Business Owner Profiles

Pioneering Piggyback Coupons and Underserved Farmer’s Market Helped the Stay-at-Home Mom Advance to More Money

5 Mins read

Quarantine “completely destroyed” Emma Narvaez’s doTERRA business that she’d been running successfully for 8 years. And over the next 2 years, she worked on how to replace that income while still being able to pick up her kids from school. She had the skills advantage from her other career fundraising for New York City nonprofits, but it was in one of her local mom Facebook groups that she stumbled upon a Dumpling business owner.

“I ended up in a side conversation with [that Dumpling business owner] and she spent at least 45 minutes talking back and forth with me, answering various questions, including how much she was able to make on average per hour because I was trying to figure that piece out, too,” Emma says, “And I was like, ‘I could totally do this while my kids are at school,’ and I basically made the decision that night to move forward with Dumpling.”

It became clear that she could run her Dumpling grocery delivery business (EmmaCart Perfect Produce) how she wanted, control her hours and schedule, and work at the $25 to $30 per hour price point that made sense for her family. Plus, she already shopped for 3 families (her family, her parents, and her grandmother) as a stay-at-home-mom for the last 10 years.

Additionally, she already knew what she didn’t like about the Instacarts and Shipts because she used their services for 9 pandemic months to protect her mom’s health from COVID. “I was deeply grateful that people were delivering and I tipped fairly well, but at that point, I didn’t understand how they were paid and how that worked,” Emma explains, “Where I would get really frustrated is when I had bad or no communication, and I’m a particular shopper, and I’d rather not have the strawberries moldy or if they look like they’re not going to have any flavor, I don’t want them.”

It was when she had a shopper with remarkable communication who asked how she wanted her items or followed up that made it obvious how she would run her own delivery business differently. It was this combination of long-time shopping for 3 families, particularness with produce, her previous sub-par delivery platform experiences, and being able to work while her kids were at school that allowed her Dumpling business to bloom.

From Navigating Tough Seas to Finding Followers at the Farmer’s Market

“I’ve spent 8 years meeting people and connecting with them and learning how to build a network on social media, and while the essential oil business got hard for me, because I have a pretty broad local network where I’ve stayed connected, I have a pattern of being involved and helpful,” says Emma.

Although she didn’t transition from another delivery platform, it was that social marketing background and those network connections that provided tools to grow her Dumpling business. It also taught her how to share on social media without being “an annoying salesperson.”

“My goal was to try to make $200 or $300 a week, and my husband was not paid for 6 weeks, it’s been a wild ride, so I started this business and 2 weeks later, my husband was hospitalized for 2 weeks,” Emma explains, “This year has been truly hard and awful in our family, and Dumpling has been the happiness, the quiet and the calm, and the pleasant thing.”

While she was riding through tough storms, one silver lining was the farmer’s market that easily and quickly brought new customers. “That was an area that was not served at all so it’s an area that’s been very easy to find,” Emma says. It helped her emerge beyond competitors and “If nothing else, because a third to a half of my business is the farmer’s market, which Instacart doesn’t serve…So I have this great niche that doesn’t exist in Instacart,” she adds. 

Even though she shops Sprouts, Ralphs, Costco, Vons, and Stater Brothers, it’s her local farmer’s market that makes her Dumpling business “a hundred percent” unique. “Part of what I love and what works for my business is one, there’s a scarcity element that I’m only shopping this market and it’s only once a week so if you want it, you need to order,” explains Emma, “And the second is our local farmer’s market I know it very well cause I’m a regular shopper.”

That means from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM every Friday she’s shopping and delivering from that local farmer’s market and sprinkles her other store shops on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, and occasional Mondays. As she continues to grow her Dumpling business, Emma’s long-term focus is on finding those recurring weekly customers and hitting $800 per week with 25 work hours. In her current workload of 12 hours per week, she earns around $300 to $500 weekly with a $12.99 delivery fee and a minimum tip of 20 percent.

Inventive Piggybacking Coupons = More Money Per Shop

One of the things that’s been a booster for long-term growth is how she uses piggybacking to spur orders from the 15 customers on her coupon list. “[I’ve found piggybacking] to be more efficient for my customers and it increases my efficiency and how much I make in a given hour,” Emma says, “Rather than going to Ralph’s and making no money, I’m going to shop for myself and then I’ll also shop for my 2 customers, and they’ll each get [a piggyback coupon for] $3 off their order.”

The idea is like spending money at Target just because you were emailed a discount, she explains. “I find the same principle applies here that if I send people a message, only a few of these customers order regularly, they order because I send them messages like the piggyback and here’s $3 off,” Emma says.

Not only does she end up making more money per shop, but piggybacking offers flexibility, the opportunity to double-check client lists, and gives her customers time to answer questions about substitutions and particular items. And because she uses the Dumpling app while shopping, she has extra time to add items to clients’ orders and add receipts from other stores she’s shopped for them.

“If I’m shopping your list and you usually get milk and you didn’t put on milk, I’m likely to send a text that says, ‘Hey, did you need milk this week?’…Or, ‘Oh my gosh, the watermelons look amazing. Would you like me to pick one up?’ because I get to know peoples’ families…I’m shopping for 30 to 40 families right now,” explains Emma, “And I enjoy that I get to know people that way. I’ve also tried a whole bunch of new foods because my clients get them and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen that, it looks interesting,’ That’s kind of fun.”

It’s this thinking ahead that helps with recurring orders, gratefulness from clients, and coming up with creative solutions to their problems. For example, Emma’s quick-thinking about creative gift baskets helped out a client, and when she posted a photo on Facebook, she sold 17 more handcrafted gift baskets and received 2 new customers. This attention to customer service is also a big key to her gaining regular customers with her Dumpling business.

Acts of Service to Fill Up Her Dumpling Business Cup

“Little gifts and acts of service are probably my 2 top love languages so doing things like helping people literally fills my own cup and makes me happy,” Emma says, “If the point of a personal shopper is to take something off your to-do list, then I feel like it should be taken completely off the to-do list like don’t bring them a bag of goodies for the goody bag; put together the basket meaning it’s done, you just have to deliver it.”

In order to create these fantastic delivery experiences and work on honing a better business, Emma recommends making personalized notes about client preferences, paying attention to your pricing, and staying disciplined. And don’t forget, keep critical lists like she’s done for her piggyback coupon clients and farmer’s market clients to spur them to order more frequently.

“It is running your own [Dumpling] business and you need to understand that it’s not getting handed orders here,” explains Emma, it’s about paying attention to weekly trends and how your ordering is progressing. If you’re running your own business, that means you’re responsible for it and its success is up to you, she adds.

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