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Wholefoods & Scaling a business in the CPG industry, Red Clay Hot Sauce Co-Founder Molly Fienning

Joining me on the show today is Molly Fienning. Co-Founder of Red Clay Hot Sauce.

Like the name suggests, this is a mighty hot sauce. Red Clay is a cold-pressed, made-for-foodies hot sauce & hot honey brand, which was named "Tabasco for the 21st century" by Food and Wine Magazine. Crafted by a talented Southern Chef, Red Clay sauces lead with flavor to enhance your plate of food, versus burning your palate with excess heat.

Red Clay is thoughtful about craft and high-quality ingredients, which is why chefs and foodies (like Martha Stewart!!) prefer this sauce over others. It's the only cold-pressed, fermented hot sauce and the only 100% raw hot honey on the grocery shelf.

This is such a great episode for anyone in the food biz. Molly really takes us through what the growth has looked like year on year - right down to the numbers, specifically how she got the brand into Wholefoods and what it looks like to join a pre existing brand as a co-founder later on in the journey. Plenty of key insights that I know you’re going to appreciate!!

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

My name is Molly Fienning and I'm Co founder and CEO of Red Clay Hot Sauce and I also am co founder and Co CEO of the sunglasses company for kids called Babiators amazing. Your red clay story is a little bit different to our usual founder stories in that you joined that business a little bit later on you know down the track after it originally launched.

00:04:44Edit But before we jump into that I want to start with where your entrepreneurial story starts. Well definitely so I majored in computer science and engineering in college and my childhood dream was to be an international spy. So I was on this track of you know sort of techie worked for IBM and then I was moving to D. C. For sort of a role starting the international security and re met my husband, my husband and I went to college together and he was a fighter pilot for the marine corps and so my first week in D. C, we reconnected and fell madly in love and four months later I was engaged and a rural sort of Mississippi military fiance and at that point I realized if we were moving around with the military every 18 months I was going to work, I would have to do something on my own and sort of started this journey as entrepreneur which became such an immediate natural fit and exactly what my personality kind of always knew in my heart I should be needed to be. And we came up the first business was baby gators, my husband being an aviator, we came up with this concept of baby aviator shades of baby gators and we have done that about a decade and then I stepped in basically founded co founded Red Clay with my partner, chef Jeff Ryan because I was at the oyster bar where he cooked my favorite spot in charleston, tried this hot sauce and fell in love with it and was like, I need to help him bring this to market, it's just amazing.

00:06:07Edit So we were silent equity partners. So I helped him start up just from the financial side for the first four years and then I saw a really interesting opportunity to kind of step in and take it nationally two years ago with him and I've been doing that faster, furious sense of wow woza, what a story, what a journey. Holy molly! Every day is a new day is a new day, a new challenge, I'm sure, can we go back to that original kind of time in the oyster bar? You try the hot sauce? Can we just talk through that profound moment of you being like, I am just so interested, I want to help Sure. So basically we have two boys, there are nine and 5 Sawyer and Fox and my entire pregnancy with Fox, all I wanted was oysters and dirty martinis that was like, it was like what are you crazy? I'm like vodka which we could not have been like so and so our first date out after baby, my husband took me to my favorite restaurant in town, which is an ordinary, it's called the ordinary, it's an oyster bar.

00:07:09Edit And uh we're sitting at the bar and I ordered my oysters and the bartender said, do you want hot sauce with your oysters? And I said, no, I'm not really a hot sauce person, ironically in retrospect, now that I'm a hot sauce, Ceo was not a hot sauce person. And he said, no, no, this is different. This is this, this sauce, my part and the chef makes it to pair perfectly with oysters. It is not too hot, it's balanced, it's delicious. The ages in barrels in his, in his garage. It's so good. He sold me on it, I tried it and I turned to my husband, I said, this is the best thing I ever had. And I'm not even a hothouse person and this is the best thing I ever had. And I said, you need to go back in the kitchen and shake this man's hand. So ted went back in the kitchen and introduce him to Jeff himself to Jeff and my partner was chef there and had been chef at three or four of the best restaurants in charleston, one of them being a James beard winner. Just sort of a real chef, the chef kind of culinary background. And he, you know, as we said, if you ever want to bottle it, we have background expertise in, in consumer product goods. So we'd love to support a week later, he called us and we gave him, I think called like $15,000 for a small percentage of the business to help him just get going and then, you know, we were available.

