Preparing tomorrow’s home cooks

Alison Cayne is the founder and CEO of Haven’s Kitchen, a CPG brand that’s making home cooking more accessible and enjoyable. Haven’s Kitchen started as an in-person cooking school, and now includes a line of packaged sauces, tools, and apparel for home cooks. Over the last several years, Haven’s Kitchen has evolved based on customers’ needs and in response to the world at large.

In her conversation with Katie Hankinson, Alison shares how she combined her passion for food and cooking with her desire to make people’s lives better into her career. She shares how Haven’s Kitchen transitioned from a fully in-person kitchen classroom to a direct-to-consumer CPG brand, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, Alison and Katie dive deep into content and how a strong content strategy can build your brand and engage your audience.

"We are heavy on education across channels. Those recipes need to speak in a certain language [on different channels]."

Alison Cayne

Transcription

[00:00:00] Katie: Welcome to Building While Flying a Sasha Group podcast where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies. Welcome to Building While Flying. My guest today is Allison Cayne founder and CEO of Haven’s Kitchen, the CPG brand with a mission to make home cooking more enjoyable.

Haven’s Kitchen sauces are the first ever line of refrigerated globally inspired sources that come in eight different flavors in transparent, lightweight and squeezable eco-friendly pouches. Inspired by students at our Haven’s Kitchen cooking school classes. Cayne realized that people were looking for to replicate these sources in order to use them in multiple meals throughout the week.

And the idea was born in 2018, and now we get to discuss what happened from there. Welcome to Building while Flying. 

[00:00:52] Alison: Alison. Thank you for having me, Katie. Oh. Either way. It depends how comfortable you feel with me. Okay. We’ll start with Alison. Okay? Yes. And we’ll ease into Allie. Yeah, . 

[00:01:02] Katie: So, I mean, I think the fact that you began with brick and mortar is an important place to start for this, cuz you know it, it speaks a lot about.

What drove you at the beginning? Mm-hmm. , can you talk a bit about what was it that caused you to start that out and what was that mission that really kind of galvanized you at the 

[00:01:21] Alison: outset? Yeah. I mean, if I look back, and I won’t bore you with my childhood, but I really have always loved cooking.

Mm-hmm. and it’s always, the kitchen’s always been my happy place and. I didn’t think in the nineties that that was a career path for me. Mm-hmm. . I didn’t wanna be a professional chef, but I always kind of wanted to understand. more. And as soon as I was able, I went back to get a master’s degree in food systems and sustainability and food policy.

Ooh. And it was really amazing because my love of cooking for me personally, all of a sudden, Became connected to these much larger sort of policy and, environmental factors. Mm-hmm. home cooking is linked to better health for you. Right. But also better farm labor practices and, people who cook from home have a connection to their food.

Mm-hmm. , the people that grow it, the animals, all of it. The environment, GMO, everyth. , Right. So I was able to sort of fuse this thing that gave me a lot of love with a path for a career. So interesting. And, and 

[00:02:29] Katie: it’s tied to the 

[00:02:30] Alison: business end of it. Well, that was sort of the next piece was, Okay, I understand how all of this is connected.

Mm-hmm. , what do I do with that? And it seemed like, I start teaching people how to cook. I mean, I, I, that’s all I could really think of to do. So the intuitive beginning? Yeah. Yeah. So I opened a school mm-hmm. , in Flat Iron. And it wasn’t for chefs or culinary professionals, it was for people who wanted to make dinner and feel a little bit more confident.

Mm-hmm. and enjoy it a little bit more. I think having five kids, I know that if you tell people they should cook more, They might not do it immediately. Like Right. Take out. Yeah, exactly. But if you give them something that they love to do and you give them, this agency and this confidence mm-hmm.

And so yeah, I opened the school. It was immediately a hit, which was really fun. We ended up teaching, I mean, Hundreds of thousands of people how to cook. And that then, like you said, segued into a lot of them were like, Thank you so much for teaching me, but also can you package this ? Right. And that’s what we did.

