Shaper: Cat Gazzoli

Show aired on 28th January 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Diane Sherwood, a fantastic upbeat version of Duke Ellington’s original It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing). Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and we do something special and I am sure you know it by now but we bring in someone who is shaping the world of business, and we call them a Business Shaper. I am really pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is Cat Gazzoli – I hope I said that right, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t – she’s Italian originally, she’s been in New York or a while, she’s here now and she is the founder of a business called Piccolo and Piccolo make organic food for babies and they have only been going just under a year but they are kind of everywhere. It is very impressive. You will be hearing lots from her very shortly. In addition to hearing from Cat you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we have got the music and we have got a crackerjack full of brilliant music today from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul. Kandace Springs is in there, Carmen McRae is in there, The Elder Statesman are in there and so is Oliver Nelson.

That was Oliver Nelson, brilliantly influential sax player, he died in 1975 aged just forty three and that was called The Critics’ Choice. Cat Gazzoli is my Business Shaper today as I said earlier; she is the founder of Piccolo and they are the organic baby food people and she is not new to the world of food and we are going to find out all about that in a moment but this is a relatively new business and you can already find all their gorgeous produce in some amazing places including Waitrose, Planet Organic, Asda, Wholefoods, Hubbub Booths and so many other places and without further ado, ladies and gentlemen it is Cat. Thank you for joining me.

Cat Gazzoli
Thank you Elliot.

Elliot Moss
Now tell me firstly, you are Italian.

Cat Gazzoli
Yep.

Elliot Moss
But you have an American accent.

Cat Gazzoli
I am also American.

Elliot Moss
And you have this beautiful life where you are here in the UK but you also are in Italy quite a lot. Family is important to you. Talk to me a little bit about how this arrangement of your business has arrived where you are here, you are there, you are kind of everywhere. You’ve got a young child, your parents, your father, your husband’s parents are involved. It’s all interesting to me. Let’s start with family.

Cat Gazzoli
Sure so I think I will start with my dad. So he has been really helpful in the whole sourcing side of Piccolo so he has been based in France where we get a lot of our ingredients as well. I have family in Italy up near Venice and near Geneva and we… these are the kind of places we are getting the fantastic herbs and vegetables and fruits for Piccolo. So it is really two-fold. First these are countries that I just have a lot of history with because of my family on the French and Italian side but I am sourcing from small independent family farms there as well so there is a lot of reasons to be going to the Mediterranean basically.

Elliot Moss
Very good. Any excuse is a good excuse and just tell me a little bit about Piccolo. What made you think that the world needed an organic baby food business because there is a few out there…

Cat Gazzoli
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…that are similar.

Cat Gazzoli
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
What is it about the… what was behind the idea Cat?

Cat Gazzoli
Sure. Well first of all my background was coming from an organisation called Slow Food that really promotes healthy, nutritious food and how that food is sourced and during that time I spent years with the National Childbirth Trust which is the UK’s largest charity for parents. So while I was working with the NCT and Slow Food I was hearing directly from parents what they felt was missing in the market so very much the insight behind Piccolo, the recipes, the innovation in Piccolo, the herbs and spices you see running through it, the blends that we use and the ingredients that we use and where they are sourced from as much as that’s part of my DNA and so important to me when building a brand and making a delicious tasting product. I was hearing from British parents across the UK you know, that they wanted some blends that would have a little hint of you know, basil or mint and it would be just a little bit more stretching of their child’s pallet and that’s why you see the kind of flavours we have like mango and kale and you know, we have a new blend that has beetroot in it and so it is a little bit more just taking it… baby food to another level so that wasn’t just what I felt was needed but it was nice to hear from parents from everywhere from Plymouth to Sheffield.

Elliot Moss
Perfect consumer research en-masse, that’s what actually your involvement with apart from doing all the good things for the NCT that was what it created at the end of it.

Cat Gazzoli
Yep.

Elliot Moss
Good stuff. Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper today, that’s Cat Gazzoli and she is the founder of Piccolo and actually as an adult, I always want to taste baby food and having had four children myself, I have over the years.

