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Sally Mueller from Womaness shares her lessons on how to launch your brand into big box retailers

Today I’m chatting to Sally Mueller, the founder of Womaness, about how to launch your brand directly into a retailer like Target and how to market to a completely different demographic.



So many gems in here, you’re going to get so much value learning from Sally.


Womaness is a collection of modern, innovative menopause products developed for women, by women that offer solutions from head to toe (and everything in between). With community, education, and inspiration, Womaness sparks the power of menopositivity.


We also talk about the power of your network and mentorship and if you haven’t heard already we are launching our private network for women in ecommerce where you can access guests from the show like Sally through what we’re calling modern mentorship. You can add your name to our waiting list at femalestartupclub.com/waitlist and you’ll be the first to know when we open our doors for Founding Members.

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


00:02:35

So I'm obviously sally miller and I am the Ceo and co founder of Woman S A Woman is is fairly new, we are a women's wellness brand focused on menopause.

00:03:42 Our mission is to provide a product information and inspiration to women going through this incredible stage of life so they can really live their life in an unstoppable way, so that is really what we're here to do. So it's not just product, but we really do focus on education information and then inspiring women, true. Meeting other women. We feel like the second half of life is really exciting, Women have told us they feel more confident, think about all the years of them working all the different life experiences, they've had their much more wise and you know confident and they feel actually more creative during this stage of life Then they did even before in many cases um sure there's rough patches and menopause is not easy, but when they really sit back and look at it, they feel like their life is in a better position than they were even, you know, 10, 15 years ago, just because of all the life experiences and all the things that they have to offer.

00:04:48 So we're really set out to create a platform for women to connect with other women and be inspired as well. That's so cool, thank you and what I find interesting when I think about this brand is I couldn't really tell you on the brands in this space and you know, maybe it's because I haven't been having to go through this part of my life myself. So of course I'm not targeted by necessarily ads or whatever, but I Still would think that you would have an idea whether it's from when your mom went through it or someone that you know that you would be able to rattle off a couple of names. But now that I think about it, nothing's coming to mind. But yet it is a huge industry in terms of the people being served, there is a huge demographic of women and I read some statistics and I'm the worst, recalling the numbers. So I'm not even gonna try, but I read that it's like this huge like by 2025, you know, there's just going to be this like amount of women who need to be served with, you know, education and products that speak to them.

00:05:50 So wow, exciting. Yeah, we do have a few competitors, There are a few brands that are in the market focused on menopause. Um I would say we are different because we're really accessibly priced. So everything that we're selling right now is under $40. Um and that was important to my co founder Michelle and I that we wanted to make sure that our product was not only Efficacious and beautifully designed, but we want it to be accessible. So you're right, it's a huge market. 50 million women at any given time are going through menopause and the overall purchasing power or size of that market Is supposedly 600 billion. When we set out to Go after this, this market, we estimated it at about 150 billion, but you'll read different publications now that really say it's more like a $600 billion dollar market. You know when you think about all of the investment women make and medical services, um not just products, but information coaching, medical services, it is a huge market and overall this woman has been largely ignored.

00:07:06 And so that's why there's been so much buzz and excitement around this market because this woman is The wealthiest, healthiest, most active generation to date and only 5% of advertising dollars are directed to this woman. So she has been really, really, largely ignored not just in the wellness space, but fashion, all all industries really. So that's really interesting. Yeah, it's really exciting, is really exciting. Wow, we, I've gone off track from where I usually get started, but where I usually start is where does your entrepreneurial journey begin? Take us about my guts rewind Lord! Well I think growing up, my parents were very entrepreneurial, my dad was an engineer and worked for some large companies, but he always found his happiness working in much smaller, more startups. So I grew up in Minnesota and um Minneapolis ST paul is really known for like the medical device community and there's a lot of really incredible companies here.

