Updated: Feb 3, 2022
Hello and welcome back to the show. It’s Doone here - host and hype girl. Today we’re learning from Amanda Klane, the founder of Yasso. A frozen greek yoghurt company that’s been putting smiles on faces since 2011.
Kindergarten friends turned entrepreneurs, founders Drew Harrington and Amanda Klane set out on a mission to create desserts that deliver on everyday indulgence with great taste, quality ingredients and superb nutritionals. Since hitting store shelves in 2011 as the first to market frozen Greek yogurt, Yasso quickly became one of the fastest-growing dessert brands in the world, disrupting the brand ranks of deeply entrenched competitors and attracting a loyal following of brand enthusiasts. In this episode we cover:
The journey to building a business that does hundreds of millions in annual revenue
How to keep the energy and excitement in a business 10 years on and
Amanda’s important advice for food founders in 2022
Now before we get into the episode and incase you haven’t heard my recent announcement on Instagram - I have my very first book coming out at the end of February featuring the stories and learnings from 51 of the brilliant women from the first year on the show and I am just SO excited! If you’re someone who might be able to help me get the word out, or you know someone who might be able to help me get the word out. I would love to meet you, slide in my IG dms so we can chat. You can find me @dooneroisin
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Yeah, I'm Amanda Klane um I'm one of the co founders of Yasso, um for those of you who don't know what you do is we create frozen greek yogurt novelties and snacks that we sell in like the ice cream set of all your conventional grocery stores. Um They are creamy delicious, full of chunks of cookie dough and fudge and brownies and they're all around about 100 calories. So it's a really great way to eat dessert and not feel bad about doing it.
00:06:50Edit It's a happy fun category. Yeah, I bet so much fun. My goodness. I want to go back to circa two 1009 to 2000 and 11 when this brand was just coming into the world, which is crazy that we're talking about something more than 10 years ago now, the landscape has changed a lot. What was getting you excited about starting a frozen food company and why this business. Mhm. Yeah, so, I think, you know, going back to my childhood, I kind of grew up in the food business. My dad was a food broker, which is really like the middleman between manufacturers and the retailers. So, I grew up in the business just seeing different brands and I had always been kind of drawn to it and what I had seen is just really the shift to healthier and better for you brands and in different categories throughout the grocery store whether it was, you know, chips and snacks and yogurt, you just saw this evolution of brands like food should taste good, Chobani kind really just doing something unique and different. Um and for me and drew my partner and co founder, what we saw and what we loved was dessert, but what we saw was no one was creating anything healthy.
00:08:00Edit You had, you know, your diet items that were more like we always joke your grandma's items with healthy choice and weight watchers on one end of the category, complete other end of the category. You had Haagen dogs, Ben and jerry's these delicious, super premium ice cream that we love to consume. But as athletes and people that cared about what we're putting in our body, we weren't going to consume it all the time. And for us it was how do we create something that we can eat every day tastes delicious, feels like you're eating ice cream, but also, you know, it was cleaner and healthier and lower calories and less sugar. And so we were a joke kind of just like naive and dumb to some degree. We had just graduated college didn't know what we were doing, had no idea about frozen food manufacturing nonetheless, how to create ice cream, but we were determined and I think that was extremely important. Um with our athletic backgrounds, we were just, if we wanted to do something, it was figure out how to do it and then make sure that you're giving it all your energy. And so, you know, we went to google and like, started learning like, how do you make ice cream, who makes ice cream?
00:09:06Edit Like where do you make ice cream? Um we went to ice cream university, which is a real thing and it was like an ice cream camp in pennsylvania and we started just listening and learning and and that was really the beginning phase of what we were doing. And for us, greek yogurt was taking off in the United States via, and Chobani had had extreme success building this category that no one had heard about, but what people started to just naturally attribute to greek yogurt was, you know, this creamy delicious yogurt, that was lower calorie and less sugar. So we were fortunate that that kind of educational piece about what greek yogurt was had already been done for us. It was really, we had to figure out how do we create something that tasted like ice cream using greek yogurt that gave us these better nutritionals. And so it was a fun, exciting learning process for us, wow, that's so cool, Did you have the vision of like, oh yeah, we're gonna build this business and we're gonna do this for the next 10 years of our lives or were you kind of like, Yeah, like we'll just see like whether this is a thing and go with the flow, like what was the kind of ambition in the beginning?
