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Founder Spotlight: Allen Dushi

24 January 2024

A Conversation with the Co-founder + COO, Graza

Key Takeaways…
  • Quality Assurance: Graza prioritizes quality with on-the-ground involvement, lab testing, and specialized packaging.
  • Relationships with Suppliers: Building trust with skeptical suppliers involves regular visits and open communication.
  • Handling Disruptions: Graza’s simple, localized supply chain minimizes disruptions. Quick action and adaptability are crucial.
  • Tips for Avoiding Surprises: Simplify the supply chain, analyze expenses, maintain open communication, and lean on customer feedback.
  • Balancing Quality and Price: Graza’s intentional margin structures support quality while staying competitive in pricing.
  • Final Advice: Dushi emphasizes simplicity, cautioning against launching too many SKUs prematurely, and advocates for a single inventory pool.
1. What is Graza’s general approach to maintaining quality control throughout the supply chain, from sourcing raw materials to delivering finished products to customers?
Graza’s tips for avoiding surprises:
  • Simplify your supply chain: If you’re committed to the standards that you’ve set, it’s actually very easy to identify problems and pivot. We buy from producers we trust, we check the quality, and if it’s good, we put it into a bottle. If there’s a problem, we see it right away and fix it. It’s very simple.
  • Obsess over the numbers: We analyze every single expense, looking for deviations from our budget or inconsistencies week to week, month to month, and year to year. If something looks off, we find where it’s coming from and are nimble enough to replace it.
  • Open communication with buyers and retailers: We’re in touch with our buyers and retailers every single day. Our merchandisers and brokers are interacting with the people on the ground daily, helping us stay ahead of any issues.
  • Lean on customer feedback: I still read every customer service email to make sure our customers are responding positively. If they’re not, we figure out why and how we can fix it. This helps to manage negative feedback before it becomes a pattern or a scalable problem.

From the very beginning, we knew what we wanted the business to look like and were very intentional in creating a framework that would support that vision long term. We always said Graza would be an online brand, but a retail business. From there we did our homework and built our below the line expense and margin structures around what we thought the company was going to be in three years: a majority retail business. Before we even sold a bottle into a retailer or distributer, we put a huge buffer on every dollar we ship or trade.

It’s important for founders to be forward-looking from the start. Our whole foundation is built for success in retail. For example, digitally native brands that have not planned for retail tend to set price points that make sense for their website. That works great, until it comes time to expand into retail or wholesale. By building a business that operates on such a low margin, they accidentally set themselves up for failure by not accounting for trade spend and other operating costs associated with promoting and operation a retail channel. 

About Graza
  • Graza’s ‘Sizzle’ was named the “Best All-Around Olive Oil” by the New York Times
  • Earned $100k in revenue after only one week in business
  • The digitally native brand can be found in over 7,500 stores nationwide
  • Achieved a 5x revenue multiple in its first year in business

About the founders…

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