Zina’s Salads roots lie with a small family business operating out of its original location in East Hanover, NJ, that was established in the early 80s. For Zina - the company was absolutely everything. Coming to America with just a few dollars (literally!) - Zina wanted to create something magnificent, something that would change lives - an entrepreneurial spirit that was prosecuted by the communist regime of Soviet Russia. Coming from nothing, it was always an uphill battle to make a name in the industry dominated by long-established businesses with legacy and significant financing. One mistake, one unpopular item, or one dissatisfied client could be an end to the young business. However, Zina succeeded! Today Zina’s products are featured in thousands of stores in the US. How did we do it? Here are a few lessons that we have learned (sometimes the hard way!)that also applies to many other industries.
- Be nimble and quick to respond to changes in the market.
In today's business world, the ability to change and adapt quickly is more important than ever before. Big businesses are often hindered by bureaucracy and red tape, which can make them slow to react to changes in the market. This can create an opportunity for smaller businesses with less bureaucracy to be nimble and quick to respond. This can give them a competitive edge and allow them to win customers over.
When Zina started her business she quickly learned what big companies couldn’t offer- to be able to adapt to customer needs. If a customer wanted a new flavor of salad dressing, we had to be able to produce it quickly. If a customer wanted a new type of pasta salad, we had to be able to develop it quickly. Being nimble and quick to respond allowed us to stay ahead of the competition and grow our business. Even today we continue with the same approach: from the moment a customer suggests an idea, we are able to deliver an option in just 3 weeks, which means that a product could be on a supermarket shelf in less than a month.
So, if you're an entrepreneur or a small business owner, don't be afraid to take advantage of big businesses' weaknesses. Be nimble and quick to respond to changes in the market, and you'll be well on your way to success.
- Focus on quality over quantity.
At Zina's Fine Food, we are focused on providing high-quality pasta, salad, and vegetable products to our customers. We use only the finest ingredients; our commitment to quality has helped us attract customers looking for a higher-quality product. For example, we buy produce that is grown locally, weather permitting of course. Zina’s uses only the best pasta in the world - produced in Italy, using the world-famous bronze-cut extruding method. We sample hundreds of different ingredients from around the world - to settle only for those that are truly outstanding. If you're an entrepreneur in the food business, we encourage you to focus on quality over quantity. It's a strategy that will help you attract the best customers and grow your business.
- Personalize your products and services.
Food businesses have a lot of potentials when it comes to personalizing their products and services. For example, a salad manufacturing company could personalize its salads by offering customers the ability to choose their own combination of ingredients.
And because we're a small business, we're able to provide a level of personal attention that big businesses can't match. A recipe that is local, client specific, and made with attention to detail - is something many clients prefer, as it will drive the sales in their stores.
Often we are asked to create recipes that meet the specific dietary needs - or perhaps incorporate a trendy ingredient. A long development period and large quantities that big manufacturers require thwart any progress and leave no room for experiments. As an entrepreneur, it is important to consider how you can personalize your products and services to meet the needs of your target market. By personalizing your offerings, you will be able to attract customers who are looking for a more personal touch - something that could be developed or offered exclusively for them.
- Build relationships with your customers.
When you run a small business, it's important to build relationships with your customers. That personal touch can be the fine line between a one-time customer and a lifelong fan. I should know because Zina started her business out of a 500-square-foot kitchen 39 years ago, and today we're one of the leading specialty-salad manufacturers in the country. But it all started with us getting to know our customers and understanding what they wanted. To the day we go on field trips, before every sales meeting, looking at stores, how our category is presented, what the customers buy, and what the hyper-local cuisine might enjoy. We speak to deli managers and deli chefs in stores - and ask them for their opinion, because at the end of the day - these will be the people who ultimately will sell our product. If they like the samples that we give them, we sure know our product will succeed.
These days, big businesses often see their customers as numbers on a spreadsheet. But as a small business owner, you have the opportunity to build relationships with your customers, no matter how small or big. This will help you attract customers who are looking for a more personal relationship with their supplier. So take the time to get to know your clients. It will pay off in the long run.
- It’s not always about the market share, and its important to think ahead
“Growing pains” - is a term that has become synonymous with the number of challenges that small businesses face as the demand for their product growth. However, it also means that the management will face issues that they have never previously dealt with before. How does one source the same quality ingredients, but in large quantities? How to ensure that the cooking process is the same as the batches become bigger, or more batches must be produced? Most young entrepreneurs are not worried about these challenges - until it's truly too late. In a business where the name is everything, an unhappy customer, especially one that was supporting the business from the very beginning, is the worst thing that can happen to a young business. It is important to develop a growth plan early on and be prepared to work long hours along with your team to reach new sales goals. Don’t worry, if you won’t be able to serve your customers right away- focus on delivering the high-quality products that the company promises before worrying about increasing market share.
I truly believe that smaller companies have great potential and can win big by taking advantage of the unique things they offer. This has been my experience with Zina's Fine Foods, a salad and pasta manufacturing company that I have helped build. We focus on quality, personalize our products and services, build relationships with our customers, and offer unique solutions and never overpromise and underdeliver. If you can take advantage of these things, you have a real chance of winning some of the market shares away from the bigger companies. I encourage you to continue to focus on quality and customer service; these are two essential ingredients for success in any business.