The founder behind a start-up selling products in Selfridges, Sainsbury’s and Co-op food stores says attention to detail and persistence are key to landing large contracts with big businesses.

Photo of Ellen Rauen-Prestes

Ella Rauen-Prestes runs low sugar, high protein cake snack business Fitbakes. She says scaling up from a small kitchen into a factory has been hard and scary at times but believes her targeted approach has been one of the reasons why she has been successful.

As soon as she found out that the UK has the largest cake market in the world, standing at £2bn, and there wasn’t a healthy alternative, she knew where she wanted to take – and place – Fitbakes.

She said: “Your pitch to the buyer has to be about how you will help the supermarket make money, why it’s going to sell and how good the margin is for them. You have to sell the business opportunity to them, not the product.

“It could take two months, it could take up to a year.

“Attention to detail is a must. You will get turned down a lot, but it’s part of the journey. Getting on a supermarket shelf is just half of the job. After that your product has to be bought by consumers from the shelf, otherwise you will get delisted and replaced by another product. Shelves have a limited space and thousands of products fighting for it.

“You have to prepare your product to sell itself on the shelf – your packaging will have to do this job.”

Photo of Fitbakes products

Ella built the Fitbakes brand online, helped by a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp. She divided retailers and targeted one category each year. In year one, when focusing online she landed a deal with Musclefood. Year two, when looking at luxury stores, she got Fitbakes into Selfridges.

Year three will see the brand launching in Co-op Midcounties and Sainsbury’s after Ella targeted supermarkets.

Ella also says she couldn’t have done it all alone after receiving help from mentors, including from Virgin StartUp mentor Karen Green.

She added: “We couldn’t really afford paid mentors, so our strategy is to network as much as possible, share our knowledge with other people in the industry and learn from them. I also ask for help. Now we are to launch into Sainsbury’s, I went in and took pictures of all the brands in the Food to Go area and afterwards went onto LinkedIn to find connections with the founders and CEOs of those brands. I messaged a few and managed to get really great tips from some of them. You have to ask for help.”

And looking ahead for the future, Ella has big plans. She said: “It might sound cheeky, but we want to be the Halo Top of cakes. When you launch in a supermarket, you start in 70 stores and if it does well you get to 150 stores, then 300 and so on. We want to be in all 1500 Sainsbury’s stores. In parallel, there are a few other retailers we would like to reach nationwide like the travel industry and coffee shops. And we are already exporting to Germany and the Netherlands, so there’s a lot of international growth in our plans as well.”

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