**Make sure your SOUND IS ON to hear the full sound bite above from Sophia Maroon**
Last week, we were joined by Sophia Maroon, the owner and founder of Dress It Up Dressing,
on my new podcast, The Entrepreneur Evolution. In the episode, Sophia shared about her journey, from starting her own company to navigating the challenges of COVID-19 as a business owner. Sophia is a beacon of hope, light, and generosity for other business owners and parents. She provided tons of gold nuggets for how to get through this chapter, and I wanted to highlight her incredible journey here on our blog as well.
Sophia began making her own salad dressing because she didn’t like the ingredients in the dressings on the market. But Sophia also has three children and didn’t want to spend a ton of time making her own dressing consistently. Store bought dressings often use canola oil, tons of sugar, and something called xantham gum, which, Sophia emphasizes, are not quality ingredients. At this point, Sophia saw a hole in the market for salad dressings with ingredients you would use if you were crafting dressing from scratch. From there, she started giving salad dressing to friends and saying, “I’ve got this idea…what do you think?” Friends started sharing Sophia’s dressing with more friends, and a representative from Whole Foods eventually tried her recipe. She recalls the Whole Foods staff member saying, “We don’t sell anything like this. If you can make it properly, not with your three-year-old peeling the garlic, we’ll put it on the shelves.”
Sophia and I both participated in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 program, and so much of this program was about exploring your challenge and your next innovative idea. We all made pitches and, Sophia’s pitch, as she described, was about her single serving salad dressing packets. She designed them to be the perfect solution for the active, grab and go lifestyle. She crafted her entire business proposition around busy people with busy lives. The goal was to make eating healthfully possible wherever you went.
February 1 was the day that Dress It Up Dressing launched their salad dressing packets. They were single serving salad dressings exclusive to Whole Foods throughout the Mid- Atlantic region. The packets hit stores on February 1, and they were slowly taking off between February 1 and March 8, which is when Maryland, where Sophia lives, closed down due to COVID-19. Dress It Up Dressing was growing exponentially prior to March 8. Sophia remembers feeling excited and grateful. Her sales were fulfilling every single expectation and forecasting model she had mapped out and then some. By March 3, the packets were responsible for 11% of her net sales and 30% of unit sales; she was seeing massive growth within 30 days. She recalls selling 200 cartons the week before the pandemic struck, and at that point, Dress It Up Dressing was in at least 20 stores. The following week, she sold five. The week after she sold zero.
Her packets were on salad bars, but the salad bars were shut down. It was like sales just vanished overnight. She had also secured sales to universities and business campuses, places with big cafeterias, but all of those orders were cancelled within the first week of March.
Sophia describes February as the most glorious realization of all of her expectations. It seemed like everything she had promised investors and customers was coming to fruition. Then, almost
overnight, there was no place for her product at all. No one was going anywhere! That wasn’t a part of her growth plan, and she never would have thought that her daily life would look like it does now.
It took a little time for it to sink in, but, quickly, every single link in the food industry began looking out for each other. Business owners in the industry realized that without different links supporting each other, everybody would go out of business. From there, Sophia was on the phone with her manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and customers. Everyone in the supply chain was asking, “What can we do?”
Dress It Up Dressing has had a partnership with the DC Central Kitchen for years; they serve Sophia’s dressings to DC public schools. So, she called them the day schools closed and asked, “How can we help?” Dress It Up Dressing ended up donating 2000 dressing packets at that point, which provided salad dressing for 2 full weeks and 2000 meals. Sophia and her distributor realized the supply chain of schools needed some help. The distributor could fill in the gaps, and local farmers actually had a lot more reliable produce than the big suppliers like Cisco and US foods. The big suppliers were simply overwhelmed! To Sophia, the importance of the regional food system has never been so apparent.
So, everyone came together…distributors, suppliers, farmers, schools, families, and more. Through that, Dress It Up Dressing is now busier than ever. Rather than flux supplying universities and businesses, they are supplying school systems and the World Central Kitchen. Sophia estimates Dress It Up Dressing has recently contributed to over 25,000 meals between the World Central Kitchen and the DC Central Kitchen. Her work is ongoing, and her salad dressing is getting into more and more hands.
Although Sophia acknowledges her dressing won’t save any lives, she is passionate about providing a product that values her customer’s health and wellbeing. For now, she is perfectly willing to sacrifice profit margin; she knows the world will eventually reopen. There will be a time to sell, but that time is not now.
Sophia equates this scenario to the children’s book Stone Soup; in that book, everybody just brought what they had. It’s beautiful, really. And that, Sophia emphasized, is why she can tell this story with a smile rather than tears streaming down her face.
You can listen to the full episode below!
ABOUT ANNETTE WALTER
Much like Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” who lends his expertise to struggling businesses, Annette analyzes businesses, supports them with the right resources, and designs the plan they need in order to go from surviving to thriving.
Annette Walter has started, acquired, owned and operated more than 15 companies in her lifetime. As a wife, mother of two young boys, and owner of a national company, Timber Industries, that was included on last year’s Inc. 5000 list, she is able to serve her true purpose and passion in coaching and consulting entrepreneurs through her business coaching company, iEvolve Consulting. Annette works with business owners across the globe in various industries to support their overall well-being, teams, and operations. As an operations expert and strategist, she works with business owners to help them identify organizational gaps and opportunities in their companies. She works with businesses to help make their finances, marketing efforts, technology solutions, and sales more efficient and effective.
If you would like to know more about iEvolve Consulting, visit: http://www.ievolveconsulting.com, or send an email to YouRock@iEvolveConsulting.com.
Purpose. Process. Propel.