Cooking Up Ecommerce Success with Con’ Olio
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During a trip to Europe, Tabatha Conarko and her husband fell in love with the experience of walking along cobblestone streets, stopping into small-town cafes and tasting everything from wine to cheese to bread — and best of all, extra virgin olive oil.
“We really wanted to package that up and bring it back to Austin — and that’s what we did,” said Conarko, CEO and Founder of Con’ Olio Oils and Vinegars.
So in 2009, Conarko married her passion for high-quality extra virgin olive oil with her love for international gourmet goods and opened the doors of Con’ Olio — Austin’s first premium olive oil tasting bar.
At Con’ Olio, “We believe you are what you eat,” Conarko said.
For this reason, Con’ Olio’s mission is all about food transparency. From sourced local products to their own olive oils and vinegars, Con’ Olio chemically tests every product that comes into their shop using a third-party lab out of Australia, Modern Olives.
“They’re testing for pesticides, they’re testing for anything in our products besides extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and they’re also testing for antioxidant content,” Conarko explained. “And if we don’t have this information, we will find it for our customers.”
According to Con’ Olio’s website, the company also provides the chemistry, organoleptic profiles, ingredient and nutritional information and harvest dates of each of their products. Plus, all of Con’ Olio’s products are “sourced from honest producers who care for the land, the trees, groves, their teams and the environment.”
Another part of Con’ Olio’s culture of food transparency is their commitment to food education — which is why both of its Austin locations (at the Arboretum and in Bee Cave at the Gateway to Falconhead) offer a premium olive oil tasting bar.
Working with local chefs, Con’ Olio offers public tasting classes, where customers can learn the differences between olive oils and vinegars, as well as cooking classes throughout the month.
“We also bring in amazing, beautiful specialty food products that you can’t find anywhere else,” Conarko said. “We source many beautiful local products — cheeses, meats, wines, beautiful pastas — you name it, we bring it.”
But, like many other small businesses, COVID-19 forced Con’ Olio to pivot in a new direction. With shuttered storefronts and social distancing mandates in place, in-person tasting bars and classes were no longer an option.
So, Conarko and her team decided to bring the Con’ Olio experience home to their customers.
“We basically took our oil and vinegar tasting class, put them in a box and decided to offer that virtually to customers,” Conarko said. “Now, we’re offering our oil and vinegar class nationwide to customers. That’s been a huge win for us and is continuing this year.”
Of course, this shift to digital couldn’t have happened without an online store.
When Con’ Olio launched its first brick-and-mortar location in 2009, Conarko explained that the company’s first online store was clunky and lacked the features needed to grow their business. After growing to three stores within four years, Conarko knew the business needed an ecommerce platform that could keep up with its growing demand — and that’s when Con’ Olio made the jump to BigCommerce.
“We’ve used BigCommerce ever since, and we’ve seen 20% growth online year-over-year,” Conarko said. “Starting with one store and a homegrown website — we now have two beautiful stores and a beautiful website, and a team of almost 20 people. I think it’s pretty amazing.”
At the end of the day, Con’ Olio isn’t just about selling high-quality olive oil and vinegar. For Conarko and her team, the best part of their job is simply delighting customers with a memorable experience.
“When they walk in and have that experience of tasting fresh extra virgin olive oil for the first time, they’re just blown away — it’s like a party in their mouths,” Conarko said.
And as a mom-and-pop shop, the Con’ Olio team doesn’t shy away from having a little fun in the meantime. Conarko even confessed that anytime the team is getting ready for a class or packing an order, “We’re usually in the background playing some Lizzo or Destiny’s Child and dancing while we’re getting ready. It’s just a thing — we all love to dance.”
On top of that, Conarko has even experienced firsthand the power of food transparency and high-quality ingredients.
Recalling one instance, Conarko told the story of a friend and customer who struggles with blood pressure issues. Since the customer couldn’t eat certain foods, including butter, Con’ Olio’s Butter Extra Virgin Olive Oil was a safe and healthy way for her to enjoy the food she loved.
One day, Conarko was delighted to open a text from the customer that read, “Tabitha, I don’t know why I felt the need to tell you this, but your olive oil literally changed my life.”
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Haylee is a Content Marketing Writer at BigCommerce, where she partners with the SEO team to craft narratives and blog content. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and afterward spent a year abroad to pursue a Master's in International Management from Trinity College Dublin. When she’s not writing, you can usually find Haylee with her nose in a book, enjoying live music or scoping out the best local coffee shops.