From Kitchen Comfort to Retail Distribution Shop Owner’s Soup Passion “Ignite’d” by WeVenture

Julie Shipley, owner of The Soup Shop
Unable to satisfy her discerning taste for delicious steamy, savory soup, Julie Shipley armed herself with pots, pans, and a kitchen stocked with only the finest ingredients she could find. Recipe after recipe was tried and tested under her close “soupervision” until they passed a strict taste test.
 
Then Julie started out by catering to restaurants who loved her incredible, attitude-filled, bountiful bowls of gourmet, homemade soup goodness. With customers wanting more, the Soup Shop was born in 2009.
 
The Soup Shop story began in the back of a friend’s café on a ¾ table with 2 burners and a couple of pots,” said Shipley, who at that time found her recently attended cooking class did not truly prepare her for the mission she would embark upon.
 
Within a year, she was delivering weekly orders to 20 restaurants which required a larger facility. “Every week after cooking for restaurants, I had soup left over so I decided to see what would happen if I opened my door to the public and sold my soup in quart containers to go,” said Shipley.
 
“Six months later, I had expanded into a Publix plaza location and hired nine employees,” she added.
 
When Shipley visited weVENTURE-Melbourne in mid-2015, she had years of experience that had allowed her to build her offerings to an inventory of over 74 kinds of homemade soup as well as sandwiches and salads. She had hired and trained a dependable staff, created process and procedures and built a loyal customer base. Now she was interested in exploring expansion opportunities.
 
“In the summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to begin receiving assistance from the WeVenture” said Shipley.
 
The Soup Shop was accepted into the IGNITE 360 program with the intent of looking into franchising potential as a way to expand the brand.
 
To do that, several objectives were set for the IGNITE 360 process:
1. Julie’s staff had become so capable that the store ran well without her. However, to fully evaluate operations, she went back to “inspect what she expected”. Time and motion studies were conducted on specific jobs, processes were examined and procedures reviewed;
2. To generate accelerated, sustainable growth and determine benchmarks for potential expansion, fact-based, timely research was required to make appropriate business decisions. This included customer surveys, competitive analysis and industry research;
3. The inventory was analyzed to better understand the effect it had on margins due to ingredient costs, waste and customer appeal.
4. Branding and marketing was explored to grow visibility while managing costs. This included on-line marketing and sales, social media, customer promotions, billboard ads, and more.
5. Financials were reviewed and budgets were developed to maximize financial resources and grow margins. New revenue streams were evaluated based on expansion through remote product locations and monthly revenues were projected;
6. Job descriptions were revised and work flow was modified to optimize time and staff activities.
 
After completing the IGNITE program in 2015, The Soup Shop finished the year with an increase of 21% over 2014! Julie has matured as a business owner and learned the power of strategy and managing by metrics. She is now re-engaged in the day to day management of the business and focused on building strong partnerships and client relationships. Rather than franchising, she is building a growing, sustainable business through a diverse strategy:
1. Julie is creating partnerships with gourmet markets and restaurants. Her hot and frozen soups are now offered in two locations that have not only increased sales by 25% YTD over 2015, but this have also raised brand awareness in areas where she had minimal visibility. These partners have also conveyed interest in adding additional “grab and go” items in addition to the soup.
2. Julie purchased a new truck to support growing income from delivery orders and remote sales. She is researching potential partnership opportunities within the Independent Grocers Association (IGA)
3. She has crossed trained employees and has been able to accomplish more with fewer staff.
4. Based on research and evaluation of financial reports, Julie reduced her inventory by 30% and raised prices to be more in line with industry metrics. These changes grew margins by 243% (net income change October 1, 2015 to February 24, 2016.
 
While working with the IGNITE team late last year, Shipley was asked to create projections that would allow her to pay off a $75,000 business debt. Her plan forecasted that she would accomplish this goal by 2019.
 
“I am proud to say that since I have increased my knowledge about my business it has become very profitable,” said Shipley who proudly reported the company eliminated its business debt in March 2016!
 
This new business approach has also allowed Shipley to pay her employees above average wages, start a company matched IRA plan and offer occasional employee bonuses. In addition to taking a salary, Shipley has also paid off her home and her car and is excited about what the future holds for her, her family, the Soup Shop and the growing numbers of adoring fans who enjoy the love, passion, dedication, fun and “souperior” soup she makes.
 
“With the exception of the van, we have no debt!”
 
The Soup Shop will never stop serving only the very best soup they can make, and IGNITE 360™ will continue to help our clients cook up accelerated, sustainable growth. Bon Appétit!
Company Name: 
The Soup Shop
Location: 
Melbourne, Florida