How Klaviyo drives growth through email marketing campaigns, with Milky Mama Founder Krystal Duhaney
Today I’m joined by Krystal Duhaney, the Founder of Milky Mama.
After having her second child and returning to work, Krystal struggled with her milk supply and realized that there were very few resources for breastfeeding mothers in the same predicament. Using her knowledge as a Registered Nurse and love for baking, Krystal developed a milk-making cookie recipe and fell in love with the results. So, in November of 2015, Milky Mama was born.
Today, Milky Mama is dedicated to educating, supporting and empowering parents to have the best breastfeeding journey possible. And in 2020, Milky Mama announced the formation of The Milky Mama Foundation, which sponsors Black women who aspire to become Certified Lactation Consultants.
This is such an inspiring episode, it started from her kitchen and slowly grew into this huge wonderful amazing thing. We talk about those early days and the moment that things started to change, her email marketing strategy with Klaviyo and a viral moment they’re having right now.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Well, my name is Krystal Duhaney. I am a registered nurse International Board 35 my patient consultant mom of two with one on the way and owner and found their amazing company called Milky Mama and we provide breastfeeding support to parents all over the world and give them practical information to have have successful breastfeeding or pumping dirty, I love it.
00:04:27 This is the first time I'm speaking to a founder in this space, so you'll have to bear with me if I don't know all the words and the terms and that kind of thing, but I'm super excited to learn from you today and I'd love to go back to where the business got started. Where does your entrepreneurial story actually starts? Yeah, so it actually started about nine years ago, the idea kind of kind of came into my head when I gave birth to my son, well he'll be nine in a few days and I struggled to breastfeed, I was a registered nurse at the time and I felt like I knew I should have known what to do, where I felt like it would just come naturally, you know, you see people breast feeding on billboards or magazines and they're holding the baby sounding like this is the most perfect and easiest thing ever. And when that didn't happen for me, I was like panicking, I didn't know what to do, I didn't know where to turn, I went to my you know, obi pediatrician and they didn't have any resources for me, so I took it upon myself to kind of struggle our way through breastfeeding, you know, I educated myself and throughout that journey, I it was very hard to experience a lot of grief, a lot of shame, just a lot of struggling and I knew that there was an easier, better way to go about this is that there has to be something different, there has to be a more enjoyable way to breastfeed because I really wanted to give that to my baby.
00:05:50 So when I became pregnant with my second child who is now five, I was determined, I was like I'm going to have a better journey and I really just wanted to educate myself for my own selfish reasons to have a better journey for myself um and in doing so I began talking to other parents that have experienced the same struggles and I realized this isn't just my problem, this is a problem everywhere, so I wanted to create a resource for parents to have education um to have something that I didn't have the support to have successful breastfeeding journeys and I also wanted to create a line of products that would help them promote and maintain their milk production in addition to that education and support. So okay mama was born after my second challenge was born and um it really just started off as a way for me to support my own breastfeeding journey, but really turned into an amazing community of over a million moms where we support their breastfeeding journey.
00:06:53 That is so incredible, wow, firstly, is that what they call founder market fit? Because it was you solving your own problem and then that just like turning into this thing Yeah, you know, I think that's kind of maybe the secret to businesses just finding a problem and solving it, you know? Um and that problem just happened to be my problem too and I was just so passionate about that because I experienced it as well, which I think made it that much more fulfilling. Mm So to paint the picture you had your second child, you're wanting to develop these products, you're wanting to figure out a solution, you wanted to build a community, what year is this? Where is this happening? Is it in your kitchen? Is it like you know, at a kitchen somewhere else? Like what's the scene To be said? Yeah, Wow, so this happened, my daughter was born in 2015 in August. So right after she was born, it started in my kitchen again. This was just I I tried this recipe.
