Updated: Sep 20
On today’s episode we’re learning from Jules Miller. She’s the Founder of The Nue Co and - she’s so awesome. I really love this episode.
I really love this episode. We talk about her path to starting this business with her grandpa, a chemist slash formulator slash professor at Cambridge. We chat about learnings that come from raising circa 36m dollars, and her approach to launching this business. It’s a real cracker. You’re going to love it.
The Nue Co is an Interhealth Brand. They believe in interconnecting all aspects of our health. By treating our physical, mental, social and environmental well-being as one ecosystem, we can positively impact the health of humankind. Founded by Jules Miller in 2017, The Nue Co creates health supplements, made from clean and sustainable ingredients created to deliver proven results.
Each tincture, powder, capsule, and spray delivers evidence-based solutions for improving energy, focus, mood, skin, sleep, and digestion. All of The Nue Co.'s products are responsibly sourced from around the world. 95% of the packaging materials are infinitely recyclable and supported by the brand’s in-house recycling program.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
So my name is obviously Jules Miller, I launched the business back in 2000 and 17. So actually not too long ago I had been sort of struggling with I. B. S for about five years. It turns the supplements to help me and essentially like things were just getting worse. I won't give you the gory details. So it was really my grandfather who was a chemist and a scientist at the time, we sort of sat down with me and said, let's go through all of these vitamin labels and let's really talk about what these ingredients are doing and I literally couldn't believe some of the stuff that he was telling me and I think that you know, I think things are changing now and I think that the conversation and arguably the backlash against Clean is super interesting I think to just push the category forward but that was really my first glimpse into like, wow, we are actually consuming ingredients that could potentially not be very good for us or healthy for us.
00:05:13 Um and so that was really the insight I had worked in basically marketing my whole life, I've worked to start ups, I was head of business development at the time as a company called the detox kitchen in the UK which is like besides Sankara in America, if you know, it's like a healthy sort of food delivery service and I was just really interested in the category. So I started to do a little bit of research, I landed on the idea of the new co and from a formulation perspective it was really about developing Really formulas with the best sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients that could really drive results that you could see and feel in 30 days. But from a brand perspective it was really about developing a brand that could build a really loyal customer base. That was really what I had realized was missing in the category. Most people were buying a different brand every single time they were buying a supplement or they were just forgetting to take the supplements completely. So yeah, that's that's me and that person, Well that is like most people really, particularly back then the retention rate for the subscription, sorry for the supplement industry was around 25-30%.
00:06:25 So really poor. So yeah we really just wanted to build a brand that really stood for something that of course had amazing products of course really drove those results. But a brand that could really engage with the consumer in a way that really supplement brands hadn't done so until now. Yeah. I mean I really feel that if I think about my own consumer behavior towards supplements it's like identify an issue or something that I'm like I want to fix this. I go out and I buy everything. I basically od on too many supplements. Nothing works. I don't see any change. I potentially feel worse and then I stopped and like supplements don't work. Yeah. Yeah and I don't remember any brand name. Yeah I think like that line like supplements that work is really interesting because like different markets behave in completely different ways where I'm obviously from London but when I was doing sort of like my market research I realized that we have to go to America because 80% of Americans take a supplement every day so you don't really need to spend your marketing dollars on educating people. That supplements work.
00:07:27 What you're really doing is you're educating the consumer and while you're different and whereas in the UK at the time it was like 35% of consumers were taking a supplement every day and that line like supplements don't work. Like I think people like surprised that the government is recommending that you take vitamin deed during a pandemic. They're like wow wait this is something that actually works and can be useful. So yeah I know that one that one I totally get that like that's a surprising one that people don't realize that taking vitamin D. Would actually work and be a good thing. Like. Yeah but I mean I think you know things like acne and vitamin D. Really correlate as well, gut health and acne. So like there's so many things that I think you know bit of ideas is the basic one but I think it's really sort of the gateway to people realizing that actually supplements can really be useful within a healthy lifestyle. Yeah I mean it's tough because I say that line supplements don't work but I know that there are supplements that do work and it's like for me when I think about it it's like I actually really want to take a supplement, I don't know what I should take because I have like X.
