“Sally is the new Dr. Oetker”

daring house Very few people know the little town of Waghäusel between Karlsruhe and Mannheim. Nevertheless, bosses from Silicon Valley and German top managers make the pilgrimage here to “Sallycon Valley”. They all want to learn from Saliha “Sally” Özcan. The elementary school teacher with Turkish roots has built up a successful medium-sized company with her husband Murat – in the middle of the province and solely via social media.

“Sally’s World” now employs 145 people. The company makes a mid double-digit million turnover with baking ingredients, household helpers, fashion and garden accessories. Most of the products are developed in-house and sold in our own web shop. “We want to double our turnover this year,” announces Murat Özcan confidently. Baking ingredients from Sally are already in the Lidl range. Now the Özcans want to go even more into the food trade. “Sally is the new Dr. Oetker”, at least her husband is convinced – the strategic head of “Sally’s World”.

It all began in 2012 when the young trainee uploaded a video to YouTube in which she baked a nut braid. After her victory on the TV cooking show “Potgeldjäger”, the fan base grew. “My hobby became a business model,” says Sally in her show kitchen. There she has just filmed a baking video for blackberry crumble with her cameraman. The 34-year-old currently has to prepare, because from March she will be dancing as a celebrity on the RTL show “Let’s Dance”.

The mother of two – trademark plaid shirt and beaming smile – is considered the most successful food creator in Germany. She loathes the word “influencer”. Sally not only films recipes – around 2500 of her own creations – she lets her community participate in family life. It clearly answers everyday questions: How do I clean the dishwasher? What am I keeping my children busy with? How do I build a raised bed?

“I teach people something – instead of in the classroom in the digital space,” says the Golden Camera award winner, who skipped the teaching profession. “Without Murat, I would not have had the courage to be self-employed,” she admits. She describes her husband as a “chaotic visionary”.

Sally Ozcan

“My baking hobby became a business model,” says entrepreneur Saliha Özcan. It now employs 145 people.

(Photo: Sally’s World)

“Sally’s World is an absolute success story. Best practice for merging social media and e-commerce,” says Jan Bechler, Managing Director of Finc3. The e-commerce consultancy helps branded companies with direct customer business.

>> Read here: That’s why corporations have such a hard time with digital brands

Bechler sees Sally’s world as a “perfect mix of modern media and retail company”. Sally has managed to build a strong brand with a high level of credibility. Her fan base, which queues for hours for autographs, cuts across all age groups. Sally’s explainer videos have up to twelve million views a month on YouTube, around 22 million on Pinterest, over 30 million views on Facebook and even more on Instagram.

Likewise, Sally is present in television and magazines. Over 100,000 subscribers listen to Sally and Murat’s weekly podcast. During the pandemic, the couple opened a flagship store in Mannheim, which received an award from the HDE trade association. “The special thing about Sally is that she masters various channels – digital and analogue,” says Bechler. You don’t have to buy your traffic in the web shop expensively via Google or Instagram like e-commerce competitors.

“Serious competition for established brands”

In addition: “Thanks to our web shop and the Sally app, we are largely independent of product cooperation and social media platforms with changing algorithms,” emphasizes Sally Özcan. It is true that she also regularly advertises food processors, Nobilia kitchens, Lidl or Ferrero. “Unlike most influencers, Sally is not dependent on such collaborations,” says Bechler. The main source of income is the sale of own products in the Sally webshop. “Of course, that brings a much higher margin.”

Sally and Murat Ozcan

“My hobby became a business model,” says Germany’s most successful food creator, who set up an e-commerce company with her husband.

(Photo: Sally’s World)

The recipe for success of Sally’s world? “Speed ​​and short distances,” says Murat Özcan. “It used to take five years for a trend to travel from the USA to Europe. Today he is here immediately via social media.” Traditional companies often need six months to pick up a trend. Then it was almost over again. Bechler’s conclusion: “For established brands, Sally is a serious competitor.”

In the Sallycon Valley everything is under one roof on 4700 square meters – marketing, product development and residential building. The content is created in the kitchen and in the photo studio next door. The images are published one floor up, adapted to the respective channels.

An employee is currently designing a cast-iron pan on the PC. The foundry in Turkey even expanded because of Sally. According to Özcans, however, 60 percent of the products come from the region. The flour, for example, comes from a mill in the Odenwald that had to increase its workforce from two to ten.

Community replaces expensive market research

According to Özcans, there were no real product flops. “Sally asks her community beforehand whether they want a red or yellow pot,” explains her husband. “In just one hour, 100,000 people respond. That’s better than expensive market research.”

It is important to make things emotional. The pots bear the first names of the family. “Products need a face behind them. We also show the people who make them,” says Murat Özcan. His conclusion: Building a brand is now easier than ever. So it’s surprising that the digital Sally prints a 400-page catalogue. There she tells stories about her 2500 products. “It was Otto and Ikea’s biggest mistake to stop the catalogue,” she says. Catalog users ordered significantly more than online customers.

Sally’s world was profitable and self-financed from the start, emphasizes Murat Özcan. “We don’t want any investors.” After the corona boom, however, Sally also felt a reluctance to buy due to inflation. “Nevertheless, we were able to keep our sales stable.” The D2C industry, on the other hand, lost 4.7 percent, according to the Federal Association of E-Commerce and Mail Order.

Plans for a “Sallycon City”

The young entrepreneur from the German provinces is a prime example for YouTube. Murat Özcan plays a video in which Robert Kyncel, YouTube’s chief operating officer until December, congratulated Sally on her tenth anniversary: ​​”You’ve built an incredible empire. Youtube is incredibly proud of how you are showing the world what is possible from Waghäusel.”

Sallycon Valley in Waghausel

The headquarters of Sally’s world. This is where the videos and product ideas are created.

(Photo: Sally’s World)

Leaving the provinces? Unimaginable for the family: “We are home shit,” says Murat Özcan, who was born in Balingen and fulfills all the clichés of a Swabian: down-to-earth, frugal, hard-working. In Waghäusel, the Özcans have big plans: they dream of “Sallycon City” on the field next door.

Murat Özcan shows sketches of a climate-neutral shopping city – with shops from Sally’s World, her fashion and garden brand, an educational campus and free hotels for her working students. “That would create jobs and would be a tourist magnet,” he believes. “In the US, they would roll out the carpet for a project like this.”

Expert Bechler is also convinced: “If Sally weren’t limited to the German-speaking area, she would have been a billion-dollar company long ago.” Netflix is ​​already in talks about a series about the Sallycon Valley.

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