In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Lacy Eck, VP of Marketing Sales of Knork Flatware. Knork Flatware sells innovative flatware and cutlery, is based in Kansas, and has been in business for fifteen years.
Robin: Why was Knork Flatware started?
Lacy: Innovative creativity can come from anywhere. And that is what happened the day Mike Miller went to a pizzeria with friends and struggled to eat pizza with a normal fork while trying to impress the ladies joining them for dinner. He then noticed an employee using an old fashioned rocker pizza slicer, imaged how that functionality could exist on his fork, and the rest is flatware history.
R: How was the first prototype made? What changes have been made since?
L: After the lightbulb moment, Mike went home and grabbed a fork from his mother’s drawer and applied car bondo to create his vision. He translated the rocker pizza knife onto the fork, to create an improved fork design: the Knork.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
L: We use a manufacturer. Knork pieces are hand forged, rather than stamped, so each one is made from a single bar of stainless steel, and hand crafted using a 26-step manufacturing process to achieve the patented features on a single hand-forged Knork fork.
R: What are some of the 26 steps it takes to make a Knork?
Much of the steps are in the finishing and to get the rounded tines and beveled edge to our forks. It starts initially as a solid bar of stainless steel then goes through many steps to get the correct thickness and achieve the patented features.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
L: $10,000 from Mike’s grandfather started the process and then Mike brought on a small team of investors.
R: Where was the first place you sold Knork Flatware?
L: The Kansas State Fair.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
L: Bed Bath and Beyond (bridal registry), brick and mortar independent gift and kitchen stores, knork.net, Amazon, and farmer’s markets (for the plant based eco line).
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
L: Specialty online and brick and mortar retailers that want to demo the product and tell the story.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business?
L: Social media is a critical piece to our marketing strategy. Restaurants are a marketing vehicle for us as well.
R: What are some key components of your social media strategy? How do restaurants market for you?
L: One of our favorite partners is Snooze, an AM Eatery. We provided complimentary Knork pieces for their initial stocking order, enough to outfit the first two locations when they first opened. Now they have over 40 locations and are continuing to grow.
In exchange for the no-charge incredible flatware, we would have a training with the restaurant and wait staff and give them flat cards with more info on our brand. And if they had customers comment on the flatware (which we already knew that would happen), they would tell them it’s available at this location or Bed Bath and Beyond etc.
We have also done highly targeted ads, in the same area as the restaurants’ locations.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Knork Flatware?
L: Our biggest challenges are the low frequency of purchase in flatware. We have to key on the major flatware buying triggers (wedding/bridal, 1st time home buyers, foodies). Our stainless steel line costs more to produce, and therefore are priced as a higher end set.
We are working to introduce a change of mindset. The introduction of our lower price point (Try Me items) and our new eco products give consumers a reason to test at a lower investment and risk. Hopefully that leads them to replace, or better yet, upgrade their tabletop and kitchen.
We’re selling what is ultimately an experience rather than a product, and hope to create a burning desire to buy our product. A slim marketing budget, in conjunction with a low frequency purchase and the educational element that is important to the brand makes marketing and selling this a challenge, but one that we are up for every day.
R: What are some of the greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Knork Flatware?
L: We’ve had many successful media appearances, including: Knork was chosen as one of Oprah’s Favorite Things 2015, in Spring 2019 we launched a successful Kickstarter campaign (with little to no budget), As Seen on Top Chef (since season 8), The Today Show, CBS’s The Talk, ABC’s The Chew, Food Network’s Unwrapped and The Big Idea by Donny Deutsch and Rachael Ray touted it as her new fave thing.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
L: My sales strategy has always been to seek out fresh and exciting new opportunities that could lend exposure as well as sales, a multi-prong approach that drives trial, acquires new business, and creates broader brand awareness. We are constantly looking at the new waves of retail as well as continually pursuing how to break into further specialty and major retailers while increasing sales with our current retailers.
Knork is impossibly clever. Design-forward, ergonomic, with superior functionality and because Knork is truly an experiential product, we believe it is critical to increase the opportunities for getting Knork into consumers hands. Some of our relationships have been through food and wine events (product only sponsorships), restaurant partnerships and cooking school product partnerships that use in school and have product available for purchase. Get creative and be relentless, all day everyday.