Today’s episode is brought to you by Klaviyo and today I’m joined by Connie Lo, Co-Founder of Three Ships.
Three Ships is an all-natural, vegan skincare brand on a mission to make clean beauty accessible for all women. The products are 100% plant-derived, certified cruelty-free, and, best of all, forever under $40. Founded in 2017, Three Ships was founded by chemical engineer Laura and business grad Connie after the two wondered why clean, vegan skincare cost so much. With only $3300 in their bank accounts, these female founders started making their own formulations in Connie’s apartment kitchen with the goal to create effective and affordable natural skincare products.
This is a ridiculously insightful episode and you’re going to come away with plenty of actionable tips for your business. We talk about pro tips for retail expansion and how to make a partnership successful, we talk about key moments of growth and how to be scrappy in the beginning and some of the key trade shows you might want to invest in.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Speaker3: Yeah, so for those who don't know me, I'm Connie. I'm one of the co-founders of Three Ships. We're an all natural vegan skincare company, really on a mission to be the most transparent natural beauty brand in the world. We started the brand four years ago with the equivalent of like thirty three hundred US dollars. So I can share lots of tips about how to bootstrap your business. Literally started by hand making products in my apartment kitchen. Today you can find her skin care products at stores like Target and Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters.
Speaker1: What a journey that's so cool and such an accomplishment in four years. I feel like that's a really, you know, type tote around there. I want to go to where your entrepreneurial story starts and what kind of gave you that light bulb moment to jump into making products in your kitchen?
Speaker3: Yeah, it's been a long journey. So starting from the beginning, my dad is an entrepreneur and I remember when I was young, I would always watch him at work, like working from home. He would bring me on business trips. And I'm so in love with the idea of starting my own company. But at the same time, you know, being a kid, you're like, I have no idea what to do with my life. Like, should I go to business school? Should I go into sciences? So I was inspired by my dad, followed his footsteps, went into business. When I was at university, I started to compare myself a lot to what my peers were doing. So for any of your listeners who are a little younger, maybe even in school, still, what I recommend is just really listen to your gut and trust your intuition, because that is what I did not do and I regretted it. So I remember really comparing myself and being like, oh, wait, marketing and sales and entrepreneurship, like, that's not where all the smart kids are going. You know, it's all about finance and accounting and banking. So I'm going to go down that route, too. And even though my heart didn't lie in accounting, that's what I went into full time after I graduated. And I absolutely hated it, like every day after work. And it was long hours, like working until midnight or longer than that.
Speaker3: And I would just come home and I would cry and I'd be like, what am I doing with my life? Like, I felt like I could be doing so much more. And at the same time, like when I was in high school, I ran my own small businesses. And when I was at Queen's University, where I went for business school, I did partake in entrepreneurial extracurriculars too. But it was just like I completely ignored that side of me. Now it's like it's not what smart people do. So I worked in accounting for eight months. I absolutely hated it. So I decided to quit actually before writing my accounting exams to be a full time chartered accountant. And I remember the time were like, oh my gosh, what are you doing? Like, you're so close to getting those letters behind your name. And for me, what I thought was I don't see myself going to a career where having an accounting degree is going to help me. So why am I continue to punish myself day over day for this? So what I do is I look back at my time at university and I looked at which classes I really enjoy. And those were always like marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, negotiation. And so I was like, you know what? Let me just trust myself here and decide to go into this. So I decide to switch completely and go into marketing and sales.
Speaker3: And I love my job there. It was also during that time that I met my co-founder, Laura. And so Laura was the one who had the initial idea for this natural makeup remover company, and she was looking for someone to just bounce ideas off of. And she was speaking with one of our mutual friends. And he was like, you know what? I went to elementary school with this girl, Connie. And I remember back then she loved making her own natural skincare products. So you should probably just talk to her and get some ideas. So we met and it was meant to be like a thirty minute dinner. It turned into this like. Or our business meeting of the minds where we just like we're vibing off of each other, we realize we're complete opposites in terms of personality types and skill sets, but completely aligned in terms of values. And at the end of that, for our business meeting, Laura just asked me, like, hey, you want to be my co founder on this? And there is so this is such a crazy story. And that was when we were twenty three and we got started on the product literally the next day. And so for that first year and a half period, we would work our 9:00 to 5:00 and then meet up in the evenings and on weekends to work on our skincare company.
