Vaginas, CBD & acquisitions with Coco Meers & Marcy Capron-Vermillion, Co-Founders of Equilibria
In today’s episode I get to learn from two brilliant women; Coco Meers and Marcy Capron-Vermillion.
They’re both serial entrepreneurs, they’ve both exited businesses and we’re going through the ins and outs of their latest venture Equilibria.
We talk about what was wrong with Coco’s first business model, vaginas and the key lessons you need to know when building your own biz.
Equilibria is a Chicago-based CBD company offering premium, farm-fresh, full-spectrum CBD products. In a sea of CBD brands, Equilibria proudly offers personalized dosage support led by a team of seasoned cannabis educators and unparalleled quality from their exclusive bioscience partner, all to advance the mission of balance for women.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Female startup presence, Coco and Marcy Hi, welcome to the Female Startup Club Podcast. Thank you for having us. So good to be here. Doone. I'm so excited to jump in today. I always get started by getting you to introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what your current businesses This subject is near and dear to our hearts because Marcy and I have been building businesses and products on our own and together for a long, long, long time. Uh, maybe a decade now, Marcy, Whoa. 2021 scott. Uh not Quite, I think 20 2013, but we're definitely getting there. Yeah, time flies. So we'll give you a little overview of some of the businesses that we've created together in a part and then we can dig more into into this one. Would love that. So my whole career has been focused on women and on their health and wellness goals, helping them achieve those goals, helping them look and feel their best.
00:05:06 They started out very traditional brand management at Loreal in new york and in paris and then wanted to dip my toe into the entrepreneurial community and had a vision for a consumer technology marketplace that was called Pretty quick which was like open table or um there's one in the UK which is very popular that I'm forgetting. But uh what's the british equivalent of open table tabletop or? Yeah, I think it is open table though, is it open table? Okay, great. So anyway, seamless booking for salon and spa appointments in the way that you can go and you can press a button on an app and you can book a table in a restaurant or you can book an airplane or you can book a car or you can book or you name it, you can book it, you really still at least in the U. S. Are not able to do that in the salon and spa. Um space. So my first company was to solve that problem and help women more easily book salon and spa appointments. It was called pretty quick. I made all the mistakes in the world.
00:06:06 So happy to talk about any, any of those. Um, you name it if there was a wrong way to do it. I did it. But then I talked too bad though. You still exited. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well you know you only learn how the right way to do it after you've done it wrong a couple times. So things started to work out. One of the best decisions I made was to partner with Marcy. Marcy ran a consultancy that helped non technical founders build and scale their technology products. So partnered with Marcy who understood the pain point in a world full of male engineers, it was really hard to partner with someone who said, oh yeah it is, it's super hard to book a bikini wax. I want to help you solve that problem. Um, anyway, so um, so built and scale that company exited to group on in 2015. Once we had worked out a lot of the *** in the armor and, and and started to have a lot of success. Finally, how much did you, how much did you sell it for? Is it publicly disclosed information? Can you share? We didn't disclose all investors made money. You know, it was a, it was a really great outcome for everybody, not a life changing event for anybody, but um, but really great returns all around furthermore, the, the, we got to keep going.
00:07:18 Um, Groupon is notoriously very bad at acquiring uh, killing innovation that they acquire. But we, we had a really nice run where what we were doing was we exited into a billion dollar business health beauty and wellness Groupon is a billion dollar P. N. L. And so what we were doing is we were infusing pretty quick convenience, quality. Um all of these things that the group on brand had lost because it had become known to stand for discounts. Um and so we got to really invest in the project. The team grew from eight when we sold to 90. Um, and we basically had, you know, unfettered budgets to just really grow and scale on scale nationally with the assets, the salons and spa customers and then the consumers on the other side, you know, we kind of, we had it all, we got to leapfrog our competition, put it all together with the pretty quick brands in tech and then move forward. So it was also really, we can talk about, you know, exit strategy and its financial decisions are really important. So is the experience of what it's like when you sell the move to your team, what's going to be like for them?
00:08:19 What can they keep going? Um Can you continue to build the vision that you have or is it or you just wiping your hands and gun? I am an act of angel investor. And immediately after leaving group on called Marcy because she always has her finger on the pulse of the next thing. And I'll let her tell the story of her past and then what happened when we reconnected. Yes. Amazing Marcie tell me about you tell me about your background a little bit. Sure. So um I identify as a product developer, you know, agnostic medium. I love to solve problems. Best tool for the job can mean a lot of things. Historically huge part of my career has definitely been um software and IOT internet of things. Um, but hardware CPG soft guards, all that is so fun to play with because again, you never know what can best solve a problem. So as cocoa mentioned, I ran a consulting firm called problematic where part of our business was acting as the technical co founder and and product counterpart to non technical founders. The other part of our business was going into antiquated ancient industry businesses that were like 100 plus years old and saying like what's next?
00:09:23 So when you hit a point where you know, a company's gone through how many steps and it's over a century year old and, and like for instance things around dairy trading, like people don't know that there's actual communication with farmers involved and things have to do with dairy trading, kinds of crazy stuff like that. Super fun for me because I love to solve Really hard problems. And so when coco, you know, was a client, um, so that would have been like 2013, and she went on her way for her group on journey. Um I kept building all kinds of crazy things. So probably my biggest claim to fame was having um produced around 30 products before the age of 30. So it's a cool, cool place to be. I've seen a lot of really cool, weird, interesting, not so interesting stuff. Problems come in many forms um and I had sold my consulting firm in 20 early 2017 consulting exits are never as fun as as something like an exit ticker bond. But it was, it was cool to kind of move on because one of the things that I wanted was to be able to really embrace that problematic nature of being able to solve in different agnostic of medium and I was a little locked on the software side.
