How Two Italians Started A Subscription Food Box Business

$10,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
5
Employees
product
EatTiamo
from Cinque Terre
started March 2016
$10,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
5
Employees
3.57M
alexa rank
4.79K
followers
797
followers
118
subs
platform
analytics
blog
seo

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello there! My name is Nicholas Figoli and I co-founded EatTiamo (us.eattiamo.com) alongside with my business partner and high-school friend Francesco Pelosi.

EatTiamo is the first subscription Food Boxes service that delivers each month a selection of Authentic Italian products directly to the doorstep of hundreds of American families to make them live a real Italian experience at home. Each Box features six to seven carefully selected delicacies to prepare a full meal for four people, from appetizer to main course and dessert, and all the recipes to make the preparation easy and fun.

Over the three years of activity, our Boxes have arrived to the table of three hundred American families and we are happy to continue growing.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Both me and my co-founder are originally from Cinque Terre, in the Italian Riviera, a stunning beautiful region in the North of Italy. I studied in Parma and after my graduation I started working in the Marketing field in the multinational company L’Oréal.

Never underestimate the importance of making surveys before starting the business. I see many entrepreneurs that decide to skip this important step thinking that by doing this they will save time and invest it in more “fruitful” operations.

During the last two years of my career, I moved to Paris to work in the company’s headquarters and I can say that EatTiamo was born during those years. As every Italian abroad, I was really missing my country’s cuisine and started looking for Italian products in Paris, but I found out that they were impressively expensive and difficult – almost impossible – to find.

I moved back to Cinque Terre to manage Sun-TIMES, the Marketing and Communication agency I founded with Francesco during University and we launched EatTiamo, the startup that brings the best of Italian food to the United States.

Why the US? Because it’s a market where European rules protecting authentic products don't apply, and therefore it is easy to find fake Italian products: products with Italian names, pictures and wording such as “traditional”, “classic” and “Made in Italy” that, except for the name and the evocative power, have little to do with Italy. This phenomenon, known as Italian Sounding, concerns almost the 80% of the Italian products sold in the US.

In 2015, the Italian accelerator H-Farm selected EatTiamo. The following year, the American startup incubator FOOD-X decided to believe in us and our project and EatTiamo was the first European food startup to enter their program. Sometimes, simple ideas are those that work better.

At the moment, we just finished a successful fundraising campaign and we are constantly improving and growing, but we already received important recognition. In 2017, the Wall Street Journal chose EatTiamo as one of the worldliest and tastiest food subscription boxes.

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Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

The first thing we had to do so was to create our first box was to establish a first network of trusted producers.

We started visiting different small and medium artisanal producers across Italy: we are purveyors of fine and artisanal foods and put as much passion into promoting our Food Basket Delivery as our producers put into creating them. Ever since we launched our Food Box Delivery, we have chosen to work with farmers who work respecting animals, the land and its ancient traditions: we bring to the United States only the best of the best of the Italian creations.

Thanks to the support of the Marketing Agency Sun-TIMES, we launched our website and had all the expertise we needed for important things such as the logo and the packaging. Eattiamo has a kind of double meaning: it’s a blend between “Eat” and “Mangiamo”, both meaning the same things - in Italian and in English. Also, it contains the probably most famous italian sentences: “Ti Amo”. With such a romantic meaning, the logo is a bitten apple but both the apple and the bite are heart-shaped, thus reminding of the passion and the love we put in every Box and we hope to convey to our subscribers. how-two-italians-started-a-subscription-food-box-business

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We also had to find the best shipping service to guarantee perfect delivery timing.

A third matter concerned the necessity of an importer. From the very first moment, we decided to open our American company EatTiamo INC, so as to streamline the importation process. Accrediting ourselves as an importer definitely made it easier to import our Boxes in the United States.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The Ceretto family, one of the biggest producers of Barolo wine in Italy, believed in us from the first moment and decided to invest in EatTiamo when they met us in H-farm.

They have been attracted by our work with small producers and the help we provided them to exploit all the possibilities connected with the digital work.

In 2017 our innovative business model, the strong inclination for digital solutions and the ability in exporting the products of our network have convinced two Chinese exporters to invest more than 200,000$ on EatTiamo and in 2017 we managed to collect almost 280,000$ more with a crowdfunding campaign and invest them in communication.

We aim at reaching the break-even point of 1000 boxes/Month by 2020.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our strength is first of all the really high quality of our products and over the past three years we have built a network of more than 800 trusted Artisanal producers: from the best balsamic vinegar of Modena, to the Olives grown on the terraces above the Ligurian sea, from the honey made traveling across Italy, to the cantucci and the ladyfingers baked according to oldest tradition.

