How Kopari's Gigi Goldman used her hero ingredient to dominate
Gigi Goldman launched Kopari as a DTC brand in 2015 with a collection of beauty, body and skin products all made from their hero ingredient - coconut.
In 5 short years they’ve gone into 2000 retailers worldwide, raised 20 million+ dollars in funding including profile celebrities like Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Karlie Kloss, and have expanded their product range into sexual wellness and CBD.
In this episode we cover; the hustle from the early days and the strategies that they used to acquire new customers at scale, how they approach influencer marketing and Gigi’s top piece of advice for women who have a big idea.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Let's jump into this episode. Female Startup Podcast. Amazing. Well Gigi. Thank you so much for being here. I'm so excited to learn about Kopari and I'd love to get started with you telling me sort of the origin story and what led you to starting the brand in the first place. Yeah. Perfect. I'm so happy to be here. Thank you for having me. Um so we launched a pari about five years ago and prior to that I was a stay at home mom for 12 years and I was really focused on health and wellness, not only for myself but my three kids, my husband and I did a lot of research on healthy foods, healthy drinks, etcetera.
00:03:34Edit And I started using coconut oil cooking in the kitchen. But I had read that it had so many hair and skin benefits, so I started using it on my skin, on my kid's skin after sun burns when they had rashes on my 87 year old dad. I don't know if you've seen my big fat greek wedding where they use Windex to solve all their problems, but that was me with coconut oil. I was obsessed, I'm like you're crying put coconut oil in it and that's really when I had my ah ha moment and at the time when we started, no one had really built an entire brand around coconut oil and all of its amazing byproducts, the water, the shell like you can use every part of the coconut. The other thing is when we launched Clean Beauty wasn't mainstream, you could only find it in those like specific health food stores and all of the packaging kind of look the same, It felt really serious. So we saw a big opportunity to bring clean beauty mainstream and do it in a fun, colorful, playful way.
00:04:37Edit The third pillar of our brand that was really important to us was it was about more than product, it was about embracing or southern California healthy lifestyle. So on our feet, even today you'll see those palm trees, the beach is bike riding, healthy food. We really look at beauty is more than skin deep, it's about how you feel, it's an overall lifestyle that makes you look and feel your best. So those were the pillars that we really felt motivated and inspired and passionate to start and I think we did it in a very unique, approachable tone of voice and price point. So that's how we got started. It's amazing and I absolutely love the branding, I was browsing or your incredible products um today, which is so exciting. I want to talk about the early days when there's four of you for founders. Yes, there's four founders, how it came to be that you all met, I mean I know that you and your husband obviously obviously knew each other already, but how you guys came to be business partners.
00:05:47Edit So my husband was in the beauty business for three generations, his grandfather started a small distribution and storefront in San Diego and that grew to about 20 locations. So when I had that Aha moment I went to him, he was still working in his family business, but he was ready for a change And I think whenever you're starting a business, not only do you have to believe in the idea, you have to be at a point in your life where you're ready for something new. Um, so we went to our best friend from college James Brennan who we've known for 20 years and was a serial entrepreneur and we came with our little box of goodies and samples and ideas and were rubbing in autumn and spring and then he goes, you're never going to believe this. Three people have come to me with a similar concept and one of them was Kiana, who's our fourth partner, the world came together. The synergy was out there. The conversation was out there and we just capitalized on it with our idea, it's amazing.
00:06:48Edit And did you guys have that kind of vision to get it to where it is today or was it like, hey, let's try this out, Let's launch a few products, Get it into a few stores. What was that early vision? You know, I never dreamed that it would be where it is today to be honest. But I'm the type of person where I just put one ft in front of the other and I say anything's possible, let's just do it. I rather at the end of my time, not wonder what if, you know, so I mean, imagine if we hadn't pursued it and today it's turned into this beautiful thing. I never thought, oh, it's going to be a failure obviously, but I remember sitting at dinner with my husband one night and I go, can you imagine if our product is one of them, you know, in one of the major retailers one day and that happened six months into our launch. They called us. That's crazy. Why? Why do you think it was that or what do you think got their attention and got you into those first group of retailers? I think what first got their attention was two things.