Cat Gazzoli
Oh wow.

Elliot Moss
Time for some more music, this is Carmen McRae with Just Give Me Time.

Another super upbeat number here on Jazz Shapers, that’s Carmen McRae with Just Give Me Time and what a wonderful voice as well. Cat Gazzoli is my Business Shaper today; founder of Piccolo and a food person and I just want to talk food, I want to come back to family as well but your background apart from Slow Food which if people don’t know is this movement, this global movement going fifty years I believe as you said earlier to me, which is all about putting proper food on tables, it’s about connecting community with the environment, really understanding what good food is about and not rushing things and destroying the planet that we live on. But actually people that often do very well in life are very focussed on the thing that they love and I look back at your… into your history and I find that you were involved in food back at the Canadian Embassy in Rome, you’ve somehow or other been connected through the United Nations to food agencies. What is this thing about food? What is it? Where has it come from? Is it a family thing? Is it a you thing or is it a bit of both?

Cat Gazzoli
It is definitely a family thing. So we still have a small grocery shop up in the mountains of Northern Italy near Geneva so you know I grew up around a lot of pesto making and ravioli making basically from my Italian side of the family.

Elliot Moss
And what I find interesting also is your academic background. I mean you did a Politics Degree I believe at UC Berkeley, you’ve got an MBA in St Johns, you’ve been involved you know, your school in York. Very, very interesting proper substantive academic stuff but then, but I mean this seriously Cat – she’s laughing at me – the serious side of that is that you come from a place where you understand what food is about and what the eco-system of food is about. That combined with the family, has that created the perfect blue print for this business you are now running?

Cat Gazzoli
I think I have been exceptionally lucky and I am like very grateful to the United Nations for the many years I spent working with their food agencies. The background at Berkeley was very helpful, you know political science so much can happen in politics can have to do with food and shortages and crisis etcetera so they are very connected. I went right from Berkeley into the United Nations while doing an MBA and you know the MBA brings rigor and gives you a really good structure to understand how to solve problems even if of course the United Nations you know, you are focussed on the millennium development goals and really big, lofty… they’re not lofty but difficult to achieve type of KPIs, infant mortality rates, you know really serious stuff but you need an MBA to help you solve such massive problems so really those things naturally came together and then from the UN, yes Slow Food.

Elliot Moss
And this fifteen years as it were process before, fourteen, fifteen years from graduating through to actually creating your own business.

Cat Gazzoli
Yes.

Elliot Moss
In a nutshell is it a good thing for someone setting up their business to have that or does it not matter?

Cat Gazzoli
It is interesting because you know right in front of me I have a notebook with someone’s name on it, named Craig, who is Craig Sams from Green & Blacks who has been my mentor since I have come to the UK and you know, and he did Green and Blacks and very much you know he said to me, his MBA at Wharton in the US was really helpful. I think there is a couple of key, kind of key educational blocks that can help you build a business…

Elliot Moss
But if you didn’t it?

Cat Gazzoli
…so it’s mentorship and, and a bit of academic rigor can help you get further. I don’t think everyone has to have it whatsoever.

Elliot Moss
We will come back to that theme as well, that will be coming up with more chat with my Business Shaper, Cat Gazzoli, founder of Piccolo but latest travel is coming up in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom for your business from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss and every Saturday I am very privileged because I get to spend some time with someone who is shaping the world of business. If you have missed any of the previous two hundred and fifty wonderful people I have met then you can go to iTunes and put in the words ‘jazz’ and ‘shapers’ you will find them there. If you are flying on British Airways there is someone featured right now, it may well be Antonio Carluccio, it could be Kelly Hoppen, possibly I think it is one of the two right and if you also want to listen on line CityAM.com is another destination for you. Right now, right here though it is Cat Gazzoli and they make food for little children, little people with, I am not going to say ‘erbs’, I just did and ‘Baysil’ but nice things where you can increase the size of the pallet of your child. How many people have you got in the business now Cat?

Cat Gazzoli
We are eight.

Elliot Moss
And your business is now already getting towards the millions? It is already moving up beyond the one million…

Cat Gazzoli
Yep.

