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Cease and desist letters & turning down a major acquisition offer with Mid-Day Squares' Lezlie Karls

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

Today we are learning from Lezlie Karls, Co-Founder of Mid-Day Squares.

What are Mid-Day Squares I hear you ask: They’re vegan protein bars that are also known as little pieces of heaven perfectly designed to stop your hunger or cravings in between meals. And they’re on a Mission To Take Over The World Of Healthy Snacks.

In this episode we’re talking about a solid 10/10 sampling program they launched with, overcoming hurdles with manufacturing and operations, turning down an acquisition and some crazy drama they went through when Hershey’s came banging on their door with a cease and desist.

Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!

Leszlie, hi, hello, welcome to the Female Startup Club podcast. What's doing doing? Thanks for having me. I'm so fired up to be here. I am all sorts of excited to be having you on the show today. I was saying this to you before we started recording that I feel like you know when I look at you and I look at your content that you put out online, you are an open book, which is something that we love on the show. So I'm super excited. Same. I mean our whole concept of Mid-Day Squares to really be as transparent as possible. Obviously we're still companies still brand, but overall it's transparency is the highlight of our content and our marketing and we can get into that a little later. Yeah.

00:04:06Edit And I think it's really important. It's something that I'm also choosing to do with my non alkaline companies like to build in public and take people behind the scenes on the stuff that typically might be a little like blow it out and like not overly shared, especially when it comes to things like money and you know, just the ship that you go through. Like I think it's really important to build in public, especially as women, we see a lot of guys doing it, but on the female front I think we see less. So yeah, I'm pumped. Tell us what Mid-Day Squares is for anyone who doesn't know what they are. Perfect. So mid day squares is a functional chocolate bar. What does that really mean? It's basically, it's chocolate that's indulgent. But you've got the function to it. So protein plant based protein fiber, non refined sugar and really clean ingredients and mid day squares is really designed. It's actually born out of creating that afternoon snack nick, who is my partner and husband was eating that like crappy chocolate bar in the afternoon and this was even before we were married, we're just living with each other as roommates and I'm like, I can make you something better.

00:05:11Edit It's not going to have protein and fiber at the time, but it's going to be made with better for you ingredients. And so I made him a version of fragile, which is our first product and it was made to kind of get him through that midday slump and so mid day squares actually could cover you for 3 to 4 hours on hunger. And so it's really a mid day snack. It's chocolate. It's a healthy indulgent made up of really clean ingredients and it's really got every attribute to it. It's non Gmo, it's fair trade, it's organic, it's gluten free, it's kosher. It's not refined. It's actually like crazy. I always get so I'm always like, I feel like it's like a song that'll be attributes. It's ridiculous. So it's got, it's really for everybody. And when we made it, we didn't make it for like, let's say, you know the health fanatic or the gym person. We made it for the everyday person that's on the go nick and I have always been entrepreneur has always been on the go and having just a better for you snack has changed our lives, you know. Um, and it's not really partner, my brother is also my partner.

00:06:13Edit We'll get into that also. And I tell you a little bit about the story, but that's what mid day squares is, it sounds so delicious and you know what? You just made me think it's like when you were saying it could be a song, I feel like you could do like a really cool, like rap jingle, you don't even know what's coming out. We are dropping a music video. Oh my God, shut up! I can imagine it. We did. So basically the first time I'm really talking about loud, but we did a parody to Eminem, Hi, my name is, it's fucking hilarious, and we're filming mid december, it's coming out in january, so I'll send it to you, but it's no legendary, Oh, you're right, that's amazing. Love that. Look, we make chocolate right? Like that's part of our vibe is we're about good vibes feeling good. Chocolate makes people happy. So that's also part of our marketing is just general crazy, feel good kind of stuff. Yeah, I feel that I feel that when I consume your content, let's go back to that early founder, like Startup story.

00:07:20Edit Always love to go back to the very beginning. Like, you know, obviously you were making this snack with your partner, but like, what was getting you thinking about turning this into an actual company? I think you had a different company at the time. What was kind of your approach to being like, let's actually do this. So here's the story, basically, nick and I and jake have been entrepreneurs for the last decade. And the truth is we've been swinging and missing. I mean I've had you know, two other companies that didn't work out. I was in fashion for both of them and I've also always been you know, somebody who's dreamed up by the ideas and so mid day squares is really 10 years in the making. And so basically what happened was Nick and I were living with each other's roommates but he had previously invested in my company, clothing company called Hector. I was pushing that for about three years. Fashion wasn't for me in the end, the industry, it just didn't speak to me, it wasn't super inclusive. Um and and I'm a know bullshit kind of gal like you want to do business or you don't want to do business and that is not fashion.

00:08:26Edit And so I tried that for three years. Um nick came in on the last year and invested and we tried to take it totally e. Com which didn't work as well. We failed but we knew we worked really well with each other and so fast forward a little while I'm living with him and making this product, we think nothing of it, nick get some information. He has somebody close to him that's in CPG in mergers and acquisition and sent him some data and the data was basically that There was two explosive categories on a terror which was plant based protein and real chocolate. So like like the length of the Hughes chocolate companies are not using palm kernel oil. And so he's literally taking a shower. I'm making breakfast. We're like, he comes out, he's like I have an idea and I'm like what's this idea? And he's like we need to launch that, we commercialize that thing that you make that we eat in the afternoon. And I'm like I have this moment. I'm like I just said let's fucking do it. Like we that's nick and I like we've always just been number one supporters of each other.

