Unconventional lessons from Tiffany Krumins of Ava the Elephant & her new venture Opu Probiotics!
Updated: Jun 26
This is Tiffany Krumins for Female Startup Club
Hi hello!!! It’s Doone here, your host and hype girl popping into your ears on a super sunny day from Sydney Australia. If you’re new to the show - welcome - every week I’m chatting with some of the world’s most successful female founders and entrepreneurs to understand how they’ve built their businesses to 7 figures in annual recurring revenue and above; what’s working and what’s not working. We also love to talk about the money piece and we LOVE to dig into the challenges and find the insights that come from going through those hard times.
Today on the podcast, we’re learning from Tiffany Krumins. And you might recognize her as the brains behind Ava the Elephant. Tiffany and her story are just so special and so interesting and it’s got plenty of plot twists along the way. There’s a lot of insight into what can go wrong when you’re scaling too fast and we break down her blueprint for building her new business, Opu Probiotics which is completely different from the first time around. This episode is something you’re going to need a notepad and pen for! Because it is just so damn good.
Please note, this transcript has been copy-pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Tiffany. Hi. Welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi. I about said good morning or evening, but I don't know what time it is where you're at. It's morning for me getting started. What time is it for you? It's, uh, 7:00 at night. Oh, my gosh. How was your day today with four kids? So, it was a, it was a day. It was a day. Did you have any wins or? Oh, shit moments? Oh, God. Anyway, yeah. Actually I did have some wins. Um, we're gonna be on a morning show here in the US, probably in less than two weeks. So that's a win. But it's also a, you know, a crap. Now, we really got to hustle and be ready for it. So, um, so, yeah, I'm not complaining. That's a big one. That's a good one. Oh, my gosh. Congratulations. That's so exciting. I'm excited. And this is for your new brand or your new business. Well, not new. I say it's, it's a few years old. But yes, and the first real feature for my new brand. So. Ah, ok. Oh, my gosh. I'm excited to get into kind of where you are now, but I definitely want to go back to the beginning and start kind of where it all started for you. I feel like a lot of people might have heard your name or maybe heard your business over the elephant at some point. But let's go back to circa 2009. I think it is like this is a long time ago. Where do you like to start your story? Like where does the light bulb moment happen for Ava the elephant? My favorite part about my entrepreneurial story is that it did not start from me wanting to own a business or make money. I worked as a caregiver for Children with special needs and while working with one of those Children who I actually posted a picture of today on linkedin. Um He's still a dear now. He's a dear friend of mine. He's this tall, but he was a baby when I watched him and he had a very hard time taking medication. He has Down syndrome. And um one night I went home and I was like, I'm going to change this. I had this light bulb moment of I knew I did a great job persuading him to do other things that he hated with animals. And so I knew that the medicine dropper needed to be covered with an animal instead of him seeing this syringe and freaking out and running the other way, if it looked like an animal or had a voice, maybe he'd like it. And so I created the first one out of sponges and fabric and the insides of a recordable greeting card again. Not thinking of anything about launching a product or a business. You know, it was more of just how can I help Gibby. And so I took it to work the next day I was like, give me this is, I think I called it Emmy the elephant at the time or I don't know the elephant and I took it in and said this is Elliot elephant. She's gonna give you your medicine. And he was like, ok, and this is a kid who the day before we had restrained, you know, myself, his mom and his dad had held him down to give him medication because he just tortured by it. And he was like, oh, ok, cool. I don't see it anymore. And now it has a little voice and it's cute and it wasn't cute. It was kind of horrific. I had like the little black B D I S that I had to sew on but it worked, you know, and it worked so well that we used it for months. Like we'd washed this thing out and clean it and try to sanitize it and use it again. And then I got a casting call notice from a friend of mine that said the headline was, do you have the next million dollar idea? And she's like, what, you know, what about that idea? What about that thing you did for, for Gibby? And I was like, gosh, maybe, you know, there's a lot of kids that struggle with medication. Why not? You know, I'll try. And so I submitted and I really wasn't, I was super naive. I wasn't thinking about starting a business. I was like, I like this idea. It worked on him. This will be fun. What if I get on the show didn't exist in the US at that point? It was a pilot so that the pilot of a show is just an idea. They put it together, they pitch it to networks, they say, do you want this ABC? Do you want this, you know, NBC? And then if they buy the show, that's when they film all of the other episodes for that season. And so we didn't even know if it was going to get picked up or any of that. We just kind of blindly went to California filmed the episode and crossed our fingers and the rest is kind of history. Now, my whole life has changed because of that show. And the show we're talking about is Shark. Tank. Shark didn't have a name at the time. But yes. Wow. Oh my God. So that's crazy. I didn't realize that you went from like that moment directly. To recording this episode. I thought there was a transition in between us starting to build this as well. You know, there was a tiny bit. The only thing I had done was I, I'm, I've always been very creative and so I created a um I turn my husband who's uh the end man, he's very tall, very uh big jawline um into Frankenstein one year. I was like, God, you make a great Frankenstein and like I did his makeup and I sewed this whole outfit for him and he was like eight ft, he's already 64. And we turned him into like an eight ft tall and we won $5000 in that contest. And so we just, yeah, we had just won that money in that costume contest and I had this a idea. And so the one thing I had done actually was take about half of that and I'd gone to a patent attorney, you know, because I, I've seen this work so well. I was like, gosh, what if, you know? But I hadn't that was it. Like I had, didn't know manufacturing. I