The Marketing Playbook for Success with Le Mini Macaron's Co-founder Christina Kao
Updated: May 5
This is Christina Kao for Female Startup Club.
Hi hello!!! It’s Doone here, your host and hype girl popping into your ears on a beautiful day from Sydney Australia. If you’re new to the show - welcome - every week I’m chatting with some of the world’s most successful female founders and entrepreneurs to understand how they’ve built their businesses to 7 figures in annual recurring revenue and above; what’s working now and what’s not working. We also love to talk about the money piece and we LOVE to dig into the challenges and find the insights that come from going through those hard times.
Today on the podcast, we’re learning from Christina Kao. Christina is the co-founder of Le Mini Macaron. A privately-funded, indie beauty brand that launched in 2015 with a focus on making gel manicures easy, affordable, and fun to DIY at home. The nail brand has since launched in over 30 markets, including retailers like Sephora, ULTA, Target, and Asos along with about a million other ones. This episode was so much fun and we hit on so many gems when it comes to setting yourself up for success with your supply chain, your retail partners - specifically how to approach your marketing when you launch into something like Target - and product development through the lens of social media.
I loved hearing about what Christina would do differently if she were to start the brand today: she would really focus on content. There are two ways you can do it. As a founder, being the face of the brand makes a huge difference. Secondly, if you have the right content then people will start engaging with it, use other creators and influencers to do that - but how you brief them is important - what works for your product - what’s the hook? You have to figure out what is that visual for your brand and your product that is unique and recognizable. Social is your free platform. How are you going to be different and better than the competitors?
Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Christina. Hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast. Hi, Doone. Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here. I'm so excited for us to be here. I feel like this has been kind of a long time coming. I somehow came across you on linkedin. I think it was and stalked you a little bit and now here we are. Yeah, I'm so glad we could make it happen. I know with the time zones it was difficult but we're here but we're here. How's your day so far? Do you have any wins or? Oh, shit moments that have happened? Oh, it's been good. Um I'm in Alabama right now, so I spent the day working on a pitch deck for a potential retailer and just catching up with some different people. My team is off today because we're just coming off of Easter. But um and they're in Barcelona, but the US is working. So I was taking advantage of the time to work. Yeah, I only just realized that I thought that, you know, kind of everyone had an Easter long weekend but apparently not. Yeah, it just depends on where you are. How do you like to introduce Mini Macaron? How do you like to say who you are and what your business is? So, we are a French American brand. Um and we started back in 2015 and we're an indie nail brand, mostly focused on gel manicures, um color, very fun products, accessories, nail art, but also a lot of nail care and everything like hand and foot care as well. So the brand has been around for a while. I've been in business for about 10 years and the brand is eight years old this year. And um we're a French American brand because my business partner who is also my ex-boyfriend is French and I'm Taiwanese American. So, and we started the business in Shanghai. So we have this very multicultural aspect about, about our partnership and also our company. I mean, when we were in Shanghai, we had lots of different team members. We had expats, we had local Chinese and then since we moved our offices to Spain, we it's the same, we have local Spanish and we have international expats as well. Why did you move to Spain of all places? Yeah. Um so we had started the business in Shanghai and back in those days, actually, I didn't come from a beauty background. I came from marketing agencies and branding. And my partner had done beauty but mostly purchasing and wholesale. And when we started the business in Shanghai, we were very close to our supply chain. Um A lot of our factories were over there. And so we started very unlike other founders who usually have an idea and they don't know where to manufacture it. We actually knew where to manufacture it. And we were, you know, going to visit the factories right off the bat. But when it came to marketing and sales and where we were going to sell the product. Um me being American, him being French us and Europe were the natural places for us to do things that we knew how to do. And while we started in China, we did do marketing and sales on the ground there. But it was very difficult because we, you know, even though we both speak the language, if you're not a local consumer, it's pretty hard to activate, it's a massive country. So um we moved to Spain because we wanted to um be in a time zone that was allowing us to really do much more with the US, really activate Europe and, and distribute there and then um still work with Asia. So, you know, we're in the middle of three regions where we can work from morning to night. Amazing. And I mean, what a great city Barcelona is. So beautiful. It's wonderful. I think, um you know, people ask me how is it to work there? You know, after being in Shanghai and I lived in New York before and I say, you know, the Mediterranean vibe and lifestyle and you're from Australia, it kind of tempers a bit my ambitious side, you know, it kind of gives me, ok, hey, maybe it's time to go home and go enjoy the beach of it instead of just working all the time. So it's really nice to have that environment 100%. I feel like Barcelona reminds me a lot of Sydney kind of having that beach lifestyle. That's still a city still hustle and bustle lots of different people, different cultures. Um I love it. I love Barcelona actually, I feel like I skipped ahead a little bit and I wanna go back to 2015 or even pre 2015 when this was becoming an idea that you were thinking about. How did you come up with this as a concept? Like what's the light bulb moment for you? Wow. So let's see. I had, I was wanting to take a step back from my corporate career, let's say. So I had worked probably up to the age of 31 always working for large companies getting to a point where I wanted to do something really different. You know, I was interviewing for jobs like marketing director and feeling really not passionate about that. So I I wanted to take a year where I was working part time at the same company. And this is a really good idea, I think for people who want to start a side hustle or get into something else, but you don't wanna, um, you know, stop receiving your income and you still need to pay the bills. I really recommend if you can go part time somewhere where you um have been