MN: You operate a business in a luxury market. How have you managed to keep your business viable in this tough economic market?
NS: The tough economy has actually helped our business! Our elite consumers are used to travelling and dining in five-star restaurants. With the economic crisis, they stopped travelling—but the lifestyle habit has remained intact. So while they watch cooking shows and learn to cook new recipes, they buy indulgent ingredients with which to entertain, or to take as hostess gifts when going to friends’ homes. This is a way for the well-traveled culinary aficionado to maintain her culinary lifestyle right at home. Plus, it’s still cheaper to eat at home with the best ingredients than it is to dine in a fine restaurant.
MN: Do you create the recipes for the food sold at The Indulgent Foodie?
NS: We produce a line of sauces and spices. We also represent items created by small artisans — unique, handmade, specialty food items. Our main area is working with women entrepreneurs who make incredible items. They know how to make their item in order to sell on a daily basis and earn an income to provide for their family. We work with these women to package, brand, and market their items to the high-end food industry. This way, they earn their way from poverty to prosperity, where the possibilities are then infinite. Our goal is to facilitate the creation of a sustainable life for their children, as well as education and security.
MN: Why did you decide to design and sell gourmet food collection items rather than solely market single products?
NS: We like to provide the entire experience, and as the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life. We have a great sauce for dinner, jams for breakfast, decadent truffle popcorn for snacks, decadent desserts… and all the indulgences that makes the dining experience fantastic. Also, it’s more than just the food. It’s the atmosphere, the dishes, the napkins—all the things that make the entire experience complete.
MN: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner?
NS: The biggest challenge is getting shelf space in stores like Williams Sonoma [and] Dean & Deluca. Retailers have a lot to choose from, including the mega industries like Nestle, who wants a piece of this booming market. Our competitive advantage is that we have a few trade secrets. I’ll share one: Get the best products from people who truly care about what they make — people who would do it for free if they had to because they are driven by passion. Try any of our products and you will see what we mean by this. Each tastes as though it was made just for you, in a home kitchen, full of love, with pure, quality ingredients.
MN: How many employees does The Indulgent Foodie have?
NS: We have a team of 12 employees. The most important quality that we look for in our employees is that they love food, and they must cook. When we interview potential employees, we ask, “What are your favorite foods?” Those who begin with answers like “I don’t like this or that”…well, they are not for us.
MN: When did you realize that you had a viable business?
NS: We realized we had a viable business when we got a product on the O Oprah list the first time, when the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts became our customers, and when buyers from major retail stores began courting us. To celebrate, we went out and found more fabulous products! I never pat myself on the back and think “I’ve made it” — the industry is too competitive for that. When we’ve had good things happen, it’s been an indication that we’re doing the right thing, and we’ve kept it going!
MN: Tell Madame Noire readers about BeCause. How did you get involved with the initiative?
NS: BeCause is near and dear to my heart. I say that we are a great company because we exist to serve. We serve our artisans—the women who have a seed of an idea that they want to make into a business so their family can have a chance at opportunity. Our BeCause products are products with a bigger purpose — products that give back. Also, they represent women entrepreneur start-ups without the traditional means to capital. Some of these women are in developing countries. Our program helps them bring their products to market. We support marketing, product placement, education via financial literacy, strategic planning — all of the ingredients needed to create a sustainable business. We do this because it’s the right thing to do. Also, as female entrepreneurs, if we don’t help each other, who will?
MN: Share us three to four effective online and offline methods you use to market your business.
NS: Three effective online marketing methods: Blog, tweet, and market with newsletters. Have the audience help you tell your online story.
Offline: Incorporate your personal story into the brand message, include your competition in your marketing (when beneficial), host events, and give away lots of samples. The only way we can hook our customers is for them to first try our products. Once they’ve had a taste, they are always back for more.
MN: What’s next for Nadine Spencer and The Indulgent Foodie?
NS: Our next goal is to create business opportunities for 13,000 women in 10 years, allowing for economic prosperity so their children can have the same opportunities as my children. We will look for conscious food companies to help with this goal. When I think about this, I get excited. Imagine the possibilities of what can arise from this: 13,000 empowered women creating indulgent products to feed the world—making us feel good and earning a living that will enable future generations. In the context of this model, the future looks very bright for The Indulgent Foodie.
Rhonda Campbell, an East Coast journalist, is the owner of Off The Shelf radio and publisher of the books, Long Walk Up and Love Pour Over Me.