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Photo above: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver demonstrates how to prepare one of his recipes.
- Founded: 2013
- Headquarters: Pawtucket, R.I.
- Top Executive: Founder and CEO Tim Brown
- Products: Jme Collection food prep, cooking and baking, and serveware
- Website: www.JamieOliverAtHome.com
A man on a mission. That’s celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, namesake and inspiration for one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing direct selling companies, Jamie at Home.
In England and Ireland, Oliver is so well known that his company needed to use only his first name to gain attention. Consultants sell the company’s Jme Collection of unique cooking and serving pieces at home parties. At the same time, they become champions for Oliver’s mission of improving the world’s health by encouraging people to prepare delicious, nutritious food at home. Oh, and they make money while doing it. So a U.S.-based company supporting his mission made perfect sense. Enter, Jamie Oliver At Home (JOAH).
Oliver is something of a wunderkind. In his 30s, he already has 16 companies that spread his food philosophy in many ways: television shows; social media, including his Food Tube cooking channel on YouTube; his popular website; 14 cookbooks; restaurants; his own magazine; public speaking; three charitable foundations; as well as direct selling companies. He was awarded the prestigious TED Prize as a result of his work in West Virginia, which was featured on the Emmy Award-winning network television reality show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in 2010.
Consultants become champions for Jamie Oliver’s mission of improving the world’s health by encouraging people to prepare delicious, nutritious food at home.
Jamie at Home launched in the U.K. in 2009. In the first three years of business, the company went from $0 to $20 million (USD) in sales. They currently have 2,500 consultants in the U.K. and Ireland. According to executives, Oliver chose direct selling in the first place because he loves the direct connection with customers. His whole vision of sharing how better food leads to a better life, as well as wanting to demonstrate the products, fits with the home party atmosphere.
As Oliver became more well-known, he developed new fans, including direct selling industry veteran Tim Brown and his wife, Amelia. Both have been enthusiastic home cooks and healthy-living proponents for many years. One Saturday morning, Tim was working out at his health club and clicking through the television channels, when he came across one of Oliver’s cooking shows.
“Here was this cool young dude, cooking over an open flame in his backyard,” Tim recalls. “I thought, ‘Who is this Jamie Oliver guy?’ I told Amelia about him, and she bought me one of his cookbooks. Then he disappeared from the channel. My Saturday morning Jamie fix was gone.”
But a year later, Oliver was back on television with his Food Revolution program, and the Browns were taken by him all over again.
“He caught us with his sincerity, passion, love of people, easy preparation of good food and his love of children,” Tim explains. “Who would have thought we would be partners with him four years later?”
But they would be. Tim learned that the Chairman, President and CEO of Oliver’s business interests, John Jackson, was exploring ways to bring the Jamie at Home direct selling business to the United States. Together he and Jackson considered whether to offer the Jme Collection through an existing direct selling company. But with both of their backgrounds in the industry, they knew without a doubt that the way to bring the products and mission to the U.S. was through launching another Jamie Oliver direct selling company in North America. Tim was all in.
|Amelia and Tim Brown|
But launching a direct selling company is no one-man job. Tim turned to trusted industry partners to lay the groundwork, first signing contracts with them in early 2013. Working closely with an experienced team enabled them to go to market quickly with an expertly developed compensation plan, marketing materials, back office, website and other essential elements of a direct selling company.
“We’ve had an amazing team come together in so many areas,” Tim notes. “It starts with Jamie’s team. They have been so great to work with and gave us everything we needed to complete our due diligence. They brainstormed with me as we put together a company that would be successful here. I went to the U.K. five times between February and September 2012.”
Jamie Oliver At Home started to coalesce, with Tim as its Founder and CEO. He put together a small home office team, including Creative Marketing Director Michelle Girasole, Vice President of Sales Chat Leonard, and Home Office Director Mary Pat Smith.
Tim set an absolute deadline to be live and open: May 15, 2013. The day was chosen because it was two days before “Food Revolution Day,” the culmination of Oliver’s campaign to get people better connected to their food. Oliver organized more than 1,200 events in 74 countries that day to encourage communities across the world to celebrate the diversity of fresh food, share cooking skills, understand good eating habits and, of course, eat delicious food. It was also the birthday of Tim’s favorite staff member, his wife, Amelia, Jamie Oliver At Home’s first Founding Consultant.