00:09:30Edit It's just like we support the idea that we go with it no matter how crazy it is. And so in my kitchen, in our kitchen we decided okay let's let's take this thing to the market. And um we were just about to get married and we go to on our honeymoon to Stover mont were big. Like we love the fire, we love the wine, cheese, all that stuff. So we go to so Vermont we leave a day early because we're so fired up about the business and we say let's start it, let's go. And so basically we started our market research and midday square is a baby of the two divisions. It's basically people sometimes say, well what what exactly are you? Well the dough is, it has the function to it and the chocolate is the indulgent. And so we'll get a little bit into that. But we basically go, we start driving a grocery stores, we start walking the aisles were looking what's out there were like, okay look generally it needs to have this much protein, this much fiber, this much sugar, you know, what are the competitors doing, where do we want to live in this space? And so that's how it all started.

00:10:32Edit And I was literally making trials in my kitchen. We were iterating, we use this website called reciprocal dot com and we were like figuring it out and like how to draw a nutritional label and, and so we after like it was like 100 trials. I don't even remember three years ago this is 2018, after like months of iterating iterating iterating the recipe to make it commercial ready In august 2018 it was ready to go and basically like may, we knew we needed May of 2018 someone to be like the face of the brand nick and I are like introverted extroverted people but we're very, the type to spend like the whole weekend in the house at home and so we needed someone to be loud, we needed someone to build community and that was jake my brother and at the time he was doing something else and we convinced him to leave what he was doing and he was, he was at the meeting, he really didn't believe in what we were pushing, he's like, you're going to launch a chocolate bar. He's like, that is the most saturated market, like how are you going to even, you know, succeed in this market?

00:11:37Edit And we're like, no, we believe we're going to have product market fit, there's a white space for what we're doing. And so we convince him it took us like three months to convince him he finally comes on, we're ready to go august like 15, 2000 and 18. We launched the brand and we haven't looked back since and it's been one hell of a journey of ups and downs and um, the business for a good amount of time walked us. Um, we're only now starting to get control, you know, the infrastructure of the business and all that. So that's our founding story and a lot of people say, well, you know, why are you guys partners, Jake nick and I are not partners because we're family, We're partners because we each attribute very different things to the partnership and we're the right people to get this done. So that's also very important because a lot of people partner up with their family members, their friends because it's easy, you know, where they think it's simple, it is the hardest thing to be in business or partnered with your family, Let me tell you and we can go on to other things that we can hop into being in business with my husband and my brother.

00:12:41Edit But that's generally the story of how we started midday square. Gosh, I love it. That's so cool that jake decided to come onboard and join you. I have so many questions that I want to dig into. But first I want to just like go back for a quick second and ask you something about Hector. When you say the business failed, you decided to shut it down. What did that actually look like? Why did it fail? Like were you making sales and you just decided like, hey, it's just not working enough. Like we couldn't get product market fit. Like what does that actually mean to fail? And like how did you decide? Okay, yeah, let's, let's cut it and move on. I love that. So basically, like I said, I was, I was pushing Hector for three years. I even at one point lady gaga was wearing my clothes and so you think you're going to have this traction right? Like this big celebrity, it's not paid. But no, it didn't happen. Right? And so the company number one needed an extreme amount of capital injected into it and I think by the time that it needed capital injected into it, I lost what I love about it. That was the first thing. Second thing I didn't design clothes for myself.

00:13:46Edit I am 53. So I'm gonna say I'm 51 but I'm 53 okay and curvy. I was designing clothes for the six ft models. So I couldn't even wear my own clothes. That's a problem right there. And that's one of the biggest learnings that I had going into mid day squares is I ate mid day squares. I was a consumer of my product and so with Hector, I wasn't a consumer of my products. So if I'm not a consumer, maybe there's not going to be another consumer, maybe there is. I actually didn't make any real sale. I had a lot of people like friends and family that purchased that points, but I never made a sale to an unknown like to person, I did not know. And the other thing is I didn't utilize my community. So my products were within the 1% of price point. So it was very, very high, high priced, that high end fashion. And my community could afford to support me when we launched mid day squares, It was easy for people to buy a $3, product, right?

00:14:52Edit It's easy for people to support you, which can help create chirality with Hector. Not many people could support me from the gecko. And then the other thing is I didn't put myself out there. I was behind the scenes what is more engaging. And this is what I learned now with mid day squares. Then seeing a 23 year old running around new york city in heels with a £20 collection over her shoulder trying to get into stores. I mean that that's not inspiring, you know, I don't know what is, so I didn't show that I was like, again, I wasn't pushed to do that, so I was introverted about the whole thing and I was very behind the scenes and I think those are the few things, like not launching from my community, um not being a consumer of my own products and being behind the scenes were a huge part of my failures and I think at one point you need to know when to shut something down and I think a good entrepreneur knows when to throw in the towel and so I did after three years and I took some time off and then realize what I needed to do differently in the next venture, that is so interesting.