00:07:54Edit One are unique marketing perspective to our emphasis on clean and around that area of coconut. We had a very strong point of view of very strong DNA from the beginning and it was a very unique point of view. The other thing is I think we were direct to consumer brand. Um, and at the time the space wasn't as saturated. So I think that they saw that we were doing it well and doing it right. Um, and so they called us so cool. I want to go back to those early kind a few months before you got the retailers involved and talk about the kind of things you have to do in the beginning. I imagine you all had to put in some startup capital. This was pre you guys fundraising and what that kind of early hustle was like the kinds of things you were doing to get in front of people and to find your customers. Yeah, I think the first thing I want to say is you really need to believe in your concept and be passionate about it because the hustle is so real and by the way, at the time I had three kids, young kids, so it was really challenging and of course we had never launched your own product line.
00:09:07Edit So it was a huge learning curve and I was really a student of the process. I researched, I learned, I listened, I called people asked for help and you really have to absorb, learn and move to the next um you know, issue or I always say a business is a puzzle, it's not like a check off, you're trying to fit all of these pieces together to create your brand. So originally, uh we, it was just the four of us, our first hire was a digital marketing person who we had known in the past and we really just launched with four products, I think that there's this misconception that you have to have everything perfect and you know right, and launched with a million products, all you need is one skew that you really believe in um and you need to use that heroes few to help establish your brand and use it as what we call like the gateway product.
00:10:13Edit So your audience becomes familiar with it if you talk about too much too soon, the consumer can get very confused. So we really focused our efforts on direct to consumer facebook advertising, which at the time was not as saturated as I mentioned, and then influencers are ambassadors? So we tried to get our product and as many hands as possible get people talking about it, get people passionate about it. And that's really what grew the brand. We weren't in any retail originally. Um, so I think it's important when you're launching a brand to be ultra disciplined and focused in what channel you want to succeed in, um for us that was direct to consumer, it was based on our hero skew the melt and we just focused on those things and got the word out in a very organic, you know way, grassroots, very grassroots approach. And did you have that idea in mind to go out and raise venture capital funding or was that kind of out of the blue?
00:11:19Edit Originally, we had just raised money from friends and family and it was, it was really validating to see how many people really believed in us and the idea. So that gave us that confidence that we needed to kick off. Now when every major retailer in the country came to us, we knew we would need capital to help support those retail partnerships. And that's when we decided to go out and, you know, raise Capital well, and you guys have done a really big raise. I think I read it's about $20 million dollars in total now that you've raised and you've got some really amazing high profile celebrities involved like Karlie Kloss and Mila Kunis. How did they get involved and how did you approach them? Well, our partner James Brennan, who I said as a serial entrepreneur, he's um, launched Suja juice, um, and several other brands, he had a relationship with them. But again, to have that third party validation from them was huge. They loved the product, they use, the product, they talk about it.
00:12:23Edit So that was really a big win for us and every time we raise capital, it's very purposeful. Okay, so it was to launch in US retail and then we launched in Canada Southeast asia Australia UK. So you're always raising money to support your growth For sure. And you guys seem to be in so many retailers, I think something like 2000 or something now. So I imagine your life now looks very different in the brand space versus when you first got started, what are the kind of things that are working for you at the moment in marketing and how are you acquiring new customers at scale on such a large scale. I think for us it's a couple of things. One we still have a strong ddC business. We do a lot of facebook advertising and you have to have that perfect balance between retention and attracting new customers. Um, your ambassador and influencer program is critical.
