Today you’re in for a treat . This is an audio interview that I did during the holiday season in Vancouver. April Tioseco Bellia is the Granola Girl. Today she teaches us how to create,market, and sell organic Granola at Wholefoods and other large chains in Western Canada. She is the creator of an artisan organic granola sold in 250 stores including Whole foods ,Urban fare, and London drugs. I enjoyed hearing from a seasoned Vancouver business owner with a physical product in well-known stores and I’m sure you will lots of value during this episode and get a sense of her passion for her product. Thanks to my sister Candice for the introduction.
Part 1 of 2 Cliff notes
- She had 12 years in the wedding cake business before starting Granola girl
- Enjoyed creating her own work schedule
- Student introduced her to Wholefoods. Whole foods supported local business and was the potential first customer
- Distribution through Overwaitea food
- London Drugs gave Western Canada and on-line distribution
- Whole Foods approval process took 3 months and required persistence and relationship building
- Approached other businesses while waiting for Whole foods to approve product
- Believes in putting energy into one company. Many things in place before she could start the business
- Financing – It can be challenging for new companies starting out to raise funding. Line of credit was a low interest rate
- Banks – Catch 22. Want to see a one year track record. Vancity credit unions might be more lenient to startup’s and females, but high interest rates
- Marketing strategy – collaboration with community focused on girl empowerment and female self development. Encourage customers to share with their friends
- Being an Entrepreneur can be lonely so she created her own fun tea group that consisted of her target market
- Business with a message – not so transactional based. Business referrals are based on people that you get along with. Getting to know people first on a personal level and business is secondary
- Social media – Facebook was used a quick way to share announcements and events. Not used to hard sell. She’s interested in the quality likes.
- Facebook business page use in Taiwan – trade free products for likes.
- Twitter – like a public instant message. April uses it to find similar businesses due to the grouping feature. Businesses more accessible sometimes.
- A lot of competition – April knows her competitors and clearly knows what makes her product different
Making sense of it all
April’s strategy of using Whole foods as her first customer was an intelligent choice. They are a well-known name that I’m sure helped attract other stores to distribute their product. Whole foods also supported local products so April acted on this information from her student. Her marketing strategy is interesting as she tries to collaborate with the local community and tries to encourage customers that like the product to act as her ambassadors. April mentioned that being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. I could really relate to this being an entrepreneur myself. A really creative idea that April had to deal with this was to create her Tea party group with her customer market. She made it a fun event and she used the feedback from her group to help with input into the product. Genius. She also touched on the importance of building relationships before business. This is so different from my early days in Asia at least in networking situations where it seems that relationships are built in a transactional manner. Business cards are often exchanged before even having a discussion for a minute. Her use of Twitter is interesting. Using it to find other people and businesses she can network with in her industry. Her Facebook page she uses mostly for the convenience of announcing events opting instead to build quality likes instead of chasing people.
Part 2 of 2 Cliff notes
- What is the message behind your business and what does it stand for. Why?
- A quick way to think when doing business. SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, and Opportunities
- April knows what she is good at and thinks to hire a specialist in her industry rather than take it on herself
- Has not thought about selling over the Internet yet because she has a physical product and she herself does not shop over the Internet
- The WP Touch wordpress plug-in is a quick win to mobilize your site
- Many people are not happy or healthy because they are not happy at their jobs
- If you don’t try you will have regrets. Follow your heart. If you fail. Fail fast.
- Starting up do your research, but don’t stall. Try and fail fast.
- Have your finances in place before you start business. What is your plan B
- It is difficult and people won’t support you because they don’t understand. The naysayers are the voice of reason. Don’t dismiss them completely especially if they are your spouse
Making sense of it all
It seems that businesses in Vancouver have begun to shift from just doing business as a transaction and evolved to focusing on what does it stand for. What is the why? Why am I working on Chicvoyage Travel. I think to be honest the idea of starting my own business made me feel alive and gave me a sense of purpose. I knew what I was passionate about and I after heading from Steve Jobs, Oprah, and countless successful people that that following your heart is the key. I enjoy travel, sharing, and the freedom. April talks about being honest with yourself. When you go to the office are you slowly dying inside? Are you affecting your mental or physical well being. Finally I think some great advice to do some market research, but don’t stall too long from taking action. When y0u realize your idea is not working don’t fail slowly. Fail fast and move on.
Urban Fare – a great market/cafe for digital nomads in Vancouver. Free Wifi and great good. Look for the April’s organic granola while you’re there.
Ted X – Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action
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