LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Elizabeth Mehditach is caterer with a sweet talent for baking. She’s also known as the “Brunette Gourmette.”
“My cream cheese zucchini bread is a major popular one, and my fruit cobblers are a favorite,” she said.
Like so many talented chefs and bakers, Mehditach has been told she needs to open her own shop, and she agrees. “My aspiration is to be able to market them all,” Mehditach added.
Rachel Shur has received the same kind of encouragement from fans of her unique, dairy-free, sugar-free frozen desserts.
She’s like a chemist at work, combining healthful ingredients into her frozen desserts, like her pumpkin apple pie with dark chocolate chips.
“It’s something that is so unique and so different that it needs to be out there and people love it,” Shur said.
So, what does it take to become the next Mrs. Fields? “Have guts and perseverance because it takes a long time,” said research and development Chef Andrew Hunter.
He teaches entrepreneurs what they need to do to get their products off the ground and running. He said the first and most important rule is “It’s got to be delicious,” Hunter said.
Hunter would know. He has worked with big companies like Kelloggs, Kikkoman and Wolfgang Puck.
One of his clients is Mehditach, whose flourless chocolate cake, chocolate-cranberry oatmeal cookies and cream cheese zucchini bread were all hits. But it was the pear-cranberry wine cobbler and the rum-raisin cobbler that caught Hunter’s attention.
“I love the crunch and the flavor of the topping. And the fruit it really rich and luxurious,” the chef said.
One of Hunter’s recipe for success is: Focus on one product. In Mehditach’s case, he suggested that she market four flavors of her cobblers, like apple and peach, and a couple of seasonal flavors to shake it up.
“So, what you want to do is you want to create an opportunity for people to say: ‘Gosh, I want to buy those cobblers,’ ” Hunter told Mehditach. “Which one do I want?”
Next, set your selling price. Mehditach was selling her family-size cobblers for $8.
“I would actually encourage you to think about a smaller size. And now, start thinking below $4,” he told her.
With that in mind, Hunter cautions Mehditach to watch her expenses. The cost of ingredients should only be 25 percent of the final price.
On to Shur’s frozen desserts, her pumpkin, apple and cinnaberry flavors were all hits. Now, it’s time to name her products. Hunter said you are your brand.
Shur said “Four like the number 4 and Shur. S h u r. Like my last name. So I can say like ‘For sure, it’s vegan. For sure, it’s healthy.’ ”
But the name needs to relate to the product. That’s where a tagline comes in. “How about for sure it’s a frozen dessert?” Hunter asked Shur.
Hunter also advises entrepreneurs to turn to family and friends to fund your budding business. Start locally at farmers markets and hand out samples. “You’ve got to get them to try it,” Hunter advised his clients.
He also suggested having a five-year plan. “You’re going to be doing something in five years. Let’s make sure it’s building your company,” he added.
Hunter said: “Marketing a food item we’ve never heard of can be a challenge. Create products that we already know. And add a new dimension to it, like a new flavor.”
The Cottage Food Act allows you to cook and bake your products in your home kitchen under specified health and safety codes as long as you sell directly to the customer, like at farmers markets.
Track your farmers market sales. It is a great way to show potential investors that if they give you money, you can make it grow, Hunter said.
Once you have raised funds and are now growing your business out of your home kitchen, consider hiring a co-packer, a company that makes your product under your label. If you hire a co-packer, you may have to consider a different price point.
Rent a kitchen. If you want to make your product yourself, consider renting kitchen space in a restaurant. Most likely, the hours will be in the middle of the night.
Pitch your product to retailers. Consider pitching your food item to a regional grocery store or a local market. Start small. Ask to speak to the manager and offer to bring in samples. Remember to bring enough samples for more than one person. If you want to stand apart from products similar to yours, think of creative places in the store where you might display your item, like at the cash register, according to Hunter.
Hunter is taking your questions on how to market your best recipe. Visit the CBSLA.com Facebook page and post your questions. He will personally answer them.