hadn't sourced the product. I had not done anything but figure out did somebody already have this idea? That was my question. And it was the most important move that I could have done because I had a great patent search that basically said, no, you're the first one that has turned a medicine dispenser into something child friendly, um, not medical, but, you know, actually a face and all that. And so, um, that's what I took to the show is basically knowing I was, you know, I had a novel idea basically. Did you think that, like, you obviously wouldn't have gone on the show without having that patented? Right? Because then, well, so I did it, I didn't have it patented. Um, at the time I had just the patent search. So I knew that I wasn't infringing on someone else's, which is to be honest with you is the most important thing people often and I don't want to get too deep into this. But entrepreneurs come to me all the time and they, they want that pattern, you know, the shiny patent, they want to hold it up and say I got a patent. But what they really need to be concerned about is are they infringing on a bigger company or another entrepreneurs, intellectual property? You know, and so that search is so very important and then if you can verify with that search with a thorough search through a real patent agent or attorney that you, that it is a novel idea, then that's when you, you know, want to own a patent on it and hopefully protect it. But a patent is only as good as the money, you have to fight it. So you can get all the patents in the world. And if a big company comes along and knocks it off. You've got to have millions of dollars to fight them. So I'm not deterring patents but, um, they're not your end all be all right. Got it. Ok. And so you go on the show, it sounds like you don't have a lot of kind of launch capital to like, invest in, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars and units of, you know, a million units, whatever. But like, and you don't really have the manufacturing piece sorted out. So what happens when you go on the show? Like, what's the experience? So um at the time because it was 2009, you know, now, everybody, everybody, the layperson, my grandma would know 3d printing, you know, it's a big thing now. Oh, you can 3D print at your library or at school. Well, at the time, none of that existed for the consumer. That was not something you could go and find anywhere. It was only big, big companies doing it maybe within their product development teams. And so I had no way to basically construct this plastic toy unless I was going to go, actually do a cad drawing, do a tool, which is very expensive and manufacture prototypes at that point because it wasn't as easy as rapid prototyping now. And so my only option was I made them from clay. I basically baked my prototypes out of clay and put, put them in my oven and baked them and they were rock hard clay elephants with the syringe in the back and then I glued the recordable box from a builder bear. I don't know if you have Bilde Bear there. But, um, they have these little recordable, um, things that you can record your voice on and stick it inside of a stuffed animal. And so I went and got five of those or six of those recorded a voice stuck on the back. And so I had the crudest the most hilarious, you know, prototypes on the show. But they worked, I mean, they got the point across I went on and those, that's what I handed out to the investors. I still have one of them so brittle, it kind of like falls apart, but I still kept it, which is nice and I show the how that I should show it because people love it. But um that's what I use to secure my $50,000 investment. And so you walk out onto the show, you give these investors and, you know, like, um mature sophisticated investors that clay prototype, what is their reaction? Are they like? What the hell is this or are they like? Oh my God, I love this. You know, they, they were very kind to me and I think because I had already told the story of how well it worked and what it was doing. They understood what I was trying to get across. I mean, I think now they probably laugh me off the stage because they're, you know, 14 seasons in and people are much more prepared. But, and you have the ability to do that much more easily. But at the time they got it because they were in the same boat as me. But, um, they just understood it. The good part was all five sharks understood why a child would need this, that some kids need it way more than others. Uh Did they want to necessarily invest? No, some of the men didn't understand the need for it because they didn't care for their own Children. You know, they maybe had nannies or they just weren't as involved or they just saw it as a single skew product. The funny part is Mr Wonderful. Said to me, um, he was pretty aggress. I was like, you know, this is a single product. This isn't a business and I was like, well, it can be a business. Well, I can't do this. You know, I was trying to make hype it up because I didn't really know what to say. But he was right. He was right. You know, seven years into my business. I not throw in the towel. I sold the company thankfully, but I was done selling a single skew product because it is extremely hard. There's a reason why when you go to retailers, you see 16 Gerber baby bottles, it's because they own that space and that retailer. And so if you're a little single skew product and you see this all the time in the US, it's very hard to get the eyes of the consumer when you're that one little product up there, you know, off to the side. So. Oh, my gosh. That's so true. I didn't think of it like that. Yeah. You just don't have enough space to capture the attention. Yeah. Well, not just that but the relationship so they don't want to work with and rightfully so a buyer of a retailer doesn't have an easy time working with 1000 individual entrepreneurs. They don't know what they're doing. You know what I mean? If they work with a Gerber or they work with whoever that is, they've got all their stuff in it. You know, it's just super easy. They're just feeding products in every year. They're presenting their new stuff. Here's what we've got. Ok, we'll take seven of these, whatever us, it's like you're dealing with every single entrepreneur. So I try to remind entrepreneurs of that when they're reaching out to these buyers. Remember, have know your stuff, be ready. They're not there to counsel you, they're not there to teach you. They are there to buy a product for a retailer and make a smart decision. Mhm Yeah. Ok. Totally makes sense. Don't take it personally. So, ok, you get all the nos, then you get Barbara. She says yes, she buys 15% of your company for $50,000. What happens? What happens after that? She