00:13:26Edit I mean that's how I shop. I think that's how so many people learn about products, they want to hear it from people they trust from their friends. And then I think the third component is really our retail partnerships. I mean, for example, are lead retailer Ulta has millions of people in their loyalty club, millions of people who shop their website and you know, in the past went into their stores. Um, so it's a great marketing platform for us as well. Yeah, I bet I want to talk about influencer marketing and your strategy. They're a bit more. Do you guys, do you know, is it just gifting, Is it a paid strategy? What's the approach for you guys? I think it's always a combination of both. It depends on the influencers reach their engagement they're following. But I think the key to it, whether they're paid or unpaid or whatever size they are, is to create that relationship and consistency with them.
00:14:29Edit So you can give them the product once and then if they never hear from you again, it's kind of a mute point, but it's an ongoing partnership in relationship so that you guys can grow together and you have to have people that really believe in your product and use it in their routine. And then I think even if, for example, they were paid at one point they continue to talk about it because they believe in it. Um, so I think it's a balance of it all. Yeah, absolutely. And I want to talk about your sort of the new categories that you've started to build into the sexual wellness and the CBD obviously these are regulated spaces, it's a bit harder to advertise on, you know, the traditional kind of facebook and instagram, definitely. How did you go about putting the word out there for those new categories? So just to take a step back from the beginning, our vision was to create products that mirrored the natural uses and benefits of coconut oil. And then we take that coconut oil and we kick it up a notch with other natural ingredients, whether it be CBD.
00:15:35Edit Um and a lot of our products, we've got rose, we've got pineapple and papaya enzyme. So the vision from the beginning was to create that pipeline that mirror the natural uses and benefits and they kick it up with natural ingredients. So that's how we landed on CBD. Um and that's how we landed on a sexual wellness products because we understood that people were using coconut oil for that purpose. Um when you have a challenge with facebook, I think your best alternative or with advertising in general, your best alternative is influencers because again, they're able to talk about the product, how they use it, the benefits um without those different types of regulations. So I think they're a great resource to talk about other products. I also think the landscape is evolving so much and the conversation in the ad space is becoming a little more flexible. Do you have any particular moments from influencer marketing that have really stood out to you, that have been kind of a step change that have led to your business forward, like any particular partnerships, you know, there's been times where we're like, oh my gosh, what just happened?
00:16:47Edit And then we realize it's an influencer that we didn't even reach out to but heard about the product through friends or makeup artists, etcetera. So, those type of moments are really exciting because you're like, oh my God, who just talked about the product? Um, but I think it's not a one moment thing, it's about that consistent, strong growth, focusing on your hero skews, allowing them to bring consumers in. And it's never just that one moment and I think everyone's like, what was the day it all turned, you know what I mean? Or what was that one moment? It's a domino effect, right? It's the influencers mixed with the advertising mixed with the retail partnerships, you know, there's so many pieces to the puzzle that it's when they all come together and they have that consistent growth is what you're really looking for more than that, like turning moment, you know? Yeah, for sure. And I want to know, I want to talk about rather some of the kind of challenges that you face at the moment building the business when it's at the scale that it is now?
00:17:58Edit Yeah, well, I think, you know, COVID-19 Quarantine it's been very challenging for everyone really? I mean on a personal level, on a country level, on a world level, I think everyone is in a very um uncertain place right now. So what we've really done is really focused on growth, but also really focused on building community and a conversation that everyone can relate to. So we've shifted a lot of our messaging instead about talking about product, product product, like self care. How are you really doing? How are you feeling? Because I think people need each other right now and we want to be there for people and give them the tools around wellness and how to take care of yourself when you're stuck in your house or maybe your only opportunity to leave is to um you know, go on a little walk or connect with people via zoom.
00:19:00Edit So I think right now our focus is really on building community and giving people products that help in their self care routine to give them that little moment of happiness. Yeah, absolutely. We all need it. It's definitely been a long time. It's been such a trying time and, you know, whenever we talk about marketing and I asked my team, what connects with you, how are you really feeling? Like what do you want to hear about? Not like big campaigns or strategies, it's like it's coming from the heart now and I think that's a good thing. Yeah, I think it's always, I think in social media in general, it's important to ask yourself, would this, would this be something that I would consume? Is this interesting for me? Yeah, I think it's, I think that's the beauty of social media in today's world. I mean I'm sitting here talking to you in my bedroom in like my exercise clothes in the past, everything would have been more formal and I think that it's allowed us everyone to be more authentic to be real, to invite people into our home in a different type of way.