00:16:00Edit And yeah, it must be a real shock, like a positive shock going from something that's high ticket to really low ticket and being able to reach a mass audience instead of being able to reach a very specific someone. So let's get into that like, early launch of mid day squares, like how you were gearing up to, you know, press go live on your website in the, in the first couple of days and all that kind of thing. And what was the response, like what happened in that early period? So we did something a little different when we launched 20 squares. So when Jay came on part of his agreement to join the company was that we were going to put ourselves out there and we were going to show everything the good, the bad and everything in between. So for me that I was very uncomfortable with that idea. But we did it anyways. And so we started showing getting everything ready for launch. We started building the hype and each one of us had, you know, small communities, maybe I had 1000 followers, you know, nick had so under 1000 jake 1000.

00:17:06Edit So we had, if you add that together, it's still almost 3000 people. So we're starting to build love that. By the way, it's like, hey, it's, it's 1000. But that's still 1000. Like you don't need to have 50,000, you can just have 1000 you can have 500 that's still five 100 people. There you go. There you go. And those people have microphones. And so how do you get those people to use their microphones? Right. So what did we do? We basically launched a really shitty website. Again, we didn't care about it being perfect. It was so shit. We launched this website and we did this sample, We did this sample program where we knew we were going to lose tremendous amount of money. So we basically for 50 cents, you could get a full bar of mid day squares one time. We would bring it, we'll ship it to you, I'll get into in a bit, we would ship it to you, but we knew you were serious because you have to put your credit card in. So because you have to put your credit card in that other step of really wanting something, you know, versus it just being free.

00:18:12Edit And so when we would get an order, we would, at this point, we were only shipping locally in Montreal, we would get in the car and we would go deliver the package to the customer and they would freak out because they ordered this thing online, they saw it on instagram, they saw us making it and then they got to actually meet us. And so there was this like real connection that started happening, this community, this thing that we started building from day one. And in the package we took Polaroids which we still teach in and you know, it's a little different, but we would take with a mini mini max and at five in the morning, the three of us, we would dress up really crazy and we would take a photo and then we would go on their instagram and find out, let's say they had a dog named Lucky would be like give lucky kisses for us, Mds and wow, do the things that are not scalable. That's the not scalable thing. That's amazing. Oh my God, that took your way.

00:19:14Edit No, but you understand, right? And so That created from day one Vier al Itty. So when they would receive the package, they would see us then they would open it, they would take a picture, they would see the Polaroid. And that's when we started getting people's microphones. And you created a moment. You created moments that are shareable. And for someone to be like, hey, this is really cool. Like I want to shout about this two quick questions before you keep telling me about these early days, how much were you losing per order? And how many orders did you do like that? So we did that for about two months. We, I, my brain is foggy on how many words were probably doing about 60 orders a day at this point. Oh my God, there's a lot. Oh yeah, yeah. Well I actually developed, so I was the one making the product, I developed tendinitis. I have like my wrists are completely done from like rolling the product all day. And it was, we were doing it in my condo right? Like we literally launched it here, we moved the furniture, we like brought in tables. It was crazy. My brother who has this proxy, I was weighing the salt and I would always lose on him because he has like fine motor skills.

00:20:24Edit So when we were doing it right together and it was may have, there was cocoa powder literally in my little butter butter seeped into my floors. And yeah, so we did about 60 a day. That was our max because we were making an eight by eight pen. And we were so basically because we weren't shipping the product, we were able to like save some of those costs because shipping is ridiculous. Everybody knows it's like $15 to ship a product, Right? So Your $15, we're charging 50 cents. So there you go on the 15 then that's if we couldn't deliver it. And then the product itself costed a lot of money at the time because we had no scale, right? We're buying stuff from the grocery store. So we were losing a lot of money. But I would say we were retaining serious amount of customers. And because we had this vier Alice through the sample program which we shortly after stop. We got our first store within the first two months of launching. And that's how it started happening, customers were going into the stores and saying, we want mid day squares and that's how we started getting natural stores mom and pop shops.

00:21:29Edit And like I said, we were in my condo for two months. I remember on months, like it was maybe early october and I was like, nick jake, I can't do it anymore in here. My bedroom was like the shipping room. Like it was, it was crazy. We were working 15 hour days in the condo. We had a cleaning crew come in at 11, like 11 o'clock at night. and within one week we found like a shitty facility really shitty and we got it on friday and we were producing there on a monday and that was the beginning of really starting to ramp up production. And so during this time, like obviously you go through this two month sampling program that gives you all of you acquire all of these customers at a kind of high cost, but like a really, you develop like loyal customers immediately, you get proof of concept. What are you thinking after that? Are you like, hey, okay, we need to actually invest the money here or we need to go out and find some money or like what's the kind of thought process once you've proven it out.

