Pleasant State’s Co-Founder Ami Bateman, the Journey of an Equity Crowdfunding Campaign (Live!)
This is Ami Bateman for Female Startup Club
Hi everyone and welcome back to the show! It’s Doone here, your host and hype girl! If you’ve just found us - we are SO grateful and happy to have you here.
Every week on the Female Startup Club podcast I interview some of the world’s most successful founders and women in business to understand their blueprint to success. And today you’re going to meet fellow Aussie, Ami Bateman. Ami is the co-founder of Australia’s first just-add-water non toxic cleaning company Pleasant State. And this is the first in a mini series where we take you through Ami’s journey in starting Pleasant State right through to their just launched equity crowdfunding campaign. And it is SO interesting! We’re talking about the challenges that we still face as women entering the fundraising scene and what she’s learned trying to access more capital to scale their booming business. If you’ve ever thought about an equity crowdfunding campaign for your business - this is worth grabbing your notepad.
And just one last thing before we get into this episode and while I have you here. I just want to give you some hype girl energy to get out there and start posting on TikTok today. A few weeks ago I shared something completely left of field to my usual content online - very personal - kind of gross - and it has just exploded online! I’m talking millions of views, thousands of followers, hundreds of new subscribers - press and syndication on other platforms - and it really just reminded me that the power of TikTok is still just so insane and so here for everyone to access. It’s free to use. It’s just a time investment. And it’s worth it. So go check out the video and then DM me if you want to learn more about TikTok! I’m thinking about putting together some TikTok assets to help kickstart your journey.
Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
How are you feeling? Yeah, pretty good. Believe it or not. We have launched our equity crowd funding campaign on virtual. Uh We've worked really hard to get to this point. Um But really excited that it launched successfully. We didn't have any major technical issues which often happens when you launch things. I'm sure you know, all about that. Uh So we finally nailed that and yeah, just so excited to see the support we're getting from our community already. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited for you and I'm so excited to dig into all things relating to the campaign. But as you know, or as you probably know, I'd love to start at the very beginning to understand more about your entrepreneurial journey. So where do you like to start your story? Depending on the audience. I probably start in different um spots. But I would say I've always challenged the status quo. I don't like rules. I'm always asking why I'm sure that was extremely challenging for my parents. Um I was also brought up as a tom boy. So um I never really thought about my gender. I never thought that as a woman, I couldn't do anything. My dad raised me to be really tough. So I played every sport as super competitive. Um That didn't always serve me well at school, but I've learned that competitiveness is actually an asset in life. Um So yeah, I think from an early age just look, I always challenge things. And so that sort of supported me in my entrepreneurial journey. My dad al always had issues with authority and I think I picked that up from him. That wasn't necessarily a good thing in my career days because I, I would always say I'm not, I, I say I'm unemployable honestly. So I was lucky to have, I was lucky to have bosses who thankfully understood that and just, you know, I knew what had to happen and they would let me go and do it. So as long as I was in jobs where I was solving big problems and on big projects and learning new subject matter and working with people who were really values aligned with me, that was really important. I would find in my career if I came across people or on projects that just ethically weren't aligned with me or I just felt it wasn't right. That's the point at which I would kind of in that organization decide that was probably the end of my journey. But I'd say I was extremely entrepreneurial in these businesses. So always designing new ways of doing things, always looking for how technology could be leveraged to make things more efficient and to make quality better. Um I am a massive nerd. Uh And I'm happy to say that. So I just am obsessed with frameworks and using that to understand the world. Uh A lot of people do get frustrated by that because I'm like, oh yeah, this framework explains that. Um So yeah, I leveraged my commerce degree. Um I majored in psychology through my commerce, which helped me to understand people and myself. I've worked in hr marketing, sustainability, health, and safety, risk, technology um for some of Australia's biggest organizations including ERNST and young uh advising and working with mcdonald's NAB I G Australia post, big federal government departments. And that, to me was really frustrating. I thought, you know, Amy, why don't you just focus, why can't you just do one thing? I also did my M B A hoping that, you know, maybe I'd find my spot as a general manager or CEO. But yeah, within a year or two I decided I needed to learn something more. And I guess when I start a pleasant state one day, I'm literally sitting there. I think we're about to launch our first crowdfunding campaign doing which was our pre-order campaign. And just, I've had this profound sense of, oh, I was meant to go on this journey. I was meant to do all of these things to get to this point and all things that I thought were weaknesses were actually strengths at the end of the day because I under I understand governance, understand risk. I understand finance. Uh I tried to avoid the marketing bit. Um But what I would say is for every day, I'm in marketing now. So you can't avoid that. But you know, I understood so that being a real generalist and that there's evidence to suggest being a generalist is um of greater benefit as you start to build a business so that I hope that's enough detail. I love that. What was the light bulb moment for pleasant state specifically? Like why this company why, then I'm thinking 2020 maybe 2019 when you were getting started with the idea, maybe earlier. I'm not sure. Yeah. What was that light bulb moment for you in late 2019, I'd been suffering chronic headaches. Like, so I'd had headaches for, uh, over two years on a daily basis and I don't know if you've ever had a headache, you know, just for one day that's bad enough. So, it was, it was extremely chronic and I'd been working with health care professionals and doctors and we determined that my indoor environment was extremely toxic, but I'm not the only one. And so as I embarked on this journey, I had to eradicate plastics and toxins from my home. And, you know, at that time, I remember I got a call from a friend. I was literally laying on the couch at home. I almost didn't answer the call because my headache was really chronic. Uh I remember there were bushfires raging throughout Australia. So that was the time when we had really bad bushfires. So I'm, I'm super depressed. I have a headache. Australia's on fire, like the world's burning down for sure. And then I get this call from a friend and we just started discussing just add water cleaning products as a solution to not only my health issues but this environmental catastrophe that I, I feel at the time we were facing. And, you know, and I discovered that just had water cleaning products are made up of 95% water. So we're just transporting all this water around that we can get from a tap. Only about 5% are active ingredients. And as I looked into