Who are you and what food business did you start?
Hi! I’m Ambika Mathur. I’m a 23 year old gal from Orange County, CA and I recently co-founded Super Batter with my partner, James Paul. We launched Super Batter, the First Superfood Pancake & Waffle Mix in June 2020 during the middle of the pandemic.
Neither of us had any background in the food industry, but we’ve managed to turn a quarantine craving for healthy pancakes into a full-fledged business-more on that below.
Today Super Batter can be found in stores around Southern California, at farmers markets, and online. Our Superfood Pancake & Waffle Mix line is all paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, has no dairy, no added sweeteners, and no artificial additives. Our top customers are parents looking to feed their families a healthy and easy breakfast that tastes delicious. Kids get excited by the vibrant colors from the superfoods, and parents love that all they have to do is add water and BOOM- breakfast.
What’s the revenue?
Our current revenue is $6,000 per month. Super Batter was only started 6 months ago and we are currently in 15 grocery stores. Our goal is to be in 50 stores by the end of our first year.
How did you come up with the idea?
Super Batter was born out of necessity. I had suddenly gotten laid off from my corporate job landscape architecture job as a result of Covid-19. I had only recently graduated from Berkeley, so I was thrown for a loop. This was not how I envisioned my post-grad life. At the time we were both working from home and our workspace was dangerously close to our kitchen in our tiny shoebox of an apartment.
We found ourselves eating a lot out of boredom and were on a huge pancake kick. One morning, about two days after the layoff, I had an urgent craving for paleo matcha pancakes. I had never had paleo matcha pancakes, but it sounded divine. Unfortunately, such a mix didn’t exist and I wasn’t about to go buy ingredients to make it from scratch (or so I thought.)
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I looked at James and shared, “This probably already exists, but it would be so smart to have a line of pancakes that were all healthy with different cool colors and flavors…” and then went about preparing a boring breakfast. Little did I know, James had actually started scouring the internet for a paleo superfood pancake mix line.
A few moments later James exclaimed “It doesn’t exist! I’ve looked all over Amazon and Google and can’t find any.” At that moment we decided to embark on what we thought was going to be a Covid pancake side hustle, but actually turned out to be a full-fledged business. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Take us through the process of developing the pancake and waffle mix?
The day that we had our idea we immediately went to Sprouts and bought every paleo flour we could think of. We turned our kitchen into a pancake version of Breaking Bad, and spent the next 30 days testing different recipes and consuming an absurd amount of pancakes (purely for R&D purposes.) Once we were satisfied with our recipe, we made a very basic website on Wix and shared it with our friends and family to test our idea. Our goal was to sell 30 mixes that month. We sold 30 mixes in 24 hours. Our business idea was verified.
Our packaging at the time was janky. We had brown bags that we ordered off of Amazon and heat sealed using a knife and an iron. The labels we designed ourselves and printed on sticker paper at home. We took these ghetto bags to local grocery stores, strode in with an unearned confidence, and managed to get on the shelves. We decided to send samples to some larger chains with our simple packaging and got ignored by the buyers. A local bag manufacturer bought our product from a store and reached out to us, politely suggesting that we upgrade our bags, and we did.
At first we made the mistake of hiring a cheap designer on Fiverr. We were deceived by a fake portfolio, and what we got was an awful design featuring Comic Sans font. It was a good lesson- don’t be cheap when it comes to important things. The next decision we made was one of the best decisions- we started a contest on 99designs.com, where designers from all over the world can submit proposals for your needs and you choose the finalists. Eventually we got our new packaging on preprinted bags, reached back out to the buyers who had previously ignored us and got into our first larger grocery chains!
Once we got into our first chain, we set up an account with a distributor and ordered a manufacturing run from a co-packer. We had been communicating with the distributor and co-packer for months before in anticipation, so it was a huge relief when everything came together in December.
Key takeaways include:
- Work with manufacturers and packagers that have small order minimums
- Triple check your spelling and numbers.
- Limit your SKUS, save money.
- Make all items delivered to co-packers are signed for, we had a scare where the manufacturer temporarily lost thousands of dollars worth of ingredients
- Google is your best friend. All the answers to confusing and seemingly impossible paperwork can be found.
- Fake it till you make it. We didn’t even know how to get barcodes when we had applied for grocery stores, but pretended we had them. When it came time to figure it out, we did.
Describe the process of launching Super Batter.
We began making our product in a local restaurant’s kitchen, selling online, in local stores, and at farmers markets. Farmers Markets have been a great source of weekly revenue and free marketing.