How do I take this home? 

[00:03:34] Katie: Yes. And really quickly talk about the name. Cuz I think that conjures up so much of what you just talked about. The kind of the, the, the love at the center of it all. 

[00:03:43] Alison: It seems a. I mean, as a branding person, I feel like you might have thoughts about the name for a CPG company. It doesn’t necessarily, It’s, it’s not like, Iggy or, so, like how, like every language, like every, it’s too like smush, smush love or something.

It’s, it’s not like that. It’s definitely, I wanted the kitchen to feel like a haven. And I didn’t, Kitchen, I haven didn’t ring, so I just called it Haven’s Kitchen. I wanted, and at the time it was a cooking school experience. Yes. It was a physical location at the time, and I didn’t really wanna change the name.

We had so much sort of like brand equity and love right in the name that it, I wasn’t gonna change the name, but it is long. On a, on a little package. Yeah. 

[00:04:25] Katie: But I think the, Well, we’ll come to it, but I, The fact that it speaks to a, a physical space, I think it, it anchors the brand a little too. So there’s, Thank you.

There’s, there’s two ways of looking at it. It may not be a smoosh 

[00:04:36] Alison: bucket or whatever. We talked about . Well, you every brand all seems like everything is like a non-word. Yeah. And it’s like 

[00:04:43] Katie: mild made up key word. Yes, yes. There’s a definite trend for that right now. Yeah. So, The product came.

The sources came. It was partly from demand of your customer. Mm-hmm. , or at the time of your students, but obviously. Greater potential was seemed, and then the pandemic happened. So yeah. Presumably that sort of accelerated the transition a bit. Yes. Can you talk a bit about how that 

[00:05:06] Alison: played out? Yeah, it was a very strange time.

The thing about grocery stores is that, when you are going to be on shelf right? But probably, anywhere from four. 12 months ahead. Mm-hmm. . So we knew that we were going national with Whole Foods in April of 2020. Mm-hmm. . We had a, national rollout demo plan.

We had, people lined up to be in all the stores. Obviously I thought, we were about to have our best year ever in the brick and mortar location. We did, 200 weddings the year before and we were really like on a roll gang. And so all of a sudden, April, 2020 rolls around, we are on 500 whole food shelves across the country with nobody going into stores, right?

And, yet more people than ever looking for cooking solutions and flavor builders and ways to make their chicken. Better than last night. Different chicken. Yeah. Or just, or something different. . So that, was kind of crazy. So the, one business was going, just up and to the right.

We grew 600% or something that year. And then the cooking school, sadly. The writing was on the wall a little bit. When, you 

[00:06:18] Katie: know shutted, there’s no choice. You literally have no, there’s no plan 

[00:06:21] Alison: B when you have physical space. It was an event space and without events it really didn’t work.

It just the space. Right. 

[00:06:29] Katie: with a, With an 

[00:06:29] Alison: with a rent . Yeah. 

[00:06:31] Katie: Yep. So, A shift fully to D to C, but really with a retail presence already. 

[00:06:38] Alison: Yeah. I mean, it’s a refrigerated product. Mm-hmm. , So we have, the direct to consumer function and we did, boost it during covid, but the way that we are making this product into kitchens across America.

Mm-hmm. is not from our website. It’s, the grocery distribution system. Right. Is, is an old one, but a functional, highly effective one. And, as a refrigerated product, shipping is crazy and there’s a lot of packaging and all of that. So we, we were always a retail first. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.

Which has served us well now that a lot of digitally native companies are trying to figure out retail. Right. We have a lot of that kind of sorted for ourselves. 

[00:07:19] Katie: And how does. Like when you think about your customer, cuz there’s obviously mm-hmm. , the original Haven’s kitchen home cook. Mm-hmm. who came to the physical classes and there’s.

