In September 2019, without knowing what was ahead of us all, I started the journey of making Melted Inside (www.meltedinside.com) happen.
In the last 12 months, the world was turned upside down; a lot of unexpected things happened. I was very fortunate to have something positive to focus on – getting Melted Inside off the ground. Researching about the market, getting the brand and the website developed with an incredible team, and inviting many amazing makers to join the new platform. Then a year after I started, we rolled out our first marketing campaign and later our first Christmas hamper season.
After many months of non-stop activities, I am so glad to have this opportunity to reflect why I am on this journey, share why I believe in what we are doing, and fundraise to make my vision for Melted Inside come true.
Why did I start Melted Inside
It all started with my frustration of not knowing what food and drink makers we had in our area. I knew there were many around us. Just that it was not easy to buy from them or find out more about them. I wanted to know more about the provenance of my food and drink: where it came from, who made it, what they made it from and why they did what they did.
I also did not like the fact that supermarkets seemed to dictate what I could eat or drink; and their use of plastics really drive me crazy. In 2019, I reached the point I wanted to do something about break this invisible chain.
I’d like to believe when we know more about our food (and drink); we can make more informed decisions what we eat or drink; we can play a more active part in giving artisan food and drink makers a better chance to thrive while helping the many local communities the artisan food makers belong to.
Why did I choose the brand “Melted Inside”?
"Melted inside" was chosen to capture that moment or feeling, when you experience something special - for example when you enjoy a meal specially prepared for you; when you open a thoughtful present; when you taste something amazing for the very first time. That very moment of "speechlessness" - when your heart was melting. You melted inside.
Many artisan food and drink products are made by producers who are passionate about what they do and they do that with love. To me, their products taste more “real” (and better) because of their creators’ devotion. You may ask, if artisan food and drink products taste so much better why don’t more people buy them?
I had the same question and decided to look into it. I did the research on the market, the competitors. I did the surveys with makers and consumers. I even looked at what other artisan food platforms were offering.
There was both good and not so good news.
An incredible shopper experience
Seeing many other retailers treat artisan food and drink as "marginal" or "optional" products, I aim to give our shoppers a holistic experience: a beautiful website to buy fine products for themselves and their loved ones, to watch or listen to inspiring stories, to browse articles on food related topics, to get ideas on how to create an amazing dish, and a platform where they can help charities and local communities our makers care about.
Melted Inside is a marketplace for foodies who care and want to make a difference.
Image: Content Overview
At Melted Inside, we'd like to do things differently. Two more examples here:-
Our Melted Inside footprints: On meltedinside.com, you as a customer have a “footprint” map that shows you where you normally shop from and the local communities you might have helped.
Image: MeltedInside footprint
We also have a unique loyalty point scheme ("MELTS").
We don’t just give MELTS based on normal spending; we give you additional MELTS when you send gifts to someone, when you come back for the same makers, when you order from our new makers or when you take time to write a review. I’d like to encourage meaningful spending.
Image: MELTS Overview
An affordable platform for the makers
Not adding cost to the makers before Melted Inside sells for them is the principle of how the fees are set.
We do not charge makers any joining fee, admin fee, subscription fee or listing fee. Charging the artisan food and drink makers these fees may make our book look good in the short term, but ultimately that would make artisan food and drink products less competitive, and defeat the purpose of Melted Inside.
The sales commission we charge is one of the lowest in the market. (After all, Ebay does not charge that much either.) We like to celebrate success with our makers and show our appreciation, we will reward our makers for staying with us over time by giving them a good service bonus and a good growth bonus.
In addition to setting a low commission, the design of the website also aims to present our makers and their products in the best possible light, bringing their stories to life. Not all our makers are as online-ready, every now and then we will do the odd jobs for them for free: cropping images, editing videos, creating a new profile. I want the makers to believe and see that we are in the same boat. They are working with real people, not a faceless platform.
We are committed to serving the local communities
I strongly believe business can be a force for good. Melted Inside is a Good Market business. On the website we have built pages for events. Makers (and may be shoppers, one day) can list the events of the local communities and the charities they care about for free. One of our social media ad campaigns highlighted that some of our makers had a social purpose.
