Dealing with Crazy Ups & Downs in Business with Lezlie Karls, Founder of Mid-Day Squares
This is Lezlie Karls for Female Startup ClubHello everyone and welcome back to the show!
It’s Doone here - your host and hype girl. And before we jump in today marks something really bloody exciting for Female Startup Club! As of this week we have joined the Acast podcast network and that means lots of exciting things! Firstly we’re going to start introducing some different kinds of episodes, like strategy breakdowns with industry experts, and how-to’s for earlystage founders and future founders.
It also means you’re going to start hearing a new voice on the show - you’re going to meet my wingwoman and one of the best humans I know, Josephine. If you’ve ever messaged us on Instagram or you’re part of Majic you’ll know just how wonderful Josephine is and she’s gonna be joining me in a new series where we talk through insights, questions and what’s happening in the world of business.
Now something I’m really excited about is the comeback of our Facebook group. It’s linked in our show notes and I want you to jump in there and join us asap! Every Monday I’ll be sharing who I’m interviewing for that week and this is where you can ask specific questions you want me to answered on the show. You can also drop your own questions and challenges and we’ll be shouting those out too. It’s a great chance to get your brand featured on the podcast.
Phew. Ok! That’s all my exciting news for today. Let’s get into the good stuff. Today we’re chatting with Lezlie Karls from Midday Squares. We actually recorded an episode with Lezlie way back in December of 2021 and sooo much has changed in that time. She’s gone through probably the worst time in her business since then and has just come out the other side so there’s plenty of great insights and learnings to take away here. I hope you love this episode just as much as I do - and remember if you have some specific questions you want to ask on our upcoming episodes, come join us in the Facebook group.
Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Thank you. I'm so fired up to be here. Like I feel like I, I feel like I just hung with you and I know you were telling me that it was back in 2021 that we did our original recording session. Yeah. What the hell?
Which is wild. It's wild. That's nearly two years. That's too long. That's too long. That's too long. We should make this an annual thing. I agree. I actually got to come down to Australia and visit you in IRL. Oh my God, please come and stay with me. We would love that. We can just have like, I would love that party in my backyard and like do some cool shit.
I love it. I, I definitely want to make it happen. Like it's on my bucket list. So Great. I'm going to, I'm going to find the time. 2024. That's it. It's happening. 2024. Okay. Bold. Locked. Yeah. Locked. It's in, it's in the diary. I saw that you just turned 33. Happy birthday. Looked like a real vibe. Thank you. It was a vibe.
Honestly, I have to say it was my best birthday party yet. And I think after... I wouldn't say I've been, I mean I have been having birthday parties for 33 years, but of the birthday parties that I planned, that I could remember, um, this was definitely the best because I really focused on having, like, the people in my life that, you know, really meant something to me that have been there for me in the past, uh, couple of years and, uh, just, I did what I wanted, you know, sometimes you just, and, and also I was at a point in my life where I could afford to take care of people.
On my birthday, you know, like, you know, when you're working and you don't have a lot of money and you can't, you know, you get, you want to celebrate your birthday and you ask everyone to chip in. That always makes me feel uncomfortable. And so even though I just did a karaoke night, it's not that extravagant, but I was happy that I was able to, like, take care of my guests.
So it just felt like, I don't know, it was a birthday that, that really resonated with me. I did karaoke, had fun, we had pizza. At some like local spot, ate it on my friend's, um, front of her car. And, and then just sung our heart out all night and dressed in denim and diamonds and was just, it was silly and it was fun and it was a great release.
Oh, I love that. I love that. The diamonds and denim and diamonds. That's sick. That's my vibe. All the sparkles, but like low key cool as well. A hundred percent. It was a last minute like theme and like, I totally love themes and everyone was a little annoyed that I pulled the last minute theme. But who doesn't have some jean in their closet and, you know, throw on a bit of that glitter on their eyes and whatever.
We, it was worth it. We had fun this year. I did Barbie and tequila. And like, I'm the only one of my friends that is obviously like has the full wardrobe of hot pink. attire. So I'm out here being like, Hey, I was actually in London at the time and I had my suitcase and I was like going through to the girls being like, okay, I've got this, I've got this, like you can wear whatever you want, but it's Barbie and tequila.
Everyone's doing shots. I love that. And obviously pink is your favorite color now. Like your nails, your hoodie, your backdrop. I love it. I mean, it's all a vibe. I'm a pink girl. I love it. I'm a black girl. Yes. Yes, you are. I feel like every year on my birthday, I love to kind of reflect on, you know, what the year has been like, what are the highlights been?
What are the lowlights been? What do I want for this next kind of year coming up for myself? Have you set any kind of goals for this next year? Yeah, I think for me, you know, The most important thing is Practicing being in the present more. I think that I spend a lot of time in my head, creating scenarios.
I got, I live a very stressful life being an entrepreneur and, you know, building this company. And so a lot of the times I'm stuck in, in a thinking mode or trying to. You know, mediate outcomes, whatever it is. And I'm constantly in the future. I'm constantly stressed and thinking about what if this and what if that and creating scenarios in my head.
And I realized that that's not a great place to be. And so I think for me, 33 is all about trying to live in the here and now, which is really. Like hard to do easy to say, but just being present in the moment and not trying to let my mind take over my thoughts. And I, and I think that will help me lead a less stressful life and yeah, I think it comes down to stress and managing that stress and because really.