In the Venn diagram of your consumer. No doubt there’s a bit of o overlap, but I’d imagine yes, there’s a new, whole new customer. Who, who do you, what have you learned 

[00:07:37] Alison: about that? First of all, I am constantly surprised at I, I was at dinner the other night and a woman came up to me and she’s like, I live in Providence and we buy your sauces because I took a class once and, 2013, like I’m sort of surprised at the actual tent.

That the brick and mortar still has. That’s wonderful. I think, and I, again, nope, no data, but I think that a lot of people, who came to the cooking school over those eight years did actually end up in the pandemic going to secondary and tertiary cities across the country. Right, right, right. And somehow, or.

Bred the word why? I mean, Charleston, South Carolina is like our top three Whole Foods store. I have no idea 

[00:08:23] Katie: why. I mean, a bunch of our lot actually moved to right. Well, North Carolina, but yeah. York 

[00:08:28] Alison: diaspora. So I do think there was a bit of a diaspora from New York and Haven’s Kitchen. Yeah.

Which is, so that’s that, that, I don’t know what number that is. But I think we did a lot of things pretty well in terms of building that awareness. I don’t, I don’t know yet. I do know that the customer seems to be someone who. Likes to cook. Mm-hmm. wants to cook. Mm-hmm. doesn’t have time to cook necessarily.

Oh, I feel seen yeah. And it’s not, it’s not a particular, it’s not a Gen Z customer. It can be a Gen Z or it can be, a Gen X, but there’s something that grounds them sort of psychologically to, I know cooking is good for. I wanna feed myself for the people that I love, and I want it to be something kind of that makes me feel good.

Yeah. And I’m not quite sure how to do that. 

[00:09:20] Katie: I think as well, there’s a sort of, insight in the idea of something that is a very simple. , but pre-made addition to your meal mm-hmm. that helps completely speed up the process of cooking. Yeah. That doesn’t take away your 

[00:09:34] Alison: home agency and your Yeah, exactly.

And that is something we very much learned. It’s funny, there were a few really big takeaways from teaching cooking. Yeah. For as long as I have. And at the cooking school you started to see if you gave people, sort of like a big head start. And then they finished it off the way that they wanted to.

I’m gonna add my flourish of, I’m gonna choose between lemon and lime. Right. Whatever it is. They felt ownership. I made this. I made this. Yeah. And it made them feel great. And we were like, Oh, okay. People don’t necessarily. Want to be mincing the herbs, but they do want to be squeezing that chimichurri over the chicken and it feels like theirs.

Yeah. And that’s, it’s 

[00:10:18] Katie: sort of like the charismatic moments of the meal are the ones that you wanna own. . 

[00:10:22] Alison: Yeah. And the Instagram worthy moments of the meal are the ones you wanna, And you 

[00:10:26] Katie: also feel that you can authentically say that you made it. Hundred percent. You did. Yeah. I think that’s huge. And I mean, let’s talk a little bit about how.

You were mentioned this before, before we hit record, but like this thesis about how this attitude to cooking has had to change. Now we’re all back. 

[00:10:45] Alison: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s interesting and again, I, I’d love your insights on this at some point too, our challenge a little bit in 2018 was convincing people to cook.

Mm. It, we make cooking fun or we make cooking not so hard, and then all of a sudden, e everyone was cooking whether they liked it or not. And a lot of that has stuck, right? People got over the hump of making a roast chicken or a pot of rice that is sticky. They know how to do those things now.

Mm-hmm. , and so they. They’re kind of like, Do I really need to order in? It’s gonna take just as long and I can make this, and I can feel pretty good about it. But what they don’t necessarily have the time for or the bandwidth for is, what am I putting on top right. And like, what’s giving it that flavor?

Right. 

[00:11:30] Katie: It’s like that cognitive load of like, I know it’s chicken. I know it needs to take 45 minutes to cook, right? I just need like a little knock over the edge to the right, or 

[00:11:39] Alison: even you, I’m speaking about my exact, the one pot. You’re having guests over. You need to make something.

