To be brave enough to try doing something new ― an urge that everyone will have at least once in a lifetime ― is the first step towards making big changes in your life. Then, you need dedication and lots of work to follow it up. With this in mind, we interviewed Carlo Carli, Carli’s great-grandson ― namesake of the famous olive oil founder. His story is one that began in the early 1900s in the Liguria region of Italy and has continued for decades as a family business.
Hi Carlo, why was the oil originally sold door-to-door?
My great-grandfather Giovanni Carli started everything thing back in 1911. I’m the fourth generation of the business. The story began in his olive tree orchards in the small town of Imperia. That year, my grandfather’s orchard ended up producing way more oil than usual, and he wasn’t sure what to do with it. Instead of selling the oil to middlemen (or salesmen), he decided to try something else.
He rode his motorbike towards the Italian Piemonte region to sell the oil himself, door-to-door. A year later, his business began to take off. At the time, his main occupation was working at the family printing company. My great-grandfather figured out how to combine his two jobs: the following year, he printed small catalogs and sent them to the people who had previously bought his oil.
Your employees still help customers to order via phone. How does such big company keep this up?
Yes, this something pretty unusual to see in 2017. A direct-to-consumer relationship has always been a core value of our company: we’re able to guide them through the whole purchasing experience. Everything happens internally in the company ― call centers included. We also like to personalize for our customers ― for instance, we print customized t cards for each of them.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from your family about the business?
My grandpa taught me the art of finding the perfect oil, tasting it, and the process of creating the “Carli recipe”.
Let’s talk craft. What do you still do by hand?
A part of our production is still done by hand, exactly as they used to do one hundred years ago; I’m referring to the selection of oils and the tasting process, which is still kept in the family. In doing so, we create (and preserve) the Carli Taste.
Who tastes the oil?
Until last year, my grandpa was the sole person in charge of tasting. Today, it remains a family business: my father and I do the tastings.
Why open the Empori (retail stores)?
We did what you guys (I believe) know how to do very well: we started with an e-commerce site and then opened physical stores afterward. We were aware of a few people who knew about us but weren’t too familiar with home delivery. And so, we took a few steps back, introducing the very traditional shops, the so-called Empori. Customers can now really see all phases of the company, end-to-end.
What’s your favorite dish to dress with your oil?
Tomato and basil spaghetti pasta with a very refined oil ― the epitome of aroma and simplicity.
What’s in store for the future?
Many stores are on the horizon. At the moment, our idea is to open other Empori in Italy, then to move to a few more European countries ― it could be in Germany, France, Austria, or Switzerland. Meanwhile, we’re researching new ways to satisfy our customers’ needs, enabling them to buy our oil outside the usual store hours.