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Perelel’s Co-Founder, Alex Taylor, on building a world first vitamin company for mums

Joining me on the show today is Alex Taylor, Co-Founder of Perelel.


Perelel is on a mission to create a world with healthier babies and moms by offering women’s pre and postnatal vitamins and supplements designed to adapt to each unique phase of motherhood, along with educational content and an intimately supportive community.


A first of it’s kind to be Co-Founded by an OB/GYN, Perelel vitamins provide comprehensive nutrition that changes with you throughout your motherhood journey, timed to when you need specific nutrients most. These OB/GYN-developed formulas use only the most natural and bioavailable ingredients to ensure women get what they need, when they need it.


Listen in to this episode to hear what happened to two women that sparked this idea inside of them, how they used the medical community to help market their product and the lessons learned along the way.


Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!


00:02:25

Yeah, so I am the co founder of Perelel. We are pre and post natal vitamin brand and we're really reimagining the way that women um received their pre and post natal nutrition.

00:03:29 So we've created targeted supplements for each unique phase of motherhood starting from preconception. So anyone that's thinking about getting pregnant are actively trying through each individual trimester pregnancy because each trimester actually requires very different nutritional support um as the baby and mom are developing as well as postpartum and early motherhood vitamins that are specifically formulated for those early years. So we've got a stress support blend, hair and beauty blend as well as an incredible full spectrum multivitamins. So our belief is that women want more targeted uh products for their exact needs and by partnering with Top O. B. G. Y. N. S. And doctors and specialists, we've created a really special product that we're excited to share with the world Sounds So special. You have a really impressive track record of brand building and you've worked for some really exciting major names in the industry have also seen that you've been award awarded Forbes 30 UNDER 30.

00:04:33Edit Could we go back to that before this story starts and talk about what you were doing in life before. Oh wow! You're really building me up, deserve my goodness. Thank you. Um Yeah, so I have a deep background in content and media which then parlayed into marketing. Um so, you know, I started my career out in the lowly closet at vogue and eventually worked my way up as a fashion assistant Hudson twists and turns from there, got involved with a really special startup that essentially created editorial and shopping experiences around personality. So think of something like goop, we would do that for jennifer Lopez or Lauren Conrad and I was the first one there to figure out how to make this work in the beauty and wellness and lifestyle category. And so I really took to it and learned so much and I think this is actually where my entrepreneurial spirit was stirred because I went from working in a very glossy Environment of Vogue, very buttoned up to folding cable startup team at 12.

00:05:47 It was just a totally different world, very scrappy. Um I wore a lot of hats and I had to figure out how do I create compelling content for um the online world at this time, you know, I realized I wasn't spending my time with magazines, I was spending my time online more and more and there are very few strong editorial destinations. As a matter of fact at the time, folk didn't even have a website as a landing page where you would go and enter your physical address to subscribe to the, to the magazine. So it was just interesting opportunity to get involved with a company that saw the future of media and that was online. And so I helped build these editorial brands and properties and social media channels around all these different personalities because they were known names, They had massive audiences and so it was really one of the first instances where I was leveraging social media to drive traffic to a website at the time. Most brands weren't on facebook yet, twitter didn't exist, Pinterest hadn't been born yet.

00:06:49 So it was really interesting to to be such an early adapter in terms of how do you leverage social media to inspire conversion and connection and community. And I learned so much there. So from there I went on to work with Loreal. I helped him launch their first ever content marketing initiative. Which no it's like standard practice content marketing. But at the time it was very new and I dreamt up this idea for our website called makeup dot com which would serve as a turnkey marketing and editorial channel. And that was also fully shop Herbal for all 26 brands underneath the Loreal umbrella. It was really the first time that Loreal was trying to market all the brands in one place, which was very new and it was interesting and so I first that site brought it to like crazy you are uh yeah it was a crazy U. R. L. To get in the first place but totally it's wonderful and it's actually still alive and well today which is always great because that's a projected to go.

00:07:55Edit Um So at any rate I was doing that was really enjoying my work and my team and learning so much. And I was recruited by google and you know I'd always been this fashion beauty girl and it was so interesting because tech and fashion and beauty, we're kind of at this interesting inflection point where they were starting to be open to working with one another, you know, and it was just this interesting opportunity and I thought well, first of all, google knocks, you gotta answer, so I took the opportunity and I joined the marketing team there and I learned so much, I met so many wonderful people um launched some incredible products and I really enjoyed it, but after we had one of our biggest launches that I was running point on, I woke up the next day and everyone's, you know, high fiving and happy, and I realized, mike that was really cool and I'm really proud of the work we did, but I miss being close to the consumer, I don't know that I want to be the platform and I love being, you know, I love driving traffic, I love understanding what she's saying, I want to be closer to the consumer, and it was kind of has come to do in this moment where I was like, I need to think about where I want to be, you know, I've learned a lot here, I kind of think of my time at google as, you know, getting my proverbial digital N.

