She was actually an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. Marielle Smit started a company at the age of 21 that deployed employees to events and shops. Success; At the beginning of 2020, it had 16 employees and 500 people it could deploy.
Then came the aura. Smit and her partner were still trying to get creative. For example, the “one and a half meter long hostess” was designed, who – with a collar around her – had to indicate one and a half meters on the shopping street.
Did not help. Fourteen of the sixteen employees had to leave. “Either everything goes downhill or we make sure we let this train go slowly,” Smit concluded.
Another idea has been floating around in her head for a while: fresh frozen baby food. In 2018, Smit became a mother. She preferred to give her daughter snacks of fresh fruits and vegetables. That is why, after a hard day’s work, she still steamed and mashed vegetables in the evening. Her boyfriend thinks she’s crazy.
Smit asked friends how they did it. Due to the lack of fresh baby food in the supermarket, they chose jars. “Not from now,” Smit says. “It’s pasteurized, the flavors are flat and the snack with bananas often contains only 10 percent bananas.”
The entrepreneur decided to create a baby food brand himself: Mama’s Deli. And even though Smit already had the necessary experience, and that she came from an entrepreneurial family, it wasn’t that easy at first.
Savings account loot
The first uncertain element: money. A portion of her savings account was “looted” for startup capital. That was very different from starting her first company.
“When you’re 21, and you have to spend some savings on something, you think ‘yes boo’. But when you’re 30, you have a baby, you’re pregnant and you’re building a house, it’s very exciting.”
The second hurdle: She didn’t eat any cheese from the entire food industry. There was only one person you knew who worked in the food industry: businessman Manon van Essen, who successfully marketed pizza with vegetables. A cup of coffee with Van Essen led her to the first step: the search for a good product.
Named: “It’s a vulnerable target group that you have to deal with. The best thing is to find a product that already exists in this world, with valid testimonials. When you just come and take a look, you have to be very sharp about it.”
Without further contact, she was at the mercy of the search engine Google. There she eventually came up with the manufacturer she was looking for. Fearing something might “go wrong” with her new baby’s food one day, she hired a pediatric dietitian and molecular nutrition consultant as well as the experienced producer.
With a team of experts around, it’s time for the next step: testing the flavors. In cooperation with the producer, she has created and manufactured various snacks for children. “I’ve eaten a lot of baby food in a year,” she says with a laugh.
A group of friends and family with children were also allowed to take the test. “That snack with oatmeal is still so thick, it didn’t come out of the package,” she was told. Then the recipe was modified again.
In the meantime, Smit told supermarkets to “make a great show”. But the door remained closed. “You’re brand new and no one finds you interesting. One person doesn’t respond, the other says ‘thank you’ and you end up in the big pile.”
It would have stayed that way if there hadn’t been an interview in the magazine Nou’s parents. Knocked out the magazine before. Smit thought it wasn’t appropriate at the time: to be glamorous on the cover of a magazine, while her hospitality business was in tatters.
But when she wanted to launch Mama’s Daily, she called the editors anyway. A golden step, because the interview was a turning point. Soon after publishing, her inbox was filled with pre-orders for trial boxes. “I thought in advance: there will be fifteen pre-orders. Fifty at most. But there were more than a thousand!”
Supermarket on the sidewalk
More good news followed: the department stores, which had not previously given Smit a glimpse, suddenly knocked on the door themselves after the interview. “I called Albert Heijn, who immediately showed me the door. Then the negotiations differed too, because now they knocked on my door instead of the other way around.”
Picnic and Crisp online stores are also close by. Mama Deli bags have recently become available on online shelves for Jumbo and express delivery company Zapp.
The trial phase in supermarkets is now over and more and more Smits baby food flavors are available in more and more locations. In order to be able to handle the amount of production, a separate plant for the production of baby food was also set up.
Smith still can’t believe how fast things have gone. “At a certain point, I came to a multi-tenant building that housed all kinds of food startups. The companies that had been active for a longer time came to sit at the table with me. How did I get my product in the supermarket. Only then can you realize how hard it actually is” .
next step? New target audience. Parents also prefer to give older children fresh fruits and vegetables. Smit also wants to market fresh, frozen meals to them.
And even then, she doesn’t have to get bored, because now that the corona metrics are more fluid, the market for her hospitality company is also picking up again.