00:10:25 So I kind of went on a sabbatical and the thing that I stumbled into happen to be cannabis. So at least we use that as a catch all term I know in different countries it can be different things but cannabis here we're defining as you know cannabis sativa plant which is either in american terms hemp is defined as 0.3% THC or less, it's defined as marijuana or weed um If it's more than as more than that in THC. So anyway, here's how I stumbled into that um I am a person who really loves to do research, especially when I haven't been asked to do it because I'm naturally curious human. Um And so I had been in a kayaking accident actually, it was around one cocoa and I met um but it was something that lead to damage later. And In 2017 I was someone who, you know, should be in the prime of my life, but instead was unable to do a lot of normal everyday activities because I had so much pain in my lower back. So I was contemplating getting surgery and instead um luckily a family member had gifted me some CBD for my birthday. So I kind of was like, all right, this thing isn't gonna help.
00:11:28 I take tons of of Advil like this can't possibly be any better than that. Although knowing that my, my husband, it's a veteran and cannabis has been really great for him, but I just was never a me thing. I never smoked pot in high school, like it wasn't of interest, you know, I'm glad that I, that I listened to this family member because I was definitely like, I put that jar on the counter and was like, you know, um because within a couple of days, like I was seeing such incredible improvement in my back injury and being able to actually move around, being able to like stand up quick. Yes, it's not always as quick for everyone for me considering the amount of information that I was dealing with. Um it kicked in pretty quickly. So I had this just amazing pain relief and then I found myself just not feeling so depressed and so anxious and I was like, well, all right, well this is an unfamiliar feeling of clarity. What do I do now? Um, and I realized that there really had to be something here. I was a little confused as to why it took me that long to find it. So, I was doing a lot of work in the industry, looking at what was working, why are some products good, why are some bad, why do you have to get a medical marijuana card to get certain products?
00:12:34 You know, things along those lines in 2017 it was, it was a super nascent space. Um, and I wound up co hosting a monthly meet up with a friend of mine and it was there that I had a lot of transformational conversations with women of all ages. You know, there are women that were driving from really far away to come in and talk about how much they were struggling. And there were a couple of moments that really stood out to me, like a lot of you think of all the different, you know, daughter struggling mothers, struggling grandmothers, whatever. You know, for me, the biggest thing was, was the grandma's grandma's driving in from really far away to talk about how much they were struggling and how they were having really dark thoughts and you hear enough of that, like, I know it's like I always say like save the grandma's because I don't think anyone is talking about, don't want to hear that in the same sentence. Right. Right. Mental health, especially in postmenopausal women I think is something that we don't, we don't talk about a lot. But there were women of all ages here and talking to everyone. You know, my job as a person who works in product innovation is to look at, you know, trends, patterns, causation, etcetera. And it was an undeniable pattern that a lot of people were hurting and not talking about it.
00:13:39 And also that high THC cannabis was not appealing to them was never going to be appealing to them. But that didn't didn't mean that they couldn't benefit from canvas. So I was looking again at like what was working what wasn't at the time, there were so many over the counter products that were flat out terrible quality, if anything could actually make you very sick. The space has improved a little bit, but still some, some bad actors out there And by the time that Coco and I met up, I was just sitting on this wealth of data because I prototype what's now known as our dosage support service basically by doing phone calls, video chats, etcetera with these women digging into what it was, they needed their health concerns, you know, are they taking medications using things safely with cannabis? All that. So when Coco and I went to meet up, I think she was, she was expecting uh, here's what I'm working on. Like this is this assistant instead. It was like, let me tell you this dramatic story. But it was probably a funny thing to witness? Um but it was a really big moment for us to like I shared with her like a certain level of vulnerability that obviously you can only do with someone that you know relatively well.
00:14:44 But I think it was clear to her that we had to do something about it. But the thing that really stuck out was that we could not do this without a human element. So you'll notice that we're basically the only canvas company that has both a product in the service company baked in with technology and the reason we did that is it was really clear from these conversations that a human had to be available or these women were not going to touch this category at all because they need to ask questions. They need to figure out like what's right for them and they're not able to do that decision making on their own. Is that what you mean? Yeah. Well and that is the decision making on there. They want to make informed decisions. Women are trust based consumers and so they were like I have so many questions. There's so much, you know, unclear stuff out on the internet right now and it's just like it's a scary thing. It's a taboo thing even if you can't get high from, it's still, it's still a scary thing. How do you know I mean literally what do you know dude, are you to start with 10 mg a day or do you start with 100? Do you micro dose throughout the day or do you take a big dose at night before you go to sleep? Is it going to make you sleepy? Is it going to make you tired? But then it's also supposed to be used for focus.
00:15:45 What does it do? How could one simple ingredient actually do all these things in your body? That sounds a lot like snake oil. I call bullshit on Marcy Really? If she wasn't a data driven full stack engineer, I would have, I would have just walked out of the room. But Bush, how can one ingredient do so much within the body? And it only makes sense when you are empowered by education. When you understand the way that the endocannabinoid system works in our body. We are so committed to education because more than any other category, this is the newest oldest industry, right? Humans have been using candidates for medicine for millennia. But how you use it, why you use it. What you should know before you use it. How much you should use, How you should change what you're using based on your own health goals and outcomes. Those are all questions. Very legitimate questions. And we believe it is our responsibility to empower our members with that. Education mm. That's amazing. CBD should be taken daily. It's like birth control, right?