00:22:32Edit So that's exactly what we, and so to start launch Monday squares, it costed us I think it was $20,000 between all the trials, packaging, all that stuff, the ingredients, it was about 20,000 very lean startup to prove product market fit. Then we invested about between the three of us a million dollars. So nick actually prior to leaving his company to be parliamentary squares had a lot of success in software and so he had some money that he had made, which he was able to cover myself and him in funding a mid day squares and jake was able to come up with some money as well. So we took the first year, First year, about a year and a bit $1 million dollar investment. Once we knew this thing was pumping After that we knew we wouldn't have, we wouldn't be able to continue funding. So we would have to do our first rays, which we did do. I think we closed our first raise in September probably of 2,019 our first raise. And the truth is so in the company, how it's set up right now, I'll kind of give you a breakdown of how we operate is jake is the chief rainmaker.

00:23:39Edit So his one job is to go out, get people network, bringing the deals, build the relationships, build the finance relationships, all that stuff. So he's a lot on the road. Nick and I are co Ceos so basically I manage of the company manufacturing, recipe and development media marketing and customer experience and then nick manages operations, finance sales, and performance marketing. So when we speak about money, that's really nick's expertise, I just say, I trust you get the money to get what we need, you know, and he goes out and does that. But we, I will say one thing on raising it is hard and you need to be ready for it and it's the due diligence and the cost and the due diligence and the lawyer fees. A lot of founders are not aware of these things prior to getting into raising, we took venture capitalist money. So it's a bit of a different road, There's so many different ways to raise money, you know, through Crowdfunding through family and friends through VCS, through private, there's so many avenues, but we did choose to take the VC Avenue and it's intense, I mean you don't have the money until it's in your bank, right?

00:24:53Edit You get a term sheet and that terms she could be cut on day 40. So we say we start raising almost eight months before we run out of money Because it does take long and you need to find the right partners in doing so. But yeah, I would say $1 million dollars was the first year to really get us off of our feet to be able to support retailers, support manufacturing. I mean, you know, most CPG brands turned to co packers so they get their product compact, so they don't have the Capex that we had in getting this thing started, you know, we have to invest in building a manufacturing plant and that was Almost impossible, you know? But we we can get into that as well. But we didn't go the way we didn't go the co pack, right? We actually have, I'm proud to say today we moved it in 2020, a full facility that's 95% automated and it's incredible. I was watching one of your videos talking about the journey of the automation, the automation process and I mean, I watched that video and I was like, damn, I just don't know if I could do that.

00:25:59Edit Like it looked like a real journey. It's all well and good to be like, you know, everything's great now but like far out that looks like a real pain in the butt to get that. You know, buying like extremely expensive machinery for it not to work like all these things. I was like what? How? And I don't come from any kind of background in manufacturing or logistics and operations and that kind of stuff. So to me, I was like, whoa! Like you are a superstar that seems like a lot I'd love to be admired. Yeah, I'm so tired from building that plan. Like I always talk about, I'm not I'm still not rested from that experience. But yeah, I mean, I can understand why I can understand why it's down here back to hype you up about all things Crm with a little message from our friends at hubspot. A Crm platform takes any customer interaction and transforms that data into valuable insights as the world's leading Crm platform, hubspot is rolled out over 50 plus integrations over the past year to help businesses connect with customers like never before the latest suite of customer centric tools to help your business show your customers A whole lot of love includes seamless payment tools.

00:27:10Edit Crm powered CMS, customer portals and feedback surveys, seamless payment tools mean payment links and recurring payments can be directly embedded into hubspot is quoting tools and emails for easy delivery and collection from customers. And Crm powered CMS means both your marketers and developers can personalize the customer experience and ensure all engagements are timely and relevant. Learn more about how a hubspot Crm platform can help build, maintain and grow your customer relationships at hubspot dot com. I would love to keep talking a little bit more about your marketing, especially like how it evolved and why you think that you were able to kind of continue that sticky traction, like what you were doing that kept the momentum going and like, you know, I've just read like these articles you guys are doing so well, you've, you know, kind of crushed it. And what do you think it's been about your marketing? Like I know that you guys document everything and it's so easy to see it now because your content is so great. But what do you think when you like you're thinking about that evolution of your marketing over time, I think we're still figuring it out what it needs to look like.

00:28:21Edit I think the idea of mid day squares when it comes to marketing is to Okay, so if you're on a shelf with 30,000 products, why is the consumer picking your product? That's the first question we need to ask ourselves. So for us, our whole concept is well we build relatability and we connect with our consumer for our crew love and they feel like they're buying a product from their friend, their neighbor, their brother jake nick or less someone else in the company that changes their whole experience because there's this relatability factor that most other brands don't have, right? If you look at, I'll just take Hershey's for example, who's behind her, She's, who is her, She's Right. In 2021, the consumer wants to know who they're buying from what they stand for, who they are as human beings. And so mid day squares has chosen the path to show everything.