Your brain is so powerful. Your thoughts are so powerful that half the time when you're worried and thinking about things and creating stories, they never pan out because. They're not real. Right. So being present and focusing on what is actually happening and what is actually in your control and just working through that, uh, is a lot of, is a, is a saner life for me.
So I'm really focusing on that. And so far, it's It's going well. And I mean, I catch myself a lot drifting, but at least I'm catching myself and then understanding where I'm at, what mindset I'm in, and then being able to bring it back to the present. So it's a process, but I think it's important for me to live.
More in the present, less in the future, definitely not in the past. And, uh, and that helps me go on with my day. I resonate with that, like, so much. I feel like I am constantly in conversation with myself about, you know, yeah, things in the past, things in the future, conversations that have to be had. I really have, like, that busy mind.
And it's true that, you know, it's so easy to say that, you know, we should live more present, but it's actually really hard. Like, And so when I observe myself and just be like, fucking hell, I'm driving myself crazy. I struggle to get out of that. I struggle to get out of that loop thinking, like that just goes around and around, like same conversation, same conversation, same conversation.
How do you actually get out of it? Like, are you just kind of thinking something, observe that it's happening and then you're like, you know, I need to change what I'm doing right now or do something. What's the trigger and what's the action? Yeah, definitely. I think for me. I think we've talked about this briefly on your podcast before, but I'm in therapy, business coach, therapy, whatever you want to call it.
But I do it twice a week, uh, once a week with my partners and once a week on my own. So the first step is kind of working through what are the fears, right? So what's driving these thoughts? What are the actual fears? And a lot of the time, It comes down to a specific thing that's, that's driving, um, those thoughts.
And so it's not, it starts with addressing that thing. So maybe I'm, I'm just going to make up something for the sake of the conversation. Let's say it's a competitor. Let's say I'm worried about a competitor. I see something on the market. I'm worried about it. So the first thing I'm going to do is create anxiety around this.
Thing, right? This product, let's say. Um, and then I might spiral into an anxious Les and, and creating stories and getting busy with just this ripple effect of anxious movement. And then, so what I'll do is in that moment, maybe I'm going to want to go. Deep into that like I go look for it and I speak to people about it and I, I search for things like I'm, I'm, I'm engaging in the thoughts.
I'm engaging in the anxiety. So to your point, I'm looping, but I'm not just looping. I'm looking for it. I'm speaking about it. I'm thinking about it. So And feeding it exactly. I'm feeding the thoughts, the ideas and the story. So what do I do? The first thing I've learned is to stop doing that at all costs.
Now that's really hard, but that's willpower, right? So the minute I've identified there's something that's consuming my brain, that's not positive. And that's maybe allowing me to get away from the here and the now and what's in my control. I stopped feeding it. So that's the first thing I do. So whatever I was doing to feed it, I, Stopped doing that.
So I just catch myself. I'm like, okay, I'm about to feed it. And you know, sometimes like as humans, we're kind of sick. Like we want to feed it, you know, and we want to like be in this loop. Like we're almost addicted to it. So that's the first step is cutting that, cutting it off. Then the second step. So once you cut it off, you actually realize that you, you stop thinking about it as much, um, which is powerful.
So you stop thinking about it. So it's in your mind less. And then it's really just about taking the time to understand that you need to have actions in your, like, action in your life. So if you can't action anything on this, like, fear or this thought or this anxiety, then it needs to be dropped. Like, if there is no action that can be had in the moment, then you have to let it go.
And that is also really hard. But again, It's just practicing. It's like, it gets easier. It's like going to the gym. The gym is hard. And when you go to the gym, it never, that's my opinion. It definitely gets easy to go to the gym, but once you're there, you can do more. Right. And so it's the same with this.
You, you train your brain and you get stronger and stronger and capturing, um, those thoughts and cutting them off. And then. Just staying in the present. I mean, that's really what I'm working on now. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that it's important to not, to not feed the thoughts and engage in the thoughts.
And, um, just to remember that if you can't action on it, that it's out of your control and you need to just let it go and refocus that energy on whatever is in your control, whatever you can push forward in a positive way. Wow. Yeah. Gosh. Thank you for sharing that. I'm going to use that little framework right there.
I need it. It's hard. Yeah. Yeah, it is hard. I want to start talking kind of about, you know, we were just saying that the last time we spoke was December 21. So that's been like two years and I kind of feel like. I want to recap where you were at December, 2021, you know, paint the picture, where were you in rev?
What were you kind of doing or what was like big happening then? How many retailers you're in that kind of thing. And then I kind of want to just talk through a bit of like what's happened since then, like what have been the highs and lows over the last two years that are kind of leading us to today.
Totally. So 2021, I got to get myself back there because so much has happened since. Since that time, I think the so 2021 in December, we were getting ready to make some pretty big moves going into 2022, which was Taking our product from a two square format and making it a single serve format. So a one square format.
Now, when we decided to make this decision to make the move, we didn't understand. What type of impact it would actually have, um, on the business. Obviously we knew it needed to be done. We had no choice. So there was a couple of reasons why we had to make this decision. One was the customers. Didn't like consuming two squares at a time.
And the solution to rewrap the second square didn't really make sense to us. We didn't enjoy the customer experience. So it was one piece from a customer standpoint. We had a lot of people that couldn't eat two squares at one time and really wanted that single serve. A second was. The company, the two square offering didn't make sense at the price point that it was at.
