process.

Speaker:

I'm sure that's not a case of just going on Google and searching

Speaker:

for food manufacturing plants.

Speaker:

How would you go about that?

Speaker:

So the way, first of all, I went with kind of some recommendations people I knew.

Speaker:

And so I went to, I went down that route.

Speaker:

I also went down.

Speaker:

So all food manufacturers are actually listed if they are part of an accredited

Speaker:

schemes, there is a website which lists all in, you can filter it.

Speaker:

So I could find all bakeries in the UK, um, that were part of kind of an

Speaker:

accredited supermarket approved scheme.

Speaker:

And then it was a matter of just picking up the phone and calling them all.

Speaker:

Um, A lot of them don't want to speak to you because they are busy.

Speaker:

They don't have space on their production line.

Speaker:

They are manufacturing 24 hours a day.

Speaker:

And why would they take a risk on you as a small business startup?

Speaker:

So a lot of them are just, you know, they want massive orders to start off

Speaker:

with, which you just can't know painful.

Speaker:

Millions of biscuits.

Speaker:

Um, so you need to find one that is willing to take a risk on you.

Speaker:

So yeah, I just spoke to loads of bakeries, traveled all over

Speaker:

the UK, visited them all and found one, that it was a really,

Speaker:

it's creating a relationship.

Speaker:

They, you have to pitch to them to say why they should take a chance and why they

Speaker:

should start manufacturing your product and sell yourself and hope that they

Speaker:

believe in your vision and can see the potential for it to grow in the future.

Speaker:

So I found one that did exactly that it was a family run bakery in Yorkshire, and

Speaker:

they were willing to turn to take a risk on me and start manufacturing our cookies.

Speaker:

Okay.

Speaker:

Thank you for sharing that.

Speaker:

I'm really interested to hear that there is a website where you, you

Speaker:

know, you can go and find them all.

Speaker:

That's a massive, a really good starting point.

Speaker:

I, I didn't, I made the assumption that something like that wouldn't exist, I

Speaker:

guess that's a great place to start.

Speaker:

Um, but thank you for sharing the process.

Speaker:

It sounds to me like.

Speaker:

There's just so much hard work involved because you're constantly having

Speaker:

to prove yourself and sell yourself and your product, every single step.

Speaker:

And I, that was something I also, I didn't anticipate because we've lots

Speaker:

of, lots of different types of products.

Speaker:

It really comes down to whether you know, you can meet their minimum order

Speaker:

quantities, and often they're fairly low and they can be a bit flexible,

Speaker:

but it sounds like actually, because you're sort of, again, fighting

Speaker:

for a space on the production line.

Speaker:

Um, it's much harder.

Speaker:

It sounds like with food products.

Speaker:

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker:

Um, you really, it's kind of chicken and egg.

Speaker:

You need to go to them and say, I've got manufacturing lined up.

Speaker:

And so luckily.

Speaker:

It kind of coincided with having Ocado say yes, three years ago that that was

Speaker:

the time I was looking for a manufacturer.

Speaker:

So when I was pitching to them, I said, look, we've already got Ocado.

Speaker:

Ocado will be taking this product and little, did they know that that

Speaker:

would be three years later, but.

Speaker:

So, yeah, you've kind of got to go in with some kind of hook that

Speaker:

you have something lined up rather than, oh, I've got this idea.

Speaker:

I don't know where we're going to sell it.

Speaker:

I don't know how much we're going to sell.

Speaker:

I don't know how we're going to fund this.

Speaker:

You've really got to go to a manufacturer and say that this is our pitch, you

Speaker:

know, do a proper business pitch deck to them, your business plan,

Speaker:

how you're funding the business, where are you going to be sending it?

Speaker:

What does the future look like?

Speaker:

So that they can take calculated risks.

Speaker:

I guess a lot of things have to align in that case.

Speaker:

Don't they, because Ocado obviously wants to know that you can fulfill it

Speaker:

as, and the manufacturer wants to know that you're going to sell them somewhere.

Speaker:

So yeah, that's a no, it's a lot going on.

