Where I left off on The Golden Bless story, my cousin and producer of Golden Bless EVOO, Theodoros Karras, had just left Canada and is returning to his home in Greece. It was our job to find more customers for Golden Bless. Time is a luxury neither my business partner Kim, nor I have. Kim is a full-time university student and a mother of two, and I have many passions and hobbies and very little or no time available to sell. What were we thinking bringing in a container with 20 tons of olive oil? With no knowledge of the retail business and no business plan, we went to market to sell Golden Bless.
We had placed Golden Bless extra virgin olive oil in some stores and it was starting to sell and we were making the occasional sales call looking for more retailers. We were often told that the store already has many different olive oils, there is no shelf space, or just “no thanks I don’t want to taste your olive oil.” It was not all doom and gloom, our existing retailers were selling well and the word was starting to spread through the Greek community about our oil. My 85 year old mother (Yia Yia) was selling to all her friends and neighbours. On the marketing side, we managed to get some great press from the local food magazine, The City Palate, who wrote “Golden Bless EVOO is a must try.”
I mentioned my passions and hobbies; skiing is perhaps on the top of the list. My girlfriend and I have a home in Golden B.C. where we like to spend time in the winter – we are 15km away from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, an amazing place to ski. It was in Golden that I discovered that the restaurants had a limited choice of olive oils and, in my opinion, none of their choices were very good. I visited 3 restaurants and sold to them all. Although Golden is a tourist town, it isn’t a big destination, but I did realize that an easy place to sell our oil was in isolated tourist and industrial towns.
Next stop was Jasper Alberta. Jasper is what I call a “Greek Town” set in the majestic Rocky Mountains. Most of the restaurants are owned by Greeks and an easy target for me. With the Goldenblessmobile packed with olive oil, I started making sales calls. They all bought it, but to my dismay only one case each. It seemed that in the past other traveling salesmen have sold them olive oil which turned out to be bad. I was getting ready to head home from Jasper when my phone starts ringing. Each call was a variation of: “My wife/husband tried Golden Bless and they really like it.” They all ordered 10 to 15 cases. Somehow I managed to convince Jasper Greeks that not all Greek oil salesmen are crooks.
Upon returning to Calgary, I learned of an event that would be perfect to sell our olive oil – an upcoming rodeo in Strathmore Alberta. Together with Bite Groceteria we decided to rent a booth at the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo.
It was a 45-minute drive from Calgary and a 3-day event. We borrowed a friend’s motorhome, together with Jette, my niece Areti, who has a master’s degree of nutrition and was visiting from Greece, we arrived for the event. We set up our tent for EVOO tasting and we started selling. The weather was beautiful, everyone was friendly and sales were going well.
My niece Areti is a knockout, not only is she beautiful, but she knows everything about the benefits of Greek olive oil – why it’s so good for you, and why Golden Bless EVOO is especially good for you, with acidity close to .3 and its healthy antioxidants.
Sales were great, and a ton of people told us they will be back at the end of the rodeo to pick up Golden Bless EVOO on their way out. It was about noon on the final day and off to the north I saw in the distance scary looking black clouds. A little later the wind started to pick up. 15 minutes later we were informed that we needed to be prepared to leave our booth and head to the curling arena – a tornado was coming our way. Very quickly a tornado watch turned into a tornado warning.
With a case of Golden Bless in hand, I head off to the Curling arena. I’m not sure what the day’s attendance was at the rodeo, but there had to be close to 4,000 of us in the curling arena. It was a real shame I didn’t have more than 1 case of EVOO with me, because it was sold in no time. On the bright side, they did have a bar set up in the arena, so we had a few drinks while we waited for the tornado to pass. An hour later the rodeo was officially over, the finals had been cancelled, and in a down pour of rain we packed up and headed out, sadly not making the big last minute sales.
The rodeo was a lot of fun, with more than you would expect including very talented female impersonators, comedians, and a great customer base that are now loyal Golden Bless consumers. We look forward to the 2012 rodeo, but I think that it’s Kim’s turn to attend.
Back in Calgary I was looking for an excuse for a road trip so I decided to head up a ways on the Alaska Highway. This time I figured the Goldenblessmobile (our Honda CRV) wasn’t going to cut it, so I loaded up my pickup truck and set out. The plan was to sell Golden Bless EVOO to every restaurant I drove by (and eat a lot). For the first 4.5 hours I drove nonstop; getting hungry I stopped to eat and sold 4 cases in Whitecourt, Alberta.
From that point on I stopped at every restaurant that I could see. The main stops were Grande Prairie and then Dawson Creek, British Columbia (where the Alaska Highway begins). From there Fort Saint John and my last stop 600 kilometers up the road at Fort Nelson. I would have gone further but I was out of EVOO and 10 pound fatter. The plan was to get customers and then have them supplied by a food distributor. We have since signed up with a national distributor who does serve the remote places I sold to.
There is a lot more to tell about marketing Golden Bless EVOO. The word is out on the street in our home town of Calgary and we are slowly getting our products into more grocery stores, supermarkets and organic markets (around 30). We now carry organic EVOO, organic grape vinegar infused with thyme, balsamic vinegar infused with Greek honey, and amazing Kalamata olives packed in olive oil, vinegar and salt water — all under the brand Golden Bless.
Our business is only a year old and we have a long way to go to take over the world, but we are working on it. I would like to thank all our customers, friends and especially Curtis Cord for publishing my story in Olive Oil Times. We have a warehouse full of EVOO if you want a pallet or more, please email me.
Editor’s note: Thank you Gus for sharing your story with us.