00:08:38 Y. Z. Problem and then I go out and buy all the things feel like nothing works and then don't really have a good experience and don't feel like anything speaking to me and so I can totally see why you know you'd wanna go into a market that's already like yes we know that it's going to work no matter what like we trust this brand etcetera, etcetera versus trying to target an audience that's different are a little behind perhaps in the education side of things, right? And you have to really understand sort of that consumer mindset in order for you to really address it. So we obviously took a lot of inspiration from beauty and one of the things that I saw the beauty brands, it is that they were really specific about the benefit of each product. So You would buy a product for five lines of pigmentation, dry skin acne. Whereas when I had sort of digestive issues, I was just buying products for gut health and yet really gut health symptoms are so different for everybody. You could have constipation bloating. So we have a huge amount of products like 26 different skews and we get really granular with the benefits.
00:09:43 So we tailor to 10 different needs states. And within those 10 need states, we have different products. So we've got something for bloating, we've got something for constipation. And then really, if you really understand the problem you're addressing and you're taking a product and it's saying it's going to work in the next 30 days, you can assess whether it's working or not. And essentially what we found is when we, you know, The quiet customers have been dealing with things like ideas for five years And you can really show them success. They're extremely loyal. So our repeat purchase rate is now 70 and you know, I think that's a basically it's quite basic way to really think about addressing problems, but it just wasn't something that was being done really early on. And I think from looking at your website what you do really well and as a, from like the consumer point of view, having that consultation section where you can fill out what the problem is, what your gender is, what your diet is etcetera etcetera and then get something that you're like, okay, this is what I should be leaning into versus just buying everything and not being really sure and then being overwhelmed and not knowing what your specific needs.
00:10:52 Exactly, yeah, really cool. I've gotten ahead of myself a little bit. So I want to go back to life before you started this. Did you always want to start your own business? And where do you think your entrepreneurial spirit comes into the picture? Uh no, I didn't. So when I worked for lily, the founder of detox kitchen, I remember we went out for a glass of wine one night and she was like, I'm not Philly, I know you want to launch your own, but like I know you're going to launch your own business one day and I was like, no, I'm not, I don't want that pressure. So yeah, it was definitely not like a lifelong dream of mine at all. My partner charlie had his own business and I had lots of friends who have started their own companies or who you know, are successful. So I don't think it was something that I was really fearful of but it wasn't necessarily something that I was like really focused on my whole life at all. Mm on it. Oh gosh, everyone has such a different journey. That's so interesting that you hadn't kind of had that desire and then somehow along the way you get the a half moment that you're going to start by working with your grandpa, which is just so cool by the way, as having him as your sidekick.
00:12:04 When was the point through this research phase that you thought, hang on, there's a business here and I'm going to get started. So I mean this is all like a little bit of a long story but I have had no experience in fundraising. I've never spoken to an investor in my whole life and so I knew I needed like a little bit of capital. Like just something to really start to, you know, even talking to labs and thinking about ingredients and stuff. You really need to have a little bit of capital under you. So I actually set up a conference with a friend of mine called the Business of wellness Summit And from that we sold out, we were sold like 155. We're talking about Lauren Yeah Lauren on. I know Lauren, Yeah, so we did the first event together, we like sold out. Was it 500 tickets. It was 500 tickets. I don't even know how we did that. Oh my God, that's amazing. She's been on the show to tell this story and she Okay, amazing. So I think that was like a really interesting experience. Obviously we really only worked on that for like five months, but it was like, yeah, it was full on, I was speaking to founders all the time.
00:13:11 I was obviously like, we had like an investor panels, I was speaking to investors and one of our partners were stylist, so it was like the trends forecasting agency. I already had like this idea about supplements. I'd already started speaking to my grandfather, but I went to one of their presentations and they were talking about the concept of Beauty from Within and I just thought it was so interesting. Honestly, back then that was literally nothing. I think welcome had just launched and Moon juice just had their cafes. But other than that there was just college and gold and Boots. So I think that for me, I was like, wow, I think like I had this idea about supplements, there's, you know, there are two sort of opportunities that have spotlighted, which is brand loyalty and retention and then there is this sort of huge opportunity with Beauty from Within and what if all of these things could essentially come together and from then on things just happens really, really quickly, like what, what happened next? What does that mean? So I am. So yes, I basically had the idea, I pulled together like a business plan, you know that nobody saw just for me, just so I could start, yeah, just so I could start to get all of my ideas sort of down on paper from then on, I started to look at sort of the competitive landscape, who was doing what and really what was their strategy, and I noticed that Net a porter had just launched into wellness and they didn't have a huge amount of brands on there and really, like I said in the category, they just want a lot of Net a porter and mr porter brands.