00:08:14 So um I watched my dad's career really blossomed through um going from large companies to smaller companies where he had a much more senior role. And then my mom was interesting because she was a schoolteacher and decided one day that she was going to not do that anymore and she was going to open her own beauty studios and so she started opening, she got a part time job at merle norman cosmetics, which you probably don't know that brand. It started in the thirties and she ended up loving this part time job so much that she opened her first beauty studio long time ago and then she opened her second and her third and her forest and I was very involved in helping her on the business side. I also worked obviously at the studio, so I started to really learn about women and the beauty industry and what made women feel good about themselves, you know, I just interacted so much with the customer and it was a part time job and I learned so much and I think that really started my love for, you know, building brands for women, not just in beauty but across the board and I would say my parents are really the inspiration behind my Love for being an entrepreneur and taking taking risks and hustling.

00:09:42 But I've had a lot of mentors along the way. So I spent almost 25 years at target and Target stores in the U. S. And had just an amazing career there. I was in merchandising for the first part of my career where I learned a lot about trends and you know the consumer behavior and the business to of course and then my last part of my career was spent in marketing where I really helped along with an amazing team and the marketing area at Target really build target into the recognizable brand that it is today, Wow! years. Gosh yeah well designed product, affordable, affordable design. Um so my one of my roles was to really help find the designers to bring into target. So the fashion designers accessory, you know all sorts of designers from Isaac Mizrahi and Liz Lange to Liberty of London, I'm mentioning all of my all of the british ones.

00:10:45 Uh luella Bartley Proenza Schooler, I mean just you know an embarrassment of riches when it when it came to like the designers that were willing to we're excited to work with target. So wow it sounds like an amazing launchpad. The Yeah it was an amazing career. I did leave target to start my own business about 11 years ago And then in the last 11 years I've done some really interesting things. I had my own business building, you know consulting and helping to shape brands that hired me to either kind of reinvent themselves or expand into new categories or new territories, but I would say one of my most successful projects was taking who, what where which is an incredible as you know, fashion and beauty platform and taking that Essence of their brand and building a whole line of product, a whole line of women's fashion around what who what wear stood for, which was all about street style and launched that at target in 2016.

00:11:56 And it was just incredibly successful from the very beginning. So my role was to really help find the manufacturer, you know, build up the whole strategy, the marketing, oversee the marketing and I ended up joining who what where as their chief brand officer. So I just spent the last four years working with them and helping Catherine and Hillary and that amazing team, you know, not only really build who, but where into a fashion powerhouse, but also incubate new new opportunities. So I would say that was also back to, you know, the entrepreneurialism in my blood. That was also a really great moment to hone my entrepreneurial skills and learn a lot about, you know, digital marketing and building a community and influencer relationships and kind of how to unlock the power of a community to get behind a brand and you know, what's the secret source, what's the secret, oh you're asking me what the uh oh my gosh, what's the key thing, I have a few tips, Okay, first of all, you have to have the right product, You can't just have great marketing, you really need to focus on the product.

00:13:15 1st, the quality, the design, the product, promise, what are you really going to stand for? Because at the end of the day the marketing can draw the customer end by the product, but if you don't have a great product, they won't stick with you. There's so many other choices in the market, even with women. S we have to be very judicious about the product and the quality and you know making sure that the value is delivering for the customer. So that's the first thing that you have to focus on, then you have to really think about the story. What is the story that you're going to tell? You know, is it about design? Is it about design at affordable price? Like what's your brand positioning? But then how does that come to life in the right story? And then I think how does the story come to life? Is the third really important piece? Like who are the right storytellers? Are you, if you're gonna, you know, influencers to, to this day, are everyone is tapping influencers right to help amplify their message, tell their story on the brand's behalf, but it's so important that you think about who are those right influencers, It's not just, someone who is willing to work with you.

00:14:34 It has to be the right storyteller that has trust with the customer and that understands how to, you know, authentically get behind your story and your brand and so, you know, it's it's you have to be very selective. So having the right influencers behind the brand is very, very critical and then it's through the right channels. Where is the customer, you know, where is she consuming this type of information? Is that instagram, is that facebook is a traditional media? You have to really understand how do I reach her? You know, not just through those influencer voices, but how do I reach her through the right media? So I think those are kind of the critical boxes that you really need text, so to speak. And it's funny because you know, we know this, we know these are the things that are important. But sometimes people forget about that first step, which is highly critical of just focusing on the product.

