If you’re familiar with Seinfeld, you probably know the Soup Nazi and his famous saying “No soup for you.” But, did you know that you can actually enjoy the same soup that New Yorkers lined up for in droves in that epic Seinfeld episode?
You can. The product is called The Original Soupman and it can be found in grocery stores around the country.
Who is The Soupman?
The Original Soupman is run by Joe Hagan. He’s a former stockbroker who was introduced to the company, which was called Soup Kitchen International, several years ago. He and a group of investors bought the company when it was in bankruptcy with the goal of bringing it to the masses. What drove him to the company was the fact that they had brand recognition that was valued at about $300 million according to a Goldman Sachs reports. Along with the brand recognition, Hagan also loved the flavors of the soups.
Taking the Advice of a 90-year-old grandmother
Unfortunately, at the time Hagan invested in The Original Soupman, the business was not doing well. So, he took on the advice of his hardworking grandmother: “When you need something done right, you just have to do it yourself sometimes.”
The Original Marketing Plan
That was his impetus to turn The Original Soupman into more than just an iconic brand. He wanted an iconic company. The branding came from the Seinfeld episode and the actor Larry Thomas, who is known around the world for saying, “No soup for you.” The original marketing idea of the company was to send Thomas around the country to grocery stores to take pictures with customers and to sell them soup. But, this was where the plan ended. Once Thomas left, the company never followed through and sent more soup.
The New Marketing Plan
With Hagan at the helm, the marketing plan changed. Now, The Original Soupman is on social media and has a few short videos on YouTube. He also had his marketing team look at data and they found that stores that stocked their soup had extremely high repeat purchases numbers. People clearly liked the soup and they wanted to buy it, but not enough grocery stores had it on their shelves.
Using the TV bump
Despite the iconic brand and the TV recognition, the product wasn’t selling. This teaches us that the TV bump isn’t always enough to keep a company going. To build a sustainable business, data is important. If your business does get a bump from TV or a retweet from a celebrity, you’ve got to run with it and work hard to keep the bump going.
Sustainable businesses rely on numbers.
Running a food company isn’t a one-size-fits-all job. But, new companies need capital expenditure and cash flow. If you are just beginning, you have to start from the bottom – the lowest hanging fruit. The Original Soupman had too many things going and it got away from them, which is why the company entered bankruptcy. Instead, it is important to take digestible bites to get the company growing.
Because being a local company was important to Hagan, he made some changes to bring it back to New York. The soup is made fresh in The Bronx and is shipped to the kiosk in Times Square. Hagan describes the product as moving in concentric circles in New York City – it’s made, packed, and shipped from a plant and distribution facility that the company owns.
Hagan believes it is important to own the process because of quality control. By being in control of the product, the company can make changes and test those changes at a moment’s notice. And, they’ve done it. The Original Soupman was on the menu in New York Public Schools, but the product hadn’t been ordered in some time. So, Hagan asked the school system if they could get back in, since they were still registered as vendors. The school system asked for a change in the product, the plant made the change, and the soup returned to the schools. The product was changed and tested in less than 24 hours.
When you have the opportunity to get a product into a place like a public school district, you do what you can to make it happen. Hagan not only had the plant made the quick change to the product, but he also bought stock to be sure the company had money to fund this project. The soup has been on the menu daily in the schools since January 2018.
Advice to Entrepreneurs
Even though Hagan believes strongly in The Original Soupman owning the whole stack, he understands that it’s not the case for all companies. His advice to entrepreneurs:
“Different situations dictate different things.”
Some companies benefit from owning the whole process, while others benefit from outsourcing. Hagan has investors who provide capital that allows The Original Soupman to make investments in production facilities. If you don’t have the capital, then you choose to outsource.
Hagan also offers other advice to entrepreneurs:
- Surround yourself with smart people.
- Don’t try to micromanage.
- Ask questions.
- Play to your employees’ strengths.
- Know your weaknesses.
- It’s all about the team, so have a good team around you.
He believes so strongly in having a good team that he’s changed the tag line for The Original Soupman. Instead of “No soup for you!” it’s now “SOUP FOR ALL!”