00:16:49 You the whole point is that you want that steady drip of exactly that right amount in your body at all times. Right? What we're doing with CBD is we're helping our body's own endocannabinoid system which is this meta system within our body which is itself responsible for regulating all these systems. Circadian rhythms are response to stress. Um uh you know, you name it physiological pain and inflammation. We are helping that master balancing system balance better. So you don't do that like by reactively taking a bunch of CBD. You know when you're already stressed, you don't do that by reactively taking CBD to help you heal from an injury. You do it by by augmenting that system every day consistently. So from the beginning what Marcy and I have done is we've paired high quality product that's as clinical great as it gets. We are owners and our own farm based in Colorado here in the United States. And then we pair that premium product with personalized service. And every single member of equilibrium has a dosage specialist who's a real life clinically cannabis trained educator who's just there for her and 35% of our members talk to her over 65% of our members chatter email with her own person to just say uh where I started with this collection literally.
00:18:07 What do I do tonight? Can I start tonight? Yeah. Dude, you can start tonight do this. We just were there to hold your hand and talk with you physically psychologically emotionally about what you're putting in your body and what what what you should expect from the outcome. I am so into chat hotlines especially if it's like on like something like what's app where you can literally just be like can you please answer my questions in the way that I want to ask you questions. Just a quick note. Their love that, love that for people. So when you guys were meeting up Coco you were in private equity or you were investing in businesses and was this a conversation of like oh do you want to invest in the business or what do you think of my idea or was this a conversation of like, hey do you want to be my business partner coming from you Marcy. I mean it started with like something that I, if anyone who's ever heard me speak on anything, I talk a lot about the can't not do reflex which is the biggest driver for me is like an entrepreneur and innovator. Um the conversation largely started as like I've had this cannot do moment like I'm doing this research and I literally can't stop thinking about it and I'd like to talk to you about it and Coco had been investigating the kind of medical help side of things for investment or otherwise.
00:19:18 So it sort of was like a fortuitous timing moment let's say initially got it. I fully expected to go, I, you know, as Marcy mentioned, I have been making some investments on the health side of things. I also just really love writing checks for women who are smart and who are, you know, focused on results and outcomes and Marcy is one of those women, so I totally met up thinking I could just passively help and write a check, I did not think that Marcy was going to like again, she just opened her like heart to me, right, and was like brave and said, no, everything is not perfect, this is what's been going on, it's been really hard, who does that when you're just catching up? Right? I think we've, we've everything's supposed to be perfect all the time and you're working on great things and everything, you've got it all under control. Like we give women this space to say I need help, I don't have everything under control, which is totally okay. I was just really like impacted by mission and like the results that cannabis as this like super powerful plant therapy can have for women plus just like creating a community where it is okay to say I'm not okay and so for me, I said screw it, this is not just a passive check that I'm writing to this, you know, capable founder, like I wanted to um and for me this was a really beautiful um kind of coming home where my early part of my career was all CPG all all Loreal, like physical goods and then my pivot to entrepreneurship after business school was hard core product in tech building a consumer marketplace.
00:20:56 And so this was both, this is both, this is products company with a tech layer um that that that's, you know, telehealth services and if you're a services company, you're a data company, right? So it's like all all together and it's just deeply rewarding because it's, it's were growing like a rocket ship, but we are genuinely mission driven and every single person who works in equilibrium is here because we want to help women and we know that high quality CBD and education can change her life. Uh I love that, that's so cool, I have so many questions and I want to know where do you guys want to start with this? So what do you want to go with this? Because obviously we definitely want to touch on what you learned from your exits in your past businesses that you and the failures that you had there, that you are able to learn from and bring into this new business, but we also want to talk about how you actually brought this business to life and like what the model was. So maybe we start with equilibrium to like now and then we come back to the exits at the end. Okay, so knowing that you've already kind of, you've got this idea, you've both got experience.
00:22:01 How were you able to get this brand off the ground? Like what kind of capital did you need to put in? What were those early steps like if you're just to really dumb it down for me? Yeah. So you know, we talked earlier about the mistakes, how how failures and mistakes from your past can inform your president, your future and you know, full disclosure pretty quick. My first company and we had a very successful exit. It was never a good business model. Business model didn't really work. Why? Okay. Our take rate. Our commission was, here's why our commission was 20%. Our average order value is $40. That meant we were making eight bucks. There's a eight bucks every single time someone books an appointment To acquire a member. If we were lucky we would spend $40 which meant break even on a customer was five times. Name an app that you go back to five times in a couple of month period.
00:23:09 Right? I mean truthfully earning that frequency is really, really, really hard. And if you are solving a hair on fire problem like frickin morphine, then of course you're going to get her five times. But you have to be like morphine in order to earn the trust of a consumer to use you more than once. To be honest. Like we got a lot of choices, consumers don't have time to come back to something which wasn't fucking awesome the first time. So this isn't about pretty quick, this is about equilibrium. That's why you pivot into something that someone has to take every single day. Yeah literally you started the morphine brand. Well I mean like yes and you know what um so and and recurring revenue like you know I don't invest in businesses that are not either G. P. Positive on the first transaction or recurring revenue. Like it's so hard to break through all of the noise that is out there in our digital and physical and consumer economy.
00:24:10 Um So at the end of the day like there's passion plays and I know there's businesses and like this is a business and we had very very limited early paid in capital. We raised To start from one lead angel um and ourselves who were able to contribute also as serial entrepreneurs. We raise you know $350,000 to get us started. That's not a lot when you're having to buy physical inventory um and also invest in marketing to figure out what your channels are going to be to grow the business. And so the one thing that I would urge everybody listening to this podcast to remember is that like your business model has to work like it's going to cost you more money than you think to go out there and find customers and acquire them. So make sure that you are literally in the black the first time they use you or that your product is so good or your model is so sticky that they're going to come back again.