Elliot Moss
…and so on. All the plans in the world and you talked about, you know, financial models that you were helped with. What’s it like actually being in the thick of it?

Cat Gazzoli
Well let’s just, it’s being everything to the business so you know, directly speaking with the CEO of you know one of our core suppliers or helping our intern make sure we pay him back for the pizza. I mean at this point even though we are in eight hundred different stores and supermarkets we, it’s still very much a small family business with a lot of value so I am at the core of a lot of different elements of it. As we grow obviously we are getting, we are bringing on you know,more team members. It’s definitely been a total whirlwind, especially because we were expanding quite rapidly in terms of offering a large variety so we have grains, grains and vegetables, vegetables and fruits, you know every kind of blend to really have that proper balance. The whole style of Piccolo is around the Mediterranean approach to eating which is really more vegetables and fruit and grains, legumes, pulses and then of course we also have meat and fish running through our blends but it is about really expanding baby’s pallet in that kind of approach where there is just that little something, there is just that little bit of herbs and spices and so much of that is we encourage even though you know, you can buy Piccolo, we encourage family to eat together not leave baby alone and really bring it all together. Even if we have made it for the family let’s say and they are eating Piccolo, we encourage them to do that together, it’s very much a bonding exercise.

Elliot Moss
But that’s your… and that is the big picture thing you are trying to do. At the same time…

Cat Gazzoli
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…though you are eight, nine months in, you’ve got eight hundred stores as you said that you are in, places that you are selling your product.

Cat Gazzoli
Yep.

Elliot Moss
You look like you have tonnes of energy, you feel energetic to me and you’ve still got…

Cat Gazzoli
It’s the jazz.

Elliot Moss
…the sparkle – it’s the jazz – the sparkle in your eye but there is an assault of the senses going on for you intellectually and emotionally right now I imagine because you are building this business. How do you prioritise the important things every day? How do you find time I guess is what I am really asking?

Cat Gazzoli
I sleep very little and what I am and it is so exciting to be learning and really coming from such a different role as the United Nations and Slow Food which have their own set of acronyms I mean it has taken me over a year just to get down all the acronyms there are for the grocery trade because before that my head was full of kind of political, you know, all the United Nations global policy acronyms around food so I am learning basically a whole another landscape. Of course in the UN and in those kind of environments your KPIs have to do with helping people and really reaching these big goals for the planet which you can’t do without the help of others and I feel that that has been the best training for the grocery trade. Because at the end of the day it is a partnership with the retailer, it’s a partnership with the customer. That is why we launched directly into Waitrose really shared values around ethics and the supply chain and that I felt comfortable with that coming from an environment like the UN. Now of course this is a very tumultuous time to be in a food business with all the changes in politics is directly affecting currencies and you know, we are buying a lot of our fruit and vegetables from the Mediterranean, we are sourcing all of our dairy from the UK, from farmers I worked with for years in Somerset so…

Elliot Moss
You haven’t got much on your plate, I mean really Cat. We are going to hold you just there because we have got so much to fit in but stay with me for much more from my great Business Shaper today, Cat Gazzoli. Time for some more music and this is the brilliant Water Melon Man originally from Herbie Hancock and this a version from Mongo Santamaria who is the Afro Cuban Latin jazz percussionist.

That was Water Melon Man from Mongo Santamaria. Cat Gazzoli is my Business Shaper and she is the founder of Piccolo; they are a fast growing business and they are going to be mega I reckon because this person in front of me is super focussed on food and what it means to people and eating together. Is it really fun working in a business which you are passionate about or is it not as much fun because the hobby of gorgeous food and family and things are suddenly now a business and delivering it in an operationally rigorous way is suddenly what you have to do versus what you enjoy doing?

Cat Gazzoli
Well I still cook for my team all the time. My kitchen, my home is right next door to our office so we, we still do all the stuff we did at the very beginning before we had one product in a supermarket and so none of that has changed and I have two amazing co-founders, Kane O’Flaherty who is on the brand creative side and Alice Fotheringham who is our nutritional therapist and comes from infant feeding specialist.