00:10:14Edit We were like, we're gonna be the biggest ice cream brand there is, I think like when we, when we put our mind to something, we're like, we're gonna do this um you know, I think we started out like doing it kind of on the side because we needed our jobs to sustain our life. Um so we were doing it at night and on weekends and then eventually we realized to truly do this, we have to put everything into it and and we quit our day jobs and started working on. Yeah, so full time. But I think from the beginning we always had the mentality of like go big or go home, like let's make this, let's make this huger, let's not make it. Um and I think that the time in which we launched was different than some of the brands today and that there were less avenues to sell your product, especially frozen products. So we almost had to just step up to the big leagues right away if we wanted to make it successful. Mm I mean, I read something like you launched within two years into 15,000 stores or something crazy like that, which is wild, We went for it, you know, I think a lot of brands start in the natural channel or farmers markets and you know, then continue to grow from there and that's a really great methodical way of, of going going into business for us.
00:11:29Edit We saw this massive void in the category and we're like, let's just go right up against the big guys day one. Um again, I think sometimes our lack of just knowledge probably worked to our benefit in that we were like, this will work and don't turn back um where a lot of people with more experience in the industry is probably like, yeah, good luck with that. It's never going to be successful that way. But that was just kind of who me Andrew work I spoke to like our competitive backgrounds. Yeah, that's crazy. Do you think that launching into 15,000 stores Was that like success attributed to having like a 10 out of 10 product or was that attributed to being able to figure out the supply chain and like operation side of the business? Because obviously, I just can imagine 15,000 stores so early on and who knows how many are in now is just like a logistical nightmare. Yeah, well I think there were a few things, I think first the product we make in order to get it made, we had to make bigger runs than sort some other products out there because there's just fewer co packers that do it.
00:12:32Edit So we had to get enough stores to make it worth running the product in the first place. I think our background is brokers allotted us the ability to get into more places because we had good relationships. But then at the same time, I think we also just struck at the right time where everyone knew what greek yogurt was doing, It was the biggest thing to ever come into the market. Oh, and now here's an opportunity to kind of move it into an adjacent category where there really isn't anything there. And I think the big thing is just like creating something that's unique and different and no one was doing frozen greek yogurt or healthier dessert. Yeah, it's like right place, right time. Like there was such an appetite for different variations of this thing that everyone was already in love with. Yeah. And I think at the time you saw greek yogurt go everywhere, It was in like, shampoos. I think, I think like people were writing greek yogurt on everything, Body lotions, like and I think there's a, there are right and wrong categories to be in. And I think for us, it really truly allowed us to create a better product and I, you know, harp on it a lot.
00:13:34Edit I think product is key and not getting complacent is key with your product and your brand and, You know, our early product wasn't fabulous, it was 70 calories, we weren't really sure exactly where we needed to be. It was fruit flavors because that's what worked in Yogurt and what we learned over time is just, you got to evolve. Like for us, people wanted chocolate, caramel, brownie, coffee, you know, chips swirls and so we had to evolve the product and with that, evolve the brand. Um, and I think where me and drew have been really good and humble is probably not getting too attached to what it is we created at the beginning and really making sure we evolve it over time to make sure it's, it's the best it can be. And even to today, like mint chip, one of our best items, We're still tweaking formulas to make it even better whenever we can, we find things that work, we will still improve even what is one of the best selling novelties in the category, wow, that is so interesting.
