How to get thousands of email subscribers & customers, with Cure Hydration’s Lauren Picasso
Joining me on todays’ episode is Lauren Picasso, Founder of Cure Hydration.
Cure Hydration is an organic electrolyte powder that has 4x the electrolytes of sports drinks, but no added or artificial sweeteners, sold in more than 5000 stores.
In this episode Lauren shares her journey to starting the business and how she validated her idea, a crazy to-market launch strategy that landed her thousands and thousands of emails and lessons she’s learned along the way.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Lauren: Absolutely. My name is Lauren Picasso and I'm the founder of Cure Hydration
Lauren: Cure Is an organic electrolyte mix that's made with plant based ingredients and based on the science behind oral rehydration solution, which is a product that was originally developed by the World Health Organization and is proven to hydrate as effectively as an Iv drip.
Doone: Wow. Sounds amazing. Actually, when I was looking at the website was like, I just want to drink this now for no reason. Sounds really frickin good. Let's go back to life before you started to talk about what got you interested in starting this brand in the first place and why you wanted to go down the pathway of entrepreneurship and starting your own business.
Sure, yeah, absolutely, I'd
Say I'd say my
Lauren: Inspiration for starting my own business really started a long time ago. My father is an entrepreneur and has always really inspired me to start my own business, especially a business that does good. And so that's been something that I've been interested in for a long time. I have spent most of my career in e-commerce and retail, but really more on the startup side. So I was an early employee at Rent the Runway, which was my first taste of the startup world and a really exciting place to be.
I fell in love
With the fast paced nature of startup life and really at the end of the day, just really enjoy solving problems. So after rent the runway, I went to business
School and then was an
Early employee at
Jet Dotcom, started there
About a year before the company launch, came in as the director of marketing and stayed there for four years. So all the way through the Walmart acquisition in twenty sixteen. So a really amazing experience.
Hypergrowth, sort of one of a
Kind of experience, I would say
It's incredible. And so knowing that you wanted to start your own business and going through these startup companies where you were early on, where I'm sure things were very, I don't know, scrappy or lots of different hats that you were wearing. What's that saying? Wearing many hats, you know what I'm saying? What was what then got you inspired to start Kuo? Was there a light bulb moment that you were like, oh, I've got it. I've got the genius idea.
Yeah, it really started as a passion project, actually, I was training for a triathlon a few years
Ago and would come
Back from my long workouts and feel really sick. I would feel nauseous and get headaches. And I really couldn't
Find any products
That really worked for me while I was drinking a lot of water. But it just wasn't enough to replace all of the electrolytes I was losing. And all of the other electrolyte products in the market,
Sports drinks, you see were just full of added sugar. So the average sports drink actually has thirty six grams of added sugar. And so
Sort of defeats
The whole purpose of what you're trying to do,
Which is exercise
Healthy. And so the
Cure is really
A reformulated version of a formula that was originally developed by the World Health Organization
Rehydration Solution. It's what medical grade products like Pedialyte are based on. So super effective, proven to hydrate as effectively as an IV drip.
But even products
Like Pedialyte or other products that use the same science, they
All are universal,
Using a base of cane sugar and synthetic minerals. And so I wanted to create a product
That was just
As effective but use premium and organic
Ingredients so that I could feel good about
Drinking something like this every single day, not just when I was working out or for some sort of emergency situation.
Totally. How did you know to look at the World Health Organization for that piece of information, or how did you stumble across that?
Just a lot of research,
Discovered Pedialyte, it was this time when Pedialyte was really taking off for adults. So there was this trend where all of a sudden Pedialyte, which is really made for children, started becoming very popular with adults, specifically adults who were hung over. So it became sort of this underground hangover cure. Never heard of
Hilarious. About 50 percent of their sales actually are from adults mostly who are hung over adults. And so I started researching effective hydration solution, stumbled across medical medical grade products like
Pedialyte, and then started learning about this this term
Oral rehydration solution. And that's how I discovered the World Health Organization
Formula, which fortunately,
Because it's been around for over 50 years, has a ton of literature online about the science and all of
The the key
Components of the formula that make it effective.
Gosh, that's so interesting. And so you come across this, you decide that you're going to start dabbling as a side hustle or a passion project. What happens next?
Yeah, so it was really just about getting
The minimum viable product for me, I knew I wanted to take the science and
And but replace it with premium and
Organic ingredients. So the main components of this formula are sodium, potassium
Which is a little basic with sugar. So I wanted to find ingredients that had naturally occurring sugar and naturally occurring minerals.
So I my original
Concept was coconut water and pink Himalayan salt. So I actually at home I started mixing these ingredients. I would take water from the store and just add my own salt and start testing it out. I started to start testing. I'd go on more runs and drink the product to to see how I felt.
And I found
That the product really works. So it was just as effective as other products out there because it was still following
These had contained the same amount of
Electrolytes as the
Formula, but it tasted
Terrible. So you can imagine like adding a bunch of salt to coconut water, like, oh, does it taste very good? So the next step was really to find a formulator. So somebody who had experience in food science
Could help me take
This concept but make it taste better. So we spent a lot of time tweaking the formula, experimenting with
Different fruit juice
Powders and organic
Flavors to make the products
And make it taste
Good. Because at the end of the day, if something doesn't taste good, we're just not going to get consumers to buy it totally.
How long did that process take until you actually got something that you were like, OK, I can drink this and it's going to be great every day.