working and they value you. It's a great step. And so I was doing that. I met Francois who is my ex-boyfriend and we just decided to start a project together. It was not, the idea was not to start a brand or business because if you actually know what that entails, it's so much work. Um And you just have no idea what that, you know, really um needs to be. But back in 2013, so we met and then six months and we started working together on a project where, you know, we were doing a little bit of like import export, some design on nail products and accessories. And that's just how I started to get into it a little bit. But yeah, just sort of like tiptoeing into being an entrepreneur without fully, you know, not making income from one day to the next. And then um we had like two brands if you can call them brands because this was early days, we had no idea what we were doing. We had two um Jackson brands that we worked on where we made a lot of mistakes. And prior to launching the Mini Macron in 2015, we practiced on those other brands. So, you know, pricing strategy distribution, how do you have margin, you know, how do you have enough room in margin for a distributor versus a retailer? We had no idea. And so for the first couple of years, we were making a lot of mistakes and learning that. And then in 2015, we launched a mini Macron on Kickstarter. So different approach, we tried crowd funding. Yeah, back back in the day. Um and we did three campaigns on Kickstarter in a year and a half. So my first, yeah, the first year and a half of this brand, I was like in like these Kickstarter cycles, try to set up campaigns, shoot video, like set up the pages, um pitching press myself directly. And for that like time was the Macaron actually already like the device was already part of the strategy and that was what the campaign was funding or did that come after we knew going into it, what we wanted to do. So between my partner and I, his background is actually in beauty in the sense that he was doing purchasing and supply chain. And he actually very specifically knew the nail industry and the nail business. So when we were talking about what to do together, he was like um, well, the aha moment of let's make a, let's make this project together was back in, let me think, I think 2013 we were in the Philippines on a beach on a holiday and I was flipping through a magazine and there were these, this is like 2013. There were these like nail art kits that were super hot and I was like, oh, this is really coming around like nail art and people, you know, like with little um tools and you can make like animal print on your name. And so he was like, let's make this and we were just like laying on the beach like, hey, let's do this project and, and he knew all the factories, he's like, let's make this, I'm gonna go order this and that and I was in charge of all the design and the box and everything and selecting the items. So that's how we kind of got into doing the nail, you know, business, I guess is like, you know, making nail art kits. That's what we first did before we moved into gel manicure kits. And the idea for the macro actually, we knew after the first couple of brands that we did, which were more related to nail art. And we started to get, get into gel polish a bit that we wanted to make a really small lamp that would make it easy to do at home. So if you remember back then there were some sets for gel manicures that were like the big, big lamps. They were super expensive. You had like all the bottles. It was very professional, you know, but do it at home and hard for people to understand what to do if you weren't coming from this and you had no idea. Um So we wanted to do something that was like super easy. Um You could diy, we could explain it really easily. And so our Polish has always been a one step polish. It's base coat color, top code altogether, really easy to apply and remove and just making a retail friendly product that could bring non users of gel polish into the fold. That was always my dream in the beginning that we could like recruit people into using gel who had never done gel before. And that's what we do now. It's like we have a lot of new people who are introduced to gel through our brand. Oh my gosh, I love that. And it makes so much sense because I feel like you would see your product on a retail shelf and be like, wow, this is really cute and fun and it looks easy. It doesn't like feel intimidating that I'm gonna have to do like, you know, this whole big set up at home. It's like, oh, this can come with me on the go was the Macaron just like there is the idea or were there like multiple ideas of what the shape would be like. How did you land on that? Yeah, that's a great question. I guess that's probably our, our special sauce. The maro, which is like, like, why not a hamburger? I'm kidding. Right. Why not a hamburger? Those early designs look like hamburgers. Um, but it was um, actually we had a friend who was doing some sketches for us of what the one finger lamp could look like. And um it was a French guy who was friends with Francois and he had two options. He was like, one option is the ring and it was just like round lamp and it sat on the end of your finger. And I was like, that's not very logical because rings sit at the base of your finger, not on the end. And he was like the ring, the ring is so great. And the other idea was the Macaron and I was like, the Macaroon is a marketing concept like this thing has legs. I'm like, this is going to be taking us really far because it's very iconic. It's that French delectable treat. But, you know, all over the world, people recognize what a Macaroon is. And so that was sort of the idea that was like there. But um you know, just kind of jumped out at me and it's, it was really great because in the beginning, we named all of our colors after Macaron flavors. And so you could really play on like all those fun, playful, delicious flavors and, and treats and linking that to all the colors that we wanted to launch. And um we don't do it as much these days, we've really evolved the brand, but in the early days, that was such an easy link and everybody understood it and I feel like so many opportunities for really cool experiential macaron themed pop ups and events and just gifting. Yeah, totally. I mean, early days we were really playing on the bakery concept, you know, so we wanted to do like cafe pop up, have sweet treats, um do your nails um while you know, we we did a lot of photo shoots using macarons like real macarons, the hand holding the mackerel, like having the flavor names when we did actually Apr um event in London. We launched in London. Back in two 1017 our agency had custom macarons made with ingredients like inspired by our names. So we had like a rose creme shade and they had these like rose petal macarons. It was so beautiful I love but yeah, really playful and like that was always a part of our DNA to have this brand that was like French, but like not that posh on inaccessible French. It's really that um you know, French aesthetic and that like really beautiful. French are very known for design