00:14:36Edit Very cool. I love how it's like people want healthy, but they actually just want ice cream. Oh, in terms of like, they want those things that like cookie dough and things like that, that you find in ice cream, but they wanted to be healthy. Myself included. I think at the end of the day, you're going to this category to indulge right? Like you're like, I want to indulge a little and I believe my mom, I like the chocolate after every meal. I don't know like what that is, but I feel you, you know, I want that little bit of something sweet and to be able to eat a full bar 400 calories and like this is fabulous. Um But yeah, people want that indulgence and so we learned that real quick um just by going to road races and talking to consumers, they were always like, where's chocolate? You know, where's caramel were like, yeah, we gotta work on that. Yeah, that's so you've just got to get out there and talk to your customer and listen and then iterate totally. I'd love to ask you about the money piece you said in the beginning that you were, you know on the side kind of doing this. Then you committed to going in full time and both building the business.
00:15:39Edit How are you approaching like that funding path? I know now you've raised probably Around 10 million I think I read on crunch base but like at the beginning you were bootstrapping what was your approach and plan to finance? Yeah. So I think we learned really quickly. We needed a decent amount of money just for the space we were in. Um So you know, we did what a lot of people did friends and family first, like shake your friends and family for all their worth and willing to give you once you've tapped that. Well you've got to go to a different one. Um and then we kind of started finding smaller angel type people around the city that we're interested in the brand in the space. Um And then eventually as we started getting revenue, that's when we went out to raise more money, but you know, I think the times were different in when we started back in, you know, 2011 when we were truly launched, like there wasn't as much private equity money in the food and beverage space. Valuations weren't as rich as they are today in the space. You know, we're fortunate that today, you know, everyone wants to be in food and bev because it's such a growing category, it's exciting.
00:16:43Edit There's a lot of great brands. Um, I don't want to sound, oh, but 10 years ago, like there wasn't that type of excitement, there were a few really, you know, brands that have done well, but it wasn't the same atmosphere you see today. So it was definitely a harder environment. You know, we were on a kind of pay to get your production up front and we were living check to check, you know, we always tell this story like one of our first Costco checks, we needed that to come in the mail that day to wire it to our co packer so they would run us and we had more product to sell and we were so excited when we got the check was her first six figure check ever. So we went to the bar to celebrate at lunch and drew spills his beer on the check and we were like, well actually in his defense, the bartender spilled the beer on the check, and we're like, oh no, we need this check. Like we can't run today if we don't get this in the bank. And she's like, what was that? Was that important? Were like just a check, no big deal that we really need. So she's like, oh my God, so she starts drying it on the industrial dryers and we've got to the bank, and I remember standing there was like, you almost like you stole the check and it wasn't yours, you were like, please clear, please clear.
00:17:50Edit And they took it and it worked and we were able to keep going, but you know, we did learn really fast, like cash flow and money was important and you know, for people starting today, I'd say like a lot of time can be taken off growing your business and doing revenue driving things to fundraise and get money. So, you know, when you do have the opportunity to get the money, make sure you get enough so that you don't have to keep spending your time doing it, um because it takes away from the things that truly drives the business and drive growth and revenue. So essentially raise more money than you need to just make sure you raise this double know that your forecasts are probably wrong and make sure you raise enough because I will say we spent a lot of time fundraising throughout the years. Um, and I know obviously equity and dilution is very important to founders. Um but I would also say taking your eyes off the business is also important. So just make sure you're not raising too much but raising enough to make sure that you're not spending all your time fundraising.
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00:20:07Edit What have been the key moments or milestones for growth, like outside of, you know raising capital that can fund more growth? Yeah, I mean obviously, so funding growth, like for us was one, improve the product, improve your brand because every time you have a product that's more productive on shelf moving, You know, eight units per store vs three, you're generating more revenue at the same time. For us, it's, you know, focus on your gross margin and what are the things that put your business in a position where it can sustain itself and doesn't always need to go back to get more money to grow. So for, you know, for us, we switched the flavors, we switched our packaging design and we started seeing our velocities increase at the same time, we were really so focused on every single line of rpm l to say, how do we make more money for every bar we sell and then how do we make sure our our spends are so efficient that they're generating more revenue.