actually bought 50, 51% or 54. I can't remember what we even agreed on in the episode, but she bought the majority percentage of my company, um, which I thought 15, that's what I read online. I'm not sure off of your company over half. And, um, well, you know, see now I would never do that because now I have value to bring to the bank. But people ask me all the time. Would you do that again? And I say a million times over because you have to understand she had everything to lose. And I had, I was bringing nothing to the table but a good idea. And some, you know, not, not even really sweat equity. I mean, what had I done? I baked some prototypes. So, um to be honest with you, you probably realistically would have gotten more of you meet with an investor. Now, people really over inflate what their value is in the beginning with just an idea. There's so much to do. And the truth of the matter is that 50 grand that we agreed on, that was a drop in the bucket of what she actually had to invest to launch this product. And to say, like we worked with a major drug drug company here and we launched into 6000 stores. Do the math. We manufacturing, you know, all of these units for 6000 and that's just one retailer. So she committed to doing all of that with me for seven years and still only had that percentage. So it was a dream scenario. I definitely had um the best part of it and she was so incredible for doing that with me. Oh my gosh. What are the kind of key things that you learned from her? Oh God, what didn't I learn from her? But I mean, something that we learned together um because Barbara was a real estate mogul when I met her. So she was so well known in the real estate space, but she had never really done products. So um that first meeting with that drug store, we went into that together and she had not done one for a product before. And so the guy says we want it in all these stores, you know, can you ship it F O B China and all these things? And we're like, sure. Yeah, definitely. Huh? What we're thinking, it's just like a sales type thing and we're gonna nail this, you know, and we didn't know half the stuff we needed to know to work with this retailer. We didn't know we needed to be on the plan. We didn't know so many things and that even Barbara at the beginning didn't know. So uh some of that we learned together in the beginning obviously. Now she is, oh my God, she's got hundreds of investments just from Shark Tank and then probably hundreds outside of that. So she knows more than I ever could. But we both learned so much together, you know, by trying to figure out, you know, how is this done? Exactly and done well. So did you look really closely, you know, on a daily basis over that seven years or were you kind of like you were building your own team and you were working wherever you were working and you would just check in with her. So mine is a little different because I was that pilot episode. You know, I filmed in, um at the end of the year Of 2008, we aired not until August of 2009. So we had a much bigger window than people have. Now. Things were just so much different than they are now. And then I was one of only what, 10 people, no, not 10, maybe three people she invested in that whole season because it was the first season. So there were very few people for her to communicate with much more direct communication. I'd go up and stay at her house, things like that. Whereas now she's got, you know, a team that handles so much stuff even still though I was the business owner. So it was my job to figure all this out. You know, I was at home doing all of the work and Barbara was more of a sounding board and an investor as she should be. And I think people, uh that's one of the misconceptions when they see Shark Tank is, they're, you know, they're going to be a part of my team. It's like, no, they're not a part of your team. Don't get it twisted that they're gonna be doing the, the sweat equity part. That's you, that's you as the business owner, they're an investor, they're there to invest and sometimes advise if you're lucky. I had a dream scenario though. Yeah, you had the great set up with her. You launched into 6000 stores. I think I read that you kind of were at about 10,000 stores during your peak. So it was obviously a, a big retail play. Things are going really well. What wasn't going so well, what were the challenges during this time? That kind of you? I, I don't know, maybe made you feel like I might quit. I might give this up like this is bad. One of the big ones was that same retailer. I was just speaking of, we lost 70 grand on a deal to them because $70,000 completely gone in what's called um charge back. So when you work with a retailer, you go in and there's certain fees for all the things you need to do. Um, the E D I which is the their orders coming to you and going back. I mean, just it's very, very complicated and people underestimate that as well. But then you get what's called a charge back. And so if anything is done wrong in their processes, uh even if it's their fault oftentimes, and that was the case with this one, um, they'll take that money off of your invoice. So say you have 100 and $20,000 invoice coming from them that you're expecting to get paid for this inventory. You've pushed out to all these stores and they mark 70 grand off of it. There's not a lot of it. And what, what happened with this one was, um, we didn't know it wasn't on the plan. Like I said, we didn't know what the plan was at that point. It was like a deal. So the plan is basically the map of the store and when you go into retail, they're saying, ok, you know, you know where Tylenol is always in the same place, Advil is always in the same place, you know, where to go to get it. Those big guys can demand that space and they probably don't even pay for it anymore. It's their spot. You have to really earn that spot and you have to um sometimes pay extra basically. And that's, that's a whole another more complex conversation, but we weren't on it. So what it means is your product goes to these stores. It's in these shippers in the back of the store. And when, think about it, when staff comes in that day to put product out. They're looking at this plan. They're going ok, Tylenol filling that back up. We've got six. We're doing inventory. If yours is just one of the products in the back and it's not on that plan, it may or may not go out. And so what happened was our shark tank went to air and we had all these customers customers. And again, this wasn't the time of uh I think it was my space was out right there. Not Facebook, not all this stuff, maybe Facebook the beginning, but uh there was no easy communication with these potential customers. Like now we could hop on alive and go, I'm so sorry, this is