00:25:14 So we had our unit economics dialed from the beginning because I've been there and I've I've had to raise money when my customers couldn't fund the business's growth and that is not success, that's not where you want to be got it. Do you have anything you want to add mercy or Or should we should we keep moving on from that? Okay, so you raise the 350 grand. This is what allows you to develop your products to I assume find your partners in the, I think you said you owned your farms, right? That's also pretty, pretty major. Yeah. And basically get the initial stage of the business going. So um and this is also where you know, the partners that you choose are so important between Marseille and I and, and I want Marcy to share her perspective on this. But we had a lot of the skill sets that were required to test the viability of our concepts early on. So we have $350,000 in cash. Fine. We had a, we are, we are owners in our farm, we are not the exclusive owner.
00:26:16 So we didn't have a huge cash outlay for that investment but we were able to secure the joint venture relationship with the farm, begin buying inventory and then Marcy as a full stack developer and products designer as well. Um she truly is polymorphic was able to build the first version of our site, we would partner together on operations and I would handle the marketing. So between the two of us, our skill sets were such that we could take this minimum viable product to market, which was the science in the bottom and the product itself is absolutely amazing. What we were testing in the first phase with this, you know, early, early capital was Would people take it every day and would they subscribe and how would they like to interact with the dosage specialist? Um, do they care about having a person that they can talk to to get their daily routine right. And what we learned this was in late 2018, early 2019 when we were in beta before we actually launched the site, we learned that yes, women were willing to give it a try and to take a daily into stay consistent.
00:27:26 And for you, what did proof of concept look like? Was that like how many users or how many kind of what was the goal for you to reach to be like, yeah, okay, we've nailed it, we've got everything ready now we're ready to hard launch. It's a good question. I'm trying to think about how many people were in our beta it was, I want to say it was like probably approaching 1000 customers by the time we launched in March. So, I mean, it picked up speed, We did an initially we tried a couple different mechanisms, like we had a free trial program, which is tough because you know, CBD does take a while to seek full benefit for most people. Um We tried a lot of different sorts of things. We were only subscription in the beginning, we pivoted to allow both traditional one time purchase, e commerce and subscription, you know, not actually a couple of months after we were publicly launched, but we were pretty lucky that anyone who wasn't having a good experience, which was largely had to do with things with their endocannabinoid system. Um the CS were very vocal with us, so we were able to kind of work through all of that. Like even like, you know, Coco's mom had an experience where she didn't want to be a customer anymore and then it just turned out that she was taking it the wrong time of day and like, you know, these sorts of things that we had to, you know, sort of work through and once we did that there was a lot of confidence.
00:28:39 I mean, I've built a lot of things that I've never had this level of engagement with the customer base nor just like this quick pace. Yeah, it was obvious Dune. We knew like, yes, Marcy is right, you know, we had about 1000 women who were subscribing on a monthly basis. We were growing that new customers every single month. We had the beginnings of a channel strategy, but like it was obvious like what was happening, what we were hearing from her was like, holy shit. Like I am a better parent. I am kinder to myself. I feel like the weight of the world isn't on my shoulders all of the time. I have been able to have sex for the first time in four years or whatever. Like women were telling us that we were helping her life like intimately, you know, whether it was an injury or sleep or just all the anxiety that we all feel all the time because we're just balancing everything name one woman who isn't balancing more than one thing. We all are no matter who you are, where you are in life or what you want to do.
00:29:45Edit You've got a lot of your place. Everyone needs this as like everyone needs this. Especially women, women, I need this. You really you need this, we got to do you need this. So I mean we, we that's the kind of stuff. So my mom, um you know, we were watching the metrics like a hawk. So and you know, for all of you listeners of course, you know when you get your proof of concept going, you know, don't let don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. There are many conversations that Marcy and I said where I was like, oh let's not do, it's not ready. And Marcy said, come on, we gotta launch son is better than perfect done is better than perfect. Exactly. Um, and again, what we were testing was efficacy but we were testing was delighted. We were testing was consistency. What we were looking for was turn so we're obsessing data driven orientation. You who cares if you have a proof of concept, if you're not saying like what are the metrics that tell me that this is going to work? The number one metric that we were looking for was was too full. It's always going to be acquisition and retention. Can you help her start and can you help her stay?
00:30:47 We were acquiring more net new ads per month and the month that month over month and then also we people were staying with it. Um, so we're obsessing over churn and whose cancelling and the cancellation reasons and the first person to cancel was my mom. So call her up and I'm like mom, what is going on like free country? I'm glad you were honest with me but like really you're going to be our first subscriber to a trip. Why? So she said um, it was, it was actually really working well for her, Her goal was to get off of the last five mg of Zoloft that she'd been taking since her divorce 25 years ago and she um, so she was she was really committed to it, but she said that she was taking it at night one softball, just 10 mg. But the THC was waking her up, she was feeling like very alert in the middle of the night, which is of course the opposite Of what we want. Now we know from all of from you know, three years of doing this that about 5% of our members do have kind of an elevated agitated experience from the trace amounts of THC which are in a powerful spectrum products.
00:31:53 So I said mom, this is why we have the dosage specialist just before you cancel, talk with your dosage specialist about your routine, your body, your routine, maybe you're taking it at the wrong time or the wrong amount or not enough or too much. So she finally meets with the woman who architected our program, her name is Maya Read and they switched to a morning dose and by taking it consistently for a couple of weeks she found that she was indeed able to get off of that last five mg of her s s sorry and you know that's amazing. But she would have given up, she would have given up this isn't something that you can just give to someone and be like CIA you know, this isn't ecommerce, this is like telehealth totally. Yeah, I get that our mission in the beginning was that it was really clear from my initial research that you could not give someone CBD and then just like walk away that it was like not responsible, especially since a lot of women don't know that there are oral medications that need to be like time separately from their doses etcetera. And so um Coco's mom helped us, you know, like she sort of spurred some investigation into why people were feeling alert for THC can be part of the other part of that.
