/   September 10, 2020

‘A little bit of a rocket ship’: Abbio co-founder Jonathan Wahl on growing a kitchenware brand during a pandemic

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Jonathan Wahl sees the boom in kitchenware companies as a good thing for the sector as a whole.

“Seeing others recognize the same opportunity reaffirms that yes, we’re on the right track,” Wahl, who co-founded the cookware company Abbio last year with his brother, said on the Modern Retail Podcast. “In terms of competing, I believe that at the end of the day the best products are going to win out.”

That last bit is worth saying because Wahl sees a proliferation of low quality products in the market.

“We’re kind of still in what I’ll call the ‘Shopify effect,'” Wahl said. “It becomes very easy for brands with not very well considered, thought out products — or inferior products — to launch and try to establish some sort of market presence. I think that’s happened in our space as it’s happened in many others.”

Abbio only makes and sells five pieces of cookware, which as a set go for precisely $287.

Wahl pointed to tremendous growth due to the coronavirus, in both sales and traffic to its site. “We were seeing consistent growth and were excited with our progress. Then came March, April, May and June. We boarded a little bit of a rocket ship,” Wahl said. Half of its sales are direct-to-consumer, he added.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Hiring influencers big and small
“Someone who doesn’t follow the food space extremely closely like we do is not necessarily going to be swayed by the biggest name chef. They may be more swayed by the blogger that they read who has 25,000 active visitors a month. That might be their source for information. So we range across the entire spectrum in terms of having those small, influential but very important bloggers, and then also having a MasterChef champion and other big names in the space behind the Abbio product.”

The kitchen is where it’s at
“I’m encouraged by the number of new entrants in the space because it reaffirms that there is a giant market. I always knew that kitchenware/cookware in the United States was a multi-billion dollar market, but now seeing others recognize the same opportunity reaffirms that yes, we’re on the right track. In terms of competing, I believe that at the end of the day the best products are going to win out. We’re kind of still in what I’ll call the ‘Shopify effect,’ which is good and bad. On one hand, the barrier to entry to launching a direct-to-consumer business is lower than ever from a technical perspective. So it becomes very easy for brands with not very well considered, thought out products or inferior products to launch and try to establish some sort of market presence. I think that’s happened in our space as it’s happened in many others. The quality of the Abbio cookware and the product itself will be the primary determinant of our success in the long run.”

‘We boarded a little bit of a rocket ship’
“We’re self-funded entirely, so the plan was always responsible, profitable, methodical growth. What changed that to a degree was Covid, which I don’t think can escape any conversation you have with any e-comm or DTC company these days. We were seeing consistent growth and were excited with our progress. Then came March, April, May and June. We boarded a little bit of a rocket ship. From a traffic perspective, we doubled month-over-month for about three months in a row, which was phenomenal. We were not prepared, frankly, from an inventory perspective to meet that demand. We had enough inventory leading up to that period to get us through part of the period. When there were shutdowns across the country and the world, from a manufacturing perspective, that didn’t directly affect us.”

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