EatTiamo is the easiest way to cook Authentic Italian Food at home. All the food Boxes come with quick and easy traditional recipes so that customers can start cooking sooner. We offer the possibility to choose among Subscription plans or gift options: lot of people have chosen one (or more) food Boxes as the perfect gift from every occasion, from Holidays to Father’s or Mother’s Day, from Birthdays to New Home gift. We don’t forget about people with peculiar needs and therefore offer special boxes, such as Gluten Free, Bio, Vegan… Last but not least, we offer free shipping with no minimum purchase and we have a team always ready to assist customers.

Most of our customers are acquired directly from the organic search, even if a good amount find us through the bloggers we collaborate with, as well. For the moment we hadn’t done any paid ad, but we think we will launch a big paid campaign before Christmas.

Our digital strategy is a coherent mix of different channels. We have a website which is the hub of our contents and it is where customers access our products and all the information about who we are and our positioning. We do not exclusively focus on products, but we put a great effort in telling why we want to operate in the market, with our vision, mission, and goals.

Over the last six months, we definitely improved our initial website, by creating a Magazine section where we can truly communicate with our customers and, at the same time, improving our SEO.

We also work on social media, being more descriptive on Facebook and more emotional on Instagram, with the help of bloggers, influencers and reviewers which helped us to reach awareness towards our different audiences.

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Two months ago, we also opened our Amazon sale channel, where we sell different kinds of Balsamic Vinegar and three Boxes from our selections. Customers seems to appreciate them, especially our Balsamic Vinegar cuvé 4, that has a really good value for price: in just two Months we have received more than 30 orders, definitely better than we thought!

how-two-italians-started-a-subscription-food-box-business

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

At the moment, we are selling our boxes on our website, on Amazon, where customers can find a selection of our best sellers, and on Cratejoy. Our main goal is to raise awareness in the United States so as to boost sales.

In this sense, the campaign we are preparing at the moment for the Winter Holidays 2019 is a real turning point: we will sell our Boxes in some well-known gourmet food retailer across the United States. This will help us to begin our B2B activities and to reach our break even point by the end of 2020.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The most important thing I have learnt is never take anything for granted.

As an Italian, I perfectly know the quality and the use of the food we sell, but the experience taught me that it is not the same for our American customers. For instance, it is important to clearly explain why one should pay a lot of money for a real Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, with PDO label, instead buying a cheap imitation from the grocery store. In Italy we all know that Balsamic Vinegar is a really expensive product and that super market products may have additives such as coloring and sugar, but for those who have never tasted the difference, it may be senseless to spend so much money for a product that can be found everywhere and at a cheaper cost.

In this sense, a good decision we made was to convert our e-commerce into a subscription box model. At the very beginning, in fact, we were selling single products, then we decided to launch the box model. In this way we reach a twin goal: by selecting high-quality products from small and medium sized companies, we help them reaching a high-potential market like the American one. For most of them, indeed, it is difficult to overcome the Italian boundaries, due to high export cost and complicated bureaucratic procedures.

At the same time, our Boxes come with all the instructions and the ingredients needed for a full meal: not only customers are guided step-by-step in the creation of their dishes, but they find everything they need in the Box, so there’s no chance of doing wrong while buying ingredients at the super market!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We are currently using WordPress to manage our website and Semrush as SEO tool.

Of course, we also use Google Analytics for insight about our audience.

For what concern shopping platform, we are also on Amazon and Cratejoy.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Subscribed: Why the subscription model will be your company’s future by Tien Tzuo really helped us in the decision of transforming our business into a subscription model. The book clearly explains the advantages and the potential of this model at present time and has really inspired us.

Another book that I suggest to read - regardless of the kind of business one have or want to start - is “This is Marketing” by Seth Godin. It is an essential reading for everyone who is involved in marketing!

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I think that a good advice is to never underestimate the importance of making surveys before starting the business.

I see many entrepreneurs that decide to skip this important step thinking that by doing this they will save time and invest it in more “fruitful” operations. However, it is extremely important to know your customers, their preferences and their attitude and the idea of “saving time” often tend to backfire and results in lack of earnings.

So, first of all, take your time and do not act in haste even if the enthusiasm and the thirst for money suggest the opposite.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

At the moment we have all the positions we need, but we will consider hiring new employees as soon as our B2B activities will be well established.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Nicholas Figoli,   Founder of EatTiamo

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