I chose our web development team, Kiitos, not just because of their technical capabilities but also because of their commitment to help to train the new generation in collaboration with Gaza Sky Geeks, a tech hub set up by Google and the NGO, Mercy Corps.
During our first Christmas hamper season, we gave a way a small gift parcel for every hamper sold. We just wanted to make someone else' Christmas a little bit better. When we donated some of our products to a local community charity at Mayfield, we also giftwrapped these products because our products in the donations were not the unwanted leftovers, they were our present to the local community.
Making Baby Steps
I have a clear vision for Melted Inside. So how are we doing so far?
I’d say I have reasons to be excited.
Our online advert campaign was well received - while the industry average click-through rate (CTR) was 2%-5%, our first round of adverts on social media has achieved high single-digit and mid double-digit CTRs. For a new brand targeting a cold audience, I am very pleased with the results.
Examples of our first round of adverts on Facebook
Growing sales orders – We are seeing more regular sales orders coming through shortly after our online ad campaigns went live.
Positive reaction by respectable media and food critics – One thing I am most pleased to see is the great coverage from some well-established media - both about Melted Inside and our makers' products.
- We have been featured by Forbes, recognising our role in plugging a market gap.
- Our makers' products consistently received good feedback from the food critics - Forbes, Huffington Posts, BBC Good Food, and some newer media such as Consommé Magazine.
The business would not have got the media coverage without the help of our advisors, who are very understanding and supportive to Melted Inside, a startup.
A growing network and a growing range – Finally, a marketplace without makers and products is just an empty shell.
Since our soft launch in late April / May 2020, our maker network has grown steadily. We now have over 140 active makers, and our product catalogue has passed the 1,400-items mark. (Have a look at our Chocolate, Vegan and Drinks sections. One can spend a very long time trying to choose!)
Over 99% of our makers came through our personal invitations, referrals by our makers, and the referrals of Food and Drink Forum, an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation. Increasingly we have makers sign up by themselves because they like our approach and feel that we are the right platform for them. Afterall, that’s what a quality platform is about: attracting good makers.
So far, we have made a good start, but we still have a lot to do!
So, why are we fundraising?
We are doing that to achieve our goal to become the first genuinely content-rich, open, and technology-driven online marketplace for artisan food and drink, while fulfilling the purpose of supporting local communities. Any business can be a force for good while delivering value and an amazing experience to consumers.
The fund will be used in the following areas:
- new features (more shopper and makers-friendly features, additional security features);
- engaging and creative content to enhance shoppers experience;
- marketing to build awareness towards the importance of knowing where our food and drink come from, and
- other shoppers engagement initiatives e.g., regional tasting campaigns post lockdown.
(As we have a policy we don't ask our makers for samples unnecessarily, a small portion of the fund will pay for the rewards in this fundraising campaign.)
The “story” of Melted Inside would be perfect if the Crowdfunder community can support us to deliver the platform to create a stronger artisan food and drink community.
Melted Inside aims to be a marketplace for foodies who care and want to make a difference. This affordable platform will thrive with your support. Let's reconnect food provenance to our food choices, transform the market - make artisan food and drink products more regular features in every household.
A little bit about myself
I am a Hong Kong - Chinese married to a British. I have two grown-up step-daughters (both vegans) and two chocolate Labradors (both meat-eaters)! Coming from Hong Kong the officially most food-crazy city in the world (according to Time Out), and from a big extended family full of great cooks, not surprisingly I am an avid food lover. I love well-made food and variety. I even took time out from work to spend a short summer at Cordon Bleu in Paris doing cuisine training. I have had even more respect for professional chefs ever since.
Professionally, I’ve been a management consultant for almost 20 years. I have worked with clients responding to big opportunities and big troubles (including covid19). I was also a senior exec of a UK plc and a business mentor for young entrepreneurs. Before my consulting career, I did an MBA at INSEAD at Fontainebleau. Outside of work, I volunteer for the charities (currently RSPCA London East, a social initiative Community Impact Challenge and INSEAD Fundraising).
Thank you for reading our story.