00:29:23Edit You know, I get stopped in Montreal locally from people if I feel like I know you when I hear that I, I feel fired up because I'm like, that's the goal. The goal is that you feel like, you know, life is when I'm in bed looking like ship, I'm not wearing makeup, I'm not doing that, I'm on the ground talking, the customer feels related to me, I'm not this fancy person, I'm not this unattainable person. I'm just less out there trying to pursue this chocolate bar company and it becomes very relatable. People feel very connected. And then the idea is with midday squares is to encourage people to be bold and to do bold things. Whatever bold means to them. And that's what we show through our stories is we have ups and downs, We have serious hardships, but that doesn't stop us, you know, and so life is not easy, right? And whatever that means for everybody, everybody is different and what that means. Some people, you know, like everybody struggles, everybody's suffering in different ways. And so we've got to continue to be bold, we've got to continue to push forward and I think that's what we're trying to Promote is that and so our marketing is basically to two um help people feel bold and to show them and to create relatability.

00:30:37Edit I think if you look at Nike it's just do it right? And and so there's a lot of other brands that have different kind of references to what they're trying to do. I know with Nike, I'm in the Nike community when I want to get into shape. The first thing I want to do is have a pair of Nike sneakers, you know, get on the treadmill and I feel like I could do it and whether whatever the case I could probably do without those sneakers, but that's what they've made me feel. And so our content, our marketing, our concept is to make people feel something deeply have them relate to the brand and and try to inspire people to be a little more bold and whatever that means, jake nick and I are very untraditional founders, if you come to the mid day squares headquarters, you could wear pajamas, it doesn't matter just be yourself show up and have some fun while you're doing it and that's basically what our vibe is the evolution of our marketing, you know, I think we need to continue. I think mid day squares is the head is ahead of the curb on storytelling. And I don't just say that because I'm in mid day squares is because where is content going?

00:31:39Edit Like instagram? You know, I'm less less entertained in instagram these days. The content is not strong, it's repetitive, everyone's kind of pushing the same story. Where is it going? Right, is a big question mark for me, Tiktok, that's an amazing platform. There's still, you know, if you kind of get into the creators on there, there's incredible things out there, but there's no real platform yet for people to story tell in a vertical format, in the way that you would watch a reality show on tv. And so mid day squares does that were showing we're telling our story and so how we elevate that. I don't know yet. It's still a question mark. But we're continuing to work on it every single day. And I think if we continue two, you know, tell our story and push through it will eventually really connect on a global scale. Yeah, absolutely. I love that. That's that's amazing. I'm wondering, I don't know if you're able to share this, but I'm wondering like for you, how does this marketing approach actually translate into sales? Are you able to share, like how you performed in year one or year two or anything like that.

00:32:46Edit So our first year we set out a goal to do $250,000 in revenue and we did a million. And so we really surpassed our goal. And again, I do believe that it it all goes back to making people feel something deeply and then wanting to support jake nick and I because they see how, what's happening, they see the struggles, they see the highs, the lows, they want to be part of that with us. And by being part of that they could buy a product for $3.99. They can help us succeed by buying our products. So you know this is how close we are with our customers. We had a coconut sugar problem. Okay, we use really fine grind coconut sugar and basically we couldn't get our fine grind coconut sugar and we can make our chocolate without it. And so we were at a standstill. And so we needed a special type of machine to grind down the sugar, the whole coconut sugar to make it milled like super milk, super powdered. And we can't find this machine anywhere. We finally find something. We buy this like commercial grade, it's not industrial grade machine breaks down on us.

00:33:54Edit We reach out to our followers. We tell them guys, we can ship product. We're in need all this within 24 hours. We had a customer that was able to get a machine shipped to us like no, well cost help us solve the problem. That's what I'm saying. This is the crazy part of the whole thing is is the customers because we're so transparent them there with us on the journey. If we ask for help, they help us, their understanding, their empathetic and I think that's incredible. Now look as we go on and we continue, we don't know where it's gonna go. Not everyone's gonna like us right? Not everyone's going to like what we stand for, how we do business or what we show. Sometimes you get messages is this is something you should keep behind the scenes. We don't believe that we want to show everything right. But again in life you're not gonna win everyone. So I do believe that our sales and our dollars like how we do sales is really correlated to how we build the brand and how we put jake nick and I out there and show everything and I think don't get me wrong, were heavy on performance marketing.

00:34:58Edit Like nick is your guy. If you want to hear about that. I mean we spend a lot of money on performance adds bringing people in and all that stuff. But I think it's once they come in they have a rabbit hole. Like when you want on our instagram, you were able to go down a rabbit hole on who are these people, what is the brand? And so that's been, you know if we can get people but then when we get them they want to stay, you know, they want to see more, they want to stay. So we do spend. So our actual first, not first our second operational employee was a videographer and everyone told us that is the wrong move that is not where you should spend your money. And we said we disagree and um we had was jake nick and I and we had like an office manager at the time startup, you wear 100 hats. We had this videographer, we didn't even have a salesperson and the story made the sales like we got whole foods through our stories, someone said I'm an expired whole foods let me connect you. So social media and that is selling in my opinion super powerful and everyone should do it.

