Leadership, validating your product & creating with integrity, with Kinfield’s Nichole Powell
Joining me on the show today is CEO and Founder of Kinfield, Nichole Powell.
Launched in 2019, Kinfield makes Great Essentials for the Great Outdoors—effective, plant-powered skincare and body products made from ingredients that are safe for both people and planet.
They believe in a happier, healthier tomorrow through more time in the great outdoors, and are creating products you actually need to make the most of your time in nature, whether you're in the backcountry or your own backyard.
We’re talking about what makes a sustainable company and how they tackle things like packaging when trying to do better for the planet, Nichole’s 3-step process to validating the idea and her lessons learned along the way being a venture backed, female entrepreneur.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Nichole: All the good stuff. So. So. Hi, everyone. My name is Nichole Powell and I am the founder and CEO of Kinfield. We make great essentials for the great outdoors. So we make this put simply. We make clean products that are personal care and skin care and really designed to make it easy and accessible for everyone to get outside and make the most of the great outdoors.
Doone: And I should also say that they all look so beautiful. You're branding and your website and your social media. There's such a vibe going on there.
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah.
Nichole: I remember we actually when we were designing our packaging and I we we were working with this amazing agency and we were they had pulled the first thing they usually do when you're when you're thinking about your brand and how you want it to show up as you pull all of the other brands that are sort of similar on the market. And I just I remember looking at them and saying, no, clipart of mosquitoes.
Nichole: I don't want I really I was like, please, like, we can make a repellent that doesn't kill, but thank you.
Nichole: We we really put a lot of love into the packaging and thinking about how the visual identity would show up. And so thank you for that.
I totally feel it. I totally feel it.
Ok, I want to go back to life before Kenfield. What were you doing? What kind of got you interested in the outdoors space? Why these kind of products? What was life like before.
Yeah. So why these products actually kind of take you all the way back. So I grew up in Minnesota, which is, you know, I think a very outdoorsy state. And my family was super outdoorsy. So I grew up mountain bike racing and backpacking and camping and playing in our backyard. And that was really kind of all I knew.
And I at the time growing up, I didn't know what entrepreneurship was. That wasn't something that I had access to. You know, I think my my my parents have very traditional careers. And so when I was thinking about, like a five year plan, all I really knew was that I wanted to go explore and be elsewhere.
I want to go to New York. I want to go to California. My parents, of course, were very supportive. They said, you can go whatever you want with your education.
And so I certainly did. And after graduating school, I actually ended up going out to California and I had looked at a bunch of different careers after graduation and ended up starting work with a rotational program with Into It, which is a large tech company based out of San Francisco.
And while I fairly quickly realized that the work that I was doing there was not necessarily what was getting me out of bed in the morning, it did have a really critical step in the journey, which was introduced me to startup culture within the Bay Area. There's a really, really. Healthy ecosystem there around startups and entrepreneurship, and, you know, you really can only create what you can imagine, and it wasn't until there that my eyes were really open to this idea of, oh, you can you can have an idea and do more than just kind of like wax poetic about it with your friends.
You can do something about it. So I ended up living into it.
I took about six months out to travel. I was doing copywriting and content creation for brands while I was traveling. And then when I got back to the Bay Area, at that point, I knew I understood about myself by that point that I really love to create. I really love to be in that place where someone's like, we have a problem. We have no idea how to solve it. Can you just figure out how to get started? And I loved that energy. And so I ended up wanting to then go join another thread because I had not the faintest idea how one started a startup.
So I was like, well, I'll go to a startup and I'll learn from there. And then eventually I'll figure my own thing out.
And thankfully, I ended up meeting the founders of Modern Citizen, which is a women's fashion e-commerce company. They are very intentionally wanted to go to a female led startup. I very intentionally wanted to go to a really early company and they had just gotten started and I ended up joining them as their first full time hire. And that was really my trial by fire into the startup world.
And I think it's really, to their credit as leaders that I did work with them for three years and still wanted to start my own company by the end of it, because you can certainly it's not for everyone.
There's a lot of task switching and blue sky, which can be really energizing, but it can also be really overwhelming. And so I was working with Modern Citizen and having the time of my life getting to build that community and build that brand and company with them. And as ideas, I think tend to do they tend to find you.
And I was getting ready to take a group of friends camping in Yosemite, packing for this trip, realized that all of my skin care and beauty, even home cleaning products, had become these beautifully, sustainably sourced, beautifully made values, driven brands and the outdoor products that I was bringing on my trip, the repellent that dyed lime green aloe gel, my sunblock, they were all the exact same brands that I remember growing up with. And I was looking at them, packing them and going, why am I still using the same products that I remember from when I was eight years old? Surely there should have been some innovation in the space by now and there wasn't.