00:33:00 Small amounts of CBD can be energizing, whereas large amounts can be sedating, there's so many different factors involved. But acknowledging like now when you, when you buy from us actually um you're sort of routine page that you get where you get sort of this, this customizing that looks at the products that you bought in your health goals, it flat out tells you what to do if that happens so that you have like, you know, some troubleshooting ways to move through it knowing that there's always this person standing by to help you if you need them. I mean, I I fall into that category. I tried CBD, I stuck with it for like maybe let's say a month, maybe a little bit longer. But then I was like, I don't know if this is working like I give up and like I just bought what someone told me to buy. Like I didn't do any research, you know, I couldn't even tell you the brand name and I was like, yeah, pretty sure this doesn't work for me. Give up, definitely like no kind of looking into it so I can totally see the benefit and the value in that side of the business. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show.
00:34:10 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 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 from today onwards, I'm really excited to be able to offer our fsc small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached, our long chat with leading performance marketing agency amplifier, who you might also remember from our D. I. Y. Course, Full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business. And what's really important to know is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month. All the way to $300,000 a month and in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance, marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started, go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads.
00:35:29 That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S and booking a call today. Mhm Yeah, You mentioned that you were acquiring these customers, you obviously had 1000 before you kind of launched. But then I think I read that you were growing consistently like 20-50% month on month, which is awesome. And I'm wanting to know how you requiring customers given that CBD is one of those kind of, is it called the sin space or something where you know, you're not allowed to advertise like normally through regular channels like facebook and data. So how are you requiring those customers at that scale consistently awesome. Yes. So early on when we were doing our, our beta testing referral really word of mouth was the main driver. I mean it was a woman telling her mother, sister, daughter, friend, grandmother that like the results were real and we were in sending the referral program through a, you know, get kind of standard product marketing. So the numbers, the base wasn't very big, the numbers weren't very big, but we were seeing consistent referral, which led us to believe that word of mouth and like, you know, kind of trust space evangelism was like critical for this, which totally makes sense.
00:36:42 Like it's scary. Uh, there's more questions than answers and like hearing about it from someone you trust is probably really, really important. So we have an affiliate program and we have since the beginning, um, and we've had a lot of success. I mean we still have many clinicians and doctors and you know, authoritative people in the health and wellness space who recommend and refer equilibrium. But one day I'll never forget. Um, we, you know, we're constantly refreshing to see like what the metrics are doing, what the dashboard say. And one day we went to go, look, it was like, right when we launched and um, and someone had an affiliate had posted. We honestly like, I mean, listen, my first startup was when we exited in 2015 influencer marketing was like just only then beginning, like it was called, you were called a blogger before you were an influencer. Right? Like so influencers were, I mean, I wasn't even thinking about this as a channel. Um, I was thinking about our affiliates as more like a serious health and wellness, you know, credential professionals, well professionals, well, um, someone who, who we knew she was just a friend of a friend have used our relief grain, which is like people called the magic cream.
00:38:01 It's like very potent and has like a cult following. And so she went on instagram and she said that she had this like thumb arthritis thing and she was like my family's cured like I put it on and my son is doing and it was just like unvarnished, it wasn't an ad, we weren't paying her, it was just basic camera and she was like holy shit this stuff we go and we look and minutes later, I mean the sales are just like totally spiking. So that was the beginning of us realizing that one influencer marketing can be really dangerous for a brand and we, you know, we're not about just like perfect post of like you know some like you know gorgeous product shot or unboxing like what we care about is like have have you genuinely been affected positively and seeing great results from equilibrium to um so all of our influence and partners take equilibrium for at least a month. They have a dosage specialist conversation. They are educated on the science and how it works. But if they are like authentic, um you know, if they had an authentic experience themselves, then we encourage them to share with our community and that has been our number one source of customer acquisition and that's how we were able from that first phone stories uh Very series, We're able to grow 50% month over month, all All year one and 20% all year too and june because that's, that's your your correct that there are lots of places in the beginning.
00:39:23 We could advertise almost nowhere now. We have like a couple of places that we could do traditional advertising, but it's still interesting where well you can, for instance, if you call it hemp and set of CBD, there's some places that you can advertise um, certain types of display ads, but the options available to us are like 10% of what or less actually than what it would be if we were running any other kind of business, which we think largely it's very unfair in case any American regulators are listening. Um, but but it means that we had to get really creative and since this is uh, such a taboo space, the influencer scene was actually like a perfect fit as long as we maintained integrity and authenticity that I had to work for them before they could post about it. Um, we're not looking, we're not interested to this day and anyone hocking hawking products similar to how our dosage specialists are not sales people, they don't get commissioned. Like they're just there to educate like having ethics in certain places has been a huge part of our brand. That's really interesting. And since that moment around the launch, when you had the influencer post about the thumb, what have been the key moments of growth since then that have really propelled you forward in leaps rather than incremental growth.