Speaker:

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker:

So you're kind of, yeah, you've got to play it really carefully.

Speaker:

Um, but yeah, it worked out in there.

Speaker:

And let's talk a little bit, if that's ok Marieke about how your business and

Speaker:

team has grown in the past year, because I know that you've made a few hires

Speaker:

recently, and I think that'd be really interesting to touch on if you don't mind.

Speaker:

So have just been doing it on my own for so long, with a little bit of help.

Speaker:

Um, I had someone helping me, um, one day a week with kind of the Amazon

Speaker:

backend system, which was a nightmare and a bit of marketing and help.

Speaker:

And then I, I, um, had someone helping me a bit with social media, creating

Speaker:

some content, but very bitty here and then, you know, consultants, and I really

Speaker:

didn't know how to start growing my team and who I was going to need first.

Speaker:

And I think when you're running your own business and you're an entrepreneur,

Speaker:

you do really feel like a Jack of all trades and it's quite hard to

Speaker:

give up part of your, okay, hello,

Speaker:

I'm still here.

Speaker:

I'm sorry.

Speaker:

So I'll go back.

Speaker:

I'll just go back.

Speaker:

Um, yeah, I really didn't know where to start with building the

Speaker:

team and who to get in first.

Speaker:

Um, you do really feel like a Jack of all trades and it's quite hard to give up your

Speaker:

role and delegate that responsibility.

Speaker:

So, um, and also it's down to money.

Speaker:

You know, hiring people suddenly does require, you know, money in the

Speaker:

business to be able to afford that.

Speaker:

So we did, I did, uh, my first kind of big investment phase

Speaker:

at the beginning of this year.

Speaker:

And the plan for that was to take that money in so I could start building a team.

Speaker:

Um, cause I realized I do need some expertise in to help me

Speaker:

if we want to be able to grow.

Speaker:

So I just hired Gemma as a marketing manager.

Speaker:

Um, part-time uh, hopefully to grow into a full-time role and I've also hired two

Speaker:

people are, who are helping me with sales.

Speaker:

Um, so, yeah, that's the start.

Speaker:

And I'm also looking for someone at the moment to help with operations.

Speaker:

So I can feel that this team is slowly starting to grow, which is an amazing

Speaker:

feeling to realize that you start having more than just you, that cares

Speaker:

about it and wants it to succeed.

Speaker:

Yeah, that's amazing.

Speaker:

Thank you for sharing that because, um, I was really interested in, so

Speaker:

when you know, it's time to sort of take people on and how to go about it.

Speaker:

So that's, so what was, was marketing and sales areas you

Speaker:

identified as the first two where you could really do with some help?

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

And the, I think the problem was for me that I love marketing.

Speaker:

My background is doing marketing.

Speaker:

But I'm spending so much time with my doing marketing that I realized that

Speaker:

I, as the founder need to be focused much more on the commercial and the

Speaker:

strategy and the growing of business.

Speaker:

And if you're spending, you know, days writing blogs or newsletters or creating

Speaker:

gorgeous pieces of, you know, Reels, you're not, that's all that lovely stuff.

Speaker:

I love doing it, but it was holding the business back from being able to grow.

Speaker:

So that was kind of quite a tough decision to make.

Speaker:

Because I could hire someone to do the commercial side and help me grow it.

Speaker:

But especially when you're pitching and selling supermarkets, they

Speaker:

want talk to you the founder.

Speaker:

They don't want to talk to someone else.

Speaker:

They want to hear it from you.

Speaker:

So I do need to, I realize that I need to focus my time on

Speaker:

the commercial side of things.

Speaker:

So that's why I decided my first hire was going to be marketing.

Speaker:

Yeah, I think that makes sense.

Speaker:

And I, I can also see as well, especially if something's in your

Speaker:

area of expertise and you enjoy it, it must be so hard to let that thing go

Speaker:

Yeah really hard.

Speaker:

Yeah, I'm slowly, I'm slowly letting go.

Speaker:

And yeah, sometimes you just got to make the right decision

Speaker:

for the business rather than the right decision for you personally.