00:09:16 B. A. If you will. Um but I knew there was there was something else that I was craving and part of my role Google was understanding what was happening at all the big fashion and beauty brands and really supporting them through google products and how we could innovate. So I knew about a little brand at the time called who, what, where I'm born and raised in L. A. By the way. So I was kind of looking at what was happening in the L. A. Landscape and I wanted to stay here and my husband's here, my family and I, I thought there was a huge opportunity with this little brand who aware. And at the time it was a daily newsletter akin to Daily Candy, which was very popular here in the States. You know, there's a single newsletter every day and you know, I had this vision that it could really become a true multimedia brand with consumer product extensions, which I learned a lot about, you know, consumer guided product development of Google and my time at the earlier startup Equal and at any rate, um I had some ideas, I shared it with the founders and I quickly joined the team and it felt really good.

00:10:23Edit It was definitely a good home base for me. I helped them incubate and develop all their new brands. Um we grew birdie, which is a beauty destination domain, my domain, which is, you know, home and lifestyle, developed and incubated and launched, you know, a gen Z brand called Obsess E um an Activewear brand. It was wonderful. Um and while I was there, I launched their consumer products division. So, um, we got a phone call from Target one day. This is interesting who calls people nowadays anyway, but it was not totally, really, really was a phone call. Um, and uh, the idea was, how do we take the, who were brand and create products and I had lots of ideas. I was really involved. It was all new for me. I was learning, I was as I was going, but we ended up launching the, who will wear collection Target and took that same format and kind of playbook that we used to launch that line, which was very successful to launch a activewear line and then future lines of the brand.

00:11:30 So it was wonderful. I learned so much. I had such an amazing team. Um, you know, we grew, I think it was like the 28th employee click, which is the parent company, if you are aware. And then, um, the time I left, we had 206 employees and you know my gosh, I opened up our UK office. So you know, London has a very special place in my heart. I saw who, what, where was hiring in London, actually. Yes. Yeah. And they're still doing well. Um, it was wonderful. But uh, you know, I've been there for five years, I had a little bit of an itch and I got approached for some interesting opportunities and one of them was to jump into retail and I thought well you know, I've been doing glorified, you know, licensing deals and I love media but I want a new challenge. And so I went over to Urban. Um so Urban owns free people and anthropologie and urban outfitters and I helped them launch their Beauty and Wellness and Activewear divisions under the Free People, Friends, which was wonderful.

00:12:35 I started that job when I was seven months pregnant, which is a little ambitious. Um was working by Costa Lee and it was definitely a challenge. Um and I had my son and you know, going back and forth and managing all those priorities. I you know, we've had to move, we had to relocate. Um I realized you know what, I want to stay in L. A. And I'm kind of ready to build my own brand, I've spent my whole career building everyone else's brand, I knew what to do, I had incredible experience at click where I learned how to do, you know, uh lead a fundraising process, I helped lead our series being serious, see it click so how do these unique tools in my toolbox? You know, I understood how to run a business and how to build a brand and I thought well gosh, you know, maybe I should start to apply this for myself. So um so that's when I kind of made the leap to decide okay, I'm ready to start something and that was about the time that I met my co founder story.

00:13:39 Mhm and wow, that's a lot for one, thank you for that story. I feel like I just got you to talk so much. Oh my gosh, I'm exactly two. I'm probably out of breath because I am basically nine months pregnant due any day now, I'm to the point where I can barely get, I love you still showing up for the podcast, you're like, yeah, baby, like, just go here, I love that, That's amazing. Well, um okay, so you meet your co founder, how'd you had any idea that you wanted to do prenatal supplements or was it like, hey, let's brainstorm what we could do, how do you get the lightbulb moment for the business? I mean, I wish when they get go that I knew what it was, but I didn't. So the way that my co founder and I were connected and this gives a little color to where we landed is I had become a new millennial mom. I just had my son and I started looking at all the different brands out there and the content and obviously researching products throughout my pregnancy and beyond, and I felt like there were no brands that really resonated with me, it was all of a sudden because I became a mom, I was relegated to this mama category and no brand really spoke to me as like the whole woman I was, I was just a mama, I'm like, wait, I I still have other interests, you know, I still, you know I have a career, I have my friends, I have my personal pursuits and I felt like very few brands were looking at um mothers in a holistic way and I thought God you know, I've got this interesting experience in content and building brands, you know, how can I apply that?

