What inspires you daily?
My mother, whose name is Dang, inspired me to start the business by handing me a recipe for Miang Kum Lettuce Wraps. One of the ingredients was toasted coconut, and I was so taken by it I thought it should be a snack on its own. Here at Dang, we’re family-run and treat our team like family. On a daily basis, I find inspiration in identifying opportunities that we’re well positioned to grab. Much of what we do here comes from looking within and identifying our unique contributions to the world, then feeding them so that they thrive.
What have been the critical factors on your road to success?
- Packaging and logo design
- Company name and marketability
- Coconut as a health trend
- Creating flavor profiles to attract varying customers
- Moving quickly to penetrate the market
- Support from retail partners, such as Safeway and Whole Foods
How has the natural products industry enabled your success?
The industry was instrumental in educating us about the many pitfalls of startup food companies. Without our network of peers and advisors we would be flying blind… our team is very green to the industry, but we excel at learning fast from others.
How do you position your products in mass, natural and online?
Across the board, we position Dang coconut chips as a better-for-you snack to be displayed alongside dried fruit, nuts and fruit/veggie snacks such as kale chips. Coconut chips are a booming category with 900 percent year-over-year growth that deserves significant space alongside established healthy snacks. Our new line of savory coconut chips are aimed at introducing salty snackers to coconut chips as a flavor carrier.
We recently switched to perforated, case-stack friendly boxes to make off-shelf displays easier for stores to create and because of this, we’ve seen sales improve. Our family-size bags do very well in larger stores because they have more shelf presence. For online sales, because we use a third-party warehouse, we channel all web traffic to our e-commerce partners such as Amazon, Abe’s Market and diapers.com that handle fulfillment.
How do you develop relationships with retailers and educate them about your company’s story?
The very first thing I do is say ‘Dang is my mother’s name.’ That creates an instant connection between our story, our brand and the retailer, and gives me a segue to tell our story. Having the story on the back of each package is important as well. The way I’ve learned to develop relationships is to remain in constant contact without being pushy, and LISTEN. Some of our best-performing SKUs were ideas borne by our retail partners.
What do you wish you'd known early on in your business?
I wish I had known to create attractive boxes for stores to merchandise our products. We’re currently working on caddies and display-ready boxes for shelves and case stacks.
What's on your iPod right now?
90s Hip Hop, Japanese Trip Hop, Sam Cooke, The Beatles.
How do you spend your free time?
Cooking, growing backyard mushrooms, playing basketball.
What's a guilty pleasure of yours?
Three Twins Ice Cream. Neal Gottleib makes a mean Lemon Cookie.
What's a personal pet peeve?
I dislike when people don’t make eye contact when shaking hands. It shows you’re either uncomfortable or don’t care enough to be fully present at that moment.
Give us the inside scoop on yourself.
While traveling in Costa Rica, I was involved in a high-speed car chase.