Growing distribution by taking tasks off Jambalaya Girl’s plate

Kristen Preau of Jambalaya Girl

New Orleans native Kristen Preau shares takeaways from running her business and growing in ecommerce.

Three years after she launched her New Orleans-based food company Jambalaya Girl, owner & CEO Kristen Preau wanted to reach more customers.

“I was limited at the time because I was just starting to sell in local grocery stores,” Kristen says. “And I was reaching so many roadblocks with expansion beyond that—it was challenging to get in front of a buyer. So I looked at Amazon and thought, ’Hey, this is where you go to find customers from all over the world.’ And that allowed me to start that conversation with those customers.”

Jambalaya Girl Products

The idea for Jambalaya Girl sparked when she set out across the country after Hurricane Katrina, cooking her dad’s jambalaya recipe at college football tailgates to raise money for her hometown of New Orleans.

“I traveled to 11 different universities all over the country, and everywhere I went, people just loved the recipe,” she says.

Her efforts raised $100,000 but she never forgot all the people who’d tasted her jambalaya.

“I’m like, ‘How do I get back to those people?’” Kristen says. “Because early on, the slowest boat was to try and get into a grocery store by their house. That takes time.”

She started selling her jambalaya, gumbo, and yellow rice box mixes in Amazon’s store in 2013, opting for Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), a service that allows sellers to outsource order fulfillment to Amazon.

FBA can take storage, packaging, and shipping off a business’s plate, in addition to tasks like handling customer service and returns.

“Right off the bat, FBA made sense because of the cost savings and shipping,” Kristen says.

I could not compete at my level,” Kristen says. “I was constantly thinking of the customer, because I knew the easiest way to lose a customer is that sticker shock in the cart when they see how much it costs to ship the product. So with FBA, when I looked at the price point, it made sense to send bulk product to the Amazon fulfillment network and be able to leverage Amazon’s shipping discounts for the customer to be able to get my product at a better price point.”

“Amazon helps me understand my customer”

Kristen says Amazon levels the playing field for small businesses like hers, making it easier for them to connect with customers in ways that standard retail can’t match.

“One thing I absolutely love about Amazon is the access to understanding who our customers are, where they’re from, and what they’re searching for,” she says.

Professional sellers who enroll a brand in Amazon Brand Registry can access valuable data and audience insights through resources like Brand Analytics.

For me to get that type of information selling to grocery stores, I have to invest thousands of dollars—that I don’t have—in all these reports and data,” Kristen says. “My company’s too small to be able to pay for that data. And Amazon really gives a small business like mine that leg up to be able to find your customer, understand your customer, and listen to your customer that you don’t get when you sell in traditional retail.”
Did you know?
Customer behavior analytics are at your fingertips
When you sign up for a Professional selling plan and enroll in Amazon Brand Registry, you get access to a suite of ecommerce tools and dashboards, so you can use data to learn about your audience and grow sales.

“I learned early on not to do it all by myself”

Jambalaya Girl

Kristen Preau grew up cooking jambalaya with her dad

Kristen stresses how important it is to get help instead of trying to do everything on your own.

She’s thankful she found a local company specializing in Amazon selling support. The company not only helped her grow ecommerce sales, but also drew her attention to important things like pricing automation.

“As I was growing with FBA and doing it all myself, I wasn’t staying on top of the changes in cost structures,” Kristen says. “And they brought to my attention that there were some prices or some things I hadn’t adjusted. I was losing money. If you didn’t stay on top of it, you can really lose track of what you’re doing.”

The partnership also helped Kristen with a way to make distribution more efficient.

“They were sourcing products from multiple Louisiana suppliers, mainly Louisiana food suppliers,” she says. “They combined all of our products and sent a truckload to Amazon’s fulfillment network, as opposed to me sending through UPS or a ground route packaging. The combined truckload allowed me to send more products and send it faster than I could have done myself. That was one awesome find to avoid being out of stock during busy times.”

Did you know?
You can spend less with FBA
Shipping with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) costs 70% less per unit than comparable premium options offered by other US fulfillment services.

Resources and support for ecommerce success positioned Kristen to expand into prepared meals and sell globally.

“Because Amazon is one of the places where I go to find those customers and to make that initial connection with them,” she says.

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Lola Okusami
Lola Okusami
Sr. Creative Writer