We started off with a simple website that we made in 48 hours to test the concept. Once we completed our manufacturing run, we really put some effort in and redid our website. I’m a freelance web designer, so we were able to save some money and do it ourselves. (If you need an affordable designer, contact me.)
While we’ve had some offers from investors, we politely declined for the time being and funded everything ourselves. We may need investors in the future, but we decided that it was best to be 100% owners as long as we can.
One lesson we have learned is that the food industry is tough. After factoring in costs associated with distribution, manufacturing, marketing, and grocery margins, the money that you’re left with is a small percentage of your retail cost. However, with continued scale and diligence, Super Batter is on track to becoming a somewhat automated business.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
One of the most surprising sources of sales is AM Radio. We had called in for a short segment on the Tim Conway Jr. Show last summer and got over 500 site visitors and a booming amount of sales in return. It was 6 months ago, and we still get trickling sales from that 5 minute radio interview.
Here is a video about how we first started getting into grocery stores in July, 2020. We really just strolled in to several stores with samples and asked to speak the managers. I only recommend doing this if you aren’t in any stores yet.
The week after visiting, we called the buyers in person and were either able to get in or had to keep following up. We just got into Lazy Acres, the most corporate store from this video, which we’re really happy about.
Our new model to get into stores is this: We find the contact info of a distributor’s account executive (AE) who we want to work with. We introduce them to our product, what stores we’re already in, and ask them to write an email introducing us to the buyer of the account they manage.
We set up a zoom meeting with the AE and buyer, prepare a list of talking points, talk about our story, promotions, price, etc. and get the buyer excited for our samples. We send them samples, follow up when they’ve received them, and it’s a straight shot from there once you’re already established with a distributor.
Local magazines have been another great marketing tool. We just found local editors’ emails on google, contacted them, and got featured. The support from our community has been amazing. Other common ways we’ve attracted customers include Facebook ads, Instagram giveaways, and word of mouth.
To keep our customers engaged, we have a newsletter that people can sign up to on our website. Every few weeks, we send out a personal greeting, blog posts, discount codes, and general updates.
A large percentage of customers are from Super Batter’s home state, California.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we’re doing good. We’re simply grateful to have made it this far. It’s hard to say what the future looks like since we’ve only been in the industry for 6 months, but it’s been a very productive 6 months and we’re going to keep chugging along.
Since we are both young, our goal is to scale Super Batter so that we can reduce cost and have a high enough profit margin to automate via distribution and 3rd party fulfillment. Once that happens, James and I are buying a one way ticket somewhere and traveling for a while.
Through starting the Super Batter, what have you learned so far?
I believe confidence, diligence, having a business partner, and luck have been our guiding factors through this process.
Confidence: We are not shy nor easily intimidated. When it comes to getting meetings with buyers and befriending loyal customers, this has come a long way.
Diligence: We have worked our butts off to get here. It hasn’t been easy; we work 7 days a week. We both work other jobs in addition to running Super Batter. We’ve been constantly ignored and have had to learn how to deal with feelings of rejection, frustration, and disappointment. However, we’ve learned to not take things personally and just keep at it.
Having a business partner: I can not stress this enough. I would not be able to do this all on my own. Having a partner is huge when it comes to staying motivated, funding a business, and simply having enough man power to get things done.
Luck: The universe has been kind to us. A lot of it comes down to who you know and timing. It’s important to maintain and constantly build new relationships. You never know who might be able to share a helpful industry contact.
What tools do you use for your business?
I love Wix. It is such a user-friendly platform, they have awesome integrations, and great tools for marketing.
In regards to kitchen tools- we love our waffle iron! We have been converted from pancake lovers to waffle friends. It just makes things so much quicker and cleaner.
What books or podcasts inspire you?
We are inspired by:
- Tim Ferris: 4 Hour Work Week
- Tim Ferris Podcast
- Guy Raz: How I Built This Podcast
- Gary Vaynerchuck: Crushing It
- Gary Vaynerchuck Podcast
Advice for other food entrepreneurs?
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Many people like to start thinking about fancy packaging and manufacturing too early in the game. Just perfect your product, get it out there, and the rest will come in due time.
On the flip side of that, I’ve also met many people who have been in the industry for years and are complaining about lack of profit / growth. In my opinion, those people are slacking and waiting for something to magically come their way. I am a strong believer that what you put into something is what you get out of it, so hustle and make it happen.