00:07:54 I came up with this recipe of this cookie because I love sweets when I was pregnant with her. Um I just had this sweet tooth and I was like, what can I do? So that when I go back to my nursing job on the floor, what can I do to maintain my milk productions that I can pump enough milk to maintain our journey for however long I wanted. So I made this cookie recipe and it was really, really good. I was like, oh my gosh, this is so good. And it really worked. And I shared it with some friends that had given birth around the same time and they love them too. And they were like, you should probably sell these and I was like maybe. So I began offering them to local moms in my area and this is all out of my kitchen with a newborn and a toddler and we would get a couple of moms come to our door to buy them. And my husband was like, oh this is great, my wife has a hobby or something, right? And then a few weeks later he came home and there was like a line of moms down the street and he was like, what is going on? The neighbors are going to wonder what we're selling, what is going on here?
00:08:55 And that's when I knew that it was, I was onto something. So I would, you know work 12 hour night shift at the hospital and then come home after a 12 hour shift of no sleep and work another probably 12 hours at home baking and great customer service and shipping with my newborn in tow. So definitely was a bit of a struggle in the beginning. Yeah. So you were superwoman, that's what you're saying, sleep deprived. So what kind of like, did you need a lot of money to get started for the ingredients for these cookies? Like were you able to make some nice profit or what was the kind of like economics around the cookies in the beginning? Yeah, no, I didn't need a lot of money. I mean they were just household ingredients that you would get to bake cookies. And so I used just the money that I had in savings. It was probably about $300 just to buy my first round of ingredients and then I sold those and use that money to buy more ingredients. And as I began to grow, which was very rapidly I began to add other products to my line.
00:10:02 So I added Brownie um, added a t you know, kind of expanded and added much more work to myself than I could handle. But really just kind of testing out the american to see what my customers liked and what they wanted, I just want to go back to like earlier in your life for one second did you see yourself being an entrepreneur growing up? Like did you think hey I'm going to go out there and I'm going to start a business or because it just happened organically you were like 01 day I'm a business owner. Yeah you know I think I've always had that entrepreneurial kind of bug inside of me. I remember you know sitting in the break room with some of my nurse colleagues and they would always be these cells reps that would come and like show a product that a nurse came up with and it was like a simple product, it was like a bag with a tube in it and I was like oh my gosh that's like so simple and came up with that. So I always thought that gee like I could do that one day but I didn't know in what aspects that I would do that. Um But my dream was to or my goal was to work up the nursing matter and to be a director of the nursing for that I was on and a funny story is that before I actually left the hospital to do my business full time, they offered me that director's position three times and I said I can't, you know I just, I feel like my heart somewhere else right now and I didn't want to take it.
00:11:21 And then after the third time I said, okay, I can't take it. But I also quit. So I gave my two weeks. It was shortly after that and it was the best decision ever. How long had it been since you started the business until you left your position? I think it was about two years. Okay. So you were kind of working on building the business, Working on building your customer base. What kind of revenue had you done in those early days while you were still working out of your kitchen? And at what point were you like? Yeah, Okay. Now I'm, I feel financially secure to take the Leap 100%. Yeah, so working out of my home kitchen, you know, probably lasted for about six months. So it lasted when I was on maternity leave and then maybe a few months into going back to work and then I just couldn't like I was like, I'm exhausted, I have to like sleep at some point. So at that point I enlisted help. I hired a small team and we had moved to a commercial kitchen, which is, you know, like a restaurant style kitchen.
00:12:25 Um and we moved there and they would bake um while I was, you know, sleeping or things like that and I would manage the administrative side. So for a while that really, really helped. But revenue wise, you know, we grew very rapidly the first year we probably made about $100,000 which was really without any marketing, we had no idea what we were doing, were just kind of winging it super small. Um and then that quickly grew to a million dollars the next year to you know $5 million and it just has been growing extremely rapidly, wow, that's crazy. So in that second year when you are in the time where you went from, you know 100,000 to a million dollars in revenue, what was the marketing strategy like how did you actually get to that million dollars? What do you attribute that first million to be from marketing wise? Yeah. You know I can almost remember the switch in our marketing before because I didn't really understand audiences and you know really customers.
