Blonde Beauchamp tells the story of how she introduced Haitian food to a new region.
The biggest challenge for Blonde Beauchamp was getting people to try her product. Most Americans are unfamiliar with Haitian cuisine and have never heard of pikliz, her main product. But Blonde believed in her cooking and knew she had something that people would like, if they would just give it a chance.
“I started to have these dinners at home, and I was cooking all my favorite meals which were all Haitian. And my friends responded really well, and a lot of their responses were ‘Hey Blonde, this is really good. Have you thought about packaging? Have you thought about doing a restaurant?’ So I took the route of turning it into a packaged food business, essentially. And that’s where I got started.”
How to get customers to try a new product
Blonde began by selling pikliz to wholesalers, but naturally found that people were reluctant to buy a product that they were unfamiliar with. As she puts it, “Pikliz – the flagship product is made with pickled cabbage, carrots, shallots, habanero peppers, vinegar, and salt. Most people look at it and they’re not sure what to do with it, so the decision making process is too long and they just walk away.” She found much more success when she was able to provide samples of her products in stores. Not only were customers able to try the mysterious pikliz, but Blonde could recommend different recipes and food pairings to go along with it. She realized that the key to her business was to educate customers on how it’s used, and show them how a meal prepared using pikliz would look. However, she also knew she couldn’t scale her business by continuing to offer samples and talk to every potential customer before they bought her product, so that’s when she shifted her focus.
The same challenge that Blonde faced when wholesaling pikliz—getting customers to buy something they were unfamiliar with—were present when she launched her ecommerce website, www.thishaiti.com. Fortunately, her prior experiences had prepared her to combat this challenge. The website is focused on customer education, prominently featuring images of the various products as well as descriptions and suggested recipes that even include tips for assorting finished plates in a visually appealing way. Even though customers can’t taste pikliz before buying it online, the website does a great job of making it appear more familiar by placing it alongside familiar dishes where it appears as a product that more people can see themselves using. Blonde has had success with this approach to her website and has shifted the focus of her company to primarily ecommerce.
Other advice for entrepreneurs
One thing Blonde has learned as an entrepreneur is that it rarely hurts to ask for help, and in some cases it can lead to unexpected benefits. She describes a recent positive experience, saying, “Last week I reached out to this guy on my LinkedIn profile. He’s very focused on ecommerce, which is where I’m trying to grow my business. I have no idea how we’re connected, but I was very honest and very much myself. He responded within an hour, and we agreed to a meeting.”
Most people don’t like asking for help—especially from people they don’t know well—but the risk is low and the reward is high. Just as people rarely regret buying pikliz, you won’t find many entrepreneurs that regret the day they reached out to their network for help or advice.
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