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Nationwide tour to take Lisa's strategies south

Nationwide tour to take "Lisa's" innovative business strategies from Whangarei to Timaru

A large scale television advertising campaign for "Lisa's" [Lee-suss babaganoush and Lice-as hummus], has put the range of Middle Eastern dips firmly in the eye of the consumer, but a nationwide business tour with the brand's founder is set to showcase how the company grew before it had the corporate marketing budget to drive sales.

Before selling to Sanitarium for a million-dollar figure in 2002, founder Lisa Er had built the business into a company with 30 staff selling a range of Middle Eastern foods with a 42% value share of the chilled dips market.

Er had also transitioned her business from the small-scale, home-based production of a single product - hummus - to a full range of products being produced at commercial premises, distributed through a network of 25 major distributors and sold in 92% of New Zealand supermarkets - and all without advertising.

An ability to "think outside the square" is one of the strategies Er used in place of an advertising budget and it is one of the key messages she will be taking to businesses attending the "Business Club" nationwide tour, which begins in Whangarei on April 5 and tours until April 28.

To attract buyers to her products, which began as pottles of hummus labeled with a blue felt pen, Er focused on tailoring the Middle Eastern food to Kiwi tastes but she supported this by investing time and effort into educating the local market about the new ethnic foods.

Identifying the market demand for healthy, tasty dips was another move from Er that required smart thinking rather than financial investment or marketing spend. Even with the new branding push from Sanitarium, the wholly natural ingredients and Heart Foundation "tick" remain as strong product differentiators for "Lisa's".

As part of the business tour, an event driven by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Er is expected to talk to over 2000 business people. Er says she is particularly excited about the prospect of sharing her strategies with companies that are in the "same precarious, early stages of business" that she remembers with her own business.

Now in a consulting role for Lisa's, Er says she has had time to distill what she learnt during the development of her business and she believes she has some valuable information to pass on to other companies.

"It easily could have gone another way and no one would ever have heard of 'Lisa's' but I asked for help when I needed and I was able to create the right messages about my product and use the right channels to get it out there," Er says.

Business Club is a biennial tour and the April series with Lisa Er is running as part of the New Zealand Innovation Festival, which also includes events like Designate '05, a design symposium being held in Auckland, and Christchurch's Leadership Unplugged seminar.

The April series of Business Club will showcase the latest innovative business solutions including P2T, a service which enables businesses to use their phones as walkie talkies and have up to five users communicating with each other on the same line at any time.

For more information, or to register to attend, members of the public should visit or call 0800 00 99 66.


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