00:21:13Edit And as we got better at that and it took time we were able to sustain the business where we didn't need to go raise capital to grow the business. We were generating cash to be able to grow the business. And I think once you can get to that.1, as an entrepreneur, it's less stressful, you're not always worried about when are we going to run out of money? You're more focused on, what are we? You know, what marketing spends are we activating, what products are we launching? Um What branding is are we changing to make our product and brand stronger? And that's really when you kind of hit that sweet spot and you can really generate some great growth, you can pull the fuel on the fire exactly when you say like focusing on that P. N. L. And like really understanding like how you can increase your margins or change things. What are some examples of like the kinds of things you did maybe in the early days that kind of helped you reach that sustainable kind of growth? Yeah. So we we ripped apart our supply chain and our products. Where can we get some costs out of the products if possible?
00:22:15Edit Is it you know in your how many colors are using in your design? Is it you know just going and fighting for better costs on your raw materials. Are we shipping products to the wrong places that aren't logistically cost effective? So ripping apart everything that goes into creating and selling the product and then below the line it was really if we're spending it, do we need to be spending it and giving us a return And if it's not just get rid of it, you know? And and some of those cuts are hard um You know some of them you don't want to get rid of but they just make the most sense um So we really looked at every line item like below the line in S. G. N. A. To say like is this needed and is it contributing if it's not let's move away from it if it is spend more on it. Um And so yeah we looked at all of our marketing spends our trade spent um you know for a small company we really dug into like our promotional strategy like what promos are working what aren't you know if they're not working, get rid of them if they are working let's keep them what marketing spends are working what aren't and really just looking at every single piece to figure out if it's worthwhile or not.
00:23:25Edit And what are some of the things that are working for you now or in recent years obviously the landscape has changed so much from when you started to now and especially with you know social media and like all these kind of new platforms coming out for shopping online and that kind of thing. But what kind of works for you now in acquiring new customers and growth. Yeah so it's definitely different than when we started, I laughed like I don't think instagram existed when we started. Yeah so which again is not that long ago but I think like facebook just started charging for ads back then. Um So what's worked for us now. I mean obviously for gaining new customers like we focus a lot about on shelf and what we can do kind of in that last few steps in the freezer. So we do a lot of work around in store execution. Um, whether that's packaging design, you know, shelf talkers, things, trade promos then on more of your traditional marketing spends. You know, we kind of hit in a bunch of different buckets. I think we have a, you know, different funnel of marketing tactics we use and we've seen a lot of great success with some of your influencer stuff, although it's definitely changing.
00:24:35Edit And I think it's really hard to get repetitive eyes on things. It gets very expensive these days because so many brands are playing in that space. But we've also started seeing like traditional marketing be effective for us as we've grown. So talking about like commercials in different types of Spence that you haven't seen brands do as much of in the past few years are starting to come back and be very effective. And some of that comes with with scale, you know, you can find us in all these grocery stores. So it's easier to do some of these big traditional marketing Spence versus a smaller brand that necessarily couldn't get the same return for it. Mm hmm. You know, online. And dtC um, great way to get eyeballs. We've always been challenged were frozen like shipping a frozen ice cream is Oh yeah, that's a tough one. It's not the best. But we are doing it and we are learning and it's become a good little chunk of our business. But I think it's a great avenue for a lot of new brands to be able to get revenue and eyes on the product. Um we decided to go into ice cream.
00:25:36Edit Yes, make it harder. I read that you guys launched an incubator and you were going down the pathway of launching new brands and one of the brands you've launched is juve pops, which I'm led to believe isn't frozen, like you ship it non frozen and then people like freeze like, like those um what's the Yes, yes, like freezer Pops. I was like what's the term? It's actually different in Australia than the U. S. But anyway, I don't know what it is, but like, yeah, let's talk about like, well let's talk about that and how it's going and you know how you've approached this brand differently to. Yeah, So yeah, so the incubator is a really fun kind of addition. We added two. Yeah, so um in the last couple of years and it was a way to create brands that we believe are complimentary to. Yeah, so, but not competitive. Tasso in anyway. And so juve was the first launch and yes, it's half of the brand is in this like ambient freezer pop state where you don't need to freeze it until it gets to the freezer.