00:08:16Edit So we kind of got him off the ground and if he, he called this periodically for like, who do I talk to to get a trademark or do you haven't accounted you like? And we were sort of very hands off and he grew the business to this beautiful local well colt hot sauce brand that kind of works on all the right restaurant tables. The chef community in charleston really kind of came out actively to support him and the fact that it's just, it's a gorgeous sauce and so it's sort of plateau owed about four years at this revenue amount, call it around $70,000. And so this was 2014 to 2018. And then at that point our son who's the baby was now older baby gators was sort of growing on without me and didn't meet me in the same way and I really love newborn baby businesses. That's my expertise. That's my, where I get my energy. I love thinking about the logo and the color palette of the phone and the voice of the consumer is in sales channels and I was really missing that energy. And I had read an article about Sir kensington's ketchup and how it's sold to Unilever on something like 15 $17 million.02 for $140 million.

00:09:19Edit And I thought I'm in the wrong category. This is, this is the exit multiple and sauce and everything that made Sir kensington's different like thoughtfully crafted high quality ingredients. Millennial consumer, beautiful Brandon was red clay minus the beautiful branded. At that point we needed a brand refresh. So I had this idea, you know, wanting to kind of get in and get involved and I drove to Jack had moved to Greenville south Carolina about two hours north of here. And I drove up there and we sat down, I said, let's do this, let's make this a household name and sort of a play in the hot sauce space nationally. And he said, you know, if you want to be ceo great step in, I want to make the sauce and if you don't take on the business side, do it. And so I came in on the condition he let me re brand and re do the site for more ownership and it's been growing like gangbusters since then. So wow, that's so interesting. It's funny how those moments of, you know, that was just such a serendipitous moment in your life that really changed the course of your life totally 100% of that. And I feel like more and more are, you know, I'm sort of on the front end of this being 40 but sort of the my generation and generations after me, it's no longer this, you start a job at 20 and retired from that job at 80 right?

00:10:33Edit You know, you have these different phases of careers and lives and journeys and so I feel like there's always an opportunity to start something new and fresh if you're inspired and have the energy to commit to it, mm you might not be able to share, you know, so transparently. But I'm gonna ask anyway, what is it like having that conversation and negotiating around your percentage in the business that day that you drove to meet with Jeff? Yeah. And I mean, I'm happy to share, I sort of wear my heart on my sleeve and I think, you know, everything is a learning opportunity. So it certainly didn't start off with, you know, this is what I want, this is my number, you know, you didn't go in with, I'm asking for this, I think to start it was, I see an opportunity here, I really want to, you know, work and commit and get involved and prove myself and we already had a four year partnership, even if it was a high level partnership of trust and working together. So that was already established, but I definitely worked and did the rebrand and did a lot of work on the front end before we actually negotiated my ownership structure and sort of change in an entity, um, equity percentages.

00:11:41Edit So I think for me, you know, women naturally ask for less women naturally inherently kind of, I think a little less trained and having those difficult conversations of advocating for themselves. And so I always like to pretend what would a man do, how the mann act in this moment kind of go into that a little bit, but still bringing the feminine energy of like collaboration and partnership and everybody wins if if this is a success. And so I did some of the hard work first and showed what I could offer. And then I made the ask. And then the other thing I've always found in negotiations, you ask for more then you want. So there's somewhere in the middle to meet. You know, you kind of want to go in asking for a little more because, you know, my dad's in real estate and he always says never accept your first offer. So knowing that if there's going to be somewhere meet in the middle, you don't want to ask for your ultimate and goal because you're going to have to give a little bit. Mm I always fear though in those situations that you're going to like annoy the other person and they're going to be like, oh, well deal's off the table kind of thing.

00:12:47Edit You know what I mean? Yeah. Yes and no, because I think if you really believe in yourself and you really have something to offer, it's a win win, like Jeff could not do this without me. I could not do this without Jeff. And I brought a lot of experience in in consumer packaged goods and, and marketing branding and direct to consumer business that he did not have. And then he brought his culinary expertise and his palette and his sauces and really sort of the face of this chef driven brand. And so we're good. We're a good partnership. And same with Baby Otters, it's four people, two couples to married couples and all of us have our own strengths. And so I think when you're thinking about if you are building a business with somebody, you're partnering with somebody finding that person who's compliment whose skills complement yours. So you're, you're both bringing something to the table unique And that way you feel kind of, you can stand in your power of no, no, no. This is this is better because I'm involved. So I merit that ownership. I merit that harder salary or you know, that role or whatever it is.