what's happening, you know, then it was, it was just phone calls and emails and basically customers were saying we were looking for your thing at C B and it's not there. We couldn't find it, come to find out. It was either in the back because it never got put out or it was in really weird places like over with the walking canes and like back there's like this whole spinny thing with walkie canes and knee braces and there's ava hanging and like, nobody's ever gonna find it, you know, because that person in the store didn't know where to put it. And they were like, all right, here's the thing, let's hang it here. And that was what caused us those 70,000 charge backs. And it like, again, it's way more complicated, but it was, it was not pretty and it was devastating to us as a company or to me, you know, to, to lose essentially someone else's money because this is Barbara's money she's investing. And so I feel terrible and then knowing that we have to make things right and fix all of that. So that was one of the biggest upsets. And also the moment for the customer, someone wanting to go into the store, they have intent to buy, they want over the elephant, they go there, they can't find it. They're frustrated, what the heck. And it really tainted, you know. Um Same thing happened with kind of a morning show thing and us getting them shipped out fast enough, we underestimated just how much demand we were gonna have and then we weren't ready with the shipping side of it because again, Shark Tank had just aired. We didn't even know what that was gonna look like. So um we had a little bit of backlash or not backlash, but it, for me, it was probably like 10 people but it felt like 2000, you know, mad. Where's my product? You know. So yeah, lots and lots of challenges. I had a personal challenge of cancer. We may get into that. Um So yeah, it's been, it's not been an easy journey at all. Uh But well worth it when you had cancer. Did you fully step back from the business and put someone else in place or were you like, I'm gonna do it, do it still. So the crazy part is I got, I was diagnosed with cancer months after I filmed. So I filmed the show, I came home, I had a brand new baby at home. She was about six or seven months at the time and I was learning this business. So it was like, oh, what do you mean? It's an FDA registered device, you know, all these things I was figuring out with Ava, how do we manufacture the design, the tooling. And I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer and um I didn't really have a chance at that point. You know, everything had already been invested and done and I think we were in, we were in production at that point. So, no, I didn't step back and it was a good thing that I didn't because it kept me busy. You know, the company kept me focused and busy and hopeful. Like, you know, what's gonna come? How is this gonna turn out? Was it challenging and really hard? Yes, I mean, obviously I'm having radiation and all these things that and the and the surgery itself that destroyed my world. But it kept me hopeful and Barbara kept me hopeful and, and was really good to me during it. That is so wild to be facing all these things at once and you know what it's done, it kind of traumatized me because now whenever something good happens, I always feel like it's something bad, you know, I always get that one little feeling of, you know, something bad could happen after, but I've, I've tried to get past that over the years. Yeah. Gosh, that's so full on over the next couple of years, you know, kind of going through your health battles and then going through these ups and downs of trying to figure out building this business. At what point are you kind of thinking? Oh, maybe we should look at selling this business now. Like, what's the time? Like, how do you know the time is right to sell as a founder? I think you always know for me, it was a matter of just kind of spinning our wheels. Yes, we were still popular with people. Yes, people still loved Ava. Thank God. We never got a bad review. We never got like, none of the things that could have happened, you know, a lawsuit over the product, none of that happened. So that part was great, but we couldn't grow. But so far with a single product, like I said, in the beginning, it was a single skew product. So we knew we were there either gonna have to invest real big launch a whole line of products, you know, that were medical based, you know, Children products or um have been acquired and So we started by licensing. Um we met, I met with a company, a fantastic company called Baby Delight. And um they licensed the product, they redesigned it slightly how I wanted it to kind of always be. And I was very happy with that licensing agreement. That was for about two years I think. And then at the end of that, because it runs a term, you know, um that's when we decided we actually wanted to sell because I had, when it was licensed, I got to step back. So I was like, ok, this is where I'm happy again. I get to be creative. I get to come up with stuff. I started a whole another little business. It wasn't like. But, um, you know, it really opened up my creative side again. Am I happy side again versus running the day to day in the business? And I realized it's time to sell and could you not have stayed just licensing the business or was it more kind of, you know, it was the smart investment side of things to just sell and recoup the money for Bob? Well, yeah, for both of us because for years as well. Yeah, for me and her because it, yeah, while licensing is great, you're getting these smaller payments coming out, you know, every month or every three months, six months, whatever it is. And yeah, there's not that big payout and you're not able to really walk away in that sense because you're still the owner of the IP and you're managing the IP and that thing. So those kinds of things. So, yeah, for me, it was more of not a clean break from the brand because I stayed on even now with the company who acquired a, I'm always connected to the story and the heart of it and how it came to be because I love the product and I love where it came from, but I didn't have to do any of the heavy lifting anymore. It was like, ok, now I get to do what I love best again is create. I didn't instantly though, I sold that and I took a pause which I needed. After seven years, I had uh my own mental health stuff I was dealing with from just too much and like traumas that I had faced and I decided to just take a pause and it was the best thing I could have done because it led me to this new company eventually. Wow. So what like, how, how long did you pause for? And what was the new light bulb moment for you? Um I guess that pause was gosh, years, 23 years of ava being sold under