00:36:00Edit You know mid day squares does their thing. I think everyone needs to find their thing what's true to them. But I think storytelling and using social media is super powerful And if you do it right, you can really like you said, you don't need 50,000 people. We didn't start off with a bigger following. We built it organically but we started off you know 1000 a couple 100,000. It doesn't matter as long as you are connecting and there's true loyalty. You know what I also think is like you know you touched on the performance marketing thing. Performance marketing is so important. It's important to have a good paid marketing strategy, but like coming into 2022 and like following all these like IOS updates and things like that, it feels like two years ago you could build a brand solely on ads and like launch a brand with ads. It's not the same anymore. The landscape has drastically changed. You need to be doing content storytelling right? Or else you're not gonna be able to like add in that supporting performance marketing side of things. You just can't rely on that as your main kind of um launch strategy slash like main channel anymore.

00:37:06Edit I just think it's so different now. Content storytelling is so important. It is. And I think you're right, the landscape is changing and the truth is you don't have control over that, right? So you need to think you need to have other strategy, don't put all your eggs in one basket. And I think influencer marketing and finding the right people that can carry your brand voice is really important. Like we have had influencers that blow ship up for us, you know? Yes, there's probably could, they could, they could be $25,000 for a post, but they will be $50,000. Yeah, we had we, we work with no way, I don't want to yeah, $25,000 for one post And they bring in $60,000 worth of sales. What? That is amazing. So for people who say influencer marketing doesn't work, influencer marketing works. Was that on Tiktok or was that on instagram? That was on instagram. And I'll tell you one thing you want to find, it's not about how many followers the person has, it's how engaged are their followers.

00:38:12Edit And you know, look, Samuel headed mess, that's life, right? Like you'll put some big, big dollars into something, but you need someone who knows what they're doing. You need to find the right people find the right influencers, You know, make sure asking questions, make sure you're seeing their data and yeah, I mean, look, there's a no brainer if it cost 25, but it's bringing in 60, it's incredible. And how many of the people, that's what they're bringing online sales, how many of those followers are going to whole foods going to sprouts, you know, buying the product from seeing those videos and that's what's incredible. And you know, snail mail and all these things, they could be good if done right. But there's so much more power in finding if you have a grocery store in your neighborhood that you put just put your product in, you have the ability to find the surrounding people that go to the grocery store, target them, get some sort of discount code to them and then have them go to the store. And so when we launched mid day squares, we did something very similar to like the city by city strategy, we focused on making people in Montreal feel like we were exploding and how we did that was making sure they saw it at every point in their day.

00:39:24Edit So when you went to get your coffee, What was in five km in that coffee shop? Well it's their mom and pop shop. So we were gonna be there then what their spin studio. So we would be at the spin studio and all of a sudden you're seeing this product, what is this product? Then you go on Instagram and the contents there and you start falling in love. So there's so many ways to market. There's so many things you do. I would agree marketing is expensive but it doesn't have to be, you can get creative. I have a video on my instagram when we launched peanut butter that costs $600 to do and it wasn't a lot of money, but it shares how got a lot of views and it shows how good amount of engagement and so you know, people will make excuses that you need all this money to, to make noise. You don't as long as your content is good and it's making you feel something deeply, there will be another customer out there that also feels deeply about it. I love that. That is so amazing. Congrats by the way, what exciting journey. Just a quick thing before we continue. Are you on a hard stop because I still have a few more questions and no, I just want to know what you're going for time.

00:40:29Edit Okay, cool. You mentioned a few seconds ago or a few minutes ago. Hershey's, I want to talk about the drama that you've been going through earlier this year. That's how I actually found you. I saw what either you or um, jake or nick posting an article about what you've been going through and this kind of like dilemma you've been faced with. How did it start? What happened? What's happened since? What's the vibe? Okay, so mid day squares launched a flavor called first, it was actually called bus to peanuts. Okay. And then we couldn't use that name because stores wouldn't stock us because it was inappropriate, which I don't think it's inappropriate. You know, it's not bust a nut, it's busted peanut. Anyways, we have to change the name now it's peanut butter and we launched it with the orange that we're all familiar with. And so people would say, well he or she said that it's the Reese orange. Now why have beef with, this is mid day squares is not number one.

00:41:35Edit It wasn't the Reese orange, it was a pantone of orange, but we'll get into that. So her, she's called up mid day squares in like March of 2020 I think. And don't quote my timeline, March of 2020 I want to say and they were interested in acquiring us and you know, met with nick there? I'm an a team and uh, but an offer and all these things. Okay. Nothing was said about the color of the packaging at this point in time. We then had the conversation that we're not interested in selling this company. We're looking to build this company to be the company like that stands next to Mandalas Hershey's mars. Um, and inquire other companies were not interested in selling and obviously that what was the offer you're allowed to share? I can't share the offer. It's okay. But it was a good offer. It was a good offer. But again, I think, you know, when I started this company money was something that did drive me, I'll be fully transparent. I was really in the mind of like, let's build this company that's solid, you know, 56 years, the typical CPG route and then go on and do other really incredible things.