it, I realized those active ingredients are full of toxic toxins, fragrances, all these sorts of things that were actually making my home indoor home environment worse. So it was just this light bulb moment. Like why doesn't this solution exist here? And I started looking at what was available and could I bring it in? Could I package it differently? So, rather than plastic? Because plastic is contributing to indoor air pollution and is a toxin itself? Like, could I make it without plastic? What solutions are there? Can I import it? And I realized there just wasn't a healthy, sustainable or effective solution available overseas and definitely not in Australia. So it's the one I have a lot of ideas, but it's the one that just wouldn't leave me. Um And so I think after two weeks, I'm like, alright, I gotta like, I've really seriously got to look into this and I just made a decision one day that, that that's it. I'm gonna go make it. And I thought if, if anyone can do it, it it's me, I don't know why I believe that I just solve big problems and once I commit to something, uh I deliver. So yeah, I decided I'm I'm just gonna go make it. I'm gonna make Australia's first just out water cleaning solution and I'm gonna build a better type of business while I do that. So what did that look like for you? You know what, what are the early steps? How are you, what's R and D like for something like this? Like how do you start, do you find a chemist? What's happening? What's happening at the end of 2019? There are so many good stories in that. I, I, I approach it like any problem which is what are, what are all the questions that I have. And so literally, I just start writing a list of questions I have to solve. And then I think about in my network, who are the people that can help me solve that or who in my network can help me get on to the right person to solve that. Uh So I'm really not. Once I decide I'm gonna do something, I'm not afraid to just um I shouldn't say hustle but contact my network and see if they can help me. And um honestly doing, I all, I almost failed chemistry at school. So again, back to this, I don't know why I thought I'd be able to do this. It just didn't seem like it was gonna be that hard. And so I had, you're right, the very first person was a chemist. I didn't even know what type of chemist I needed. So I called I had a mate who was a doctor and he was married or dating a woman who was a compound pharmacist. We also call pharmacist chemists. So I thought, ok, well, I have a feeling that's not the right chemist, but maybe she'll know. So, um, um, I had a chat with her. I said this is what I want to make and I said, I, I'm pretty sure I'm not the right person, but maybe you've got some tips and she did, she told me I needed a formulation chemist and she also talked about the importance of making sure that whatever we formulate, there's a manufacturing solution that exists really great advice. I didn't listen to it. What does that mean? Can we unpack that for us 100%? So, um when you think of cleaning solutions, the the standard approach is in liquid form and hence why it's predominately water based. So they, they ship it around diluted, the active ingredients still come in liquid form. So that manufacturing processes exist to, you know, make a, a um a product in liquid form and obviously to fill the bottles. So that's a a traditional manufacturing approach. Um other ways, so say you extract the water, other ways that you can create just add water products. Is it still in liquid form? So that's still easy. There's a manufacturing process that exists for that, but then you can start to look at powders uh tablets which is tablet pressing or in our case, we use a, just add water bar and the, we call it a bar because of our manufacturing process is extrusion. So then you start to look at, well, what, what manufacturing processes exist in, in the location that we want to manufacture and we were intent on manufacturing in Australia that was really important to us to create jobs during COVID. But also as part of our commitment to be a really ethical business. Uh So, you know what we, I just had to start to look to see and, and this was part of the problem solving. Is there a manufacturing business? And it's called contract manufacturing? I didn't know this at the time, but is there anyone that will manufacture? What we're trying to do in Australia? The manufacturing industry at the time was, you know, just shocking. I would call businesses, the number wouldn't even dial through and say it, it was no longer um available. I would leave a message um only for them to never return my call. And so I'd hassle if I did get on, they wouldn't call me back. And then if they did give me time, they'd say we don't manufacture in that form and we're not interested. And so then I would go into conversations with UK come back. Um So anyway, in, at the end of the day, we, we developed something hoping there was extrusion because our chemist was convinced that extrusion manufacturing existed which it did, but no one had ever manufactured cleaning products in this form, tablet form, manufacturing form, um, powder form in Australia until we did it. And so at the end of the day, as ideal as it was to try to find a manufacturing process that existed it, it just didn't. So we had to create it and we were really lucky that three people formed their own company to do that for us. Oh, wow. OK. So that's what I was about to get to was do you have your own manufacturing supply chain situation? So that means, so wait, how did you convince three people to start their own manufacturing thing for your business? And who are they? That's amazing. Yeah, super interesting question. So the typical approach in this space probably and probably with any beauty product, you might, you might know about this yourself. Um You probably you've spoken to heaps of people. So if you want to formulate something, you typically go, go to a contract manufacturer and you tell them the types of things that you want in your formula. So for us, it had to be effective. It had to be non-toxic. So no artificial fragrances, no petrochemical based ingredients, vegan cruelty free. The list is very long. It had to be without water, which is referred to as an hydris. And yes, all this ethical consideration. So you kind of come up with your laundry list and they then take formulas that they have on shelf and tweak that and then they tend to own the intellectual property. So you'll pay royalties or a license fee. Uh, I think sometimes you can buy it out. Right. I understand that's quite expensive. And when you're at startup phase really prohibitive, um, the first person I spoke to and so this is like, it's all related, but I managed to get in front of two formulation chemists one day at a contract manufacturer that was quite local. And two of the people who now support us were actually also in that meeting. And so the way that we've managed to get buy in for an idea that was so new and novel is always comes back to our why. And I was super clear, you know, we're here to save the world. We're building a different type of business, a business that balances people planet and profits. And at the same time, we're gonna clean up this plastic situation. So by removing plastic and introducing a zero waste solution, and we're gonna help people's lives at the same time. And I was so passionate about that and that was really clear. So it always started with our why that's way bigger than the product. And everyone has always bought into that. So that meeting resulted in, you know, me being able to form a relationship with the chemist directly because that contract manufacturer wasn't interested in the end. So I negotiated to have a direct relationship with the formulation chemist and we own our formulas outright again, so unique. Um And then the two people that were supporting that business, they're involved. Um And a third guy who had plastic extrusion experience and they, they actually came to me after our second manufacturer couldn't do what we need them to do. We were literally three months out, two months out from the date we'd committed to shipping our products to our crowd funders. 