this new company and just, you know, being a little slightly involved on that, on the pr side. But, um what I love about this new brand is it came to me the exact same way that AVA did. I needed it. I wanted to use this product but it didn't exist. And so what happened was the type of radiation I had for my cancer and I had it for 3.5 years, um, was ingested. So I'd have to eat, I'd have to basically go and take this radioactive vial. That was like this big, open it up with gloves on my hands, take out this pill that I couldn't touch and then I had to eat it. And I was like, this doesn't, can't even be normal, you know, because it was so strong, the radiation was so strong. And so I'd have to go into isolation when I had that. And when I did, um, it destroyed my gut, obviously because it's going down through your whole body and because I had that for so many years in a row. Um I started learning more about gut health, you know, how can I feel better? Basically, I didn't know it was called gut health. It was like that, that's like a whole thing now, but I just wanted to feel better. And so I found, um I started taking probiotics, learning about prebiotics and probiotics and kind of just doing my own study, which a lot of cancer survivors do. You know, they start to really get to know more about their health and become curious about all of it. And so I was learning as much as I could and when I finally found a strain that worked for me, it was called Bacillus. I became even more curious why is this strain working for me? Because I tried probably 10 companies and I found one that worked really, really well. I felt better. I was regular, like all these things were fixed that were really bad from this radiation and from diet and everything else. And, um, and then I took that comp now competitors product, which is now a competitor of mine, ironically for like four years, I was a customer and I was taking this, but what it was, it was, it was a chalky powder. I have these little demos here and these shot glasses of all things. But, um, it was like a really chalky powder that you'd have to pour into a milk or something and stir up and then chug down and then like half of it is still stuck in the cup. And I hated that part because I'm a busy mom and a business owner and I was running out the door and I wanted something that was faster. The only other faster thing was these gummies. I hate gummies. I'm just not a candy fan and I didn't like the sugar content of them. And then of course, pills. And so I thought, with my product development knowledge and history, I thought, you know what if I made a better version? What if I did something that was unique in this space. And so I started searching for factories because the only way I was willing to do it this time around was, um, if I could do it in the US, if I could actually manufacture here. And I found a factory in Georgia and started the whole conversation. I'm sorry, I answered the longest questions. You answer me and then I'm just like, no, I love that though. You live in Georgia, right? So it's like you're close to your history now. Yeah. Oh my gosh, that's wonderful. Both our packaging and our product are manufactured in Georgia. So it's like it's a dream come true having done the exact opposite of my first product and never getting to meet the people who made it and go over and visit and move product right here. You know, people are employed making my product and that's just you, I'm so proud of that. That's a, a big moment for me. And when you think about like the model for this business, what are you doing the same and differently? And what I mean is like, are you getting an investor? Who knows something about something you don't know about? Are you doing retail or are you doing ecom? Are you, you know, will you go on Shark Tank for the publicity moment? Like, what are the things that you're like? I would definitely do this again? And what are the things that you're like? Oh, hell no, I'm out of that. That is a fantastic question. And it actually tells anyone listening, uh, what might make a good business model. Um, Ava was such a challenge because of the price point in the market. So Ava was a niche product that had this small market. It was kids that had a hard time with medication. You know, half of kids might be fine taking medication. The other half is who I had to reach. Then I had to convince the mom to actually buy the product, use the product, those types of things. And then it was a one use product. So um I had all of those things against me regardless, like I said, of the rave reviews, we got, it was such a small market and then the margins were even smaller. So if I sold it to this drug store that I was mentioning for $5 and I made it, these are examples if I made it for 250 and then I sold it to them for five. And I even, even if I sold into 6000 stores, you do the math. There's not a lot of money coming in from that for me to do all the other stuff, the marketing, the, you know, even the bookkeeping for the year. So I knew that I would never do another single skew product with small margins in a niche market. I may help with one. I may invest in one down the road. That's a good, you know, medical product, but I didn't want to do another one. And so when I started looking at this and the model of this and the margins were fantastic, much bigger margins allowing me to actually pay for marketing and do things I need to do. And then the, the market, you know, the multibillion dollar market of probiotics, then it was like, ok, this is very interesting. So that was a no brainer for me that um margins and uh market were great. And then the other thing was retail. I knew I could go direct to consumer with this. I wanted to do it with a, a beautiful um experience for my customer. So I taped this here so it wouldn't fall, but I'm gonna rip it off so I can show you, um, this is what goes out to our consumers and I wanted them to have just a real uh experience with our product versus going and getting another bottle at their local drug store. This comes to them every month. So this little beautiful shipper goes to them and it's missing a thing of info sheet, but it's right here on top. But they, this is how it comes to them and then this comes out. And so it's hard to pull that out while I'm on the phone. But this, this, they recycle. So it's all eco-friendly. I love that. I not shipping a box inside of a box inside of a box like Amazon does. And then this little tray they keep at home, you know, the ones where they send you 15 and then this is how they track their journey so they can mark off, you know. Did they take it, um, all their packets in there? Yeah. So, and they, and people have just loved our packaging and they've really, um, gotten a kick out of