00:20:10Edit So I think more than ever people want reality. They want that authenticity, which it has always been my mode of operation. But I'm realizing now that it hasn't been the world's motive operations. So I think it's such a great thing today that we're able to connect in this real way and I think, you know, with our influencer partnerships, even I've connected with so many other brands, even who are in the same space and everyone's coming together in a new way, which I think is a beautiful thing. And I think another thing that's coming out of this is everyone's kind of focus on being able to build their own lifestyle design around work and you know, being like maybe we don't have to commute to officers, maybe we can function like this and enjoy it and go into an office, you know, here and there, which I think is a really interesting move forward. I think the world will be forever changed and I don't even think we realize it because I can't even comprehend that we're in like a pandemic right now.
00:21:13Edit It's like hard for me to absorb. But I know on a personal level my husband and I and three kids were moving at a pace that was not sustainable, but I didn't even recognize it at the time. I was on a plane probably twice a month, three kids in school in sports and we were having those family dinners, but we weren't really connecting because we always had to run some place run to an event And during this three months we've been more connected and more present and had more joy in our life than we have in a long time. And I think that has forever changed me on a personal level saying work smarter, not harder and be present and enjoy these kids and this opportunity to have been working instead of always checking off the list and moving on to the next thing. Absolutely. I think there's so many people that are in that boat, especially the people that I'm talking to, they also feel that same way and everyone kind of feels like, oh, if they're looking back to their lives before Covid, they're like, yeah, I just didn't realize how bad my mental health was back then and now I've had time to just reflect and just like unwind well the whole world has really.
00:22:26Edit Um and of course like it's it's not the same situation for everyone, but a lot of people have been able to reflect in sorry, in these times. Yeah. And I think that's important. We all need that. And one thing is when you're moving so quickly, you don't have that time for reflection. And one thing I know at 46 years old, if you don't take care of yourself and have that wellness routine and that self care, you can't take care of others or the community or your employees or your colleagues. Like it starts with you and then that light that you build in yourself can be given to everyone else. But if you aren't taking care of yourself and you feel dark and heavy, you know what? That spreads to everyone else to for sure. Absolutely. And with all that in mind, Do you think now the direction of the brand will change because of COVID-19? And what does the future look like after the pandemic kind of result?
00:23:28Edit I don't think, you know, I don't think the brand will change. I don't think I'll change, you know what I mean? I think I'll evolve. But the essence and the core of a brand will stay the same. The essence in my core will stay the same. We'll just build on it in a more beautiful way, a more reflective way, a more thoughtful way. I think we'll lean into the categories more that are working for us like personal care and body care, but you don't want to change your essence or a brand's essence because that's how they were born to be. For sure. I want to talk about the initiative that I read about online york Apari village, oh my gosh! So cool, can you tell us all About it? So that was one of the most amazing experiences of my career and it was wonderful because my eldest son was able to join us as well. We traveled to the Philippines where we source our coconuts um and we built a Campari village, 20 homes for people who lost their homes and natural disasters and they're all involved with in the coconut groves and in facilitating our coconut by products.
00:24:42Edit So we traveled there, it was such an incredible experience. The Philippines is absolutely beautiful. The people were so kind and we were able to do it because of all of our customers, a dollar from every order went to this project and we hope to continue it in the future. I think right now our focus is really though un supporting frontline workers Um here locally because you have to be adaptable and and we couldn't continue with that effort when there was so much happening here in our own community. So we actually most recently teamed up with brands for better which has almost 200 brands um that raised more than $2 million dollars to give to frontline workers. My gosh, that's amazing. Yeah, and it goes back to what I was talking about, like these times have brought so many brands together, have brought people together. Um so in all of this darkness there's definitely light.
