How Can You Help Keep the Awesome Going?
One of the comments I've heard most often since our first days at the Las Vegas farmer's markets is something similar to "I really hope you guys make it. It's a very good product. So often I find a brand I like that fits my diet and then the next thing I know it disappears."
The Awesome plan was fairly simple. Work super hard at making the Awesome at a small scale to prove the concept to a co-manufacturer who could help us grow. From that point I could focus more time on growing the brand while we worked with what is referred in the industry as a "co-man" to handle the making of the Awesome. Manufacturing is a massively exhausting and intense process. I love collaborating. I hate doing things by myself. I HATE IT.
However, that didn't work. We sold well at Erewhon, Whole Foods and got some rave reviews from customers but we couldn't find the manufacturing partner willing to play with us. In hindsight I should've expected this. Our production process and the product itself are rather unique. Unique = Risky for food manufacturers.
I then resigned myself to the idea that if the Awesome would be successful we would have to grow by making the product ourselves on a larger scale. You can control the quality better and once the initial hard work/investment was completed you could really keep your cost of goods sold low (i.e. cost for us to manufacture each pouch). The suite next door became available to expand into, we got a loan for some more smaller freeze driers, Whole Foods put us in more than 30 additional stores, we became certified organic and I pressed onward confident that a larger freeze drier would become available. Having an industrial size drier is crucial to our success because it allows us to not only produce much more Awesome but due to the nature of our process, we could do it much more efficiently and hence more profitably.
However, despite searching far and wide that larger freeze drier did not materialize. You can't sell what you can't manufacture and we've been struggling to keep up with orders all the while not being able to make enough to be profitable. Finally, earlier this year we were able to purchase a larger prototype that hopefully will be a game changer. It won't allow us to grow massively but it will allow us a "chance" to grow enough to be profitable. The new drier hasn't arrived yet but we hope to have it up and running soon.
Even with the new drier, during all this time searching for one, our costs have increased significantly. Our rent has gone up, organic sweetpotatoes are more expensive, shipping costs shot up and the going rate of keeping good employees increased. Outside of a brief time when we received a working capital loan from the SBA I've never seen a paycheck for myself (still working various acting and event jobs to help pay the bills). The rest of this year will be quite a challenge to produce and sell enough to stay in business. If we can make it through these next 6 months I believe we can turn the corner and really grow. I don't give up easily and I believe we're close to making this brand a profitable success.
We need your help if we're going to make it through 2023 and keep the brand alive. I've received much financial help from my very generous and loving family but my parents who are retired elementary school teachers are not exactly the Rockefellers. There is simply only so much money I can borrow.
Hence, here are four things you can do to help keep the Awesome a reality.
1. Purchase directly from our website. We get higher margins and receive funds quicker when customers buy online. Think of our website as Kickstarter without the Kickstarter fees and the all work required to put together a Kickstarter campaign. Maybe the term "Kick-continuator" is more appropriate. :)
*I am NOT saying don't purchase from stores. We greatly appreciate that support. We enormously value our relationship with our retail partners but if you don't live nearby a retail partner or if you'd like to supplement your store purchases by supporting us with an online order that would be greatly appreciated.
**Whole Foods, Erewhon and a number of other retail partners have been a blessing to collaborate with and we want those relationships to grow. We just can't make enough right now for that to be possible or even feasible.
2. Refer new local stores near you to our Faire link. When a new boutique store uses this link we can avoid paying commissions on sales through Faire and they quite often cover the cost of shipping (directly helping our bottom line). It's quite a blessing for small brands. Using this link really makes a difference.
3. Please continue to share the Awesome with your friends.
4. Take this survey about the possibility of an Awesome phone app. We have the opportunity for a free trial of an app that would allow you to more easily make purchases on your phone. I just want to get some feedback on whether it would be worth our time even trying.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us through the years in all the various ways you have. You know who you are. We'll continue to work hard to keep the Awesome awesome. Hopefully, we can figure out a way to increase scale, reduce costs and God willing make the Awesome a huge success.
Thanks so much,
Founder and Owner
P.S. Whatever you are able to do just please don't suggest that I try to go on Shark Tank. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, we'd be swimming in cash. Unless Mark Cuban can build me an industrial size freeze drier all the Shark Tank marketing power in the world won't really help us increase scale and reduce costs. And none of those guys/gals seem to really know or be passionate about the food biz. :)