Speaker1: Oh my gosh. And so what were those initial products like? Like what were you coming up with in the kitchen?
Speaker3: So it was pretty rudimentary products initially because we weren't able to use complex natural preservatives. So everything was done literally and like no stainless steel cooking bowls and stuff. So what we're making our products that didn't require any natural preservatives. So these would be products that were oil based. So our first product was a natural makeup remover using fractionated coconut oil. And it works so well, removing even the toughest waterproof makeup so you can give it a try. And then our second product line where our oil based serums and those are still some of our best selling products. And then eventually we started to outsource manufacturing still within Canada. And that's when we started to use water based formulas where you can use preservatives like white Wilsbach extract. And that works really well for things like cleansers or water based. But initially it was all like fairly simple products.
Speaker1: Wow, that's incredible. I want to talk about what you used that initial thirty three hundred dollars and how you kind of were able to bootstrap that in that early year, maybe the second year in that kind of thing to bring the brand to life.
Speaker3: Yeah, having a small budget like three hundred dollars really makes you think carefully about where you're spending your money. So one of the first things that we spend on, which was like maybe six hundred US dollars, was applying for a trademark, but then also incorporating so we didn't have a lawyer on our team. So we decided to write our application to incorporate ourselves and we're filling out the forms. And I was just like, I have no idea what this means. And I and I'm not sure, not sure sign at the bottom. So how that got through. So we incorporated the company that way. And that was really important for us because we didn't want to be personally liable for anything that our company would be responsible for. So by incorporating you're making your company a separate entity. So that way, say someone sues your company, they're not able to go after your personal assets, which let's be real. At the time, Laura and I had very little personal assets, but still we just want to set ourselves up for success. And then initially we also spent on trademarking so applying for the trademark process, which can take like two years to carry back from the Canadian US government's regarding your trademark. So I highly recommend to your listeners, if they are starting a new business, first thing you should do is check out the trademarks for your name, see if there's any other companies that are similar in terms of naming. Because if that's the case, you might want to start with a different brand name and then also look into incorporating another thing that we spent on was the initial ingredients for our products.
Speaker3: So we went to Whole Foods and got a couple of different ingredients to play around with just for the first batch of like minimum viable products or MBP. And then eventually we started to look for larger distributors of the ingredients. And then one final thing that I remember spending on was a six hundred dollar laser printer. And the reason that we spent on that is because we didn't want to buy custom labels for our product packaging because those require larger minimum order quantities or no queues. And so most the label printers were requiring at least a minimum order quantity of a thousand labels, and we just could not spend on that at the moment. So what we did was buy a laser printer and then we bought the label sheets and we print off our own labels at home. And this was great because when we would go and talk to customers at farmer's markets or at trade shows and they would look at our packaging, oftentimes they would be like, oh, you know, be really cool. If you guys put like a Made in Canada symbol on our label, we'd be like a great point. And then that night we would edit the label at home and print off the new round for the next batch. And so we were able to iterate on our product packaging really quickly. So again, I recommend that for your listeners, don't spend on things like labels and custom packaging at the beginning unless you're absolutely sure that that's going to be your final product for at least six months to a year.
Speaker1: Yeah, Tertullian, that customer feedback loop is so important to be able to implement what people actually want and get to that final label of final product. I'm interested to know about your efforts in the beginning to market and find the first customers who are going to become your loyal, true fans of the brand.
Speaker3: Yeah, so what I did back then, I managed marketing and sales at three ships is I would spend hours per day on Instagram because that was one of the easiest and cheapest platforms for us to find new customers. So what I did is when I created Instagram account actually created even before our first product was available, because I just want to start building a presence. And I would look at our competitors like within a skin care industry, within the natural makeup industry, and I would see who was following them and follow all of those accounts and engage with them. But the level of engagement was pretty detailed. So it wasn't as simple as just like giving them a following, just leaving like that. What I would do is I would check out some of the recent post and I would comment on their recent posts. And if they had their skin type in their Instagram bio, which a lot of skin care accounts do, then when a product launch, I would deem them and be like, hey, looks like a combination skin. This is our new makeup remover that's specifically made for a combo skin. And here's a 10 percent code for you to use and extremely manual in the beginning days like not going to lie, spending probably three plus hours per day on Instagram.