00:42:41Edit And then my love for it like just change like the customer, the putting up better for you snacks. There's such shitty snacks on the market that you know, like we're actually making a difference. And what's so funny is a lot of people who are product cancer patients diabetics. It's changed their lives. So when you see that you have a different purpose, right? Anyway, so the whole idea of knots on his company kind of, you know, through the mouth. Again, We're a competitor. What would her, she's look like if they have to launch in 2021, they look like a midday square. So we go on a couple of months later, we get a season two sets from her sheets that we need to change our packaging immediately that we're infringing on their color. People are fused mama. Yeah, the worst is, the worst is they said people are very confusing Reese and mid day squares and they sent us like 30 pages of customers saying this is a healthier Reese. So number one, how are they confusing if they are saying this is a healthier, they clearly are not saying this is a Reese were in the refrigerator, you're on the shelf.

00:43:51Edit You're confection were better for you indulge in chocolate. So we get this season process. We also get hit with a cease and desist from Kellogg's for uh, package that we're infringing. Yeah. That were infringing on our expert. Okay. That the lines and the fact that our logos on the left is that people are confusing midday scores and our expert. So at this point, the whole David versus Goliath is true. We don't have the means to go up against her. She's our Kellogg's okay. Even though we're right, we would have to face them in court and at that point you're looking at millions of dollars in legal fees. So no matter what it does is like take away from your focus of building your brand, It's an energy stock, right? It's an energy and money stock to things, we don't have uh, negative. So these season desist backed us into a wall of having to change our packaging and now here's the thing In CPG or even in my, I'll talk about my product, it's 6" by 3". That's not a lot of space to figure out how to design a product, how to put all the information I need to put.

00:44:58Edit There's only so many ways you can lay a logo, you can lay a photo whatever the case may be. So being forced into a rebrand and having to re banned under a month And get these things approved by these companies is devastating and shook the company because we were only going into a rebound starting 2022, we were going to start going into a full rebrand because the package we launched with has too much information on it and all these other things. So it did need a rebrand but we weren't rebranding it because we were infringing. We're rebranding it because the brand needs to elevate. And so we were forced into this rebrand, which was really shitty. And what bothers me is these companies are super entitled. You know, there's 11 basic colors out there and in a basic color, you have hundreds of tones of that color. Hershey's wants to own the whole color of orange and then there's only 10 basic colors and then if you go and you know, there's kick out who has read and there's, oh Henry who has yellow and there's bounty that has blue and there's cadre that has purple, it's bullshit.

00:46:03Edit You cannot own a basic color. And so we had to change the color, we have to change the packaging and we made it happen, but it put a lot of stress on the entity and look, it wasn't a problem for them when they wanted to acquire us, it was a problem for them and we didn't want when, when we said no and look, I have no beef with these companies, I understand they want to try to protect their branding and all their stuff, but I think at the end of the day they feel threatened and that's it. And so it's only the beginning of all that, that's going to come, you know, business is really political and I didn't know that when I got into it, there's so much like it's dirty, you know, people want to play dirty people do dirty things and that's what makes me sad about business because I'm just trying to make healthy snacks and have fun while doing it. And then there's all this whole other side. Um, that's, and also putting yourself in the limelight, right, putting yourself out there opens you up as a target for people that are miserable, you know, And so there's a lot of things I didn't expect going on this journey, but that's the story with her, She's in Kellogg's everything settled now.

00:47:10Edit But what does that mean? Everything settled as in like the, you know, it went well the packaging was accepted or was there some kind of settlement where you had to come to an agreement? No, the packaging was accepted and we moved on from that and that was it. I think it worked in your favor because you were able to tell this story and because you were able to be like, hey, we're actually not going to fight this, we're gonna fucking change it and we're gonna do it in 30 days, we're gonna document it. Do you think that like made people like from my perspective it would have just made your customers love you even more for being transparent and be like what the hell? Like why is the big guy taking on the little guy? That's exactly what it did. I mean at the end our approach, we didn't go out in bad talk or you know try to turn into this whole press. We just documented what we need to do to change, to show people that sometimes you need to do things that you don't want to do. But like you said at the beginning of this conversation debating of this topic is the money and the energy suck. It's just not worth it. And so sometimes in life you need to make hard decisions leading with ego and a business is always detrimental.

00:48:16Edit Even though it hurts the ego and you want to fight, it's not always the right move, there's a time and place for everything and customers, they were right there with us. They were fired up. They were really fired up, wow, gosh, what a crazy journey. I feel like regardless of the situation, it just still must have been quite mentally draining. And obviously you didn't go out there and fight, but you still had to like do this and you have to do it in a quick turnaround and you had to like climb the mountain. Well one of my employees left after it, you know, I mean she was completely burnt out. You know, it did affect us in a negative way. It I was paranoid, I was, you know, I was in charge with my graphic graphic art art director to uh make these changes and I was driving her nuts because the truth is I was so you know, I, I gotta be honest, you know, and I would drive you nuts because I had to make big decisions in such a short period of time. I didn't get to bring the product to the grocery store.