00:13:51Edit Mm. Absolutely. And I'm just wondering when you had that conversation, what was the timeline, like how long until you actually kind of started kicking things into gear and you you've done all the legal paperwork and all that kind of thing. Sure. So, I think I drove up in this, I read the article, I think early summer 2018, I drove up sometime in that summer and said, You know, at this point I was already a minority owner, right? I already had whatever call it 10% of the business or whatever, it was. but drove up and said, look at what Sir kensington's did, this is sort of plateau going over here and growth has stalled, a little bit, energy has sold, but it's still this cult sauce. Everyone in charleston loved it. People are stealing it off restaurant tables, It's delicious sauce speaks for itself. Yeah. And so, you know, for me, you know, he also had a day job as a chef and so it's not something he could do full time, you know, at that point. And so, you know me saying, let's, I see an opportunity here to build a direct to consumer business to build kind of a brand that grocery stores want to have a restaurant tables, want to put on their table.

00:14:53Edit And so that was in the summertime and we spent, we spent call it, I probably worked for a few weeks sort of preparing and you know, sort of organizing everything I wanted to do, giving little sort of like doing some of the work, working on the rebrand and then sharing kind of snippets of it. And then before we fully pulled the trigger and I'm, you know, then I was like, okay, if I'm going to spend my time on this and not something else and it needs to be worth my while. And so you know, and then he again, it was a very, it wasn't contentious. It was very loving, very collaborative partnership. He's like, I don't want to do the business side. I, you know, have a family, I want to focus on, I want to sort of, you know, focus on the sauce, making you have this background already. And so yeah, sure go, I want you to be Ceo. And then I said okay for Ceo that I want X, y, Z more percentage of the business. And you know, he saw kind of what that offered having witnessed sort of where it plateaus. And in some instances somebody might say, you know what, that's a little too much, which is not what happened to us. Jeff was very kind of supportive of me, but I think you could have a partner say, oh, I don't know if I want to give all that up and then, and then you say, okay, fine, what would you give up?

00:16:00Edit Right, what are you willing to give me? And then you sort of figure out a way to go go go kind of meet in the middle and this is all happening. Oh, that was so by, so that was by like end of the summer. And then we spent this, that we spent the first couple months of the fall working with a third party branding firm, new logo, new labels, new website. We relaunched that in october 2018. and then our first drive was to Greensboro north Carolina to the headquarters of a grocery chain called the fresh market across the southeast. And Jeff and I walk in there with like I have the bottle here with like a bottle and like a power point and we were like, this is our new sauce, you know? And these people were like, oh my gosh, well we tried it and they loved it and they took a risk on a small brand and then they rolled us out to every door. That was our first full national rollout in grocery. We were on shelves by May 2019 and then we pitched the whole foods and then whole foods picked us up in two regions 2019 and then we pitched publix, which is the south's major grocery chain 1200 doors and we just rolled out to public this january and so we went from 70,000 revenue to 300,000 for 2019, A million.1 for 2020.

00:17:15Edit And we're on track for about 3.5 million for 2021. So about 3-400% growth year over year, wow, that's crazy. You make it sound so easy like, oh, you know, we just rolled up and we just like pitched ourselves without power point and you know, we just got into whole foods. I'm sure there's so many challenges that come with it. It's not easy for sure. It's work, but it's fun work, what are the key kind of lessons? And I'm just thinking for anyone listening who's, you know, got a food product, who's wanting to kind of have that same trajectory and who's wanting to get into those, you know, top accounts, how do you actually get into those top accounts? Like how did you get into whole foods? And so I think it's a couple different things and specific to food and bev first of all, you've got to believe in your product, right? You know, as if the branding isn't good, you'll get someone to buy something once. But if the product itself is not amazing, then they're not going to buy at a 2nd, 3rd, 4th time. And so the product needs to be good. First of all, then the brand name needs to be good needs to draw the eye right? And so somebody needs to, you know, want this beautiful, like you think about Brighton and olive oil, it's this gorgeous bottle that you wanted to put on your shelf, right?

00:18:23Edit I want to look at that every day and then yes, I'll buy that once. But if the olive oil is bad, I'm not gonna buy it again, right? And so then I come back because the olive oil is so beautiful. I thought again and again and again, as far as killing it. And so I feel like, so first and foremost you have the product needs to be you know distinct and and beautiful and delicious. Then once you're confident that you can go and you can sit in those meetings and say no, no, no, this is the best software is, this is the best olive oil, you know, you can buy right now. And then I think they perk up and with whole foods is an example. They have a wonderful program called the Local Forager and the purpose is they have these every whole foods. I want to see it divided up to like eight regions and so across there's one global buyer but they have eight different regions where each region has its own local forager whose main job is to find the cool local startups so that it is not just curios on every show, right. Which were the organic version of cheerios and whole foods. So you have this this person whose mission is to find the local cool startups.

