Post Investment, GeeFree Bakes Up Success

Meagan McGinnes

GeeFree’s gluten-free puff pastry business is on the rise. With a recent investment, a new COO and a ramped-up marketing campaign, the company said it’s already seeing a tenfold increase in its month-to-month sales from March 2017 to May.

GeeFree was founded in 2013 by partners Susan Hougui, a food consultant, and Steven Leyva, a baker. The duo baked the business from there, growing the company to about $500,000 in sales in its second year. But Hougui told NOSH both she and Leyva knew that in order to further scale, they needed capital and guidance. This March, Billy Procida, founder of the multi-billion dollar real estate investment group Procida Funding & Advisors, invested $1 million dollars for half the company.

“The food industry is tricky. Even if you have a great product, which we do, you still need to have deep pockets,” Hougui told NOSH. “In order for a food company to really start taking off to the next level with a nationwide presence and sustainability on shelf, you need to have investors. As much as it is myself and my original partner Steven’s baby, we needed to split the baby up for the betterment of the baby, for the life of the baby.”

Procida, also a longtime family friend of Levya, told NOSH that while his fund primarily invests in real estate, he saw immense opportunity with GeeFree with the addition of some capital.

“If you look at the trajectory of gluten free sales it’s basically going to go through the roof,” Procida said. “So my opinion was, if you sell $250,000 to $500,000 without one dollar of advertising, if you sprinkle in a million in advertising and all of the sudden you have a company doing a million in sales.”

The majority of the investment has been used for sales, marketing, distribution and an e-commerce website. GeeFree also launched a new retail website and expanded deeper into food service. The company is already sold in more than 800 locations including regional Whole Foods, Wegmans and Shoprite, and offers a variety of lines that range from pre-made frozen appetizers to puff pastry sheets designed for home chefs.

Upon joining the team, Procida moved the operations’ headquarters to Englewoods Cliffs, New Jersey, and enlisted Michael Getoff as Chief Operating Officer. Since Getoff joined the team, the company said sales have already increased “tenfold.”

GeeFree also kicked off its marketing campaign with its first-ever TV ad, which ran throughout May in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania during shows like The Chew, Dr. Oz and The Rachael Ray Show.

Procida said he expects these efforts will result in revenues doubling this year and said he sees getting to $1 million in sales this year as “not even a challenge.” As for what’s in the innovation pipeline, GeeFree is breaking free from the oven this June with its launch of microwaveable, gluten-free puff pastry pocket sandwiches.

For Hougui, though the initial investment was “both relieving and sad,” she said she couldn’t be more pleased with the company’s growth and potential growth for 2017.

“The stress of running a business by yourself, chief, cook and bottle washer, is immense,” Hougui said. “Coming to the realization that, ‘Hey, you’re not as good as a team of people could be in this,’ and ‘[This] will only help your company,’ is relieving.”

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