So we were either going to have to significantly raise the price in the two square format or make it a smaller pack size and do a small price increase. It's easier to digest that the price increase at a single square format than it would be to increase it in two square format. It's just. A price tag on the shelf matters.
And when people are shopping, they will say that, well, not when they're shopping, actually, when they're not shopping, they will say the price doesn't always matter. That it comes down to different things, but that's just not true. When you are in the grocery store and you are, you know, looking at the different products and there is a product that's less expensive, but seems like it's just as good.
The consumer is going to choose that product. So for us, it didn't make sense. I don't remember the exact cost, but it was going to have to be like 6 or something like that to price it at, uh, for the two square, and then we brought it down to a single serve and recharge 2 and 49 cents, which is a lot more palatable.
For, you know, a fair trade, um, clean ingredient, functional chocolate bar that, that, that gives you the things that you actually need. So there was that piece that we needed to do it for the survival of the business. And so we made this decision because we had no choice to make it, but we didn't fully understand the repercussions.
Of what this format change would be Because it was the first time we ever did it right so going into 2022 We had a lot of momentum and we were you know, launching continuing our launch into the u. s Which was going really well. We were continuing to figure out our manufacturing process We were continuing to build out our community and then in june 2022.
We made the two square to one square change and Everything just plummeted like our sales Plummeted, like everything went. It exploded. Let's put it that way. It exploded. We were not, we were not ready for it. Yeah. So here's why. There's a series of things that happened that if any entrepreneur is listening to this and wants to make a format change on their product, listen good, because You don't think that you don't fully understand the complexities of what this means, right?
Like you think, okay, you're going from two squares to one. How crazy can it be? So here's what happened. So basically when we ship the product in to the stores, okay, we printed our packages. Our packages were significantly smaller. So when we printed them, we UPC code. And the UPC code is what everybody uses to scan the product out when they're at the cache.
So the first error that we made was the UPC code was too small and it couldn't scan at the cache. Okay. So we're talking about millions of bars being on the market and it's not scanning at the cache register. Okay. This is crazy. Insane. Insane. So a week goes and like we start getting phone calls and people are starting to say like, we can't scan the bars.
And, um, so we're like, this is a disaster. And so what does this mean? So if they can't scan the bars, the cashier needs to punch the UPC code in by hand. Okay. And the cashier then punches this in as a cash item. So what is that, what happens in the system is the system cannot detect how much inventory is on the shelf.
Okay. So basically what's happening at this point, it's saying to our distributors that the product is. Like in stock. Yeah, but it's actually out of stock Correct. It's actually out of stock. Okay So that was that was the the first major disaster and now what we realized is So we did test our UPC at our printer, but that's just one printer.
And what we later discovered is that many different store retail stores have different types of scanners with different technology. So just cause you test it, your printer where you're printing does not mean that it's approved and certified to scan at all scanners at retail stores. So there is a, uh, a GS one, which is.
Basically, it's there for all your barcode needs. So it's like you, they, GS1 works with all the retailers. Okay. So they like generate your barcodes and they set them up and all that stuff. So when you're doing your packaging design, you can actually send GS1 a copy of your artwork and they will scan it and give you a certification.
Saying that the product scans. So like, and it's 15. Can you imagine? But again, no one tells you these things like you're, you're learning them as you go. And it's insane. And even graphic designers, unless they're like Regulatory food specialists, they might not understand the guidelines on how big or small a UPC code should be.
So, again, it's like that new beginner kind of, like, stupidity that happens, that happened as an MDS. And it's like, if you're, you've got a small product, you've got a small billboard to work with, so of course you're kind of like, I don't want to make this bigger than it has to be, because there's a lot of stuff that needs to go on this packaging.
Exactly. And that's actually a whole other conversation of how much needs to go on a packaging and the sizing and what needs to go on. Like, it's complicated, but there is a special barcode that like the barcode basically. It's, it's a cropped barcode, but it's meant for mini packaging, so it does still scan, but we didn't know that.
So, basically, we had to quickly figure out, um, how we were going to repackage our millions of dollars of raw packaging materials we had in the warehouse because we couldn't afford to throw it out. So we had to like buy a machine with 17, 000, get it to our facility, relabel everything through this machine.
We had to order labels. It was crazy. Repack it. Like it was, it was just a nightmare. So. It became super demoralizing for the whole team. So we have this UPC code problem. Then we have this inventory problem. We don't know what's selling what's not because everything is not detected in the retailer system.
So our sales significantly drop because nobody's taking. Orders because in their system, it says they have like in a grocery store, you have to imagine there's 40, 000 skews. They're not focused on midday squares. Additionally, in the summer is the slowest time for grocery stores. So people are on vacation, staffing is lower.
So there's not as many people working the store. Uh, and then the third thing, which really us was the price tag. So. The execution of removing the old price tag to put the new price tag on was a disaster. So basically it said 3. 99 for one square, which is our old price instead of 2. 49. So customers were flabbergasted.
They were like fuming. They're like, what the fuck, Midday Squares? Like you slice the package in half and you charge us the same amount. So there was a crisis, you know, so we went through that and I would say that that was almost the entire 2022 going into to, to 2023, I would say. And that was ba that's basically what my year has been like, has been, you know, coming from the down, the whole team and everybody, us.
Getting this company back up. And we had like a big, you know, uh, we had, we had a, uh, uh, change management situation and we had a culture shift, which was really hard to, I think like, you know, a lot of people came in at the time where there was, you know, this one square change, which created a lack of momentum and, you know, as founders, it was really, really hard when you're really, you're going through.
