Deborah Dana, the founder of Kiwilimon, gave LAVCA details about Kiwilimon’s strategy to tailor the burgeoning online food and drink space for Spanish-speaking gourmands.
LAVCA: Please give us a summary of your business.
Dana: Kiwilimon is the digital cooking solution for Spanish speaking women. Covering all cooking aspects based on a recipe on-line social community Kiwilimon offers solution tools such as a virtual recipe book, recipe uploading tool, supermarket list tool and a supermarket on-line purchasing tool. The business model is based on three different revenue models: Advertising, Affiliate & E-Commerce and White Label Websites.
LAVCA: How did you come up with the idea for Kiwilimon?
Dana: Both the co-founder Lorenza Avila and I worked at P&G where we lived the “need” for digital solutions to reach Spanish-speaking women. During the summer of 2009 we worked on our business insight and came up with Kiwilimon as the solution to covering one of the most important vertical themes for this target market, recipes and cooking. We researched global best in class businesses, tailored them to the Latin market and launched Kiwilimon in December 2009.
LAVCA: How does your background help you to succeed in managing this new venture?
Dana: Lorenza´s and my own professional and educational background have given us the most important tools to succeeding in managing our venture. Both of us come from a strong marketing background at P&G where we learned how to strategically connect with the same target market as Kiwilimon’s. Based on our assignments we were also able to develop important relationships with clients such as Wal-Mart, media agencies and marketing agencies. After leaving P&G Lorenza pursued her love for cooking via the Culinary Institute in Boston, MA and I furthered my management skills with an MBA from HBS. Our management skills have also allowed as to acknowledge our lack of expertise on the technical side of our business, therefore focusing on complementing our team with this important aspect.
LAVCA: What sort of financing have you received thus far? From whom?
Dana: Our initial financing to launch the Kiwilimon prototype was both our savings. Once the website was up and running and we were able to demonstrate users “need” and “love” for the concept we looked for friends and family financing to grow us to the stage where we could look for venture capital. The last financing round was venture capital from Gerbera Capital and Mexico Ventures.
LAVCA: What helpful resources or events have you used in your search for financing?
Dana: For our last financing round we used both local and international resources and events. Locally we participated in a government organized event “Semana PYME” where we were invited to pitch our business plan to both Mexican and American funds. Internationally we participated in business plan competitions, such as the Harvard Alumni New Venture Competition, to receive exposure and improve our business plan. We also received amazing coaching from a couple of key people such as Joaquin Avila, Director of EMX Capital and Lee Rand, Partner of Sun Mountain Capital.
LAVCA: What feedback have you received from investors about where to make improvements in your business model?
Dana: The most important aspect of the feedback we received on our initial business plan was to diversify our revenue model and not rely solely on advertising. The second most recurring and important feedback was to “Think Big” and question our very grounded financials and numbers, pushing our business and opportunity to another level.
LAVCA: Following on your earlier comments about the three revenue models you employ (Ads, Affiliate and E-commerce/white label), could you give us a more detailed description of those three platforms and how they are structured and an idea of any corporate partnerships you might have or are developing?
Dana: The Ads platform is the traditional advertising model where we sell banners, page sponsorships and ingredient sponsorships to brands who are looking to connect with the woman target. If you navigate through our site you can see today we have brands such as Nestle, Bailey´s, Alpura, Lyncott, and Wal-Mart.
The White Label platform is where we use our database (recipe and community) to power recipe communities for other brands. Our first white label was launched 1 month ago, at www.recetas-superama.com.mx, it was done with Wal-Mart´s affiliate Superama.
The E-Commerce / Affiliate platform was first done with Wal-Mart as well. With this, we send supermarket shopping lists from our recipe folders to their on-line website Superama.com.mx and they deliver the ingredients to the users in 2 hours, and we receive a percentage of these sales.
LAVCA: What is your most pressing strategic challenge right now?
Dana: Our most pressing strategic challenge right now is the implement the correct team and processes to achieve the project management excellence which allows us to develop a strategic, quick response digital company.
LAVCA: Your business creates a way for millions of new consumers to access a popular area of online business (food and beverage). Are you beginning to face competition? If you are, what do you see as your competitive advantage?
Dana: Yes we are, and we are forecasting that we will see many new players in the digital arena for Spanish speaking users during the next couple of months. Our competitive advantage is the strategic partnerships we are creating with the key players to offer to our users the best all-in-one solution to their needs.
LAVCA: Where is your target audience? Is it in Mexico, Latin America, the US, or all across the Americas? If your audience spans multiple countries, can you give us your views on how to build a pan-regional Internet community?
Dana: We have focused primarily in Mexico but we do have an audience from all other countries where you find Spanish speaking users, including US Hispanics. We believe we have to perfect our product and model before targeting a pan-regional community.
LAVCA: Where do you see your company five years from now?
Dana: As the #1 solution for Spanish-speaking women in all digital cooking related aspects.