It would be a “soft launch,” giving the company the summer to make any necessary adjustments before the company’s grand opening on Sept. 4. The founding consultants who joined in April were poised to party. One party hostess was so eager to hold the first Jamie Oliver At Home party in North America that she insisted on scheduling it on May 13.
“I was getting a little nervous,” Amelia remembers. “I kept asking whether we’d have catalogs for that first party! They were delivered on Friday afternoon, and the party was on Monday.”
The Jme Collection products were selected to support the types of food made at home here in the U.S.
|Jme Collection Terracotta Plate||Jamie Oliver||The Antipasti Platter made with American oak.|
Amelia had been Tim’s supportive spouse and “CEO” of the Brown family, always cheering him on over the years. Yet she never thought that actually being in direct selling herself was really “her thing.” But Jamie Oliver inspired her so much that she took the plunge.
|Tim and Amelia Brown join Jamie Oliver as he is honored at the Second Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors Dinner for his work with children.
“I think I was afraid to do it for 20 years,” she says. “But I was surprised at how easy it is. I’ll ask everyone, even people I barely know, to have a Jamie Oliver At Home party. Rejection doesn’t bother me. I’ve found that most people will say yes.”
Amelia and others on the staff were intimately involved with selecting the product line. Jamie at Home carries 275 SKUs in the U.K. Tim wanted to start smaller, plus some of the products were perfect for the English cooking lifestyle but were not appropriate here in America. As Amelia says, “As cute as some of the British products were, we just knew that in the U.S. not many people would be making figgy pudding.”
In the end, they chose a smaller selection of products for the initial line—some best sellers from the U.K. and others they knew would do best in North America. Jme Collection products are selected to support the types of food people make at home here. They’re also created by renowned designers to be unique, beautiful, functional and inspiring.
“One of our top sellers is the Really Good Rice Pot, which can be used in the microwave or conventional oven,” notes Creative Marketing Director Michelle Girasole. “Amelia had a guest who had purchased one and told her, ‘My 4-year-old wants rice all the time now, and my other son makes oatmeal in it.’ Our products inspire that kind of response from families. Mission accomplished!”
The parties also inspire. Consultants or hosts easily generate electronic invitations through their back office and email them to guests or invite them in person. At the 90-minute party, guests socialize for a while, and then Oliver joins them via DVD. The hosts get to pick which of 12 recipes he will demonstrate, and they give guests a copy of the recipe. As Oliver banters in his relaxed style, he fills the conversation with fun, digestible facts about the value and ease of preparing food at home. Guests see him use Jme Collection products—items he uses in his own home—to prepare and serve a recipe. Even more recipes are available online. Guests also hear stories about each designer that creates pieces for the company’s core line of food prep, cooking and baking, and entertaining pieces.
“There are so many places to get kitchen products, but Jamie has worked with world-renowned designers to produce the Jme Collection,” Tim notes. “They use wonderful materials, such as American oak, ceramics and terracotta. Beautiful! The pictures you see of them don’t do them justice.”
For the founding management team of Jamie Oliver At Home, partnering with an established company had many benefits. One of the most appealing was a built-in philanthropy that matched its mission.
The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is focused on educating people of all ages about food so that they can make better food choices for life. The U.S. charity, established in 2010, works to bring food education to schools and youth groups, businesses and communities by raising awareness and offering hands-on training. It’s Jamie Oliver’s passion project, and it dovetails with Jamie Oliver At Home’s mission: Better Food, Better Life.
“I was in the background of the direct selling industry for 20 years,” explains Amelia Brown, the company’s Founding Consultant and wife of Founder and CEO Tim Brown. “I had no desire to do this business until Jamie Oliver. I fell in love with his passion and message of ‘Better Food for a Better Life,’ especially where it concerned children. We have an alarming rate of childhood obesity. That’s why he wants us to spread the message of cooking with real food. It’s a powerful message, and I loved the way we are connected with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.”