00:15:38 Make sure people want it. Absolutely. Tell your best friend to tell your mind, tell your husband. Exactly. Absolutely. It's so, so important. Absolutely. People get Yeah, I mean you really need when you're when you're developing a brand, like after you've decided that you're focused on a void in the market. Like when we we knew we were going to focus on menopause and we wanted it to be, you know, women's wellness that, you know, it wasn't just a skincare brand, it was really a total solution to menopause. Then you have to really think about your overall positioning, What stores do you ultimately want to sell through? Do you want to be an e commerce brand? Do you want to also have a retail footprint? You have to think about what price, ultimately, or what your price positioning is in the market and what your point of differences overall. How are you going to break through? So, you do have to think about the whole strategy along with the product, but then the first thing that you really need to work on is the product, you know, where you're actively focused on product development supply, you know, what suppliers are going to help you bring your product to life packaging, you know, especially in the beauty industry, packaging is so important.

00:17:00 And, you know, you have to tell your story on, you know, in just a little teeny box, has to really be able to tell your story has to gradually attention, right? Especially if you're going to be on a retail shelf, you can't assume the customer is seeing you and media what if they're just walking the shelves of a store and they happen to does your packaging catch their eye? Does it tell the story? So there's so many, there's so many layers to the product development process and that's why it's the longest process out from launch, You have to start working on product and packaging before you work on your marketing plan really. So that's the first, that's the first step. And so what led you to this particular category? How where was the a half moment that you thought? I know what it is? I've got the vision. Great question. Yeah.

00:18:02 So I had my own Aha moment. Um personally I was going, I knew I was going through menopause, This is, you know, 2-3 years ago. And I, I actually have a doctor at the Mayo Clinic that I see because the Mayo Clinic is a renowned institution, medical institution and it's only about an hour and a half from my house. So I really felt that strongly that I wanted to take advantage of having them so close to me and why not their world renowned. So, I found myself in a doctor's appointment and the doctor was a specialist in the Women's health center specializing in menopause. And I must have filled out a survey about my own issues slash symptoms. And I found myself in this really awkward conversation with the doctor about vaginal dryness and painful sex and other other issues.

00:19:04 And the doctor was so gracious and reassured me, she said sally these are all symptoms of menopause. I had no idea. And here I was in menopause, I was so misinformed and it was just because I was living a busy life. I was working and traveling and kind of ignoring my own focus on my own health and well being. So she was very, very good at educating me. And then she recommended that I try some products and she had carefully curated a selection of products. I went home that night to check out the products. Um they were like for sale on amazon and my husband was like, I hope you buy these products, they're going to be really important and I said to him, I'm not buying any of these, I'm not buying these from amazon. Yeah, the products were just the names of the products didn't speak to me, the packaging looked outdated and it was no disrespect to male clinics taste level, it was the best that they could find in the market.

00:20:13 So I thought, why am I not creating a brand around menopause? So that was really an important moment for me and I started thinking about the business, my business had kicked in and I thought, oh my gosh, think about all of the brand, all of the industries that are being disrupted the period space was being disrupted. The natural deodorant, all these brands were emerging offering natural deodorant toothpaste toothbrushes, quip, you know, all these brands were coming through the shelves of Target and some example and I thought no one is going after menopause and that was really the start of it. Um and then I started doing some research around the size of the market, became very excited about, you know, reaching, Oh my gosh, 50 million women are going through this at any given time, this has got to be a huge market. So that was a critical moment. Um My co founder, my now co founder Michelle, um at the time we were friends and I were having drinks in new york and I said that I was passionate about going after the space that I really felt like this was my next calling, and she said, well I would love to do this with you, and she was at kind of a y in the road with her career.

