In her Dunedin chocolate factory, surrounded by piles of cacao-filled hessian sacks, OCHO General Manager Angela Howell ponders the question. “What would you do if you were told you couldn’t use Upstock anymore?”
“I’d quit!” she laughs, “Life's too short to go back to the old way”
When a massive Christmas order popped into the email inbox last October it was carefully filed away … and never seen again.
“The customer contacted me on the 7th of December, saying ‘where is it?’ and that was my pivot - I thought, this just can't happen”, Angela says.
“We managed to fulfil it, but it was incredibly stressful for everyone involved. And it shouldn't be like that.
Come the New Year she got OCHO on Upstock and will never look back.
Angela says taking stressful mistakes out of the equation was her trigger to check out what Upstock had to offer.
"What's been really amazing is that in a few short months it’s helped us go from 200 customers to 250 thanks to a quicker, slicker customer on-boarding process. Upstock has taken away all the barriers that made it hard when a new customer wanted to stock our chocolate”.
In the early days OCHO started out with sending an email onboarding document, then moved to a Google Form which brought some improvement, but Angela says the old ways always felt like they were losing control of the process and risking losing the customer.
“It's made onboarding so easy. Now I send them a link, and I can tell them ‘hand on heart’ it will take you no more than two minutes. It just removes so much friction from your customer acquisition”
Angela also turned to Upstock because of concerns about making the right impression with her supermarket customers, particularly Foodstuffs. Ocho started out in 17 Foodstuffs stores and is alwayscoveting more supermarket shelf space – but they need certainty as they grow that they can deliver on their promise.
“Having the Foodstuffs integration has given us full confidence – we've now got our ducks in a row.”
Angela was first attracted to Upstock when a missed Christmas order caused a last-minute scramble to get it fulfilled. She turned to Upstock to get her systems sorted – the big attraction for her was the Foodstuffs integration because she knew it would put Ocho in the best position with the supermarkets.
“Basically, Upstock gives me the confidence that we can go and aggressively market to Foodstuffs, knowing we can fulfil whatever they need, without any drama.”
More from our chat with Angela:
How did Ocho start? Chocolate making has been happening in Dunedin for 150 years, but when the Cadbury’s factory closed in 2018 that left a lot of those involved in its manufacturer distressed and looking for ways to keep the industry alive. The community pulled together and raised the funds to invest in OCHO [pronounced Otch-oh]. We now have 3800 shareholders. We’re community-owned, and our largest shareholder has 11% of the business. ‘Zero Fatcats' is what we like to call it.
Describe your business and your brand: Our strapline is ‘pure chocolate’. So our philosophy is basically exploitation free, and nothing else added - just chocolate. Most of our chocolate has two ingredients. The first ingredient being cacao, which we sourced directly from South Pacific growers. And it comes here unroasted. We do everything. It literally comes in these big sacks, then we add sugar and it leaves in a bar. Our philosophy is ‘chocolate is beautiful - don't mess with that’. So we don't use any flavourings. We don't use any emulsifiers, we don't use any other oils. Like, you know, the famous palm oil with Cadbury's and a lot of the other manufacturers. We use cocoa butter and it is really expensive, particularly when you're paying for it properly.
What are the top 3 biggest benefits of using Upstock? Number One is the ability for our customers to see what we have in stock in real-time. Because when they call or email or whatever, we have to go back and check and then communicate, it's not available etc. Number two, one thing that I really love is that we used to find it problematic to take orders in advance, particularly around Christmas time, because they just get lost in emails, now they're sitting there with a dispatch date and we can just run a query at any time of 'unshipped orders on date', and just make sure that we haven't missed anything. The third thing that I really love is that now instead of all the email communication it's sitting on the order. So anyone who looks at that order can see the flow of communication
Have there been any unexpected benefits to using Upstock? It basically made our marketing money worthwhile. It is so hard to acquire a new customer, you get to the point where they want to become a customer, but to close them, that's the really important bit, and Upstock made it easy. Now there’s no more off-putting paperwork for potential new customers.
Any advice for your younger self? The advice I would give myself is this, and it’s especially a ‘woman thing’. Just believe in yourself and trust your instinct. It's taken me a really long time to trust my first thought. And I would have made way fewer mistakes in my life if I just always trusted my gut. That’s in business and across the board. Just trust your gut. Because it's here for a reason. And this is what we tell our children I always say to my kids, if something feels wrong, it's wrong. You don't need to justify it.