00:14:44 So I managed to get a meeting with one of the sort of top beauty buyers there and I said, look, I had this idea, I'm working with my grandfather, um and this is a concept, you know, it's a brand that's really going to talk to the Net a porter consumer, and it's going to feel like a beauty brand, it's going to drive the same sort of experience um in terms of, you know, the packaging, people really looking forward to engaging with that product on a daily basis, but it's going to be really be harnessed in these amazing ingredients and they was just like, yeah, that sounds great, we can launch you guys in eight months and I was like, right, I have to build a business in eight months then. And did you already have the investment that you've gone out to get at this stage or the national amount of capital you're talking about all this was like the first thing I literally had, like the money from the ticket sales, Right, okay, got it from Lawrence, which was how much, how much money did you get from the tickets? It was a couple of 1000. Like, not a lot, not a lot at all, but honest, you know, in those days it was a huge amount really.
00:15:47 So yeah, so it was enough really? Like I said, to start working with the lab, I just needed those formulas, that was like the most important thing. And then as soon as I had the net a porter sort of verbal, Yes, I then went out and almost built like an incubator around myself as strategic angels. I knew exactly the type of people that I wanted around me who could help. Um and I knew that I really probably wasn't going to raise enough money, you know, prior to launching in order to really build out the team myself. So I needed to get these expertise from my investors. So to give you an example, I got funding from the Managing Director of our lab and that meant that we got, I think it was like 90 day payment terms, which, you know, it really was amazing in terms of our cash flow, So because usually you would pay up front for everything, but this meant that you would get the product and you could pay within 90 days, so you potentially get your payments back from someone like net a porter first if you are able to all that was my idea, So I got my payment back from Net a porter first and then I would then pay really my biggest costs at the time was just my product, wow!
00:16:52 So yeah, so I've got investment from our lab then, like the owner of our PR agency, PR agency I really wanted to work with in new york, she also became an investor, got investment from a couple of other angels who had built beauty businesses and had sold them in the UK. So Sean Sutherland, who was the founder of neo skin coat, sold to the hut group, she's now actually founder of a charity called Plastic Planet, so she's like a real advocate for sustainability, something we're passionate about. So that's literally what I did, I like constructed literally an incubator beta around myself, that is so cool, I love that and I literally found everybody on linkedin to and so you literally just cold reached out to all these people and said, hey, here's what I'm doing, I'm specifically contacting you because I want you to be part of this. Exactly, and I was like, we're launching on their supporter and these are all the reasons why you should get involved. And so that was like, you know, pretty small round, it was like £100,000 and that was enough for us to build the brand.
00:17:55 So all of the packaging, obviously like the brand identity, we worked with the most incredible branding agency called Made Source and one of our investors were sitting on their boards that we could obviously really afford them, but because we had that introduction, we were able to work with them. So yeah, and then, and then, you know, a few months later we launched on Net a porter and yeah, that was it. I mean, it would be just sort of exploded. I think that's such an interesting way to approach it versus the classic, you know, buy into a lot of inventory, whatever the minimums are, and then go out and try and get people on board, get the product of this kind of thing, into into doors by taking that approach of getting it into doors before you've even got the product ready to go and then being like, this is it, You always need a hook. Yes, exactly. You hooked everyone in. Yeah, you need a hook for every race and you have to remember that I had very little experience and I had no contact so I knew that I was going to, I couldn't have, I couldn't really take the traditional fundraising route of just doing like a seed round before launch and then just hitting the ground running, I really raised pretty much the whole time for the first like two or three years.