Your worst times, you're not sure where the company is going. You have a lot of pressure. There's a, there's you're losing money. Like I remember last June, we were not this June, two years ago. Now we were losing a million dollars a month. Okay. We were just hemorrhaging money. And you're trying to get the team to be motivated.
You're trying to be motivated yourself, and you're just hurting inside. And, and as a founder, it's a lonely road. Like people don't feel bad for you and they shouldn't feel bad for you. Like you chose this, this position, you're the owner, you're the founder, it's your job. But, you know, speaking to honestly, like it was fucking hard, like I felt alone, I felt misunderstood.
And, and while you're feeling this extreme fear. You have to fire up a team and that becomes really hard and, and deal with investors and shareholders and everyone else that's involved. Totally, totally. And then your customers and your hemorrhaging money, you know, you did this big change over and now you've got to rebuild the company back up.
And, you know, we had the change management. So you're, you know, the culture was, was suffering and we were trying to, you know, hire. And again, like. Trying to bring on people that fit the culture and all those things like it's It's really one of the hardest things that I've noticed over the last two years and even since the beginning of time is it's very hard to get the team right.
And that doesn't mean that the people that have been at Midday Square are not the right fit or weren't good in their own ways. It's just that every company is different. Every task is different. You need to find people that fit into what you're doing. You know, so we've gotten that wrong here and there.
Some people felt that they weren't the right fit for MDS. So building a team was, Is challenging, was challenging over the last years. And I feel like today we're finally in that flow and, you know, really taking our time to do the due diligence and building that team. And you learn, like when you start, you know, nothing like I was.
Five years ago, I wasn't a CEO five years ago. I wasn't the leader of a 45 person company. So overnight you got to figure things out really quickly and understand what you need and what you want and lead people. So I think over the last two years, those were a lot of our pain points. And then I would say it's only in the last like six months that I'm starting to really see the light, you know, at the end of the tunnel, like midday squares is, is back to where it was in terms of the sales and.
Ultimately the coming up from the one square changeover was rough, but we made it through. Like we weathered the storm. I'm so proud of like the team and everybody who just helped propel the company forward when like you're doing this really bold fucking move. But like at the same time as entrepreneurs, your job is to be bold and take calculated risks.
But if you don't take risks, You're not going to get to where you need to go. That's my belief, you know? And so I think it was a necessary risk, but it was, it was rough. It was rough. I also really believe that if it's just all straight up, it's linear growth, like you're not learning along the way. Like, even though it's the worst of the worst times when you're in the midst of that stuff, when you come out the other side.
You are a stronger person. You have developed a new skill set. You have developed, like, that extra layer of resilience and, and, and you're stronger as a person. So I really do believe that the bad times are crucial, actually, in the end. Yeah, I could agree more. Like, I, I think it's crazy what you learn In times of stress when your back is pinned to a wall, okay, you're stuck.
I think that's when I personally do my best work. Like I know it's fucked to say, but like when I'm in those situations, I am able to, Make decisions extremely fast. I'm able to problem solve. I'm able to execute in a way that is inhumane at some points, you know But being in those times drive you to have to find a way to dig yourself out of the shit times and you're right like you learn So much in, in a short period of time.
So I agree with you. Like I'm the type of person that like looks at the glass half full, not half empty. Like every situation propels you forward. Every situation makes you stronger. Every situation makes you better, brighter, smarter, faster. Like, you know, the stuff I learned in the last 24 months, like. I mean, it's it's priceless, you know, and I'm it's hard to say like that.
I'm happy that I went through it But in a way like I learned so much, you know, I learned so much about the team about MDS and myself So yeah, I think good can come from bad a hundred percent. Yeah, absolutely The ups and the downs I want to talk about y'all You know, content and your kind of marketing over the last couple of years, because, you know, even in 2021, you were absolutely crushing the content game.
Like you, you'd had that kind of saga with Hershey's and you turn that into kind of a bit of a like reality, like ongoing documentary type situation. And from there, your content's just gotten, you know, better and better and more interesting and very much that approach of kind of like almost like a kind of like a reality TV series.
about building a business. So I want to talk about your content and how you've kind of like approached and evolved and just a little bit of insight into what you guys are up to. I'm like such a sucker for guerrilla marketing and like organic storytelling. So I love to see it. I love to see it too. I think that there's a lot of content out there and we're You know, drowning in content and I think we're lacking a lot of originality in content and I understand why people don't get original in content because of the algorithms and because of, you know, the want to go viral.
So I think if we go back to, you know, what we do at Midday Squares and how we tell our stories, I just want to start by saying, like, we don't have it all figured out, like, it's... It's really a ongoing process what worked for us from zero to five years Um is not going to work for us for five to 10 years, right?
Like it, like content creation is ever evolving and changes and you need to kind of grow with it. And I would say for us, you know, we started off with telling a story with our iPhones, you know, when we started in our condo, just picking up a phone and recording. Even when we felt super uncomfortable doing it, I mean, I hated being in front of the camera.
And it would take me sometimes hours to put together a video. I'd have to retake it a hundred times. Why? Because I didn't like the way I looked. I didn't like the way I sounded. I felt cringe. I was like, who am I even speaking to, you know? And you push through it, you get better at it, you get more comfortable, and you realize that there are people out there that resonate with you.