the design, but that was another thing that I knew I wanted to do is direct to consumer. Yes, we might be in a few retailers one day. But for right now, I love the model of just going direct to consumers and getting the feedback from them so quickly. I don't get that through a drug store. I don't know what they did or did not like whereas here they're messaging me, you know, I love, love, love this or if there is a, you know, a challenge, then they presented it to us fairly quickly. And for this particular brand, obviously focusing on ecom and direct to consumer versus retail. What are the things that are shifting the needle for you in that marketing landscape now? Like how are you reaching your customers? Is it through paid ads? Is it through tiktok? Is it through Facebook groups? Like where are you reaching your target user? I'll be honest, I I'm learning that with this one. Um I've been extremely happy with our growth so far. It's all been working mouth and me going to an, an event. So I basically go to local events, whether i it's a charitable event that I'm involved with or it's uh you know, a, a, an event right out here on the curb where little small businesses set up their tents. We've done a ton of those and I stand out there and I let them sample the product because what sets ours apart is the flavor, it's mint and moca flavors. They're really delicious, light and airy kind of. Um people say they're like pixie sticks or whatever um consistency. And so getting out there and doing that and then that person tries it, they fall in love, they message, they say I subscribed, I told my sister and that has happened time and time and time and time again. And so that's been, that's been actually been really sweet to me this time, I've gotten to know customers. I know their journey. They've shared their challenges, you know, their health challenges and what it's done for them. Whereas the first time when I was on Shark Tank, it was like mass flow of orders and people and then you get like complaints and you get this and you get, you know, all this stuff, whereas this has been one customer at a the time knowing them by name, knowing how they're doing. Um I've really appreciated that. So, but as far as the other stuff I'm learning, like, how do I do tiktok, you know, stuff. How do you know, how do I do all these things that Shark Tank gave me for free last time? You know, it all just happened easily and kind of fell in my lap. I'm trying to, uh, you know, I'm learning that with this new brand and so far so good. Yeah, it's interesting because it's so different to the first business. The first business, like you said, it was mass, it was like all lights are on. Everything is exploding like crazy, crazy, crazy. Whereas this, you're able to take much more of a community focused approach. It's grass roots, it's one customer at a time and truly getting to know who your audience is and it speaks volumes to your listeners because they always think they want that big bang. You know, everybody wants the, you know, multimillions of eyes on their product and they don't realize that just how sustainable much better. This is what I'm doing here is sustainable. Anybody can go on and sell 500,000 units. And I know that sounds exciting, but that can fall just as quickly. You know, if you sell millions of dollars in a few nights, whereas this has real staying power. You know, this is something I'm building that's going to be around for many, many years to come totally and just everything like it's a repeat purchase product. Whereas a is like what you said, it's just a one time purchase. It's very, very different. What I'm also really impressed talking to you is like, you had this crazy business that blew up overnight, like, out of nowhere and then you sold this business. But you're like, ok, hell yeah, let's do it again. And you're like, I'm getting my hands dirty. I'm out at the market. I'm like, out here meeting my customers, you know, kind of scrappy. I love that. Oh, you, oh, you have to be too because, you know, I'm not an expert in probiotics. I learned it through my challenges through what I was going through, through every bit of information I could devour basically through my factory who has been doing this for 30 years, you know, not my product but, you know, blends of probiotics and enzymes. So I'm learning too. And so I need to hear their, their questions. I need to hear their feedback. I need to be there pitching myself. So, like you said, if I decide if I get an opportunity to maybe go back on shark tank this year, I'm ready to tell them about this brand and, and I already know all those questions, you know, versus a deer and head light because I felt that way when I first launched, it was like, well, I'm not a doctor and I'm not a nutritionist. How am I going to be the expert in this, that imposter syndrome kind of kicks in, you know. So it's been good. It's been very, very good because it's allowed me to get to know the pitch of my own product. And for you, like going on Shark Tank is there's two sides to it. Yes, there's the investment side, but it's the publicity moment that I think is even more kind of powerful. Are you going to follow the path of fundraising or you'd kind of go on Shark Tank more as a one off for the moment. Um, if I go on Shark tank, it will be to get uh another investment just because I feel like it's the only the right thing to do on it. I, I've loved the show. I'm so connected to the show and I, I know people do go on for exposure, but I would use it to take a very small investment this time. I would not go on, um, this time and give up half my company. No way. No, how that wouldn't happen. I'd fight tooth and nail because I know so much more now. But, um, I'd go on to have a new partnership or even one with Barber again. Not that I'd have to do that through the show. But, um, you know, if there's the right shark on there that has a whole different skill set or a whole different, you know, group of people like Mark Cuban is a great example. He just launched a whole, um, pharmaceutical thing to help people get their medications that they can't otherwise get so someone who has a heart for that kind of wellness space, that might be a great fit for me. I'm not opposed to taking both an investment and, um, you know, the exposure, obviously. So we'll see, I, I don't know if I'll get the opportunity again, but I think it'd be pretty cool to, to share it that way, you know, and here I was, and now look at me now, you know, I'm here again and this is all the things that I've learned. 100%. Gosh, I'm like, I'm ready for that episode. Bring it back part two. What advice do you often give out early stage founders? I know you've shared so much in this episode already. But what could you leave us with?