Speaker3: But because we had no marketing budget, that was where I would spend my time. It's like sweat equity versus spending money on an agency. So that was how we got a lot of our first customers. Then attending local flea markets was a big one, too. So we would spend like one hundred bucks to get a booth at a local flea market. And then we would spend all day like eight and six, seven p.m. per day standing on our feet, just selling products to customers. But like you mentioned earlier, the customer feedback loop was so important and we learned so much about our products and our customers and product market fit just by going to these markets. So we would go to one, at least one per weekend. And during the holidays, from like October to December, we'd go to several per week. So some days would book off work from our nine to five and go GhostTown and yeah, and we were moonlighting during this time, so our companies had no idea what was going on and we would show up to work exhausted on Mondays and we just had to push through. But that's bootstrapping life. So if you choose to go down this route like you know what you're getting yourself do,
Speaker1: Oh my gosh, they're all like, did you party last night? You're like, yeah, yeah. Big. Stayed up late. What point did you realize, oh, my gosh, we're on to something and kind of make the decision to actually quit the 9:00 to 5:00?
Speaker3: Yeah, that's a really good question. And I know that's something that a lot of people ask because, like, how do you know when you're ready to make the leap? So there's different ways you can go about this. Some people choose to go full time with their startup from day one. We didn't go down that route because we didn't have savings after we graduated to be able to live and sustain that lifestyle. So we decided to save up enough money where we would have six months runway. So what this means is we're like, OK, once we get to a point in our bank accounts where we can live for six months, going full time with three ships without paying ourselves, that's when we'll quit our jobs and go full time. So at that point, that was a year and a half into side hustling the business. And then it got to a point where we're like, OK, we definitely have enough savings and also got to a point where we were so busy. So what do it look like is I would be struggling to find time to get on calls with buyers that small retailers or like call to talk about different marketing opportunities. Because I was working my nine to five, which is more like an eight and like six thirty PM job, and I couldn't find time during the workday to talk to people for three shifts related work. And so that was a struggle. And then also got to a point where we were still hand making products. So we were starting to make more and more products at home and that was eating into time where we could be working on the business strategy wise versus working in the business of like just manufacturing. So it was a really good time for us to quit because we've saved up enough money and we just could not continue working at that pace. And so that's really when we decided, like, OK, let's just go full force with this.
Speaker1: Hmm, amazing, I have to share in that time where you were kind of really hustling, you're doing the balancing act, you're a year and a half in. What kind of revenue were you pulling in from all those organic efforts in that early phase of the business?
Speaker3: Definitely so. For the first year or so, our first year was twenty seventeen and we started merch. So it's like partial year also hustling. We did forty thousand dollars in revenue that year and then the next year, which was twenty eighteen, we did one hundred and one thousand dollars. That extra one thousand. Still remember that in my head. I remember that was the year they went full time but a lot of that was like from markets, from subscription boxes which are another great acquisition tool, especially if you're able to partner with subscription boxes, save for like for example, five or IPSI, but that have a very specific target market that you're going after. That was really great for revenue and acquisition and also working with small retailers because you get initial cash flow upfront and then you can use that to fund your business.
Speaker1: When you say the subscription boxes, how does it actually work? Like, do you have to pay for placement or do they just take the products? What's the kind of business model behind it?
Speaker3: It depends on which box you're working with. So some boxes will not pay for product because they are just that well known and they have so many brands want to work with them. So we had to turn down those opportunities in the beginning because we just couldn't justify and we were still making the products by hand. So like so many hours of work for zero dollars and then some boxes, but they do something called cost share. So it's usually a percent of the retail price of your product. So say it's like a ten dollar product that you have and they do a 20 percent share. They will pay you two dollars per unit for you to give them that product. And then that is your revenue that comes in from the subscription box. So many boxes work on this cost sharing model. Cochaired usually ranges from like five percent on the low end for reputable boxes that will purchase hundreds of thousands or millions of units from you up to maybe like 20 percent if it's a smaller subscription box. So that was really how we funded our initial days of our business. What we did was we partnered with subscription boxes that were within different areas of our target demographic. So one of our first subscription box partners was with a vegan subscription box called Petit Bois, and they ordered six thousand seven hundred units of our initial product. And I still remember that number. So we made every single unit by hand for three weeks after work here, nine to five. So I will never forget during that time, I think I still feel it. But they did help pay for those six thousand seven hundred units and then use that money to fund the business. And we also gave them a discount code so that their subscribers convert in shopper site after. So that was a really good acquisition strategy. But that's in general how subscription boxes work and they can order anything from like one hundred units all the way up to millions of units.