Speaker:

You know, I would love to be, full-time doing marketing.

Speaker:

Um, but I know that's not right for the business.

Speaker:

Um, so yeah, that, that, that took a long time to make that decision.

Speaker:

That's taken at least six months to come to that realization.

Speaker:

I kept kind of flitting between, you know, who should I hire?

Speaker:

What should I be doing?

Speaker:

Um, so yeah, I finally made the decision with,

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

And do you have any advice on hiring for your small business?

Speaker:

Because I mentioned when we spoke before that I know a lot of my guests, um,

Speaker:

have freelancers or consultants they work with, but actually making it.

Speaker:

Uh, higher and finding someone to support you in growing your

Speaker:

businesses is a bit different.

Speaker:

Um, do you have any advice for people who might be thinking about making

Speaker:

that first hire at some point soon

Speaker:

well, my advice is always to try and get them first on freelance or consultancy.

Speaker:

So you can try out.

Speaker:

I mean, I feel that an interview process, you never really learn much

Speaker:

about each other and how much you, while you work together and what

Speaker:

are their key strengths and skills.

Speaker:

And you really need to at least three to six months of working together before

Speaker:

you to give them a kind of PAYE contract.

Speaker:

So I, I always in all my businesses, I've always tried to use consultanct.

Speaker:

And use that as an opportunity for them to, to see they like me

Speaker:

and want to work with me and vice versa and give you that time.

Speaker:

Um, because it's, so I think it's quite hard to get out of, uh, and

Speaker:

then employment contract once you're in it, you know, if you realize that

Speaker:

it's not the right relationship.

Speaker:

Um, so I've always recommended doing that.

Speaker:

Um, and that's always worked really well for me.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

I think that's really good.

Speaker:

That's really useful.

Speaker:

And you mentioned when we were talking about hiring that you

Speaker:

went through rounds of investment before you invested in the team.

Speaker:

Do you mind talking a little bit about that?

Speaker:

Cause we had, um, Gemma Whates on the podcast recently talking about raising

Speaker:

investment, um, and how to do it.

Speaker:

It'd be really useful if you don't mind just sharing a little bit about what it's

Speaker:

like being the person, actually doing it.

Speaker:

Well, I never realized before going into this industry was how

Speaker:

much money it kind of eats up and it burns through a lot of money.

Speaker:

Um, because again, it's chicken and egg.

Speaker:

You don't start being able to get the lowest price for your product in

Speaker:

terms of buying it from a manufacturer until you've got massive volumes.

Speaker:

So at the beginning, when you're just starting out, you're paying probably the

Speaker:

same amount as what you're selling it for.

Speaker:

So it was a very or even you're paying more for it than you can sell it for.

Speaker:

So it's a very, it's a very cash eating industry, especially at the beginning.

Speaker:

So we needed some investment to kind of get us through, pay for branding,

Speaker:

pay for, um, investment manufacturing, pay for packaging runs, um, and

Speaker:

now start paying for the team.

Speaker:

So I did, I, I realized during COVID.

Speaker:

That I needed to raise some money.

Speaker:

Um, and because it was COVID, I kind of put that, put that on hold until

Speaker:

we kind of got to a better place.

Speaker:

And I was really lucky.

Speaker:

I re I knew some people who knew the guys at Warburtons Warburton's is, you

Speaker:

know, with the fifth largest UK food brand, it's the largest UK bakery.

Speaker:

And they were looking to make investments into some small bakery startups.

Speaker:

Um, so I pitched for that last summer, and that was about, took about six months and

Speaker:

then I got the yes from them and they made their investment in January of this year.

Speaker:

So I sold them an equity stake in the business.

Speaker:

And, um, yeah, and I get that support, which is, you know,

Speaker:

so it's more than just money.

Speaker:

So they've given a chunk of money, but they're also giving their advice and

Speaker:

support, which is just invaluable because they know way more about bakery and

Speaker:

creating amazing baked product brands than, than I could ever do on my own.

Speaker:

So, yeah, I was, I was really fortunate that it's the right

Speaker:

place at the right time.

