Ask the Experts

Ask the experts: Land your product on store shelves

CorrespondentAugust 12, 2013 

  • Need advice?

    Do you need expert advice on a small-business issue? If so, let us know. Email Shop Talk Editor Jessaca Giglio at jmgiglio@newsobserver.com.

What entrepreneurs can say or show about their products in 30 seconds can make all the difference.

Once a great idea is turned into a product, the next challenge is finding venues that will sell it. A good pitch, plenty of confidence and persistence are key.

Leslie Suber, creator of Sadie’s Caribbean Fish Cakes, moved to Charlotte six years ago to pursue a dream of turning her mother’s fish cake recipe into a successful business.

“It’s something I started making for my friends, and they really enjoyed it,” Suber said. “I wanted to see if it could be produced and sold because really there is nothing like it in the stores.”

Suber needed help making and marketing the cakes, so she took a food business course at Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a business incubator in Asheville.

The cakes, handmade, pre-prepared fritters made with all-natural ingredients, are now sold in several Charlotte-area groceries and 26 Whole Foods stores in the Southeast.

Here’s Suber’s advice for getting products into stores.

•  Know your product, and believe in it. It’s important to believe that it is unique and marketable. Articulate how your product is different and why customers will be interested in it.

“You have to highlight what are the qualities that would make that customer for that store purchase your product,” Suber said.

• Show how your product will make the store money. Offer this information early in the pitch.

• Make your pitch short and to the point. When Suber pitched to Whole Foods, the meeting lasted five minutes.

•  Display your product well, and sometimes it will sell itself. Suber often heats up crabcakes and presents them on a plate to potential clients. When Suber met with a Whole Foods manager, she offered him a warm crabcake.

“He said, ‘Oh, this is great! This is perfect and what we are looking for,’ ” she said.

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