Perception can make or break a business, and in a year where reaching your potential client base has never been harder, the impression you create online with your website and across social media platforms is critical to the success of your product or business. You may start small, but there is no reason to think small, and embracing high production values with your marketing material and web content shows care, attention to detail, and importantly, demonstrates the credentials of an established and successful brand that customers want to buy from.
A business that has done this so successfully is The Cookaway. After running a successful cookery school for over 10 years, my dear friends, Sahil and Nidhi Verma decided to launch a recipe-in-a-box business with a twist. Rather than following in the footsteps of Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef or Gousto, they created a chef-based, global cuisine recipe box offering with YouTube instruction videos. They concentrated on quality ingredients, eco friendly packaging and highly curated instructions that turned a recipe box into an engaging, shared experience.
As Sahil Verma says “Our focus from the beginning has been to offer our customers an elevated experience across each and every touchpoint including the overall website experience, engagement on digital channels, no-subscription offering, product quality and range and customer service, to name a few. It’s a tall order to achieve all this for a young start up but we believe this is the only way one can build a sustainable brand with a loyal following that doesn’t need to be tied into a subscription.”
To support their young enterprise, my wife and I decided to invest in their friends & family round of funding. In the early days, I advised them on choosing the right technology platform, ensuring their systems provided the functionality they required, at a price they could afford, and could be easily scaled as the business grew. In addition to offering business and entrepreneurial insight, it was a delight to try their prototype cook at home boxes. From advice on packaging, quality of ingredients to critiquing the boxes used for delivery, my wife and I worked closely with Nidhi and Sahil who proved to be inspirational entrepreneurs. Sahil was kind enough to say, “Ashok has been pivotal in helping us with our digital strategy both in terms of setting up an agile infrastructure as well as the softer design and UX elements. His experience working with start-ups is invaluable and he’s a great mentor, friend and sounding board to have on the team.”
By recruiting professional, high profile chefs for each of the global cuisines they offer, and using their cookery school knowhow, they opened their market to online cook-alongs. During the pandemic, they saw an opportunity for businesses to reach out to employees with corporate, remote cook-along events, adding yet another USP to this brand as it pivoted to B2B. This entirely new spin on corporate hospitality, offers groups of colleagues cook at home boxes with chef-led virtual gatherings.
Recruiting chefs from different world cuisines immediately elevated The Cookaway, with the virtual gatherings providing the social aspect missing from other recipe boxes, something which resonated with customers during the last year. The social aspect and the global nature of the cuisine brought depth and breadth to the brand while disrupting the existing recipe box market. A decision not to use the subscription model also set The Cookaway apart from their competitors.
The Cookaway ticks many of the boxes required for success. In emulating their model try to:
- Use association with other successful brands to hitch a ride on their wave of success
- Ensure an excellent product – high quality, ethically sourced and packaged
- Gain support from friendly investors, building collaborative relationships
- Build a sound technology infrastructure providing flexibility and scalability
- Be creative about the ways to market your product
- Respond to changes in your market with agility and speed
The Cookaway is a small business with big ideas, and it’s leaving the established brands behind.
About the Author
Ashok Suppiah is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group, a global technology provider specialising in digital transformation, product incubation and integration services. He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 20 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$115Million in 2004.