It’s gonna take 45 minutes. You, you want it to be good. You don’t wanna be crushing and mincing and sauteing. So you take a sauce and you put it in a pot with a little broth and some other things, or, Stir fry some stuff and put the sauce in. Yeah, and there you go. Bob’s your uncle. 

[00:12:03] Katie: I must admit that I actually.

Google on the subway today mainly cuz I really didn’t want it to be as annoying as I thought it was gonna be. Exactly what? Mincing an onion was over chopping an onion. I’m like, yes. Damn. It is chopping at super, super fine. It is . 

[00:12:21] Alison: It’s just, I don’t, I don’t mince or chop my onions by the way. I would just like to say publicly, I don’t understand.

care. If it’s a little square or like a little sliver, it’s going to sort of, it’s gonna melt, Melt away anyway. Right. So I feel better now. Now it’s gonna speed up. Don’t knock yourself out tonight. Yeah. No need. So 

[00:12:41] Katie: I know we, we, you and I talked a little bit about this when we first chatted about Haven’s Kitchen, and I’d love to talk a bit about the fact that the brand began in a brick and mortar mm-hmm.

and really. In an experiential way. Yep. And then became a product brand. And what that means and has meant for you in terms of how you’ve developed it, like Yeah. Where does that sort of show most, do you think? 

[00:13:07] Alison: I think it shows most in, and I feel like. Obnoxious when people say this, but I it like in the humility of the brand knows that a lot of people who say they’re humble or not, and I don’t mean me in particular, I just mean that we never put ourselves as the hero of the story.

Mm. There’s a story. You’re the hero. We’re the sidekick or the Yoda. We’re the one that has like the little toolkit that we hand you what you need at that moment. Mm-hmm. , and because we were in service for so long and because we had these people who came to us and said, I’m scared I’m going to hurt someone when I make chicken

Literally, you can’t imagine how many people are terrified of cooking, chicken and, and killing people. We, we learned very early on that part of our job was to give them a product, but a larger part of our job perhaps, was to give them sort of that little boost that they need to, to make the effort, to give them sort of.

The, the, the boundaries so that they mm-hmm. , they feel safe. And when you, I think a lot of brands, for better or for worse, they’re like, Yay, us. You can be a part of our brand, Right. If you use this and if you follow us and here’s our story. we’ve kind of come at it from a very different way.

Like, our story is irrelevant if it’s not making your life better. Mm-hmm. . Right. And that’s what we learned day in, day out, not just from the cooking school, but we had, there was an all day cafe in front. Right. And all of us have been baristas and all of us know that when someone. You the scone isn’t whatever.

They’re, they’re reaching out for something, yeah. Service changes you as a person. I think I agree with that. And the brand has it built into our dna. 

[00:15:02] Katie: I love that. And I also think, going back to what we were saying about the name, Yeah. by it’s nature, it plays into that , It’s almost like if the role of the brand is this sidekick that’s, Sitting in the back going just a little bit more acid or whatever.

Yeah. I got this. Yeah. Then you are, and by, by humility I completely hear that. And in a way you’re sort of welcoming everyone into the kitchen. Yeah. And then they’re there and then they get to experience what you are Yeah. What you’re up to, but you are not sort of like, You if you were the sl, do you call it?

[00:15:35] Alison: I dunno. I was trying while you were talking. I was like, what was one of those names? Right. Exactly. 

[00:15:39] Katie: Immediately trademark. It’s so memorable. Yes. Clearly if we were something that was just purely a product name, you wouldn’t necessarily have 

[00:15:45] Alison: that immediate association. And I think, and that’s a good point.

And I will, Yes. I think, assets or liabilities and liabilities are assets. And one of the. They think we have is that we’re, we don’t say we’re a condiment company because we’re not. We’re a home cooking company. Right. We want you to feel like a champion. We’re gonna make products and we’re going to create content that’s going to help you feel really good.