There are people out there that are your people, and connect with your messaging. And so that's what happened at the beginning of Midday Square, is we were telling our story, people connected with it, and it created... You know, a community. And so for the first like three years, we really focused on the behind the scenes of building midday squares, the drama, the highs, the lows, the good and the bad, and even the characters in the story.
So like, you know, when we first started, we had. You know, some of our early startup team, like Jordan and Allie and Cram, like different people that were real characters in the show, like they were big, larger than life personalities and that added to it. So we had this dynamic, we had this kind of energy that was going on early on with our stories, which was a lot of the behind the scenes.
And then that kind of evolved into how do we tell a really impactful story or not even impactful? What does impactful mean? I mean, for us, it's, does it make somebody feel something deeply? Is it hitting somebody emotionally? Is it educational? Is it entertainment? I mean, what is it, what is it doing to the viewer, right?
How is it affecting them? And so we started telling these, like, three minute, four minute short episodes, right? And, and that was really, really challenging to figure out because basically, at that time, we had a full time videographer who would just film. At the office and follow us around with a camera and follow the team around and be in on the meetings so we get like 40 hours of footage a week and then we'd have to kind of navigate that down to a 34 minute story.
So that was really challenging, but we figured it out and we did it. And I want to say, like, building teams to do this. Is really hard because it's new for, uh, businesses. It's new for the industry to find creators that want to be in a company and want to tell stories for a company. It was definitely challenging because creatives want to work on many different projects and don't want to be tied down.
So kind of finding those creators that were willing to stay, that wanted to stay in that. Also didn't get involved in the politics. Well, not the politics, but I want to say the, the office culture because the videographers couldn't, shouldn't get involved with the office culture because then it makes their job complicated because they're supposed to be telling a story, you know?
So anyways, that's a whole other episode on the dynamic of how we've had to navigate that and how it was challenging to, for the teammates, but ultimately. By separating the two, you got the best content because the videographer was like a journalist looking for the best story, really engaging in the conversation.
So we worked on those stories for a little bit and then we realized that the strongest stories, well, not the strongest stories, but stories that really got virality on our TikTok and stuff like that were stories that were scripted. So we started writing scripts. For our stories, everything is true. It's just more scripted.
And basically we take all the B roll and we build upon the script and tell the story. So that's what we do. We started doing that about a year and a half ago and we started getting virality on Tik TOK and I think it really resonated with people. That form of storytelling. So basically what we're trying to optimize for is how do we engage the algorithm?
but also stay true to our Storytelling style which has been really hard because you know the algorithm Favors certain things and you're trying to be original and still tell great stories But you still want to get organic views. We're still a business right like Our content arm needs to make sense financially.
So we need those organic views. Like last year, I think we did something of 55 million organic views. Um, which is incredible. I mean, if you, if you put a dollar cost a dollar to that, it's, it's, it's quite high of what that would cost to pay for those views. So there's real accountability and real challenge there on how to continue to get organic views and to continue to get videos that.
Take off and kind of hit the algorithm. So we're still still a question mark. Um, and then there's the piece of how quickly we get content out. And that's one of our biggest challenges, because to make these stories takes time. It takes about eight days for my content creator, James, to really put together a script, bring the B roll in.
Um, start piecing together a story, get a first story draft to me, then we go back and forth and we keep, you know, the process is eight days and it's long. How many stories do you post in a week? One story. That's the problem, you know, that's what we're facing today. That's, that's the problem today. The problem today is that we need to get content out faster and we can't, the issue is, is How do you continue to build this division and, you know, manage costs and make sure it makes sense and create an ROI and create accountability and, and continue to keep the community engaged.
Like there's so many times you could tell, you know, the story. And I think for midday squares, when we started a couple of years ago, we constantly had that drama. We constantly had so many stories to tell him now the business. is gotten to a point where there's a lot of stories to tell. But, we can't tell all the stories.
And the reason why we can't tell the story is because... It could hurt our business. And why will it hurt our business? Well, it could be with, um, you know, retailers. It could be with government, like government agencies and how we interact and like some of the things like there's crazy stories that happen at midday squares.
That we've recorded, we've documented and we want to tell, but it could put the company at risk. So a content creator has less risk than a company has, right? Because a company still needs to sell bars. So a company needs to tread relatively lightly on, you know, the type of content that's put out. So that's what we're kind of grappling with today, like how to tell our stories.
And we are kind of, our mission is to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. And we are still doing that. But as you get bigger into a business. The problems are different than let's say, oh, we have no more coconut sugar and what are we going to do? We can't produce right? They become a little more complex.
So we're still trying to figure out how to navigate that like how ballsy Are we willing to be? How much risk are we willing to take like is our community going to have our back? Are they not? That's where we're trying to test the waters and figure out like what is next and how do we kind of continue to build?
This company. And is the strategy even going to work for us anymore? So there's a lot of question marks around the expansion of our content and how we're going to I don't know if you've seen it before, but for anybody who's listening to this, that's thinking about getting into content and wants to tell stories or wants to get out there, um, for their business or whatever it is that they're doing.
I mean, social media is amazing. It's a free platform you can use to get your story or get your product or get anything that you want out there. I think it's important to be yourself unapologetically as much as you can, and I think that people will resonate with you. In terms of like the midday squares process, So right now on the team, we have one content creator.
His name is James. He's fucking amazing. I love him. Um, and then myself. Okay. And we have had bigger teams at times where we've had multiple videographers on the ground. And, and right now we're a small team, but we haven't decided how we're going to expand the team. And so this is what we're going to be working on in the future.