00:49:18Edit I didn't get to see it fully printed. I didn't get to test it in stores and so you're going through this whole thing of trying to make sure it has all the information, speak to the customers, still be the brand, still feel like the brand and and you know, I think we changed, I think I changed the packaging 100 times in a month because because we we did we, I mean if you watch the video and and whoever's listening watch the video, you'll see at one point the brand all of a sudden looked like unreal bars and then we're like, oh now we're infringing on unreal, you know, and that we spent, you know, time working on that package. So in the end it burnt me out. It burn, it burned one of my team members out and and we got it done, but it's still, you know, havoc on the, on the internet. Yeah, absolutely, jesus Gosh, With all this in mind over the past few years, your highs, your major highs and some pretty low lows, what is your most important piece of advice for entrepreneurs coming into 2022 who are in that CPG space?

00:50:22Edit I think the most important thing is be you find out what that is um and and and find out how you're going to stand out on that shelf. I think three really important things product market fit strong brand presence and storytelling. I think those are three things to win in today's market. I think storytelling always has been a way to win. I mean, if you look at, you know Pixar and all these other companies that have just nailed storytelling and it's powerful and so I would say those are the three things before you launch, you figure out if you have product market fit and have a strong brand to follow up with that product and have some sort of good storytelling. Love it. At the end of every episode I wrap up with a series of six quick questions. Do you have time? I'm going to be conscious of your time here, let's do it. Okay. Question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you doing what you're doing? I really want to help push people to be more bolder in life. I think a lot of a shy away and Bold could be anything Bold could be starting a chocolate bar company, Bold could be going and finishing your studies.

00:51:31Edit Bold could be having a hard conversation. Um just push people to be more bold. That's amazing. Question. Number two, what has been the number one marketing moment that's made the business pop? I would say our sample program with the Polaroid. So that was that was huge. Yeah. And just a quick side note, I watched the video of your mum signing all the Polaroids shout out to your mom. That's the coolest thing ever. Like I got like really emotional watching that and for everyone listening, uh they gave Leslie's mom shares in the business and I was just like all fuzzy inside. So my mom, it is true. So she owns shares in the company. She still doesn't get paid and she does like 600 Polaroids handwritten floors a night till this day. If you order a package progress, you'll get a message from her. Oh, stop it. That's the thing I've ever heard. I love that, wow, really a family business these days. Question Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or listening to or subscribing to? So I go to therapy.

00:52:40Edit I have a business coach and we work really hard. So for me, some of the things that I know, I need to work on to be a great Ceo is learn how to really communicate, learn how to have serious empathy and so communication empathy and just how to have really hard conversation. So I go to therapy to become a better, smarter person. I love that cool question number four is how do you win the day what your am or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated. So the truth is, over the last three years, I've completely let myself go in terms of doing me and helping myself out. So it's been getting better. But a lot of my day is like, okay, get up and go. But I actually smoked weed at night because we'd really helps me like unwind, I smoke like a really low balanced weed and I love it because it lets me really be creative, give me a couple of extra hours and it really helps me tone down.

00:53:47Edit So I've become a big lover of weed over the last little bit time for creative thinking. I love that I've had a few women on the show mentioned that that's how they end their evening. It's everything because you know in my day half my job is to be really creative, half my job is to be operational and I'm a creative at heart and so contact switching from operational to creative is very, very hard and it's not like you could just have someone be creative now, you know, come up with ideas, come up with campaigns now you're in like an office with white walls. So the weed allows me to like settle the stress of the operations of the manufacturing and all these things supply chain and just kind of let my head go and and be creative and think of these wild ideas like putting together a music video and all these other things. So yeah, we just really helped me like get through this journey. Love it, Question number five, this is not a lot of money, but it's to show what the most important spend of a dollar is.

00:54:51Edit If you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money, where would you put that in the business? That's a really hard, hard question. I think if I was just starting and I had $1000 I would put it into making a video, that's what I would do because I think strong storytelling again, I'll go back to that. It's just you know, you don't know what, who's going to see it or what it can create or what's that ripple effect? Yeah, 100%. So true. Last question question number six. How do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things don't go to plan? So I think at the end of the day, mindset is everything on this journey, There's nothing wrong with failing. I have failed so many times in my life, you're going to block out the noise. So failure is not so bad when you don't, when you're not worried what everyone else is going to think or what's the outcome. I still struggle from that from time to time. Like you know of that those thought processes. But I think overall when I fail at something that's like, what are the five wise, why didn't this work out?

00:55:55Edit Why did this fail? Why did this happen? Kind of go through though that motion and then move on because it's over with now. Like you, you need the best thing to do in failure or when there's a problem is to not harp on it. It's like figure out the why accept it and move on with it and learn from it. That's simple and leave it in the past. I love these five wise notion. I'm gonna stick up those five wives everywhere. I love it. So super cool. Ah yeah, I bet. I'm sure, I'm sure when I asked my team to do it, creating five wise, it's so hard to get to the first, get to the second, but 3rd, 4th, 5th. And you really have to dig deep. So yeah, no, this was awesome. I love this. This was amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all the things you are such about us. And I'm just excited to watch your journey from here and see you dominate this industry. I love it. Thank you so much. Thank thank you doing this was awesome and you're also a badass.

00:57:01Edit I love the questions. I love this podcast. This is awesome. Thank you so much for having me.



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