FROM DESIGNERS TO FOOD INDUSTRY DISRUPTORS: THE EASYPEASY! STORY
Updated: Aug 16
When the pandemic's initial lockdowns hit, all our planned projects vanished overnight. My immediate thinking was, well, we had a nice run—this might just be the end of the road for our studio. Brushing off the shock, Felicia and I (my sister and business partner) immediately got to thinking about how we could pivot and create an opportunity, using our expertise to do something productive. In the days leading up to the lockdown, I had seen a surge in demand for grocery delivery services, but all platforms were at max capacity. With a connection to produce as we recently completed a brand project for Gambles and having the ability to build a brand and e-commerce solution, the direction was a no brainer. Could a small boutique design studio pull off the ultimate pivot and launch a successful online grocery program? Little did we know that we were about to embark on building a small business that would bring in over $250K in sales revenue in the first year of operation.
Within days, we choose a name (Easypeasy!), designed a logo, created our product, sourced suppliers, developed a logistics plan, and built an easy to use e-commerce site. Our concept was simple: provide pre-determined grocery kits that included the basic staples, such as bread, eggs, pantry items, and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. We had placed our first order for goods that would allow us to sell 30 boxes—maybe we could move that in 2-3 days? We had no idea if this concept would work and if there was a demand for our easy 2-click ‘Fresh Essentials Kit’ product. It was a big gamble (pun intended), as we had a couple thousand dollars worth of fresh produce sitting, hanging in the balance!
After launching the program, we swiftly shifted into PR mode, reaching out to local media to share our unique story and business concept. The idea of two local designers venturing into the online grocery space was so unconventional that it caught the media's attention, and they were eager to learn more about our initiative. Upon our interview with BlogTO going live on launch day, we immediately sold our 30 grocery kits in less than 30 seconds (silly us thinking we had enough product for 3 days). We were not prepared for the true demand that existed and we had to make adjustments fast in order to meet demand.
We called Gambles and asked if they could double our order and consistently fulfill that volume daily—they said yes. We had to pause accepting orders intermittently as it was important for us to only accept orders we could fulfill. Even with our increased capacity, we were still selling out daily. We listened to customer feedback and made adjustments to our program to fit customer needs, such as offering gluten-free options, tofu substitutions, and adding a ‘Dairy Essentials Kit’. It was a whirlwind time for Felicia, myself, and the small fulfillment team we had assembled. We had built an efficient system to take orders and coordinate customer care, liaison with suppliers, facilitate receiving, packing and delivery logistics, along with speaking to the media, guest appearing on podcasts, and working on a marketing plan that looked at analyzing data to continue the success of the program. We hadn’t planned for this business to be a long term commitment, but it was proving to be a lucrative business model, surprisingly a lot of fun too, so where could we take the brand next?
As the summer of 2020 was looking bleak for the many hugely popular Toronto food festivals, we thought: Why don’t we build a food festival in a box concept that could feature a dozen Toronto food creators—delivered-to-the-door and experienced at home. We partnered with several popular Toronto food brands to curate a menu offering like nothing else Toronto had seen before and sold the product on a pre-order basis, exclusively available for the Canada Day long weekend. We had sold 200+ Toronto Foodie Festival boxes during the 2 week pre-order window, which had exceeded our expectations, and our customers too!
With the success of our Toronto Foodie Festival in a box concept, we caught the eye of Oxford Properties shopping center, Square One, to build a similar experience for their food hall concept, The Food District. Our first program with them, the Thanksgiving Banquet Box was similarly successful, which opened the door to continue our partnership, creating more food discovery programs such as the holiday marketplace, Storytime with Santa virtual experience, Tapas box, and even saw the program expanded to Upper Canada Mall for their Market & Co. food hall. With increased sales of our curated food experiences and declining sales of our grocery kit boxes, we decided to focus our efforts on the curated food discovery program and eliminate the grocery kits.
We continued to evolve the food experience program over 2021, with our food program at Square One winning them an ICSC Gold Maxi award in the supporting food markets category. 2021 also saw the resurgence of our creative business and we juggled operating both companies over the course of the year. With Felicia welcoming her first child and going on mat leave, coupled with our creative studio becoming busier with each passing month, I had to make the difficult decision to put Easypeasy! on hiatus after our Toronto Holiday Market Box program, wrapping up 2021.
Looking back at the 2 years of the project, what did we learn? We were the first on the scene with a unique concept solution to a major consumer shift trend, with quite a few imitators popping up along the way in the same space. Our innovative thinking and data analysis kept us ahead of each curve and allowed us to outlast all of our competitors. We also learned invaluable experience in operating an e-commerce biz, food marketing (including forward thinking design, of course), business development, logistics, and running a B2C business. We made connections with a few dozen local Toronto food creators and helped drive sales and brand awareness for those businesses in a time they needed it most. Maybe best of all: Somerton Creative weathered the storm and is still here today to write about our experience, taking all of what we learned into the future of SC. Despite our initial fright, we learned to believe and trust in our resilience, discovering that challenge always creates new opportunities, potential, and a chance for growth.