How I’m Pivoting in the Age of COVID

How I’m Pivoting in the Age of COVID Gr8nola Founder Erica Liu Williams at Lazy Acres

Sep 17th, 2020 

Hey guys! It’s been a while since my last update and since we’re well into the second half of the year in this new COVID era, I thought I’d share how things are going with the business (VERY excited about #4). Let’s jump right in!

1. Offices (Food Service)

Supplying tech offices was always a HUGE part of my business, and when COVID hit, my #1 channel dried up overnight. I’ve accepted that this isn’t going to make a recovery for a while -- if at all -- as we’ve seen offices like Google extending WFH until at least summer of 2021 and Twitter and Square allowing employees to WFH permanently, and that’s just three of hundreds of companies embracing remote culture. Overall, I’m grateful I had such a long run supplying these offices (Google’s been my customer for 6+ years!) because it’s allowed me to create a loyal fanbase that’s now converting online:

Gr8nola Feedback From Googler

 

Current focus: How do I get into the homes of more of these employees? I’ve been supplying company-specific coupon codes for office employees, jumping in on some home-delivery boxes that some food service distributors have pivoted to, and currently testing some growth hacks.

2. Online (D2C)

Since COVID, two things have changed which fortunately have played in my favor: online shopping (especially for groceries) is rapidly accelerating, and breakfast is making a comeback. Since March, I’ve sustained a significant increase of organic sales on my website and even more so on Amazon. This has forced me to make digital more of a priority and also find new business opportunities with D2C food subscription platforms like Imperfect Foods, Misfits Market, Hungry Harvest and (coming soon) Sun Basket.

Current focus: I’m revamping my website to increase conversion and cart size, and I’m looking for lean ways to test new online acquisition channels.

3. Retail (Grocery Stores)

Late 2019, I was just starting to tap into retail, with less than 100 doors under my belt in NorCal and SoCal chains like Erewhon. Initially, I intended to pursue this channel more aggressively in 2020 after making some packaging changes earlier in the year. Then COVID hit. For my existing stores, March-May were big months since shelves were being cleared out due to pantry loading. However, buyers went dark for a couple months with supply-chain completely disrupted and stores simply trying to survive. Today, sales prospecting has become a bit harder with purchasing cycles delayed (a lot of former “Yes’s” turned into “Please wait for the data to settle before we bring anything new.”). In stores where I’ve been able to get new placement during COVID, I’ve been investing in off-shelf placement to get the brand noticed since in-store sampling hasn’t been allowed. Overall, the retail channel has become even tougher for a newer, premium brand since consumers are doing less product discovery and trading “down” for budget-friendly options like private label.

Gr8nola - Lazy Acres Long Beach Aug 2020

 

Current focus: As a whole, I’ve retracted a bit on my retail pursuits to preserve money, but I’ll need to make a strategic decision soon on how quickly I want to grow this channel in 2021+ as it will require extra resources and focus.

4. Product Innovation

R&D can be super expensive, but luckily I’m able to launch and test new flavors pretty quickly since they’re all my own recipes I create in my home kitchen, and I have low co-packer minimums. (Plus, COVID’s led to a LOT of home baking :)

Current focus: I’m excited to share that I’m launching a new flavor in a few months in collaboration with Girl Up & Nigel Barker (more details to come!). Get ready … it’s a classic flavor with an adaptogenic, superfood twist. Any guesses?

 

While my business has had some ups and major downs, I realize how lucky I am to have an essential business and work in an industry that’s accelerating vs. declining from the pandemic. More significantly, COVID -- coupled with #BLM and the recent natural disasters and California wildfires -- has made me realize how lucky I am to have my health, home and family during these trying times. If anything, this year has been one of positive perspective!

Written By:

Erica Liu Williams

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