Running a food business during Corona
Heads up this is going to be a less formal, more off the cuff flow of thoughts. The following is just a taste (see what I did there?) of what it's like to run a food business at the moment. Disclaimer: this is my experience. This is not what everyone who sells food for a living is going through by any means. First I’ll go over difficulties and then some of the opportunities or bright spots.
Stores are cautious. There’s a couple of things I’ve learned since I started Teffola. I’m pretty good at sales. Cold calling stores, pitching Teffola, telling our story - I’m good at it. I walk into meetings pretty confidently. Except now, stores are holding back. They’re cautious. Grocery managers or buyers who would have previously easily brought Teffola into their store are ignoring calls, saying “we’ll think about it”, we don’t have enough traffic, price point is too high etc. So we’ve had to rely on our existing stores a lot. Thankfully, we have great relationships with them.
Production is hard. Production is always a tricky beast to master because you want to make sure there’s enough inventory in case a big order comes in, but you also have to keep an eye on that 100 day expiration date. 100 days. That’s not a super long time and I’m someone who really really cares about people getting the freshest Teffola possible (if that’s also you, order online!). And expenses are just as high. There are cuts we’ve made for sure but ultimately, the big ones like rent, insurance etc aren’t budging. And we’ve tried. So what does this mean? We need more sales to make it work *see above*
The long term uncertainty seems to be settling in and everyone wants to "wait and see” before they make decisions on something new. But I can’t afford to wait and see.
So on to the bright spots or the good that comes out of this rough time.
Partnerships with food businesses have been an incredible source of inspiration. Our largest initiative by far was Bowls for the Brave, bringing açai bowls topped with Teffola to ICUs in metro Detroit, and the first time we partnered with someone outside of an Instagram giveaway. From there, we’ve teamed up with Ferndale Project (that announcement coming soon!) on something perfect for the summer. These are companies who care just as much about community and product and surviving as we do. Definitely will be doing more of these types of collaborations in the future with companies that align with our values!
The 100 demos we did last year and 30 this year before corona have paid off in their own way. Summer is our busier season with everyone enjoying fresh fruit and yogurt with their Teffola. The stores where we’ve established quite a customer base have been consistent with reorders throughout the past couple of months.
And finally, the continued support from strangers. The friendly souls who leave notes for me and the baking team when they order. The comments and messages on Instagram and Facebook. The people who have recommended us to the grocery delivery service Michigan Fields and other stores. The Farmington Farmers Market regulars who tell me the new ways they’re eating Teffola these days.
You start something because you think you can make it work but really it’s other people who make it work. There are hundreds of people out there who are helping me make Teffola work and despite the difficulties and frustrations, I’m so grateful I chose this path.