00:15:22 And I was sharing this with a friend who is a venture capitalist and she said, wait a minute, I've heard this from another friend who you need to meet and she has totally opposite skills from you, She's finance and operations and strategy. And so she studies up on a blind date basically. Well, so my co founder Tory um and I met her coffee bush up in our yoga pants and she was also a new mom, she had just had her second child. So we had just had babies within a month of each other and we started just talking about the millennial moms space and where we saw opportunity and we really started to peel back what were some of the experiences that were less than stellar from a product perspective and we went down a few rabbit holes, but eventually we landed on prenatal vitamins and this was really driven from Tory. Um She had given birth to her second child suite at me, she's adorable and she's very sassy little girl um but she was born with a cleft lip and my partner Tory is the picture of health um you know she eats clean only uses clean products and you know of course like any mother you have to just become obsessed with how and why did this happen?

00:16:39 And she knew she was taking great prenatal vitamins. The specific type of class that her daughter had is directly nutrition nutrition related. It's non genetic. So that really put tori and this tailspin to just dig deeper and understand the why. And along with her O. B. G. I am the uncovered that this type of class can be very much correlated to a full of acid deficiency. Well Tory goes I was taking a prenatal with plenty of folic acid. Like couldn't be that possibly well ends up full of acid is a synthetic format of full late which is actually the nutrient we need. And many brands use full of acid because it's cheaper, it's more accessible and it's the synthetic form. And the idea is that They expect women to take this full gas it and absorb it. However 60% of women have a genetic variant that prevents them from transforming it. So here's my partner one of this you know part of that 60% and at any rate became very clear that there was an issue with her prenatal and we started talking about ingredient quality and researching and in tandem with that.

00:17:54 I I said well you know I've had a very different experience by no means you know as intimate as Tory had but I had a really haphazard experience. My prenatal vitamin. Um Growing up in L. A. And having been a fashion beauty editor. Being very connected in the wellness world had a pretty high wellness. I q I like to thank you know like yeah I kind of knew what was up what was trending, what worked what didn't work to see for what and so when I thought about you know maybe getting pregnant soon I started to research well what do I need to address to my life? You know what vitamins do I need to take? What do I need to be doing to prepare my body. And I think that's part of this whole you know millennial optimize everything mindset. Um So I started to research and talk to all of my you know different practitioners in my world from my functional medicine doctor to my acupuncturist and herbalist and I learned that you know when you're trying to get pregnant versus your 1st and 2nd and 3rd trimester You need to supplement your prenatal vitamin with additional supplements.

00:18:59 So when you're trying to get pregnant you want to take more antioxidants that co Q. 10 um in your first trimester you need more fully than you would later. And this is also validated by my O. B. G. Y. N. You know when I the second I got pregnant I marched into her office my bottle of prenatal and I said is this good and she's like, it's okay, they're all kind of the same and that was a strange thing to hear from a doctor and she said, well you might want to supplement with you know, iron now and this later and did, it is so I had my, my prenatal vitamins and I was constantly tracking down new supplements to supplement my prenatal and it was just a bad experience, you know, first of all who am I to be doing this. Second of all, I'm used to, you know, massive convenience again and the millennial, I think it's something that we all expect now and I realized there was just a better product experience, so Tory and I put together, you know, three big things, you know, ingredient quality needed to be improved in prenatal vitamins, secondly, more convenient experience that's targeted to each phase.

00:20:06 And then 3rd education, when we started researching all of this, we go online and the best information we could find was user generated and we wanted credible info from legit doctors and it was all over the place and you know, we wanted to create a space that provided clear succinct credible information produced by credible people. So that really was the moment like, okay, we put all our puzzle pieces together, they said we've got this idea for parallel and you know, the first thing we did was kind of map out this concept and they were like, we're not doctors. So we decided to get the concept balloted by a few different doctors that we knew. We took it to both of our own O. B. G. Y N. One of which is now our co founder, dR biology. And we also took it to one of the top O B G Y. N. S maternal fetal medicine doctors in the nation who's based out of new york presbyterian Columbia uh, and ran the idea by her and it was very clear that this was needed and that's that, you know, put wind in our sails and set us on our way.