00:19:09 So yeah, so we raised our angel round than we did actually another sort of like bridge round, which I can talk to you about and then we did a seed about eight months after launch and that was 1.5 million. Mm wow, cool. I just want to ask you a few more questions about that angel round first. Did anyone say no when you reached out on linkedin or was it kind of like you got the people that you wanted straight away? I yeah, I got so many no's I mean I met with a lot of people and the people who said no gave me such great insight and advice. So you know, I think in my first model I was really looking for somebody like ace office inspiration and I, you know, I think we were saying that we were going to open up like 20 stores or something in the first two years and they were like, you're crazy like retail is really not what you should be focusing on the first two years. So we went back and you know, we really looked at our model so I think I never took those noses anything really negative and you know, I really, really had done a lot of my homework, I really started the category.
00:20:19 I've got my hands on lows of consumer insights and market insight reports and papers really through the business of wellness. So when people were saying no, it was really because my strategy was wrong or really because I knew that the category was in such like a state of infancy that a lot of you know, a lot of investors were saying things like, well I don't think that you know, consumers are ever going to think about their supplements in the same way that they do about their topic als and they're never going to care about sustainability and pay more for that. And they're always going to want to have, you know, like the cheaper options and you know, I think you can't you can't really convince everybody. So yeah, I had a lot of knows amongst the yeses. That's amazing that it was your strategy to launch into, you know, 20 stores in the beginning and then you switch to D. C. and followed that route. That's incredible. Yeah. I mean I think for us I quickly realized how stupid that was and really I think it's always been our goal to really prove a profitable on the channel strategy.
00:21:20 So Today we're around 70% DTC and the majority of that comes from our subscription. But we've always worked with wholesale in a way to really help sort of amplify the brand and really get in front of that consumer who might, you know, try one of our products are net a porter and they want to subscribe to sort of one of our heroes cues through our website. So now we're very much following the omni channel strategy and pop ups are part of that. But in terms of, you know, signing 20 long time, he says it wasn't a good idea, I figured out quite early enough. Thank God. Thank God. Mhm Sure. Mhm. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show, you'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now, You'll also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix from today onwards.
00:22:36 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 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. That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today. So in the beginning then you move into selling on Net a porter.
00:23:43 Obviously that's a huge credibility stamp. That's amazing. I'm sure they also did a lot of marketing to help launch the brand. But what kind of got the ball rolling on the D. C. Side of things for you in those early days. So I think for us pr was just so important. It still continues to be so important. I think you really need to ensure that your sort of ambassadors are people that are consumers trust and I think often editors and certain publications really had that sort of authority boys that maybe influences don't always have. So yeah I think leveraging Pr was a really big important piece for us and we you know with the sort of net a porter exclusive launch we were able to secure I think it was bogue who launched us so That was crazy. You know like it was absolutely crazy. I flew up to New York and in like five days of press like 10 meetings a day and I think like my third meeting I presented it to vogue and they were like well do the exclusive and then after we had that everybody really wanted to write about it because they knew that vogue was going to launch it.
00:24:49 So we had like amazing, amazing press and you know I think like I said, you know, Net a porter was really sort of like a strategic partner for us. We then launched our subscription service like I think about eight months later because we had to raise some funding to then actually built the tech and once we really launched a subscription we really focus more on a strong customer acquisition strategy and really started to invest in facebook and instagram we've had those previous eight months to really start building up our database. That email was starting to perform really well for us. So it definitely took some time for us to really go from, you know, a wholesale first business to actually focusing on our D. C. Mm And in those early days, who was your like first key higher that came in and helped you kind of take some of that load off. Sounds like you were doing a lot. Now I had I literally always had the most incredible people around me. I'm so lucky. So flow was our first higher, so flow was working a company called pai Skincare.
00:25:52 I don't know if you know them, it's like a sort of organic clean skin care line here in the UK and we met whilst I was working at the detox kitchen, I wouldn't say we were friends, but we were, we really got on when we met in sort of like industry parties and what not. And so when I was getting ready to launch the Nico, I would always pick her brain and say, well what do you think about us doing this and what do you think about us doing that? Because she launched pie into America and I think it was just like a sort of organic thing. I just sort of got the idea one day. I was like really, I really need to hire flow. Like she just had everything that you should look for in somebody as your first higher. She was so determined, so motivated, she was so passionate, she was happy to wear any hat, like whether it was like going to a store and doing testers to meeting investors to bring on labs. She, she was just amazing and so I, you know, I sat her down formerly said, you know, I really think that we should talk about you joining the new coat and then she said no, I wasn't expecting that.