Speaker:

They were looking to make an investment.

Speaker:

I needed investment.

Speaker:

And that's how we got the money.

Speaker:

That's amazing.

Speaker:

And that sounds like such a great fit as well.

Speaker:

Cause I do remember when Gemma was talking about investment, one of the things she

Speaker:

touched on is to think about whether you are looking for money or wherever

Speaker:

you also want someone who can provide expertise, advice, guidance, contacts,

Speaker:

and it's wonderful that you've got both.

Speaker:

And that seems like, yeah, it seems like a really good fit for you as well.

Speaker:

Yeah, I did.

Speaker:

I did speak to some VCs to invest the money.

Speaker:

You know, they didn't have the expertise of running food business day-to-day.

Speaker:

Let alone a bakery business.

Speaker:

So with Warburtons it was just absolutely the,

Speaker:

yeah, I can see that's such a good fit.

Speaker:

So talking about running a bakery business, I'd love to talk about all

Speaker:

are there any and we've touched on some of that bakery or food products

Speaker:

in general, are there any particular challenges or things to think about

Speaker:

if you're selling food products.

Speaker:

So I don't know their legislation to be aware of, or just anything

Speaker:

industry specific that you think might be useful for people.

Speaker:

Food is a tricky one, cause you've obviously got quite a lot

Speaker:

of health and safety surrounding a sale of a food product.

Speaker:

Um, so for me, my product is manufactured by another bakery, another

Speaker:

bakery that, um, has all that health and safety legislation, they are

Speaker:

accredited, they are visited and then.

Speaker:

They kind of tick that box for me.

Speaker:

So that's great.

Speaker:

But you know, it is an expensive route to go down.

Speaker:

And for a lot of people starting a food business, they might want to,

Speaker:

you know, create it themselves, which would be obviously a lot cheaper,

Speaker:

whether it's in their own kitchen at home or whether they hire a kitchen.

Speaker:

And there's some great places, especially around London where you can go in and

Speaker:

you can find uh, commercial kitchen for the day and create your products.

Speaker:

But for that, you need to make sure that you are registered

Speaker:

with your local authority.

Speaker:

They will want to come and do an inspection of your kitchen to make sure it

Speaker:

kind of meets health and safety standards.

Speaker:

But I know loads of people who are, who've got amazing, brilliant,

Speaker:

successful, profitable businesses, and they are making the products themselves.

Speaker:

They are selling them usually in like places like whole foods or markets or

Speaker:

small, independent shops and cafes.

Speaker:

So there is, I think with the food industry, there's a massive spectrum of

Speaker:

size and how you can go about doing it.

Speaker:

But yeah, the number one thing is making sure you've got all your health and safety

Speaker:

legislation ticked, um, and there's loads and loads of places where you can look up.

Speaker:

Um, there's a place called Young Foodies, which has got its own website

Speaker:

and there's loads of support from them.

Speaker:

There's a Facebook group called the Food Hub and all these places,

Speaker:

everyone in the industry, so willing to help and share advice.

Speaker:

So, yeah, just reach out and ask people for help.

Speaker:

And they'll guide you in the right way, what you need to do.

Speaker:

That's really good to know.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

Cause I can see that it could definitely be a barrier for people thinking,

Speaker:

well, we know people are going to be consuming this, so presumably there's

Speaker:

lots to think about, so thank you.

Speaker:

It's good to know that there's lots of information out there because

Speaker:

I think that can be quite scary.

Speaker:

Yeah, definitely.

Speaker:

It's scary, but it's, it's just not impossible.

Speaker:

Anyone can do it and yeah.

Speaker:

There's loads of different routes in to the food industry.

Speaker:

It doesn't need to be.

Speaker:

Uh, route, which is I want to sell in a big supermarket and there's

Speaker:

loads of other ways to do it and have a successful business.

Speaker:

Um, there's people who, who have food brands, which only selling a

Speaker:

food service so like cafes and hotels and leisure centers, et cetera.

Speaker:

And they do really well.