Speaker1: Wow. Goodness. Definitely not making a million by hand. No, no, no, no, no. Over the years from those kind of moments of doing the hands on high touch, Instagram outraged the markets, the subscription boxes that you were making, the products, how did you start to scale your marketing and find what was really working for you and driving significant traffic and significant sales?
Speaker3: Yeah, that is a really good question. I think that it was a lot of testing, so what I did initially so I could talk about some of the mistakes that we made along the way, too, so something that I thought was, you know, I'm not a PR expert, maybe we should have been on a period initially because we're getting so many inbounds from agencies asking if we needed help. And so I was like, yes, sure. But I only had enough budget to spend a couple thousand per month initially. And even then that was like a lot of our budget. But I was like, oh, I don't know. EDS like this should be something that next expert handles. So we just signed on with the Canadian PR agency and I immediately regretted it because the PR pitch that they were learning us were not high quality because again, we weren't paying a lot. And what I realized is I could just do it myself. So I started doing editors on Instagram and commenting on Twitter and reaching out on LinkedIn, and I would start sending them emails and products. And that was actually how we learned some of our best PR coverage initially. And what I realized from that is that was really great for raising awareness. So that was really good for scaling our marketing efforts initially, just like getting editors and all that. I know that it is very manual, but I think sometimes some of the best things for your business are actually some of the non scalable elements.
Speaker3: So that was really great for us. And then I let go of our agency initially and then we signed on with another agency years into the business after we were able to afford a higher quality PR agency. So that's something that I would recommend. It was a big mistake that we learn from is try doing most things yourself. Another thing that we learned was we were not experts on Facebook and Instagram advertising, so we tried to do that ourselves as well. So Laura and I remember one night we sat down, we're like, OK, let's set up an ad. And then we're like target audience. Like probably someone who's into yoga and like is vegan and lives in these cities. And then Facebook spit out our target audience. It was like five people or something like it. And we did this wrong or something isn't doing here. So we decided to hire an agency and that was scalable because they were able to get three XPrize on our ads. So I recommend to your audience, like find a good agency for trying to do Facebook and Instagram ads unless you're willing to put in hours of research into understanding how to optimize your own ads. So those are some of the things that we did initially for marketing. I'm trying to think what else is really scalable? Well, one last thing I'll say in terms of marketing to retailers that was scalable is actually attending trade shows.
Speaker3: So going to beauty trade shows for us was really big. So Beauty Expo is one that was a really big one that we want to attend. Another mistake that we learned was trying to attend smaller trade shows that weren't as reputable. We tested that out for us. So we're like, you know what, we want to go to Indie Beauty Expo, but it's like ten thousand dollars all in including like fly accommodation and getting the booth printing stuff to hand out giving out samples. So we're like given the fact that we're only like forty thousand in revenue, let's go for a smaller trade show that's going to cost like five grand at the quality of retailers. Editors like press influencers that are attending the trade show where so much lower that we didn't make any are alive from the smaller trade show. So what we did instead was the next year we spent more than the beauty expo. And that's where you can meet really high quality retailers. And that's where we met Wholefoods Target like a bunch of large retailers. And I think that's scalable because you're only going to a few trade shows per year. But at each trade show, you're meeting so many buyers and editors and you only get better each time. So if your listeners, especially if they have like a physical goods company, I recommend that they look into the best trade shows for their industry and try to save up to go to those.
Speaker1: Mm. That sounds like a really good one. Indie beauty. So how do you actually get on the radar of those buyers that you wanted to see at the trade show and how do you attract them.