She notes that the Food Foundation supports organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs and Let’s Move, first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to solve the problem of obesity within a generation. Oliver used the proceeds from his TED Talk award to start the philanthropy here in the U.S. Even though it’s still in its infancy, Jamie Oliver At Home helps support it with a “Round Up” program in which customers can donate by rounding up the amount of their purchase. Additionally, home parties provide an all-important platform to discuss the importance of preparing nutritious meals at home.
“We have the ability to engage people in the conversation,” Tim points out. “Obesity is a huge problem in this country. We can change that by getting people talking about the issues and buying and cooking good local food that’s not filled with junk. Jamie’s recipes make it simple and fun, and we have the ability to have Jamie hold our hand throughout it all.”
During the soft launch, consultants were the company’s partners, helping them identify what worked best, or pointing out problems. Amelia was on the front lines, holding parties herself and keeping an eye out for opportunities to improve.
“She has been involved from the beginning, helping us develop the party format and training,” Tim says. “Because of her love for the mission, she is constantly reaching out to teach consultants about Jamie and the Food Foundation. Between May and September, when we were building the back end of our systems, she was the first one testing and entering orders. When customer questions arose, she got the call. It has been so valuable to have her as part of this.”
Though informally training new consultants all the time, Amelia has also been involved in developing the more formal training processes for recruits. Some of the training is tried and true, such as equipping the field leaders to provide the front line of support for their new consultants. This includes teaching them how to host and launch parties and comfortably include Oliver’s DVD presentation. Other training tools include online tutorials, videos and podcasts, as well as training manuals and conference calls. Amelia says, “People like to learn in different ways, and we fuel their needs with a variety of approaches.”
Then came Sept. 4. Oliver himself announced the grand opening of the new U.S. company on his website and social media feeds, shifting the fledgling company into high gear. Oliver’s social media success made millions instantly aware of the new company. He has 3.5 million Twitter followers, 1.7 million Facebook “likes,” 1.5 million Instagram followers, and in May he had 5.7 million visitors to JamieOliver.com. Jamie Oliver At Home has access to all that content.
Social media has continued to play an important role in the company’s growth and culture. Members of the JOAH Crew—the company’s affectionate nickname for its consultants—regularly post snaps of the meals they make using Jme Collection products, and they take part in “Twitter parties” with themes such as “Halloween Unjunked.”
Consultants and their guests have a broad demographic so far, mostly reflecting the demographics of Oliver’s fans: 55 percent women, 45 percent men. Military spouses who fell in love with Jamie at Home in the U.K. are now able to start a business in the U.S. with this new company. Others knew about Oliver through television or cookbooks. Some simply love to cook and share their recipes. Jamie Oliver At Home provides a venue for all of them to share their food passion.
“One of the things that make our parties unique is how many men come to them,” Amelia notes. “I’ll have a party one night that’s all women, and the next one will be couples. I have two coming up that are all men. We never know who will be at the party—young people, older people. Jamie connects with everyone.”
“We never know who will be at the party—young people, older people. Jamie connects with everyone.”
—Amelia Brown, Founding Consultant
Amelia says that quite a few guests say they don’t cook. Her answer: “We have wonderful products for entertaining. Then they come to the party, and they buy products that go with the recipe he cooked,” she says. “Jamie makes it so easy.”
When Tim talks about Jamie Oliver At Home’s future and how it will grow, he emphasizes that they want to touch as many people as possible in the U.S. and Canada—where the company plans to expand in late 2014—but company growth is really about expanding awareness of the mission. That mission includes continuing the conversation about real food and teaching children about its value, as opposed to processed foods. Reaching out to more people means bringing on more consultants, which also means more parties going on in more homes and more families cooking together—and the mission becoming more realized.
“Our vision is all about health and financial well-being,” Tim says. “We say, ‘Join us because we need more people engaged in conversation about good, real food and how to have fun making it so we can eat better—not processed—food.’ Financials are important, but they’re not the only thing that drives us. We see tens of thousands of people involved with our mission to spread the word about Better Food, Better Life. We lead with health but care deeply about financial well-being, too.”