00:21:32 And so we ended up deciding to do this together and she brought an interesting perspective because she's about eight years younger than I am and she really felt like women In their 40s and 50s were really feeling kind of discouraged by their own career, they had so much to offer and they were either getting laid off or just unhappy in their jobs. And we turned it into, it was a really positive thing because these women realized they had so much to offer and they were feeling really confident, like I'm not going to just take a job for the sake of taking a job, I'm going to do something I want to do. And we felt like all of these women that we started to really talk to because we did focus groups, felt very excited about the second half of life, Like they're not going to put up with anything. They might get out of a bad marriage, they might like start a new job, new career.

00:22:33 They felt very creative and very excited about the future and we're not saying menopause is easy, you know, there are definitely tough hours and tough days, but all in all we really believe it is what we call mental positivity. It's like there is this radiant, no, seriously, there is this radiant outlook that women have about, you know, finally I'm free, my kids are either grown not as dependent on me, you know, I'm more confident, built all this wisdom from all my life experiences and now I really want to do something that I want to do. So that was really a big ah ha to, to help create woman is like we wanted it to be modern, you know, almost take a little bit out of the millennial playbook, you know, beautiful packaging, modern voice, Let's portray this woman in a cool way. Like these women are cool, they're not, they're like us, they're not outdated and dowdy, they're not running down the beach with a straw hat, like a lot of the Geritol ads per trade.

00:23:40 Um, so we really wanted it to be cool and modern and you know, inspiration is definitely one of the pillars of the brand and I think also something that they're proud to pick up off the shelf instead of some dusty old thing in the back corner that you're feeling like, hey, this is a deeply personal, this is a deeply intimate thing that I'm going through. I want to feel awesome when I buy this product, not like, oh God, this wasn't really made with me in mind, even though it's for me. Exactly. Oh wow, that's so cool, I love that. So you have the drinks, you're in new york, you kind of get the ball rolling. How do you actually start the brand? I always love to think about what kind of capital it takes to build a business and how people finance it in the beginning, especially, you know, there are so many different routes that we can take. So we love to cover that. And then what the next steps were, what did you do to kick it into gear? Oh my gosh, great questions. Um, so actually one of the first things we did, we had several different focus groups, We got friends, acquaintances together, you know, just sat around kind of fireside chat, which I really encourage other, you know, women that are listening to this to do, you know, I know it gets very daunting like what I have to do research, I don't have money to hire a third party company, but you, it doesn't cost any to get a group of women together that, you know, and you start to get insights and you have to validate those eventually, but at least you have a starting point because you you have your own thoughts but it's always really good to hear from other women.

00:25:21 So we did that. We sat around, you know, tables in new york in the midwest and we heard from women about what they were looking for um in products, um what kind of information was lacking, what they definitely talked about, you know, being inspired, wanting to connect, wanting to be a part of another, you know, being a part of a community where they could hear from other women and be inspired and hear their tips, not just about menopause, but just about life. So we really had the underpinnings of the brand from those focus groups and we started to, you know, really write the overall strategy for the brand. We also decided Michelle and I decided that we had a timeline, we wanted to be very disciplined, we wanted to launch in 2021 and in order to launch, we had to we had a timing an action really and we knew that we had to have Our product Strategy and almost our product underway by February of 2020.

00:26:23 So from about for seven months we had to really flush out the brand strategy, the product, what our product offering was. We had to find labs to really work with us to help formulate all of the product. We had to find experts and skincare, sexual wellness supplements and incontinence. We had experts lined up in all of our different categories because we felt like we were we were generalists. We we knew enough about how to get product made in the packaging but we wanted really experts in each one of those categories to work side by side with us. We also found a few doctors to review all of our products and our formulations to make sure that our ingredient deck was was correct for this woman. And we just kept massaging. So for seven months I would say we really focused on the brand, like bringing the brand to life, the look and feel and the story, but also our product development mm And by February of 2020 we had a lot of that really built And we funded all of that phase ourselves.