00:13:29 I just got me okay I just have these cookies and these brownies and I want to sell them. So before we would focus a lot on their products we post our products by these products. This is what this mom, you know the results and it was more results based and more selling. But I remember one day I took the leap and said I'm just going to go live, I'm just going to get on facebook live and talk to people would answer some questions and I spent that time answering breastfeeding questions was about an hour and I got such a huge response that moms were asking me to do it again and I did it again the next week, every monday I still do that to this day, we do Q and A Mondays to this day and when I made that switch from selling to teaching and really communicating with my audience and providing them value is when I noticed that they responded much better. Um so if you actually go to our instagram page now, you probably won't find one of our products, you probably just see education and breastfeeding tips for big tips, how to, you know, feed your baby, things like that because we find that it's not just about selling products, it's really about building a community, right?
00:14:43 And so essentially when you're on these facebook lives, you don't even mention the brand or the product, it's just you being there being like, hey mom's, what do you need help with? Like I'm here and I'm ready to answer anything that you need to know at this point, they know who I am, they know I'm the owner of the company, they know of the international Court presentation consultant, so I do have some expertise in the field, but it's really just a girl chat, you know, talk and we ask questions and we laugh and it's just really just me spending an hour of my time, you know engaging with them letting them know that there's a human here and I genuinely care about their well being and their journey Um and that even trickles down even to our email systems and in every aspect we do our best to kind of create a personal touch. Not just some automated robotic kind of thing. Mm I'd love to talk a little bit about your email marketing strategy. You know, what's the approach you take? Their, who do you use software wise? What the impact is on owning that audience, that kind of thing.
00:15:44 Yeah. So we use Claudio and I absolutely love them. The ability to really create different segments of our audience and really make the relationship really personal is just so valuable for us. So what we do, um which I tell a lot of business owners to do too because it really, really helps. A lot of business understands that oh I don't want to give them information for free. But I'm like why? You know, like we literally tell our customers how to not use our products, how to do it right, that they don't need our products and that just builds trust because we really care. So I think that doing that in every aspect is so important. So when our customers come to our website or anyone, they'll get a pop up that says, hey, join our email list, tell us about you and your baby. So they'll say, you know, I'm breastfeeding or I'm pumping breastfeeding pumping is breastfeeding, who there's any breastfeeding moms listening and then how old is your baby? And they'll say my baby is one month or two months, how old?
00:16:44 And then from there with that information, we'll send them a targeted email every single month with here's how to breastfeed your two month old, then the next month they'll get a three month old or here's how to pump for a two month old depending on their journey. They'll also get which is super popular. They'll also get a certificate every month and congratulations you've been breastfeeding for two months. You're doing an amazing job. So those little things just really help create that community and that little family feel to where they're not just getting sales emails all the time. They're actually getting useful information which not only creates customer loyalty but it also increased their click rates because our customers look forward to that email every single one. Mm That's a really cool strategy. And I think, well, strategies such an awkward to link to it. But at the end of the day, it is an email marketing strategy but it's so great to send those like hyper relevant hyper targeted and things that aren't spammy and annoying and clogging up your inbox. Yeah, I can really see why that would work.
00:17:46 And I can also imagine it's something that's really share a ble they are able to just ford it onto another mum that they've just met or someone else who's going through that same situation or they'll share it on instagram and tag us and then we'll share it on instagram and then mom will be like how did they get that? And I'm like oh join our email list. So it kind of this comfortable circle, right? Totally when you look back, you know, it's been quite a number of years since you've been going and you mentioned the first kind of tipping point for you was the facebook live videos. When you think about since then, have there been other key moments of growth or key tipping points where things just really started to snowball and go crazy, you know, I think that that really kind of started the snowball and then from there continuing to just be a resource. I always say that like when I, when moms think of like breastfeeding, I want them to think of us and not because oh they have amazing products but oh if you have questions go to them, that's what I want to create for us.
00:18:49 So that's what we try to create. So I think that because we are constantly showing ourselves and constantly providing information and helping parents and answering questions and really doing our best to make sure we provide that support system that loves associate that with oh if you're breastfeeding, follow them and they tell their new breastfeeding friends or new pregnant friends and I think that that really creates, helps to continuously build our community. Um and with that we've gotten lots of like celebrity, you know, interest, you know, celebrities were just saying, hey, I'm having trouble breastfeeding, I heard about you guys, can you, you know, help me And and that has really helped too. So I think just being really genuine and really just coming from a place of trying to help people as opposed to trying to sell them something all the time is I know it sounds backwards because the goal is to sell things, you know, if you own a business, but if you really just create that warm and fuzzy feeling, um it really serves us so much better and it makes us feel better about what we're doing and it makes us feel better about our community as well.