00:40:36 Yeah, so, um, you know, influencer has been a, it's such an important channel for us when we tell our influencer community all the time that they're not, we don't do them as like the channel, we view them as just an extension of our company and our team right there. We are deeply, deeply connected with, with our influencer partners. So the focus on growth has meant that we've had to get like really scientific about building that machine. It wasn't enough to just sort of like see who could join us and who is like trying it and like, like cool, we got two new influencers, it was like, no, no, we're gonna build a real funnel here and we're going to do this much seating and then we're going to do this much relationship development and then we're going to do this much and so we just, we have peace around that final, just like any sales funnel, what are those kind of numbers per month? Like how much do you see it and how much do you like, how many people actually then are able to share? Yeah, we, um, we see it about, you know, um, and we also have sort of diversification goals too, because you know, instagram is great and instagram has been our main channel, but we're seeing some really exciting, um activity on youtube now, um where it's more evergreen, which is really exciting.
00:41:45 We have just launched Tiktok initiatives, we're learning more about Tic tac. Um we have a long way to go. So, um, we see it about, you know, 100 250 influencers a month and our goals are to contract 50 of them a month. Our influencer marketing team. Yes, they are marketers, but really they are just like relationships, relationship owners. Right? So, um, each of our account executives has a book of business that is these, that is influencers and we know them, we're friends with them. We, um, it's our job, we understand what their financial goals are if anyone has like education questions or it's our job to partner with them on content creation. We are all in the business together of educating women about how powerful this can be. So it's really, this is not a transactional channel for us, this is really a relationship development, um, partnership with us for us. And so it's just been, how do we scientifically grow a let's essentially like an outside sales force. Um, and um, and that's how we've done it and it's been really successful.
00:42:48 So it's like, you know, kind of pillar one and then with any, with any business you don't, you can't, you know, a billion, name a billion dollar business is built on the back of one channel. Right? So, so we are looking as Marcy mentioned, you know, we can advertise in many more places now, I'd say, um expanding our team to include um, Paid social um, getting another inflection point was getting Facebook live, even though it's, it's as monty says 10% of what we'd be able to do. We do have a domain that is Facebook friendly. Um that is all him and all topical that we're able to drive traffic to through topical and him only adds. So there have been some other kind of tail winds besides just influencer. Yeah, that's amazing. So in the CBD slash this personal care industry and this is more like related to the business and you know how this kind of model works because I have no idea. Do you optimize for profits along the way or is the goal or is the, I don't know what the term is here, but is the strategy I guess that you make money on the sale when you sell the business?
00:43:59 Yeah, so we are, you know, in, in cannabis, in this industry um, it's sort of given the tail winds and the massive growth in the space, it's not enough to just have top line velocity, you know, strategic six and whether they are strategic CPG companies or vertically integrated cannabis companies or financial acquires. People are holding cannabis companies accountable for both top line growth and some level of Ibadan. So um, so we are not optimizing for margin at this point, but we are very responsible to make sure that we're at least you know neutral um there and, and, and, and also that allows us to grow top line, so we're responsible growth is what we're all about and it's kind of that balance between the two. It's really easy to just keep on growing crazy double digits month every month. If you're not mindful about how much you're spending or who you're what traffic.
00:45:01 I mean, everybody can do that. What's hard is sustaining exciting growth without burning through cash and that's what we do. Yeah, that's amazing. I didn't ask this earlier, but you guys also, are you just online DTc or are you going into the retail space as well? We're currently, um, director consumer only, um, you know, always open and thinking about other channels, but like it's, this is really where we shine too because owning the relationship with the customer, she has her own dosage specialists. Like there's sort of this whole thing here that would be a little tough if we were like something you bought at target, you know? So yeah, totally. I get it. So where is the business today? What exciting things can you shout about? What's coming up this year? What's on the roadmap that you want to tell everyone about? I bet you have some cool innovation on the way. I have no doubt who do, I don't know Coco where you want to start in terms of like, so in terms of growth, I mean, obviously we're trying to hit a, an ambitious multiplier for the year, but from from an innovation standpoint.
00:46:10 Um, I mean we're constantly innovating on both the technical and like, physical product side of things. So looking at the digital experience of learning about being educated about and using our products. We've we definitely dived into personalization recently. Um We're sitting on just an incredible pool of data, you know, two years worth it tells us like what products work for, what health conditions and um things on those lines. So doing a lot within the digital personalization space. Um And then we have some some really fun stuff coming out toward the end of the year. Like we'll have the first ever um non oil based cannabis depository in the american market will be coming out in the fall. Um And that sounds like a bunch of words put together. But if you don't mean you've ever used uh we talked about vaginas a lot of this cos I feel like anyone who's listening to that that means you're gonna that means the vagina is the main line of cannabinoid reception. And so it is like when we talk about this mission of women like and restoring balance to her lives, that's why we show up at work every day.
00:47:12 What if you could restore balance to her lives through her anatomy? Pretty and awesome. So yeah, vaginal suppository is it's a it's a pathway that bypasses metabolism in your liver. So it's it's literally like the closest to an ivy of it that you're going to get. Um you know that it isn't disrupted by digestion at all. Among other things. It also means that you will never conflict with oral medications. So if you're someone who, who's on a ton of medications for a health concern, you don't have to worry about any sort of issues. There are tons of other benefits, you know, sexual health benefits, etcetera. Um but for anyone who's ever tried a typical cannabis suppository, they are made from extracts and cocoa butter and what goes up must come down and it's a really unpleasant experience, let's put it that way. And so we were determined if we were going to roll this out, we wanted to, I insisted from the very beginning because I've got prototype all kinds of different things um and the oil once work, but I just could never see like mainstream pickup of that modality because you know, fearing that you're going to mess up your clothes and like damp damage clothing and you have to deal with all this message.