00:27:37 So we actually spent about $300,000 of our own money. And it was scary. I'm not sitting here telling your audience how easy that is because it was When you write out a check for $10,000 and you you're just hoping and praying everything works like the brand is successful. Um but both Michelle and I had very encouraging husbands that kept saying, just keep going, keep going, don't be scared. We gotta keep going. We wanted to self fund that phase because we wanted to get to a point where we were, we knew we wanted to be in a retail setting as well as have our own e commerce. So we wanted proof of concept before we started pitching retailers and before we started pitching investors, And I think that's the best thing that we did actually, because by the time we started pitching investors in March of 2021, 1st of all, it was a pandemic second of all, what we were able to do was we already had the brand story.

00:28:46 We had the product lineup and we knew that we had some retail interest. So we felt very confident. It gave us an edge when we were pitching investors that we, we had vetted our strategy. We knew that it was going to be well received with the consumer at retail. Um, and we also did more research to, I failed to mention, we did some more, even quantitative research and invested, you know, $20,000 or so, and just more research. So that is really what the next steps were, is really proof of concept and getting getting our brand ready to pitch to retailers and then ultimately to investors. The investment pitching in process of raising capital is a whole nother phase of it and a whole nother challenge. I bet I've heard, I've heard that's the case. I also imagine waiting to pitch investors, obviously gives you higher leverage to get more capital for less equity that you have to give out if you're going to be pitching to investors at the very beginning of your journey.

00:29:59 You're going to be having to give a lot more of your company and get a lot less for less valuation. So, so for anyone listening, I would also say that's one thing that if you can find a way to self fund and get yourself as far as you can and prove out that concept and give yourself the edge as you say and the leverage, then you're able to have, you know, higher stand or a higher higher ground to negotiate, negotiate the terms and generate that, you know, that opportunity that's really visual for someone to be like, oh yeah, okay, I can see it now because it's in front of me. Yes, exactly. You know, the visualization was so powerful. I do want to also say, you know, a tip is also tapping into your network. We believed in our idea, people believed in us. And so for your audience, you've got to have the self confidence. You've got to believe in your idea and then tap into your network and see if you can't raise some friends and family money.

00:31:02 So we also did that after we self funded, we started to raise some friends and family money. And it was really that was really fun actually because what we found is people want to help you right? So they connect you to if they don't want to invest personally or can't they don't have the means or it's just not the right time. They'll connect you to someone else that might be interested. And before you know, it all of a sudden you have kind of this whole spider web of options. And I'll never forget the morning when by 9:00 I had about $900,000 raised and it was through women that I had met through relatives, through friends on a trip and they were so excited about the mission of oneness that they wanted to put a couple 100,000. And I mean it was, it was like the most electrifying morning because I just finally felt, I finally felt like I was going to make it, you know, um, because it's so tough, You know, and you get so many no's and so many investors act interested and then they, they send the infamous email, not now we're not interested.

00:32:19 You know, they don't even tell you why and you can't get discouraged. You know, and everyone that, that had been through it before because this was my first time going through it said you're going to get a lot of nose before you get yeses and you just got to keep going. And so my, my advice is also to tap into your own personal network and um, you know, it doesn't mean that you have to know a lot of very wealthy people, You'd be surprised. You know, people want to help people and if you have a good idea, people recognize that, you know, um, and if you have a good track record. Absolutely, wow, that's so cool. What a moment, What a highlight through the journey so far two. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the FSC show, you'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business and I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now.

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00:34:40 That's female startup club dot com forward slash A D. S and booking a call today. Mhm We touched on this or you touched on this earlier, you were pitching to investors and you had a bit of an edge where you had already got the kind of green light from retail and from what I read online, you were able to debut the brand into target, you know, a couple of days after launching. And so obviously you worked there for a really long time. You had a very clear understanding of how Target operates what they look for in new brands and you had a network as we say, but I'm still interested in understanding the steps to launching into a brand like target or into a business like Target and what the key insights you have in terms of, what do they look for in a new brand, who do they take on to debut a launch with and if there's anything you can share around that experience that might be beneficial for others listening in who want to follow that same path. Yeah, I mean, I think it's not just unique to target, I think other retailers to, but I think targets the most savvy in terms of, you know, identifying these emerging brands, but of course they'