00:19:52 So that has really, really worked really well for us and I feel like that's just our secret to business. You know, we don't, we don't spend money on influencers. Our customers are influencers and we don't, we don't pay them for that and it just helps us so much. So mm that's amazing. You are having a bit of a viral moment at the moment. Let's talk about the video. Yes. Yes. The video. So yeah, if you haven't seen it, my husband and I, we just, I'm pregnant and I'm probably super emotional right now and I just went to target and I was just looking at products and I'm like, oh my gosh, this is just so expensive. And I remembered going back to when we had had our first son and we were young parents and I was barely a nurse and we, you know, we're still trying to figure out how to make ends meet and kind of establish our household and, and I was like, this is like way more than what we paid back then and it's a pandemic and I just got all emotional like, oh my gosh, like how can people afford this?
00:20:57 And so I was like, we have to do something so we decided to just stuff money in these common baby products like formula, which of course the formula sealed everyone not going into powder. It feels so that it's not contaminating anything um diapers, just anything that was just expensive and that you needed for a baby. And I shared it on my instagram stories initially telling moms, hey, if you're in need, we just did this and if you need help please go, you know, and it wasn't like supposed to go viral. It was just me saying this, we're gonna try to do this often. Just something fun to give back and it just kind of went crazy and it's so unexpected and a little overwhelming to be honest, Oh my gosh, I'm getting emotional, it's just so cool and so nice and just for anyone listening, the video, I think when did you post it? Like It was, it was a month ago that was on April 30. It was a month ago, it's up to two million views now on your Instagram.
00:21:5 It's got a million comments and thousands of things going on there. It's crazy. It's been going crazy. Another page shared it and I think it's up to five million views on their page. It's just wowing insane. It's and I hope, you know that when people see that, that they are inspired to just do something nice for someone, you know, I think that in the world we're just so focused on ourselves and and there's a lot of negativity and I think that we'll all be happier if you just practice kindness every day. I just find something in the day to just do something kind for someone. It doesn't have to be monetary, it can just be something as simple as like letting someone over on the freeway instead of trying to say, say you're not gonna steal my spot. I know I've been guilty of that before just being kind of letting them over, you know, or opening the door for someone or just something kind so that people know that, hey, you know, we're all in this together. Yeah, even a smile, I feel, trying to smile at people more were very mass here in California.
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00:25:10 But obviously there are challenges with every business and everyone faces struggles and times where they think like, hey, I can't do this. Are you able to share anything that comes to mind or any, any struggles that you faced or challenges that were really tough? Yeah. You know, I think that is a huge misconception. People think that you just wake up and you're a millionaire or you just wake up people business. Um There's been so many blood, literally, blood, sweat and tears have gone into this business. Um And I remember in the beginning probably about a year and a half ago, two years ago, I had been so stressed out with the business and just trying to make sure everything was working okay, trying to handle everything because that's me. I like to just do it all and I began to get depressed, I got shingles, which I'm in my thirties and 30 year olds don't get two nickels. I got vertigo multiple times. I was in the er and I'm normally pretty healthy so I just couldn't figure out what was going on and my doctors hit, Are you under like any of stress?
00:26:18 And it was just like, yeah, yeah, and I just started crying and I just didn't know why and I realized that I had been, you know, every business failure, like if there was a customer that was upset or if one of our manufacturers didn't send something on time or whatever a cut, if an employee, you know, made a mistake or anything, I was holding all of that inside and really just, you know, bottling everything up. And so I was having these physiological symptoms of stress and it was really impacting my business. I wasn't doing lives anymore, I wasn't showing up and it was the snowball effect you're talking about the snowball effect upward. This one was just tumbling down and I said, you know, I just have to, I have to do something. So I focused on myself for a bit. Um took some days just to kind of do some, you know, it sounds hokey, but some meditation and some just really some self care, getting my mind in a good place and I realized that I needed to delegate and then I couldn't do it all, you know, I was a mother, I was a life, you know, I'm running a business, I can't do everything and when I delegated uh and found people that I trusted to delegate to, it really changed everything, my mental health is so much better.