and and taste. Um And obviously the macron is French, but I think the heart of the brand is very playful and it's probably also because I'm American. So like the tone of voice, the copy writing always had a bit of this American we played on, you know, like French English a lot with like our, our copy writing. And um I think that's what makes us really different from a lot of, I guess brands in our space, like nail brands, other types of beauty brands that we have this sort of duo personality of French American. So visually, very French but personality, very American, very playful, very accessible. You know, we wanted to make it for everyone. We didn't want to be like posh and you know, it's not for you really accessible. It's kind of Emily in Paris vibes. Yes, a lot of people tell us that everyone, they're like, it's Emily in Paris and um we have and girls on our team who do the social and tiktok and they're like, I'm Emily in Paris. Cute. I love that. So it's really fun. Yeah. What was the process like in terms of R and D and making a device like this? I know that your co-founder was, you know, part of the industry and probably had a lot more of experience in the blueprint of creating something like this. But for anyone listening, who's out there thinking like, oh, I have this idea for a device, where would I even get started on doing something like that? Yeah, I think one of our um advantages early on was that we were in China, he had all the right contacts to get going and he was already doing because he was doing purchasing and supply chain. He was already purchasing these types of products. Um I think, you know, five or 10 years ago. So it was pretty hard if you weren't connected with the supply chain or factories, you know, I mean, you weren't really going to fly over there to China or, you know, Korea to have people help you develop. Um if you wanted to do it in the US or you know, Western countries, it's super expensive. Some of these devices, they're just not produced in certain Western countries, you know, like the countries that really produce them were these Eastern countries. Um I think nowadays it's a little bit easier for people to get started as an early stage founder. I do know that a lot of founders tend to just look on like Alibaba for, it depends on what you want to make. But um you know, and you just have like lower M O Q s like minimum order quantities. Then back in the day, like when we started, it was like 1000 2000, 3000, 5000. And obviously the more you're producing your um unit cost is cheaper. And so, you know, you like the factories love it if you're running 10,000 runs, but who can take on that inventory. Right. But now I think there's a lot more with just how ECO and cross border, you know, and Eco has developed, there's a lot of stuff that you could probably find on Alibaba, I think, and maybe customize kind of what is already there and, and make it a little more customized versus like a full new thing that hasn't been seen before. For sure. What kind of money did you need to invest to kind of get your first um batch of inventory, you know, a website like kind of set up for launch. That's a good question. Um So we had two of these other brands where we tried and we failed. So in total of the three brands, I would say we probably sunk like a couple 100,000 in US D but that's across like three brands, many types of mistakes. We did do the crowd funding on Kickstarter, you know, for Mini Macaron, which I think, you know, nowadays, I don't know if people would really do. I mean, Kickstarter is still there, you could still do it and it is a good way to really bring in some funds immediately. But I would say with like doing a website, you know, you could do a lot of it yourself right before you're meeting all the bells and whistles of like a Shopify plus site. I would say, I mean, I was doing our first site on Wix before we went to Shopify. And I think our site, like, I was running that site myself with one person from our team for like 2.5 years before we officially brought in our first eco manager. Um So early days, it's like, if you, it kind of depends on what you want to spend your time on as a founder, you know, I would say back then, 3 to 56, no, 56 years ago, people were spending, founders are spending time learning S E O learning, like how to program a site. It was pretty easy because those sites like Wix and Shopify were really user friendly. It's different these days, you know, because I think content has changed the game and also like I OS, you know, Facebook, I OS all that changing has made it really challenging. So I think with um content emerging now as being in so, so much demands, I think a lot of founders are struggling with. How much time do I really spend on content? I think we're pretty lucky because the brand is eight years old. We've been in business 10 years by the time that we have been needing all this heavy content, I do have the team that was built up, you know. So like since up to COVID, I was still doing a lot content myself with support of a few people. But since COVID, the business changed a lot and um you know, we really have a lot of people behind the scenes really pumping out content across like, I don't know, 567 platforms. So I think that is a challenge for a lot of founders and you do it. Well, thank you. Thank you. I mean, my head of marketing is like, we're a content factory and I'm like, it's true, like you really great eye catching content. Um you know, when it comes to like paid, like, you know, paid media like Facebook and Instagram and all that tiktok and then also organic, you know, and then just like U G C stuff, you really need to be doing both. Um And it's really hard if you're an early stage founder now, it is really hard and it's so true. Everyone's got to really get on board and become the content machine because that's, that's how you're, how you're growing now and getting that visibility. I'd love to kind of stick around the launch phase for a second here for a hot second in those early years. You know, you've done the crowd funding Kickstarter campaign. What happens next? Like, is it off to the races? Is it a big bang launch or is it slow and steady? What, what is, if you have to summarize kind of those early years before you've gained like the full snowball effect? What was that like? And what were you doing? That was shifting the needle. So we, you know, I always would, would tell him I was like, we are too global for our own good meaning we were like two expats in Shanghai wanting to do business all over the world. And I would say from 15 to 2016 and 17. So like 2 to 3 years, we were really trying to do business everywhere. Like we could get in touch with retailers directly. For example, Sephora Dubai, right? Like they had at that time like two stores in Dubai and they were like, sure we want to launch you and we're like, let's do it. And we launched in Sephora Dubai and you know, we had to like export and then import the products there and you know, like set it up in the stores for, for two locations. So um you know, but back then we were just like literally just chasing all kinds of