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Amazon helps startups find their footing and get in the door with brick & mortar retailers

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By Elizabeth Crawford

03-Jul-2017
Last updated on 10-Jul-2017 at 16:11 GMT2017-07-10T16:11:24Z

Amazon helps startups get in the door with brick & mortar retailers

Amazon.com offers startups a way to test their products' proof of concept and gain an early, loyal following before approaching large physical retailers. But the website also leaves brands vulnerable to public consumer reviews and can be difficult to stand out on, unless a product is a top-seller, according to one entrepreneur. 

Gerard Bozoghlian, the owner of the Argentinian restaurant Carlitos Gardel in Los Angeles, explained that launching a product on Amazon “is kind of a risky move, because people who love your product can review it, but so can people who have never bought it, which makes you vulnerable.”

But, he added, it also is a way to sell directly to consumers to gauge their interest and build a following that can help convince buyers at brick and mortar retail chains to take a chance on a new product.

After weighing these pros and cons, Bozoghlia said in 2015 he opted to launch his recently packaged family’s chimichurri sauce on Amazon as a “way to go directly to consumers,” and within six weeks he said the sauce was the No. 1 selling steak sauce on the website.

“It took me by complete surprise. I had no expectations going into Amazon, but we quickly became the No. 1 steak sauce,” he said.

He attributes the success in part to the passion, care and attention to detail about his sauce and the story of its creation that he told on his product page.

To succeed on Amazon, “my only advice is to really tap into what makes your product special and focus on that rather than comparing your product to someone else’s product,” he said. “What about your product are the things you love? What are those essential things that your product unique? Look into your heart and find what makes your product amazing … and share that with other people on your page.”

Likewise, he advises other entrepreneurs not to look at competing product pages on Amazon until they have at least outlined a draft of their own page. “If you look at their profiles then you will be reacting to something else rather than promoting the values of your product” and brand, he explained.

For Bozoghlian, this advice led him to tout on his page the historical significance of chimichurri to Argentina as well as the sauce’s significance to his own family, including a heartwarming story of how his mother made chimichurri for her husband’s family they first time she met them and how the sauce helped bring the two sides of the family together.

Bozoghlian also prominently displays clean photographs that showcase the thoughtful design of his jars and labels.

For example, he explains, “the labels have six panels ad they each represent something – there are five members of my family, so there are five panels for us, and then the restaurant that always kept us together is featured on the top family.”

A platform for growth

The company’s initial success with the chimichurri sauce helped Bozoghlian find shelf space at major retailers including Whole Food Market and Albertsons, and it gave him the courage to expand his sauce portfolio.

He recently launched a Limon and Balsamico chimichurri to complement the existing Autentico and Spicy Balsamico flavors, and he launched a line of four aoli sauces that hit store shelves in April. Like the chimichurri sauces, the aoli sauces were inspired by those served in the family restaurant, Bozoghlian said.

The new line is possible in part due to American’s expanding willingness to try new flavors and foods, which in the past would have sat untouched on store shelves due to a lack of familiarity, Bozoghlian said.

“In the last eight years, the culinary world has grown and expanded in ways that none of us could have predicted,” Bozoghlian said. He recalled how 10 years ago “barbeque sauces was the only thing you put on meat, but today consumers are more educated about how different cuts of meat can be prepared with different sauces.”

As a result, chimichurri and aoli are no longer foreign-sounding or difficult words to pronounce but rather household terms that most Americans know.

It is wonderful and remarkable in that it offers so many endless opportunities for consumers to engage in really interesting culinary experiences,” he concluded.

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