And really the options I talked to a lot of friends and did about six months of research, but. The options that were on the market were either the kind of legacy incumbent brands or these sort of like home grown, often ineffective alternatives which were made with the best of intentions but weren't put through the same rigor that just in terms of efficacy testing and the kind of regulatory controls that we've gone through now, that really, I think a product into a market that you can trust. And so that was really kind of where it got started was, well, can we make better products and and build a brand, too, around the way that most people get outdoors today, which is to say a little bit less of the kind of machismo you can track to the top of Mount Everest with this product and and really more sell around.
Can we make you something that you're it makes you excited to just get in your own backyard or that you could take with you on a day hike and really make the kind of return, the joy of the outdoors to the brands that are trying to get people outside.
Yeah, totally. I'm wondering why people hadn't innovated in that space.
Why was it because it was too hot or because it wasn't interesting or I'm trying to understand what was the reason then?
Yeah, it's a good question and one I've thought about a lot. I think it's a combination of, you know, it is hard, certainly to make something new. We spent a year and a half. So, for example, our repellent product, which is one of our kind of products that we're the best known for, called Golden Hour, Golden Hour, it took us a year and a half to formulate. It's made with a strain of citronella that I actually sourced personally in Indonesia. My first thing when I launched the company, and I will say this is hideously backwards.
And I know that at the time I didn't know how to how to make a product.
But what I did know was that our products started with better ingredients. And the only time that I had used a non DEET repellent that had worked was when I was traveling in Indonesia. And so I returned to the theme of I was like, great, how do I make that?
And you had gone back and did that work to source that. But it was a long process to be able to and it was kind of following those breadcrumbs of, OK, well, I used a natural alternative that worked once.
Let's go find that. Why did that one work?
And it was it was a lot of a lot of breadcrumbs. At one point in the process, I flew to Nebraska to go meet with the USDA researcher who is was a fantastic help in my education, in the repellant process and space, and is still someone that where I'm in touch with today and I deeply admire. But I think a lot of it is that you see brands and companies trying to innovate, but just not having the access that I had in terms of being able to go and find those natural natural ingredients that would perform better than their other counterparts. And I think a lot of larger legacy brands don't necessarily have the like either maybe the resources or the desire to innovate. Why? Why cannibalize your own space? It's working.
Hmm, yeah, totally. Gosh, that's so interesting and it must have been such an exciting adventure to be like, cool, I'm going to go out here and find some citronella, like, where do I find this?
Oh, my parents thought I had lost it.
I remember I left modern cities and quite literally, the first thing that I did was fly to Indonesia. And I just remember calling my family and saying, OK, I quit my job and I'm going to go to Indonesia and I'm going to go surfing. I'm going to go source the citronella. People were just floored, to their credit, very supportive, but they definitely were taking a leap of faith. And to be fair, I was taking a leap of faith with myself, too. So, yeah, but but innovation has to come from from taking risks and taking the leap. So.
Oh, totally, just a side note, I moved to Bali last year for six months and I just had the best time of my life. So incredible. Indonesian people, Balinese people, rather, just so beautiful. Such a special place. Very cool. It is lucky you getting to go there.
I know. I feel like I feel like I've secretly hacked something, something in the life, the life life continuum where I now have a reason to be able to go back to that magical place frequently. Oh, yes.
Yes, 100 percent. I love that. OK, so you have the idea you've kind of tracked down the citronella, which is one of your key ingredients. How do you then go from validating the idea to being like, OK, I'm actually going to start a business and like turn this into a thing?
It's a good question, so I as I said earlier, you know, I had known for a long time that I liked being in the space of having of building something from scratch. And it took me a while to land on the idea that was canefields. And every idea that I had, I would sort of vet it against three things. So I would say, is this something that I am deeply passionate about? Is this when you're starting a startup and launching into a company, if all goes well, you're going to be doing that for many, many years, longer than most most jobs. Right. So ideally, you're if you're thinking about it, is this something you want to be thinking about, talking about for the next seven to 10 years at a minimum? And then I also wanted to look and see, is there a market for this?
So one of the examples I was given once was you can be the best trombone oil maker in the world, but what is the market for trombone oil? Do you need that? Probably not.
And what I was looking at with a cane field was that we knew that more and more people are spending time outdoors. We also know that eighty seven percent of consumers want cleaner products for their personal care, skin care. And so the combination of those two things, I was looking at that and going, well, there's not a clean, effective alternative to these conventional goods, but we know that consumers want it. So I knew that there was a market there and the outdoor market is the thirty one billion dollar business. So we knew that there was an ample opportunity. And then the last question there is, do I need to be the person to build this so it doesn't matter if you're passionate, doesn't matter if there's a market there. If any number of people could do this, why you? And so for me, I was looking at it. I knew that these were products that I wanted. I had grown up using these kinds of products. I grown up in the outdoors. I was always the person who was taking my friends camping and wanting to introduce more people to real health benefits that come with time outdoors. And and I had the combination of having the startup experience I during my time at modern cities and had built an incredible network of other female founders, female businesses. And I really felt like I had the support system that I needed to be able to build this. And I also know that I have the tenacity of a bulldog and I will be anything through. And so it got to the point where I was like, I have to be this person. But once you, I think, may choose to make that commitment, then from there it's just a matter of asking the questions and you're taking it one day at a time.
And thirdly, gosh, it's just such a big adventure to embark on, and I'm wondering how you went from going and exploring Indonesia and finding someone who can sell you citronella and then is it you being like, OK, now I need to go back to the US and find a lab and get them to ship the Centinela over there?
Or do you then produce it in Indonesia? How do you figure out those blocks that are key to building the foundation of a brand?
A great question. So definitely wanted to start with a product I knew before anything else. Building the brand, building the website. We had to have a product that was better than anything else out there. So I initially thought that this was something that I could formulate in my kitchen.
I was wrong, but I did so to my credit to my roommate at the time who she was very patient. She'd come home and there'd be a slew of everything all over the kitchen counters. But I quickly realized that that was not going to work and was not going to create a product that, again, could stand up to the market.
And so what I actually ended up doing was tracking down a mentor within the space. And so I went to an event that was held at this wonderful place in the school called the Assembly, and they were hosting an event with the Environmental Working Group, which happens to be based in San Francisco, and had a number of amazing panelists who are all talking about creating cleaner products and are definitely experts within the space. And one of the experts on that panel was a woman named Kay Timmons. And Jay Timmons is a legacy within this industry or a legend within this industry. Her company, Organics, has supplied organic ingredients to both labs and brands for upwards of 20 years. And she was on this panel. And I remember just sitting in the audience and thinking, I have so many questions for her, all of the same questions of like, OK, I have this ingredient now. What do I do with it? How? And thinking, OK, well, she works with labs. She probably knows a lab. I bet I can ask her and her credit. I approached her after the event and I was just like, hi, I have so many questions. And she really I think I think she saw my enthusiasm and she said, here's my email, why don't you email me? And I ended up going and meeting her for coffee and she later actually ended up joining us as an adviser. But that really just came from organically, just honestly Googling and going to these events and really relying on cold emails to be able to help me level up the knowledge that I had because I had no idea where to get started.
And I was like, OK, but I need to find someone who does know how to get started and ask them the right questions. And so they was really that first person who then said, OK, well, you need a lab and you probably need a lab with a low minimum because you can't afford to go and start with twenty five thousand units of something, which some labs will say. And so she said, OK, why don't you go talk to this lab? And she put us in touch with our first lab. And once you go there, you start talking with this lab and you're sort of pitching them on what your idea is and they decide whether or not they want to work with you. And then you begin to give them what's called a product development request. And you write out, I want it to smell like this. I want it to use this ingredients. And some labs are really does give you a white label lotion. And they'll say, what fragrance do you want to put in it? It's yours. But we really wanted to innovate on something from the ground up. And so that process was a legacy that a long and arduous process for trying different things, making sure that it would dry the way we want it to, the way that be as effective as we wanted it to. And it just I that a lot of it was a lot of it was Googling and asking people, what don't I know about the space? What what should I be aware of? What questions should I be asking and going from there?
Wow, that's so cool.
And how are you funding the business up until that point? Because a year plus of development, I imagine, is a costly thing to undertake to not know if you're going to find your perfect forever product. I imagine it takes a lot of personal investment to get started.
It does. That's the unfortunate thing with with consumer products, I think, is that there is a hefty amount of startup cost with it. Again, my family was not coming from an entrepreneurial family. I really wasn't sure what that would entail. So I ended up doing a small round of friends and family. We were I was fortunate enough to meet to be Charles Hudson, who is the managing partner of a fund called Precursor. And they intentionally fund minority founders, female founders to the precision stage of the earliest stages, which is really oftentimes when people need the most, you just need a little bit of capital to be able to get started. And so I did that that kind of early friends and family round. And that was what gave me enough capital to be able to get the idea off the ground. But that was hard. I had never pitched before. I remember a friend of mine who is who is another founder that I had met in San Francisco saying she introduced me to our first angel investor. And I remember meeting her and her saying, let's go to coffee. And you say, oh, we can't go to coffee yet. I don't know what.
I'm not ready to pitch you. And I remember saying we can just go to coffee and you can tell me about your idea. That's OK. And she made a very welcoming space. And then later I did figure out how to pitch and build a pitch dark.
But yeah, it is it is hard to get capital to get started. But it really came from, I think, demonstrating that there was a need. There was sort of showing that white space within the market, encouraging them to to go and try to find the types of products that I was looking for. That was always my favorite. They would come back and they would say, gosh, these are all really ugly and none of them look very effective and they don't get good reviews. And I was like, great. That's why we're here to talk about that.
Yeah, that's clever to show other reviews for other things and be like, hey, but look at this, like this is not something that people are loving in this space.
That's quite clever tip to go through in a in a pitching situation for other women to to keep in mind.
I've read that you are a benefit corporation. And this might sound like a really silly question, but like, what is that and what does it mean and why was that important to you?
I'm so glad you asked. This is something that I'm really passionate about and I don't get to talk about it enough. So thank you. Great. So one of the first things that you choose when you are deciding to start a company is how you want to incorporate so you can choose to be an LLC. You can choose to be very few people do. So you can choose to be an S corp.
Most people go with a C corp. That's the most common form of an early company, although there are a lot of aliases as well. And any lawyer can kind of guide you to what type of corporation is right for you based on your goals with the business, the. Thing about bee corpse or public benefit corporations is that by definition, a C corp exists to provide value for its shareholders. So that means your investors. That means your whoever owns part of your company. Your goal as a leader in a C corp is to provide value for them. With a B Corp, you are functionally a C corp. Your taxed at the same time, but you have as a public benefit corporation an added part of your bylaws and you actually have to provide this to the state when you incorporate. We actually went back and forth, were incorporated in Delaware. We went back and forth with them to define our particular statement about this. But you have to have an additional purpose that is designed to provide a public benefit. And why that was so important to me was because I wanted to be able to make decisions that were in line with our vision of a more sustainable future and a more accessible future. And so for us to be able to, for example, choose packaging that is more sustainable, even though it's more expensive, I never wanted that to be something that I wasn't going to be able to choose. And I wanted to be able to preserve my right as a leader to be able to make the choices for that more sustainable future. And regardless of even if it means that we have a lower margin, for example. And so to preserve that kind of optionality and really, I think, build that into the foundation of the business, it was it was important to me to incorporate as a benefit corporation and be able to build that into, again, like the foundation of Kenfield and really set that up from the get go so that every investor that we ever bring on, there's no there's no ambiguity about why we're here and what we're doing.
We're not a nonprofit. We are a corporation.
But we are also building towards a more sustainable future. And we believe that we have a responsibility to do that. If we're creating products that are designed to get you outdoors, we need to be doing everything that we can to ensure that there is a healthy outdoors for you to be going to. So that was why we started. Is that what it really means in terms of the logistics of it? There doesn't mean a ton for us quite yet. We're in the process of also going through a separate certification, which is to become a certified B corp. And that is something that's different than incorporating as a B corp, although B lab, which manages that certification, does require you, if you are not already a public benefit corporation, to convert to that upon your certification as a B corp. So we are now going through the process of becoming certified in our status by that other organization. But we are and have always been a B corp for those reasons.
Yeah, that's so cool, thanks for explaining that to me, I think I've also read there's not crazy amounts of brands who are because of this like three thousand or something in the US, which it's not a lot if you think about how many brands have started all the time. So props to you.
That's really nice. A really beautiful thing to do for the world and for the planet. I also wanted to ask you, just going on from what you were saying about being a sustainable business and a sustainable brand, what actually makes a sustainable brand, in your opinion? And how can consumers trust that they're buying something that's actually doing good for the planet? Aside from the big complex application stuff like what does it actually mean? Because I feel like the sentiment is that there are lots of brands who claim that they like a sustainable business. But then actually, if you were to dig beneath the surface and like, really look, maybe they aren't. So what is it to you to be a sustainable business? And. Yeah, and then, you know, what should people be looking for?
It's a great question. I think one of the challenges within sustainability as it relates to brands and especially within products is that. Conflicting things can both be true. So to give you an example, when we went through the process of choosing our packaging for the first time. My original thinking was that we'll put it in glass because glass is infinitely recyclable and it will be a more sustainable choice.
That's true in some cases, but then you add on the layer of we are an Internet business, we ship your product. So if you're shipping glass bottles of liquid, not only water vapor, but they also require a lot of excess packaging. It's called dunnage. If your fancy technical term for all of the stuff that comes in a box to keep it safe and to protect it. And so it's heavier to ship, which requires more carbon. And it also is again, requires extra dunnage, which means extra additional waste around it to make sure that it stays secure in transit. Inevitably, you're still going to have some that are going to break. And then the other thing is that I'm also giving you products that are designed to be used in active spaces, meaning it has to be able to be thrown into your backpack and withstand that, which means that maybe actually giving you a glass bottle of insect repellent is not there. And so that was eventually what led us to then say, OK, well, if not glass, then what else could we be doing?
And so the way that we think about sustainability as it relates to our packaging specifically is what can we do to just minimize the amount of waste that we're creating at all? So not making it more recyclable waste, but what can we just do to minimize the amount of waste so our wherever we can, which so far has been every product that we've made, we sell them without the external carton. So that's 90 percent of the time that external carbon is actually just for additional marketing real estate, which means that our our labels have to work really hard to be able to get all that information. So we wanted to reduce all of the excess packaging that we could. So we don't have that external carton we don't ship with actually, we ship we're actually completely without damage at all. So are the boxes that we ship in our SFI certified, which is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which means that they're all sourced with sustainable forests and we are able to ship them. We put the products into one hundred percent cotton produce bag and we put it into that box and we send it off to you and we have a paper tape. And so there's nothing to throw away when you get the bottle in your hands. And so that was one of the things for us as we were on top of that, we also offer a recycling program. So if you send your bottles back to us, we will make sure that they are sustainably recycled with TerraCycle. So it's not a perfect solution. We are looking at doing more within recycled plastics next, which I think is a hard thing for early businesses because the is on those packages has to be extremely high. To give you an example, we wanted to do one of our current bottles into PCR, which is post consumer recycled plastic, and the minimum purchase on that bottle is normally ten thousand.
And if we wanted to run it in PCR, it would be one hundred thousand. Right. So it's tough. So I ask all of you, if you're listening to this, to be patient with small brands. We are, we are definitely trying. But the real thing that you can do is if you if you're curious about what a business is doing from a sustainability perspective, ask, they should be able to tell you. And for us, a lot of that just really comes down to offsetting the carbon that we do create, but generally just trying to reduce our footprint as many as often as we can in as many ways as we can. It's better to just not create waste at all than to try to create waste that will be recyclable.
Hmm, yeah. Wow, that's so interesting and I love how for you guys it just means that you actually need to talk about it a lot and I'm sure you need to like any any chance you can shout about that sustainability message that you have within your packaging so the people just know about it. So before the fact of them receiving that product and being like something on here, like, I wonder why I love that. Very cool. I want to switch topics and go into the marketing side of things to find out what you were doing when you launched, especially when you were trying to find your very first customers. What were those like 50 people? Who were they? How did you find them? And I like this notion that we talk about in marketing a lot around the first, like a thousand customers, like the only thousand that you, like, kind of care about, like not care about that the first thousand are like the thousand that you focus on. So then growing from, say, the first 50 to the first thousand. And like how that evolved for you guys.
Yeah, I adore our customers.
I am serious. Our customer and community has to actively tell me to get the she's like, I've got this. I'm like my daughter and I want to know.
So I think I think that the the the good news is, is that if you create a product that people want, there is definitely an organic amount of word of mouth that will happen. So we actually just recently started testing paid ads for the first time, but for the full first year of our business, we never ran ads at all. And in an entirely through press and through word of mouth. And when we launched, I had I had a healthy amount of self doubt wondering whether or not anyone would care.
I'm like I just poured the last year and a half of my life into creating these products. And we came out with three products that are repellent. We had a cooling alchemist that's like the best of a hydrating facial, messed with a healing product and a solid moisturizer. And these are all products that I wanted. But then there is the natural thing of will anyone else want these?
So for us, the first set of customers that we had really either came from people that I had interfaced directly with during the development process. So I was a part of a Facebook group in San Francisco called the Bay Area Outdoor Women. And I had asked a bunch of them how to fill out a survey when I was doing the research of are these products that you would want? And so I reached back to them. Many of them were a part of our initial development process of testing out the different products. And they were some of our earliest customers then, because, of course, once we launched, they were personally invested in the process. The other thing that we did with launch was that's the only time that we've invested in a in hiring a PR firm. So PR compounds upon itself. If there is ever going to be a time that you are going to hire a PR firm launch is a great moment to do that because a good PR team will help introduce you to the right editors, the right writers who are interested in your face, who are thinking about your space, and they you can really rely on them to help you network with the right people who are interested in brands like yours. So we worked with the PR team at launch, loved them. They were fantastic. They were definitely expensive. PR usually is, but it was a marketing investment. Again, we had limited dollars and rather than run ads, I elected to put that towards PR.
And thankfully the writers that we spoke with were were similarly enthused by our vision and wanted to write about it. So we came out of the gate with we were featured in the New York Times refinery. Twenty nine PopSugar Beauty Independent, Vanity Fair. We were able to get all of this press because people saw the enthusiasm that we were getting from our earliest customers and recognized that this was something interesting and worth writing about.
So that was that was really the first thing.
How far before the launch did you have to start working with them to kind of prepare and get everything ready to go in that lead up so that they were able to like briefing editors and all that kind of thing?
And they'll usually say and we found that this was effective as well. It's about six to eight weeks before you want to launch, is when you want to when you want to be starting with an agency, which means that you probably want to be, at least in our experience, you probably want to be interviewing different potential agencies or individuals well ahead of that so that you can as soon as the time is right to say, OK, let's go. And at that point, trying to negotiate a contract or or figure that out. So I would I would probably recommend, if you are going to do PR, starting to ask around for recommendations or look up recommendations, probably like three months in advance, spend a couple of weeks talking to a few different ones, see who tells you what your their vision for your brand is. Give them your spiel of what you think that you can do and then say, how do you see this evolving? Where do you see this sitting in the market? The reason that we went with the PR agency that we did and we worked with as EONIA, which is an incredible firm, was because I gave them my version of our story and I saw what they then said back. And I was I was inspired by hearing how they talked about the brand. And that's when I knew that they could represent the brand when I wasn't in the room.
I really love as a journey they are forever like in my inbox. They're fantastic. Distin amazing female founders. I work with really, really cool company. Love that for you. Do you still work with them?
We don't. I absolutely adore them. We're not currently working with a PR firm. I think like many small businesses this year with covid definitely lead everyone, I think, to go kind of lovingly into survival mode. We were no exception to that. And so we. Fortunately, have benefited from so many people spending so much time outdoors, but we're definitely running a lean ship, we're operating on limited resources.
I haven't done additional fundraising since the capital that I took before launch, which means that I don't have the benefit of having four million dollars in the bank. So to go kind of throw at everything and I do have to be really thoughtful about where we spend, where we spend our pennies.
Yeah. And when I guess when there are like things like product launches and things that are coming up that you can tap back into those networks to amplify the message is when you can do that stuff. Exactly.
On the topic of covid-19 and just in general, young businesses or small businesses facing challenges, what are the kinds of things you've been what are the hurdles you've been facing recently?
Not even if it's just covid, but just in general? What's what are some of the challenges you face at this stage of your business?
So I think the two greatest challenges all all of the smaller problems can be summed up with into two kind of key challenges for any early, early entrepreneur, one, which is prioritization of resources. So how are you spending your time? How are you spending your dollars are not infinite dollars, unless maybe there are for some people that there aren't for me, none of that. There's not infinite dollars and there's not infinite time. And so looking and being really, I think, on the offensive about how you structure your time and not letting, I think things kind of creep into that. And trust me, it is so hard because I am an ideas person and I can have a million and seven ideas that I want to execute on before lunch.
But the hardest thing for me and my active check that I have to do is do we need to do this right now? And the answer for probably one in ten ideas that I have is going to be dang if I don't have eight out of all of the other ideas that I have to say, OK, I love this, I want to do this, but we have to wait because we don't have the time to do that right now.
And that is one of the most important sentences that you can learn to say is I want to do that, but not yet because you can't do everything at once. And learning that prioritization is really challenging, but it will help you. It will help your team to to be really clear with their time about where they should be spending it and recognizing kind of what those key biggest value add things for your business. And that totally depends. Know for us, when we are focused on marketing, we are focused on marketing and now am I. Right now, my time is energy is spent primarily on product development. So our operations and I will spend hours a day looking at trying different formulas, thinking about different active ingredients that we should be incorporating, thinking about fragrance, thinking about all of those different pieces.
And then my time will swing as we get closer to launching those products again towards marketing. And then the other thing that I will say is, in addition to prioritization of time, it is recognizing that if you are helming a fast growing business, you need to be a faster growing leader. And that means that you need to be up level in your skills faster than the business is growing. And if you want to be leading a fast growing business, you need to be comfortable putting yourself into the constant position of needing to push yourself to be harder and better and faster and smarter and more well-rounded. From a mental health perspective, you need to be keeping up with your business because you need to be leading it, which is, you know, it can be uncomfortable and it's not an easy thought to be in.
Sometimes you get exhausted and you just have to say, OK, I'm going to go to bed early tonight. I'm going to wake up tomorrow. We're going to do it all over again.
The sun will rise tomorrow and I'm going to do it all over again, but it has continued to rise every day that I've woken up so far, so totally.
I really love that notion of the of, you know, being really good at prioritization. And it feels like it's like a muscle that you need to build it because it's something you just need to, like, constantly get good at. And I guess when you're the leader and you're the CEO at the top, it's like, who do you look to?
To be like, what should I prioritize?
Like, you have to decide and kind of work on on building that skill for yourself, which I'm sure is difficult.
And it definitely is. And I catch myself to it's having to have an editor's eye with everything.
Totally. Where is the business now, how big is your team? What does the future look like? What's happening?
We have had so we just about them about two months ago, celebrated our first year in business. And let me tell you, 20, 20 as a first year in business is a what I keep telling myself is, listen, if we make it through this year, we can make it through anything.
So where we are with it is that we are getting ready to launch our most requested category, which is really exciting. So that'll be something happening next year, which again, patience is not my strong suit, but I've definitely learned to be patient because the the cycle of things just takes time. But where we are as a business, we had an incredible summer. I think with with so many people getting outdoors and really seeing that healthy appetite, we actually ended up selling out of our repellent twice. We had twenty five hundred bottles pre ordered before we could get it back in stock. We had some wonderful press the summer again between the New York Times goup. We've added a bunch of retail stores, which has been a really exciting development for us too.
And, you know, we're but we're a small team. I have I have someone who leads operations for us, someone who leads community customer care, kind of manages our wholesale accounts, but otherwise everyone is agencies and contractors. And I actually think that one of the harder one of the stumbling blocks that people can face is trying to hire too many people too soon. And so if you can do more with less and rely on freelancers, rely on our help, you will be able to do far more with that than I think that the you would initially think. And so I always kind of laugh when I hear people who are similarly high in business say, oh, we're really small team, we're only 15 people. Like, what would you do if 15 people?
But I think I think creativity loves constraints.
And and we're really happy being a small team that makes it really easy. Everyone can be on the same zone.
So, yeah, totally. Oh, gosh, I love that. I'm excited for your products coming out next year. And also, I should say happy birthday. That's so we celebrate it. We did. We did.
What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to launch their own business?
Well, start to be honest, I think it's funny because when I had started my time with Modern Citizen long before starting Kornfield, I had thought. OK, I'm spending three years as the first employee at a business, I am getting the best possible, I'm basically getting a starter course in founding a company. And I was to some degree, but there is no experience to prepare you for starting a company like just starting the company. I'm not saying quit your job, but I am saying just start it. If it's perfect. When you launch, you launch too late. And so if you can get a landing page job or start bringing it to your target customers within your own community find your your target community. There are such the Internet is such a wealth, I think, of groups and subdivisions of people who have different interests that you want to test your idea there and lightweight ways to test your idea online and just doing focus groups and that kind of thing just to see if there is a there there and and people. I think what I found is that especially early customers are incredibly forgiving and they love and want to be a part of your process just as much as you want them to be a part of your process. We still to this day, I send an email to customers after they purchase and it just says thank you. And I truly mean it. I'm so grateful for every single one of our customers by say thank you. And I say, if you have any feedback or product requests, let me know. And if you hit reply to that email, it's my email and I get my favorite notes back. And you would be shocked at how many customers will respond back to that and just say, Oh, thank you. Well, actually, while I have you, I'd really love this product. And and it really just comes from talking to your target customers. But you just start don't worry about it. Get your ego out of the way to start.
That is so cool, I love that you have that direct feedback loop like inherently like built into everything that you're doing and you just picking up bits of gold from your target customer, who is your customer.
It's so cool.
That's a really great idea. Yeah, we are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. I love it. Look, ready for a let's do it. Amazing question. Number one is what's your why people.
People are the reason behind everything that I do. I think that human connection is why we're here, and making people happier and healthier is truly like what lights me up every single day. And I've seen the joy that more time outdoors brings to people. And that's where Canfield comes in. But for me personally, it really does come down to how do I make how do I leave this world better than I found it?
I love that totally, so your question number two is what's been the number one marketing moment that's made your business, pop?
Well, it's two things. One, it's creating a memorable product in the first place. We have a repellant, which everyone kind of laughed at because what an unsexy product. Right. But it's a memorable product. And so people do when they hear about it, they're like, oh, yeah, that's interesting. And then the other thing was not something that I had orchestrated at all, but The New York Times wrote about the product this summer, and it was the best sales day that we've ever had was was on the day that that Sun Times came out. And that was surreal, to say the least.
I read that you I think it was on your Instagram that you sprinted out of the apartment to go and get a copy of The New York Times because you like what is happening.
I didn't know that it was coming.
It was a Sunday. I was kind of futzing around my apartment cleaning and just having a fun day. And I remember I get all of our orders to my phone and my phone kept being thing and actually the Shopify at the cash register.
And so it was like the cash register. I love it. The sound or the genius, whoever came up with that.
And I just remember it kept going off and being like, weekends are good for us, but this is really, really a lot.
And then we have a survey question after you finish checking out that says, how did you hear about us? Which Enquire Labs is who adds that shop. If I add in and it is my favorite shop, if I add ons, if you're building your company on Shopify, you should add enquire labs to be able to get this question. So I was reading through the responses on that and I'm seeing New York Times, New York Times, Home Edition, New York Times, Sunday Edition.
What the heck is happening? So I had no idea. Oh gosh.
That is so cool. Amazing. Love that for you.
Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading? What are you listening to? What do you hang out books?
90 percent of the time books and my kind of like 10 people. So I always feel like, you know, I think back on that the combination of the five people you spend the most time with. And so always just looking for the people that kind of light you up and level you up. And then from a book perspective, my grandmother, who's actually one of my favorite people in the entire world, used to be a librarian. So she I'm always asking her, where should I what should I be reading next? And yes, I have I have a very robust Goodreads, so friend me on there. But yeah, I read a mix of both fiction and nonfiction. I recently read Bob Iger is the Ride of a Lifetime, which is he's the CEO of Disney. That was an incredible business read. And I also picked up it's the vanishing half, which is amazing. But I think it's healthy to have a good balance of both like business books, but read read other things, read everything Mila's know. My name was incredible and heart wrenching. And, you know, it really just opens your eyes up to so many other things. And it's so, so reading, really.
I love getting lost in a good book.
Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your A.M. and PM rituals that keep you feeling like happy, successful, productive.
Right. So winning the day for me starts the day before and it starts with sleep, to be honest. And so I've done a lot of work around my sleep hygiene and in finding a good wind down routine that works for me, my brain, if I let it, will go all night long. And so for me, that means that I usually by nine p.m., I try to have all of my devices off and I like to read at the end of the day, maybe take a bath wind down. I take gonda and magnesium three and eight at night, which also really helps. And then I try to, if I can, wake up without an alarm clock.
And so I let my body get as much sleep as it needs. And then when I start the day, I try to leave again, not touch my phone right away, but start instead with a moccia in bed. And then I'm either reading or journaling, doing some visioning for the day and what I want to bring forth into fruition. And then that way, by the time I'm out of bed, I'm ready to start.
Ready to fire, ready to fire. Exactly. I just started doing I was really bad with my phone in the mornings and I knew it was I was starting my day, like, really filled with anxiety.
And I was just having such a bad start to my day.
And I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was literally looking on Instagram the moment I woke up thinking we all knew it was driving me insane. My husband and I when we just moved into our new apartment a few weeks ago, we we were like, OK, we need to set some new routines. So we set our alarm super early. We wake up and we meditate.
We have a hot lemon and water and we just read for forty five minutes in bed and we look at our phones and it sets us up just such a nice day and it's so crazy, you know, this stuff like you know that it's bad for you that you still do it. And since we've changed it, I've seen such a difference in my headspace throughout the day and and the way I am able to show up and do things.
I love that. And I have to ask, what are you using for meditation?
We found this meditation, I forget the name of the top of my head, so I'm going to send it to you afterwards. Link it in the show notes that it's this woman and it's specifically a guided meditation for the moment that you wake up. It's 10 minutes long, which really suits me because I am just not good at meditation. But I'm trying. And she's really talking about positivity and starting your day with positive energy, getting out there, being happy and fulfilled. And it's just a really nice meditation to start the day with. And I actually just really enjoy her her voice. So I'll send it to afterwards.
Please do. Yeah, I've definitely found that meditation is really helpful and I've been using an app called Waking Up, which it sounds is a bit similar, where it's short 10 minute morning meditations. And it really does mean I'm going to check that out as consistent as I'd like to be with it. But I definitely notice the difference when I do.
So I think in some ways I maybe need to just perhaps crack down on myself a little bit more every day.
Yeah, lock in the habit. I think it's like they say twenty one days to make a habit and we're like, fully, fully, I don't know, maybe we're even there already.
I don't know where a week away but.
Yes. Yes. So good. Back to it. Question number five is if you only had a thousand dollars left in your business bank account, where would you spend it.
I would do two things. One, I would go reshoot our visuals. I think that people, humans are visual creatures. And so if you create really beautiful photography and beauty, by the way, you can be whatever you need. It not works for you. It doesn't have to be the same kind of like pastel tones that everyone does. But creating something that's really memorable and will make the visuals of your product pop, I think can do a lot of difference to helping to communicate what your brand is about.
And the other thing would be creating a really robust referral program and then shipping spending the rest of that money on shipping the product that we have to our most loyal or the customers that we're trying to get in front of and encouraging them to help share the brand, because that groundswell can do way more than you might initially think. And all you need are, like you were saying before, those kind of one thousand true fans. So anything that you can do to entice them by giving them beautiful visuals and a reason to refer people to your product. And I think that you'd be surprised what you can accomplish with that.
I love that true fans, I was that's what I was trying to think of earlier when we were when we were going around that one thousand customers. Yeah, last question. Question number six is how do you deal with failure? And that can be a specific personal experience or just your general mindset and approach when things don't go as planned.
So failure and I don't think I'm unique in this. I hate failure. And I have actively, as a part of this year, really try to rewire my. Interpretation of failure, I think I I have anxiety that I manage, and so it's really easy, I think, to start spiraling when something doesn't go your way or you get a rejection. And especially if you're going through the fundraising process. It is. No, no, no, no, no.
By the way, you're your product ideas. Terrible. Your market is terrible. And you're like, oh, my gosh. Like, why am I doing what I'm doing?
But what I realize now is that if you talk to anyone who has achieved success, by whatever definition they choose to define it as they have all faced failure over and over and over and over and over again. And so now the way that I've been thinking about it is it's just it's like the it's like the checkmark, right. That you're like, OK, great. Like, I'm one failure closer to what I define success. And so now I even do. I'm a very visual person. And so I even have this little this little like star chart basically that I keep next to my desk where I map successes and failures. And I think of them as accomplishments in the same way. And so it's not to say that I don't still have failures that knocked me back. I I've gotten rejections from people that I really admire who are saying, sorry, I don't have time to meet with you or no, I think this is a nice idea. But maybe later, like, oh, OK. But at the end of the day, how you choose to work through success and how you choose to work through failure, I think says says a lot about the business. And so trying to see that as an important stepping stone and pushing yourself to kind of collect those failures just in the same way that you want to collect those successes and looking at both of them as being the same, it's the same coin. So I try to I try to just keep a good attitude about it. And sometimes, you know, you just have to say, OK, I'm going to shut my laptop for today and go for a walk. I'm going to call my mom because she always reminds me that I'm doing a great job. And then tomorrow we'll be back at it.
Oh, I love that you call your mom, that's not so true. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today. I have loved learning about your bread and all the cool stuff that you're doing and what you're putting out there into the world. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. I love what you're doing with this. I've listened to so many of the episodes and really learned so much from the other women who featured. So thank you for letting me be a part of it. I really appreciate it.