00:36:53Edit What is your best piece of advice? Um I would tell, you know, anybody in the consumer product space, that's really all I can speak to um that they better be super, super passionate about whatever it is they're thinking about going into. Um they're gonna be selling it day in and day out for years on end. They're going to be investing in their own money. They might be taking an investment from someone else which some people think that's easier, but it can be much harder, much more pressure. Um You know, the the need to pay it back to feel like you're actually going to get that person, their money back is not as easy as people think. And so uh they better be on fire for this product because, you know, you'll meet these entrepreneurs that are like, oh, I'm scared to pitch my own product or I'm too shy and truth be told I can be kind of shy about stuff, but I have to push myself out of that comfort zone. I, I battle really severe anxiety. So I've had to get used to even doing these types of things or even the shows like Shark Tank and really push myself. So people are gonna have to be 100% committed because it's your baby, nobody's gonna sell it for you. Um You got to be out there really pounding the pavement every day. Yes, absolutely. And I also feel like it's ok to be vulnerable and it's OK to be out there being like, hey, I am a bit nervous but I'm trying and like here's my story and I hope it connects with you and it's so good for you when you do that. Yeah, when you, you as an entrepreneur, if you can say that to people, they will relate to you because they feel the same way. Um And, and they'll be so much kinder than you going out and acting like, you know, it all like I've never been that person and it's, it's served me very well and I, I have uh learning disabilities that I've struggled with my whole life. And so um I've always kind of had that like imposter syndrome of, should I be in the room? And I have to beat that out of myself and say it's ok, you know, you know what, you know, and you're good at what you're good at and it's ok that you're not good at, you know, all these other things. Yeah. Absolutely.
So question number one is, what's your, why? Why are you waking up every day and building businesses that impact millions of people around the world? I mean, I guess that's an easy answer but like, you know what I mean? Yeah. Well, I've got like three parts to my Why? So I'll try to be quick. I'm kind of long winded, but um number one is obviously making people feel better. This product I'm passionate about because it helped me and I want it to help other people. Um Number two is my family, my dad and I started this business together after we lost my mom. Um my mom was waiting on a transplant that she did not get. And um when we lost her, they lost 43 years of marriage, my dad lost his small business and so just taking care of him and bringing him into this company full time where we can continue to do. This is my biggest why? 100%. He's my everything. My third is uh where everything started with me. That little boy I described on the first episode of shark tank that entire community of, of individuals with disabilities and special needs is where my heart is. I don't really love the business side the day to day. That's difficult for me, but they are where I'm happy. And um my best and so we have actually hired a young adult with autism and we planned about hire many, many more. We've got a, a great community partnership at the place called Lionheart Works. And so they basically, um, take young adults out of high school and they teach them the skills they need and they help partner them with the right company. And so that's how I met Alex our employee. And, um, that's one of my big lies too. It's, it's fantastic because I was terrified. Like I want to do this, this has always been a dream of mine. But what if I don't do it? Right? What if, you know, I don't know the disability laws? Like there's so many things that I didn't want to do as a business owner to both and this person or hurt the company and they actually facilitate all that. So I thank them a lot for that constantly because they've brought him into my life and he's a great part of our team and we hope to have a lot of other young adults through that program. Those are all three my wives. That is so many beautiful wis, oh, my gosh. That's so, so special. Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, how can you not wake up passionate about those? Whys? Right. And money has never been one of my wise. It's just, it's just not my thing. I think it's because I grew up with very little and was very happy and had parents that loved each other and loved me. So I never really had that desire to be rich or, you know, make millions. It's those moments, you know, when he came to work for me and I got to send him the offer letter and then he accepted it and it was like, oh my God, this is happening. You know those full c it gives me chills just saying it because those full circle moments where something you dreamt of came true. Those are the things that should keep you going, you know the gas in your tank. Oh hell yes, I love that. Oh my gosh. Question number two is and this can be from either business or both. What has been your favorite marketing moment so far? Oh, I love, oh gosh, this one was really cool and I'll try to make it short again. Um I OK, so I I look you can see my pajama pants. I'm I'm dressed professionally and then not. Um So I got the opportunity to go with a the elephant on the first ever or not, 1st, 1st ever episode of Shark Tank. You know that on a morning show, a really big G ma I think it was or today show. And I was so excited and when they called, I, I started to, I shared this on linkedin recently. So you might know the story, but I love the story. Um They basically said, do you know any other mom inventors? And I was like, oh my gosh, yes, there's one here in my own state. She has this product. It's for um kids taking shots and I went on and on and on. Like I do did on this podcast about her company way more than my own. So I think I shared like 20 seconds of my company and then I was like, seeing her praises and going on on and then the producer is like, ok, great. You know, thanks so much. We'll reach back out if, if we, if you're going to be a part of it. And so I was like, ok, cool. And I never heard from her now. I was like, oh man, I guess I didn't get that and I turn on this show, you know, a week later and here she is on the segment I was trying out for basically because I had, you know, promoted her and she got it. She had no idea. It wasn't like she took my spot, but I had done that and I was, I was kind of devastated. I was like, God, I gotta be a better business person. Like I have to market for my own brand and why don't I do better? And I was kind of beating myself up because I felt spastic in my, like, anxiety and all the things that I do and how, how much I talk. Basically, I thought I had blown this for my company. I could have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. Well, the second I let that go because I beat myself up and down and then I was like, you know what? I gotta move on, I gotta get back to work. I get, get back on my business. And the second I did the very next day I got a call and it was Dr Oz producers saying we want you to come over with Barbara, my investor from the show and he's gonna interview just you and Barbara and you're gonna