00:19:26Edit And so somebody connected, a friend of mine in my network who owns a paleo sauce company connected me to the local forager for the south and we sent her sauce and then we, you know, I drove to Atlanta and I had coffee with her and she name is Kristen. She was wonderful and so supportive. And then she said yes. And so that put us into the whole food system. So all of a sudden we got picked up by the right distributor which was unified as all of whole foods distribution. Then we're in the whole food system. So our brand is in there are, are you pcs are in there? It's much easier once you're in the system for a second or third or fourth region to be like, huh? I want to try that sauce were pacific Northwest. We eat a lot of oysters that it's an oyster sauce. Great. And so pacific Northwest picked us up as the second region. Once two or three regions and whole foods pick you up. Then the global buyer starts listening and then they say, okay, now there's, there's, you know, I'm looking at the data, this is selling well in three of my regions. Then, you know, we're talking to Austin now about rolling it out to every their 420 doors and whole foods. So all the all 400 doors.

00:20:27Edit Um, but that's only after you kind of proved your concept in your home region and maybe another one or two. Mm wow, That's really interesting. And I imagine when you went in for that initial meeting with the, with the local forager, you know, you really had already that like proof of concept, you had your community behind you being like, hey, we love this. We're trying to track it down all the time. So you were able to show that, you know, validation. But I'm also wondering once you got into that first, you know, the first region for whole foods and you're trying to expand, what were you doing to try and drive people to the whole foods to make sure that your product was actually being sold totally. So that's a very good point june. The start is sort of like first owning your backyard, right? Like people are all about local products right now. People all about buying small, supporting, local, supporting, small. So really kind of becoming your, in our case hot sauce, but go to hot sauce for south Carolina to go to hot spots for the south, but go to hot sauce in our region. And then, you know, once you can get those sort of the support regionally.

00:21:29Edit Yes, you have to think about national eyeballs national press buzz. And so I believe pr is an important part of that. And so with both of our businesses from day one, whatever budget we have, we put aside some money to get sort of a public relations sort of advocate for us. And that could be everything from gifting the right sort of social media influencers in our space to spread the word. Or you know, pitching certain kind of with my partner being a chef, he can go out and cook some, some really fun kind of recipes and dishes and pitching some television. Um, moments where Jeff might make a great, you know, it's father's Day brunch with hot sauce or you know, a barbecue with some spicy recipes or spicing up your holidays. and so he's done that on Good Morning America. He's done that on Cbs this morning. Beat bobby flay's Food network show. So you know, finding out what your assets are as an entrepreneur, where can you kind of spread the word about the brand beyond your region through earned media and then yes of course and paid media to, we'll do instagram ads and facebook ads but I find that the earned media people trust more since it's not just like you being kind of fed something from the brand that sort of an objective voice that says how I need to like I need to trust this, I trust this blogger and you know she's, she likes it.

00:22:45Edit So I'm going to go buy a lock So that sauce too totally. It's almost like you're paid efforts need to support your organic and your earned if it's as the, as the backup kind of like retention and retargeting side of things. I do want to switch and talk a little bit about the D. C. Side. Obviously you're able to grow and scale when it comes to the wholesale retailer piece of the puzzle and then I'm wanting to know what you were doing specifically to drive your DTC side of things. I feel like so for director consumer with us, we grew, I think when I stepped into Ceo, it was, it was not pretty, was the home page, the home page was like a fuzzy image. I don't know if I would given the site my credit card, but they were getting like $7000 of sales a year from like just super loyal fans, probably my partners like uncle or something who just like new Geoff and like trusted Jeff. But objectively we needed to like refresh everything. It was, it was sort of like, it was a put together a little kind of Shopify homesite then we refreshed and did you sort of built this beautiful brand knowing that more and more people are purchasing obviously sort of direct to their door and that I feel like was completely expedited by a decade specifically with food and bev through covid and everybody being home and restaurants being closed.