00:21:17 So very long way of telling you about my co founder and how we got started. I love that though. And I think it's like been such a personal journey for both of you in building that product. You know, it's really that founder fit. You had the problem on both sides different problems, but both having these issues that obviously other women would be experiencing to. How did you go about then validating the idea aside from the two doctors to talking to women in your community and your networks to understand whether that's something that they would feel confident in purchasing, especially being, you know, a new brand in the space that is very critical to uh, a new mom or I want to be mom. That's a great question. Um, so right after we had the validation from this core group of doctors, we started to do the front test, that's what we would call it at google when we were trying something called the front test. Very official. I love that. You know, we started asking our friends and asking them what they thought what they needed and what their challenges were.

00:22:23 And then from there, you know, it kind of gets you going and we started to reach out to some additional practitioners. So we had access to a top fertility specialists in the nation and acupuncturists, all these different practitioners and doctors who also reinforced their interest in supporting this idea and bring it to life. But then, you know, we wanted some real data. I really believe in the power of leveraging data to make better decisions. So We actually did a consumer survey of over 500 women across the United States to understand their current prenatal preferences, their level in the category where they were buying what they were buying, what influenced them. Um and all of that really shaped our go to market strategy and our product and our brand and how we structure the business. So that was really helpful. And we just did it on surveymonkey. You know, we didn't, you know, I picked Of the 500, we probably included about 100 people that we knew within our network and the rest were completely anonymous and random across the United States.

00:23:29 So it was a great mix and it was a really helpful tool. How did you get the word out there to get all of those women across the U. S. Outside of your network? Yeah. So that's the beauty of Surveymonkey. Feel like now I'm doing an advertorial for them. No they allow you to apply certain filters and target so that they will actually go out and find customers that will uh take the survey for you that meet a certain criteria. You might say they need to have this type of household income live in a metro area. You know you have certain female whatever it might be and then they actually dynamically send it out to incredible. It's kind of awesome. Yeah. I didn't know that. I don't know that that's like amazing. Isn't that well it's a tool available to everyone and certain surveys can be done for free I think are you know with a couple $100. But for us it was worth the investment because it was truly what informed so much of our business and it was so vital and we'll probably do more.

00:24:36 Yeah totally. Yeah. Kind of things. Did you hear back that you were like unexpected to to read or to find out? We were surprised to hear how many people were actually piecing together their own prenatal regimen. Like they were all supplementing a prenatal with additional vitamins and that was our hypothesis. But to see that completely reinforced was interesting. Um The amount of money that women are spending, Some women are spending upwards of $100 a month on all of their different supplements. That's a lot. So we were really surprised to hear about that and then you know, I don't know that this was necessarily surprising but it very much validated a hunch that we had was this idea that it's not instagram that's telling you this inspiring women to buy the prenatally by, you know if anything that might reinforce what they already thought but instagram advertising is not going to be the way to get someone new to convert with your prenatal especially because it's a product that requires a high level of trust and credibility.

00:25:38 Mhm. So the top people that are most influential in your prenatal vitamins are your doctors, you know, you're specifically your O. B. G. Y. N. Your alternative, you know, support system, whether the acupuncture etcetera and then also friends, which is no surprise but a friend you heard from a doctor. So there was always this tie back. So as we started articulating what our marketing strategy would be, we really saw there were two very different sides of the coin. We had to focus consumer but also within the medical community and to really develop that credibility and you know we obviously brought on an O. B. J. Ryan is our co founder were the first and only prenatal vitamins co founded by a A. and O. B. G. Y. N. Which is kind of creates my mind that's kind of crazy. Yeah. Uh and then we decided, well we want to create all this content and we want a true panel to review our product and you know, drive this forward. I'll do the branding and marketing and community building.

00:26:40 My partner will do the finance and strategy and operations, but we needed people that were truly embedded in the medical community to develop this. So we pulled together what we call our parallel panel, which is a panel of multidisciplinary experts and top doctors in the pre and post natal fields. So we have everything from a reproductive psychiatrist and acupuncturists to maternal fetal medicine doctors, O. B. G. Y. N. Fertility experts and doctors. So it's this incredible group of, you know, true leaders in this space and not only do they review all of our product formulation and give us recommendations. Um but they also are the voice of all our content. So kind of going back to that piece about there being a dearth of credible information. They are the voice were the brand were the platform for them, you know, and they put forth the information and it comes from them which has been really special and something I think our community really values totally. I'm wondering does that mean then that for your marketing strategy, it's led by going door to door to doctors and being like, hey, how do we have you?

