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What’s in Store pals! It’s Kasia, back with another exciting e-commerce story. This week, we’re talking about something we all love: food! Emily Golub always knew she wanted to cook more and eat local. Her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership with a local farm was the “gateway drug,” as she puts it, to all things delicious.

So in the fall of 2012, inspiration struck that would solve her dinnertime dilemma: Why not start a meal kit service that connects people to locally grown foods and Atlanta’s best chefs, all while giving people the opportunity to learn new cooking techniques?

Just like that, Garnish & Gather (G&G) was formed, named after garnishing your meal and gathering together. “The sense of community is what makes Garnish & Gather unique,”  Emily says of her service that provides all the raw food you need to create a tasty, home-cooked meal using neatly separated portions and a sheet of detailed instructions. We got the chance to try G&G, and holy heck, it was marvelous.

But with such a popular service come a lot of challenges—especially when it comes to time management. The G&G team only has a handful of employees and is operated out of the very same space where the local food is packaged and prepared for delivery.

Here’s how they juggle so many demanding tasks while still engaging with hundreds of customers:

“Our product has evolved a lot since the early days of G&G, and it’s all a result of trying to listen harder to what our customers are saying and be more reactive to that,” Emily says.

One way they do that is meeting with people face-to-face at farmers’ markets, where they regularly have a stand that shows off their delectable meal kits. In addition to their responsive customer service, the team has also done focus groups and hosted special events to get a chance to hear what people are saying.

“Our cook times used to be much longer, our pricing higher, and we didn’t have as many recipes from restaurant chefs in Atlanta,” she says. Now, the cooking is shortened, the service more affordable—and some of the recipes come from well-known restaurateurs around town.

Managing marketing and the company’s website on a tight budget is tough enough, so G&G uses another tactic to help stimulate organic marketing and incentivize customers to keep coming back: sweet, sweet swag.

The team loves putting special treats in their customers’ orders each week like new product samples, birthday or anniversary gifts—even little aprons for the kiddos who cook with their parents.

“We also use email marketing a lot to put out special referral programs to give meals to friends and prompt people to spread the word,” she adds.

Having a presence at farmers’ markets along with diligent customer service and maintaining day-to-day activities is a challenging line to walk. Unfortunately, Emily says, some weeks are just about putting out fires and generally keeping the business humming along. But the team still makes a point to pencil in critical face-to-face meetups with vendors and suppliers—and to brainstorm.

“My favorite times are when we are able to carve out time to visit with our farmers, work the farmers’ markets, or think about new products and services we can offer to grow the business and improve our customer’s experience,” Emily says. “We try to schedule things pretty far in advance so that we can manage the non-critical path commitments and spread them out in a way that’s manageable for both myself and the team.”

Emily cites bonding with customers and the local food community as one of their biggest successes, and it certainly shows.

“We want to create really strong relationships with our vendors and suppliers so that our business is mutually beneficial,” Emily says. “We just love building that sense of community that is connecting farmers, chefs, producers and eaters!”