MARKETING

Keep It Real: How to Stay Authentic As You Grow

As a business grows, it's important to maintain the authenticity that consumers fall in love with.
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People fall in love with small brands because they have a sort of sixth sense about them. It's personal. They can feel the authenticity in the company's grassroots approach, product innovation, and commitment to the community. As a business grows, though, there is (almost) no greater challenge than maintaining that authenticity. With mass market success often comes mass-market operations--from sales to marketing to manufacturing. But to me, my business is as personal as it gets, and consumers continue to feel that personal connection, even as we have grown.

I attribute our ability to maintain the authenticity of the brand to the importance we place on sticking to our core values: customer service, giving back, and innovation. From the very beginning, these three principals have guided our success. In fact, in 2009, NBC Universal and American Express featured us as one of the country's most inspirational small businesses in their Shine A Light competition. It was an honor. It proved that our commitment to these values was a strong foundation for our business, and I believe that they are a strong foundation for any business. Below shows how Happy has exercised each of these values and how you can use our experiences to create your own, unique core values.

Customer service is our No. 1 priority.

What started as a small, grassroots marketing program where we tapped into the mom-to-mom network, soon grew to 40, then 50, and now over 70 real moms who not only use and adore our products but also who are a resource of health and wellness for other moms in their community. In other industries, customer service may take on other forms, from knowledgeable employees who can answer consumers' questions to simply sticking to the age-old mantra that the customer is always right. Either way, if you're starting a business, making customer service a priority will pay off.

Our commitment to giving back has also grown with us.

We started by giving back to Project Peanut Butter to help feed hungry children in Africa. As we have grown, though, we also wanted to expand our influence, which is why we have recently formed a partnership with the FEED Foundation. Giving back to a cause you genuinely believe in creates authenticity in two ways: first, it shows you care about more than just the success of your business; second, it gives your business a bit of a personality. Both of these things allow people to connect with your brand on more than one level.

And finally, we continue to innovate.

First, we created the only minimally processed, organic baby food option on the market, which was followed by numerous minimally processed, shelf stable baby, toddler, and kids foods. (Stay tuned for a future article on the next great snack, coming in January. It will blow your mind). Innovation keeps you ahead of the competition, and it keeps your products fresh and relevant.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Dec 10, 2012

SHAZI VISRAM | Columnist | Founder and CEO of HappyFamily

Shazi Visram is the founder and CEO of HAPPYFAMILY, the leading premium brand of baby and toddler meals in the U.S. HAPPYFAMILY is sold in over 13,000 stores with 9 different lines of optimally delicious organic foods.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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