Speaker3: Yes, so I think one mistake that some doctors make is they think like I'm going to go to the trade show and all of the business is going to roll in, and that's definitely not the way to do it. And I know, like sometimes when Laura and I would go to trade shows, we'd see people sitting down at their booths looking on their phones. And we're like, it looks like you don't want to be here. Like we were on our feet standing in front of the booths, like talking to people, bringing them in. Even I would chase down people who walk past us if they walked past our booth and just try to bring them back. Like that's how you're going to get the high quality relationships. So some buyers, they just like to talk with you at trade shows and they will really entertain you outside of teachers. But some even if you do see them at a trade show, it doesn't really mean like they're going to want to work with you. So one example I have is a target. It was a really long sales cycle to get in to Target. And what I did is I found through a friend of a friend, someone who worked in research at Target. So it wasn't even like the buying department for Beauty. And the reason why I had to go to those lengths is I was reaching out to the buyer on LinkedIn trying to find other social platforms, no response.
Speaker3: Then several emails. And then I decided to reach out to this person and research and we got to call us. We tried our products and she hung up, loving them so much that she went into Target's internal email system and found the buyer's contact info and then called and showed us, even though she didn't know who he was and she was just like, hey, I just want to share this brand that I tried their products and I think you should try them out. And that was how we got our initial intro to Target. So he agreed to bring us on target Dotcom. But Laura and I really believe that our products would fit well within an in-store placement, which is a lot harder to get. So what I did is I found out that he was going to be at a beauty expo in New York the same time that we were going to be there. So I said to my booth number and ask them to come by. And then the second day of the trade show, he still had not come by. And so one day I saw him walking into the men's room. And I remember I was like, you know what? This is my chance.
Speaker3: So I walked to the front of the men's bathroom and I waited by the door for him to come out. And then I was like, Hey, Kevin, like calling you from three shifts. I know you haven't met me in person before, but we've been talking over email. I'd love to take, like, two minutes of your time. Just come by our booth. And I think he was so impressed by just like the grit and thick skin that I had that he decided to come by. And that was how we set up an in-person meeting at Target headquarters to discuss and in-store placement. And a year later, that's when we launched. So this is all to say to your listeners, like sometimes you might feel discouraged. You meet buyers, they're not into it. Keep trying. Like so many of our retail partnerships were mutualising buyers for two plus years to get it to them. And now we're some of their highest performing brands. So just know that it's not like a one day thing or 30 day sale cycle. Sometimes it can be a couple of years. So just push through and continue to learn from your pitches and the past from other buyers what resonates, refine your pitch and then continuously improve when you're pitching new buyers.
Speaker1: That's so interesting that you say, you know, some of the partnerships that you're after, it takes two years to land that retail store, for example. What's the actual process of like if someone says no, what do you do to reactivate that contact? And how do you do it in a way that's not annoying?
Speaker3: I think getting a know from someone is one of the best things that you can get, because if someone's just saying yes, but then it's really, you know, like they'll be like, oh, yeah, like this sounds great. Let's reconnect another time. You're not actually learning anything from that experience, whereas if someone says no, you can ask them, like, OK, I completely respect your decision. Can you let me know how we can improve? And that's exactly what I do every time. So even when we were really small and I was walking up and down the streets of Toronto where I live, going into a store, giving our product samples, if someone said no, I took that as an opportunity, I be like, that's totally fine. Like, can you let me know how we can improve? And so if it was like we just didn't have enough product assortment for them to want to launch us as a great we can work on that or at the price point was too high, then I'd be like, OK, this is really good to know what's the average price point in the industry? And the next time I pitched a new buyer, they'd be like, oh, by the way, even though some of our products are like 40 bucks, our average retail price point twenty seven dollars, because I learned that from a past pitch and then that would resonate better. So you craft your messaging every time. And then in terms of following up with buyers, I can give an example. So one of the retailers that we launched into this year was Holperin Group, which is one of Canada's premier retail locations.
