3 Goals That Propelled Our Business To The Next Level
In case you are new here and have not yet read our last blog post, Olive & Fig is a company lead by two extraordinarily passionate go-getters on the mission to build the business and life of their dreams.
George & I (Olivia) resigned from our reputable corporate jobs six months ago to pursue the side-hustle that unexpectedly and rapidly prospered during the heart of the pandemic.
The decision to leave our corporate jobs was not one we took lightly. We were risking stable jobs with consistent, solid income and entering unknown territory. There was (and still is) a significant element of fear in throwing caution to the wind and following our dreams. But in considering the opposite - working 30+ years in the corporate world believing your life is destined for so much more than climbing the corporate ladder - we knew we had to take the leap and design our own life.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
We want to share our entrepreneurship journey in hopes to educate and inspire others who are currently taking or would like to take a similar path. We are constantly learning along the way and find it important to reflect on and share our experiences. It has been six months of full-time entrepreneurship and building a profitable business is neither quick nor easy. We hope to bring you along with us as we continue to post updates on our blog.
For this post, we are sharing three goals that we set to achieve in the past six months that have been effective in propelling our business forward.
A Bit Of Background
While we were corporately employed, Olive & Fig operated as a side-hustle, a hobby, a passion-project with no real intention for it to become more than that. My goal in life is to fulfill my potential and so with that, I am constantly seeking to learn and test my abilities. With that mentality in mind, I took action to make Olive & Fig a legitimate company, side-hustle or not. The company was federally incorporated, a business bank account was opened and I created an ecommerce site with Squarespace (the first of it's kind in the Toronto grazing sphere).
There was no long-term goal for Olive & Fig at the time it began (summer 2019); I was merely having fun, but also continually trying to live up to the lofty expectations I set for myself (to fulfill my potential and test my abilities). One example of a deceptively simple task was the company logo design. There were many iterations (below) before finally deciding on a final version.
With George's input of course, Olive & Fig's first logo was the following:
With Olive & Fig becoming our full-time gig in October 2020, it was with no question that our first order of business was to build a stronger, more professional business foundation. And with full steam ahead, we began:
Goal 1: Refreshing the Olive & Fig Brand
With George and I committing 100% to Olive & Fig, we began sharing our ideas for the business and agreed that a slicker, more professional look was necessary.
We spent hours and weeks designing our new logo and business card via Canva at local coffee shops (in the months this was permitted) like true budding entrepreneurs.
While I consider myself a perfectionist, George takes that term to the next level; we are able to balance out our strengths which lends superbly well to the business. We discussed fonts, spacing and taglines for days and the end result was something we are immensely proud of:
We learned the ins-and-outs of the Shopify platform and began building the website we envisioned. We quickly learned that buying a Shopify template didn't mean you got all the fancy bells and whistles that they showed on their demos and that Shopify Apps were absolutely necessary to implement in order to have the website function as we desired it to.
George and I built the website you're reading this on with no outside assistance other than good ol' Google. We learned how to code, we learned about SEO and we learned that great things don't happen overnight. After three weeks of several iterations of the site you see today and a lot of patience, we finally launched our final website and overall brand refresh on October 26th, 2020.
Our site definitely differentiates us from the many grazing companies that have since saturated the Toronto market and we take pride in its professionalism. We are one of few grazing companies that offer ecommerce as well as delivery throughout the GTA and surrounding areas. We are a leading player because of these offerings.
With essentially all shopping today carried out online and the need for instant gratification, a manual order form that may take 24-48 hours to confirm is not the way we wanted our business to operate.
We allow for a minimum 24 hours' notice and a click of a few buttons for your order to be confirmed and delivered on the date, at the time and to the address of your choosing (within our delivery zones). Potentially coming soon - a partnership with Skip The Dishes!
While our site still requires tweaks to improve our customer experience, our hard work, attention-to-detail and corporate experiences have proved to be key elements to the success of our site, our overall business and brand.
When we made the decision to become full-time entrepreneurs, we wanted and needed a commercial kitchen space to call our own vs a shared kitchen space or home-based business. While operating a home-based food business in Ontario may be possible with the proper regulations, health inspections and zoning, this would not provide the foundation for the scale of business we envision for Olive & Fig.
With many administrative elements of the business to solidify and last year's holiday season fast-approaching, the hunt for our own space was initially a passive one and full-on efforts had to be (frustratingly) placed on the the back-burner. We visualized at that moment and agreed that our goal date to secure a new kitchen space would be January 15th, 2021.
There must be a lot of vacant spaces due to the pandemic?
While, unfortunately, many restaurants spaces were suffering and being sold due to the pandemic, they did not meet our needs or vision and to purchase a commercial space in such an unpredictable time was not something we could consider.
We are a virtual brand and it is not currently in our plan to operate as a dine-in space in the near future, pandemic or not.
Our next blog post will dive into the rising trend and popularity of ghost kitchens - a new concept of which many brands around the world operate within.
Finding and securing a space came with much research, determination, hard work, creativity and an open mind. We reached out to business owners in the hospitality industry on Facebook, Instagram, Kijiji, via direct email, phone call and even visits in person as a part of our search efforts (never give up!).
When searching the 'Food and Wine Industry Navigator Page" on Facebook, we messaged and subsequently met with the owner of a bar located in Bloordale Village in October of last year.
While the owner was absolutely fantastic and we LOVED the aesthetic of the space, we unfortunately had to keep looking as location (in the middle of the city and not close to highways) and lack of parking were deal-breakers for us.
Our next two kitchen tours occurred on Thursday, January 14th (one day before our set goal). The first was a catering kitchen in Etobicoke that unfortunately had been closed since last March due to COVID as they primarily cater to larger-scale events.We found them after excessive researching when we discovered a site that seems to be the equivalent to an AirBnB for commercial kitchens - Kitchenlend. They were one of only three kitchens listed for daily rentals in all of Ontario. I emailed the owner and we set-up a tour with his partner and head Chef.
Although the location was further from home than the other locations we had come across, the kitchen tour was great and everything else met our requirements. A massive plus was ample counter space, an entire walk-in fridge, two separate entrances for delivery driver pick-up and not to mention that we would get the space all to ourselves! We decided to think about it as we had one more space to see the same day.
That evening, we went to an art gallery and event space on Queen West with a catering kitchen for rent. Again, a beautiful space and trendy location, but parking and delivery driver accessibility was an issue as well as monthly price - way out of budget for us without much flexibility on their end.
George and I took a couple days to decide whether the catering kitchen in Etobicoke was going to be the place for us or whether we should keep looking.
Goal Achieved - January 18th!
After a few very pleasant phone calls and negotiations with the owner, we signed our agreement on January 18th for a new kitchen space. Given that December was blur and we had so little time in January, we believe that it was only the power of visualization which helped us achieved our goal - only three days after the date we had set for ourselves!
We entered entrepreneurship to follow our passions, to contribute to the community and to build a dream that otherwise we would not be able to create working for others. Without building our brand, our dreams would remain only dreams. With this thinking in mind, another 2021 goal was formed - to broaden Olive & Fig's exposure.
The Greater Toronto Area has a population of ~6 million and as at the date of writing our business is built on only 7460 followers on Instagram as well as thousands of monthly visits to our new Shopify site. However, our focus has always been on community and authentic engagement rather than mere followership.
So imagine what Olive & Fig could be if everyone in the GTA was aware of our brand - but how do we do this?
We are in the infancy of what Olive & Fig could become, so increasing awareness is key to building our business and our brand. Our dream is to offer everyone within our reach the opportunity to experience Olive & Fig and decide for themselves whether they can live without us or not :).While this is an ongoing and long-term effort, we have primarily focused on increasing our marketing efforts and presence on social media.
Increased Marketing Efforts & Presence on Social Media
To help with expanding our reach, we engaged a stellar marketing team in mid-January that has already helped in generating thousands in revenue from their ad campaigns and social media consultation.
We have also added LinkedIn and Pinterest as additional social media channels for our brand. We finally got around to updating our LinkedIn profiles, I wrote an article and started posting frequently. With my corporate career being in executive recruitment, I am fortunate to have almost 8000 professional connections with many engaging with my recent career change. With the power of analytics, we have been able to attribute LinkedIn as a source of many of our purchases.
We are still becoming accustomed to Pinterest, but with our products being extremely visual, I can only imagine the power that this platform will have for Olive & Fig. We also have a TikTok account, but barely being a millennial myself, that platform is going to take some time to navigate and perfect.
An Unexpected & Pleasant Surprise
This Narcity article came as an unexpected and pleasant marketing surprise just before one of our business' most popular holidays - Valentine's Day. Not only was our photo used as the article's thumbnail image, but we were listed first on their list amongst staple and trendy Toronto companies such as Food Dudes and General Assembly.
Extremely excited to see this, I tracked down the author and asked how she found us and why she chose to feature us. She told us that she discovered Olive & Fig through Valentine's Day hashtags and that "our company looks amazing."
Sometimes effort can pay off in unexpected ways, the hashtags which drew Narcity's attention were recommend by our newly-hired marketing team (thank you Ben and Tyler!).
Hundreds of followers and orders came through as a result of this feature. The power of a well-known online publication (and a fun, visually-appealing image of our Valentine's Day Box that George & I worked very hard to achieve, if I may add) can absolutely have a huge impact.
In addition to our above ongoing efforts, we are grateful that our referrals and marketing expansion have led us develop many working relationships with major corporations such as Bell Canada, TJX Canada, KPMG LLP, TD Canada, PWC and Sanofi, among others.
While our order flow has increased and our reach has expanded, our marketing is ongoing and social media is not the only place we focus our efforts. Word-of-mouth, referrals and loyal customers are huge for us. Our branding, customer service, consistency and quality are significant ways in which we are constantly marketing Olive & Fig.
Our Journey Continues
This is the beginning of our first year as a full-time business, as entrepreneurs and we have many more goals to achieve in 2021. We are not certain where this journey will take us or if it will ultimately become as successful as we imagine it to be, but George and I can only try our best. We are definitely enjoying the path and learning a lot along the way.
We have our wonderful, loyal Olive & Fig customers to thank for our success so far and we look forward to continuing to provide value to our community.
Stay-tuned for more updates on our entrepreneurial journey. We have a lot more of our many goals in the works as we change, influence and build our dreams and life. We're excited to take you with us. Here we go!