Noteworthy: Maker of packaged Somali foods
Employees: 7 part-time
Like many packaged foods brands, Hoyo experienced a spike in sales early in the pandemic as Minnesotans stocked up for the initial lockdown. But that uptick was short-lived.
As a small company specializing in sambusa, a Somalian stuffed pastry, Hoyo relies heavily on grocery store demos, a practice that couldn’t survive Covid health restrictions.
“We’re selling products no one in Minnesota has heard of. If you can’t taste it, it’s tricky,” says CEO Matt Glover, whose co-founder, Mariam Mohamed, set out to fill a void in the frozen foods market and to create jobs for Somali women (Hoyo means “mother” in Somali). In 2020, Hoyo quickly moved to selling on Amazon, but the small company wasn’t equipped to ship frozen foods. Instead, it focused on its shelf-stable Basbaas sauce and plans to introduce a second sauce this year.
Even without demos, Hoyo managed to expand from 50 to 80 stores across the Midwest and ended the year with revenue up 50 percent over 2019.
If you give a small amount of kindness to people, they stick with you.”
—Mariam Mohamed, Hoyo
Here are three moves that made the difference:
Enter business competitions. A 2020 MN Cup semifinalist, Hoyo won the 2020 JTM Scale Award, worth $25,000 in services from food marketing agency JT Mega, which will help the company with packaging, sales materials, and social media—aspects of brand building that Hoyo didn’t have the budget to invest in. Glover says both startup competitions garnered exposure and mentorship for the company.
Network with the local business community. “One of the things that really kept us alive [in 2020] was Minnesota’s robust food ecosystem,” Glover says. Grow North, a hub for food and ag entrepreneurs introduced Glover to You Betcha! Box, which featured Hoyo’s sauce, creating a new avenue for exposure and growth.
Treat your team well. “We give rides to employees; we pick up their children from school,” Mohamed says. “If you give a small amount of kindness to people, they stick with you.”