Italian cook and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis has two people to thank for the success of Giadzy, her latest venture on Amazon
With a new platform on Amazon, De Laurentiis has the chance to grow Giadzy into a billion dollar business, according to Sequeira.
“I think I’m lucky enough to have come from a giant Italian family who loved and really was deeply into our culture,” De Laurentiis said. “Even though I moved here with my family when I was 7 years old, when it came to dinner, when it came to parties, when it came to spending time with my family together, they were adamant. I really learned Italian, I speak Italian and I know everything there is to know about Italian culture even though I was born there and moved here when I was a child.
“Being on Food Network for over 20 years, although Food Network had all my recipes and my content from my shows, they work with so many people, I felt like when they couldn’t find a certain recipe or get certain answers, it fell back on me. Which is always the case,” de Laurentiis said. “My cookbooks aren’t in a store for whatever reason, and it’s my fault. It’s always the cook’s fault.”
De Laurentiis wanted to take control of her own destiny and give her 5 million fans more of herself, more Italy and more products, even travel, tabletop and linens of her own design, and offering live classes.
“I wanted to harness that and start telling my own story because I’m able to control that better and at least get the feedback I needed to do my job better, which I wasn’t getting enough of at Food Network,” De Laurentiis said. “As the media and the digital worlds came of age, sometimes these cable channels were a little bit behind. I didn’t want it to affect me. That’s why I started Giadzy. I really started it as a way to talk to my fans in more words than just having a Twitter account.”
Little by little, De Laurentiis started to see a lot of engagement, and a lot of community on Giadzy. “People wanted to know where I get my ingredients for my shows that I’m always talking about. I thought, ‘How do I transform the experience so it’s a little easier for people.’”
The Coronavirus pandemic had a silver lining for De Laurentiis; it gave her time to think about Giadzy and a plan began to flourish. “In 2020, when all of us were sort of locked up in our homes I had a little more time to focus on what I wanted to do with Giadzy and how to move forward, which is something I didn’t have a lot of in the past.” she said.
“I had a friend who was an importer of Italian goods, a lot of the stuff that would supply these things,” De Laurentiis added. “I got together with him, and he wasn’t able to supply restaurants any more because they were all closed. I said, ‘You know what, I’ll help you. I’ll build a little section on Giadzy for selling direct to consumer.’ We started doing that and it sold like hotcakes.”
De Laurentiis wondered if the business was doing well only because grocery stores were in a tough state and mom and pop Italian shops were closed. “But no, I realized that as I built the content around these stories, these producers and their ingredients and showing how you use a particular olive oil, and how you use a specific pasta, the more storytelling I did, I was connecting the dots and people just went wild.”
A year ago De Laurentiis looked for her first investment. “Even though I’d been funding it myself, it was time to grow it faster and bigger,” she said. “I took some investment a year ago, and this past month I decided to go really big and Neil [Sequeira, founding partner at defy.vc.] was my lead investor. We plan on blowing Giadzy up in the sense that the gifting is a huge part of the Giadzy experience, it’s a very elevated brand and we’re going to start moving into private label Giadzy products.”
De Laurentiis is also looking into subscription models and “really building our lifestyle,” she said. “I don’t see Giadzy as just a digital marketplace. I see Giadzy growing into a whole lifestyle brand. I see the travel sector and the home sector, beyond just ingredients, soft and hard goods, so we needed to find help to really see that dream come to fruition.
“I think for subscription it’s more than just the idea of Amazon Prime, like ‘Oh, I need more trash bags,’” De Laurentiis said. “It’s not like that, it’s not replenishment, although we could potentially do that. I’m thinking more like online live classes, things that people can feel part of as a community.
“First products, Giada’s Choice, all these elements of gifting and boxing ideas,” she continued. “I think its bigger than automatic pilot reorder, although that will probably be one of the options. I’ve always dreamed of going into tabletop. I’ve always wanted to give people more, but I was never able to connect those last dots. Yes, I bring all the food out, but what platters am I using, what glasses, what tablecloths.
“We’re a traditional venture capital fund,” Sequeira said. “When we look at opportunities, we look at companies that differentiate themselves. Usually that’s through technology or deep infrastructure or software. In this case, it’s a few things. The most important thing is Giada herself and her personality and her energy and most important, her authenticity. She has 5 million followers across the platforms and a truly authentic approach to storytelling.
“We love the fact that they curate products from Italy and deliver them right to your door,” Sequeira added. “We looked around the market, and especially with that storytelling component – it just doesn’t exist today. We’re moving to a commerce business and a lifestyle business and we hope it can become a billion dollar business. We’re a venture fund and we expect this will grow and develop. It’s really up to the founders to do the hard work and they have the ability to grow into a massive business.”
De Laurentiis stressed that for Italians, yes, it’s about the food, but it’s also about the presentation, “that sensualness, that feeling of family and just pure love. To be honest, before you taste your food you see your surroundings and you touch and feel what you’re going to be eating on. So I’ve never been able to connect those dots on the Food Network, which is one of the reasons I did Giadzy and one of the reasons I moved to Amazon.”
Products largely come from small family businesses, smaller producers who’ve been working on their land for generations. On the Giadzy web site recently, there were handmade chocolate bunnies from Piedmont for Easter, $22 for 3.52 ounces; extra dark Cremino chocolate Easter eggs, $76 for 15.87 ounces, and giant dark chocolate eggs with a surprise trinket inside for the kids, $60 for 19.4 ounces. The latter was out of stock.
Recipes included Pizza Rustica, a celebratory savory Easter pie, chocolate hazelnut olive oil cake and Sicilian Cassata Zuccotta cake, a celebratory cake in Sicily.
“Discover La Dolce Vita,” De Laurentiis says the site. “Buon appetito!”