So, tell me about Edoughble. Walk me through your early days. How did it all come together?
Rana Lustyan: I came up with the idea for Edoughble in 2009 when a big food brand recalled all of their baking cookie dough because people were eating their cookie dough raw and ended up in the hospital with e.coli. That was my ‘Aha’ moment. Why does edible cookie dough not exist?
My background was in culinary. I was a pastry chef and I managed restaurants. Making and baking things for people, for my family and friends, brought me a lot of joy my whole life. So, coming up with a food item that people really didn’t have before was really exciting for me. I wanted to make cookie dough that’s safe to eat, really fun, and edible. Several years later, in 2013, we launched Edoughble online and created a whole new category that didn’t existed before.
Edoughble cookie dough is the first ever cookie dough that is safe to eat raw. It contains no eggs and is made with commercially heat-treated and pasteurized flour. We use only premium, all-natural, and non-GMO ingredients. We’re currently the only brand in the edible cookie dough space that is committed to using premium, all-natural, high quality ingredients.
Where are you now in your journey as a company?
Rana Lustyan: We started as an online business and we eventually grew into wholesale. Right now, we’re trying to get back to our roots. We opened a scoop shop in Los Angeles and we want to focus our 2021 on expanding our retail footprint, as well as our online business. It’s important for us to connect our brand with consumers who care about premium indulgence.
How has your company grown organizationally over the years?
Rana Lustyan: Since 2009, we’ve grown our team on both the production side and the administrative side. Due to the challenging events that occured in 2020, we had to downsize. So, now we’re running on a very small team production-wise. We hired a virtual assistant in the Philippines to help us along.
Is that your first time experience with a VA or have you worked with other outsourcing companies before?
Rana Lustyan: We did, we had a VA from another company earlier in 2020. And it didn’t work out because there was a lot of language barrier. We had them doing a lot of customer service work but their communication skills weren’t up to our standards. So, we parted ways after a couple of months.
Having had that experience, what are the things you look out for when it comes to looking for the right people to bring onboard?
Rana Lustyan: Communication is important, but it helps to work with people who have experience working for businesses in the U.S. I was looking for technical help, someone who could oversee order processing, learn some of our software, and wear many hats as we do in small business. They shouldn’t only know one thing, but, instead, are capable of learning several different things on the job.
What has 2020 been like for you?
Rana Lustyan: So, last year we had to shift from wholesale. It was hard for our scoop shop. Since people stopped going out of the house, we lost a lot of our foot traffic. People were primarily shopping for their essentials. On top of that, distributors didn’t have room in their trucks for products like mine. As you can imagine, that really hurt our sales. So, ultimately, it became clear that the best way to connect with our consumers is through our online channels, through our website specifically, and corporate gifting.
You’ve said that e-commerce is your roots. Is there a difference between starting out online in 2013 and moving back online in 2020?
Rana Lustyan: I think the landscape has changed for my category. When I started Edoughble, edible cookie dough didn’t exist. Now we have a ton of new players in the category. So competition has definitely increased. It has been harder to reach people who can potentially be your customers because they’re being bombarded by every other brand out there. There’s certainly more content. There was a time when our target consumers hadn’t yet tried our products and took a bit more education.
How did you initially build that consumer knowledge? How did you find the right customers and educate the ones that didn’t know what you guys were selling?
Rana Lustyan: It’s really not a science. We test a lot of content on social media, on Instagram and Facebook. Through digital advertising and Google Ads, we try anything that we can to connect with the customers. We test creatives and copies to see what sticks, to see what works, and we move away from what doesn’t work. That’s how a lot of our time is spent. There’s no exact science when it comes to figuring out how to best market in today’s digital world. We’ve had to be creative and diversify our online strategies because we do everything on a very shoestring budget.
So, I know that you sell your cookies in packs. What made you choose that strategy?
Rana Lustyan: We wanted our product to be giftable because it’s a novelty. It’s a premium product. Whether you’re gifting it to somebody or you’re buying it for yourself, it’s like a treat. It’s not just a regular grocery store item. So, it was important to keep it nicely packaged.
That sounds really creative. Were there other moments in Edoughble’s life cycle when you had to get really creative with your business solutions?
Rana Lustyan: I would say the digital branding. As the digital space only gets more and more crowded, it’s important for us to find unique ways to connect with our customers. I think that’s why we’ve tried so many different channels, such as online grocery stores, virtual events, and corporate gifting. We’re constantly looking for the best ways to connect with our customers.
Is there advice that carried you through the years that you would pass on to other entrepreneurs?
Rana Lustyan: I would say, spend the time to create your strategy and understand your costs and margin. The unit economics of your business should never be overlooked. Don’t just assume that when you hit high volume, that the business will take care of itself and figure it all out. It takes a really long time and it costs a lot of money to really get there. And everything takes three or four times longer than you think it will. It also costs three or four time as much. So, identify how you’re going to reach your customers and have that planned, and have it tested on a small scale to try to find what works and what doesn’t work before you really commit.
Where do you guys see yourself in a year’s time?
Rana Lustyan: I hope we have a much larger presence online, while still making our storefront profitable.
If you could do it all over again, is there something that you would do differently?
Rana Lustyan: I would definitely pick a lane. I think that we spread too far too fast, and without the budget, we spread ourselves too thin and we weren’t able to master one thing. So, I think we really need to excel in one channel before going into additional channels.
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