It may sound overly simplistic, but every business starts with a single idea.
It may sound overly simplistic, but every business starts with a single idea. Typically, that idea is born out of passion, and that is certainly the case with Kelly Childs’ idea for a business.
|Erinn Weatherbie and Kelly Childs of Kindfood and Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, which opened in December with a lineup wrapped outside the building. |
If you spend any length of time strolling the streets of downtown Burlington, Ont., you will undoubtedly encounter a quaint organic and all-natural vegan bakery, café and juice bar named Kindfood. Its bright pink and apple green colouring catches the eye, and commands attention. When you step through the doors, you step into Childs’ vegan wonderland. It’s an environment that she conceived of as a child while baking mud pies, and it has developed into one of the most successful cafés in Burlington. The café offers a wide variety of burgers, soups and sandwiches, which are all 100 per cent plant based, gluten-free, and use ingredients purchased from local growers.
Fittingly, the success of Kindfood has been organic in nature. Childs’ husband Ken previously owned a pub, and Kelly created some vegan dishes for the menu. As it turns out, the vegan dishes were so successful that Ken sold the pub, and the couple opened Kindfood. The café has since earned the titles of best café, best lunch, best overall service and best specialty food store by the Burlington Post. Many of the bestselling items at Kindfood, such as the Mile High Brownie, are baked goods, and that success led to the creation and opening of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in December 2012. Despite its relative infancy, the shop was voted best bakery, and also voted as having the best cupcakes by the Burlington Post. While the accolades are impressive, they pale in comparison to the true success of the business, which is, quite simply, getting people to walk through the door.
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe had its grand opening on Dec. 8, and they had a lineup wrapped outside of the building. Over 500 people walked through the door that day. So how did Ken and Kelly Childs, as well as Kelly’s daughter Erinn Weatherbie, command that kind of attention? They did it by creating an online community.
Twenty years ago, small business owners had precious few options when it came to advertising and building their business. Newspaper and television advertisements were prevalent; however, if you couldn’t afford them, you relied on word of mouth. Nowadays, the game has truly changed. With the advent of social media, small business owners are now firmly in control of their image, brand and message. Kindfood and Kelly’s Bake Shoppe are demonstrating that the effective use of social media can drive sales, and build a brand.
Kindfood has more than 7,000 “likes” on Facebook and more than 7,500 “followers” on Twitter. The business also has an e-mail database that contains all of its customers, and staff have used these free digital advertising opportunities to build a network. Here’s the best news: customers never feel spammed with useless information because they opted in to these social programs. Kindfood and the Bake Shoppe have used social media to create a lifestyle brand with a significant following.
Successful social media campaigns are always embedded with a call to action. The customer has to engage, participate and/or interact. After all, social media can only exist in the context of a community. If no one pays attention, there’s nothing social about it. This is where the Childs family has truly struck success.
When a customer walks through the door at either Kindfood or Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, they are immediately faced with promotional opportunities. Childs credits her husband as being the marketing mastermind, and he has designed some truly effective campaigns. For instance, at the grand opening of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, he was insistent that free cupcakes should be handed out to everyone who walked through the door. Predictably, Childs and her daughter were non-committal. After all, what small business owner wants to give away that much free product? However, the family spent weeks promoting the big day through Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Just as Ken predicted, people came out in droves to accept a free cupcake, and because the products were so good, most people stuck around to make purchases. Childs estimates that the shop sold over 2,000 cupcakes that day. More important than the sales, the family was able to create brand recognition on the first day of business, increase their online following, and build goodwill with customers that are likely to return.
Ken has also created an incredibly successful social campaign in which customers can tweet a picture of themselves inside Kindfood or Kelly’s Bake Shoppe. It’s a mutually beneficial promotion that’s simple, and brilliant. The customer submits a picture to enter a weekly draw for a $25 gift card, and in doing so, the customer has effortlessly promoted the business to everyone they know on Facebook and Twitter.
Sales are clearly the lifeblood of every business; however, there is more than one way to build relationships with customers. While Ken has created effective promotions, his wife and Erinn have focused on fostering an online community of like-minded individuals. Kelly has an active blog, “Are YOU living your life yet?”, in which she writes about healthy eating alternatives and exercise, and also provides recipes. Erinn estimates that they spend four or five hours per day communicating with customers and connecting with businesses, but it has turned out to be a worthwhile venture. As a byproduct of creating this content, Kelly and Erinn have branded themselves as experts in the booming industry of healthy living. In fact, Kelly Childs was recently voted best health and wellness motivator in Canada for 2012 by Natural Health Care.
Owning a business is no easy task. Ken, Kelly, and Erinn face the same staffing, distribution and scheduling issues that make business ownership a 24/7 gig. However, through intelligent marketing and content creation, they have managed to create a lifestyle brand that is sustained and supported by its customers.
Tom Yawney is a writer and media strategist with CanEye Media. You can check out his blog at www.unsportsmanlike.ca .
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