retailers in all sorts of countries. I think it's not a typical thing to do. Most people, you know, are from their home country. They're probably just um wanting to start out organically, let's do D to C maybe Amazon in my home country. And then let me look for retail locally and start, you know, and that's what I would recommend, you know, I wouldn't just running all over the world the way we did. Um But yeah, from 15 to 17, we were like doing retail in China and Taiwan and Hong Kong like directly ourselves, hiring marketing people to like, do you know, write all the stuff you know, for, for the different countries. Um And then we were doing like, Dubai, we had a deal in Canada. It was crazy. Like we had no idea. We were just like shipping a container to Canada launch in 90 stores and like, didn't know that, hey, maybe you should have a company in Canada when the container arrives to like import it. But we didn't know. And you know, it was just like, and then we just had this holiday P O. That was amazing. So we did it but it failed because we didn't support it with very much marketing. We had no idea, you know. Right. But there were a lot of mistakes like that and then we had just pockets of like retailers. We also had distributors. Um but I think even though we spent sort of a couple of years launching in different retailers in different countries, which, you know, some were good and we made money and, and some failed. But we also had this international distributors because we were international. One of the things that's always been sort of feeding us is that we have certain territories, we have other distributors. They take care of this markets, they do pay for things, you know, a lot of times upfront. Um and that helps us a lot. So in 2017, we decided to um open up in Europe uh further and, you know, establish an office in Barcelona, some of the people in China moved over with us. We started to hire many more, I guess front facing marketing and sales people. And then we really, since 17 focused heavily on the US and Europe um and retail. So we had retailers like alta dot com launched in 2017. Like we've been with them for many years in the UK. We were with like, feel unique and look fantastic and just opening up some of these like ETA um we were with support Spain for a bit. So just starting to be much more on the ground, you know, on the in the Western countries where we wanted to do marketing and just kind of getting everything going there. And then I was flying a lot to the US in 17, 18, 19 pre-covid, like we did QVC, I appeared on air a couple of times, not the right audience for us because, you know, much older like TV, shopping shopping audience. Um It was a great experience but it didn't, it wasn't the right channel fit for us. Um So yeah, just a lot of like tests, you know, back then. That's so interesting for the QVC thing. How do you land an opportunity like that? You know, I think these days they do look for a lot of indie brands. So when I met them back in 2018, I actually met them in Cosmo Prof in Bologna, which is Bologna Italy. It's the biggest beauty expo. A lot of people might know Cosmo prof Las Vegas, which is the US version, but the one in Italy which has in the spring is like, I don't know, 100 times bigger than Vegas. It's massive and the whole world just descends on the city. Um And QVC was there like their global team from all the different countries, they were there um looking for brands and so they, they just like sent this email out if you were on the distribution list of the Expo saying, hey, like come pitch us. And so I just went to pitch them and they were so the buyers from like it was like six or seven different countries from like France to Japan to USA and they were so into our products because, you know, we're very um easy to demonstrate on air because you have like the little led light, it dries the nail, it goes on and off, you paint, it's very colorful. So for um video, it's always been very eye catching and yeah, I met them through the Expo but I do think for any founders who, you know, want to do QVC H S N is also really good. I have a lot of founder friends that I think H S N maybe gears a little bit younger, you know. Um I know a lot of different founders who do H S N these days, same format, you know. Um and it's consignment. So you have to be a little bit careful with the inventory because it's your inventory if it doesn't sell. But good awareness driver. Right. Good recruitment of like new people, new eyes, they buy it once. If you have a product that's replenish, they can like, bounce to your site. Great for discovery. Yes, absolutely. And getting that word of mouth moment because even if it was an older crowd say who aren't going to be buying, they could be buying it for their grandkids or you know, passing it on to their daughter and being like, oh, this is really cool. I saw this on TV. So it sounds like in your early years, you were just pretty much 100% focused on the retail strategy. That was your blueprint or your playbook that you were following. But then obviously COVID happens, the world changes, everyone's at home and retail shuts down what happens for you during the pandemic. So March 2020 we went into lockdown and we had no idea. Like, honestly, we just had no idea if it was going to be really bad for us, maybe we were naive. We had no idea it could be good for us. Um We were very fortunate. So during the two months that we were, our team was in lockdown, we just did a ton of content at home. Like I was doing a lot of social content like stories and just shooting things all over the apartment. Um And then it was an incredible moment for us. I mean, I think we were very, very blessed that our category, which is specifically gel manicures at home. But nail in general just exploded because, you know, the people couldn't get to the salon. Um Also they were bored. So, you know, painting your own nails, especially with a device that's fun. It's different, was actually really curious, like people wanted to, they were just like buying stuff, right? And wanting like entertainment and it's, you know, it's color and it's nail, but it's also like beauty tech and it comes with the USB, you can plug it in. So people were just kind of really interested to try it out and I saw like some of our retailers so like QVC called us and they were like, hey, we just want to do this like beauty steal. It was April 2020. Can you give us like um one item, you know, for the whole month of April? And it's gonna be like the beauty I Q steal or something. It sold out in three days. So we gave them like 1000 units. It was supposed to last the entire month and it sold out in three days like they did a promo on their Instagram and it just like flew off the shelf, off the, you know, virtual shelves. And I couldn't believe it. I was like, oh my God, we just gave them this inventory and then our website just was rocking and rolling, like, totally selling out because everything was working, you know, like everything was working. And then by May, we were just like low on everything and then we were like ramping up production and then we restocked in