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In Edible-Alpha® podcast #66, Tera sits down with Matthew Starr, founder of Rally Energy, a caffeinated mint and cough lozenge brand based in Madison, Wisconsin. Matthew has strategically grown his online business from zero to about $10,000 per month in just a few short years, making him the perfect guest to offer guidance right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing many food entrepreneurs to step up their ecommerce game.
To kick off the conversation, Matthew discussed why, after launching Rally Energy as a retail brand in 2014, he decided to push harder into direct-to-consumer in 2017, aiming to do 50% of the company’s sales online. As he explained, moving a portion of sales to this channel makes it easier to manage inventory and cash flow. That’s because online business can be dialed up or down in relation to retail to better accommodate a company’s needs.
From the jump, Matthew set quantitative goals for Rally Energy, something that many less-data-minded food entrepreneurs hesitate to do. But tangible targets are incredibly important because they help companies build a financial plan and make smart decisions to stay on track. And now that the pandemic has upended “business as usual” for so many food brands, having those quantitative goals to reference can help companies figure out their next moves.
Next, Matthew and Tera talked through how food businesses unfamiliar with ecommerce should go about it, both those just looking to launch a brand and those that had previously sold only at retail. The first order of business is to build a website, which allows entrepreneurs to have honest conversations with themselves about what the brand is, what they want it to be, how they’ll hit their goals and whether they truly have a brand or just a product at the moment. This exercise will likely reveal many question marks, which is perfectly OK, because it’ll help the entrepreneur know what they don’t know and should therefore explore.
Once the company has its legs under it a bit more, it’s time to think about driving attention to its website, along with its listing on Amazon and other online marketplaces. Matthew and Tera discussed effective strategies for doing this in 2020, many of which have changed from the top techniques of 10 or even five years ago. As part of this, companies must really hone their branding and messaging, ensuring that they resonate with the core customer base and align with the conversations that influential voices in the space are having. This is an ongoing process that necessitates engaging with both potential and current customers to find out directly how a brand, message and product are landing.
To wrap up, Matthew emphasized that to launch a brand online successfully and continue to grow sales, it takes time, dedication and solid strategy. This all may appear daunting at first, but it’s entirely achievable. Tune into the full podcast to get more in-depth guidance on how to win at ecommerce.
Watch our Getting Your Food Products Online course for more information on this topic.