Speaker3: And I remember the first outreach I did was August of twenty eighteen and we just launched January of twenty twenty one. So it's been a long sales cycle. So when I first reached out I was like, hey, these are our products, would love to set up a meeting, had a meeting with them and then I kept following up with them for a year. No email response back in those email follow ups. What I would say is like, hey, look, I know it's been a while. This is a new product that we just launched. I would love to send you samples. Even if they didn't reply, that's fine. Then the next time I'd be like, hey, I know Mother's Day is coming up. Like, these are the products that really would resonate with your audience and knowing that your demographic is what? Who are older, probably with kids like this would be a really good fit. No response. That's fine. Again, like Happy New Year. Let's chat. And eventually, like I think eventually they just realize that you're really in it for the long run. And as long as you're polite and professional with every week, I think that goes a really long way versus being like, you know, what they didn't respond to a few times. I'm just going to stop replying. I think that's really what has led us to the success we've had so far, is everyone on our team has level of grit. One of our company values is hustle. And I think it's really led us to where we are today.
Speaker1: That is so amazing. Do you remember what the email was that got the response?
Speaker3: I would need to take that up for you, but it was probably honestly one of those lines, really. I know it's been a while like these are the recent presidents that we've gotten. We just were on Dragons Den. You know, we just won based people 30 under 30, like, you know, we're great Canadian brand. You're a Canadian. Like it was probably something like that.
Speaker1: I love that. That's so good. Definitely a one on one on persistence and keeping the hustle going. When you land a key partnership, say, for example, Target, what do you actually have to do to ensure that it's successful and you don't, like, lose an account?
Speaker3: Yeah. Another great question, because I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that getting into a retailer is the hard part. That is actually the easier part. What's hard is getting the sell through. So it's like the hard part is getting the product off the shelf, not on the shelf. And we've learned so much over the past four years. So some of the things that you need to invest in are in-store marketing. So especially if it's like a brick and mortar physical store. So what that would look like is gratis, which means free product for the sales associates. That is really important because the best way for someone to sell product is by trying the product themselves. So grass is really important. Spending on in-store signage is something that I think goes a long way to. It depends on the retailer because some retailers don't allow you to put up your own sign. So that's optional. One, you can also spend on in-store promos. So seeing like a 20 percent off at shelf, that goes a really long way. Samples is another one. So can you sample size versions of your product and giving them to the stores to distribute to customers when they come by? That really is great for incentivizing purchase. So those are some examples of in-store marketing and also marketing is also really important. So spending on like influencer partnerships to promote that retailer, so say we just want to help run through, you know, working with the macro influencers and having their call to action in their Instagram caption, be like go shop three chefs at Holt Renfrew. That's really important podcast's, as you know, even having content that is focused on that retailer. So when we launched that target, we get a bunch of images and videos of our products with a target bag.
Speaker3: And then we edited those videos and images into launch campaign content. So those are some of the things that you can spend on. There's so many more things to that I can't think of off the top of my head, but those would be some of the main ones. What not to do is to get the partnership and be like, oh, great, like I'm done and just have to see how it goes. And thing I recommend to maintain your retail partnerships is to try to find weekly POS or point of sale data so you can ask your buyer like, hey, can you send me a report of our sales week over week? Or maybe that's too annoying for them, bi weekly or even monthly. And so that way you have a really solid understanding of how you're performing a store. And then what you can do is if you're seeing that certain weeks are not doing as well, work with your buyer and be like, hey, how else can we partner together? Did they have influence or partners that we can work with? Are there email marketing campaigns that we can get partnered with where they're sending emails to their subscribers? And you put our product image in that email, sometimes to pay, sometimes you can just work with them on a free email partnership. And when I also do is I do biweekly calls with my key relationships. So Indigo Holt, Renfrew, Hudson's Bay, Target, Wholefoods, I have my weekly calls with my buyers just to check in and see how things are going. So it does take a lot of time, but I think that setting up these processes early on for new retail accounts goes such a long way. So that's what I'd recommend for your listeners.
Speaker1: Holy moly. That is just a wealth of amazing insights there. I'm so grateful for that. Thank you so much. I want to ask you where the business is today and what fun things you can shout about that are upcoming.
