How I Built My Company With Grassroots Marketing
BY Shazi Visram
Happy Family became one of the fastest-growing food companies in the U.S. by tapping into a network of moms.
When we launched in 2006, Happy Family was bankrolled by our own very limited funds with some additional money from friends and family.
There was no money for advertising. We were forced to get creative. Our one investment was a brochure explaining why organic was so important for today's babies and why Happy Family's organic foods are a far healthier and better alternative to jars for today's busy moms.
We were determined to change the way children are fed in this country one mom at a time. So, the four of us (because at the time there were only four of us) hit the streets, the parks, and the playgrounds, talking to every mom and caregiver we met. We visited moms groups and reached out to healthcare professionals. We hand delivered products for sampling to local family and parenting media. Approaching strangers was not easy, but we were heartened by almost everyone's friendly response and good wishes. Many children's toy stores and clothing stores even agreed to display our brochures.
Once moms tried our products they told their friends how much their babies liked them.
Our big break came when Whole Foods brought in our products but the pressure to support store sales was intense. The mom-to-mom network was our greatest marketing asset. How could we replicate this grass roots model on a national basis?
The answer was the Internet, which enabled us to create basic spreadsheets of moms groups and healthcare professionals in the top metros. But long-distance marketing can never replace a personal recommendation. If not for our hands-on experience in New York, we might never have created our network of Happy Mamas, the foot soldiers of Happy Family.
As we grow, so does our Happy Mama network. They now number over 50, and we are continually adding more. Moms are attracted to a mission based company like Happy Family that is committed to supporting the health of children everywhere.
A diverse group, most are savvy professional women taking a few years to stay at home until their children are in school full-time. They are plugged into their local mommy communities, represent us at family oriented events, and give nutrition talks and cooking classes. Who better to represent us than moms who are passionate about health and wellness, and who use our products?
The phenomenal growth of mommy bloggers, Facebook and Twitter has occurred simultaneously with Happy Family's expansion into a complete line of shelf stable meals and snacks for infants to young children. We send samples of every new Happy product to mommy bloggers for product reviews and giveaways. We never turn down a request from a blogger no matter how small her following, and we are delighted to see an increase in dads who blog.
Necessity is truly the mother of invention. Grass roots and social media are the foundations of our marketing. According to Inc., Happy Family is the second fastest-growing food company in the U.S. and that's a result of one mom at a time choosing our products. Happy Family is a mom-owned and a mom-run company. We will always participate in local events, on Facebook, and in Twitter parties to keep in touch personally with the moms and dads who use our products.
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