So last week we were informed that an opportunity to present to Kroger had popped up. Did you hear me? KROGER. Ok, so we hadn’t even considered going to conventional grocers, yet. However, rule #1 in our new small biz lives is this: Never, ever hesitate when it comes to opportunity. So I didn’t.
As I’m talking to the broker about this impending meeting, I suddenly feel my heart hit the floor. He had just asked me to do the presenting myself. Blinded with fear I realized I had exactly 3 days to prepare to present to one of the biggest food corporations in the country. I’m a professional waitress people!! I can barely tell Bill what’s just transpired. Now on to the action….
5:00am didn’t come early because I’d barely slept. I was on the road at 6:00am feeling like all my nerves had moved to the outside of my body. Dressed in my grey wool suit from college (ahem, 15 years ago) and my lucky earrings, I tried not to think about what I was going to say. In order to survive I knew I had to just let it flow from within and be myself. I completely flailed in a phone presentation a few months prior to 12 very important brokers because I’d tried to follow a few pages of information instead of just talking about what I know: My products and my story.
In the waiting room of Fred Meyer corporate headquarters 8:30 passes, then 8:45, then 9:00. I feel like I’m going to come unglued, my body parts spontaneously floating away from me at the joints. I can’t drink my coffee and I’m sweating so much that taking my jacket off for the presentation is no longer an option. Then a woman I’ve never seen comes rushing up asking if I’m Gretchen. She hurries me through security, arm linked in mine rapidly telling me to smile, act happy, love my product and they’ll love me. We are moving so fast and she’s talking so fast and smiling so much I feel like I’m going to pass out. For real.
We enter a surprisingly small room with a table so large it seems almost cartoon-like. There are about 10 people around the table, some buried in laptops and at the end opposite me is obviously The Man. Introductions are brief and my brain registers nothing. Everyone is friendly which gives me the slightest bit of relief. Then laughter suddenly erupts as someone offers me a drink of the line of sodas that were obviously presented immediately before me. I am filled with dread as I realize they are laughing at how bad they taste. My God! The poor saps before me being ripped to shreds right before my eyes. Breathe. Focus. DO NOT LET YOUR VOICE SHAKE.
In the next moment my bags of grains are being passed around the table and I’m talking. I can hear myself as if I’m listening in on someone else. As I realize this person (me) doesn’t sound so bad I gain confidence. I re-enter my body and take the conversation over. I have a story to tell and a product to sell and dammit I’m going to tell it and sell it! Bill and I have worked too hard and too long for me to blow this moment in a fit of nervousness. And I don’t. I do not blow it.
After I finish talking, The Man leans in and says, “Why didn’t you come to us first?” I don’t understand his question at first. Then I realize he means why didn’t I take the line to Kroger, before anyone else, to be sold on their shelves. I quickly explain that we wanted to saturate the natural market first, then take that brand recognition to conventional markets. He then tells me that he can speak for the table that he loves the line and wants it on his shelves. OH SWEET JESUS. I’m flooded with those endorphins one only gets when first seeing their baby, finishing a marathon or landing an account before this only dreamed of. Sweet, sweet relief. Oh you angel of relief!
The gal to his left types away and tells him there is freezer space for an initial 30 stores for us to be placed in. The Man, who suddenly resembles the anesthesiologist who gave me an epidural at stage 3 labor, tells me he sees us going national with Kroger in the next year AND that they’d be interested in an exclusivity on any new launches we have planned. I could fly away I feel so light, the natural high lifting me from my chair. And just like that it’s over.
The lovely woman who ushered me in ushers me out. Tells me in the same hurried voice what a great job I did and how she’ll help me in anyway get all the details worked out. I stumble to my car, phone in hand, Bill’s number on speed dial. I still can’t believe I’m telling him it could not have possibly gone any better. All of our expectations for outcomes had been blown out of the water. Kroger not only loves our line but sees a real future with us. The absolute best phone call I’ve ever made in my life. I love my man!
Then I call my dad, who laughs and laughs that proud, joy-filled, fist-pumping, hell-yeah laugh of his. My heart swells knowing how happy this sort of thing makes him. Then I get going because the 3 hour drive to Seattle followed by a 6 hour waitress shift cannot wait. Needless to say, the adrenaline kept me going through the night.
At 11:00pm the red wine and steak dinner Bill and I shared was the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. I realize that these ARE the good old days. It IS the journey that is thrilling. It doesn’t get any better than this. I am the luckiest person I know. I slept well that night. Very well.