Speaker3: Yeah, things have definitely just grown so much in the past year or so. And so this year track to do five to six million in revenue. We're launching a bunch of new products this year, so we're launching something new in July. But it's something that's been extremely highly requested by our customers. We actually only create products that our customers ask for. We do this through Instagram story polling and we also just expand our team a lot. So we just expanded to a team of seven really incredible women. And we're. Bring your team another few headcounts by the end of the year. We're having a VP of marketing, a VP of R&D and a VP of operations, and then early next year, VP of Sales, because currently those roles are all done by a combination of people on our team. But we just really need some more experts within the area. And then next year, we're hoping to expand Paskin carried into haircare Vidacare or cosmetics, again, really focusing on natural. So we'll forever formulate according to the strictest global guidelines, which are based in Europe. So we avoid over fourteen hundred potential toxins. But this is some of the things that are coming up for us. And then the last thing I would say is by end of year we are planning to raise the series. A will probably raise five to seven million just to help really promote this growth that we're seeing. And then that will hopefully be the last round that we raise. We are not in this to be like a company that raises a series like CDG, like that's not what we're about. We just want to raise one final round and then use that to fund our growth.
Speaker1: And does that mean you're still thinking an exit potentially in the short term or are you still thinking long term? We want to grow with the business and see where it goes.
Speaker3: Our goal from the beginning was always to sell the company and our goal internally is one hundred million. So when Laura and I started the brand, we were twenty three. And our lofty goal, or big hairy audacious goal was to sell the company for one hundred million by the time we were 30. So we have a couple of years ago. But even if it's past 30, that's totally fine or that's just been our internal compass. And the reason why an exit is really important for us is within the beauty industry. Most brands that are brands that have the longest term growth and success usually get acquired by a larger company like L'Oreal Ocelot or Unilever PMG. And the reason for this is they have a long term home. And when you get acquired by one of these CPGs, they are able to vertically integrate your company into their supply chain. They have all these amazing advisors like can really help with their expertise that, you know, a small company. We just don't have that right now. So not only would it be great to have an exit and be able to use that money to fund lifestyles in the future, but it's really actually for the long term home of three ships. So that's always been our goal. And everyone on the team is really excited about it as well.
Speaker1: Oh, I love that that's such a great goal and fresh perspective, thank you for sharing. I want to ask you what your key piece of advice is for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business,
Speaker3: Something that I recommend to two things. So one is just get started. I think that we always try to over think over plan. I think a lot of us were perfectionists and we feel like ideas are just not there yet. I need to talk to just a few more people and get their opinions before I learned that was what I went through. And when I started, we knew that we were going to fall into this trap, which is why we said a three month launch plan goal when we met. So from the day that we met, November twenty sixteen was that by mid February, we're going to launch the company that actually action up being two weeks after that March 1st, which is fine. But we knew we had to create this target for ourselves because if we didn't, we would kind of be too embarrassed to start talking about the company with our friends and family, and we would just want to keep working on it. I think it was Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, who said if you're not embarrassed by your first product when it launches, then you've launched too slowly. And I wholeheartedly agree with that. We were totally embarrassed by the first call that we launched, but we were able to get customer feedback and improve the product, whereas I'm sure there were many potential founders at the time who waited a little longer and then we were able to outpace them.
Speaker3: So that's the first piece of advice is just get started and you can continuously improve from there. The second piece of advice for your listeners who either have an idea or thinking about creating one is to get some sort of sales experience. So both Laura and I have sales backgrounds. So I was working in marketing and sales at Kimberly-Clark, which is a CPG company. Laura was working software sales and having a sales skill set is so important, especially as women, because a lot of the time, surprisingly, most salespeople are still men. And I think that there's some sort of disconnect, like maybe people don't understand what the sales industry is actually like. It's not as cutthroat as people think, but you actually learn a lot about negotiation in sales. It's applicable to so many aspects of a business. It's not only selling to buyers. You're also selling your company to potential employees, like selling them on the vision that you have pitching to investors. Like there's so many different facets of running a business where sales is important. Negotiating with suppliers is a big one like that's bring your costs down, negotiating with subscription boxes to raise the cost share. So that's a really solid piece of advice that I wish more people had in their toolkit. Is having some sort of sales knowledge.
Speaker1: Is there any resources that you recommend for people to turn to?
Speaker3: One book that I really loved was called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. He's a former hostage FBI negotiator and he has a lot of tips in there about negotiating. And for him, it was life or death negotiation. So for us, it's not that intense. But I really love that book because it taught me a lot about how not only to negotiate and like take a piece of the pie, but expand the pie and make things Win-Win. And that's actually the book where I learned about getting to know is much better than getting to a yes, because that's how you can cover more details about why it's a no and then eventually get to a yes. So that's one great resource that I would recommend. YouTube also has a lot of great tips on sales or even doing something like a school show or like one of those master class type courses. There's so much knowledge out there nowadays. I think we're really blessed to live in this day and age where we can find anything on Google.
