Golden Bless extra virgin olive oil is the lifelong dream of my cousin, Theodoros Karras. He produces olives in the Peloponnese province of Greece. My participation in his dream is to import his olive oil to North America and sell it.
Where my story left off, the first container had arrived and was unloaded into our warehouse. The warehouse is located in a strip mall, owned by my friends, Terry and Kim. To help me sell our oil, and reduce my risk, I gave them half of my half of Golden Bless America. It also saved me from being evicted from the warehouse, when an oil slick was created in the parking lot from leaking tins of olive oil (a result of damage to our first shipment). Coincidentally, we are not the only tenant in the strip mall selling oil; our neighbour is “Adult Depot” they sell oils too. Imagine that!
To celebrate the arrival of our first container, we had a grand opening party. I hauled my oversized barbeque/spit from home, set it up in front of our warehouse, lit a fire, and soon we had a whole lamb cooking over hot coals. The wind was howling, so Theo and I carried the lamb and spit around back and placed it next to a stockpile of scrap metal belonging to another of our neighbors, a transmission repair shop.
In preparing the food for the party, we used Golden Bless EVOO in everything; salads, roast potatoes, tsatiki and tasting dishes of olive oil with bread. My mother was there with her electric deep fryer making a Greek desert called Loukomathes. It’s the closest thing Greeks have to donuts – dough fried in olive oil then covered with Greek honey and nuts. Beverages included Greek wine, Greek beer, and of course Ouzo. The party was on, and everyone loved Golden Bless olive oil.
The day after the party, with sample bottles in hand, Theo and I set off to make sales calls. It was Saturday morning and we visited our first prospect. I’m dressed in jeans and a Neil Young concert t-shirt, Theo is wearing a collared shirt under his Armani suit – he looks professional. We arrive at Bite Groceteria, an amazing store in a trendy part of Calgary. I had done a little research, and knew that Bite, in addition to their retail business, also supplied products to a large number of high end restaurants in Calgary and Banff/Lake Louise.
We arrived at Bite Groceteria. Theo loves his coffee so we head over to the cappuccino bar. I ask the guy making the coffee if we could speak to a manager. He said, “I am the manager and Saturday is not a good day to be making sales calls.” I handed him a bottle of Golden Bless EVOO, and in a meek voice asked him to try it when he has the time. It was getting busy in the store, but he did open the bottle and taste our oil. By the look on his face, I knew immediately that he liked it. He said, “let me introduce myself, my name is Doug.”
Saturday might not be the ideal time for sales calls, but all of a sudden someone else was manning the cappuccino bar and Doug was looking for Julie, his business partner; he wanted her to taste Golden Bless EVOO. Immediately, they ordered a pallet of bottles and tins. They became our first customer and my new friends.
I knew our second sales call was going to be easy; Kalamata Grocery Store. (a weekly publication in Calgary more recently named Kalamata Grocery the “best corner store” for 14 straight years) Kalamata sells everything Greek and a ton of other stuff. I should also mention that the store is owned and operated by my cousins Gus and George. Our sales call went something like this; cousin Gus asks “is this our cousin’s oil?” I respond “Yes.” Kalamata Grocery ordered sixty cases that day.
Next was lunch at Manie’s Pizzaria and Greek Cuisine. The owner is my friend Archie; he tried our oil and ordered twelve 3-liter tins. After the Manie’s sales call Theo said to me “I always knew I was a natural in sales.” It was then I had to tell Theo that he doesn’t speak English and I have done all the talking and selling. But the truth is that the Golden Bless EVOO sells itself. If I can get them to try it, they’ll buy it!
I mentioned my partners Terry and Kim; Kim has signed a key customer for Golden Bless – Sunterra Markets; they currently have three locations selling our products.
While we thought that our products should sell themselves, we soon discovered that it was not flying off the shelves. We decided the time was right to implement a marketing plan and organize product tastings! We arrived at Sunterra with Golden Bless EVOO, a plate for the oil, and fresh bread from Sunterra – marketing genius. To my dismay our competition is doing exactly the same thing. That first tasting day, we sold over sixty bottles of Golden Bless EVOO and our competition sold six, maybe seven bottles. Proof that if I can get them to try it, they’ll buy it!
The time had come for Theo to head back to Greece. At lunch on his last day in Calgary, the partners Terry, Theo and I went for sushi; something that Theo has never tried. The fish arrives at the table and we start dipping our sushi in soy sauce mixed with wasabi. Theo doesn’t have a problem with raw fish but takes a dislike to soy sauce.
In his briefcase, he has a bottle of Golden Bless and he proceeds to pour some into a little bowl. Our server is watching, not sure what to think; she calls over her manager. Before the lunch is over, manager included, we all try sushi dipped in Golden Bless EVOO. The restaurant still serves soy and wasabi, but perhaps a Greek sushi restaurant isn’t a bad idea.
After Theo departed, I started to plan out where I could find new customers. I came to the conclusion that our new customers could be found in tourist towns, cities in northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. And so my adventure continues.