Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

10 Things
I Wish I Knew

Gina Shi is the founder of Munchrooms, a brand on a mission to make the world more delicious by delivering healthy, nutritious, environmentally sound snack options to everyone.

Starting your own business is no easy feat, but having the right mindset and tools at hand is definitely a step in the right direction. In no particular order, here are are the top 10 things I wish I knew before starting munchrooms along with some resources that I hope can be helpful in your journey:

  1. Milestones & Goal Setting – Success is a very subjective word and can mean very different things to different people. It’s important to define what it means to you and your company. Having definitive goals compartmentalized into sections (years, months, weeks, etc.) provides a foundation for your personalized roadmap and can help guide your future choices. Check out a simple template here to get you started.
  2. Building your community – Being a solo-founder can be a very lonely journey so it’s important to find others in your field to build your own support group. Oftentimes, you’ll see that you have shared challenges and your group can be a great way to find or develop resources to solve those problems. Being part of StartupCPG is definitely a great way to start.
  3. Automate – When I first started doing social media for munchrooms, I used to spend hours on each of our Instagram posts. It was an absolute headache and time-suck for me. However, after speaking to other founders, I learned about social media planning calendar apps like Later, that let you plan out and post content for the month ahead of time. It’s definitely given me space and room to focus on other important items. If possible, you should try and find ways to automate parts of your business that are straight-forward and repetitive.
  4. Customer Persona – The most important part of building a brand is understanding who your target customer is. By building a customer persona, you’re doing a deep dive into who they are, what they like, where they shop, and their wants. This allows you to develop a more targeted plan when it comes to finding your customers. It can help provide guidance for everything you do. For example, if you know where your target customer is shopping, then you can target those retail locations to try and get into them as well as develop a sales & marketing plan that speaks to them. Check out the customer persona template from DigitalMarketer here.
  5. Sampling/Testing – With something as novel as mushroom jerky, sampling has definitely been a great method to convert skeptics and curious individuals. Obviously with Covid it’s been a struggle to find opportunities that allow sampling. Luckily, with Farmers Markets we’ve been able to prepackage our samples in individual sealed packets that allow for people to safely try our jerkies and provide instant feedback. Try and find opportunities that allow for sampling, especially if you have a product that people are unfamiliar with.
  6. Keep up-to-date in your industry – It’s not only important to know what you and your company are doing, but also to understand the lay of the land and what’s happening around you. To keep updated for news, events, and resources in the CPG space, you should subscribe to industry specific newsletters, use Google alerts, listen to related podcasts, etc. If you’re looking for good newsletters in the Food CPG space, I like to follow Food + Tech Connect and The Spoon.
  7. Networking – Networking is important at any stage of your business and also a great way to find mentors. I love meeting and talking to founders at all different stages of business to understand the different kinds of challenges and focuses they face. I also just love listening to their stories, their passions, as well as any advice they might have to share. StartupCPG is a great way to find other founders, but so is LinkedIn, Facebook groups, LunchClub, etc. If you’re bootstrapping like me, be sure to check your city to see if they have free support for startups. For example, in San Francisco, there’s SCORE and Renaissance Women’s Business Center – both great resources if you’re just starting out.
  8. Study your competitors – Having trouble building a customer persona? Another way to look at the situation is to examine where your competitors’ products are being offered. This at the very least will give you an idea of where your customers could be purchasing your product in the future or just which types of retailers you should be focusing your outreach efforts on.
  9. Building your audience – A great way to build your followers and own newsletter list is to partner with other like-brands to run promotions or giveaways. With like-brands, there’s a good chance your audience overlaps already – for example, someone who enjoys healthy beverages would probably also enjoy healthy snacks. It’s a great way to cross-promote different brands to already engaged audiences.
  10. Don’t be afraid of rejection – Not everyone is going to enjoy your product or like what you’re doing and that’s okay. Make sure to not take it personally and be sure to take criticism constructively and with stride. This is definitely easier said than done, but just know that each day is a new day and sometimes you just need to take it one-by-one.

While this is not a comprehensive list by any means and each thing can be an entire book, I hope this has helped to provide some guidance in your journey, whenever you are!

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