· By Najwa Khan
We Go Up To Go Down: Reflections on Accessibility in Premium Channels
For the non-influenced among us - or if you’re just not in LA and don’t give a damn about what’s happening there - I have to start this post with some helpful background:
Erewhon is a super premium retailer in LA that blends the line between celeb juice cafe and high end grocery. I love going when I’m in town for the experience alone - the environment & product selection makes something as quotidien as grocery shopping feel like an event. Or rather, it makes me feel like a certain kind of person.
In many ways, the internet bursts into real life inside Erewhon, unflattening itself like spring loaded origami. Here’s Hailey Bieber’s viral skin smoothie. Here’s that brand I’ve seen everywhere on Instagram. It almost feels like a successful franchising of the Shoppy Shop - a term coined by Neil Shankar that I learned via Emily Sundberg in this fantastic article.
To be extremely clear: none of these things are bad. I am insanely grateful that Erewhon decided to take a chance on dalci and bring us in. Twice, no less! Fun fact: Erewhon was our first “big” retailer many years ago. And we unceremoniously flamed out and were pulled from shelves within months. Our packaging wasn’t physically optimized for retail, but more important, people simply didn’t know what we were. Hard lessons were learned and I’m thrilled to be back (with a veeeery re-optimized product) for a second go. I believe Erewhon is the right place for us and we can do well there.
But rolling out in Erewhon this week has me thinking about this catch-22 I often struggle to reconcile. I got into this business to make a certain kind of product more “accessible.” And yet, in bringing that product to life, my margins (thus my price point) constantly push me towards “premium.” It is a funny position to be in - trying to make something more accessible by selling it through premium channels. Which I’m not uncomfortable doing from an ethics perspective, or even from an “am I stoked to be here?” perspective. But just find so…counterintuitive. From where I sit it seems like the only path to the middle starts at the top. Isn’t that weird?
Because I am huge fucking dork, I often think about a quote from one of my favorite movies - Deep Blue Sea, staring Samuel L Jackson and LL Cool J, among others. The characters are trapped in a sinking underwater research facility where genetically modified genius sharks are closing in on them via increasingly creative & bloody strategies. lol. At one point the characters find themselves concocting a plan to go down a level in order to reach a submarine and the misunderstood hottie shark wrangler guy delivers this crisp one liner: “we go down to get up.” I don’t know why, but I say that to myself a lot.
We go up to go down. We go down to go up. We do things against the logic of our goals to accomplish them. My dream for dalci is to build a suite of treats that are competitively priced against Little Debbies…clean treats for all. But that’s just not where we are today. For reasons that go beyond even price point and unit economics. I guess it’s all part of the journey. So we start at the top and swim to the middle. We go up to go down.