00:48:23 It would be like having to use monastery every day and no one wants to do that. So we were determined to find a better way and the way we were able to accomplish that is we have this incredible biotech partner that we worked on our rapid calming melts that came out recently. Um that use patents from mucosal adhesion. So being able to have it be a powder based suppository that adheres to tissue and then slowly sort of dissolves is a much more pleasant experience. It's much more sanitary. Um there's lots of benefits there. So we're really excited about. It's something that I've been like co developing for like two years. So this is so cool. Wow. When did you say it comes out? So are the suppository will hit in october and then we've got a really exciting holiday and then before suppository is two more use case based products. So we are we are, you know, the past two years have taught us after a proof of concept. That premium product plus personalized service can restore balance to women now rather than that personalization having post purchase where we fine tune dunes routine based on a couple of static boxes that you were able to starter kits that you try.
00:49:33 We're really focusing on personalization. As Marcy was saying throughout the digital experience from the very, very beginning. So before you even purchase the products that you buy are right for you based on the health goal that you've told us that you have based on what you've told us about your life, which means we're starting you off in a better place. You still have your unfettered access to your dosage specialists to help fine tune and tweak. But it's important to deliver on true personalization that we have a range of, you know, use case based products available for you. So that's what we're doing. It's going to be a really exciting year just as it has been for the past three years, this sounds amazing. Everyone needs this. I don't understand why everyone doesn't know about it. Maybe everyone does know about it. Just not me. No. You know, look, it's it's um it's it's federally legal but not yet regulated by the FDA, right? In the U. S. Like the countries in the legislation around it globally are different. So we're here to help, we're here to be educators and tell you to tell women more about it so you can make informed decisions for your own body, but we agree we think everybody needs this, which is why we're here.
00:50:40 I'm with you, I'm with you. Okay, so at the end of every episode, I ask a series of six quick questions which we're going to get to in a second. I want to wrap up with both of you, letting me know what your key piece of advice is for women who are on the entrepreneurial journey and a few steps behind where you are. Oh my gosh, I, I almost always say to this question is like actually plan for what happens when things go well. Um I mean we grew so incredibly quickly and like if you don't, you should always have multiple plans in front of you and you know, sort of assess as you're going, but like actually planning for success because there are a lot of things that you have to do if, if you do have a rocket ship. Um and actually having a plan in place for that. I mean we were very scrappy resilient humans who could kind of sort of jump in and get it figured out. But I've definitely seen friends, businesses struggle where they really were onto something and they weren't prepared for that and then it hurt them in the long run. I've heard of this too as well, like if you don't have your um you know if your supply chain is not set up for example and you go on shark tank and you know the demand is much more than you anticipated and then you can fulfill and then it sets you back even though you know, great problem to have your sold out etcetera etcetera.
00:51:52 But also bad problem to have. You're not able to capitalize on that momentum totally. Mind goes back to customer acquisition and what I was sharing about you know investment thesis and just making sure that you are, you know, G. P. Positive at least on that first transaction. Um It is always more expensive and harder to go out there and find consumers just know that consumer customer acquisition if you are starting a business whether it's a B two B platform and you're you know doing sales or you know, guerilla consumer marketing or whatever it is. It's going to be harder than you think so make sure that you are a marketer or a sales minded person, you don't care if you don't self identify as sales, you are in the business of selling as a founder um Ultimately strategically, but in the beginning like you know, your, your best salesperson, so just sales and marketing like get good at it. I love that. Just a quick one. What's GP positive gross gross profit. So revenue minus what it costs you to make to make that product um don't go into the red and it's very very very very hard to do.
00:53:02 A lot of businesses say, oh but they'll come back and then they'll come back again and by the time they come back the third time I'll be in the money, you still have to pay for your office rent and your payroll and you don't have a prayer at making any money as a business Unless that first level of gross profit is um you know, gross profit -9, you know, you gotta see it. Where where is that coming? You have to see that. Yeah, totally, totally. Alright. Six quick questions. I'm going to alternate between the two of you. So some of them we might have covered already, but I asked them all the same at the end of every episode. So Marcy, let's start with you. Question number one, what's your why? Why do you do what you do for me? It's always about like what gets me out of bed in the morning um You know, if there's a really good problem in front of me, like that has always been my way. I think to a point of, you know, like my husband would make fun of me. Like that's, that's how much it is my wife, it's a problem solving. Yeah, I love that question.
00:54:05 Number two for you, koko what has been the number one marketing moment that made your business pop the thumb? The thumb on instagram stories. The thumb, that's so little. I love that question. Number three, maybe I have to get the answers from both of you on this because this is a good one. Where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or subscribing to or listening to that other people should check up on. Oh gosh, well in the, in the post pandemic space, right? Like, you know, we used there were lots of in Chicago where we both live, there are lots of great places to go and be around other entrepreneurs and founders and you know, I think we used to do a lot of that and I love to hang out places that are very like multidisciplinary, like where people are building different types of products than I am. Um but for me this is uh well of course there's great podcasts, blogs, various things that that, that I read all the time. For sure. Um I love to do pattern seeking in consumer facebook, so that seems like a weird thing, but in terms of getting smarter.
00:55:13 So if you're in a sector like go in and dig into what the people are talking about and start looking for patterns and um for us for instance like the marijuana side of cannabis is always 6 to 18 months ahead of the hemp side. And the easiest way for me to monitor how people are responding to what is launched on that side is to get into where they're all talking about it. So whether it's facebook Reddit or wherever um I spent a fair amount of time looking at customer behavior that way and it has served us well. Do you mean like you're just scrolling through the group and trying to pick out the trends and the patterns like certain words, certain things like that and just keeping a little bit of a tally. Yeah like a simple way. So I participate in the industry as well too. But so for instance if like we're seeing a surge in CBD products or th C. B. Or some other cannabinoid and it's much more popular on the marijuana side of things and it is hemp at this point for various reasons, looking at how people responding that are people saying this too expensive, they're using what are they actually using it for like really digging in to consumer patterns?
