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An Interview with Lois Gamerman

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President/CEO

Soft Stuff Distributors, Inc. | Jessup, MD

Connect with Lois on LinkedIn

1. What are the goods/services offered by your primary business?

For the past 30 years, my company Soft Stuff Distributors, Inc., has solidified our position as the Premier Specialty Foodservice Distributor in the Mid-Atlantic. We feature breads, desserts, ice cream, hors d'ouevres, fresh soups, Better For You and Emerging Brands to hotels, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, convention centers, schools, and other hospitality venues.

2. What did you launch in response to the COVD-19 pandemic?

We launched two Direct to Consumer grocery delivery businesses, shopsoftstuff.com and feedingukosher.com

3. What steps did you take to develop and promote your new initiative?

We decided that since there was pandamonium in the grocery space and since we had hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory, we should launch a grocery delivery business. We spun up a website in three weeks and set out to capture a portion of the market that was unable to get food through traditional grocery delivery platforms. We hired the digital marketing firm Mighteor to help us craft a strategy for advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

4. What or who inspired you to undertake this effort?

Survival: pure and simple. These are historic and horrific times especially if you are servicing the restaurant industry and you need to be agile and clever to survive.

5. What results have you seen so far from this initiative?

We have had a moderate level of success. Every day we have more customers and unique visitors to our webstore. Our revenue is growing.

6. How do you define success for your project?

Defining success is not a simple one sentence response. The first step in defining success is getting validation from your customers that you have a genuinely good idea for a business and that they would not only become a customer, but would be a frequent customer. That the business has "stickiness". Then we would test and redefine, test and redefine until we hit upon the secret for keeping traffic flowing and sales increasing. Then, when we have seen that we can actually scale and generate profits we would say we are on our way towards being successful.

7. What are the biggest challenges for you to meet your goal?

We didn't know what we were doing and to a great extent we still don't. We have been able to connect with some great experts in the field of e-commerce and they are helping us figure things out.

8. How long do you anticipate continuing this effort?

As long as we see the business continuing to progress and grow, it is our plan to stay in the business for at least 5 years.

9. What have you learned by undertaking this project?

I have learned from undertaking the project that after 30 plus years in the Foodservice business, that there is still so much more to be learned. That there is a huge difference between the buying behaviors of consumers versus culinary professionals. Their needs though can align and we are now offering to culinary professionals a more robust portfolio of products that we didn't carry before like seafood, poultry, meats, dairy and produce. During these times of uncertainty and slow sales, chefs want to now buy produce by the piece or by sample, rather than by the case. We are allowing them to better manage food costs, food waste and cashflow. All of this is making Soft Stuff a stronger company!

10. How can others learn more about your COVID-19 response efforts?

I am happy to speak to anyone about my COVID-19 "swivel". I didn't pivot, I did not move away from my primary business. I just created two more and have been swiveling between them! I can be reached at loisg@gosoftsuff.com