Yep. That’s it. And sauce is just the beginning. Fresh sauce 

[00:16:11] Katie: from a content perspective. Mm-hmm. . And I know you were saying that this is a super hot topic for you right now. Yes. I mean, I imagine. I mean, you are also, first and foremost have been an education brand. Mm-hmm. , you taught people how to cook and in some ways there’s double duty on education to happen here.

Like you’ve gotta explain, oh, everything product is, and like how to use it. And then also just the bigger picture of mm-hmm. , how to feel comfortable in the kitchen as a cook. How has content played a part for you in that and, and what, what’s your approach to. 

[00:16:43] Alison: So I would say that, to your point, we are fresh sauce in a pouch with flavors like Chii, Cherry and Esco that maybe people haven’t heard of.

Mm-hmm. , why are you in the refrigerator? Why are you in a pouch? Where are you in the store? Cuz it’s, we’re kind of category busting in the sense. Who’s our buyer? Is it the produce buyer, the meat buyer, the dairy buyer, the vegan buyer? It’s changing from store to store, right? So there’s consumer education about why is this in a pouch?

What is chimichurri and, and most importantly, how do you use this so it makes your life better, right? Yeah. It always goes back to that. The flip side is that because we are a cooking, platform. Essentially we have Eternal content. Yeah. That we can make. Yeah. And we don’t do content just about the products.

We do content about choosing cookware and which Turkey thermometer to use for Thanksgiving and how to store your herbs. And because we’re not just trying to solve that meal, we’re trying to solve what we know because we’ve been teaching cooking for so long, it’s not just the act of cooking that scares people.

What do I buy? How do I plan, how do I keep things from going bad? I don’t know how to, all of that. I 

[00:18:02] Katie: also think, it’s something we come up against so often as marketers on the Sasha Group side. If you are a brand that touches food in any way, the absolute go-to sort of low hanging fruit content is recipes, right?

And so, You have permission to play so much beyond that. Yes. And I love that you’ve gone there. You’re right. There are anxieties around, Oh my God. Like, how do I lay a table in a way that’s gonna be like impressed by 

[00:18:28] Alison: in-laws or, Exactly. I give, I give tips on, when I first made Thanksgiving, I was making 18 dishes or something.

Now I make three. I still do that, and they’re really, You don’t need to, cuz it just, 

[00:18:39] Katie: know, I’m, I’m too over ambitious. We’re gonna talk. Yeah. We do it about that. Yeah. I, I get very like this one and this. Can’t decide, let’s 

[00:18:45] Alison: do both. Right. And I mean, our thesis is though, that if, if you come to, first of all, I, 

I’m in love with YouTube.

Yeah. It’s just, I’m just in love with it. And I’m in love with it because it’s, people go there to ask questions. Mm-hmm. of the internet, that’s literally how you find your way through. How do I make a chicken that isn’t rubbery? How do I make fish that doesn’t make my kitchen smell right? And if we can touch on those, And, and become like a support system for people.

And oh, by the way, we also have these products that will then be just like the topper right on the cake for you. To me, that’s just so much better than being an in your face. Here’s our product. Yes, we like TikTok two and we have a lot of followers there, but we’re not one of those brands that’s like, blah, blah, blah, Buy this, buy this, it’s just not our thing. 

Well, and also 

[00:19:38] Katie: you are very intention based. Yes. So what you just described about YouTube, people are go, people have a moment, they’re searching for something and like your content will be, In service of that exact need. Yes. The beauty of TikTok is it’s is interest based and it guesses what you want and you prob and it’s, you’re doing well because the things you’re telling people are like, I never knew that.

That’s awesome. I’m moving on now because I’m not about to cook a meal. Right. Those two things are both 

[00:20:02] Alison: important. Right. The seven second. Oh my gosh. Wait, that’s how you cut a pepper. As opposed to the YouTube. Sort of like the whole kind of discussion about I’m making a new kitchen and I need new cookware and I’m not sure if I need a dutch oven cuz they seem cool, but what do I use it for?