00:24:04Edit And so this year in particular we've had our $7,000 went to like $75,000. And then this past year I want to say our 2020, we finished the strict consumer, like I want to say 300 grand of our 1.1 million was through our site. And I think the influencer gifting the celebrity gifting that we were doing helps out because they tag us and then people click right through to from, you know, instagram or to talk to whoever to our site. And so, you know, we'll definitely any kind of like digital press goes right to us or amazon and amazon, you know, it's an important player in food and bed, it's just sort of a necessary evil and she got to do it and you know, we have a lot of people that just want to shop do, they're like, you know, by one, my credit card is in there kind of and our amazon business has been growing well too. But I think it's a combination of, yes, that the digital ads were just talking about who we're targeting. So people who visited your site, how do you kind of draw them in through? Maybe maybe it's a sale, Maybe it's a little bit of a gift with purchase. Maybe it's just something really compelling, like a great, great user generated content or a great press hit that you're sharing that, you know, look, Jenna Bush Hager loves it.

00:25:12Edit You know, Jenna Bush Hager's on today's show holding up to Hoda and saying, you know, chad, try this Hoda and so we can then take that video and repurpose that to get more eyeballs on it. But that, that hit itself. So Jenna Bush holding it up on the Today show was the $50,000 weekend for us on our site. And so if we're spending, that if we're spending that annually, NPR that one moment justified the kind of full spend on pr or whatever it, whatever it might be. And so I, I think it's a question of putting the money behind, getting the product out there and finding your tribe, another thing that I feel is really important is you need to know who your consumer is, right? We if we're trying to sell to everybody, you're going to sell to nobody. And so for us, our hot sauce, we're not the hottest hot sauce out there were not the person that, like the chili head is going with the five flames on it. That's gonna, you know, so anyone who buys that is gonna be disappointed with us and anybody. And so if we're advertising red clay like that and a bunch of chile had to buying our sauce that we're gonna get negative yelp reviews or negative amazon reviews or, you know, it's going to be a negative cycle downward.

00:26:13Edit So knowing your product, knowing your tribe. And then speaking to the tribe, finding out for us, it's the food is the home cooks, the people who care about thoughtful ingredients, that people care about. A beautiful, beautiful aesthetic. The beautiful brand. The novices. Like I was a hot sauce, newbie, the gatekeeper hot sauce and something more just like it's about elevating your plate of food with balance and nuance and a little salt meets acid meets heat meat sweet, not just sort of like all heat as a note. And that's a different brand, you know, and so I think for us with director consumer, it's being true to ourselves and advocating or really effectively communicating our strength. So that when somebody comes to our site, they know what they're going to get and then they're kind of happy with it when they do make the emerges? Mm That's really interesting. So am I right in thinking then for you guys, your biggest drivers for growth is that kind of press moment and that influence the moment. That is then kind of like seal of approval. Get people to come to your website. Yeah, I mean and then it's about retention and keeping that consumer engaged.

00:27:18Edit Right. And so if you're spending money or if you're taking the time to get that first purchase, you know through acquisition, you need that long tail effect of having them come back again and again and again. Or maybe buying something different. So we've got four hot sauces, three hot honeys. We're launching five spices, spicy margarita, salt, spicy, bloody mary, salt, pepper, jelly and so somebody might come in and purchase the original. But then what, how can we cross seldom a honey across seldom spices later. And so what might be a $40 order the first time is $1000 over the length of the customer. And that way, You know, I want to say our customer return rate year today is something like 37% to 37 people. 37% of all customers who visited our site and purchased have come back for a second purchase. And so that that really is the other way you grow. And so there's the bucket of like acquisition of new customers and there's the bucket of like how do we get our existing customers to kind of restock or try something else or get a hat, get some swag and then like represented out on the streets and so and that comes back to again, just making delicious products because people are gonna want, you know, they realized they used up the bottle and they want to go get some more or they trust us and they want to try this new honey.

00:28:33Edit Everyone's talking about, it's sort of building trust and authenticity with their consumer. Mm totally. Yeah, the honey sounds great. Love the sound of that. It's on the way to you. I'm excited to get you to drive. I imagine also having that new product actually drives new people like new customers all together as well. You know, if someone's not necessarily interested in hot sauce because they want the hottest or or they're, you know, a real fan of something else. But then they see this hot honey and they're like, oh, that's really interesting. And then you get them in with that new product and newness and convert them. It's so true. And I think specifically with the hot sauce versus hot honey. Hot sauce is a very concentrated category. There are hundreds of brands out there. Everyone already has their favorite hot sauce. And so you're selling something where there's a lot of noise with hot honey. It's a new food trend. There's 2 to 3 players out there were arguably the highest quality or the only 100% raw, pure locally sourced hot honey. The other sort of import foreign honeys or, or sort of have other kind of stuff going on. And so for people willing to kind of pay a little bit more for the higher quality hot honey, you can organically find us a lot easier through google searches or whatever.

00:29:41Edit And also because it's new press wants to talk about more, right? Like a lot of press might be like, oh, another hot sauce. I've written about hot sauce, but they're like, what is this hot honey? How do you use it? Oh wow. I tried it. Oh my God, I'm finding my music on everything. I'm putting it in cocktails and putting it on my sandwich. I'm putting it on my greek, yogurt with fruit. So it becomes something like the novelty of this new category is serving red clay Well, in terms of just like brand awareness and customer. Mm Yeah, totally. I can really see it being such a buzzy product. Low pun intended. Exactly. And it's delicious too. So it's like, no really like dry this is you're gonna like absolutely. Can't wait to try it. Given that you've got to businesses, you know, both thriving. Is there anything that you wish you knew before you got started. Oh gosh, yes. But so what they're okay. The number one thing for me is there is no overnight success. There is no, oh my God. And then after that all of a sudden no work in this millions of dollars.

00:30:46Edit Like I think anyone starting out building a small business is a committing to a marathon, not a sprint. And so it's about not one major decision. What did I name the company? What's the product? What? It's millions of small decisions over day after day after day after day, month, after month, year after year you're committing to 57, 10 years. I think true success in small business is perseverance and a commitment to get up and do the hard work and put the fire out that day and go to bed and get up, put the fire out the next day, get up, put the fire out the data and there'll be moments of like I'm so energized and good news and I'm so excited and then there'll be moments of like, oh crap, this is falling off the wheels of your business breaks at four or five different phases as you scale. And so accepting that the business is going to break, accepting you're going to have to find a new manufacturer or new Labeler or new customer or whatever it is and working hard through that is really what makes entrepreneurship what it is.

00:31:48Edit Mm I really feel that especially today, I've just been having one of those days where I'm like things just don't feel like they're moving and I know, you know, I've spoken to so many women and I know it's that compound effect, I know it's just one step in front of the other and just keep at it, you know, keep chipping away. But sometimes you forget that and it's really hard to keep that front of mine to be like, persevere, just stick with it totally, it is so hard and I had that on friday, my friday was bad, you know, to the point where like, and well, and I woke up on monday feeling great, like you get to know emails and something comes back and like you get, you get your spring in your step again, but you need to remind yourself like for me, I I worked so hard that I need to pull myself back out of work. Sometimes I need to so I don't burn out because if I burn out the company doesn't exist right? Or at least it doesn't as I know it right, there might be a point where you kind of need to step back and replace yourself and that's fine too. But I feel like for me it's about giving myself the space to walk away when I need it sometimes.

00:32:51Edit So is that a day off? Is that a day playing hookey, is that going out for a walk is not getting a drink with a girlfriend, Is that shutting your computer and just coming back, you know, 48 hours later, like give yourself that space and time, because you know, it's about you come back kind of refreshed with a new perspective, I was reading this book last night in bed and there was a metaphor about life as a chess game and they said every pond is a queen and waiting and it's just about, what is that one next step, You just think about, don't think about, oh my God, if I think about everything I have to do in the next five years to grow this business, I'm gonna collapse right now and cry in a corner with a bottle of one, like, but like what is the next one, next step that I can do towards becoming a queen and waiting is becoming my actual queen, like towards the end goal and that's, it just feels a lot more manageable, that does feel a lot more manageable, I like that. Where is the business today? And what does the future look like so readily is really interesting because Jeff and I both consciously partnered in this to sell it.

00:34:01Edit So this is not a business I want to, it's not my, it's not my like name life passion where I'm like, you know, I'm doing this forever, it's not the business I'm going to pass down to my kids, you know, with baby gators, baby eaters is much more of the business that we just, we live on, you know, and, and grow and, and don't really have an intention of ever selling it, but red clay because of the way food and bev Works with these exits, you have these big behemoths like Unilever and kraft and McCormick that the way they expand into new product categories through acquisition, they typically don't R&D themselves, so they are looking for brands that hit that $15-20 million dollars marker with an engaged customer base and a unique product and a beautiful brand to acquire for a great amount of money. You know, I've never sold a business and I've built a number of them and so this is sort of a bucket list item for me to learn how, what is the exit, Like how do you negotiate it? How do you sit in the meeting, how do you find that buyer who's the broker helping you like, I just have like a personal dream to experience that.

00:35:04Edit And so we are consciously thinking all right, how do we exit? And so for us, we're going to finish this year knock on wood at like 3, 3.5 to 4 million and we need to get to 17 to 20 million to start perking up the years of those big players. So we have a three year plan to do that. So our goal is to, you know, in the next three years, get to 15 to 20 million and then start looking for that right partner who could take it to the next level. Nice love that. You're so cool. My fingers are crossed. You're gonna get there for sure. I love that for you. Oh, I'm excited to watch the journey unfold. I wonder what's gonna be. We'll have to get you back on the show to talk about how you sold the business. Mm hmm. All right. We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. I ask every woman on the show the same six quick questions. So, question number one is, what's your why? Why do you do what you do? Oh God, that's a good question existential.

00:36:08Edit I mean, ultimately specifically this past year with 2020, I just realized my why is love and relationship like it really is. It's nothing at the end of the day, nothing else matters but your humans and so my husband, my boys, my girlfriends, my parents, my family. That's my why nothing else matters. But just having love and thoughtful, deep, you know, relationships that are a true dialogue and discourse and back and forth. And not one way and I give and take and that makes it worthwhile. Mm hmm So true. So true Question #2 is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that's made this business pop, wow, that's a good question too. So, I think the two or three biggest moments we have seen in terms of direct sales have been tv. There's nothing that gets eyeballs the way tv gets eyeballs and so Jeff was on cbs this morning and cooked a thanksgiving, spicy thanksgiving in 2019 and it was a, you know, $65,000.03 days.

00:37:15Edit And then on Mother's Day, Jenna bush put us on today's show, thank you Jenna. We love Jenna and it was a 50,000 over the weekend and then all of a sudden you get this long tail effect of all these stores here about us and they pick us up or it gives you that stamp of approval to say like on all your marketing materials. So look, we were on today's show, we were on Good Morning America and so I would say that those two definitely in terms of marketing moments and then I think that's just pure like velocity. But then in terms of the real sort of like markers for your industry, like food and wine is one of those sort of, you might not get the, you know, the eyeballs like tv gets, but it has all the like the right people are listening to it, the real foodies, the chefs and so we were, you know, the editor in chief of food and wine found tried ourselves loved it so much. He actually gave everybody on his staff red clay for the holidays and then he wrote in his letter to the editor in january saying, I love this sauce, it's southern, it's growing thoughtfully crafted and dare I say Tabasco for the 21st century. And so having that quote I think was a huge marketing them.

00:38:15Edit And for us to say, look, you better watch out for us. We're a player. Like Tabasco is a $350 million family owned number one hot sauce in the space. Like so to say, wow, like the stamp of approval that we're the next generation. Tabasco was my favorite marketing moment. Not about the dollars, totally. That's a bit of a breathtaking moment to be given that you know that link to love that, wow. I read the keys and I was like, I was in shock. I was like, what hunter? I want to give you a hug. I don't even know you totally. Just a quick side note before we, before we get on to question number three, are you guys like angling to go on shark tank or you're already too big for the likes of shark tank? I mean I feel like shark tank more and more is trying to feature bigger businesses and future unique businesses. We were approached by them. We've definitely kind of had conversations with them before they asked us to go on baby eaters as well. They wanted us to be on baby eaters or baby or start working, but we, it just hasn't been the right fit yet. That doesn't mean that we ever wouldn't do it.

00:39:17Edit But I feel like, um, not this season. Got it, Got it. Not this season, maybe next, maybe next question Number three is where do you hang out to get smarter, what kinds of things are you reading or listening to or subscribing to? I so you know, I think a big part of my growth and success as a ceo specific and food above, which is such a quirky industry, like nothing works the way grocery works, it's just you need to talk to other experts is so I have found having a network of ceos who are either where I am in a different space. So we're not direct competitors or a few years ahead of me and the mentors and advisors like having that network of other players that are doing something similar and are where you are at or right ahead of you so that you can all help one another and support one another has been invaluable. And so that's where I've learned the most about food and both. And then obviously you learn by doing every day and sort of talking to experts.

00:40:22Edit We also for both of our businesses are my businesses have built a board of advisors. So for instance J Bush, the founder or the family owner, Bush beans is on our board and my friend who owns that paleo sauce, I was telling you about, it's called the new primal, he's on our board and so actively seeking out those people who've done it before and asking them to get involved. Maybe giving them a small piece of ownership or a statement or salary to help you out for a monthly call and a quarterly retreat visit or whatever I think is very important as well. And then in terms of actual like inspiration and content, I love Seth Godin for marketing. I get his daily email about like, you know, kind of, he's the one who's really taught me about kind of reaching those consumers in a very thoughtful, focused way, an authentic tribal kind of as a dialogue back and forth. And then and then yeah, so I would say those things, I don't know how I didn't know this, but I didn't know he sent out a daily email. I need to get on that.

00:41:22Edit It's great up and it's literally just my goodness, anywhere From two sentences to 15 cents is it's manageable. Sometimes he sends out a little, his favorite podcast or books he's reading, but it's, it's just a little nugget that you get every morning in your email and it kind of keeps my mind perked up about marketing and consumer dialogue. I love that. Gonna link it in the show notes. Question number four is how do you win the day? What's your AM or PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and motivated and productive? I love um, my morning starts out once we get the boys off to school and my husband is school, drop off, I get beautiful cup of coffee and actually go sit on our porch and I and I start the day with just doing something kind of, that's not work related. I I'm not, I really consciously don't look at email on my phone until I Brett, you know, breathe some fresh air, maybe journal, maybe meditated, maybe did a little yoga maybe read a little inspiring chapter or prayer or a book or something like doing something to just get out of my head first.

00:42:26Edit Then I kind of, once I've done that it could be 15 minutes then I start the day, but a good cup of coffee, some fresh air and something that inspires me that's not just plugging in my to do list. Uh end of the day. I love, I love a walk, might be a glass of wine with a girlfriend but and then maybe you know, kind of nights I'm not going out, I always walk for 30 to 40 minutes just to get outside alone because all day long and then when my, I'll do pick up for the kids and then then its activities and everything dinner, getting them to bed there in between their bedtimes if my husband tell him I just get out and I kind of walk for an hour when the sun sets and maybe I call my parents, maybe it's a podcast, maybe it's just music or you know, even silence sometimes and that is I sleep better and I'm able to shut off work and it changes my, you know my whole life, good for the soul sounds delightful. Question number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it?

00:43:30Edit So I would say, I mean if that were really the case then it would be about fundraising to get more dollars. But because food and bed is so capital intensive on the front end, you're paying slotting fees to be on all these grocery shelves. It's one of the reasons that all of these food and beth businesses are constantly raising money because once you have to get to about five million in revenue typically for for it to go from in the red and the black, you know that size business, it sort of is an inflection point. But I think in terms of if it weren't about capital raising, it's about making sauce, The inventory dollars, I would have to do one last production run to get a little bit more product to sell. Yeah, I guess you know that you've got your community who will snap it up any time, make more sauce to make a little bit more revenue. Start that flywheel effect again. Absolutely. And last question question #6 is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach one of my really wonderful college friends is a Harvard professor in art and African american studies named Sarah Lewis, she just had a great podcast interview that would be also worth linking to on this with Renee brown in the dairy lead podcast that she does and she talks about the word failure and how only until recently was actually applied to sort of human behavior and it was created in the 19th century as a banking term.

00:44:56Edit So when banks failed or banks like financially there was some sort of catastrophe that that was the word failure was applied to sort of fiscal issues and only recently have we kind of absorbed it as like human mistakes and what she says, she's like I want that word kind of out of the lexicon because I feel like you learn any difficult time, any challenge is an opportunity for growth and there is no one end until the end, end of our life and that might not even be the end end of our life right. And so I think changing the outlook and that was so refreshing for me of like huh not what, how is this going wrong, but what am I learning from it to do differently or to do better. And so I have found that that is the police changed how I do growth and you know kind of sitting in the difficulty as opposed to how do I get out of it, but I'm here, it's hard, it was friday like we were just talking about dude this friday's homegirl today, I'm having a horrible day, what can I do to learn from this so that I'm a better human or my business is stronger because of it totally, and not running away from the heart, but sitting in it and really kind of letting your fingers get pruning in the bath and be like, this is human life, this is like human humanity.

00:46:14Edit Humanness, like this is why we're here and this is what makes a good good, because I'm in the best, totally, I didn't know that, That's so interesting, I want to check out that episode, so Brown a brown and what was the dr tara lewis, dr sara Lewis, check that out and link it in the show notes. Amazing molly, thank you so much for taking the time to be on female startup club today. I have loved chatting with you and how open you've shared learning so far and and the journey and I'm excited to have you back on once you sell this business for what, millions and millions and millions of dollars to hear how you did it, Thank you and thank you for doing what you do and bringing all of these amazing women's stories to the world because you know, I think there is this groundswell of of kind of women taking over and doing really interesting things and you're being a catalyst for change there, so I appreciate it, thank you so much.


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