News from Vermont #255 - Maple for the Teacher
Hello again Maple People,
I've been asked to teach a class at an upcoming "maple school" on the subject of marketing. Although the thought of being a teacher kinda scares me, I agreed to do it because of all my experience; "What the heck" I thought. "If all else fails, I can bluff my way through just like I have the last forty years!". You see, my only marketing credentials come from the "school of hard knocks". At 22 years old, I suddenly found myself an oft-unwilling partner in our family maple business. Our setup was loose to say the least...no business plan, no portfolio...heck, to this day, I don't even have an office! My parents and I ran the business by the "seat of our pants" with one major criterion...we needed to eat.
The bank wasn't wild about my dairy farmer father's 1966 mission statement, "Guess I'll sell those critters 'n try my hand at milkin' folks", but they gave us a small loan anyway and we were off and runnin'. Over the years, I've had a lot of marketing ideas, some good, many bad...like my "sap bucket" gift pack. It started as a brainstorm in the middle of the night. It would be cardboard, ala KFC, but made handsome with graphics to replicate an old-fashion wood-stave sap bucket. I took the idea to a marketing guy (mistake number one) and he thought it was a real winner. A Massachusetts box company would build 'em but it would not be cheap, almost twenty thousand dollars to create and produce the first run! The marketing guy said not to worry though..."You'll be the only one around with a sap bucket gift pack.".
We ordered them in the fall so that they would be ready for Christmas sales but, alas, they were late and we lost Christmas. Then we found out that folks hated 'em..."Ahh ordered a 'sap bucket' gift pack" one guy from Alabama said, "not no movie theeAter want-a-be!"...I was in a bind but sometimes good things spring from desperation; I discovered kettle corn, added maple to the recipe, and ended up selling those buckets, all seventeen thousand of them, filled with Morse Farm's deliciously addictive maple kettle corn.
Yup, over the years, some of my marketing ideas have been "creative" to say the least but I don't claim the top prize...that would go to my friend Faruk. Bosnian Faruk Piric was forced from his homeland by bad politics and war in the nineties. He moved to America and adopted Montpelier, Vermont as his new home. Faruk, an inventor by trade, started coming up to Morse Farm because of his interest in the maple process. He and I quickly became close friends. The tall, dark-eyed man always talked through a smile and started every conversation with "Please...may I have meeting with you about idea I have...?". I always enjoyed talking with him because we shared a common interest in "wacky" marketing ideas. For some reason, maybe because Vermont had provided him and his family a safe haven, Faruk was oddly fixated on the shape of his adopted state. "Please...I have prototype of new syrup bottle like state of Vermont" he said one day. And, sure enough, he had made the neatest little syrup jug, complete with the Green Mountains bulging from its middle, shaped like the State of Vermont.
A Vermont maple packer eventually bought Faruk's idea and began making both glass and plastic versions of the "Vermont" jug but, like my sap bucket gift pack, it was not well received. Sales were sluggish and eventually Faruk and the packer lost both energy for the jug and a lot of money. One other time Faruk approached me with a prototype of a maple candy box shaped like, you guessed it...Vermont. It was a cute little box and I encouraged him to proceed with it but stopped short of offering to be his business partner. Faruk's most "famous" idea, however, was one that I was able to squelch instantly and unequivocally: he had drawn up plans for a joint Vermont, New Hampshire Welcome Center. It was to be multi-stories high, sided with granite, shaped like the two states as they appear on a map, and located...are you ready for this?...spanning the Connecticut River!
"Faruk...you don't understand!" I shouted loud enough to shatter the Old Man of the Mountain. I went on to explain the severe zoning regulations in both states and people's attitude toward public water, flood plains, and traffic generation. His friendly, dark eyes instantly grew huge followed by his trademark smile..."Oh...I understand point" he said, "like McDonald's in Montpelier, never, never.". I winked and smiled back..."You got it".
Faruk and his wife Beba returned to their native Bosnia a few years ago. I'll always remember him as persistent, hard working, and smart as a whip, but mostly, a world-class friend. He sure loved Vermont and tried his best to promote it. Some things, however, just need to be left alone like wooden sap buckets and the Connecticut River.
We've got a couple special suggestions to help you with two upcoming events:
1) No Super Bowl party is complete without Morse Farm Maple Kettle Corn. Check it out at http://www.morsefarm.com/products and make an order...you will receive it in time to serve what's guaranteed to be the most popular "munchy" on Feb 5!
2) For your Valentine: Made fresh Morse Farm Maple Candy Hearts! http://www.morsefarm.com/products ...how 'bout straying from those same old chocolates?
Thanks a lot!