00:27:38 I mean I still have bad days, we all do right? But that was really a big tipping point for me in the business and I think that was probably my darkest moment. I mean now that I'm able to say, okay, we're having a little bit of a crisis here, let's figure out what we can do. And if people to brainstorm with and work together with instead of taking all of that on figuring it out by myself, I'm able to kind of navigate. Those struggles are much better. Mm Yeah. Gosh it can get a bit dark and feels like, yeah, the overwhelmed builds up on you and you don't realize that it's there until something triggered. Yeah. You know, being a business owner, I think people see the pretty and the sparkly on the outside, you know, um they see, oh she's making this or the cars or, and I don't post that kind of stuff. But you know, business owners, they post like that stuff but they don't post the other stuff, which I think is kind of doing a disservice because it's not always pretty. Um, it's not easy and it is definitely a learning experience and to be the sole business shoulder, I quit my job as a nurse.
00:28:49 My my guaranteed paychecks every two weeks. That's all I needed to do was go to work and I got paid now I have to run this business in order to feed my family. I mean my husband works, but you know, provide for my family and provide for my employees and make sure that they can get paid. Um It's so much pressure and it's a lot of pressure to make sure that you're successful. So you know, just make sure that you're always focusing on yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup. So make sure that you're always kind of rejuvenating yourself and and just taking a moment to take a breath whenever you can. Mm hmm. Yeah. I really like that. And I think that self care even in small moments and small things is just so important. And obviously with the pandemic, it's like, I think we've all gotten a little bit better at knowing what that small moment of self care looks like for ourselves and the little luxuries of just having a bath or you know, putting some nice oil on your skin, whatever it is, taking that extra moment in the small moment.
00:29:52 Are you able to share where the business is today? You know how big the team is, what kind of revenue you're doing, what exciting things are in the works. What's next? All the good stuff. Yeah. So surprisingly are super small team. It's me, I have my operations manager who really handles a lot of the operations and it's so helpful, especially now that I'm expecting, you know, I've been under the weather, exhausted things like that and she's really, she's amazing. She's really picked up kind of the slack lately. Um and then I have my customer service team who's also um lactation consultants as well. So basically anyone that any time you go to our website you speak to a lactation consultant which is still helpful, you can call her 800 number for free to get breastfeeding support. So it's really, really wanted to create this amazing resource and there's only three of them. Um and then we have our our shipping team which is in California as well and they ship all of our packages for us. Um We have our bakery partners that make products, but our core t is probably just five of us.
00:31:00 Love that. Amazing. Yeah, we're super tiny. Love that. And where is the business in terms of the growth and what is the, what's on the cards say for the next 12 months? Yeah. So we've been consistently fingers crossed doubling our revenue for the past few years, which is really exciting this year. We're still like pins and needles, see where we're going to end. But one of the biggest things that we're hoping for that we're working on right now is the big box store still getting stocked in stores like target and wal mart. So that's the newest thing that we're hoping on. We're also hoping to launch some new courses, some new products, things like that as well, citing. We also launched a scholarship program for lactation consultant. So looking for other ways just to give back and to provide resources is really, really important to the corporate company. Yeah, absolutely. What is the one key learning or piece of advice that you would want female entrepreneurs to know who are earlier on in the journey?
00:32:07 I would say. And this is something that I struggled with in the beginning is too, I know it sounds cliche but believe in yourself and if not fake it till you make it because no one's going to believe in your business or you until you do. So if you're not confident about what you're doing, no one else is going to be. So you can't like we tend to make a lot of excuses of, oh I don't want to start this business because someone else already has a business like that or I don't know if it's a good idea. Like we make all of these excuses for why not to do it. I'm supposed to just doing it. Like if you think of bread when you go to the grocery store, there's hundreds of types of bread right? And all of those bread sell. So if you don't start your business because of concern for the market then you're doing yourself a disservice. So believe in yourself, make sure that you hire a team when you can and don't work yourself to exhaustion forever because it's not sustainable and I think that's it.