`Golden Bless America - Olive Oil Times

Golden Bless America

Feb. 9, 2012
Gus Kolias

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Golden Bless America Headquarters, Calgary

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.

Marketing 101

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.

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