Speaker1: Oh my gosh. So true. I love the School of YouTube and the School of Google. I'm definitely going to check out that book and I'm going to link it in the show. Notes below for anyone who wants to check it out. Oh, my gosh, amazing. We've covered so much. I have one last thing that I do. At the end of every episode, I ask every woman on the show the same six quick questions to be able to look back in a few years time and see if there's any trends or insights that stand out.
Speaker3: Ready to go. Yeah. So one great
Speaker1: Question, number one, what's your why why do you do what you do?
Speaker3: I do what I do really for the customer reviews whenever we read customer reviews, that really is what funds our team like we have a channel specifically dedicated to positive reviews. And any time one comes in, which is like this is why we do it, people who are like we had no idea Natalie could be so effective. We had no idea, Natalie, skin care could be so affordable. I felt so comfortable in my skin for the first time in 20 years that I can leave my house foundation free. Those are the sorts of reviews that are why
Speaker1: God love that. Amazing. What a driver. Question number two is, what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made the business pop?
Speaker3: Dragons Den, so we were on Dragons Den, which is like Cannas Shark Tank, October 20 20, and that completely changed the trajectory of our business. So for your listeners, I highly recommend that you audition for one of those sorts of business shows because it honestly was a game changer.
Speaker1: Oh, amazing. I feel like we could have a whole other episode talking about that. So cool. Congrats. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading right now or subscribing to that is beneficial for others to hear about?
Speaker3: Well, podcast like this one are amazing for having a wealth of knowledge. Other podcasts I enjoy or how I built this to various Joe Rogan. I just love hearing different perspectives. Another thing that our team does is we have a monthly book club where we all share an audible account and we read the same book. So this month book club book is nonviolent communication and that's been a really good one. Next month's book is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. So we're always trying to learn new things. And another area where I learn a lot is honestly from my friends, like I have a lot of founder friends that I'm super inspired by and we do like biweekly calls. So I think just who you surround yourself with and your network is where you learn the most.
Speaker1: And so true love the book club idea. That's great. Question number four is how do you win the day, what are your A.M. or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated?
Speaker3: By the way, that I see my days, I always want to be able to check off things within three buckets, so when it's work, one's life and one's self, so we're pretty self-explanatory. Getting some sort of big project done itself would be something just for myself. So it could be a hobby, it could be physical activity. It could be something for my mental health. So every morning I usually work out and also meditate. So those would be some better qualified himself and then life would be something that's like friends and family. So having a call with my mom or like going on a walk and talking with a friend like those would be things that I would qualify with in life. So my best days are the ones where I have something within each bucket
Speaker1: That is such a great methodology to follow. Really love that. Thank you. Question number five is if you only had a thousand dollars left in the business bank account, where would you spend it?
Speaker3: Oh, that's hard. I mean, I really hope we never get to that point if we did. I feel like with only a thousand dollars content would be where I'd spend because high quality content is so hard to come by, especially authentic, high quality content. And that's usually where we see the biggest ahli I come through. So I mean, a grand that's very little, but I promise that I'm content.
Speaker1: Amazing. And last question. Question number six is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset when things don't go to plan?
Speaker3: I mean, failure is where you learn the most, like you're not learning the most when you succeed. Let's be real. I think the way that I view failure is like this is a learning moment. Something I've had to work on over the past few years is not internalizing all the failures as being a personal failure. Some failures are just because of external circumstances. And learning to separate my self-worth from my productivity or my work successes is something that I've had to work on a lot. So that's the way I view failure is first of all, it's a learning moment. And second of all, how much of this was something that I can learn from and work on myself and how much of it was based off of external circumstances that I have no control over and then move on from there?
Speaker1: Amazing, Connie, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show, I'm sure you hear this all the time, but your energy is just incredible. You are so cool. I loved chatting with you and I feel like so inspired now. Thank you so much for sharing so, so deeply.
Speaker3: Thanks so much for having me on Super Bowl. I can't believe the time just flew by. And if your listeners ever have any questions, they can always DM us on Instagram or send us an email.