[00:20:17] Katie: All of that. Like, do I get an Insta put and give up a whole chunk of my kitchen for life? Mm-hmm. ? I 

[00:20:22] Alison: think the answer is yes, although I, Well I think the air fryer, Oh, I, I’m a late adopter, but I will say, They, they’s the one do some, they do some magical things. Mm-hmm. . 

[00:20:37] Katie: Oh, yep. Oh, mate. That’s what it is. Then I was having an air fryer conversation with my mom, who also seemed to have discovered the 

[00:20:42] Alison: possibility of the, Yeah, I’m still a little sheepish, but my whole team is, and we did a ton of air fryer, instant pot videos for our next round of YouTube for season two.

But I am still an oven person. Yeah. Yeah. You know what 

[00:20:56] Katie: I wanna see? I wanna see. footprints of kitchen. Mm-hmm. , unlike the top items that you should give up your counter space to in order of priority, depending on how much square, square inches you’ve got. I can 

[00:21:09] Alison: definitely do that. , I’ll do that and I’ll report back.

Okay, good. Okay, . 

[00:21:13] Katie: We’ve talked a bit about channel’s, your love of YouTube, like what does your mix look like? are you heavy on brand and, and then a bit of education and then, 

[00:21:22] Alison: we, we, I, I mean, I don’t think that we’re sophisticated enough to answer that question properly,

At least I’m not. But I will say we are heavy on education right across channels. Now that said the same. The same chunk of content, right? We’ll, video four recipes. Mm-hmm. every Wednesday. And we know going in, this is gonna work on Pinterest. We have 209,000 followers on Pinterest. They’re, they’re, they’re, we get over a million engagements a month.

I mean, just sometimes it’s two. It’s bizarre. And, Those recipes need to be in a certain way. Yeah. And they need to speak a certain language in a way, that same video, we are also slicing and dicing amazing for TikTok. We love that. Right. So it, it just goes in a, into a different funnel.

Right. Almost of, the language is different, the, the. , The cut is different, almost the cool to action volume, everything. Everything’s different. And then of course there’s YouTube where we do main videos and then we slice the shorts out of that, right, Which are highly productive. Instagram for us is a little bit more product and brand meat.

Our new the boat person, it’s very much like the i the company trajectory. The company, the sign on the door. Yeah. These are our hours and this is who we are. Yeah. A little bit. We don’t, we’ve never been really a huge Instagram right. 

[00:22:48] Katie: Brand. Are you gonna go back into IL world? 

[00:22:53] Alison: Not. Well, I am doing a really fun i l pre Thanksgiving.

I will be on the street, ooh, for like three or four days with an apron on and a bunch of thermometers and Turkey bas answering people’s good, not Thanksgiving questions. It’s a little bit il, it’s a little gorilla marketing. It’s a little like tick talky person on the street. But I do think. There is something we do wanna be talking to humans more and offering our services more.

I don’t see myself opening another brick and mortar. And I don’t know that we need to, to have that type of connectivity.

 We do really fund things in our office, where I do teach cooking classes to groups. Not publicly facing, but, Yeah. 

[00:23:38] Katie: Well, now you’ve, you’ve found the scale. But, and you’ve retained the sort of educational experience, shall feel mm-hmm.

So it’s not like you’ve walked away from that. You’ve just found another space 

[00:23:47] Alison: to Yeah. And it’s fun to be back. It’s, I, I taught, a cooking class a couple months ago and I got kind of choked up because I hadn’t had in. Engagement like that human people and they were asking questions about carrots and I just got all like proclaimed.

It’s true. I did. You don’t get that. It’s amazing what a carrot couldn’t do every now. I mean they are amazing. Super emotive. 

[00:24:09] Katie: Yes. It’s, We’ve talked a lot about the business and kind of how your trajectory has run and how you are obviously very effectively scaling it. It sounds like your whole sort of life has been a series of pivots, mm-hmm. You kind of jumped in and out of, of all sorts of opportunities and been able to spot those. What, what do you think drives that? How do you, how do you know? When to make the, the shift? What’s, what’s, 

[00:24:34] Alison: Well, that’s, Thank you. Nice. I think that’s nice. Yeah. I take it as a compliment. I, I think a few things.