Speaker:

And the, the thing with the big supermarkets is it's a very expensive

Speaker:

place selling because you have to do a lot of marketing investment

Speaker:

to get that product to sell.

Speaker:

Whilst there are many other routes, places you can sell your

Speaker:

product, which aren't so costly.

Speaker:

So it is interesting and important to think at the beginning

Speaker:

about what is your vision.

Speaker:

If you're doing a food brand isn't necessarily that you have to be

Speaker:

in the supermarket for us, it was because it's a kids' product.

Speaker:

It's a lunchbox product and we know from our research, but that's

Speaker:

where parents are shopping for those products in supermarkets.

Speaker:

They're not going to markets on Saturday to buy that.

Speaker:

They're not even really going on Amazon to buy that product.

Speaker:

You know, they're going and doing the weekly shop and

Speaker:

adding snacks to their shop.

Speaker:

Depending on what you, you want to do.

Speaker:

There's loads of other places where you can set up, which

Speaker:

aren't so expensive to self

Speaker:

That's really useful.

Speaker:

Thank you.

Speaker:

And I think you're right.

Speaker:

It does make sense knowing where your customer is and where

Speaker:

they're going to be shopping.

Speaker:

Um, cause I have spoken to a few other food brands who sell on their

Speaker:

website or who sell, like you say, and it's more than the markets and,

Speaker:

you know, do really well with that?

Speaker:

So I guess it does depend on what your product is and who you're targeting

Speaker:

that direct to consumer for your own website is a hundred percent

Speaker:

the best way to go in in terms of getting your best margin.

Speaker:

Brilliant.

Speaker:

Um, and yeah, you just got to know if your customer is, is that type

Speaker:

of customer where they are going to buy in bulk from search on the

Speaker:

internet and buy through a website.

Speaker:

You not.

Speaker:

So, yeah, that's why it's so important to do that research about your customer

Speaker:

needs and their shopping habits.

Speaker:

Amazing thank you, I've just got one more question for you, Marieke.

Speaker:

And I know that you've shared so much of this already, so this might be

Speaker:

hard, but what would your number one tip be for other product creators?

Speaker:

And I don't even mind if you want to reiterate something you've said

Speaker:

earlier, but what would your, what would you want to leave people with?

Speaker:

I think my, number one tip would be before you start, really reach out to other

Speaker:

people with similar products and really invite them for coffee or a phone call.

Speaker:

And really, you know, drill them for sorry, grill them for everything that

Speaker:

they know, what are the highs, what are the lows, how much money have they really

Speaker:

had to invest or raise to make that product successful and just get as much

Speaker:

info as you can at that beginning stage before you, start investing your time and

Speaker:

money to doing anything, because you just learn so much from doing that network and

Speaker:

getting that advice from other people.

Speaker:

Um, so that's just so important before you start just talk to people who've

Speaker:

done it successfully, but also maybe not successfully really find out what were

Speaker:

the lessons learned and you can take those lessons into your own business.

Speaker:

And thank you for everything that you've shared.

Speaker:

So we're going to, I'm going to link to your website and your

Speaker:

social media accounts in show notes.

Speaker:

So people can come over and find you.

Speaker:

And I hope they also go and look for your products on there,

Speaker:

on the shelves of their local.

Speaker:

Well, Sainsbury's later this year and Ocado,

Speaker:

Amazon, and we do also sell on our website and yeah, we're in

Speaker:

lots of cafes around the country.

Speaker:

So if you see us, please do that.

Speaker:

Amazing.

Speaker:

Thank you so much.

Speaker:

Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end of this episode.

Speaker:

If you've enjoyed it, please do leave a review that really helps

Speaker:

other people to find this podcast.

Speaker:

Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss any future episodes and

Speaker:

do tell your friends about it too.

Speaker:

If you think that they also might enjoy it, you can find me@vickiweinberg.com.

Speaker:

There you'll find links to all of my social channels.

Speaker:

You'll find lots more information.

Speaker:

All of the past podcast episodes and lots of free resources too.

Speaker:

So again, that's Vicki weinberg.com.

Speaker:

Take care, have a good week and see you next time.