I know I'm jumping, I have ADHD, so I'm all over the place, but let me just go back. So we, Basically, our process is record what's kind of happening the day to day, get the story on whatever's happening. It could be what's going on in the business. It could be what's going on with the founders, anything, and then basically take it back to the editing suite and look at your content.
You know, then James and I will sit in a room, we'll talk for about an hour on an audio recording, and we'll talk about what's kind of going on. So let's say it's, we're going to be doing a story coming up about like how we had to change our name, Bust of Peanut, which was our original name of our peanut butter bar to Peanut Butter.
So we'll go in the room, we'll talk about what happened, and then basically we'll take that and we'll develop it into a script, we'll refine it, and then we'll go into piecing together the story, then we'll record, and then it takes me like, A good hour to record. It's very hard to like memorize the Lines and record it.
And then James goes back, edits it into a story. We try to make it a minute, minute and a half, you know, and then we throw it up on, on Tik TOK. And the, the goal is to try to get four or five of those videos going up a week at the question marks, what's the cost and, and, and how do we do it?
And when you're, you know, looking at kind of the ROI and, and, you know, the views that you're getting and things like that, is this still kind of like your lead driver for the things that are shifting the needle for the company when it comes to your marketing strategy? Or is it now like, Yes, like content is a big part of it, but now we really got to be doubling down on strategic partnerships and, and demos and is it, you know, influences or is it new product development that fuels the growth?
Like obviously it's part of who the brand is and it's big part of like the DNA of what you guys have built, but is it the thing that's shifting the needle still or is it a mix of things? I mean, obviously it's a mix of things, but like what are the big needle shifters? I guess that's what I'm trying to say.
Honestly. I would say there's a few different things. I would say the big. Needle pushers are definitely the disruption that we do through organic content works. And we, it's hard to measure exactly, you know, how it's driving, let's say, uh, sales in stores, but the, um, presence of the brand is a good.
assessment of how our organic reach is helping the brand as a whole from through our content. And then I would say obviously like strategic influencer marketing, which Nick manages, which is our performance marketing arm, definitely moves the needle big time. I mean, influencers have influence. That's why they're influencers.
So that's a key piece, um, to the puzzle too. But I would say this, like content is king. Like, of course, if you could figure out and You know, or make great content and it goes viral and continue to get virality. That is, organic virality is one of the best ways to get your brand out there. Celebritizing your own brand or celebritizing yourself and building a community and a fan base is king.
Like, that's the holy grail. It's, the question is how to continue to do it. And that's the stuff we're working on this year. Like, just to give you context. I co CEO with Nick, but I also am still in deep execution with the team, like we just brought on a VP of Ops in May and he's doing incredible things, but you know, we're, we're building the team together.
And so I would say right now I only spend about 10%, 10 percent is me being conservative, you know, like it's, I don't get a lot of time to spend on marketing and strategy and brand and content and media. So there's very little time going to this part of many squares. You know, when I started to make shit, sell shit, market shit.
Well, 2024 is the year that we're going to be honing in and doubling down on marketing shit and figuring out our plan. And I can tell you something when. The energy goes to that, we will come up with a fucking epic plan, and that's gonna be, you know, how we drive through the vision. And then it's A B testing, what's working, what's not, how do we switch it, what's the flywheel that we need to be looking at when we begin that journey of market shit.
But like, that's coming up in 2021, so I'm very excited about it. But it, it, content is hard, I mean, it is hard, but I think consistency is really key. Being true to yourself and making stuff that you would be a consumer of. Like you got to start with you. What would you watch your own content? Would you consume it?
You know, and, and that's the first thing that's really important. And if you're scared to put yourself out there, like. Then maybe content's not for you, because you've got to put yourself out there if you want to, you know, make content and do all those things. And even to this day, even though I've done it a million times, I still get insecure sometimes to put myself out there, you know?
It's hard, it's not easy, but it is a great tool and it did what it does. It did and continues to do wonders for our brand. And so I'm a big advocate of making content and putting yourself out there. But nonetheless, it's hard. I agree. And you know, like I often surprise people when I say like, Hey, when I started the podcast, I was terrified of public speaking.
I was terrified of being on camera. And it wasn't until like episode 70 that I started to feel more confident in these conversations and kind of like I had a bit of, you know, a groove going on because I was just so shy and so not that person. And I think that, yeah. Everyone pretty much starts from that place of being like, shit, I don't know how to do this, but like, you've just got to try, flex that muscle, build that muscle.
And then over time you get better at it. And like, you know, just. You shouldn't let yourself be crippled by that perfection of getting started, because everyone figures this out and goes on the journey, right? A thousand percent, and that's the thing, like, we're putting ourselves out there every single day, I'm talking about you and I, like, I am the same like you, I don't like public speaking, I don't like being on podcasts, and not because I don't like to do it, it's because I'm nervous, it's because I'm worried about...
X, Y, and Z. But if we don't do it, how are we going to get better? Because the thing is, it's not that I don't want to do it. It's that I'm fearful of doing it because of the things that are in my head. But if we don't practice, like you said, practice and exercise that muscle, we're going to be stuck doing nothing.
And then that's just a boring life. You know, that's just a, you know, a life that's not filled with purpose. So 100%. Last question I want to ask you before we jump into the six quickies is if you were thinking about starting a business tomorrow, kind of taking the knowledge and the insights that you've had from the last five years.
