How to get your treats into celebrities' hands
How celebrity swag bags can be worthwhile investment
Kaoutsar "Katsy" Entifi, standing with a plate of the now-famous macarons. Image courtesy of Facebook
Competition is fierce to get gourmet goods recognized by celebrities. Bakers know that despite the initial investment, the financial payoff of swag bags can increase sales once a film star is seen eating, or even just standing near your brand. How do you get your goods promoted by the rich and famous?
Kaoutsar “Katsy” Entifi knows what a “real” macaron should taste like. Having grown up in Morocco and having lived in Paris for a decade, she grew up eating macarons and developed a descriminating palate. Today, she’s known as a “Macaron Maven” who got her client’s macarons into the 2019 Academy Award nominees’ swag bags.
Despite Entifi’s experience in hospitality and her profound knowledge of good pastry, she felt that more was needed to get those macarons out into the world. As an importer, she understand that conditions like temperature and shipping can alter the flavour and texture of macarons, so she had to start with a chef who understood the specific parameters of what makes an excellent macaron. Out too long and the almond flour might go rancid.
“The macaron has to be very lightly crunchy on the outside and very much a melt in your mouth on the inside,” explained Entifi. “If you want to keep them longer, you freeze them. if they are well made, then they freeze very well, and you follow a strict protocol to defrost them (24 hours in the fridge) and that's when they reach their perfect taste.”
“In 2013, we moved from Paris to Canada and a friend of mine who knows my current supplier told me that my supplier was looking to expand to the North American Market, and was looking for entrepreneurs who would be interested in marketing his products,” recounted Entifi. The supplier sent his samples to her by courier to ensure freshness. “Not only was the quality, the texture and the taste was perfect, but he also had flavours I had never tried before…carrot and cumin, goat cheese and fig macarons…they took it to the next level and I was totally blown away.” Entifi immediately signed on to distribute these gourmet macarons.
“I just love it when I have a chef in front of me, and I have an expert and they try them and they are blown away. I want to take this to the next level. I want these products to be mine. I have a passion for what I'm doing and I believe in them so much and I'm introducting other French treats right now, with madeleines, financiers...and also the mousse au chocolat. I'm thinking of bringing in Mille feuilles. What I took to the Oscars were the macarons.
Entifi’s pride and passion for the authentic French taste of macarons made her want to share the love. The next step meant broadening this product’s reach. “I'm a 'solopreneur'. It's very hard a solopreneur to get into large marketing events.” It was upon meeting a business coach named Jennifer Lyall where she explained her dilemma. I told her I want to take them to the next level - I know the quality of the products that I carry, how do I take them to the next level? She said, 'you know what? Instead of going to several smaller events here, why don't you save that money and put it in to one big event like the Oscars?' I said ‘I know my macarons are Oscar-worthy, but I want to know how to get there.’”
Lyall recommended going online to find a PR promotion firm, like rockitpromo.com that regularly held calls for entrepreneurs to hawk their wares at red carpet events. Events like the TIFF Tastemakers Lounge are events where bakers, entrepreneurs or craftsmen can bring their goods to be assessed to see if they are worthy of a celebrity swag bag. If selected, their goods can be bought to give to celebrities; the payoff lies in seeing your product in a celebrity’s social media feed. However, fees for entering the Tastemakers Lounge can be as high as $12,000. However, Lyall suggestd that Entifi set her sights higher. Firms such as http://www.distinctiveassets.com/current-promotions/">Distinctive Assets often posts calls for promotional events where craftsmen can sell their goods. Other places are
They post calls for businesses and companies that are willing to give samples of favours, of products for free, to offer product sehttp://rockitpromo.com/services/">eding; A Canadian firm that supplies TIFF stars with their swag is Rock-It Promotions. Finding a firm to market your goods to celebrities can be a costly venture. However, it can have a huge payoff. From using a celebrity as a influencer that will subtly persuade others to buy or use a product, it can set off an explosive launch for your product.
“I came home and immediately I looked online, I found the website and I found a call for the Oscars right there! They said you have to send us your product the description, and we will let you know if we'll accept it. So, I sent photos of the macarons, and a full description and I told them my story. It was a Sunday, so I figured they would answer tomorrow, or even later. Who knows? An hour later, I checked my email, and I find an answer from them that they would be thrilled to try our products. I was over the moon, I thought, I can't believe this!”
She notified the baker, and as it was family business that made all the macarons by hand. Despite the amount that was demanded they were thrilled with the opportunity to present their goods to celebrities. Despite the fact that the bakers were confident, and Entifi’s excitement turned swiftly to panic.
“Then the point came where I got scared. 'I need to send this to L.A. and macarons are very delicate and fragile. How do I make sure that nothing breaks, nothing happens to my macarons on the way? They asked for samples, and I said, I'm worried that my samples will break.’” She wound up using a recommended courier and special shipping boxes that kept the pastry frozen and encased safely to prevent breakage.
The promotional company asked for a professional photo; Iris Warywoda, a food stylist and food photographer supplied the succulent images. “In my view, she's the best in the world,” laughed Entifi.
Then came the day, the PR agency found a way of getting to the A-list nominees and winners. “The firm had connections with the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, so they have a swag bag for fifty Academy Award winners and nominees that stay at the hotel during the Oscar weekend.” This was a more affordable option to getting into the event itself, where Entifi states the fees can climb to as high as $20, 000, to get your wares to the same celebrities.
My macarons were given to Ellen DeGeneres...you reach the same people during the Oscar weekend, and it's put in the Hollywood swag bag given at the hotel. It was amazing, it allows people like me to get to that point, and I'm very happy to say since then, my sales have doubled.”
Entifi recently participated in the Expo Challenge in Toronto. “My ambition and my project is to start exporting. I have my eyes set on the United States. I have a give-away that was selected by The National Examiner, and five winners were selected, so I'm sending my macarons to the U.S. I am looking to be in the US within a year or two years - it's a huge market, I'll start with one state and slowly expand into others.”
Her advice to other entrepreneurial bakers lies with thinking of an end goal, and visual your product in your ideal market’s hands. “I think that if you just have a decent budget for marketing, without having to go to the tens-of-thousands of dollars, I would certainly encourage them to [look into online promotional companies.] You can have a press release, which then allows people to contact you for interviews. (Hers was sent through http://www.abnewswire.com.)
“Another way to promote goods, and it's something I do from the heart, is participate in any charity events. Donate, paid it forward. Give it from your heart, it has to be sincere: That's important. If it is sincere, people recognize it.”
“If I am going to pay money for marketing I'd rather pay it forward. Donate to the women's shelter during Christmastime. Donate to a home for seniors. Especially during times of loneliness, or hard times. Christmas is a very joyful time of the year, very tough for people who are alone. Remember them during those occasions.”
“I think there are many entrepreneurs that after they've faced a few setbacks think, 'that's it, it's too much, it's too hard. I'll just go and get a job.' It's easier, and you'll just get paid, it's true. But entrepreneurship is about facing more hardship in the first few years. But the next ten or twenty years after that, you're going to have more self-fulfilment and satisfaction.” /BJ
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