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My Foodservice Heart Attack

When you almost have a heart attack, more than just your health is put into perspective. Staring up at the bright, white ER lights, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. That was until I found out I had been fired. They say the higher you go, the bigger the risk, but as someone who had never been fired before, I naturally questioned everything. I cried my eyes out and kept thinking to myself, what’s next? At that point, Episode 35 of Supernatural was the only thing next for me, but I knew deep down there was something more out there.

After working for Fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo and Sysco, I cringed at the thought of going back to a big organization to just sell and hit a number. From supply chain and acquisition integrations to sales and customer marketing, I knew every facet of the retail and foodservice landscape and after 23 years, three things were clear to me:

  1. Foodservice has two distinctly different customer sets. Commercial operators, like Panera, are in the business of preparing and selling food.  Non-commercial operators derive revenue from some other activity, like feeding children in a public school. They are obligated or choose to feed people.

  2. Foodservice is an unforgiving space. You have your large companies and your small brands, but both need to build slowly and cater to their customers. The channel is a slow burn, but once the flywheel is cranking you should assume that foodservice delivers revenues equal to those you see from your retail business.

  3. Foodservice is crowded with consultants. There are plenty of consultants out there who know parts of the industry very well, from the viewpoint of the distributor or chain accounts or noncommercial, but very few are cross-functional. Having a 360-degree view of the value chain, from manufacturer to distributor to operator, ensures that you craft the right strategy for your brand.

To keep it short, the foodservice space is complicated, but doesn’t have to be hard. Large CPG companies are trying to diversify and stay relevant, while small, sustainable brands are looking to survive or get acquired. In 2015, the early-stage companies, in particular, didn’t have the cash flow or employees to get setup in the market. They needed folks who could cross-functionally help their businesses grow, which is where the idea of Elohi Strategic Advisors was born.

The word Elohi, which means Earth, was a nod to my paternal great, great grandmother who was Cherokee. The name serves as a reminder that how we farm matters, what we eat matters, and the effect of consumerism on Mother Earth matters.

Over the last four years, Elohi has gone through a variety of changes from leadership to identity, but at our core, we do one thing very well: we help sustainable brands navigate the world of foodservice. Similar to our clients, we’re learning and evolving every day to match the needs of the industry.

Today, I’m proud to announce the launch of the new Elohi Strategic Advisors brand — one that showcases our mission to empower companies to pioneer, develop, and innovate in the foodservice industry. Our experts provide leadership, strategy, and execution expertise across sales, marketing, and product to companies in the foodservice industry.