So you're, you're coming from a place of, yep, I know what I've done and what's worked and kind of the power of hindsight. How would you start a business tomorrow from scratch? You're like, okay, cool. Cool. Like. What's step 101? What am I doing to start a new business? Doesn't matter what it is, or category, blah, blah, blah.
Or unless you want to go that deep, you can. For me, I would really make sure that if I was launching a product, that I started with a product that was financially viable. You know, midday squares has had to like dig its way out of a negative gross margin. We started the business at a negative 14 percent gross margin.
And I'm so proud to say that we are at 58 percent gross margin, um, this quarter. And I know I mentioned earlier in the episode that not last June, but the June before we were losing a million dollars a month. Now we're at a hundred thousand a month and losing a hundred thousand a month. And it's a massive difference.
And this year we're going to reach profitability, but that's after five years. And so if I was to restart a business, I would make sure that I had a strong gross margin and that my product was financially viable from day one. I know that it's easy to say that now, but honestly, it was really treacherous, going from negative 4 percent to 58%.
And we still, you know, our goal is 65 percent gross margin. That's incredible business. And so we're still working our way to get there. But yeah, I mean, it was, it was brutal for five years, you know? So I would say, if you're thinking about starting a product, try to get that right. And so just so I can fully understand, does that mean like from day one, you'd be like, okay, cool.
What are the products that like, you know, the unit cost is this, and I'm going to model it out so that my margin is this. And like from the get go, there is a strong and healthy margin for kind of like, Ecom, DTC and retail and then build off the back of that instead of something that is like, you know, too small a unit cost or something like that, that there's not enough wiggle room.
Exactly. Yeah. It's from the get go, understanding as much as possible, like pricing structure. So like, for example, midday squares, you know, perfect bar in the U. S., which is a protein bar that lives in the fridge next to us. Has done it already, you know, like 14 years in, they've built an incredible business, you know, they're doing, uh, I think they're going to do 300 million or so, um, this year, don't quote me on that number, but you know, they're doing really well and they understand their pricing structure.
They've been doing it for 14 years and they have a good strategy. And, and so I think that like my advice would be is like, whatever product you're going to launch, like find what's on the market that is working, that's similar to your product. And then try to, you know, do an analysis on that, that competitor, like.
Why did they price this way? Like what's their product expansion and why, why did they choose to do that? Why are they placed like this? Like, I think kind of going deep on not just any product that's out there, but something that's similar of somebody that has been there, done it because pricing structure is really important.
Gross margins really important. And yeah, I mean, look, sometimes the reality is if you're on here and you're listening to me and you're like. That's not my reality. You're right. That wasn't our reality. Like I'm, I'm sitting here on proof. Like we knew we could get to the gross margin over time by doing X, Y, and Z, but it was painful.
So I'm just saying not, you may not always be able to, um, start a company right off the bat with, you know, a gross margin and the right gross margin and, you know, perfect pricing structure and all these things. That's okay too. Like I'm living proof that like, You know, we start with negative four. We're here at 58 percent gross margin.
You can, you know, you have to obviously do your due diligence and make sure that you actually can get there. But if I was to do it again, I would like to start with, uh, my gross margin being where it needs to be. Yeah. Love that great piece of advice. Thank you for sharing that.
Question number one is, what's your why? Why are you waking up every morning and putting your energy into midday squares? I have two whys. Um, my first why is I get really excited about reimagining, you know, how people consume chocolate. I think it's a really exciting mission. Like, you know, Hershey's and Mars and, you know, they built the confectionery department and we grew up on Mars and Hershey's as being the bars and the confection that we ate in North America.
And I. You know, those companies have done incredible things. I'm not here to shit on them. Like even with our stuff with Hershey's in fact, I love it. I mean, it's all good vibes, but Midday Squares is reimagining how you consume chocolate and reimagining what confectionery should look like. And that really fires me up.
And then also like building this company allows me to, you know, hopefully one day do all these things that I want to do that. I might not get to do if I don't build a company to this magnitude. And some of those things are really simple. Like, you know, opening up a little cafe in, in the Laurentians, which is a place in Montreal, which is like a little ski village and, you know, making sourdough bread and, and coffees and whatever it is, like all these little things that I have in mind, becoming a bigger industrial builder and seeing that through.
So there's. There's two things. It's like my love for food and reimagining what it can look like and then also having the ability to explore, continue exploring, continuing, continuing to tinker. So yeah, those are my whys for now. Really good ones. Really good ones. Question number two is what's been your favorite marketing moment?
My recent favorite marketing moment that we did, which I absolutely love is our five year anniversary video. We basically did a wrestling campaign and. I just loved it. It was so creative. It was so much fun. If you have a minute, go to our TikTok or Midday Square's Instagram and check out our, our five year anniversary campaign.
It was just like, I'm a creative at heart. So like doing that campaign with James was so much fun and Just allowed me to step out of like the, the operations. And I just, it fired me up. It made me feel alive. Like we make chocolate, but yet we made this, this wild, entertaining video that really is an analogy of, you know, the last five years, but in a fun, entertaining way.
So that was one of my favorite marketing moments as of, uh, as of lately. I love that. Yeah. You got to have fun with it. Got to have fun with the marketing. A hundred percent. Question number three. What's your go to business resource at the moment? Where are you learning things? Chat GPT, um, chat, chat GPT. I would say I started reading some books.
