When Charlene and Vincent Li had an idea to launch a line of all-natural, alcohol-infused popcorn, they knew they were onto something big. But moving from their own kitchen into the world of business was a challenge they knew would require a solid business plan — something they had no experience with.
A CPA by training, Charlene had started a business doing invitations and stationery, eventually transitioning into that business on a full-time basis. However, after having a baby, Charlene returned to work, and Vincent found himself at home.
Vincent explains, “I knew I needed to find something to be passionate about, and the opportunity to join a food incubator came up. I’ve always had an interest in food, along with technology, and it was like this business brought the two together. I could use my passion for technology AND be more creative on the food side.”.
For years, Vincent had been making gourmet popcorn for parties, and he thought that it may have the potential to be a saleable product. After going through the move and with the experience of the food incubator, both Vincent and Charlene opted to go all-in on what would become EATABLE Popcorn.
Written Success Gets EATABLE on the Right Path
Thinking the product would appeal to health-conscious individuals like themselves, they decided to enter their all-natural, alcohol-infused popcorn into a pitch competition in Boston and see if the product would be as viable as they thought it was.
At that pitch competition, they realized there was untapped potential that was worth exploring. If they were going to throw themselves into this business 100%, they would need investors, and to land investors, the first step they needed to take was to create a business plan.
Says Vincent, “We knew from day one that the way that we were making our products was severely limited in that we were only able to make things in small batches. We would have to find a way to overcome that cap, and we didn’t have the capital to open our own production facility. We were having discussions about how to move forward, and we were out of our depth.”
Knowing they needed an expert to guide them through this, they reached out to Written Success.
As Charlene reveals, “The business plan served as the catalyst to get us thinking with clarity about the structure of our business and what our actual financial needs were to take it to the next level. It told the story of our strategy in words and numbers, which is what investors want to see.”
Once they had a solid business plan in place, things with the business really began to take off.
Charlene explains, “With the help of the business plan, we were able to get a bank loan. For a year, we were making the product out of a commercial kitchen space. We are so excited about securing a dedicated production space where we can increase our capacity ten times over. This means we can pursue bigger wholesale contracts, make our product more quickly, and increase our sales.”
Stepping into the Dragon’s Den
In what many entrepreneurs consider to be the ultimate opportunity, Charlene and Vincent also used their new business plan to secure themselves a spot on the Dragon’s Den (the Canadian version of Shark Tank) to pitch their product.
While their pitch wasn’t successful, having the chance to present to the panel of investors added even more clarity on what they needed to do to move their business forward.
“Part of what makes our business unique is the fact that we were able to be nimble and creative and create our own flavors, so talking to the investors helped solidify that it made sense to get our own space. The questions posed by the investors gave us plenty to think about and having our business plan in place really allowed us to clarify our business goals and get a very good understanding of the landscape that we were working in both in Canada and the U.S. — and even internationally.”
Having had their eyes opened to what was possible for the business, Charlene and Vincent now felt more confident than ever that their business was investable.
Positioning EATABLE, INC. for the Future
Now with the business plan in place, a loan secured, and some great national exposure, EATABLE is growing at a rapid rate.
After spending the first year of operations working on perfecting the product, Charlene and Vincent opened the doors to their e-commerce website in late 2018.
With an upcoming move to a new facility, there are more changes on the horizon for EATABLE, so they’re able to scale and grow their business. They’re working towards hiring and setting up a team to manage the facility and production, which can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task — but thankfully, their business plan helps keep things on track.
Says Vincent, “Through this process, we’ve felt a lot more confident that we knew the direction that we were moving towards for the long term. It gives us that peace of mind that the little steps we take along the way make sense to get us to that end destination that we’re envisioning.”
Not only are the Lis working on getting their production facility up and running, but they’re also working hard to create long-lasting partnerships to ensure their alcohol-infused popcorn continues to be in a league of its own.
Explains Charlene, “We’ve been able to seek some very unique collaborations with local wineries to use their product in our flavors, and we’ve been able to kind of create new, unique flavors for each of those wineries as well. It’s been really exciting to see it all come to life. There’s a lot of outreach that we still have to do, but we’ve been grateful to have worked with some really notable players.”
With an Eye Towards Expansion
With future plans to move their sales into the U.S. market, continuing to expand is a top priority for Charlene and Vincent. But with such a unique product, they know that they will need to do everything they can to get their all-natural, alcohol-infused popcorn in front of as many consumers as possible.
According to Vincent, “People need to be able to try it and taste it. Demoing the product is paramount to making a sale because people don’t know how unique the product is. They have no idea what it could possibly taste like, so they have preconceived notions. We want to challenge people’s expectation of what popcorn can be, and turn it into a gourmet and luxury product that is giftable.”
When asked for any final thoughts on their business plan and working with Written Success, Charlene and Vincent had this to say:
“We use the business plan as our guide anytime we’re talking to an investor or if there’s anyone that has questions. Most of the answers are in the business plan. It’s a great foundation where we can make changes as they happen. It’s a fluid document that will keep evolving, and we like knowing that all of our thoughts and plans are in one place that we can always refer back to.”