One is I have one particularly good, trait. Mm-hmm. or helpful trait that I’ve noticed across my life. I am good at synthesizing information into a thesis, so I. Gather sort of these little touchpoint mm-hmm. from things that I’m seeing and then kind of be like, okay, this is what I think is happening, and then this is what I think I need to do.

That’s not to say that they’re always right, they’re just. At least I feel like I can act on something. Right? There’s a 

[00:25:13] Katie: rationale and, and a plan 

[00:25:14] Alison: getting the right data points into that sort of mind map for me, that’s where things can go awry if I interpret it mm-hmm.

incorrectly or if I get too many weird outliers. So I think that’s part of it. But I think also, just again, because I’m listening mm-hmm. to people, you can’t listen to everyone mm-hmm. , It’s like sailing a boat. You let it out a little bit and it starts to like left around. You pull it in and everything tightens up.

Yeah. Or you don’t move , So there it’s like, you’ve gotta sort of balance. I think this is something I should be listening to. So, really good example. At the beginning when I first opened the cooking school, it wasn’t, there wasn’t a cafe in front. Mm. It was beautiful. Plates and. Things that I liked and expensive olive oil from somewhere, and the people kind of coming in for coffee in the morning kept saying, Can you just, can you just give us some soup? Like some salad. We just want lunch. I’m not gonna buy plates, . And it wasn’t the, Sorry. No, not in the, the cro. They did. And they’re like, I’m going back to work. I can’t carry a, A, a, porcelain, A dodge of a, Yeah.

Or like a soup toine, and so I was like, Huh. And then I was like, Okay, the people that I thought were coming to these classes, I thought it was gonna be, moms after drop off. It wasn’t, it was like people at night before they went to dinner or dates, or you. And they weren’t going home with stuff so they, I just had to start to listen a little bit bit.

Right, right. And it’s the same with the, the sauces. I discontinued my favorite sauce this year cuz it just wasn’t, wasn’t doing its thing, wasn’t 

[00:26:52] Katie: doing its thing. You mentioned you’ve got a kind of diaspora of, of Haven’s kitchen nights. Yeah. And. A community has built up around the brand for sure, and you are in social.

How are you? How active are you and how are you kind of leveraging that community? And is that, I mean, you talked about listening as well, that that must be a pretty valuable place 

[00:27:14] Alison: to learn. Yeah, I mean, there are a few things that I do. Sometimes it’s me and three people. Sometimes it’s me and 40 people.

But I do like to have a quarterly, just sort of zoom with me. Mm. We send it to our whole email. It’s about 50,000 people. amazing, three people showing up might not make our metrics very good, but, it’s not, not everyone wants to hang out with me on a Zoom for a half an hour and I’m not cooking.

Every once in a while I’ll, I’ll ask about cooking questions and things like that, but I just check in. Mm-hmm. , and I ask questions and I, what they’re thinking about and what they need and it’s helping us with a product roadmap and everything. Mm-hmm. . So it’s there if they need it.

And I think that’s the thing about community. Everyone talks about community, but it’s very push. Yep. It is. Ours is very much like, I’m here, I’m gonna be on this call. Mm-hmm. , we are welcome. You can come, you can sit, you can pop in, you can pop out, but I’ll be here. Mm-hmm. , and if you want.

then, you know I’m available. And I think that makes people feel like they’re part of something. Mm-hmm. , they, there’s nothing asked of them. They don’t have to perform in any way. And I think that that’s a big piece of it. I think on social, we try to be as personable as possible. I don’t want to necessarily be the face of the brand.

I don’t sense think that’s a position. That puts us in a good position, I guess, for an acquisition later on. And I don’t really need to be. That said, we, there are a bunch of faces of the brand, and, and our YouTube channel, for example, is just like a bunch of different people that work at Havens and we’re just talking about the way we cook, right?