Elliot Moss
And the three of you are very connected?

Cat Gazzoli
Very connected.

Elliot Moss
And how does it work? Who, at the end of the day, who makes the decisions or is it kind of is there autonomy in your areas the way you are experts?

Cat Gazzoli
I think you know it might be because there is just so many years in the UN where no one agrees with everyone and everyone is from a different country so they don’t even have cultural norms to make a decision but I am quite collaborative in my approach so we tend to do quite a lot of team decisions and really the rigor that Alice and Kane have brought to the business is they are both coming from classic FMCG, Kane was at Metcalfe’s and Alice was at Annabel Karmel so they had then in the grocery trade let’s say with branded product in you know, five different retailers and I am kind of the black sheep of the, of the team because I am the one that wasn’t coming from straight up you know, grocery retail, branded goods and you know it took them months as I said earlier to kind of bring me on that learning curve of just the whole lingo of the trade.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of leadership across the other five people in the business which is not millions yet but it will be many more, how does that work? It is very similar? Is it they are all part of the decision making?

Cat Gazzoli
I mean obviously we have some very young members of the team and we consult with everyone and I think it is really important that there is a lot of kind of group input but obviously there is some things that, for example, you know one of my team just might know better because they have done it before. I should add that even though it is a team of eight, I talk to our directors daily so for me one of the strongest points about Piccolo, what’s made us get this far in so you know, in eight months is that we have an incredible Board of Directors. We have two fantastic female investors, one is Prue Leith who you know is a food darien, taught Jamie Oliver, does the Great British Menu and then Jan Woods who is former head of HR at PepsiCo and now at Lion Capital so that has… those two women are very helpful to the business and then my other directors come from FMCG and let’s just say, are there for me on WhatsApp, you know as needed.

Elliot Moss
This is like the team of super heroes that you have assembled and heroines that you have assembled for your business. It sounds like a sensible thing to do. Stay with me for my final chat with Cat, that’s coming up shortly plus I will be playing a track from Kandace Springs but that’s all coming up after the latest traffic and travel.

That was Kandace Springs with Novocaine Heart and Cat Gazzoli is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes so we are going to cover a lot of ground in a very short period of time Cat. You know, the world of funding and the world of female entrepreneurs and I have interviewed I don’t know, probably fifty/fifty in terms of the men and the women I have met over the last few years although it is much harder I think for a woman to get a business of the ground but obviously I have found the best out there. Tell me a little bit about how it’s been for you. I don’t know if you needed to raise money but going forward what is your view of funding for start-ups run by women?

Cat Gazzoli
So I made it very much a point that Piccolo would have a very diverse, both have diverse funding on the gender side. We, I have two female investors now and I’ve just launched a Piccolo with AllBright which is the first female plat… it’s a platform for female founder lead businesses.

Elliot Moss
And Debbie Wasco was actually one of the founders was on this programme.

Cat Gazzoli
Fantastic.

Elliot Moss
Probably last year I think.

Cat Gazzoli
And with Anna Jones who is the former CEO at Hearst, she… you know we met and we found a lot of kind of shared values and synergy is just a cross of what we believe as women.

Elliot Moss
Is it harder do you think for a woman to raise money? I mean the stats would say so.

Cat Gazzoli
The stats say so, it’s about ten percent of all capital goes to female lead businesses. In my experience it is pretty much a male dominated world when you go and speak with angels and private equity however I personally have had a fantastic experience with investors who get the social purpose of Piccolo because Piccolo gives back, it gives back to the National Childbirth, the NTC and our own charity so that was about finding diverse investors who believed in social goals and women tend to instinctively get that higher social purpose. I did find that through male investors as well but I had joined forces with AllBright because it is a fantastic platform for crowd funding, for angels to come in and invest in female lead businesses which have a different kind of feel, as I said like I am quite collaborative, I very much bring in my team on key decisions, I work very closely with our directors and I do think that is somewhat typical of female leadership.

Elliot Moss
Is it harder do you think for a woman running a business than it is for a man because of the way that a woman will view their role as a parent? I mean again…

Cat Gazzoli
I think yeah.

