I have followed the Organic, Natural and Whole-Food Emporium from its early days when you ordered online and collected from a sparse house-come-office situated next to a garage in Bryanston. Debbie Logan, the owner, helped carry my order to my car. My goods were packed in a re-useable plastic crate which I tried to give back to her, she said not to worry that I could keep it until next time.
We stood by the car and she had spoken freely and spontaneously about the state of food and children’s nutrition. It was the first time we had ever met.
Customer relationships are built on things like trust, but here was something more extraordinary: a small business owner putting her trust in her customer. She trusted me with her passion for real nutrition, she trusted that I was a returning customer, and she trusted me with the crate. I was quite touched. I felt valued.
I’ve been a fan of Debbie ever since and, in lieu of that, of the Organic, Natural and Whole-Food Emporium. I make a point of supporting the business. I read Debbie’s newsletters as often as I can, I post about it, I tell people about her and I’ll even go so far as to protect the business on social media if I have to.
What I’ve become is the perfect customer.
Even if not all my experiences have been like that first one, I still support the business. Because when Debbie put her trust in me (treating me as a valued customer that she wanted for life), I put my trust in her.
She reinforces that trust all the time too. I once was offered a full refund and a replacement product along with a full-page, personal email with recipe instructions as a result of one botched meal.
But that’s not the only thing that has reinforced my trust in this store and this brand. It’s a collection of many small, significant things.
It’s Debbie’s sincerity and the transparency with which she shares her business journey (she sends out very long, very interesting newsletters). It’s that I know exactly what the business stands for (in her words: “Organic Emporium is not a 'health store', I'm not into selling pills and potions, this is a store with real food in it, farmed by real farmers – that is what it is.”).
I’m also very excited about this business; what it’s doing and where it’s going (and indeed, where it’s been).
By reading her newsletters, I know that Debbie has travelled South Africa far and wide to find and nurture relationships with real-food farmers. She has sat in the middle of a pig farmer’s field in Hermanus where the farmer invited her to listen to the “soothing sounds” of the pigs munching on the grasses. She has kicked back on the porch of a farmhouse in the Magaliesberg, eating pan-fried scones with homemade jam, watching chickens catch moths and crickets in the last light of the day.
Sprouts, mealworms and sorghum are the type of ingredients she’ll gush about when she shares a story of a farmer’s latest chicken feed experiment. Because for Debbie, it’s not enough that the chickens get to roam freely out in the open, but also what they eat that earns the eggs their “real food” status.
She goes right to the source, knows where her products come from, the people behind them, what went into producing them, and where they’ll end up. She even cares how they’ll be used and enjoyed once they land in her customer’s hands.
Debbie’s a super passionate entrepreneur and the fearless revolutionary behind the Jozi Real Food Revolution. It doesn’t mean everybody likes her. Especially when she won’t stock their products or takes legal steps when they falsely label their products. But what I know for sure is that Debbie won’t feed you what she won’t feed her family.
There’s one other thing I trust too, that when I give her business my highest recommendation, you won’t be let down.
Take out: Having an element of transparency in your business and sharing your business journey with your customers shows your trust in your customers. (You can find material by looking further down your value chain – who produced the components of whatever it is you sell and what happens to it when your customers take it home.) When customers respond by putting their trust in you (purchase and repeat purchase or recommendations and referrals), reinforce that trust through little actions that show you value them and want them as a customer for life.
Author: Nicky Grandin