How an unknown food startup bagged Selfridges as it’s very first client

A few years ago, a company with zero clients and zero sales managed to get Selfridges as their very first account.

How did they do this?

Jealous started out as a business aimed at filling a gap in the sweets market. Taz Basunia and Imran Merza had been looking at the sweets market and were wondering — why is it there are so many gift options for chocolates, but nothing for sweets?

They knew that adults and children alike loved sweets. But giving a gift isn’t just about buying a bag of skittles or haribo — that’s not special. It’s about having a superior product, packaged in a way that makes the recipient feel it’s a special item to receive.

Very quickly, Taz and Imran sourced a manufacturer who could make the sweets we wanted that were worthy of being given as a gift. They also made sure the sweets were vegetarian, all-natural and gluten-free. Why should sweet-lovers have to be carnivores to eat sweets (most gummies have gelatine in them)? Best of all — they tasted fantastic. Over and over again taste tests have proven to drive increased sales.

Allied to this, Taz and Imran also made some beautiful packaging for the product. Something that the quality of the sweets deserved to be wrapped in.

Immediately they set their sights high on getting a first prize client that would bring us credibility to expand elsewhere. That prize client was Selfridges.

We set about finding out who the buyer was. Taz and Imran made some friends within the sweets department at Selfridges and got the buyer’s details. They prepared a nice pitch deck and got it over to them.

No reply.

That’s fine they thought. You just imagine how many people contact them! We will send them some samples of the product. Surely that will turn their heads! So they did.

Still no reply.

They knew it was a competitive place to get into, but were determined to stand out. Over this period Taz and Imran had been spending a lot of time in Selfridges, and made a lot of friends. It became their second home!! From the friends they had made, they found out even more information — the working hours of the buyer!!

Armed with this information, they decided to try and meet them in person. They didn’t want to hassle them — they just wanted to make sure that they tried the product. That’s all. They knew the product was great — they just needed to ensure the buyer tried them.

So they picked a day and waited all day in a coffee shop opposite for the buyer to appear. Eventually they did….they chased them down, got their attention and told them how they had sent them samples but weren’t sure if they had tried it. The buyer hadn’t tried them yet, so Taz and Imran gave her a few boxes, and said “Please try them. If you don’t like them we will not chase you anymore. Here are our details!”.

The next day — we got a call from them — we were in!!

Soon after, seeing Taz and Imran’s ability to gain amazing clients (Harvey Nichols soon followed), how people reacted to the sweets and looking at the market — I invested and became the third cog in the machine.

Today, Jealous haas countless clients, including Whole Foods, Goldman Sachs, Mandarin Oriental and many others. We are also now in 7 countries and expanding out into the US.

Furthermore we have a massive range of fans including arabian princesses and even David Beckham buys our sweets!

We are also raising our next round to fuel this further expansion. Contact me if you want to hear more!

To summarise, I have three takeaways to consider if you want to learn from the above.

1) Be persistent. We have been rejected many times by many clients. Each time we ask ourself, “what can we do different — and better — to try again?”

2) Sometimes you have to be willing to do cheeky things to get noticed (I’m sure many buyers wouldn’t appreciate getting chased down the street!). In fact, almost everyone who has been successful in most areas of life has pushed the boundaries in ways some people would feel wary of doing. Just ensure you always treat people with respect and courtesy — even when you do try to be a bit cheeky.

3) Relationships matter. Taz and Imran were total outsiders in the food space. They didn’t know anyone at Selfridges. But they built relationships with the people who worked in the sweets department at Selfridges — relationships which were critical to getting listed.

All the best entrepreneurs I see are great at finding people who support them — from the smallest to the biggest ways.

Hope this gives some inspiration to those trying to launch their new business. Good luck!

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