July and 2020 was a year that really just transformed our business because prior to, you know, I always say, like there was almost like the business we had up to 2020 it was like one type of business. And since 2020 it, it, it just looks like a completely different business. Like we, you know, have been trying to scale. Um We have scaled the team, you know, changed a lot. I was saying in the early days, we always had like under 10 to 15 people with like interns being a big chunk of those people. And then, um you know, since COVID, like things were just booming and I said to my partner, I was like, we need to use this momentum and really invest into having like more of a team, a lot more people doing marketing and social. This was in 2020. Um You know, and we weren't even doing tiktok, you know, it was just really Instagram and kind of like Facebook and also just invest deeper into marketing, right? Like PRE I OS changes, OK. Let's just go heavier on the ads and just pump out organic make sure we're doing all the email stuff and 2020 2021 we just kind of like, really leaned into it and hired some great people that are still with us. A lot of them. Um, and, you know, it's really interesting because we launched in Target a year and a half ago in the US. And that was sort of our big offline store rollout in the US. And a lot of people are like, how did you manage to launch like 500 stores of Target and have it? Yeah, it was, it was crazy like we, you know, that was a very interesting um, period because we were so in spring of 2021 we were riding high off of all the COVID wave of like great sales, more awareness, having a bigger team. So it was kind of like people were kind of getting used to working together from the marketing side. And, um, you know, we had this opportunity to pitch Target because it was sort of like this like momentum of like nail and at home gel. And, you know, so I was like, ok, well, if this is the opportunity, like I'll take it, I don't care if it's COVID or what, like let's just run with this and we pitched them, they were like, ok, let's, let's do something for holiday. So it's holiday 2021. It was like a year and a half ago and we got this opportunity. And I spoke to a um a female founder who is a friend of mine who was a year ahead of us. Right. So she launched in Target the year before us. She was a tracking, I was tracking a year behind her and we had a call and she has a skincare brand and she's like Christina, I think they're gonna discontinue us. This is halfway through her year and she's like, if I were to do it all over again, these are like the five things I would do differently. She's like, I think they're gonna discontinue us like we're not selling well. And, you know, a few of the main things were one that they launched with no brand awareness. She's like, I, I, you know, we were pre funding. I didn't have anyone marketing, we went on shelf, just zero awareness. Um Two, our pricing strategy was off, you know, I think they were probably around like $30. It's targets mass retail. She's like, our pricing strategy was really off like the types of products were on shelf next to. Um And then there were a few other things and I talked to her in July. Our launch was in October. It made me really nervous. I was like, ok, we're not failing this launch. Like I've been through sort of the previous like eight years of business where we did fail. And we had a lot of these like in and outs with retailers because we didn't really know what we were doing. And now we had in front of us the biggest opportunity that we'd ever had. And I was like, we are not feeling this. We're gonna throw everything at it. Everything that she told me I just went deep and was like, OK, she said, awareness like we're just gonna go crazy. And I mean, we had the whole team was oriented like we've had a European business and an international business. Um And we have eco and we have retail I oriented like, I don't know, 70% of the company to really just help with the target launch. I was like, everyone's just gonna work on this. We're gonna do social, we're gonna do influence or we're gonna do campaigns like, and it's gonna be a 3 60 we're gonna do giveaways and the influencers are gonna do giveaways and then we need to go to target store to shoot content and then all the influencers are, are gonna go to the store to shoot content. So it was just like, how do we amplify as much as possible? Um And, you know, I was just really proud of the team. Like everyone just pushed so hard and we had a great launch that quarter in holiday and then we rolled out. So that was like 2 50 doors and then we rolled out to 500 doors that following January. So that was then 2022. So, um it's been really great. I think it's been such a huge learning to be in this like really great retailer, you know, uh a mega retailer for the US market. You know, I think we have never let up ever since we had this opportunity. Um, but I'm very fortunate because, you know, we're not a business that's been around for two years and we're just like struggling to, you know, do I make content myself? Do I have to hire people inventory issues, cash flow. Like I'm very fortunate in that because we have the years of the business, there's a lot of people to work on marketing, there is a whole team that works on logistics and inventory. So when we had this big moment, we had the resources actually and we had sort of the previous failures to know, you know, what we definitely don't want happening to buffer up against that. And for you now, like, you know, a year and a half, two years into the journey with target, how much of your team and like resources, budget, et cetera goes towards target versus like your other retailers and your ecom store. And that Amazon, for example. Yeah, that's a great question. I think. Um you know, we do business in different countries and different regions. The US market is a very good um the way the business is set up right now is great because whereas Europe is different because Europe is very fragmented. You have different languages and countries and it's just fragmented. The US. I'm like, OK, it's one, it's one country, one language, one currency. If you are just doing D to C, it is really hard to make your marketing budget, make sense because it's so expensive just to do D to C now post I OS. You have to do ads, you have to do paid media, you can't go it without doing paid media, however, it doesn't work the way it used to. So it needs to be part of a larger strategy. Um And when I look at the market and this is why I think a lot of founders talk about, you know, post I OS, it's like omni channel, you have to be omni channel, you need to see Amazon and retail, like you actually need to be doing all of it because the great thing about retail is that they, it brings the volume and it brings um just a lot of points of sale, right? So you're gonna have a lot of eyes on it. Um why just it brings the volume and frankly the larger P Os, right? Like if you have, even if you have 100 doors, um that's a good P O, you know, for an Indie brand, how many products would that be like for 100 doors of like a, a