Four Startup Mistakes That Didn’t Kill Us

Posted on Posted in Blog, Business Adventures

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in this business for over a year now. It seems like just yesterday but it was 14 months ago, on April 17, 2012, when we received the first run of our elderberry products under the Elderberry Life name. Erin, Rodger and I had worked for many months on the recipes, the labels and finding the right partners to get our products launched, so holding that first bottle of Pure Elderberry Juice in our hands was almost as special as welcoming a new child into the world! Our heads were spinning with excitement as we headed off, freshly cased products in tow, to our first vendor opportunity at the Shakori Hills Festival of Music and Dance. We got lots of positive response at that first show and we immediately hit the streets to spread the word….We’ve got elderberry! As it turns out, lots of people want elderberry.

Over this past year we have been blessed to find great customers from all over the US who have given us great feedback about our products and service. We have met some amazing people in the specialty food business and we are especially grateful to all the great folks that work in the NC Department of Agriculture, NC Specialty Foods and the NC Goodness Grows organizations for all of their help, wisdom and resources. Our customers, partners and supporters have given us so much valuable help and guidance. Like most small businesses we have made some mistakes along the way and we are learning as we grow and run this business.

Four Startup Mistakes We’ve Made

Early on we figured out mistake #1: Elderberry Life is not the best name to use for our company and our products. It’s a mouth-full for a name and what does it mean, anyway?

And then there was mistake # 2: We don’t have a logo! No matter how hard we tried to squeeze Elderberry Life into a logo nothing worked. As one of our great partners said, “if it feels like you are playing twister with something, stop!” We were definitely playing twister with our first package design and its “logo.”

Elderberry Life Packaging Problems
Problems Galore! The good news: The packaging for the jam placed runner-up in a NC Specialty Foods Competition.

And then there was mistake #3: Why are we putting our health and wellness line in a BBQ sauce bottle? If you take elderberry juice as a supplement it should look like a supplement, don’t you think??

Mistake #4: And by the way what is an Herbal Cordial? Herbal Cordial sounds cool but it doesn’t really tell you what it is or how you should use it. Plus, don’t cordials usually contain alcohol? Our elderberry syrup, as we’ve decided to call it, doesn’t contain any alcohol.

How We Fixed These Four Issues

Erin and her brilliant marketing friends get all the credit for helping us fix mistake #1. We all settled in around the kitchen table one evening to brain storm new names, and after telling our story out loud and proud our new name became obvious: Norm’s Farms. Norm is my father-in-law (and Rodger’s father and Erin’s grandfather). It was Norm’s vision–and his farm!–that got this business going in the first place. Norm’s Farms is a name that has a powerful and personal story we want to share.

We owe so much to Lynn and David Gibbs of the Design-Group in Greensboro for getting us well on our way towards fixing mistake #2 by coming up with our Norm’s Farm logo and the labels we are now using for our jam and jelly line. We have had so much fun working with them and think the world of their creative talents. We especially appreciate how they helped us bring Norm to life and create a look and feel for our company and our products that honored Norm and his life.

That bottle problem? It’s about to be fixed too! We’ll receive a delivery next week of a run of our Pure Elderberry Juice and Herbal Cordial in brand new bottles that pour without dripping and are perfect for dispensing an ounce or two at a time. And that Herbal Cordial? It’s now called Elderberry Syrup. As it should be.

It takes a village to create a great product, and the best thing we’ve learned this year is how lucky we are to have so many good people helping us along this wonderful journey. For you, for all the great advice, for the wonderful understanding and patience so many have afforded us we stand humbled, grateful, and thankful.

–Annie

 

2 thoughts on “Four Startup Mistakes That Didn’t Kill Us

  1. I have asked for elderberry products at whole foods and market fresh repeatedly. Hope it helped. Also I am interested in a tiny local only venture with elderberries. Love reading your story and hope to communicate more with you. I’m not an extremist but have the opportunity to start from scratch on 40 acres and would love to plant all native species of plants. Just a hobby at this point but has been an interest for yrs..thx

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