15, we had close to 1500 of them. We had no manufacturing solution. We considered doing it in house. We're literally gonna buy kitchen, like just think commercial kitchen equipment and mix it and uh maybe extrude with like a soft extrude. These were all things that we were thinking about and yeah, we were just so lucky. Um The plastic extrusion manufacturer came to me and he put forward a proposal. He said I would like to do this. I have the experience and we're gonna do it all at risk. So they invested in all the innovation um an R and D to, to get it up. We were a little bit late but um honestly, what they pulled off in that time was really incredible and we're just so grateful for our formulation can help and also our manufacturers. That is so interesting and so cool. Gosh, let's talk about the money piece for the beginning. I know you did a crowd fund kind of like preorder thing. But even before that, what was the money piece in terms of the capital that you and Sean were putting in? Was it savings? Was it a loan? Where are we at in terms of, of that piece of the puzzle? Yeah, definitely. Alright. I'll cast my memory back years. All right. So Sean and I met literally for coffee um in Noosa just before the COVID lockdowns and said, we're gonna give this a crack. We then agreed, we would um when things went into lockdown, both of us lost big contracts or um Sean had a number of contracts that she lost. And so we were like, that's it. We're gonna go all in, let's do this properly. And what I, I guess I'm starting there because there were a range of benefits that we were entitled to, which really made it available for us to commit fully. One is we were both eligible for jobkeeper, which was just so helpful, you know, for 18 months, we were able to still pay ourselves between three 1000. I think it dropped to about $2000 a month. So that, that we were able to live off that. So that's just the one bit. It's not like we quit with no money that, that's really important. We were able to live off that. Noting that definitely that was a reduction in my lifestyle that I was really willing to make. Yeah. And for anyone outside of Australia, that's the government package that they were giving people at the start of the pandemic. Correct. And that was to ensure that um, people remained in jobs. So it was money that they gave to the company to pass on to employees so that they weren't cutting jobs. We were self-employed and hence, we were able to justify that. The second was there were all these additional concessions. So the government was giving effectively $20,000 to businesses to stay in business. So we leveraged that the business that I had at the time, I actually spun that off to provide, I guess the, the initial capital to invest in the intellectual property. So we're talking brand, we invested heavily in building our brand uh and also formulation and so that entity has spun it off. I had money sitting in that cash and profit which I just was able to feed into pleasant state. So that, that was really an advantage. Um So that, that probably got us for through the first sort of six months. So let's say I had it was probably 50 60 odd K um that I had in that business where the 20 K from the government, Sean and I were living off job keepers and not making money. We also were able to negotiate a whole range of good deals with people. So branding agency was like an at an at risk fee. They really wanted to work with us. So we talked about a fee based on how successful we were through our crowd funding. Oh, that's cool. So always, like, think what, you know, people who want you to succeed, they're often willing to negotiate different deals, especially if they really want to work with you. So I was always comfortable to say, ok, you know, and they were super keen to work with us and sort of all right, I can't, I really can't pay you the money you deserve and they rightfully deserve that money. But what, what can you do here are some ideas I have. Um you know, you, I don't think I proposed equity at that stage, but it was really a, we pay you a portion but depending what we hit on our crowd funding, we could do this and I presented a number of options and then we just had a discussion about it. The third was our bottle manufacturing. So we had to produce 20,000 units in our first run which oh gosh, like even I can think back to that day, I'm on the bed saying to my partner, I can't believe I'm about to sign this contract for 2, 2000 glass bottles. It was a significant sum of money. I didn't know how I was gonna get it. How much money was it? I ballpark that first round was about $80,000. Yeah. Yeah. So um again, we this and like the deal that I negotiated with them was, um, I, some people applaud me for this, but the, the standard terms as you pay 70% to the factory up front before they even produce, that'll take them maybe 2 to 3 months to produce. Then it's on the water for about a month and then you pay the remaining 30% when it lands. So before you've even sold it, unless you're doing preorders, you've paid 100%. Um The deal that we negotiated was we pay 50% 30 days and a month after it arrives on our doorstep. So it lands, say it lands midmonth. We don't have to pay for another 45 days. That was at the 50%. Then we negotiated um to pay the remainder in installments over 12 months. And to this day, it's amazing for this day, our um broker continues to extend like extremely favorable terms which allows us, you know, that that's a really important source of capital delaying that that cash outlay is so critical. And I think it's the one that's often overlooked by early stage businesses. But if you can manage that cash flow carefully, you can really get do, do good things. What do you think it was that made that deal happen? Like was it the pitch? Was it the vision of what you were doing? What, like how did he do that? Like how, how did that happen? Yeah. Um So my, my brother is a woman uh in Sydney again, I think it was a pitch. I would always go in with a little pitch about this is the problem and this is what we're gonna do. And I, I was just so convinced it was gonna happen and anyone who didn't want to partner with us is crazy. And I, I would never say that to them, but I, I was just so convinced this had to happen and this was why, oh my God, I love that. And then they just really believed in it. And then they're like, then they wanted to work with us so badly that um it came, I don't know, they just were so willing to come to the party to negotiate and to this day, they're still massive partners of ours and I'm so grateful. So those sort of terms helped us get to that point. We had the crowd funding. So we, our target was $54,000. We raised $87,000. So that was really important capital that we put into the bottles. But at the same time, definitely, um I probably personally, I'd say before we even got to shipping products, we would have invested about 250 K into building brand. IP all the marketing to run our crowd funding. We, we broke even on our crowd funding in terms of ad spend and you know, the covering the cost of the product. Um But yeah, there's, there's been constant inject injections by myself and my partner Sean. And we have two other co-founders who helped launch the business who have put some money in from time to time. So for the timeline to paint the picture, we're talking sometime mid early to mid 2020 is when you launch the crowd funding campaign to kind of spread the word, create