Small Takeaways from a Food Business Mentor

Starting a food business comes with its fair share of challenges. The food industry is highly competitive and ever evolving. There’s plenty to cover in a small window of time to make a mark on your customers and stay afloat as a business.

Copra Coconuts’ co-founder, Ben Minges, comes with a solid background and expertise in the food industry. He’s here to help small enterprises grow by giving insightful tips and answers to questions he often gets asked.

 

What are the two most important things I need to know as a start-up enterprise in the food industry?

While there are several lessons that you’ll learn for yourself through your journey as a businessperson, two important things I learned from my formative business years are:

  • Things take longer than you expect – and that’s okay! Your business is like your baby, and you need to nurture it at the stage it is in without rushing the process.
  • Have a product that’s different from the rest and unique to you. Any industry you tap into will have cut-throat competition. You should take each day as it comes and work to giving your product or service its own distinct identity. 

The food industry is saturated with many players. How do I stand out?

Start by identifying a gap in your industry and work towards creating a product or service that bridges that gap. Your offering should be unique enough for it to sell itself. When your product is differentiated and functional, and satisfies a need, it’s a much easier way forward. This is of course, easier said than done but a good way to think about your product and positioning.

How do I develop a strong business strategy?

The main ingredients for creating a strong and clear business strategy I would say are:

  • Knowing your own goals: Be sure of who you are and what you want to achieve with your business, and build that.
  • Knowing your target audience: This will help you adopt a customer-centric approach. In whatever you do, be sure to have customer in mind when creating products.

Once you have a clear picture of these two components, you can think of different avenues of generating business, creative revenue streams and working towards growth.

What should I look for in a supplier or co-packer?

Finding the right co-packer for your business is no easy task but it is a very important one. Here are a few things that I would look for:

  • Trust: Obviously it takes time to develop trust, but in the beginning of a relationship with a supplier or co-packer, when things do not go as planned always observe how they react to problems and think about how much you trust that they have your best interests in mind (or not). Trust is huge and you want to know for sure that they are aligned with your vision and mission.
  • Recommendations/Referrals: Ask around and get as much feedback as possible from people who regularly do business with the said vendor. In ingredient supply/manufacturing, this is probably the quickest way to determine the qualities of a supplier or co-man.

Please give a few tips on inventory management.

The rule of thumb for inventory management is planning. You should have a pulse on industry news and trends to develop foresight, which will help you plan for the worst-case scenario. Always assume the worst and plan for that – this way you are sure to think about certain risk factors in the supply chain ahead of time.

Could you give an insight into the best food sourcing practices? 

Sourcing the right products is a long process. It involves time, patience and commitment because you need to test different products for consistency, flavor, shelf life, size, and more. Since your job is to find the highest quality ingredients, you should dedicate sufficient time to source and test and then have your choice vetted and approved by your whole team before considering to bring in a new food item. You must also bear in mind that the ingredients and vendors you choose are scalable and commercially viable and have the right certificates to do business in the market you are planning to sell in.

If you are have an existing small business related to food, or intend to start one in and need assistance or clarity on the way forward, our team will be happy to help you. Please write to us with your challenges and let's work together to make your dream a success.

Copra Coconuts wishes you all the very best!

 

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