00:25:47Edit That's true, That's absolutely true. And I wanted to ask you what your number one piece of advice is for women who have a big idea or are wanting to start a business. Just do it, have the confidence in yourself, be optimistic, be passionate, be a student of the process, but don't hold yourself back. Like I know we all have that voice in our head, that voice of doubt. Um but I'll tell you what I was a stay at home mom, I'm not brilliant, I didn't get go to Harvard, you know, like I'm a hard worker with grit and understand you will fail, but it's how you get up and keep moving forward that defines you. I love that. Thanks. Okay, we're up to the six quick questions which I ask every woman that I speak to, I loved it. Number one is what's your why? Oh, that's such a good one. I think my wise, I want to show my kids anything is possible. I often speak to women and that and every woman that I've spoken to with Children, that answer is linked to their kids, you know, wanting to make the world a better place, wanting to show them what's possible.
00:27:09Edit So really nice. Um and I said it's something you can't learn in school, you can't buy it, you have to show it. Question number two is and we kind of touched on this before, so it's a bit of a repeat. But what was the number one marketing moment that's made your business pop? I think like I said, it's those three things are direct to consumer digital advertising strategy influencers and our retail partnerships. Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter with other people in the industry? Anyone in particular conferences? I think really, you know, talking to other people who are in the brand. Like I have a lot of friends in the industry and I'll just call them and ask, what are you doing? How are you doing it? What's your experience with this retailer etcetera? So I think we've got a really good network of other female founders or even male founders that I speak with and get advice from Yeah, amazing power of the people Power of Network.
00:28:20Edit Exactly. Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your AM and PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and successful and fulfilled. So I think this is a really important question, not only for me, but for everyone to define them for themselves. There's three things that I know I have to do to have a good day that is meditate. I read kind of a prayer inspiration from a book and I exercise. If I do those three things every day, I know I'm going to have a good day even in if there's problems or whatever the world presents, I know I'm in the right head space. The other thing that's very important to me is eating right because that gives me energy. It makes me feel light um and it gives clarity of mine and finally my skincare in my body care routines are my escape. So when I go into the shower, no one, everyone knows not to bother me.
00:29:24Edit It's my own 10 minutes of peace and I love the feeling of the water. I love the smells of all of our body washes. I love putting on our coconut melt after and I put my robe on and it's like that 10 minutes of self care really energizes me and I don't wear a ton of makeup. So having like Glowing skin for me gives me confidence, especially at 46 because my skin could be dry or wrinkly or whatever. So just having that hydration and glowing look makes me feel good and smiling. Love that, love that little end and out on their question number five is If you only had $1,000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? Building community through ambassadors through our customers. Just build your community. Amazing. And final question is how do you deal with failure and that can be around a personal experience or just your general mindset and approach um, First I'm very kind to myself.
00:30:36Edit So I forgive myself for the failure. I, I try and stop that voice that can be really hard on myself and say it's okay. But the number one question is, what did I learn and how will I do it differently next time failure is okay making the same mistake over and over against, not for sure. And I have to ask you what your favorite products. Well, I've got you here. I know you mentioned the milk. Oh my gosh! The melt. If I went to a deserted island, that is the one product I would bring because you can use it as a hair mask of body moisturizer, a makeup remover. Not that I have makeup in a deserted island, but you can use it on your elbows, your heels. Like it's why we started the brand really right. Um, my kids used it. My husband uses it. My 87 year old dad uses it. Um, so the melt is definitely one of my heroes skews. Um, the lip glossy. I have like one in my purse, one of my bedside, one of my car, one of my desk.
00:31:39Edit I can't live without it. I'm completely addicted. And then of course I love our aluminum and baking soda free deodorant because it really works. It smells amazing. Um, and it just makes me feel good that I'm not using aluminum and baking soda for sure. They sound all really cool. I'm going to check them out afterwards. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I've had the best time talking to you, I'm so grateful to be here and I want to say I'm so proud of you for launching this podcast and pursuing your dream because it's contagious, you know, when everyone starts pursuing their dream, other people are able to do the same.