awareness, get your first customers. Many first customers, I think you said 1500. What else are you doing around that time to kind of get the word out or is, is that it, you were just going full on crowd funding campaign? And would you recommend this? Now? Looking back, uh if you asked me at the end of a campaign, I would always say, oh my gosh, never. Um But yes, let me take a step back uh in terms of the time frame. So late 2019, kind of uh came across the idea of the products, thought it would be a good idea. February, I meet with Sean and convince her like, let's go into this March 2020 COVID happens. We commit fully. Um I want us to get to market as quickly as we can. And to me that was launching a brand. So I really took startup principles. So go back to, you know, the lean um bus business, canvas M M V P minimum viable product. So I was like, let's without spending too much. Let's launch a brand and build interest. So we did that one June 2020. So Feb to one June, we build our brand. We did extensive customer research. We knew we were onto something with the brand, the name, the product, the price, the communication pillars. Like we knew we were on to a winner because we invested in customer research to begin with. As I said, they even dictated the price one June launched the brand that entire campaign we'd mapped out, we were going to crowd fund. So we knew that was coming and everything we did was all in the lead up to the crowd fund which launched in August 2020 of that year. So what that was uh June, July 22 and a bit month sort of campaign purely to get database leads. Noting that they, that's what we would use to launch the crowd fund. We had a target of, we wanted to have 10,000 leads before we launched our crowd fund. We, we actually launched with only 3000 would not recommend that because what that meant is even though those first couple of days were really good and we're excited to look to it. We hit the valley, they call it, is it the valley of death very quickly. Something like that. Yes. And so and I brought the team together, they call it a burning platform in management. I basically said, um if we do not secure our minimum that's it. The business doesn't go ahead. So this was our way to test, you know, we, we knew from market research, the idea was good. People told us they were gonna pay, we knew the brand was good. This next phase was really about saying, are they actually going to pay? And if they weren't going to pay and we weren't gonna hit that minimum, then for us, it was walk away. This, this business isn't viable. We don't have the product market fit again. A term. I didn't know at that stage. I think that's such a key point that you've just said there because I think a lot of the time, especially when you're in that early phase where you're so passionate, you've already committed money, you're really deep and so you can of course, get in that state of inertia and you're going along and you're going on, but you, you're holding on and you're not not prepared to be able to walk away. But it's actually a very key thing that founders should remember is sometimes it's not a viable business and sometimes the better thing to do is pivot iterate or maybe cut your losses and walk away from it. Yeah, definitely doing, I'm gonna bring in my management frameworks again, but that the bias is called escalating commitment. And it's a really common bias that we have those individuals and organizations make, which is this view, when you're assessing a project, you look at how much you've already put into it. Like in terms of time, money, money, energy and that you use that information to inform your steps forward. But actually at any point in time, you have to look at all of that time, money and investment has sunk, it's gone. You, you're never gonna get it back. That next phase isn't gonna get it back for you. So you always kind of have to treat it as day zero and say, all right, ignoring all that based on the available data that we have and our plan going forward, are we gonna make it or not? And what's it gonna take? And are we willing to do that or invest in that? And so that we've always made decisions like that, you, we have to ignore what's already put into it. Um Is there a pathway forward? And does that look like a, a viable one? Love that I want to talk more about, you know, kind of what happened from the end of the campaign? You've realized that you do have a viable business here, you're on to something very special that next phase of kind of growing outside of the campaign and kind of really starting to flourish because, you know, for me, I mean, I've known you for a couple of years now. It just seems like you've gone from strength to strength, leaping forward, constantly growing. You've won millions of awards and all these amazing things. So I'd love to hear kind of like just a bit about that time of getting outside the crowd funding campaign and to a wider national audience in Australia or were you international already by that point? I forget. Yeah. Um Well, really interesting tidbit about our campaign. So it started off strong, died really quickly and we knew we'd made a really big mistake. Um And this is what launched us into opening up uh globally very briefly, which was, we initially started with a really strong discount. And we use that to drive kind of this FOMO or this need to invest quickly before we, we removed the discount. But that the moment we move, removed that discount, it no longer looked attractive because people were taking a really big risk on us. So what we did is we made, we made a decision mid campaign to basically launch the campaign again. And the way we did that is we said we're launching internationally, we're going to the UK. And so we were part of this incubator and we had someone who recommended that. So we said we're launching to the UK and we're offering 40% off again. So we could reintroduce the discount as part of this global launch. So for a period of time, we did open ourselves up to the UK. We've always been in New Zealand. Um We decided to pull back the UK because we actually didn't get much interest from the UK, but it was a way for us to like refresh the campaign. So we're Australian and New Zealand, we focused heavily on the Australian market to date. I love that you're like, you go from strength to strength because when you're in the business, it really, it really doesn't feel that way. I've got to be honest. Um, there's been lots of ups and downs but, um, we've had, yes, definitely. Just so fortunate for the recognition that we've received because like, you know, doing, doing a good thing while building a business um gets a lot of attention which you know, it should because and that's the way business should be done. But ok, post campaign that ran for six weeks, we then had the money we'd already committed, I think mid campaign, we committed to the bottles. So they were landing sort of towards the end of the year at that stage. Again, I was just managing like a, a project. So it was like, alright, we need the bottles to land here. We, we need um our manufacturing formulations finalized by this stage. We were running a whole lot of really unique gen campaigns at that time. So we always get our customers to actually test our products before we launch them. And we, we tend to get leads at a really cheap cost. We're talking sort of 30 cents per lead when we, we do these giveaway campaigns. So we get 100 Australians to sign up to test our product for free. We use that to collect data um on is our product comparing as well compared to the competitors or better. Um I'm glad to say it always is. Um if it's not, we, we won't launch it, but at the same time, we collect user generated feedback, we get reviews. So by the time we launch, we have lots of content that we can use. So this, this