target? Um It depends, I mean, it depends on how they forecast, right? And depends on the time of year. But if it's holiday, you know, for every door, maybe it depends on how much shelf space. But, you know, is it one facing per product? Is it like double facing? Like, you know, do you have a, a shelf? Do you have multiple shelves? Um, do they want you to have an, you know, 4 to 5 units per SKU, so that they're holding it in the back, you kind of have to like forecast it out. Um When do they start the season? Do they start selling mid October and set the shelves? Some of them are starting in September now. Everything is starting over every year. It's crazy. It's crazy. Like what used to be Black Friday is Black November, you know, the whole month of November is promo, that's like what we've seen the last couple of years. And what does that mean? It means that like holiday shopping starts like early, early September, you know, like we're doing Advent calendars and it's like let's start in September for holiday advent calendars. It's crazy. Wow. Gosh, that is crazy. But yeah, the, the, the sales season has been brought forward a lot and I think with inflation, a lot of retailers are worried about things not selling. So they wanna start promos and just bump up the sale season much earlier to help them. Yeah, if you were starting this brand tomorrow, knowing what you know, and having been through many mistakes and many great amazing achievements. What would you do differently? So yeah, the landscape has changed tremendously and you know, sometimes I meet founders who are starting like this year or last year. And I, I don't envy that because you just have tons of choice in terms of digital marketing. Like what do you even do first? And the demand for content is so heavy. So I would say if I were starting a brand now, I would really focus on content and there's two ways you can do it. So as a founder, it is a really great idea for you to be the founder face. Um I don't do it as much now just because I simply don't have the time with the way our business is structured. But I do think it's an, it's a great idea, you know, because then you also have a bit of um fame really, you know, which goes a long way, it goes a long way with your retail partners, it goes a long way with investors, it goes a long way with consumers, it makes a difference, right? If the founder um has some awareness themselves. Um the other thing is like if you want to, for example, build your tiktok and make, you know, content. If you want to hit like viral videos, it's a lot of work to make your own content. And I think brands need to make their own content. And founders need to do it. But if you want to have viral videos, I would say the chances are higher if you're leveraging creators um because creators don't have to have like a massive following for a video to go viral. Like we just had a launch um last month of a new mini gel manicure kit color and we had a creator who has 33,000 followers on Instagram. The real the Instagram reel she made for us is at 2.2 million and nobody expected like she has 33,000 followers. But you know, I think if you just have like the right piece of content and people start engaging with it. Um So using other creators and and influencers to help you make content is really a great idea. Um But how you brief them and the type of content you make, it really needs to be eye catching and stand out, you know, so I think you have to think about for your product. What is gonna make the person's like thumb stop scrolling, you know, on tiktok about her stories. What's the hook like? We're lucky. Our product is very visual. You know, it's a little led lamp, it's colorful. You put your finger inside our key visual. The iconic thing that is like really recognizable for us is that like finger in the lamp shot. And that's the thing like we use that everywhere. Like all of our paid ads, our our banners like we're doing truck ads in um Chicago and New York. All the trucks have like the finger in the lamp um because that's just us, right? So I think you have to figure out like, what is that visual for your brand and your product? That is very, very unique. I think there's a lot of products now. Um like hair removal, um like sugar dough, they do like sugar, hair removal, sugar. You have like these brands like August, you know, like period, I mean, they're doing stuff that's like it is, you know, maybe a little bit um like gross, you know, but that works on tiktok, right? Like people want to see stuff that's like really unexpected, maybe a bit like sort of ugly content that's very eye catching. I mean, it's true like, you know, that more personal like body care. Um it is really eye catching and I think these like younger founders like Gen Z founders, they totally get it. I totally get it and they do it really well. I also think if you're early in starting a brand as in like you haven't launched yet, you should be thinking about how your product looks on social and designing your product with that in mind of like what is going to be the catch of this product on social and potentially even rethinking what you're doing to make sure that it is like a social first approach to branding doing that is really good. That is like a nugget. No, but that is like, honestly, I think um that's a really good nugget, I think for your listeners. Um because social is your free platform, right? So how do you, if you're in like product design phase, how do you um go to market with something that is going to be really different, right? Like I used to work um Yeah, I used to work for, at an ad agency and my boss was like, how can you be different and better than the competitors? And it's just different and better, like just different and better and you know, I mean, that like, how does that translate? But I totally agree with you, like, designed for social, yeah, social first approach, for sure. What advice do you want to leave us with a final key piece of advice that you'd like to share? Well, so the thing that has been working, like for me is um just this community of founders which you're helping to cultivate and create a community of founders that like, I'm in beauty. So it's, it's the beauty um people that I really love talking to, but it's such a supportive community, I think um just really reaching out to fellow founders to have like calls, you know, just like meet and greet calls, like zoom calls and attending events where you can meet these other founders, join slat groups. Um And people are really helpful. So for me, the community has been amazing because I've learned so much and with some of these people who have become friends, like we get really transparent, you know, we're kind of like, how's it going with that retailer? And how does your like agreement work with them? You know, what failed, what's working, what's the off the books advice or like insights that you can share the nonpublic facing advice? Yeah, totally. And I think um so, and I'm just all about like constantly learning to grow further and I think the community of founders has been just amazing for that. I love that for everyone listening.
