In June of 2018, District Ventures Capital funded five startups with $130,000 each to help their businesses grow into global brands. Drizzle Honey, a Calgary-based startup, was approached to pivot its business strategy from being a high-end honey product to becoming an everyday staple in homes across Canada.
“I wanted to sell in small shops, and I didn’t understand the concept of distribution or brokerage—with mentorship from District Ventures, I realized where the brand could go,” said Aja Horsley, founder of Drizzle Honey. Since May 2018, the business doubled its distribution, making its product available in 250 stores across Canada, including four Safeway locations in Calgary—huge growth since Drizzle Honey was first stocked on shelves in a gift shop on Vancouver Island in 2016.
We got specific about why we’re different and started to see the growth come.
First, Horsley and her team needed to focus the company’s value proposition to increase product usage and expand distribution, a goal of the District Ventures program for its cohort five members. “We were a boutique, luxury honey,” said Horsley about how the company originally marketed itself. “Now, we’re completely raw, bee friendly, and 100 per cent Canadian. We’re innovative with our first to market line of superfood honeys.”
Looking back on her journey as an environmental scientist, who discovered a need for sustainable beekeeping, Horsley never thought her product would be sold in a Canadian grocery chain. “I walked into the grocery store the other day, and [Drizzle Honey] was sitting there. And, I thought, I can’t believe how far this product has come in a short amount of time. If you want to find a gap in the market, you have to get specific about what you’re looking for." While in Toronto to market her product line at the One of a Kind Winter Show, Horsley delved into the details of her business growth:
YouInc: What’s contributed to your growth in the past year?
Aja Horsley: A lot of work [laughs] and diligent strategy planning. I think small businesses often don’t understand what their value proposition is—we got specific about why we’re different and started to see the growth come. We also looked closely at our financial projections and worked with more marketing.
YI: How did you test what people wanted?
AH: We worked with a food scientist and did a SWOT analysis to discover the gap in the honey market. We knew there was nobody doing anything in the functional honey realm—being health-conscious and bringing more flavour and usage to the table.
Everyone was producing raw honey as well as a lot of pasteurized, squeeze bear honey. We looked at what else was out there including the type of ingredients, flavour profiles and how they’ll fit together, and what was healthy, but not too scary of a food. We wanted something that was also approachable and could easily be integrated into recipes.
YI: Where are your products selling the most?
AH: Regular grocery stores—that's where we make the most money. We also do well in health food stores and speciality food stores. We’re across Canada now, and our hometown of Calgary does best.
YI: Have your customers changed?
AH: The target market didn’t change, but the consumption rate changed. People are buying more. When we were boutique, it was more of an indulgence. Now that it’s an everyday honey, people are using it all of the time.
YI: Did your price points change?
AH: We had to drop our price points, but we’re still a premium honey; we only came down a few dollars. In terms of food, a few dollars can make a big difference in your price point in the grocery aisle.
YI: What have you learned about yourself?
AH: I’m capable of learning skills more quickly than I thought. I’m able to handle stress and the pressure of business better than I thought, which was a learned skill. It took time to become resilient. And, that I could get so obsessed with something [laughs]; I didn’t think I could become obsessed with my career.
YI: Where do you want the business to go in the next year?
AH: I’d like to make sure we’re covering off all the major grocery chains over the course of 2020 in Canada. No plans for the US until Canada is totally solid.