is a common model. So we're very customer centric. We're always asking our customers, what products do you want next? What should we name it? What do you think about the colors? Um Who wants to test it? Give us feedback on the testing and then we launch and this is like a common formula. We do this for every single product. So that's happening behind the scenes. Um We, you know, at the time we were managing all of our Facebook ads. So Sean was doing that, we did go through a period of outsourcing that to Facebook um ad agencies, they call the meta now. Um We never had success with that and particularly with the I OS changes. That was a really honestly like super hard period for us as a direct to consumer business that was quite reliant on Facebook ads. Um I'd say only in the last couple of months have we got on top of that? And so there, I feel there's been this long period post that change where I felt that the business actually hasn't changed much and moving from sort of a million, uh, half a million revenue business to a million sort of tracking at, um, daily average sales that would make us a million dollar business has been really hard and I, I don't know about doing. You probably hear this more than me. I've heard, like, there's rumors that, that probably, that, that period, that hurdle getting to the million sort of average day sales business is really hard. Um And that's no line that, that was a really difficult period. But um we, yeah, again, I've just, we manage it as a project every day. We actually leverage a project methodology in our business. So using ASANA, can you break that down? Definitely. So agile project methodology is about breaking down your work into like smaller chunks. So we kind of work on, we probably work on one week. I'd like to get it to two weeks sprints, which is where we say, ok, in this two week period, these are all the things that we have to achieve. Break that down into really clear tasks for each team member on a daily basis. We meet as a team for about 15 minutes and just talk through our priorities. Make sure that they haven't shifted. People get to ask questions about what's holding them up and then we kind of go away and, and do our thing and only communicate through Asana means we're um super efficient. Everyone knows what's happening and we call it, our pick Packer is in that meeting, our graphic design is in that meeting. So we all know what's happening and this, this means we move really quickly. Um And we can change priorities quickly without losing uh I guess oversight of what the end goal is. And so that's, I think perhaps that's why we, we've been able to move quickly and we continue to do so, something that I hear a lot from early stage founders, especially in that beginning phase where maybe it's only a founder or two founders working together and there's so many different things to do and there's so many channels and we're constantly being told you need to do tiktok, you need to do Instagram, but you should also be doing youtube and you should also be doing this. Where is it like important for you to spend time in those early days? And how has that led to like your biggest kind of revenue drivers now? Hm. Really good question. And look, we have definitely fell prey to that whole. We need to be doing this. We need to be doing that and don't get me wrong. I, I think there's still an element of that from time to time, but we, we stop and we focus and we're really clear on doing that one thing. Uh I would, you know, I would always say, where are your customers, like you need to know your customers intimately and we do and that, that's an area we invest in and continue to invest in. So we know we know what platforms they're on. Uh we know what TV they watch. Um, we know where they shop. And so then you've got to cater it to those particular platforms. And our view is that to be focused and do, do well in um a few of those is better than to do a poor job in a lot. And we've all, we've learned um that from experience. So we, we know that our customers are easily influenced by social media to date. They've predominantly been on Instagram. We've, we've played with um Pinterest uh and tiktok, we just, we struggle to get really good data to prove that or that their attributions were correct. So we're always making data led decisions and making sure that the data is there to support those decisions. And if it's not good enough, then we're like, all right, it's not, we can't prove that this is really working for us. Influence is seeing massive one for us. We have a goal of 10, I think it's 10 a week. We see 10. Yeah. And we, we said that's a K P I of our 10 a week, we send them out without any obligation. So there's no requirement that people post um But if they want to, they do so we get heaps of good content there. Um, our email database is the lead generation campaigns that I talked about where we, we give away product for free. Um, we build our databases really quickly. We just did the Dyson. So we, um, we had a couple of Dyson one Dyson to give away. I've still got the one at Home Sean and I have a bit of a discussion about who's gonna keep that one. Um, but that, I think we had 14,000 leads came in from the Dyson give away. Now, they're not all quality leads and we think a lot of them, it was put up on a giveaway um page and so a lot came from overseas. So that's just a reminder to um limit it to make sure they're local leads. But all these things, any thing where we can get people into our database for a low cost so that we can really nurture them to convert them to customer. We focus a lot of time on. So yeah, giveaways collaborations, influencer seeing our, our um product giveaway. That's a big one. And then using email to really drive conversions. Weirdly, that's dropped off a bit lately. So it's an area we need to focus on again. But these last few months now that we feel we're doing a good job with our Facebook ads, we decided to focus and just say, all right, if we just change this one variable, right? Just purely Facebook ads, what impact does that have? And so we wanna kind of nail that before we move on to the next, which will be our email and so improving that again and then just kind of stack them on top of each other. So we know what's working rather than trying to do it all and not knowing which one's doing what, like. All right, what's the 1 to 2 that we should focus on in this next 90 days? We get that right. We move on in the next 90 days. What's the next big one or two? Focus? Hm. Love that. I want to shift gears a little bit and start talking about where you're at today, the campaign, the equity crowdfunding campaign. You and I have spoken a lot about, you know, the state of funding specifically for women, specifically in Australia and the problems that we often face. I know you're very well versed in this area. I'd love to talk about when you went to do. I think it was last year you went to do a fundraise and kind of your experience there and how that leads us into today. Equity crowd funding campaign. Amazing love talking about this. Um Yes, and I've had my first hand experience. Um but I'll probably take a step back and talk. So 10 years ago, I was, when I was doing my M B A, I did a subject on entrepreneurship and I was like, I was really fascinated the like the professor kept inviting entrepreneurs in to speak predominantly male. Um And then this one class, there was one woman and she, her story was the same as the men, to be honest, like she talked about the risk she was taking and um how the the ride is really wild. You have like ups and downs and she's put her house on the line effectively. And then after the class, I just remember the chatter about her. It was so different to, there was another guy, he'd gone bankrupt a couple of times and they all thought he was a hero, right? They thought it was amazing like his courage. And yet when she told a similar story, the judgment was so extreme. I remember just them thinking she wasn't, she wasn't cut out for it. She wasn't gonna make it, you know, she, you know, obviously the risk she was taking weren't paying off and I was just like gobsmacked and, and so that was the first, I guess time I really saw how female versus male entrepreneurs are treated. Um And so off the back of that again, this is back to ne never doing what I'm told to do or wanting to do things differently. Our lecturer wanted us to write a paper on something and I thought that was really boring. And instead I wanted to go and explore female um entrepreneurs and specifically accessing venture capital cos she talked a lot about that in her speech, how it's difficult to access capital. And so given the observations I'd seen of how she was treated, I wanted to open this up and understand, well, what, what's going on for other female entrepreneurs? And is there something about behaviors or stereotypes that's playing into that? So, I did, I went off and I got to interview a few women in, including the founder of Red Balloon. Um, and I was really embarrassed after my meeting with her cos she, she said to me, she's like, you know what men after I speak men contact me and they say I need you to help me to do this. They're very specific and she's like, and I help them to do that. And she said women come to me and they want to talk about all the barriers and challenges that face women. And she just said, I don't think there's any that like there were none. The only challenge I've had is that I had, um you know, I had Children and that took me out for a time and I was like, whoa OK. Um And so after that, I'm like, I'm going to ignore my gender. This is not really an issue. Um But at that time, I was writing the paper and what the research showed. Um So at the time 4.4, roughly don't quote me on these figures. This is we're talking 10 years here, 4% of venture capital globally was going to female founded businesses. The major barriers that came up or challenges that came up through my research were stereotypes. And I think this was at play in that classroom, the stereotypes, the stereotype of a male is that they're competent and confident and competitive and capable. Um all these traits that you require to be successful in business. Then the opposite of a stereotype means you've got the opposite. So the opposite of a man is a woman, the opposite of competitive and risk taking and um capable is like soft and weak and people focused and not risk taking and, and not capable. And so already we're, we're dealing with this stereotype, like as a woman, we're in this box. And so, you know, all of those traits are not really good traits for business and it's hard to get out of that. So that's one really big one. Um And we can't change that. Like that's not something we can do. So I'll get back to, well, what can we do? Um The other one is a lot of the businesses that women are building are not attractive to venture capital. So they're lifestyle businesses, we're solving, we're solving problems that men probably don't care about or we're creating products that they don't, they don't care about, so they don't want to fund it. And I see that all the time through pleasant state, I'll talk about our new proposition like ethical, we create ethical products that make home care reform as selfcare. And men are like, what? That's not even mean. Um Men don't even know what our products do. They're like. So where do you use the bathroom cleaner? This is not all men, by the way, but I do, we do get these questions. Whereas women, I tell them that proposition, they're like, that's amazing. Um So we're building businesses that venture capital and they're predominantly still men. They, they're holding the capital that they are not interested in. Um The research also showed we don't like to take risk with other people's money. And so we will, we're afraid um to take on capital to grow our business at risk of losing it. And so I think that's a big one and this comes back to our financial literacy point that you and I speak about and how important that is. Um, and that we need to, you know, forget that we're being told we're not good with money and that we shouldn't look at it. We've really got to lean into that. We've got to get really comfortable with money and once you're comfortable with them, the money and the finances and understand how you can leverage other people's money through debt, capital, revenue financing, then you start to be more comfortable to take on people's money, right? Because you have a comfort with money and talking about finances and that, that's just super critical for women. Um I think they're the key ones, stereotypes the type of businesses we build and our comfort with taking other people's money and leveraging that to grow. I, I think I'll stop that. They're the three key points. So as a result, I guess I established this, this market the way this venture capital market is not geared for women. So I made a decision at that point if I, you know, I wanted to build a business one day, I wouldn't take on venture capital. Why would I go into a system that isn't created to support me as a woman because of my stereotype and these traits. Um I'm already judged that doesn't like the type of business that I'm building. Um you know, but obviously I need money. And so for a really long time, I just knew I wasn't gonna take on V C. In fact, like right at the beginning, we always said we're going to be employing customer owned. Always, we wanted to create a business that gives back to the people that actually help build value in our business. Like I, I don't know, I just love this idea that our customers own us and our employees own us. They're the people that should benefit from our business, not just from our products, but sometimes ego can get in the way. Like you, you look out there and you're fed this message like your, your business would be attractive to V C. Why don't you consider impact V CS. Right. They're, they're investing differently. Like, you, you'd probably be really attractive to them. And so, and then you hear all the stories about, you know, the successful businesses raising this money and because I'm competitive and like, I think I should be able to do it. Um, it seemed like a bit of a challenge and in my mind I'm like, all right, well, if anyone can do it, I can do it. And let's like people are telling me I should give it a crack, let's give it a crack. But I entered into um in August September. I, we did go out to market to see if there was interest from the impact V C world. I entered into that with huge discomfort. I felt sick about it. I was, I was probably getting headaches. I did not wanna do it. Like I, I just remember dragging my heels for so long, but I'm like, alright, well, I've been told we should do it um this, you know, if I can, if anyone can do it, I can do it like this, this is a good challenge and we did it and you know, despite having a really, like what I consider to be a really good business, really strong community, we've got huge success like we, we're leading in the sustainability space award winners, Telstra, women, business women, Telstra winners, not even, not even women, they actually got rid of the women's awards. So this is out of yeah, 20,000 nominations. We won Queensland um Sustainability Award for Telstra, which is huge from the Prime Minister. Exactly. All these things. What the heck like? Exactly. It's like, alright, what else do you, what else do I need to do? What else do as women do we need to do to be attractive? I feel like you also hear a lot of women say, ok, I've gone and had these conversations. They say come back when you have traction, ok? Now you're coming back, you've got the traction, you've got awards, you've got grant funding, you've got a successful crowdfunding campaign. You've got real customers, you've got data, everything's data led, you've got customer research. What the fuck, seriously? What the fuck. Yeah, what the fuck. Um So I was, I was getting meetings with really amazing um V CS and people and yeah, that was my experience. They're like, wow, you congratulations. Like you've built an amazing brand. Tick. Your results are phenomenal for your early stage. Congratulations on what you've done with your crowd funding and bootstrapping, right? So we'd crowdfunded bootstrapped use um non-bank funding, revenue, funding and really favorable supplier terms to get to this point and hold out um Awesome feedback. But they didn't, what I felt is I didn't feel that they really understood the strength of a brand and how important that was and the value that should be placed on brand. Um Because predominantly they were investing in tech businesses. Right, the second year to B B to B to B SAS. Exactly. They, they don't, I felt that the understanding of lifetime value for a consumer product business is extremely different to Sass and, you know, and it's still an area we were learning. So I have to take some responsibility for perhaps not, not always communicating that effectively, but, you know, they're very different lifetime value for a, a model versus a consumer product. The switching costs are very different from one cleaning product to another. Um So the metrics they're using to assess us to take businesses are really different. And then the types of returns, you know, for every new customer that acquisition cost particularly at an early stage is, is higher. And so some of them wait to make sure that you have more traction so that customer acquisition cost is lower. Um So that kind of made sense to me. But what I, what I realized at the end of the day, uh one day I walked in to Sean and I said, I'm done, we're not doing this anymore. It was after I went to the S PE. So S B E is um they've been, they're called springboard in the US. So your US listeners would know springboard, they set up in Australia rebranded to S pe, they support female founders who are building highly scalable global businesses and, and China and I are really fortunate to be in the global program now. Um I didn't know about them till I went to this event. Um But when I was there, I'm like, that's it. We have to be involved in that. At their 10 year reunion. They had just released a report that was run by Deloitte, which looked at the state of capital in Australia of the $10 billion invested into V 10 billion V C invested in 20 I think it's 2022. Hopefully I'm not getting my years wrong. Um 99.3% I wanna say that again. 99.3% went to male founded businesses. We often talk about it the other way. So the report said point point 7% went to female founders. I don't know why, but it doesn't sound as bad as when you say 99.3% went to male founded businesses. You know, I I mentioned before when I was in that meeting with the red um balloon woman and I said, you know, she said, forget your gender, ignore it. I actually did. I ignored it. I got on, I cracked on, I'm like, forget my gender just do a good job. It'll work out when I realized that that stuff, we're at 0.7% versus 10 years ago when we're at 4% globally. I know the global figure. Um I think it's about, is it two point 3% currently it's dropped again and again, it always drops during recessions because don't take a risk on women during recessions. But it was at that moment during, when I heard that start again, I realized um that we have a very big problem and I can no longer ignore my agenda and stop, stop trying to raise capital in systems that are not set up for us like that. Why would you do that to yourself? So I walked into Sean when I had that realization and said that's it. We're stopping. I am not, we're not raising money this way because we're not going to like and yet um hats off to the women who manage to achieve it. Um They, I know that the journey that they go through is just as hard and grueling. Um You like a definitely, it's like upsetting. I also think that the state of Australia is also behind America. When we look at like the women that I speak to on the show who have gone down the venture capital funding. America seems to be kind of, I mean, it's not, it's not good, but there are more V C companies that back specifically C P G brands. Whereas in Australia, you know, last week, I'm at business school doing this angel investing thing. It's great, amazing, whatever. It's very one dimensional every V C we heard from and there were 15 speakers over the three days, it was B to B. Nothing else. Nothing else, literally nothing else in Australia. And I was like, but what do you mean as just sold for $2.5 billion product based business? What are you talking about? Anyway, let's not go there. So, ok, let's talk about the equity crowdfunding campaign today. Excellent, super exciting last yesterday. Um Sorry, on the what date? 16th of May, we launched our equity crowdfunding on virtual. So this time around we're giving our community the opportunity to actually purchase shares in our business. And you know, hopefully if we're a big success, they'll, they'll benefit from that. You know, this is a approach that really resonates with my values. I mentioned, I like I set out to build pleasant state to be a customer employee community own business. And when we went down the other path that really didn't feel right. This feels so right. I held off from doing the equity crowdfunding when it first launched because the types of multiples that businesses were getting on their revenue. So that's just multiplying the their revenue at this current time. And um you know, say it's 10 times multiple, then you work out their valuation when it first started because you're approaching um non people who aren't really experienced in investing. So a lot of your customers and stuff, they, they don't really understand what necessarily that that multiple has an implication for their future investment. But, you know, you were seeing multiples in the hundreds 60 nines like ridiculous multiples that, that you would just never get through other mechanisms, whether that's angel investment or V C. And so I held off because I didn't think that was really ethical to go to market at those sorts of multiples and have people invest because uh we always do things the right way, even if it's the hard way, we could have got way more money and given up way less percent of the company. But that's not right. And so this, this is an opportunity. Now, the multiples are right and they're more aligned with the broader way that the capital markets are working. So now is the right time. This is the right approach. And we're just so excited to give people the opportunity to invest in our pleasant state and our future. Oh my gosh, I'm so excited for you. How does it work? Like what is virtual? Like how, what's the process for anyone who's like, fuck? Yeah, I want to get involved in that. So Bertha was set up when the legislation changed in Australia, allowing anyone to invest in small, they call them small cap businesses. So before this, you could only invest through the stock exchange in big um big listed companies. But when the legislation changed it really, I guess it kind of democratizes ownership in smaller businesses. So berch set up this platform where they could profile Australia's most interesting and innovative brands and allow everyday people to invest um, in our case, for as little as $250. Um, so that's like, you know, for, for many people that might be a dress or, um, whatever that might be. So, it's not a meal, a meal. I'm definitely not spending that on meals these days. Um, maybe, maybe in the future. I mean, it's