So question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you waking up every day and building Le Mini Macaron? That's a great question. So to be honest, I do work like a crazy person. And sometimes I'm like, why am I doing this? And I think um it's simply because I really enjoy it. I don't have a larger purpose beyond the fact that I just am really passionate about the business when we started the brand. Many years ago, my partner said to me, I think that this business allows you to realize your potential. And I was like, I think you're right. Like I just really love it because I am constantly throwing problems. I have to solve them really creatively. I have to pull together resources. I need to constantly stay up to date and learn so that I can like navigate around the next problems and, and um I love being part of a team and working. We have a lot of women on our team because we're a beauty and I just love, you know, the amazing um people we have that we can work with and helping to develop them. And I just find all aspects of it really, to be quite honest, it's like really entertaining. Um Even though it's tiring, it's um it's fun. Like I love going to expos and fairs and shows and events. I love um you know, when we do great content and we work with amazing partners and influencers and they do great content and we can showcase it to our retail partners and they get excited or if we have a display that my team designs and we see it in the store and we all go to the store together to take a picture. Um or we did like metro ads over the uh over the fall and we all like 15 people went to go take a picture with the Metro ad and like shoot a bunch of content. I think just like all aspects of it from, you know, inventory forecasting to financial modeling, to leadership and team development to just like, I don't know, project management and like managing a launch schedule to international markets, like all aspects. I find it so dynamic and, and so fun. It's very, very hard, but I really like it and I feel like that's the whole point of like life without being too, like without trying to sound too deep. It's like you were in a job where you were like, I don't know about this corporate 9 to 5. Like I'm not feeling excited about looking for a marketing director role and now you're in this place where like you're enjoying the journey, even when it's great, even when it's shit, you're enjoying that every day and like loving your day to day life, which is what we should all be optimizing for. Yeah, totally. And I think there's so much more opportunity nowadays to reach for that for people. Absolutely. Question number two is what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? So in the 10 years, there's been lots of moments, but I probably would say the most memorable one, which is also the one that had the most impact at a pivotal moment of the business was when we were launching a target in um October 2021. And we had gone out to a few influencers to make content where they had to go to the store, find our product, purchase it and you know, make a video of them doing their nails and showing the manicure. And we had a number of influencers doing this and they had to tag target so that target would see it and targets like tiktok manager saw it and reached out to us and was like, hey, can we post this? And I remember this day because I was in New York at the time and it was just like this like quick turnaround like, oh my God, I need to. So I called the creator and I was like, can we use this piece of content on, you know, not guarantee that they're gonna post it. And so they agreed and um when Target posted it, it, we like sold out of the color that was featured, which was our cherry red color. And it became the number one tiktok video with five million impressions on their tiktok. Oh my God. That's amazing. Like insane. I was like, oh my God, this is um you know, you post stuff on your own social and hopefully it'll drive sales but a retailer posting it, like people follow retailers to know what to buy. Um So a retailer posting it for sure, like drives awareness to there and they had a million followers now they have two million on tiktok but like the people from the target to like, what do I buy this week? You know. And um that was just, that was like just everything lined up. And we had this like amazing queue for sales season and tons of awareness. And we like, like that became a case study for us. Like we are like, hey, we drove Gen Z consumers into the stores to look for the product and they bought it, you know, and then since then every time we do these campaigns, we're trying to like put together those um the magic formula, right? The recipe. Yes, of like being in store shooting that content. Um You know, we work with a lot of creators who create for target for Ulta, you know, for these retailers because their audience is trying to figure out what to buy. So I would say that was a huge learning for us and there was a wonderful results, you know, in terms of marketing and sales, but that was the most like just amazing, amazing period. That is so cool. How profound I love that for you. Thank you. Thank you. Question number three is, what's your go to business resource if you have to think about a podcast or a newsletter or a book that you've read recently? So yeah, I'm jumping around a lot, but I had a coach come in and, and train some of our managers and he was really talking about Simon Cynic and he um was playing videos. He's like, after three videos, he's like, you will see that. I'm just obsessed with Simon with leadership. And so I was like, I mean, I know him but I started to relisten to some of his stuff and I think it, it's coming at a really good time of our business because he really talks about the consistency of leadership and it's not about major things you do with and for your team, but it's about the consistency of how you treat them like every day, right? So it's not like one major thing, but it's like 100 things. And I think it's coming at a really good time because as we scale, there's just more more people and I'm not close with like some of the younger people or the newer people, like, I'm closer to the ones who've been around for a long time or the ones who work with me directly. But how do we maintain that culture of like, you know, that I think we have a, you know, in French, the, we really have something really special within our culture because the team is very connected with each other and they're very supportive and collaborative. And just for me to realize, you know, last year when we were scaling, we had some breakdowns among our team because um we weren't structured, you know, and I, I realized last year, I don't know how to be this kind of leader as we grow and I need to get some coaching and learn how to be a new type of leader for more than 10 or 15 people, right? And um that was very eye opening. And so I think I'm gonna be digging into Simons a lot more. Um and just thinking about like, what is this new way of leadership um that I need to be adopting and, and kind of with my team as well, like my senior team, like, like helping coach them on that. Um The other one that I listen to is Esther Perrell. She's more relationships. Um And she's just incredible like what a brilliant woman. Um But she does also like a work podcast and I would just say the insights that she has on like interpersonal, I mean, it's mostly she talks a lot about couples, but she does talk about family dynamics, work relationships and just the insight on interpersonal, you know, because I think the heart of business are, are teams, right? Like you need teams to help you get somewhere and you need your people to help you get somewhere. And so I think like the psychological aspect, the relationships really understanding, you know, how to nurture those um dynamics. Um So yeah, I, I love her. I always am excited when she's doing something. Two great recommendations. Thank you so much. We're gonna add those to the list. 