00:56:14 It's like one of my favorite things in the world. I love that. That is so cool. I've never had that on the show before. So thank you so much. I told you she was amazing. She's got it. It's only because I use social media more than Coco does. If Coco was more into social media, she would get pulled into those conversations to. It's, it's like, you mean if I wasn't a Luddite, you mean if I wasn't a Luddite it's okay. You can say it, you can say it. No, just, it does take a certain level of patience and to really sit and like monitor that and see what comes of it I'll say. And like Coco is a very, very busy, busy human. So got it, got it. Coco, where do you hang out to get smarter two books that I've read a couple times now. Um The thing is it is just going to be really hard. Marcy's thing about planning for success is beautiful and optimistic, but most of you will fail. Um I didn't fail the first time around, but it wasn't as I said, it wasn't like a home run exit, it wasn't a full on success and what is a full on success mean anything name one business that's not constantly like in trouble.
00:57:18 Like Jeff Bezos is constantly like trying to make amazon endure and seriously even the most successful companies in the world like struggle and it's really fucking hard all the time. I saw an interview with um Elon musk recently and he was talking about how he like almost went bankrupt at one point and was asking his friends for money and it's really sad, I was like, shit, that's crazy. Anyway. Yes, no, it's just, it's just, it's just that your chances of success are very small and so um hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz, I find just like chock full of like really good, like it's just gonna be hard, you have to know that and get ready for it. Teflon build Teflon, like ride your highs a little lower, read your lows a little higher, like it's a marathon, not a sprint and it's going to be very hard to have great if you don't have great, don't do it. Um, and then founders dilemma, I find really interesting to, by Noam Wasserman, you know, as we scale Marcy and I like scaling is now our biggest challenge. That means people, that means process, that means like removing ourselves from the day to day, focusing on strategy, focusing on talent, focusing on making equilibrium, amazing place to work.
00:58:25 Um there's a lot about scaling that is a different skill set than the gritty Marcy and I getting in and like doing it ourselves, which we totally do, but we can also scale with this business and we're going to scale with this business. So how do we get ourselves on to that next level of executive visions and preparation for scale founders Illinois, love it, going to link both of those books in the show notes for sure For anyone who wants to check them out. Question number four, I forget who we're up to. So Marcy, let's go to you. How do you win the day? What is your AM or PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated. I'd actually say that Coco is a better person to answer that question because I have the weirdest days and she's really good at keeping A level kind of routine and looks like she has her boundary that she will not to spoil like us seven hours of sleep, You know, a daily age 7, 8, 8, 8 has to be 88 hours of sleep no less for her.
00:59:28 And then also I'm a mom. I have two kids. Um, and I like they ground me, I need them. They like, I'm not, I'm not good at work. If I have not, like my kid bucket isn't full, I don't see them a bunch of hours during the day. I have an incredible nanny and a really involved husband, I'm really busy but I will not sacrifice my quality time with them. Um, so again, quality of quantity, but like honestly that's kind of all I need if I have sleep and feel connected with my kids, like I'm good. I love that you guys can choose who is going to be best to answer this one. Question. Number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money where would you spend it? I think we probably have the same answer but I'm gonna let Coco answer but I'm pretty sure we're the same answer. You got only $1,000 left. I figured we would pick like our best influencer and place a bet. Yeah Yeah put it back into the biz the thumb chick, The thumb chick totally Liz Adams. Love you, love you girl. Coming back to you shout out to live forever, Forever Liz Adams.
01:00:34 Oh my God, I love that. Okay and last question which applies to both of you. So let's let's get both of your answers. How do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things inevitably don't go to plan data? The answer always lives in the data and if the data is inconclusive then you're not then there's somewhere else that you need to look or there's something else you're not considering. But that's also why I like I like I tend to be the temporary response to something not going well because I I always believe that there's there's more information. Maybe it's like the weirdest optimistic streak for me but embrace it. I think my answer is optimistic too. Like because you're just going to fail. It's just part of it. You're the definition of a startup. If there was a blueprint like then it wouldn't be hard and then everyone else would have been doing it and then it would have existed and like don't waste your time. So it's gonna be hard and you're going to fail a lot to make the wrong people decisions, you're going to make the wrong marketing decisions, you make the wrong capital raising decisions like you're just going to do shit wrong, get used to it and know that like that is how you learn equilibrium is better because Marcy and I made mistakes with polymorphic and pretty quick.
01:01:47 We are serial founders and we are better because we have failed big time in the past. So just like say thank you when you fail because you just learned a lesson that will make you better and more valuable in the future. And if you don't feel like you learn something from it, then this is not the right field for you. Yeah, don't, don't, don't be defeatist. One of our core values that equilibrium optimism, which doesn't mean everything is perfect because everything is not perfect, but when you fail, like come to work like knowing it's going to be okay and like excited to get back up again or you probably shouldn't be at a startup and knowing that every failure is an opportunity yes, failure is an opportunity that's so true. Gosh, this was so awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show and share all of the things. I'm just so excited to see what you do next, I'm so excited for these new products coming in, october and yeah, I'm so grateful to have met you. This was awesome. Thank you for having us soon. Thank you so much for having us. And for for opening up this community around real talk. Real talk is something else to talk about all the time.
01:02:51 In addition to Vaginas and Thumbs, we talk about real talk. Um so um so like thanks for being so real about business and helping women succeed. It's super near and dear to our hearts. For anybody listening. We also have a promo code for you all if you're interested in trying female startup club is 20% off of your order. So just know that. Amazing. Thank you so much.