About a year, so it took a really long time to get the formula right, and even actually after we launched last March, we did further iteration from Tharon recently launched a new formula this past April that had an improved taste just based on initial feedback from customers.
Wow, that's so exciting. And is this all the time, all the while, rather, that you're working at Dotcom and doing this kind of in your spare time? Or had you already quit your job and you were pursuing this now?
Yeah, so I when I was at datacom, I that's when I had the idea I was training for this race and I started really just the research phase. And once I established that this was an idea that I was really passionate about, I felt that there was a lot of white space in the market and I did a lot of customer validation. So talking to customers, potential target audiences to understand if this is a product that people would actually buy. Once I validated all of that, then I decided to pursue it full time. I'm the type of person
That really likes to focus on things.
One hundred percent if I am trying to do two things at once, I'm just not doing both of those things well. So I decided to leave in twenty eighteen and really pursue the idea of full time.
Is there any specific learnings that you had at your time at Rent the Runway and also a dot com that kind of obviously filtered in across to your business and what you were building?
Absolutely at rent the runway, it was
Being scrappy, so
We always said
At rent the runway that scrappiness is a virtue and we
By that every day. So I always like to tell the story.
When I first started
At Rent the Runway, we didn't have a tracking system in place to actually
Track our dresses
When they were being sent out and returned to us. And so we ordered these labels that could be pressed onto the dresses, but we couldn't actually afford to
Buy a machine like
An industrial machine that would actually press the labels. And so we had everyone in the office, all the girls in the office bring in their hair straighteners. And we sat around pressing 20 thousand labels on dresses.
Oh, my God, I love that
We had to validate that this would even work. Like what these labels would stand dry-cleaning
Are people going to try to peel them off. And it wasn't until we established that process years later that it actually made sense to invest in the equipment. And so that's just a
Mindset that I've taken
Into to cure and especially in the early days. But we had bootstrapped early on for about the first nine months or so.
I love that. That's so funny. When I was just starting out in social media marketing and that kind of thing, I was also working for a startup in Australia that's really quite big now. And it was an Internet company selling fashion online. And we were in the very beginning using Internet dongles like all of us had Internet doubles. The building that we worked in didn't have Internet at that time. And it was just such a funny contradiction that we were running this huge Internet business through these dongles and didn't have Internet. It was it was hilarious. It was also very scrappy picnic tables. That looks hilarious. I love it. I love it, too. I think it's a great it's a great base to get experience on, especially if you are going to go on and build your own business after after experiencing those kind of early days startups and
Really builds character
Definitely builds character. When you were saying you were doing your validation and speaking to different customers, what do you mean by that? And how were you specifically finding people who were your target customers?
So my initial hypothesis was really for this use case of working out, so I tried to find
Were active and wanted to see what they were drinking before and after their workouts. And so I did a mix of surveys.
Great. Just get quick information from a large group of people.
But then I also did a lot of focus
Groups and one on one interviews. So I talked to round up
Friends and talk to them about their lifestyle and just try to gain a sense
For who this customer
Really was and what we were replacing
In their lives. What I found is that most people
Were actually drinking water, just water on
Its own or coconut
So people had
No experience in this
Category. They were
Avoiding products like Gatorade because of the added
Sugar. And so that was
Really the pain point that I saw,
Was that the sports drinks options
In the market were just full
Of sugar and
Artificial ingredients. Water wasn't enough on its own.
A lot of people had
Similar experiences to me that where they'd say,
Do a long run and basically be on the couch for the rest of the day because I feel so terrible and even just really extreme stories. I had a friend who did a bike race and ended up in the hospital for three days because she had such a severe electrolyte balance. And so it was a clear problem that wasn't being solved, but there wasn't a solution on the market that people
Felt like they
Could really use. And so that was part of the validation process for me.
Do you think that your idea of who your target customer was going to be versus who it actually is now was different?
So I'd say yes and no, I think my original hypothesis was that our customer would be really active and that certainly is a bucket of our customers.
We have a
Large group of people who I call amateur athletes.
So people sort of like
Me who are not extreme athletes, but working out a couple of days a week whether that's just getting on their peloton or going for a run. But the really surprising group that emerged that I would have never expected is a group of customers that's using our product for medical conditions and not going to be really anything. People who have
Diabetes or Crohn's disease, we have people who are
Using the product for medical treatments like IVF, because
Types of treatments can lead to
Breastfeeding, you name it. There has been all of
Cases and diseases, honestly, that I have never even heard of. And those happen to be our most loyal customers because they really need the product to feel better every day.
Gosh, that's so interesting. Really fascinating insight. I'm wanting to talk about the startup capital that got you started sort of pre before your recent raise and how you are funding the business before then. And then we'll get into chatting about the fund raise as well.
Cool. Yeah, so the first nine months or so, I bootstrapped the business,
So I really wanted
To spend time validating the idea, developing the product and the branding.
And I I basically
Just took some of my savings and then also consulted on the side.
So I would spend
A little bit, a few hours a week just working with different companies to try
Sure that I was still getting some capital in so
I could really just make
Myself feel better about all the money. I was investing in my business idea when it came around to
The product. The manufacturer that I worked with had a pretty large minimum and they were going to let us do a pilot. So it was a reduced minimum to what they typically do, but it was still really big for me. And so that's when I decided to raise money. So I raised up pressie ground ahead of my recent round and that that is the funding we use to actually launch the business
And be able to share what kind of minimum order they required versus the pilot order.
Yes, so they normally have a minimum of one hundred thousand stick packs, but we were able to go now and I'm not that much but back that I was like, oh, my