Serene Martin is the Executive in Residence at District Ventures Accelerator. She’s worked in the food and beverage space for over 20 years and has a passion for helping young Canadian brands. For the last 14 years, Serene has been helping build brands as the New Business Development Lead at Tree of Life Canada.
Serene knows what a brand needs do in order to be ready for Canadian retail. Here are her top tips to help brands beginning their journey:
Know your value proposition, your competition and your category
What makes your brand special? Is your brand filling a need for consumers? It’s so important to be able to articulate how your product is unique and the value + benefits it’s bringing to consumers and the category. Retail buyers are always looking for innovative products to fill their shelves so being able to explain your points of difference is so important. What sets you apart from your competition? Who’s your competition? Why are you better? Why should we buy your products?
Make sure you have funds to invest in your brand
There’s a cost to build your brand in Canada. Whether it’s setting funds aside for slotting fees to enter retail, or spending to promote your brand on shelf, there are fixed costs that are a reality of the Canadian market. Ensuring you have the funds to scale and add logistics, warehousing and a salesforce, or building out your e-commerce platform, you want to make sure you can invest in your brand. When costs aren’t properly anticipated or planned for, brands can suffer an untimely exit – which can be heartbreaking.
Fast rarely means better
Remember the story of the race with the turtle and the hare? The hare was fast but didn’t win the race! The same theory goes for building your brand! Take your time to build the right plan and understand all aspects of your business before you go to market. Building a plan and making sure it’s scalable is all part of the important foundational work that should be done before you sell your first case.
You are the boss of your brand and ask questions
Although everyone in your supply chain are more than likely experts, and there will be good advisors in your path, remember this is your brand and you have the control to make the decisions that are right for you. That said, educate yourself, do your research, and never be afraid to ask questions – ask, ask, ask! That is how the best decisions are usually made.
Ensure your brand is conscious
Sustainability and giving back should be part of all brands’ ethos in today’s world. People care about the legacy of their purchases, they want to make sure the brands they support are putting good into the world and are helping the planet, not hurting it.