Michael Szyliowicz, an EO Colorado member and co-founder of Mont Blanc Gourmet.
“How am I different?”
It’s a critical question entrepreneurs must constantly ask themselves when launching and maintaining a business. We often use terms like “unique value proposition” and “key differentiator” when discussing market positioning, but clients and prospects just want to know why they should choose you over your competition.
I started Mont Blanc Gourmet in 1985 after learning how to hand-make chocolates in Paris. We’ve grown considerably since then, and our scope has shifted from gourmet chocolates to the entire spectrum of specialty beverages. Maintaining a competitive edge on larger, well-known brands is no easy task. But from the beginning, our different business model has enabled us to effectively compete globally. The model is based upon product development with the complete outsourcing of manufacturing and logistics. Unlike many of our competitors, we’re not burdened with the overhead of producing, packaging or distributing our products.
Instead, our clients come to us for our expertise: we create the formulas for different products in our “innovation kitchen” and then outsource the manufacturing to one of our trusted co-packer partners. This allows us to service a diverse clientele by satisfying each customer’s unique needs across a wide range of products. With unlimited production capabilities, we solve our customers’ problems by brainstorming what is possible. Utilizing a network of outside manufacturers was a decision that keeps us nimble and enables us to meet shifting customer demands, but it required a significant investment to be successful.
These are four essential guidelines that make it work:
- Communication: At Mont Blanc Gourmet, dedicated team members manage co-packer relationships through consistent communication that includes daily conversations about expectations, goals, deadlines and workload management. Communication keeps our partners accountable, but it also allows them to function as an extension of our company.
- Quality Control: We know our clients choose us for the superior taste and consistency of our products. From the onset of a co-packer relationship, we work closely to establish product specifications and monitor production, enabling them to consistently meet our standards.
- Client Transparency: Rather than hide it, we embrace the fact that our strong relationships with trusted manufacturers enable us to operate as efficiently as possible. It’s our customers that ultimately benefit from these relationships, and we leverage that as a selling point.
- Mutual Benefits: Companies enter into relationships for the long term, so being up front and open about each others’ capabilities, expectations and responsibilities at the beginning yields long-term results. Although we’re always adding new co-packers, some of our manufacturing relationships date to the company’s origins, and we’ve grown together.
Creating this unique outsourcing business model has allowed us to remain small in size but globally powerful in ability and production capacity. In five years, our revenue increased tenfold and we made the Inc. 500 list three consecutive times. Shipping to customers all over the world, we’re still a small team of 15 people operating out of our Denver, Colorado, innovation center. For Mont Blanc Gourmet, outsourcing manufacturing and distribution of our signature chocolate and caramel syrups has been a very sweet deal.
Michael Szyliowicz is a chocolatier and co-founder of Mont Blanc Gourmet, which makes gourmet chocolate syrups and specialty drink mixes for restaurants and coffee shops. Contact Michael at [email protected].