00:26:38Edit The other part of the brand is frozen fruit bars that sell in the freezer set next to like a nestle outshine bar. Um our thought process here was, you know, there's a huge category of fruit bars that a lot of them are full of sugar and you know, they're not necessarily healthy for you. And then there are some that are a little bit cleaner ingredients but still had a lot of sugar in them. So we were trying to figure out, you know, we saw functional beverage going through the roof and we were trying to figure out, well, how do we bring some of the things people are looking for? Like refreshment and functional beverage over to the freezer set. So we fortified the fruit bars with vitamins and electrolytes. So not only are you getting less sugar, real fruit, but you're getting these, this dose of vitamins and electrolytes and that is in both the frozen and the freezer pop version, but it's been good. You know, it's a small test that we launched it and we'll be expanding it a little bit more this year. Um but it's again, it's another fun brand. I think at the end of the day, like, I love the space we play in because it's no one's like ever mad eating ice cream.
00:27:39Edit It's like people are always happy. It's a category or like you're never giving it to someone and they're upset, they're like, oh my God, I scream, you're putting smiles on faces. Yeah, exactly. Like I think my, I have a two year old and I think like, she thinks my job is fake, but like everyone at her daycare is like, your mom just makes ice cream. I'm like, I know it's, it's great. Oh my gosh, I love that. I feel like as well, like if you're going down that pathway of launching new brands, you get to kind of like reinvigorate and reinvent and do do new things that keep you really excited and like able to like mentally stay in the journey because obviously entrepreneurship is such a long game and like you've been in it for a while, like you can add these new things that add more flavor kind of thing. Yeah. You know, I think for me and true, like we are, we are creative. Um we like creating new products and packaging and brands and so yeah, I think for us it was, it was kind of a breath of fresh air.
00:28:42Edit I think he also is doing a ton of tremendous things with the brand, both on product innovation, marketing, branding, all of it. I think that's exciting to see. But this was just kind of different and unique and allowed us to kind of flex that part of our brain that we probably had influx since early days. Yeah, so, um, so it's been exciting to watch it kind of grow from its infancy. Do you spend a lot of your time on? Yeah, so or do you spend a lot of your time on the new brands in the incubator. Yeah so we have a ceo we brought in to run the business day to day and part of that allowed us to step back and focus more on the creative stuff. So the incubator brands as well as some new innovation within the ASO portfolio. You know I think you're seeing Yeah so come up with a lot of different snacking options that are different and unique and not exactly the same as your stick bar that you had day one and so you know working on that stuff as well is really what excites me personally. Absolutely. That's so cool. I was wondering about like you know you guys are at such a level now I think I read as of two years ago you're on track to do like 100 and 50 million in the year like you guys have obviously reached like such a huge level now what's the next step for a brand?
00:29:55Edit Like you do you get acquired by the likes of a Unilever or some huge huge corporation or do you like go to I. P. O. Or do you start just building out a portfolio of all the different brands like what's the kind of like trajectory that you're on now being at the scale that you're at. Yeah I think there's a few different options you can take and you kind of keep all of those in sight um for us right now I always say as big as we got, we always feel like the underdog, you know, we passed Klondike recently, which is like, it's funny. Most people are like, no Klondike is huge. It's like, well, no, Yasu is actually bigger than it now and they just can't really fathom that fully. But I still think of us as the underdog at the end of the day. So I think for us, it's keeping our head down in just executing on our playbook, which is expansion into, you know, potentially different categories, new items. Um, you'll see some brands launch out of the incubator. But you know, any of those avenues we could take that you mentioned, I guess time will tell.
00:31:00Edit Oh, very exciting, very exciting. Super cool. What do you think is your most important piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are coming into the food? Food and Bev space this year in 2022? Yeah, I think it's, it's crowded and there's a lot of people in it. So just make sure that what you're doing is truly filling up like a consumer need and make it as you know, differentiated as possible to kind of build a little bit of a moat around yourself so that you have some runway to really build your brand and at the end of the day, just if you believe in it, make sure it works. If given the chance, just make it work, do what you need to make it stick. I love that. Thank you. I just thought of the name of those freezer pops in Australia. I'm pretty sure they're called super duper. Super duper. It's going to, I'm going to look it up, I'm going to report back to you after this call and be like, this is what they are. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode.