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 successful and motivated. So I have like really bad habits. So I don't know wine, I mean, I drink way too much wine, don't wheel. Yeah, like I don't wake up and exercise even though like I know I need to. Um so I like have really bad habits. I don't have kids also, which is like, I think a lot easier. I think people who have kids, they really have to balance a lot of things. Um But no, I um mostly just um just yeah, like drink wine and um I try to see my friends and people that I'm close to um and spend some quality time. I think that helps me a bit. But, um, maybe in this new year I'm gonna bring in some healthier habits. I mean, I feel like we've all got the bad habits. I've got plenty. It's so difficult for me on my phone. Like, before I go to bed I really want to break that as a habit and it's just so hard. It's difficult. It's difficult. It's very difficult. Question. Number five is what's been your worst money mistake? And how much did it cost you? Oh. Um there have been a few different ones but I would say when we took the bet on QVC that was back in 2018. Um And, you know, I had no idea about forecasting inventory. They basically gave us a forecast. They're like, we're gonna give you eight minutes on air. We expect a productivity of this many like unit sales per minute. So they like how many crunch some numbers. Um So they purchase 5700 pieces, which is like insane. I mean, we were not selling that like nowhere near that. Like that's like thousands. Um So 5700 units and for QVC, you have to box for them. So usually they want like a promo, you know, so it's not just one item, it's like usually like two items or a kit, a set. Um So you're having to like kit and box for them, you know. So then if you can't sell that anywhere else. And do they pay for it up front or do they pay like off the consignment? Ok. Consignment. So, um, I don't remember specifically the numbers but you can probably just crunch out some numbers, you know, imagine like if they were at like, I don't even know, usually retailers are anywhere from like 40 to 60% retail margin. You have all these costs. So, um, they basically ordered like these units, we had to box everything for them and then ship them to their warehouse eight minutes on air. I think I sold of my 5700 units less than 40%. So like, it was just really painful. I think I also had a host that I was like, wow, she just did not let me speak. It was so uncomfortable. So I left the show. Usually you hear a QVC? Like people are like, oh my God, it was amazing. I came off camera and I looked at my screen because they have like in the green room like the screen and the sales were like, amazing. We blew it out and I was like the, the failure story. It was like, I was alone there. I knew it hadn't sold well, I was with a host who didn't give me much talk time on air. And then I came off and I was like, oh crap, like that's really bad. And then I basically got on the train. Back to New York City crying, calling my partner. And he was like, it's ok. You did? Well, you did well, and I was like, you know, like this was the big moment and I had to fly there for training and there was just so much I knew we had a ton of inventory left over. So that inventory, they gave me another show to try to move some of that inventory. The second show, I had a beautiful host. She was incredible. Set me up as much as possible for success. Um The, the airing went well, it looks really good, but again, it just wasn't our audience, you know, and that sort of product market fit with the right audience. It just wasn't there with that particular, it's an older audience, you know. So, um so it didn't move that much. All that inventory went to my father's warehouse in Alabama where it sat for more than a year until COVID hit. And I was, you know, for a year, I was like, how are we ever gonna move these like thousands of, of products? And then COVID hit and we ran out of stock of everything and we put that stuff online and it sold out in weeks and it was, it was like, it was this like blessing of like pallets of inventory in disguise, blessing of like, hey, we have lots of stock of something that we can sell when everything else was selling out. We're like, hey, so, um, very, very fortunate that it turned around because I'm like, how do you move thousands of pieces? You know, because, like, when you start a retail partnership you're, you probably, they're ordering more quantity than you've ever seen before. And if they don't sell it, like, where else are you gonna put that? You don't have other channels open, you know, if you get bigger and you're more diversified, maybe you have other options. But um that was a very painful whole experience. Yeah, I'm so glad it turned around for you though. Like the year later. Wow, we can never predict something like that would happen. That's crazy. A global pandemic. And yeah, I mean, who, who could have like we were very, we were very blessed I would say in that period. Yeah. Wow, gosh. What a story question number six. Last question. What is just a crazy story good or bad from your journey in building la mini Macaron? Um ok, so one that I have fun telling these days is I mentioned to you that we had started selling in Canada and this was like in 2016, we had no idea what we were doing. So we got an order from a department store in Canada and it was a really good purchase order, like very big purchase order to launch in all of their stores. And we were like, yeah, let's do it. And so um shipped everything out in a container to like Vancouver, we went to Bali, we were on holiday in Bali and we're like, ok, we're off for the week. But like, you know, we'll like, talk to Canada when the container arrives. No clue that when you import something into Canada, you probably need to have a registered company to receive the import. No clue that when the retailer forecasted that order, um, they weren't thinking they were ordering straight from overseas because retailers tend to order locally. And so the container lands and then we get the actual official order which was divided up by store. There was almost 100 stores. So they had expected us to pack everything by store and we had everything bulk packed into containers and they were like this store in, I don't know, Toronto wants three of this color and two of that color and it needs to be in a box with a sticker for that store. And so I was up till three AM every night in Bali calling this warehouse in Canada. I was like trying to find people who would rework all the products for us, break it down, find boxes, print the labels. It was insane. Um And um we we found a warehouse that did it and it was just such a nightmare. It was like for five days, I was just up till three AM every night trying to problem solve it to make sure like this order is gonna get delivered and we're gonna get this like several $100,000 P O it's gonna come through, it all came through. Um That was really wild because we literally had the container landing and it was just like we were so naive, like so naive, had never really worked with a retailer, you know, I mean, now we don't do that like you, like if we're working in different, we have companies in a few different countries and they were set up to be able to work with local retailers. But you know, I mean, just so naive, live and learn, you live and learn and I think, you know, that was just said this is like 2016 and that um retailer, we ended up having a really bad sell through during the season. It was like a 23% sell through because we didn't activate marketing because we didn't really know that we should store training, train the sales staff so they know what they're selling. Have some signage or visual merchandizing didn't know, you know, they don't let you do all those things. Exactly. But you try. Right. So um yeah, like so many mistakes, crazy story, but a funny story these days. Yeah. Now you can look back and tell that story. Now I can laugh about it. Yeah. Oh my gosh, Christina. This was so cool. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I have loved hearing your story and all the ups and downs and crazy moments that you've had. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you, dude. And it was such a pleasure.