Posted: Tue 6th Oct 2020
Kate Saunders is the founder of Blackberry Cottage, a company that produces cakes with vegetable ingredients.
After selling her products on her own website for several years, the Berkshire-based entrepreneur was keen to boost her sales by selling on Amazon's online store.
She successfully applied for a place on the Food and Drink Bootcamp as part of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, and after a week of training is now selling her Christmas puddings in Amazon's online store.
She shares the story behind her brand, what she learnt on the bootcamp and her tips for other business owners.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I've always used vegetables in my cakes. Right from when I was a young girl, I made up recipes from whatever I could find. I remember sitting on the counter as a small child eating the raw swede my mum had just chopped. I've always found raw vegetables sweeter than cooked.
Years later, while I was working as a sport massage therapist with Olympic and Paralympic athletes, a client confided that she just couldn't get her child to eat vegetables, or even much fruit.
I love a challenge, and knowing how nutritionally-dense spinach is, set to work creating delicious brownies that hid a secret ingredient - a healthy vegetable.
I didn't just want a sprinkle of spinach though, it had to be the biggest ingredient, yet taste like a traditional cake. This ethos is still at the forefront of my business.
After much trial and error, I had a cake that was loved by the child and the parents. Word spread, and soon more parents and children were asking to try my "cakes with secret ingredients".
The next twist was thanks to my husband Tim, who convinced me to try selling my cakes at a local market. Humouring him, I baked some cakes and we set up a stall. People were really interested in my concept and kept stopping, trying and buying, I wrote down all the questions people were asking and when I got home started a plan.
I ran the cakes business side by side with my sports massage business until it could stand on its own. When it could I gave up being a therapist and became a full-time baker.
What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
As a small business my main challenge was where to get support and advice from. I had this idea, but how could I get it to market?
When working on your own it can sometimes be very frustrating and daunting as to where to go and get the correct information, until you have built up a team around you. That team doesn't necessarily mean full time employees, it could be outsourcing accounts to a bookkeeper or help from a virtual assistant.
I now have an outsourced team to help me and my business, and the support from Enterprise Nation and the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning is fantastic.
What is your marketing strategy for engaging with customers and making sales?
Know your client! This is my biggest marketing strategy. Find your ideal client, find where they hang out, what they like to do, research them and drill it right down to the finest detail, as they are the customers who are going to buy your products.
My other marketing strategy is newsletters. Give the client something for free as everyone loves a freebie. I have a free recipe for them to sign up for and I then engage with them over a few weeks to see if they have made the recipe. They often go on to buy my recipe book.
You've managed to achieve a lot of press coverage. How have you done that?
I use social media to find PR requests. Twitter is very good at that with different PR hashtags such as #JournoRequest. My business is fairly unique so I am lucky with the fact that it is often picked up by the media.
When you reply to a journalist's press request, remember they will possibly be getting hundreds of businesses contacting them so provide exactly what they ask for, be short and don't waffle. If sending a photo in an email, make it easy for them to access by putting it in the main body of the message if possible.
Why did you decide to apply for the Amazon Food and Drink Bootcamp?
I wanted to take my business to the next level of online sales. Amazon was on my bucket list although it always eluded me a little. I looked into listing my products a few times, but I didn't have the confidence to storm ahead.
When I saw the Amazon Food and Drink Bootcamp I got so excited. I really wanted to get a place on it, as I knew that was what I needed to move me forward.
What were the key benefits of the Amazon Food and Drink Bootcamp for your business?
The help and support. It was so informative. I picked up lots of tips. They included understanding how to optimise our Amazon product pages and understand what people are searching for to come up with keywords.
As our products are Christmas puddings, adding something like 'Christmas puddings' and 'brandy sauce' make a perfect combination.
What actions did you take after taking part in the bootcamp?
The session from GS1UK on the need to get barcodes was really useful and after the bootcamp, I secured the Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for my products.
The bootcamp provided me with the confidence I needed to start selling on Amazon so I applied to list my products. I'm delighted to say that my Christmas puddings are now on sale!
Now that your products are live on Amazon, what is your strategy for making sales?
One amazing aspect of the bootcamp is that we get an Amazon account manager for four months. With his help to guide me, I am looking at Amazon advertising and sponsored ads.
Other ways I will encourage people to buy my products on Amazon include titling all the images and making sure that all the key points are in the product descriptions so I can be found in searches.
I am also looking at setting up Amazon Brand Registry so we can use enhanced marketing.
What are your top tips for business success?
Have the best customer service you can provide. Listen to your customers and find out what they want. Have great branding. That isn't just a logo, your brand is your business.
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