00:32:07Edit We are testing out something new here for the next while and we're splitting up each episode into two parts, the main interview part and then the six quick questions part to make them easier to listen to. So that's part one done.
The question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing? I think just to leave the world a little bit better place than I came into it and that's through the products we create or the success we have and the ability to get back to the communities. I think it's just to hopefully do a little good, did I also read you started a not for profit organization and you give back sporting equipment, you guys are doing so many things. We try, we try to give back as much as possible, especially the obviously the communities that helped make us who we were. I love that putting smiles on all the faces everywhere, So many faces. Question number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment in the journey so far? You know, I don't think we've had just one. I think it's a culmination of probably a bunch, you know, we didn't have that like One moment where Oprah was like, yeah, it was the best. Although if you're listening Oprah, you can still do that. But we didn't have like that. I don't say like one pivotal moment.
00:02:15Edit I think it was a lot of the sum of a lot of different moments together. Do you have a favorite moment? Like I joke like early days, like, I don't know if you've ever seen these, but in the US big belly trash cans came to cities, they were like these big trash cans that like were new and they wanted to make money. So they started marketing on the sides of them and they were cheap because no one had ever seen them and we were like, well we'll do it. And it was surprisingly insane consumer awareness from it in the city of boston and then big companies started marketing on them and they got expensive to do. But I'd say like for me personally, that was a big moment because it was the first time you saw your brand like outside. But it's funny because it was trash cans, which seems so wrong, but it was a great marketing tool back in the day and then everyone started using them. Yeah, that's so random. Yeah. Look for the, look for the underdog opportunities. Yeah, no one wants the trash can weird, we'll take it. Oh my gosh, that's so random. I love it. Question number three is, what's your go to business resource when it comes to a book, a newsletter or a podcast?
00:03:26Edit Um you know, I read a lot of different books and say one of my, my favorite podcasts ever is like Guy raz how I built this. I do love just any podcast really that I can listen to, like the journey of entrepreneurs and why and how they created things is I think just super beneficial and educational. Mhm Absolutely. I love guy, he's so great, it's such a great interviewer. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your am or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful. Yeah, I think for me personally it's just like working out, I think work life balance when you're an entrepreneur in the early days sometimes gets really hard and I think what I learned is I'm actually, it may not seem like it's beneficial to take the time, but it is beneficial to take the time and focus on you whether that's working out, reading whatever it is they you would like to do to keep you straight and then honestly recovery is as important as anything, you know, if you're not recovering at night, You're not, you know, working your best the next day.
00:04:32Edit So nowadays it's like good sleep. I sleep solid eight hours a night. Yeah, I'm I'm like on this sleep journey at the moment, I'm having like not great sleep and I'm trying to do all the things new mattress, new broadband, like I'm like on a journey to better sleep and more restful like deep sleep. Yeah, because of time I lost that during like our journey where like you're just burning the candle at both ends and you will burn up, you know, you will burn out. And I think if I could look back and tell myself like just recover, make sure you're recovering. I probably would have been more effective in some of those years, but easier to say now. But I think that when I go forward, that's really what I focus on. Yeah, Yeah. So key sleep is so key. That's great Question. Number five is what is the most important spend of a dollar for you today in the business, your people? Yeah, I think um Honestly No one will survive in this industry alone.
00:05:38Edit Your team is everything and we have an unbelievable team at you also and you're making sure taking care of them, you know, every, you'll see everything else. Just elevate. Mhm. For sure. And last question question #6 is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things don't go to plan, learn from it and move on. Said get over it, learn from it. 100%. It's gonna happen. Mhm. It is. It's going to happen. It's going to happen most days. It's gonna happen a lot. Like I always try to see what was the lesson, what I learned from that and then just move on from it. Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show today and share your journey and your learnings. I'm so excited to see what other brands you're gonna be launching from the incubator this year. Awesome. Thank you for having me.