The Parfait Co is the first brand in the world to package French Parfait which is a cold dessert like ice cream but creamier, smoother, and richer. It is completely natural and free of gluten, preservatives, and colourants.
Sharmeen (Founder- The Parfait co) worked at a startup restaurant and was in the process of curating its menu. Parfait was added to a few plated desserts and received some wonderful feedback. When she was looking to start something of her own, the idea of bringing Parfait to a new audience became her main inspiration.
This time on Straight Outta Kitchen, we talked with Sharmeen to get you an inside scoop from her journey of building The Parfait Co.
Let’s dig in!
Do you run the entire show by yourself?
Initially, it started out with me and a tiny team who managed production and deliveries which has now evolved into a team of 17 given our growth in distribution and added SKUs.
How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
It’s been an amazing journey and one of our biggest differentiators in the premium ice cream space is the fact that we are not ice cream! Another important one is that we are completely made in India vs international brands which import their premium products.
You have had your share of PR features, what was the pinch-me moment for your brand?
I’ve realised it hasn’t been one such moment but a culmination of many small ones that have brought us here today. Being featured in digital and print media, we’ve been lucky enough to have reached a range of people in terms of brand building. However the one that stands out the most is an article featuring me in the Vogue, I was amazed at the number of congratulatory calls, emails and texts I received!
What marketing strategies you suggest for such a niche brand?
We first started out with Instagram and Facebook and all our growth has been completely organic so far. Another thing that works very well for us is sampling. We realised from participating in food events that people who try the product generally buy it so we have a team of promoters who solely work on building our clients through sampling.
We are also always looking out for good collaborations as in the food space, there are always complementary brands who can work together to create something exciting for their joint audiences.
Is it tough to be out there building a brand with patriarchy all round?
Definitely in a lot of cases. My partner (who is also a woman) and I realised that when dealing with brick and mortar businesses, the mentality is usually old school. We’ve often had to specifically mention that we are not two women working out of a home kitchen but have a full-fledged business!
Have you ever had a 911 situation in your kitchen?
Nothing major so far but anytime the electricity runs out there is always pandemonium, given all our freezers are in the central kitchen.
Which is a restaurant brand/restaurateur you look up to?
Aah, there are so many! But to name one, Chef Sanjana Patel of La Folie. There are few pastry chefs in Bombay as talented as her.
Name any 3 kitchen essentials for your brand?
Whisks, spatulas and chocolate!
Something you feel you should have been told before starting The Parfait Co?
That no business at an early stage can be run successfully on autopilot. It’s going to be backbreaking, but it’ll be fun too! And all worth it in the end.
What would you’d be doing if not running The Parfait Co?
Working as a bread baker/pastry chef.
If you had a biography made, what would the opening line be?
The aroma of freshly baked sourdough wafted into the living room as Sharmeen…
Your favorite Parfait flavor?
It varies with my mood but the current one is French Vanilla. I’ve realised that finding a good vanilla is rare and this one is so creamy and luscious.
How do you plan to scale your business?
In the last year my partner and I have grown the business 7x by increasing distribution through modern and general trade. We went from being in 5 stores to 70 stores.
From the hyperlocal perspective, we have opened 3 new hubs including one in Pune to service home deliveries across the city. We are targeting Pune as a new market for us by growing our home deliveries as well as store presence there. Also, for the upcoming festive and wedding season, we’re looking to tap into the catering community to provide a whole new range of desserts which are Parfait centric but also modern and niche.
Three problems that you want a tech company to solve for your brand?
1) Being a brand which has so many vertical points of sale we would look for tech which can be customised to our specific needs.
2) Making customer acquisition a part of the offering along with business optimisation ideas.
3) Providing regular data analysis, and feedback in terms of deliverables without follow up required from our end.
Your advice to budding women entrepreneurs?
We live in a culture that has just begun to accept women entrepreneurs which means that it’s going to require ten times the effort to be taken seriously. It means being pushy at the expense of being considered annoying, far more follow-ups to get the job done, and overcoming presumptuous people with set notions in their minds about what you’re trying to achieve. I often realise that a firm hand with a soft touch works well and finding that balance is always tricky while dealing with a range of people.
While it’s not going to be easy being a woman in a man’s world, often you have to do just that – be a woman in a man’s world, in order to change that world. Go out there and make the effort, if we can’t then no one else can!
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