And our favorite recipes. So I think that creates a sense of community. Too. I think that there are probably more ways to do real life activations again. But I think there are a lot of people who feel very protective of the brand and connected 

[00:29:07] Katie: to it. I think, I mean we, we spoke to an early stage food, another food brand recently for the podcast, and one of the things their founder was talking about is the, Customers mm-hmm.

That, that, that come across you early on, and they know that you’re at a beginning point in the journey. Yeah. They’ve experienced a bit of your pivot. Yeah. And you’ve opened the kind. the aperture enough that they can see that you are real people. Like Yeah. Trying to make a go of it. Yeah. It engenders so much more for sure.

Loyalty and appreciation than just like, Oh, it’s a brand, it’s cool. I like the product. Mm-hmm. , it’s convenient and 

[00:29:44] Alison: they can sniff authenticity. Right. They really can. There’s so many like, Hi, I’m Jane, and when I had a baby’s my, that’s my venture capital. Right, Exactly. go hype, so I think you.

Consumers are so smart. Yeah. They know. And so, I think, like I said, I, I don’t know how many people are out there in these other cities saying, Oh my gosh, that’s where I took a class this time. And, they’re, that’s a real thing. You can trust them and spreading the word, but whether they’re doing that online or they’re doing that, I l i, I believe it’s happening.

And I, and I think it’s something that has propelled us probably, that we don’t even. You even understand the magnitude of, Yeah. 

[00:30:25] Katie: So what’s next? I’m gonna suggest who Haven’s Kitchen in the multiverse? Oh my. Or Haven’s Kitchen’s first. Deep line of cookware, I guess, or you’ve kind of already gone down that track.

[00:30:38] Alison: So we’re staying in food. I am. The, yeah, the , we, there was something, virtual shopping thing in the metaverse that, I was like, I don’t even know a multiverse. Some of you have gone even further said world, I, I was like, I think we can be there, but I don’t even know what that means. So, we had like a little like stand in a pouch and I don’t even know, I think it was something kind of, I, the younger people did that.

No, I think we, we have, we have a lot of grocery store categories that we can go into. There is no real brand. Mm-hmm. for the modern home cook. There’s no Betty Crocker. Mm-hmm. , or that feels contemporary. That feels contemporary, right. So, yes, we started here. We built some brand equity.

It was a really nice, sweet spot to go into cuz it’s not a particularly. Crowded space. Refrigerated sauce called chimichurri . But now, we have, we’re going to be launching a bunch of shelf stable products, both, In a, in a familiar place to us and maybe not so familiar place to us. But that’s about a year away.

[00:31:44] Katie: So we’ll keep our eyes peeled. Yes. In the Whole Foods or other grocery Yes. Experience on other aisles. Yes. . Well, so exciting. It’s been amazing chatting to you. 

[00:31:55] Alison: Thank you so much for having me. This, this is really fun time. Yes. Thank you. Thank you,

[00:32:10] Katie: Thanks for joining us for Building While Flying Today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

How do you make home cooking accesible?

Alison Cayne is the founder and CEO of Haven’s Kitchen, a CPG brand that’s making home cooking more accessible and enjoyable. Haven’s Kitchen started as an in-person cooking school, and now includes a line of packaged sauces, tools, and apparel for home cooks. Over the last several years, Haven’s Kitchen has evolved based on customers’ needs and in response to the world at large.

In-flight topics:

  • Shifting to DTC during the pandemic
  • Knowing your customers and audience
  • Using content to educate your audience
  • Developing an effective content strategy
  • Knowing when it’s time to pivot in business
  • …and more!
Connect with Alison:

Haven’s Kitchen website: https://havenskitchen.com/ 

Haven’s Kitchen YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/HavensKitchen/featured 

Haven’s Kitchen Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/havenskitchen/ 

Haven’s Kitchen TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@havenskitchen 

Alison Cayne on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alison-cayne-223b0b14a/ 

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA