Updated: Sep 15
Today on the show I’m chatting with Azora Zoe Paknad, the Founder of Goldune - and yes I love the name.
We’re talking in depth about her launch and the brands she’s on the lookout for at the moment - hint: it could be you.
Goldune is a new ecommerce retailer making sustainability less beige. Get everything you need for home and life, always sustainable-- but never granola.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
00:03:41 Female startup presence. Azora. Hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast. Thank you so much for having me and I'm very excited as a listener of the pot. Yeah, I mean you've just totally brightened my day for everyone listening. Azora just told me she already knew about Female Startup Club and she's been listening in for a while. So she just blew my mind and I'm so thrilled. I'm just so happy. You've got a huge smile on my face. Um your name is really beautiful by the way, is aura. Haven't heard that before so much. Very, you've got lots of nice words going around as, or Goldune. Love it, love it, love it, love the whole mix for those of us who will not for us because I know, but for those who are listening who don't know who you are yet and don't know about your brand. Can you give us the elevator pitch for yourself and for gold june totally, so equal Dune is a e commerce retailer for home and life and we're focused on making sustainability, less stage granola, more inclusive, more design lead and a little bit more warm and human and forgiving rather than sort of, you know, all or nothing or doom and gloom or shame or fear based, which sort of, my experience navigating kind of a sustainable retail or sustainable living movements and, you know, the different kind of channels that we're there whether on social media felt like there was kind of one or two dominant narratives, like one on the end of the spectrum, there was kind of like a, you know, like a very waste like rich influencer where like everything in her home was super curated, super beautiful.
00:05:32 Aspirational. Maybe there was like a focus on slow living and you know, on the one hand that didn't feel accessible or inclusive necessarily is a narrative while of course beautiful in so many ways. And on the other hand, I felt like there was a really strong community that was zero waste and power to folks who pull that off. So, so impressive. But I also felt like some of the energy in that community was like a little bit zero sum game focus, right? Like if you mess up or you can do something like there was a stigma or shame. And also I didn't feel like there was that much dialogue and ethics either about what a privilege that is to write like for some reason giving their waste is stylized as a sacrifice, but We don't talk about is what a huge emotional socioeconomic privilege it is to even be able to have the bandwidth to think about not generating a scrap of trash. So there was like a friction there for me. Um my background before starting school soon it worked for a long time that that company called 52, it was another home sort of kitchen retailer and media company and you know, I, I've sort of got into sustainability in my time there and that's kind of like friction point for me feeling like I was sort of not an either bucket or at either end of each extreme side of the spectrum, I was noodling on that for a while and I think the pandemic for me really exacerbated and accelerated that process or that conversation about Sustainability.
00:07:05 But to be honest, privilege, I think we all started sort of thinking about evaluating and talking about privilege in different ways in 2020 and it felt like the time to do something about it also a crazy time, I will say, but I found myself with the time to really focus on something if you're passionate about and I really wanted to create space for climate optimism for inclusivity places welcome folks to the conversation around sustainable living and sustainable shopping, whatever that means, regardless of where they were at. Right? So like you don't have to be a pro or an expert, you don't have to, you know, have everything in your life for your home or your first look like you're coming back from a hike like that's not everything has to be outdoorsy, like it's okay and I think there should be some a shades of, I don't want to say sustainable living, but we should all have access to options that are hopefully is times to our ecosystem and as sustainable as possible no matter where you're at their, your pro whether the climate crisis overwhelmed, you can't even think about it, you're just getting started and every sort of facing between, right?
00:08:14 Because there's a million shades right between which I think is actually where most of us are feathers and movies around the suspect into. For sure. Absolutely, I love that. And being able to find like meet people where they are on the journey. So being like, hey, you want to make one small change, Here's a good idea and here's how you can do that and here's how you can do it, that's within your budget and here's how you can do it, that's within your style or whatever it might be. Do you want to just share a little bit about the kinds of brands you have on the platform and the kinds of price points and like what's a typical kind of curation assortment look like for you. 100%. So we'll do in itself is a marketplace and we're just, we're about, we've been live for less than eight months, probably, maybe nine months. And so we're just dabbling in kind of making one or two of our own product, but for the most part we really do go through, like a pretty intense evaluation process both on the sustainability side. Like making sure that we feel really, really confident, you know, putting something in front of you and telling you that we think it's the best version that's out there, whether, you know, at that price point, whether, you know like in that sort of context with sustainability.
00:09:31 But yeah, we work with at this point, I believe it upwards of 100 different brands and our focus is really still, I'm trying to provide diversity of price point. So there's acceptable options for all different kinds of folks which clearly challenge on either end of that spectrum, right? Especially in sustainability, but also really trying to make sure that you have what you need in the same sense that like when you, you know, you go to like sort of a quote unquote general store and you throw a bunch of things in your car, there's that, he's right. And you think too hard about Evaluating every single thing. We hope to do a lot of that evaluation from sustainability standpoint, from the aesthetic or design standpoint from that 16 point for you and then to present you with hopefully a lot of good options for your taste, your home, your budget, your the size of your place, right? All of those different factors and it's up to you to sort of, you know, take what works for you based on your own unique circumstance and life and none of our business are these to tell you, that's for you is another sort of things kind of important to me at least, or piece of our echoes is like, none of us know anything about what anyone else goes.
00:10:37 So who am I to tell you how you should live your life? Like how you should compost or you know, I think we kind of easily get into that discussion, sustainability stays like prescriptive place where we should be doing this, you should only be doing what you can do easily. No, we'll give you as many options as we can and sort of up to you to pick what if you based on where you're at and hopefully we can grow with you and like be your partner, I'm not your name. What's funny to me is like, how does this not exist already in terms of something so cool and like, the product assortment is amazing. I love that you stock a lot of women owned brands. I love that you stock a lot of women of color owned brands or founded brands rather. And like the platform speaks to me in terms of branding. Like I just, I get joy from being on there, like, because it doesn't feel like the classic sustainable everything's just green and you know, whatever, like, you know, the 10 years ago, sustainable vibe that's still kind of like, exists a lot today, but it's fun and I love that you said you're making your own products, it's something I wanted to ask you about, but we'll circle back to that because I want to go back to, you know, pre getting started, where does your entrepreneurial stories start?
00:11:55 And were you always interested in, you know, building your own business? Good question, definitely. Yes, my parents are both serial entrepreneurs, so I would put the environment I grew up in, I like the kid napping under the table in the conference room during board meetings, like sleeping under my mom's death and my barbies very much sort of a piece of me as a little person before I knew it. And so for me it was never a question of, it's just a question of when, so to be honest, I really, really didn't think it would be now and I kind of thought the impulse when it came along, you know, when you're younger, like all of those things feel very accessible and interesting and open to you. So I, I definitely felt as a kid, like I'm gonna do something amazing. I grow up, I don't know what it is, but I swear I will and then, like, I, I got older, I did a few different things and I think I started to feel like there was a certain level of required exactly like very entry or prescribed milestones I had to hit in order to do something like this on my own and I pictured myself like further along in my career myself, older, I had imagined that I would have liked more established investor connections or relationships or a better network and I'm not sure what exactly pushed me off the edge.
00:13:19 I think probably it sounds like also when you're getting ready for having a baby, literally yeah, kind of like, you know, any big lights milestone, right? Like you have this picture of what you envisioned, you'll be like and I know that's never ever like how it goes. And so for me, I actually sort of like push or negotiate with myself and talk myself into doing this big thing. I think the pandemic kind of health and that it is sort of stripped away like a lot of the ego, I think so many of us were sort of like for the first time perhaps more open about vulnerability or anxiety or circumstance or just the dialogue opened up there, but I don't know, it took a push. It took a push finally quote, but finally it was like 45 days. I made it sound like it was here. It was like, come on, but in pandemic times 100 years. But after a lot of noodling I decided to go for it. Even if you know, I wasn't what I thought I would be when I started business or my career wasn't or I wasn't at the stage of life, I mean, I was literally like living with my parents all the time I launched this, this so I think I imagine like a sophisticated version of myself that that version of yet to materialize, I'm still not sophisticated in, but we're waiting to plunge anyway.
00:14:38 You're working towards that, you're working towards it. I'm sure you're very sophisticated, put yourself down a lot of things and I think that's okay. There was a way to make that work for you. But no, it's a good being, an opportunity is an amazing exercise and like ego crushing and just completely every day you have to like fall on your face and then get back up and do it again the next day, totally dealing with that rejection. Those constant nose. Yeah, I feel you, I want to know like I always love to ask about how much capital it took to get started and what was the kind of blueprint to getting started? What are those early, you know, lead up to launch early months, like when you're like, you know what, I'm going to start this thing and where were you at in your career by the way, I think I read that you quit your job already and you had other plans pre pandemic. But if you want to just kind of like summarize those, you know those early moments, I'll set the scene.
00:15:41 I love setting the scene, please do you Might as well I had started or sorry I quit my job at 52, we've just been through an acquisition a few months after the acquisition and I felt like I had a little bit of startup burnout happening and I wanted to do something big and something really different and like, frankly not not work at all for a while, so I've given lots of notice, I've been saving up, I was like, give me to travel the world. I know, I was like, oh, I, I think I don't want to work and then I was like, let me work a million times harder than ever. But no, I thought I was going to travel. I heavily sort of an untraditional college experience. They worked through college, I mean in college and it was night school in new york and I had never sort of had that like, kind of young adventurous wander left chapter that some folks get to have. And I was like, you know what, let's try to recreate that later and make it happen now. And so I gave probably four months notice.
00:16:44 I so I blew up my apartment, I started packing upon myself to put into storage and I was like, I'm going to Italy, I like western walls, emotions, I literally threw myself a goodbye party, I'm going to do my eight pray love thing. Yeah, I was like, actually I walked deeper love for the first time that month and I was like, I guess I'm going to do this, I I like fully bought in right, And then of course like March rolls around, there's no going to Italy and I had already gotten rid of my apartment and I now had no job or was winding down, I think I had like another four or five weeks left, but you know, that was, that was really the end of that and so I guess I'm moving in with my parents, the opposite of going to Italy are traveling the world alone for six months is moving back in with your parents. So I did that when I was talking about investigation. You're like, I was taking all these steps forward for my personal self, but I'm actually taking a couple steps back and I'm going back in time. It was wild.
00:17:46Edit I haven't lived with my parents since I was like 16. So it was so like such a trip right in so many ways, Such a shock to the system, not a bad way actually, I like very, very happy that happened, but it was just very much like the absolute opposite of what I had planned for myself, which is fine and that's how life goes and it's funny and make sure the hilarious story now because starting businesses like truly the opposite of going and traveling with no job, but you know, probably like after I worked remotely from from there for a while and you know, like explored a bunch of different Ops and I found myself kind of, I felt I felt like I should take them right. It was a hard time to get a job And so any time I had a great opportunity in front of me that, you know, theoretically in the bill for what I said, I was wanted to do next, which was like, I did want to work with the ability. It did want to make commerce. There's only so many older businesses and any time the opportunities in front of me, I found myself making so many Houston's or like trying to kind of like wiggle out or, or not just some astounding or like not not letting it happen.
00:18:56 And at a certain point I realized because I had the idea or I have this inclination or the passion that I've been, I haven't told anyone about because I was embarrassed or about like uncomfortable with the level of vulnerability that is literally going around. Some people leave from business idea and then having to explain like your hat fake business idea. I don't think there's anything more embarrassed going through that. But I was like being very, you know, very tight lipped about it. And at a certain point I think one day I just woke up and was like, oh my God, I'm already spending so much time fixated or focused on this idea. I have zero financial observation to anybody for the first time. Like in a long time and probably that's kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity as well, right? A lot of people don't get that lucky that their big idea times out pretty well talking no overhead. And I just would like to say it's not, it's not now then when and I kind of thought over all of that weird ego stuff about them. Like I needed to ask more savings or you know, like a partner or better protections than just sort of like made peace with it is what it is.
00:20:06 And there are so many founders out there with wackier stories or you know, maybe like life experience a different experience who has been wildly successful or who worked really hard and why not me? But if you start asking a lot of why not me? I still do to be honest. It's like actually my screen saver says, why not? Me and I have to like pummel it into my little egg brain every day and go up there and take risks. But no, that was what was coming. They're totally, I'm with you. I do the same. Yeah, the question isn't it? But to answer your question, sorry, I lost myself there on a long journey. Not a journey a journey now. Huh? I raised a little bit of friends and family money, but very, very little. I think relative to most e commerce startups or most folks and the goal is just like, let me get a minimum viable product up and running and it's actually the same one that's out there now, if you see it, nothing has really changed in that regard.
00:21:11 But no, I I like to share my idea with people who I felt comfortable with and who I felt wouldn't judge me and he would support me even if I mean not that they would support me blindly. Obviously people who I thought would be honest in time and that's that's what got me started. I worked quietly from, let's say the end of june Through October 20 of the day we launched just behind the scenes and yeah, it was actually pretty tight turnaround in hindsight, but that, that was it, that was like the journey from build to launch and what were the kinds of things you were doing behind the scenes in the lead up to launch in terms of, you know, getting brands interested, like how are you getting brands to commit to being on board? And was it more of a drop ship model where you were kind of like placing the orders and they were shipping them out or were you like gathering stock and using that money to buy into inventory? What was the kind of pre lead up, non marketing wise because we're going to get to the marketing stuff too.
00:22:15 All of the money I raised went right into building the website and then some small amount of like legal setup, fees, which actually not small at all and totally will eat into your budget and they're super dramatic and annoying way I will say. But I saw everything went straight towards building the site. I came from a drop ship business 52 was the direction business was there and drop ship. I think that's kind of the only way to get started it on Capitol. And to me also, since I was taking a huge risk, drop ship allows you a certain amount of freedom to learn that your customer learned by your audience on the go. And I think like that was absolutely essential when you don't have customers audience. So the good news is that there was besides the building of the digital product itself, there's very little risk involved from an inventory standpoint or an assortment standpoint and there still isn't right. So we're still just working as hard as we can to like learn as much as we can about what looks like and obviously evolved that and hopefully pull some inventory and house in the future.
00:23:24 But for now I think it's still, we're still able to learn and provide better experiences for our customers by drop shipping. But as far as this sort of journey behind the scenes from june to october a lot of focus on creative and brand. You mentioned like there's no green, like a big piece of the mission from the ghetto is always like this inability is super crunchy right now. Everything is like brown Kraft paper, cardboard. So that's, that's like first, all inclusive aesthetic, but it's just not, it's not an acceptable one. And it's also like it, you want a lot of people to get excited about sustainability and we need a lot of people to get excited about sustainability. Is this the best we can do? Could we do a little better on the aesthetic point of the design standpoint? Um being sensitivity standpoint. Like could we build an assortment that valued women and people of color and their contributions and like weighted that heavily in the assortment. We build an assortment that felt, you know, she and interesting and accessible and colorful and there are a lot of different things at once.
00:24:33 So I will say there was a lot of bouncing back and forth and they're still in and they were still trying to figure it out, it's sort of like a pendulum for a delicate balance. And yeah, a lot of like visual design work, working with designers trying to build out our brand and then also on the side, I started my career in sales and it doesn't seem relevant to eat congress at all. I worked in a sales, but it's actually probably of all the things I've done the most useful and transferable skill, right? Like everything that failed, especially the founder. So even though I wasn't selling the brands, I was approaching in the early days, I was kind of selling them the idea, I have nothing to show them. Like there was no website, there was nothing. So you know, just the cold emails like, hey, here's who I am, here's what I'm doing, you want in here my terms right at zero negotiating power leverage. But in some ways that was reversed sales and seeing that your fund raising for the journey I'm on now as we grow the business and try to kind of build a team, right?
00:25:36 It's kind of, I think saying I'm still selling an idea that we have something up, right? It's a little easier. There is some frame of reference, some people have heard of us, but still it's in many ways and selling things that the, I can't see or that hasn't materialized yet, which is frankly, still sometimes easier than selling digital advertising, which is so many ways sometimes snake oil. So yeah, it was, it was a lot of pitching and then switching gears to be creative and then switching gears to be maybe more legal or administrative focused, like getting sales license, all those things, which to be honest with still pretty much a perfect metaphor for what I do now. Mhm Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show, you'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now, You'll also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix.
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00:28:01 Mhm. Yeah, I read something that kind of in the lead up to when you were getting started, you know, in the lead up to the launch your dad gave you a bit of a nudge in the right direction of like, hey, what's your marketing plan and forced you to switch into the gear of marketing. Hat, what was your marketing launch plan? And how did it go? That's a deep cut. You really, you did you googled me? Good, very, I told one person, I mean in some ways a nice and humbling reminder that this whole time I was still a person to live with your parents would be like, I was getting was from my parents, but also in some ways super valuable. I think a lot of folks are like, oh, was so helpful having your parents around or like having to entrepreneurs around to weigh in. But my parents turned software and so there's not a very direct parallels like selling goods and software as it's not as strong of a high as one might think they weren't as actively involved and it was kind of the only involvement my dad has, it's just like, this morning we were like in the kitchen at the same time and I'm like pretty private about my work.
00:29:18 I can't say that I share that many details with friends or family about what I'm working on or how the business is going, which is probably a false, but he was like, so he's a marketing plan. Yes. And I was kind of like, yeah, I think I'm marketing good dude, like you engineer you, I think I can figure out DPC style marketing and funny, funny, thank you very much. Yeah, I was like thanks. But last I checked I'm the one God that created. But you dad, Yeah, I was like, thanks dude. Like okay. But he actually was super right? Like no, you need an actual plan. He was like, I'm an engineer and I've built many amazing products and some of them were even better than others and I'll tell you what none of that matters. All that matters was like who was the co founder or the exact or my foil, the partner who was able to bring the marketing chops to the table because I've got amazing ideas and amazing businesses that you know like didn't fly as high as they could ever should have because we didn't have that talent or that person or that point of view or that plan or strategic minds in place and it's like devastating to watch one of your best ideas not exceed the way you hope because that you overlooked that piece, right?
00:30:39 And then to have ideas baby, you're like, they're not your baby in the same sense like fly. Not that that's true like him in particular, but he pointed it out and I was like for some reason I had like an oh shit moment, I was like, oh my God, I don't have a plan that my dad's right. Yeah, I don't know what it wasn't click. I mean I had an abstract plan, but I realized that day like, oh no, I needed to have a plan months ago and I don't have a plan and I just kind of assumed that you know, there's an expression like build it and they will come that is not true of startup, they don't like every you have to really like hustle to start knocking down the doors. Yeah, not like I don't want to over glorify the hustle or hustle porn. I also think we're all sort of aware of the false of that kind of language that I will fight. Like part of the trickiness about entrepreneurship is like you there is no other way, like that's the way it's like you're kind of between a rock and a hard place because you want to have great work life balance and like often mental health and on the flip side of course, like you're you're asking the extreme of yourself, right and of your team if you have a team.
00:31:56 But anyway, that equipped it for me and I was like, okay, but I admit to this day it's still sort of a challenge figuring out how what the marketing strategy is, right, and also to what extent like what the strategy is and what just sort of happens to you and what organic momentum and what your group looks like. I would say that I have sort of a love hate relationship with that process even to this day. But yeah, I'm very glad that I happened to run into my dad in the kitchen. That's because that was the day that I like forensically started pitching. So pitching like journalists and editors and things like that or what was your kind of, what became your marketing plan from there? It was a chaotic google sheets. I would say it came from my little last roll of the details and kind of like Sort of on one level partnership. So like working with other brands and thinking a lot about like how can we grow through 52 by doing X, YZ or opening a store here or doing this in partnership with this person.
00:32:59 So I put that hat back on. But of course it's really different when you're trying to grow a non existent business versus like a business that already has some clout and like, you know, made well, doesn't want to partner with gold and they've never heard of b