On May 11th, we launched an exciting speaker panel series over LinkedIn Live called Fully Obvious: The Entrepreneur’s Secret. The concept came about while collaborating with our local Charleston friends, Obviouslee Marketing. The goal is to inspire business leaders by talking to established brands in the CPG space about lessons learned during their business journey. We look at the journey from three angles: marketing and brand development, accounting, and entrepreneurship. Each episode allows the panel to share best practices, roadblocks, and ways they overcame each. The listener can apply all of this fantastic advice from decades of experience to their own journey, capitalizing on resources they may not have known about and avoiding common mistakes.
The founding episode covered a lot of excellent subjects in a short time. Some of these key items may have been missed even if you were listening live. Or you may have thought, “Oooh–I need to know more about that”. Either way, we have some highlights for you right here. Let’s dig in.
Monique and Chevalo Wilsondebriano of Charleston Gourmet Burger made the perfect first guests. Not only do they represent the spirit and grit of the entrepreneur, but they are Charleston locals and have a fantastic success story to boot. They went from creating homemade sauces for backyard get-togethers to being the featured speaker at Facebook’s Global Summit to selling in Walmart (and so much more). Now they are leading their incubator, The Recipe for Success, to help other food entrepreneurs make it in the industry. Not only do they bring so many unique experiences to the conversation, but they also do it in their classic humble, and friendly fashion.
Above all else, Monique and Chevalo say it’s their story that ultimately sells their products. Being honest and unique by sharing the “why” behind what you do takes the forefront and is something they encourage new brands to focus on. Like many entrepreneurs starting out, they didn’t have a giant budget for fancy marketing and advertising initiatives. This helped them focus on key areas that could get a return on their efforts. Here are the highlights of these marketing areas.
When sharing local events to spread awareness of their products, Monique and Chevalo focused on targeting their ads to local markets. Over time, they grew the kind of following that showed up for a burger by 7:00 am. This type of localized advertising really helped lay the foundation for a hyper-focused, loyal fanbase to help spread the word.
To make the algorithm work in your favor, Chevalo recommends putting in the effort and remaining consistent:
“It's really about the effort that you put into it and the consistency in your involvement with the social media network that can get the attention”
When Monique and Chevalo’s family and friends enjoyed their burgers, they knew that meant other people would. That original concept is what spurred the creation of their business—understanding what their customers want and like plays a big role in their business development, even today. It’s not about what you, as a business owner want. It is about what the end user wants. For example, adding products that support customers’ dietary requirements has been a huge addition to their line. Things like lower-sugar barbecue sauce options and a plant-based burger are part of their product line because of this feedback.
Once revenue started flowing, Monique and Chevalo knew that it needed to flow back into the company to grow their business and get closer to success. They also learned that it is imperative to bring in experts and lean on helpful resources to support areas they are not well versed in, like accounting. A big struggle they had in the beginning, was understanding how to execute the making of their product once the interest was there. They quickly learned about two key features of the CPG world: co-packing and factoring, and good, old-fashioned budgeting.
They dove into the details of each:
Once the product was wanted in stores, they were holding huge purchase orders upwards of about $60,000. While it was a huge leap in success, it was also really scary since it required significant payments upfront to get them made and shipped. Their publicist recommended they get a co-packer to handle the manufacturing of their burgers and sauces.
A co-packer will manufacture your product to your specifications and sign a non-disclosure agreement, ensuring they will not just replicate your product and sell it for their own benefit.
The most significant stressor for Monique and Chevalo at first was figuring out how they would pay to get their products made and fulfill their orders. They turned to a local Charleston friend in the finance industry that told them that the least of their worries was getting the money to fulfill their stack of POs. He recommended using factoring. The time spent brooding over what they thought was a massive problem, turned into a solution after a five-minute conversation with someone who understands the industry.
Factoring is when an intermediary agent provides cash or financing to companies by purchasing their POs. They agree to pay the company the value of an invoice less a discount for commission and fees.
Once the money started coming in, the team knew they had to be very smart about where it would go. They knew it all had to cycle back through the business to support its growth. At first, it was straightforward; 25% goes to marketing, set some aside for the QVC rep, etc. Monique shared,
“We had to really, really be smart and intentional and not spend what came in. It went back into the business.”
As a general rule emerging brands must make good accounting choices from the beginning. Brad shared the need to look at things strategically and proactively. Just like you would plan for buying a house, there are certain choices you make to work toward a goal. Now, more than ever it is important to have things planned out ahead of time and have access to up-to-date financials. Brad emphasized,
“I think a big part for the small business is having your ducks in a row; have your books in order, up-to-date, understanding your profits, your revenues, your COGS, your margins.”
This is especially helpful not only for maintaining and optimizing profitability but for ease of earning funding and/or investments down the line.
Lee Deas, founder and visionary of Obviouslee succinctly put it:
“There's no magic that marketing or accounting can put on a company if there isn't a great entrepreneurial spirit.”
Finding the perfect balance between leveraging supportive partners and staying passionate and driven makes the combo work. In a nutshell, it is important to know and share your story, plan ahead, and leverage tools and resources that can help you succeed.
If this is the type of business advice you want more of, you are in luck. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the latest updates on when our next Livestream will air. These will be shown in a regular cadence and introduce unique guests each time, with Lee of Obviouslee and Brad from Accountfully leading the conversation.
We also answer questions sent during the livestream, so there will be an opportunity to join the conversation each time. We look forward to seeing you on LinkedIn Live soon!
Follow Obviouslee on LInkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/obviouslee
Follow Accountfully on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/accountfully
Read the official launch announcement of the Fully Obvious series.