News & Events
Posted by: Jeanne Eisenhaure | Posted on: December 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
This post was originally from The Kitchen Coop’s December 2014 Newsletter – never miss an update, subscribe for original content and local food event happenings.
The Kitchen Coop is always thrilled to hear of our clients’ accomplishments, so when David Segal of Pie in the Sky Bakery was accepted into Safeway, Jeanne sat down with him to learn about the process.
JE: How did you first get connected to Safeway?
DS: We are lucky to have a local food community that shares how things are going with their business. Another producer at The Kitchen Coop had recently been accepted into Safeway and had told me that Safeway was updating a lot of their stores and adding renovations to make them more upscale. With these factors in mind, it sounded like it was a great time for me to approach Safeway. So I used this person’s name as a recommendation in the subject line of my initial outreach to the regional Safeway contact.
JE: What did you include in that initial correspondence?
DS: I kept it brief, mentioning that Pie in the Sky is local, gluten free, well-established, and was already in UNFI (which was a big selling point). Perhaps because I was a referral, I heard back from the Safeway contact and she gave me the regional buyer’s name. Then I reached out and asked if could send him some samples. He liked the product and put me in touch with the local buyer for Colorado.
JE: How does the Safeway approval process work?
DS: At Safeway, once you get approved as a vendor for Colorado, the buyer for the state asks all the stores to carry the product. For our local Colorado buyer, I brought the samples to him personally and was able to chat with him a bit. It makes a big difference to have a face-to-face conversation. Especially for small businesses, it’s about more than just the product. It’s also about who you are as a person. Buyers, like everyone else, want to do business with people they like.
JE: Once you were accepted what happened?
DS: This is the point where you really have to be patient. Safeway told us they were going to bring us in, and then a month went by before I got an email setting me up in UNFI. From then, every week or two I would contact the buyer to gently remind him of Pie in the Sky Bakery. I was careful not to sound pushy emails, but would try to ask an easy question, for example about labels, promotional ideas, etc. Finally, another month after getting squared away with UNFI, the Safeway buyer contacted me for sampling at a new store and I put the product on the shelf myself.
JE: How did you prepare for the inventory needs of going into Safeway?
DS: Luckily, another Kitchen Coop client was a month ahead of me, so I was able to estimate what Safeway would want to bring in once the onboarding process was complete. I knew it would take 2-3 months to work through the system so I set a date for 1200 cases to be done. It made it easier to build up the inventory since we have a six-month shelf life. We worked up to what I was guessing the order would be about one week before we received the final approval and order. My timing was spot on, but it was pretty nerve-racking to create that inventory before the deal was completely finalized. I don’t recommend it but sometimes you have to take a risk.
JE: How will your inventory management change following this sale?
DS: We just signed up for UNFI to give us monthly reports of exactly who is buying what. Prior to this sale to Safeway, it wasn’t cost effective to pay for this service (it costs $800/year). Inventory control is a huge issue, but the more information you have the easier it is to manage and project out.
JE: I’ve heard you got to preview our new Inventory Management software program, Recipal. What did you think?
DS: I have to say, I was very impressed with Recipal. It covers so many important bases that a business owner needs to keep track of. As I mentioned, inventory control is a huge issue. When I combine Recipal with the monthly reports from Safeway, I can’t imagine there will be many gaps in my knowledge of Pie In The Sky’s financial situation.