Monday, January 13, 2014

Never Knew I'd Be Having So Much Fun

Interview with Liz Fife
Creator of Batter & Cream

with Kathryn Gordon of Food Startup Help

Kathryn:  Hi Liz!  How’s everything going for Batter & Cream – it’s been a few months since you’d hired Food Startup Help to get you launched with the whoopie pies!    What’s new?

Food Startup Help worked with Liz for completing a business plan, product R&D and production efficiency optimization.  

Lineup of Batter & Cream Whoopie Pies

Liz:  Things are going great!  I was in Brooklyn Flea outdoor market thru till the holidays.  I will definitely do that again this spring – and may actually take a booth in the new indoor Smorgasborg market, depending on availability for February-March.  It was great being able to meet my customers directly.

        Liz at Brooklyn Flea in the fall

Kathryn:  How were sales?

Liz:  We sold out every weekend!

Kathryn:  And are you still doing your production at Hana (an incubator kitchen in Sunset Park, Brooklyn)?

Liz:  Yes, I am with 1-2 baking assistants depending on my sales volume.  I am however a bit frustrated with sharing the ovens – sometimes I have to fight bigger companies for oven space, so I am looking at “my next production options” for this year as well.

Kathryn:  I can see from your social media that you’ve been doing some events. Tell me about the one with the Brooklyn Nets?

Liz:  Deron Williams has a charity to raise funds for autism.  I had reached out to an events planner I knew and was very pleased to be able to provide whoopee pies for the fundraising event.

Liz and Deron Williams at the autism fundraiser event; Batter & Cream was the dessert sponsor 

Kathryn:  Remind me when you started working on Batter & Cream, and why you decided to focus on whoopee pies? 

Liz:  The company official launch date was September 25, 2013 – but I think I began working with Food Startup Help around April, batting around potential product ideas, and then worked throughout the summer getting the recipes down.

Why whoopie pies?  I wanted to open my own business.  I had made a bunch of desserts for a party, and it just kind of occurred to me nobody was doing whoopie pies in the tri state area.  I knew people were sick of eating cupcakes, and looking for the “next thing,” here I am with delicious whoopie pies!  Which are much easier to eat than messy cupcakes!

Kathryn:  And you have a variety of flavors and sizes?

Liz:  We feature the flavor-of-the-month, and have seasonal specialties that rotate in and out throughout the year.  I offer flavors that are sophisticated – not too sweet – and appeal to adults equally as children.  The whoopie pies are also available in 2 sizes, so people can pick up one to eat right away, or order a selection in a special package for a party.

Selection of whoopie pies from the website in custom, clear packaging

Kathryn:  What’s next for Batter & Cream?

Liz:  I feel like we’re in a phase where we have to “go for it,” to drive up our sales volumes.   I can reach some customers through direct sales at farm markets and sell on the website – but I really need volume.  In the beginning, I think new businesses rely a lot on “friends and family” sales.  Now we’re ready to grow, not just hold our heads above water.  So this week I’ve narrowed it down to 2 PR companies, and will be hiring one to help me get more market exposure.

Kathryn:  Can I ask you how much a PR firm costs?  Knowing that would help our blog readers who have thought about doing that for their food companies, but aren’t sure if they have the budget for it.

Liz:  $3,500 to $5,000 a month. 

Kathryn:  I think that will really pay off for you.  I’m happy you will be able to do that for the business.

 A delicious, unique  flavor with goat cheese, fresh figs and honey

Liz:  At this point I am constantly talking about the business, and figuring out how to expand.  I have also been looking at pop up stores, to try a location with good foot traffic for a few months.  I know I will get a good profit margin also offering beverages – and can offer other ancillary products like “fillings in a jar,” if I have a retail location.  I expect to be open in a pop up within the next few months; an excellent location is waiting to tell me when the next dessert slot is available.

Kathryn:  Then you’ll need more employees!

Liz:  That’s right!  One of my bakers is interested in helping with weekend sales, and I recently hired a friend as my right hand person to help me with the business end, paperwork, etc.

Kathryn:  What has been the biggest obstacle to starting the business?  Was it some of the production obstacles you and I encountered when we first transitioned from R&D at your apartment to a commercially licensed kitchen? 

Liz:  No, I knew that would work itself out.  I’d say that the website was the issue – it took 3 times as long as it was supposed to, and still doesn’t do everything exactly as I want.  I recently parted ways and have hired a new website company.  It really was a horrible process because every time I lined up my production and marketing to begin selling – the website wasn’t ready yet and I lost customers and sales.

An early event for People's Style Watch Magazine

Kathryn:  And what’s the overall conclusion so far, as you leave a “friends and family phase” and are poised for growth?

Liz:  This has been an amazing experience overall – I constantly find myself doing things I never thought I’d be dealing with.   There are so many different parts to opening your own business – it can be overwhelming at times, but it is so much fun!

Liz Fife

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