Elliot Moss
…you’re a parent and you will, I am not saying that men and obviously I am a man, I take my role as a parent seriously but I often find that women take the burden and as in managing the family.

Cat Gazzoli
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
Why is that still? I mean we are in the twenty first century, it’s kind of old fashioned and crazy doesn’t it?

Cat Gazzoli
I mean the statistics are quite incredible in the US and the UK about how many women are drop out, women with you know a college Degree and a Masters start to drop out of the work force you know, in their thirties when they are having babies and I think that that is very much because the whole work force and this is very much including grocery, needs to offer more flexible working, more job shares. Piccolo does that as an employer. We obviously attract quite a lot of female candidates when we are hiring so I think that more, there would be more women both opening businesses, investing in other businesses and just staying in the work force of which they bring so much value to the UK if there was more flexible working.

Elliot Moss
And you are going to be a champion of that and you are a champion.

Cat Gazzoli
We are.

Elliot Moss
You’ve got to keep going. We are going to run out of time. Listen it has been brilliant talking to you. I want you back in a few years when this business is twenty million pounds and you are in however many countries, I can feel it is going to happen Cat, you’ve got the look in your eyes that’s going to ensure that. Just before I let you go though and I don’t know where you are going today, probably another country.

Cat Gazzoli
Italy.

Elliot Moss
Italy. There she goes. What’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Cat Gazzoli
Well I grew up you know, I spent a lot of time in Soho and I used to take the A train up to Harlem so my song would be On My Way To Harlem by Gregory Porter.

Elliot Moss
Brilliant here it is just for you. Thank you so much.

That was Gregory Porter with On My Way To Harlem, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Cat Gazzoli who is the founder of Piccolo. Talk about energy and focus and a love of food and a love of family all in one person and a really deep understanding of how important it is to collaborate both within your business and outside of it and someone I think going forward would be a real champion for women in business and women starting businesses up. All fantastic stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s 9.00am next Saturday here on Jazz FM. In the meantime though stay with us because coming up next its Nigel Williams.

Cat Gazzoli

Cat Gazzoli is founder of organic baby food brand, Piccolo. Her founding principle was to create organic wholesome goodness made from ethically sourced product. Cat is also former CEO of Slow Food UK, the global campaigning organisation for good, clean and fair food.

Cat’s love of food started in her family’s grocery shop in the mountains of Italy, with her food career taking off at the tender age of 21 with the United Nations food agencies in Rome where she created campaigns and programmes promoting sustainable livelihoods for farmers. With a background in linking the pleasure of food with a commitment to the community, Cat has launched programs across the UK to help families consider the provenance and nutritional make-up of what they put on their plate. Her passion, love and understanding of good food is at the heart of Piccolo, ensuring the brand is like no other.

Reflecting Cat’s Italian roots, the brand celebrates the Mediterranean approach to health and wellbeing that champions fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared and shared with friends and family. Piccolo believes that Mediterranean goodness is all about promoting that life is better when there is a balance in areas such as nutrition, flavour, family and community.

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…the blends that we use and the ingredients that we use and where they are sourced from…that’s part of my DNA and so important to me when building a brand and making a delicious tasting product.

We still have a small grocery shop up in the mountains of Northern Italy near Geneva so I grew up around a lot of pesto making and ravioli making.

I was hearing from British parents across the UK that they wanted some blends that would have a little hint of basil or mint and it would be just a little bit more stretching of their child’s pallet.

At this point even though we are in eight hundred different stores and supermarkets, it’s still very much a small family business.

I still cook for my team all the time. My kitchen, my home, is right next door to our office…

I am kind of the black sheep of the team because I am the one that wasn’t coming straight from, you know, grocery retail, branded goods…

I made it a point that Piccolo would have very diverse funding on the gender side. We have two female investors now and I’ve just launched a Piccolo with AllBright which is the first female platform for female founder lead businesses.

I am quite collaborative, I bring in my team on key decisions, I work very closely with our directors and I do think that is somewhat typical of female leadership. I am not a Mussolini let’s put it that way.