Use these three tips to continue to grow despite fierce competition.
When I started Happy Family back in 2003, the landscape of the baby food world looked very different than it does today. There were three major players in the industry that had been around for decades, and each manufactured baby food in jars (the first sign of an overly processed food item). The category was begging to be refreshed, which was the void in the market that we seized by creating the alternative to the jar: first frozen and then pouched baby food.
I wasn't the only person who saw this category as an opportunity. When Happy Family was getting on its feet, another female entrepreneur was out there creating her version of an alternative to what was already on shelves. So, from the beginning, Happy Family had competition on two levels: 1) proving that we were better than the giants, and 2) making a unique enough product to beat out the other small guy. Today, we have prevailed as the best-selling minimally processed organic brand out there, with four of the top six selling SKUs per point of distribution, and we are gaining market share every year. The competition has been fierce over the past decade, but here's how we beat it:
1. Take the high road, and don't be petty.
Entrepreneurs are, by nature, competitive and will do anything to cut down the competition. We didn't do that. Not that we at Happy Family aren't enthusiastic about our growth, but I never compromised my (and therefore the company's) morals and ethics to get ahead. I can't say that for others out there. Sometimes, I feel like products we create and launch are then released by competitors months later, with a claim of being the most innovative. Business plans have been shared by seemingly interested investors, and competitive espionage is so very real. Ultimately, though, I believe choosing to always take the high road provides a moral advantage to you and your business that allows you to sleep well at night.
2. Create genuinely great products, and stand by them.
Happy Family products are truly the most nutritious that you can find in the baby food aisle. We add extra nutrition to many of our products, like Salba, nature's most nutritious food, so your baby gets extra omega-3s, antioxidants, fiber, iron, vitamin C, and calcium. We use better ingredients, which creates more nutrition. Perhaps the margin is not as high as it would be if we left out the valuable supplements, but that's not the business model that I believe in. I believe in formulating the absolute best. And we stand by that philosophy. Even though we take that extra step by adding nutrition to our foods, we wanted to be the most price-accessible, minimally processed organic baby food line on the shelf. This delivers on our belief that every baby deserves to be a happy baby, and it priced us below the small premium guys, giving us access to more of a mass market.
3. Love what you do, and do what you love.
While the competition and Happy Family continue to be neck-and-neck in the market, I see a major success in the fact that I'm still actually here, super involved as always, and running the business that I started with the purity of purpose we have always had. For me, being asked to leave in favor of a more seasoned CEO or being told exactly when and how to do what by a private equity firm with only one thing on their mind (and it's not the health and well being of our children!) would be the ultimate loss. I can't imagine a better way to spend my time, and that is a most satisfying thing to be able to say.
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. @shaziv