pretty out there when you go to the restaurant, you can spend a lot of money very easily. That is true when I'm earning um non jobkeeper. Again, I will keep that in mind. But yes, you're right. It might be, it might be a meal. So, um you know, no longer, do you have to invest 10-K or more and pass all these sophisticated means tests to be able to invest, which is really cool because that's a way um that people can, can invest in different ways, in my opinion. Um And so the, the way it happens is uh Bert has a really interesting approach. So there's a three week stage which is expression of interest phase and that's all people have to do is they go on to Bertel, they find say pleasant state and they fill in a really short form which says um yes, I'm interested in investing. I'm like an individual investor. I'm interested to invest 250 to $999 or 2.5 $1000 to $404,999. So you just, it's kind of an intent to invest and there's a video and a profile page. So that's the information that you have available to you at that stage. You don't have to hand over any money. So you're not. And it's no, it's not a contract. You're not forced into actually investing what's then done with that information is they have a whole lot of data and they look to say, well, pleasant state, yes, you're likely to have a successful raise. And the minimum you should target, which you're highly likely to achieve is this and this is your maximum target. So our minimum say it could be half a mil, maybe our maximum will be two mil. Um And so then after that three week period, anyone who expressed interest in the first three weeks is invited to invest over a two day period. So that's where you, you officially say, yes, I'm going to invest and this is the exact amount at that stage. Um Over that two day period, everyone has access to an offer document which has full details of our financials and our business strategy and what we've achieved to date. So it's about a 40 page document and um you know, can ask more questions of myself and, and the team. Um and so that, that runs for two days, it could run longer if we don't hit our minimum, but say we hit our minimum then is open publicly and is open for up to another three weeks. So people who didn't express interest then have the opportunity to invest. But there have been cases where if you don't express interest in that three week period, um or businesses can raise up to their maximum. And so you don't have the opportunity to post that if you have an expressed interest to invest in the business. Got it. Oh my gosh. I'm so excited. I'm so excited to, for anyone listening. We're going to do a mini series about this. So we're gonna be tuning back in with Amy in a couple of weeks to see how it's going. You're gonna learn a lot more. We're gonna see what's happened in that time. It's gonna be documented in real time. I guess we could say I'm so excited. I'm so excited. This is so cool. I want to, before we get into the six quick questions, I wanna ask you, what is your key piece of advice or recommendation to other early stage entrepreneurs and small business owners who are listening to this episode about building a business, know your customer like intimately and lean on them to answer all your business questions. That's one the other is you need to lean into the financials and, and educate yourself if you weren't fortunate, like June and I to be taught that growing up, um you, you need to lean in and become financially literate and invest in that heavily.
Question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you waking up every day and building pleasant state? Because I believe that businesses are there to build a better world. Uh And that they have an obligation to balance people planet and profit and I'm on a mission to prove that you can balance them and build an awesome business. Yes, you have already proven that. 100%. Question number two. What's been your favorite marketing moment so far? Uh Probably this latest crowdfunding video um that has been three years of work to get me to this point where I look acceptable behind a camera. So I love this latest video. Check it out. Yeah, you enjoyed it. I so enjoyed it. I laughed so many times. There's a funny story. I actually had a full diva moment um Before I started speaking on the couch, um I shouldn't admit that this is really hard for me. I'm presenting in front of the camera and so I I a mini tantrum. Um You wouldn't know it though. Yeah, you wouldn't know it. Not at all. Oh my God. Hey, we all have tantrum moments. I have mine often. Question number three is what's your go to business resource? Where are you learning from at the moment in terms of like a book or a newsletter or a podcast? Yes. Oh, well, I have to do a call out to the, your podcast. Um, it's really amazing when I'm driving. I will always, um, pick a segment that really resonates with me and the problem that I'm facing. And so I've, I've picked up a lot um listening to your podcast. Thank you. Oh, thank you so much. Any others, any other kind of life changing sources that we can drop to the audience. I the, the way that I do it because I have to be efficient and I am not good at reading. Um nonfiction is my network. So I make sure I have experts around me in different areas and I call them and I um I get really quick answers to the problem that I'm facing and I'm not afraid to do that. Yeah. Love that 100% network is everything. Question number four. How do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful? Yes. A really good one. Um I'm, I, as long as I stick to this, my structure is I wake up pretty early because I live in Queensland. You can't help it. Um I take my time just having my breakfast, I go to the gym and then before I start work, I do a mini meditation where it's called the whooping method. So, what's my wish? What's the outcome of that? What's the obstacle to achieving that? And then what's my plan to overcome that obstacle? And I really send to myself and just remember to be like present and kind and, and calm throughout the day. Oh, I love that. That's so cool. I haven't heard that before. Question number four. What's been your worst money mistake? And how much did it cost you in the business? Yes, we um I would say this is the only time we take calculated risks. But I, we got to a point where I thought if we throw more money into a better agency, our agency and a better pr agency that's gonna drive our growth and, and I thought from that growth we'd be able to fund them. That was the biggest mistake I've ever made. Um We should not invest for growth, like make sure you have the money before you do that and don't, don't gamble like I did on that. We had to wind that back and that, that took a while to wind back. Hm. Yeah, tough one. Very tough one. Question number six. Last question. What is just a crazy story? Good or bad from building pleasant state? Uh I feel like the universe is um my biggest challenge is around pallets. Um I have stuffed up with pa. So pallets are what your products come on, shipped from factories. The amount of mistakes I've made in. This is ridiculous. The last one I, I had a semi trailer and a, um, another smaller truck arrive with 32 pallets. That's a lot of pallets, a lot of. And then, and despite me thinking that I'd asked for the right palette and being really clear, they arrived on the wrong palette and I sent them back and um that was a $5000 mistake. So I still haven't learned my palette lessons one day, one day palette lessons. It's a first on the show.
00:04:32Edit Definitely a first. Oh my gosh, Amy. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Sharing your story. I'm so excited for you. I'm so excited to be a hype girl. I'm so excited for the next episode. Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Jane. Thank you everyone for listening.