MATCHA MARKETPLACE, LLC
MATCHA MARKETPLACE, LLC
Matcha MarketPlace, LLC is a specialty food business in Napa, CA that combines ‘Matcha’ with Non-GMO Whole Grain Rolled Oats to create a wonderful and healthy breakfast offering, available in unique flavors like Blueberry Coconut and Lemon Ginger along with traditional flavors such as Apple Cinnamon and Cranberry Walnut. Matcha is Japanese green tea ground to a very fine powder and provides a concentrated dosage of the most powerful antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins for healthy living. Matcha MarketPlace products are very high in quality with great presentation and excellent taste.
Twenty years ago I started a biscotti business, Bella Biscotti and caught the entrepreneurial bug. After 10 years of baking biscotti, cookies and coffee cakes I decided I wanted to create a unique food product but in the healthy food category. While searching for an idea, my daughter came home with a selection of beautiful and colorful pink, blue and yellow tea leaves. After reading that steeping tea leaves in hot water has many major health benefits, I added some to my oatmeal the next morning thinking that if you actually ingested the entire tea leaf the health benefits would be that much better for you. It looked beautiful but the leaves were inedible. After doing some research I stumbled upon Matcha and ordered it from Japan. I spent time experimenting with flavors, packaging, etc. and then joined a local Farmers Market where I sold out of all my product the very first morning. That is when I decided to go full speed ahead with Matcha MarketPlace. I first approached a specialty food market that had 10 locations and was accepted as a local product. Once I was selling successfully in this chain of stores I approached our local Whole Foods and they accepted Matcha MarketPlace, placing it in 7 local locations. From there I joined many other Farmers Markets and launched our website, matchamarketplace.com. We have been in business now since 2010 and have been growing with each passing year.
Currently, you can find Matcha MarketPlace in 35+ Whole Foods Stores in the Northern Region of California along with many local specialty food stores. We attend several weekly farmers markets along with participating in special events and food shows. Farmers Markets have been a wonderful outlet for Matcha MarketPlace. At farmers markets we are able to sample our product, offering two flavors to choose from. We cook the oatmeal right at our tent on propane burners and spoon out a small portion for customers to try. Samples are key to acquiring new customers. Some people walking by say “Green Tea Oatmeal” that sounds strange but once we call them over and hand them a sample their view changes and the comments are more like “Gees, who would have ever thought”, or our favorite comment, “I love Green Tea and I love oatmeal but I never thought of putting them together”. Offering a discounted price is important as well. We offer a discount to our farmers market customers which is when you buy three or more bags, each bag has a $1 discount. This is important and shows the customer that we appreciate their business. We have many loyal online customers from throughout the country which we have acquired over the years and participating at the Farmers Market in a tourist spot like Napa is very helpful for our online sales. The Napa Farmers Market is made up mostly of tourist who are happy to spend the mornings outside enjoying the great weather, etc. before hitting the wineries in the afternoon. We have found that many of the tourist who try our oatmeal also ask for a business card/website so that they can order online once they get home. Hence, we get many online orders from all over the country and these orders would not be possible if it weren’t for the Farmers Markets and sampling, etc.
Matcha MarketPlace was fortunate to have been mentioned in many magazines as a local product which without a doubt has helped to get the word out about our company. Our favorite shout out was in Phoenix where we were featured in the Eat Beat-Local Product. The article written in the Fall highlighted the slight nip in the morning air and that it was time to swap your cold cereal for something warm and satisfying, like a steaming bowl of heart-healthy oatmeal made even healthier by Matcha MarketPlace. The article explained that matcha is purported to have more antioxidants than other green teas since it is consumed whole versus steeped and discarded. Our flavor profile and packaging presentation was described in detail and the picture along side the write up was beautiful, a perfect display of our product.
Challenges for Matcha MarketPlace–
Like most small businesses there are constant challenges and hurdles to overcome, it seems to come with the territory. Our biggest challenge to date was working with a national distributor. The industry standard of small profit margins, fees, percentages due to distributors and store owners can close the doors to small businesses like Matcha MarketPlace. After a few years of working with a national distributor we realized that the numbers just weren’t working in our favor and made the decision to stop national distribution and focus on marketing locally. The fact that California has hundreds of specialty food stores featuring healthy and unique products like ours allows us to focus primarily in CA and stay local with a distributor from San Francisco where we have been able to grow our market share.
As with most (if not all) businesses, Matcha MarketPlace had to pivot quickly once the Covid lockdowns were in place. All farmers markets were stopped which is a large source of our revenue. In store demos were cancelled and no longer allowed. Demos are the best way to sell your product, hands down. Being able to talk to a potential customer about your product and to hand them a sample to try is crucial for a food business to get their product out there. Our experience with demos, which we did in stores as well as at farmers markets, proved to be the best way to sell. More times than not when a customer tried a sample of our matcha green tea oatmeal they put a bag in their cart/basket and walked off. We hope the ability of doing demos are brought pack to the grocery stores as they are a very important aspect to selling food products.
An upside for Matcha MarketPlace during the Covid shutdown was our increase in online sales. As we all witnessed, online shopping increased dramatically and we were fortunate to be on the receiving end of it. Our online sales increased due to more online marketing and promoting but also because shopping on line was the thing to do.
Opportunities for Matcha MarketPlace–
The biggest opportunity for Matcha MarketPlace is the fact that we have a very unique and discriminating product. Matcha is slowly but surely being recognized as the next superfood. Combining the healthiness of matcha along with the healthiness of a longtime, much loved and enjoyed (by young and old) breakfast offering such as oatmeal, puts us in a wonderful place to work hard and grow our business and to get the following message out there:
“WHY JUST DRINK YOUR GREEN TEA WHEN YOU CAN EAT IT TOO!
Advice to those who are thinking about starting their own business–
From day one, Matcha MarketPlace made the decision to not go into debt at anytime (also known as boot strapping the business). Matcha MarketPlace rolled all profits back into the building of the business. This mindset is important, although not easy. If possible, I recommend to anyone starting a business to try and make ends meet without using a credit card or a loan. The stress that comes with having debt and trying to make monthly payments on top of the stress that comes with starting a business could have negative effects. Start your business slowly, preferrable when you are still currently employed, also known as a side hustle. With a side hustle you have the ability to work your regular job and receive your regular paycheck but also work on your business idea in your spare time, nights and weekends. Having a reliable source of income coming in every week while you are starting a business helps relieve some of the stress that comes with launching a new idea. Another benefit of the side hustle is that you get the chance to slowly get your idea/product out there and get a sense as to the response/need/want of your service or product.
Advice to others who have a dream/passion of having their own specialty food business is simple. If you have the work ethic needed and a unique idea/product then go for it. The last thing you want to do is to be sitting in your rocking chair when your older saying to yourself, “why didn’t I just take the chance? I had such a great idea but didn’t take the risk. Why?” As they say, “You never know until you give it a try!”