I really want to dive deeper into what it means to be a great CEO. So I'm really focusing a lot on leadership and. And how to be a great leader. So I'm diving into a lot, uh, on that. And I'm actually looking forward to reading the Elon Musk book. Um, I have three books that I really want to read that I'm not an avid reader, but I'm, I'm, I'm working to get more into reading.
So the Elon Musk book that just came out, the Steve Jobs and the Phil Knight, um, you know, they built incredible companies. And so just understanding a little more into how it was done and. Kind of, you know, their thoughts. So I'm looking into that and, and also just continuing with my business coach, you know, consistent weekly sessions.
Yeah. Shoe Dogs, a great book. Definitely. One of the best, one of the greats question. Number four is how do you win the day? What are your rituals in the AM or the PM that bring you kind of happiness and feeling, you know, successful and calm in the mind. I would say that the gym. So I started weight training, um, about a year ago and weight training has been super helpful to releasing stress.
I used to do a lot more like hit or high cardio Uh exercises, which I still like I just don't do as much but weight training. I do it at the end of the day Right when I get home from work 45 minutes and it just allows me to release stress so that really allows me to go into my night feeling at ease.
I've been, you know, again, just like kind of trying to do best day ever as much as possible. So sauna, uh, spending a lot of time in the nature as much as I can really enjoying my morning. So like just waking up, taking a minute, you know, having a coffee, listening to music and, and just trying to quiet the mind and then getting into work and just.
Um, like showing up to work, choosing to be happy, cause that's, it's a choice and putting my best foot forward. And so when I get home, I feel purposeful, then I hit that, that weight training workout and then just go into the evening and, and try to disconnect. Love that. Simple things, simple things. Yes, absolutely.
And I love the simple things and, and small joys, small joys are important throughout the day. What is the worst money mistake you've made in the business and how much did it cost you? Worst money mistake that we ever made in the business. I mean, there were so many, I have to say there were so many, um, I would say the, the most recent was.
So when we were launching into target, basically target put in this incredible order and we got super excited and all we wanted to do was fill it and we kind of didn't think through much more. And so once we shipped the product, you know, midday squares as a short shelf life, we had to buy back some of the product on our initial launch, which costed about probably about 200, 000.
And So that was a really hard mistake to swallow. It was an oversight that we made. We learned from it. So basically, how do you not make that mistake ever again? You basically get the information from the buyer. You understand in your category, what product. Is selling the most and what are their velocities?
So basically you take the highest velocities in the category or, you know, in your category and then you basically back it up into the order because you have to understand, like, can you sell, you know, are you going to be able to move product? And so you have to run the math. You have to do the math and you have to determine and basically take your average velocities and then say, does this order make sense?
In terms of when our products going to expire, can we sell all the product out by the expiry date? And if not, then you need to cut that order down instead of just saying yes and getting excited because obviously, you know, as a company, you know, you want to take all the revenue. You wanted to say yes to revenue, take the revenue, but instead do the simple math, do the velocities, understand what their highest velocity is for their best selling product and then determine if the order makes sense or not.
So now we apply that to every new customer and we haven't gotten ourself in a pickle like that since then. So that was the last big expense that I could think of in this moment. That was painful, but we got through it. That's a shitty one. That's a shitty pickle. Yeah. Last question, question number six.
I'm sure you have so many of these tucked into the bank and you've already shared so many, but what is just a crazy story, good or bad, from building? The business of midday squares. There's so many. And just, I thought this was pretty crazy. I mean, this is a really big marketing moment for us. I know you asked me what was, what was my favorite marketing moment in the last, like my favorite marketing moment period.
But this year we were, you know, I was in a therapy session. When I got out of my therapy session, I got a text from An acquaintance saying like, Kim Kardashian just pulled your product out of her bag. And I was like, what? And I, and I, I, I didn't even know what she was talking about. She's like, yeah, in Vogue Italia, you need to see it.
I'm freaking out. So, I, I open, I like run upstairs. I get Nick. I'm like, I just got a crazy message that supposedly Kim Kardashian. Pulled the midday squares out of her bag on a Vogue Italia interview. So many days, we're like, we start going on Instagram, we're looking, and we don't see anything. So we're like, okay, this is probably just fake news.
But then we go and we search, you know, Kim Kardashian, Vogue Italia. Her interview pops up on YouTube and then like a couple minutes into it She's like talking about what she keeps in her bag. And then she's like and when I get hungry I actually found these like midday square snacks that I love. It's like a healthy Reese I don't know.
She said like something about like literally staff, like it's literally our, our marketing. Okay. Like what we would, you know, what people say about our products. And she pulls out peanut butter and almond crunch out of her purse. And it was just a wild moment. And we were just fired up about it. So that's a good moment.
And I think like, That goes back to saying that when you have a great product, it gets recognition. So I think it does take time for sure. And consistency and showing up and doing whatever you need to do. But you know, like people pay millions of dollars for Kim Kardashian to promote their products. And.
She just loved the product and she just took it out of her purse and shouted it out and I thought that was fucking cool and I, I respect that because, um, it goes a long way for a brand, you know? Wow. That is epic. What a cool story to finish on. Thank you so much. I've loved this episode. I always love chatting to you.
Love your energy. Love your vibe. Love your brand. I'm your, I'm your hype girl. Thank you, Dune. Honestly, you're my hype girl. I have to say, like, you get me to come out of my comfort zone, to come on these podcasts, to hang, and you always make me feel comfortable. So I'm so fired up to be here. Thank you for having me tonight.