Today we are speaking Sarah Feoli the Founder of Rescue Chocolate, a vegan and organic chocolate bar company that donates 100% of its net profits to animal rescue. Each month, the company partners with a different rescue group to provide financial support and drive awareness for their important mission. Rescue Chocolate is also a Certified B Corporation Honoree, meaning the business meets very high standards for positive impact.
Sarah founded the company in 2010 after an inspirational morning walk with her adopted pit bull named Mocha. After enjoying a bite of chocolate, Sarah got the idea there should be a chocolate bar company that raises awareness for pets and contributes proceeds to animal shelters. On that morning, the idea for Rescue Chocolate was born.
Each chocolate bar flavor highlights a specific animal rescue issue in a fun way. Some of the most popular bars are Peanut Butter Pitbull (the top seller) and The Fix, which help raise awareness for spay and neuter.
One of the issues Sarah had when she founded the company was that while visiting and donating time to animal shelter was fulfilling, it could also be a really heavy experience. Another goal of Rescue Chocolate as a more light-hearted way to bring awareness to an issue that often leaves people feeling down.
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This doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a really fun way to think about the issues and to educate people who might not think about it.
One of the biggest lessons from Sarah’s story is that you can launch a food business without a team full-time employees, investing in equipment, and renting a longterm space to convert into a food manufacturing center. Sarah is able to operate her business as a one-woman show.
This doesn’t mean that Sarah is doing all the chocolate bar making herself either. Sarah learned early on that you can partner with a factory that’s able produce bars or other products with by following a proprietary recipe and specifications. Sarah also partnered with a chef to create these unique chocolate bar flavors. The taste testing of course is an important part of the operations to keep in house!
By going this route of partnering with a factory and chef, Sarah was able to really bootstrap and save on the startup costs. The first version of the packaging design didn’t require a designer. As a result, Sarah was able to produce her first run of a few hundred chocolate bars without taking out a loan, looking for partners, and investing in potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in overhead expenses.
Another piece of market advantage that Sarah brought to the table was experience working at a raw chocolate company. By working as an employee she was able to get an understanding of how the ins and outs of the industry works and flavor combinations that paired well together.
The lesson here is that most food businesses you could create are going to require a lot of overhead investment. But before you begin investing in infrastructure start to ask other people in the industry about alternative options to accomplishing your goal. There are often creative options that can be used to achieve the same result.
Marketing a Chocolate Bar Company
One of the super powers of Sarah’s is her ability to generate press for her company. Part of the reason Sarah is able to generate this press is because she’s got a powerful story and mission for the company that goes beyond making money.
When Sarah tells the story of walking her adopted pit bull and eating the chocolate you get an immediate visual of how the idea for the company came into the world. When she share’s the fact that the net profits go toward that’s a powerful mission that everyone can connect with.
This powerful story has helped Rescue Chocolate generate major exposure in outlets like the LA Times, CBS, Time Magazine and other outlets. To pay out of pocket for this level of reach would cost tens of thousands of dollars in advertising.
From a tactical standpoint, Sarah submits press releases regularly in an effort to get picked up by press outlets. Sarah uses the free option of PR.com and 247PressRelease.com to publish these updates.
For example, every time there’s a new partnership with an animal shelter a new press release is written and syndicated through places like . By staying consistent these continue to be picked up and create ongoing promotional opportunities.
Overtime, Sarah stays connected with people in the news industry including bloggers and writers by maintaining a list of PR contacts through MailChimp. Over the years her list of contacts has continued to grow.
The other benefit to joint venturing with different organizations each month is that it creates a cross promotional opportunity. The animal shelter will promote the partnership across social media and with local media as well. This creates a very synergistic marketing event that happens every single month.
What’s Your Story?
As a takeaway from Sarah’s journey, think about how your business could pair a larger mission with your product. This does not mean that you necessary need to donate proceeds to a certain charity. Maybe your organic granola bar has a mission is to help improve overall heart health.
If you’re struggling to find a mission / story for your own product, look toward your own personal interests and passions first. If fighting homelessness is important to you, see if there’s a way that your product could help there. If mental health is important, find ways to get involved here.
At the end of the day, people connect with stories. Understanding your businesses story and mission will not only help improve the bottom line, but you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process too.
Cold Calling to Get a Product on Store Shelves
Getting product into store shelves is often viewed as the holy grail of food products. Sarah has also been extremely successful getting her product into retailers like natural food stores and gift shops. Most of this business was acquired by picking up the phone and making a cold call to the retailer.
Sarah describes the cold-calling process in our podcast interview. But the gist of it to find a retailer where the product could be a good fit. Then calling the business and asking to speak with the buyer. At this point, Sarah is usually referred to an email address for the buyer. Then an email pitch is made that shares the story of Rescue Chocolate and details about the product line and cost.
This is the point where having a powerful story can really help yet again to differentiate your food product from everyone else that’s contacting the buyer. Then the product itself needs to perform from a sales perspective and be really high quality to get reorders.
There’s also a wholesale business where they can produce custom labels for weddings or birthdays. This is another source of revenue and way for people to discover the brand.
Even though Sarah is someone that really understands marketing, at the end of the day she recognizes that producing a high-quality product key to a sustainable business. We’d like to sincerely thank Sarah for taking the time to join us on the podcast and sharing the story of her food business!