How to partner with a big brand

Lisa Sohanpal is the founder of Mini nom nom's, creators of healthy world food ready meals for kids. They're stocked in Selfridges, Ocado and more - and have just partnered up with well-loved children's brand The Gruffalo to release a very British ready meal of roast chicken dinner (with a little chocolate cake for dessert). We asked Lisa a few questions about how startups can get the most out of partnering with a big brand.

How did the partnership come about? Did they approach you or did you approach them?

We launched at the trade show called LUNCH 2014, where we won our first Gold award for innovation. The Gruffalo team from Magic Light Pictures and TLC approached us at the LUNCH show, and were attracted to the fact that we are a new healthy world food brand for kids. With their interest in entering the food space, they were looking for licensee partners to work with. Both parties thought it was a great match, the Gruffalo team feel really strongly about quality ingredients and the health value of their Gruffalo range, and it was great timing for Mini nom nom's, which was gaining credibility as 'one to watch' in the food industry.

How can you tell if a particular partnership is right for your business?

Firstly, any potential partnership should be assessed based on synergies in values, messages, vision and quality, plus it needs to be the case that both brands appeal to the same target demographic. In this case, the demographic is kids and parents. It’s a market opportunity for both businesses, so both businesses need to assess that the four P’s - namely price, promotion, place and product - are relevant and aligned. I would add another P - and that’s people. You can tell if a particular partnership is right for you if the people you are partnering with share the same passion and work collaboratively to ensure that it is a success for both brands. For Mini nom nom’s in particular, it presented the perfect opportunity to introduce a traditional British cuisine to add to our world food portfolio that currently includes dishes from North and South India, Malaysia and Morocco.

What would make you decline the offer of partnering up?

We would decline the offer of partnering up if the potential opportunity would not add value to the current business financially or strategically.

What has the response been so far?

The response has been phenomenal so far. We launched Gruffalo nom nom’s at Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival recently on 28th August 2015, where we showcased for the very first time our British Roast Chicken Dinner that also comes with the dessert of a sugar free chocolate cake and sauce. The response from both kids and grown-ups was so good that we actually sold out in a day and a half out of a three day event, and we are still getting daily enquiries asking when it will be available in retail. Some families were coming back the next day to have  more! We are on to a winner with this meal and partnership for sure.

What does partnering up with the Gruffalo brand give you?

The partnership gives us a wider audience, more credibility, investment and increased brand awareness. It importantly gives us a clear association with the best-selling, much loved children's picture book, The Gruffalo, which helps create world recognition and attraction to brand Mini nom nom’s.

When working with a big brand, how can you keep things equal?

Equality in the relationship comes by working collaboratively during every stage of the development phase. Aligning to both brand guidelines and ensuring communication is clear between both businesses is vital.

Any tips for small businesses looking to approach big brands or work with them?

Do your research and ensure that the partnership will demonstrate strategic value and growth to your business, and understand exactly what that value will be. Ask yourself honestly, what is the projected growth and how will you achieve it with and without the partnership. Determine exactly the costs involved and the return on investment you are likely to achieve with the partnership.