00:27:51 Um, you know endorsing this product to women who are coming to you? Yeah, well there's some of that, so on the consumer side, you know, that's kind of your standard channels, whether it be social media web I. R. L. But then we've got our whole, you know, what would typically be like your B two B channels? So our whole medical community and so not only is our panel, you know, reviewing a product and creating content and development with us, but they also evangelize our brand and help us connect with other top doctors to introduce them to parallel. And what was really interesting also that we learned at the get go and why parallel provides such a value to doctors and practitioners is that we take that educational burden off of them. Um surprisingly, most doctors in the United States actually don't have formal nutrition training and medical school kind of shocking because it's such a central point of our wellness focus in conversation, especially within the next last five years.

00:28:52 Right? It's all about eating clean and you know, so at any rate, we thought that was really interesting, So many yogis just don't have the nutritional like you, if you will to be able to decipher what is actually truly necessary. And then if they do have that education, you know, in the United States, our system is such that doctors are booked back to back to back, They can't spend a lot of time with their patients, they can't sit down and really get into the nitty gritty and even if they want to share all this information, they just don't have time. And so we actually take that educational burden off of them by by providing that through all of our continent resources. So um, that's been a huge value add and they also like that were highly targeted. We didn't cut corners in terms of, you know, with our, with our ingredients are all very high quality and responsibly sourced and I think they really appreciate that. So it's been like beautiful just to see how organically they've embraced the product and we're only getting started, which is pretty cool.

00:29:55 That is really cool. And what I'm interested in is when you were going to them, you know, these doctors and you were showing them the product, talking to them, you know, what's in it, that kind of thing. Was it an easy switch for them to make an endorsement to your product versus something that they were historically endorsing because what comes to my mind is I'm like, when I read about, you know, farmer brands and the way that the system works, it's like actually a lot of the brands that you recommended are incentivized and there's a kickback for someone to pay, which, you know, I guess that's just part of the way that it is, but how do you make a doctor switch to another product if it's actually better, but there's less of an incentive to do it? Well, we have no incentive. There's no kickback for any doctor that carries our product. Um, So any M. D. In the United States cannot accept to kick back. And that's not our M. O. We want doctors that genuinely believe in the, you know, efficacy of our products, um truly what's really helped us break when we present the materials, it's all materials that have been developed by other doctors.

00:30:59 So they get completely different marketing materials in the consumer would and they're specifically presented in such a way so that the doctor can easily digest and see that this is a superior product. And instantly they see that and they kind of validates their ability to buy into the brand. So, you know, a lot of it has been through networking through our parallel panel and our co founder who, you know, they're in themselves as the refer are highly credible and help the other doctors, you know, buy in because ultimately, yes, like there are lots of interesting kickbacks and black box strategies in the medical world that we're not getting involved with. But for us it's just very above board and just the purity of the superior products, especially when you're dealing with such a special time and a very high risk period of someone's life. You just want to give them the best product and you know, doctors have an oath and part of that oath is to, you know, ensure that they're taking the best care possible.

00:32:01 So, um, I think that's why they've also been receptive. Yeah, totally, absolutely. Oh, I love that, Love that for everyone. Every woman in America. Um, moving back to the, you know, the social media, the consumer side of the marketing, I know you've only recently launched, but what have you seen that's driving the growth for you at the moment and what's really working for you now? Great question. So out of the gate, you know, we, we bootstrapped the business primarily and took in a little funding from friends and family, but we didn't have this massive glossy marketing budget. So we had to get really, we've been created since the get go and we will continue to be. Um, but we did a really wonderful kind of gifting program and outreach program to, you know, my network and friends of the brand and it was purely organic and it was just, you know, getting people to try the product, see if they like it. And, you know, what was incredible is just the outpouring of support and love for the brand and the product and that was very organic. So I think part of the magic is just having a great product, if you have a genuinely an amazing product that's thoughtfully, you know, developed and it's presented beautifully and the experience is seamless.

00:33:16 It really begins to sell itself. So we saw a lot about, you know, support from the influencer and celebrity community with parallel, and that's something that we're building into. And then also some just interesting kind of partnerships, you know, are there ways for us to leverage product rather than like a traditional media spent to get exposu