Deli owner Victoria Shparber may run a small business in Lehigh Valley, Pa. But the Ukrainian flare she puts on her food along with her on target marketing techniques sets her business apart from others in the community.
Originally from Kiev, Ukraine, Shparber and her family moved to America about 20 years ago. To support herself through high school and college she worked in the food industry.
In that time she has filled the shoes of bartender, waitress, and even bagel maker as she reached her goal to one day work in international relations.
Shparber received a Bachelor of Science degree from Seton Hall University and used her degree to work for the United Nations. Later she came home to the Lehigh Valley to take a job with Lucent Technologies.
But as Shparber’s career progressed she found the food industry was beckoning her back. And she soon found herself back in the kitchen with the opportunity to open a deli shop in 2006. Co-owned with her mother and run by mostly family members, the Black Forest Deli was not open without difficulty.
“…the first few years weren’t easy,” said Shparber in an email interview with Small Business Trends. “Retail on its own is hard, plus the food business is a lot of hard work and many years are needed in order for the word to spread around the local community.”
In order to make the Black Forest Deli a success, Shparber relied on her savvy marketing skills. Social media has been a key player in drumming up business.
She shares photos of the newest creations on the deli menu, tag customers in photos, and share information about the weekly Kiev dinner nights. (These are special five course traditional Ukrainian feasts that have become a Black Forest Deli specialty.)
MailChimp is another tool Shparber uses to connect with the customers who are not on social media sites. MailChimp sends weekly e-newsletters to customers on a mailing list. It has allowed the deli to reach an even broader part of their customer base.
But the deli does not only rely on virtual marketing to bring in customers. For example, Shparber appears from time to time on local TV. See her in this segment as she prepares some dishes she commonly serves to customers:
Shparber emphasizes the importance of being fully immersed in the local community. She’s big on working together with other small businesses to promote and support one another.
After remembering how hard she struggled to grow her own business when it first began, Shparber formed a business group for the Lehigh Valley community. The group is now five years strong and includes about 600 businesses that participate in various charity events throughout the year.
“The group is mainly run on social media but everyone knows each other by face as we have gatherings/events though out the year,” she says. “We try to invest our time in the people who live here and give our best to help as much as we can in order to make this a better community and better place to live.”
Image: Black Forest Deli/Facebook