This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
A panel at BREW 2019 featured a range of founders and executives from Louisiana-based companies that are leveraging their Bayou State flair on a national level.
These dynamic business leaders shared how they’ve managed to scale their companies beyond Louisiana and get their products into the right hands around the U.S.
The panel discussion was facilitated by Gaye Sandoz, director of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, which has helped springboard multiple startups toward success.
Here’s an overview of some of the insights these experts shared.
Start Local if Possible
Baton Rouge-based company Hanley’s Foods is scaling up its new product Bacom Bits, a natural bacon substitute that has made a name for itself as an all-natural salad topping. The bits achieve a crunchy, umami taste that comes from a proprietary blend of mushrooms and Cajun seasonings.
The company is gaining regional and national traction, but co-founder Richard Hanley says it started small by selling its salad dressings at Our Daily Bread, an independent specialty market. From there it landed larger stores and accounts. “You can get one or two and build momentum,” Hanley says.
Entrepreneur Matt Beeson has also started local with Baton Rouge-based Swamp Dragon, billed as the world’s only truly liquor-based hot sauce, but he says that given the margins on each small bottle of hot sauce he needs the national market to thrive. “I’m more about whale-hunting at this point,” Beeson says.
Sandoz cautions that landing in major retail outlets doesn’t guarantee success. “It’s easier to get your product on the shelf than it is to get it off the shelf, so you have to have some sort of plan to get that product off the shelf,” she says.
Hanley says that to stand out in the marketplace and draw consumers, persistently making the best product possible should be any company’s primary focus. “It all boils down to the great product,” he says. “There are a lot of good products out there. I think it truly has to be remarkable. If you just focus every day on making your product a little bit better and you blow away the competition, that is enough marketing and sales for the rest of your life.”