00:27:02 I think why I very good higher, I've made her said there at the beginning and I just didn't quit. No, I think for her, she was said to her, I was complete honest with her and we were in London, I was like, we're going to move to new york, were going to raise a huge amount of funding, this is what we're going to do, we're gonna be the biggest brand in the category. And I think she loved all of that. And then she also was like, okay, well, I'm thinking about getting married with my boyfriend and you know, I've got a house here. So I think in the beginning she wasn't really ready to maybe prioritize the business, which everybody really like every founded, every member of any founding team, really understands that for the first few years, everything else takes a back seat. And then I think eventually she realized it was something she really wanted to do. And luckily her partner josh was amazing enough to actually fly out to new york with us and get a job out there. So oh gosh! And so she's still with you now. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she's a yeah, she's amazing, special shout out to flow.
00:28:03 So she's uh, she's VP of product now and she's incredible and yeah, I've got a couple of family members. So my partner, my husband charlie works at the new co, my cousins who works there. So there were family business, I love that. That's so amazing, gets to spend lots of time with the family. Exactly. I want to go back to raising capital you recently, like circa the last 30 days, you've raised 25 million. I think I read before that you've raised circa 11 point something. So tons of money that you've raised, you've had a lot of experience. You've said that you've been raising a lot, what are the kind of pieces of advice that you were given that you can share with others and like those kind of key insights and tips for people who are going to go down this path of raising institutional funding. I think the first part is just being really confident in your customer insight and how you've translated that into a product of brand proposition and those things need to be very linear. Um, I think you also need to be very clear on your extra strategy.
00:29:08 I think sometimes founders to get as to who investors are and why they're getting involved and you need to have a very clear roadmap to when they're going to get their money back and how comfortable the investments are actually going to be for them. And that was something that I always had extremely clear in my head. I, you know, was looking at the types of acquisitions that were being made by the sort of big beauty conglomerates. I thought, you know, it's only a matter of time really before they're going to want to acquire that wellness consumer and I thought of the brand that they would want to acquire and it really would be the type of brand that you could plug in to a beauty shells and who could survive in sort of a traditional beauty setting. And so all of those insights have fed into the way that the new coat looks and feels today. So yeah, very clear sort of exit strategy, I think being really clear as to what you want, what you're happy to give away and what is going to keep you very focused and motivated as a founder as a leader long term. So going into a fundraiser, I was always super clear with myself that I always wanted to have ownership of the products that we make, the brand that we build and the people that we hire.
00:30:18 And I knew that if I could control that. But actually the other things that I might have to give up would be okay, I would still feel very motivated in running the business. What are the kinds of things you have to give up? What does that mean? You know, often if somebody approaches you and they want to buy your business for a certain amount of money and your shareholders don't agree. You have to pass up that opportunity. So, you know, it's things that I think maybe it's a founder, you don't really think about too much in the early days, there's obviously you can imagine, yeah, has that happened for you. No, no, no, it hasn't happened for us, but these are just the types of things that you have to give up and in all honesty, you know, I think if you bring on the right investors and you're really aligned anyway, that's the most important thing. Um, but I think that not losing control of those things are really important because the experience that I've had really is that I've met investors who have clicked with the sign of time.
00:31:20 She and through the diligence process, it's become clear that, you know, maybe we're not aligned on really what is important to me and what I would want to have ownership over. Or maybe I see sort of examples of things that, you know, I don't really want to have in my camp and you need to always be prepared to step away from it and say this is actually not right for me. So I think that's for me, that's the most important thing. It's just really like understanding those three elements and then aside from that, you just have to go out and meet everybody. I think I must have had like, and it was funny because I was literally meeting everybody. So I would have like private equity companies asked me to come in and pitch them. So these are basically funds that are writing checks of like 20 to 40 million and I would literally have made like 100 grand in revenue and they were obviously just like digging and trying to understand, you know, the new categories, the new brand, I want to hear them come in and I would go in the, in like, oh yeah. You know they want to hear my pitch obviously one thing but good experience.