22 Nov Honesty and Passion
By Sharon Longley, General Store Coordinator
I am so excited to be the newest member of the LTFF staff. I’ve always said I’m an Okie by choice and a Hoosier by birth. Tulsa has been my new hometown since 1993. I love the stories and kindness that Tulsa has to offer to all, and the small town feel in a cityscape dotted with history and entrepreneurial spirit. Throughout my many years of restaurant, retail and kitchen experience, there are quite a few things I have learned that are essential to managing products, merchandising products and owning the position you have as a food entrepreneur.
The first thing a successful food entrepreneur has to have is passion – passion about people, passion about your product and an excitement that can be shared with others. It is a simple concept can at times be lost in translation. Being passionate about who you are, what you stand for, and where you are in your entrepreneurial journey is the first step. You must have an open willingness to embrace all that you are into a 16 ounce jar of salsa – this is not only brave, but shows a willingness to your customer to always improve. Successful food entrepreneurs find enjoyable contentment that comes from formulating a recipe, tasting and testing to perfection, sharing with friends, then taking it to the next level. Successful food entrepreneurs design a label that communicates this is who we are. Food entrepreneurs struggle and learn about presenting and marketing, usually by social media these days, experience the trials and tribulations of identifying a target consumer, and sell to neighbors, friends, family and whoever will shell out a few bucks. Of course, there are a few pitfalls and disappointments in the early stages, but realizing that there is a desirable product to profit and succeed from is the aha moment all food entrepreneurs all dream about.
The second thing a successful food entrepreneur must have, and most importantly what I am trying to convey, is merchandising that clearly displays your passion. Most consumers will try something new, especially if the product is packaged in a desirable, easy to read, user-friendly packaging. Make sure to always have the critical, essential information on your packaging, including:
● Nutritional information
● History of product
Labeling, merchandising and information needs to be simple, clear and concise in the beginning stages. No bells and whistles, just the facts. Upfront, honest and sincere. It is a common problem in most retailers to focus on trying to be clever instead of clear and honest. Showing your customer the history and development of your product will do more for your sales in the early stages than investing in all the sparkly ribbons and glittery bows. Spending a few dollars on packaging and sharing the backstory of your business will ultimately give you an honest customer base that will most likely only grow. Your story will then be shared with others, the passion will continue to expand and boom.…welcome to successful retail!
My job as the General Store Coordinator now comes into play. Being a part of the LTFF family has allowed me to be who I need to be – to be honest, empathetic, and open. I have conversations with our General Store vendors about approachability, design and cost of their packaging and merchandising. I take the time to have conversations about the history and story behind each product. I talk with the consumers coming in to the General Store and convey back to the vendors what the customers are looking for. Yes, at this point the bows and sparkly packaging matters to catch a customer’s eye and make products stand out amongst others. My role is to help discover ways to convey that you as the business owner are passionate and driven, providing a product that will in turn make customers passionate about who you are and what you stand for. With time and patience, your passion can turn into the sustainable business opportunity you have always dreamed of.
I have a genuine passion for people. I love learning the stories behind the labels. I love learning about the struggles that inspired the product. I’ve learned over the years that there are many ways that some of the most important lessons in retail packaging and merchandising are similar to lessons on our own self love and growth.
● It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s what inside that matters.
● Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
● Don’t judge a book by its cover.
● What matters is how you feel inside, because feeling beautiful on the inside is key to looking good.
We are always looking for new vendors for the General Store! Please bring me your products that are beautiful and full of history, passion and love. I will sell them for you willingly and gladly. Marketing and merchandising is about so much more than just a thing, an item, a product. Own your story, package your product, bring it to me and I will help you sell it. I believe that we all merchandise who we are as beings. Telling our stories, learning to pivot and adapt when necessary and ultimately letting our stories impact others are lessons that extend far beyond merchandising into every area of our lives. I believe in focusing on core values of not only the products, but of we as a people, as a community, as a neighborhood. We all have a story to tell, and we all want to be accepted by the masses. The only path to success, in my eyes, is honesty, truth, accessibility and the willingness to change and adapt to the world around us.