talk about your story. So I went from this little segment where it was gonna be like, oh, here's a product, here's a product, here's a product, you know, I'd be one of three or six to this full blown 12 to 15 minute segment, which is huge. I mean, only three minutes, you know, whatever it was, even if it was 10, it felt like an hour and he told our whole story and I got to sit with Barbara, which was insane, you know. So um that is, yeah, that was my favorite Mark act like accidental marketing moment. That was absolutely meant to be. And what it also reminds me of is like sometimes something, you know what you deem as something bad has happened, even though it was actually great because you helped this other woman who would have, you know, absolutely cherished that moment. But you couldn't see the good that was gonna come from it yet. But like that's like the life of a roller coaster. It's the life of an entrepreneur. You're on that roller coaster of ups and downs and maybe something bad is happening to you right now and you can't see your way out of it. But tomorrow or the next day or three weeks from now, something might change and the best thing ever will happen to you. And that's just the way that it goes. What you just described is what makes a good period. Like the ones that could see what you just said and summed up so well and that can live that every day. Those are the ones that are going to succeed. I mean, there's not been a single one. I don't know, a single entrepreneur that's successful. That has a chip on their shoulder. Oh, I didn't get that. They treated me wrong or some of the people who have been on Shark Tank and they complain about it or I was edited wrong or this or that and it's like make the most of it. If you were edited weird and this, why don't you make something funny out of it. Why don't you turn it into a marketing opportunity? I mean, there's so many chances to, to, you know, decide your fate and that and some people, some people just can't get it. So, yeah, hopefully if you're in a rough place, think about it, like something else is around the corner, let it go move on. Some may not be a Doctor Oz interview but hey, it could be like something else, you know, something else could be even better brand. That's it. Yeah, because he's not even on the air. Now, question # 3 is what's your go to resource for business? Whether it's like a newsletter or a book or something that you consume all the time to get smarter. Um Because of my, I, I read a lot but more just for fun. Um Because of my learning disabilities, I've never really learned in that way. I'm more of like a dive in and do it type of person. Um I don't necessarily get books and unless it's something I'm really looking to learn more about like this whole probiotic thing, but I don't necessarily get them to learn a solution or learn a way to do things. I do it more hands on and diving in. So um I would say I learn more from the people around me. I've got a patent, a patent agent that is one of my best friends and an engineer. That's one of my best friends and they are two men. One, one's closer to my age. One's a little bit older and they're just incredible human beings. And so some women get together for coffee with their friends. I go sit with Noah and Brock and hang out and we talk ideas. You know, one of them has the most incredible story that I, every time he tells me something, I'm like, really that happened in your life too. And like, he had this giant brand acquired and was on NASDAQ and like, but you would never know it. You met, you meet him and he's just like this quiet, you know, reserved dude. And uh that's how I learn is being around those people and kind of soaking up all the good stuff that they have to give. I love that. Shout out to those guys. They're fantastic question number four is how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM? Rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? Mine are uh my biggest thing is either time undivided attention with my kids and my family and my husband or being outside. I have to be outside every single day. If it's, we talked about this off air before the show that if it's a bad, bad weather for a full week, I'll find myself just really diving because I've got to get outside. I've got to hike, I've got to be moving. Um So that's how I win the day. Just getting fresh air. I love that. I could. So go for a hike this weekend. I would love that question. No 5. And you've already shared one, but maybe you've got another one in the bank is what's the worst money mistake you've had? And how much did it cost you? I think that was the worst. Yeah, that 75 was, I mean, there were a lot more that added up over time but no, um, 11 other funny one that'll help consumer based products was, I didn't know when I was shipping my product the very first time I was bringing it over from overseas. I got a quote for the shipment they gave it to us. Barbara and I were like, oh, it looks reasonable. I guess that's the best we can get because it was through one of her contacts of a contact of a contact and come to find out we had, we had paid to ship, there's things called less than loads. So, when you're shipping product, you're shipping it on the back of a semi, you know, that big container on the back of a semi. Um, that whole thing, you say you pay $5,000 to bring that over from overseas to the US. Say that whole thing is 5000. Uh, that's about what we paid for our first shipment of a but, but it only filled up about one third of it. So, whoever that was, that took us for our money. They filled up the rest of that box and other people's, um, shipments because I didn't even know a less than load was a thing. So, when you're doing less than load, you're saying I only want to take up this 10 ft. How much is it? And they'll be like, Oh, 1250. And you're like, ok, I got it. So, yeah, another, we never made that mistake again, obviously, but it's things like that that if you don't know, you don't know. Always get a second opinion, always get a double court. Right. Right. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Still a tough, tough pill to swallow when that kind of stuff happens. Last question. Question # 6 again, you've shared so many of these already, but I'm sure you'll have another one. What is just a crazy story? Good or bad that you can share from your time building these businesses? Um Pro probably the craziest development story was when I had another segment that I was trying to get uh or no. Was it? I don't know if it was prep for Shark Tank to air but something that was very urgent. Oh, it was probably one of the meetings with the retailers. We were waiting on a prototype of a the elephant to come over and um it was, you know, it was an urgent thing. Get it here, get it here. Now make sure the sound box works all that it got here. It was an elephant. I obviously had sent them the MP through or before or whatever of my recording that was supposed to be on it. And when we pressed the button it barked. So it had like a, it was like a preexisting sound box or something. They had used, that had like a dog barking and that's what it was and we could not use them. They were supposed to be used. Oh, that's what it was. It was supposed to be used on the doctor's show. So the doctors, which was another popular show here. I don't, I don't know if it's even still on. Um, they were trying to tell how moms how to give medication to their kids and like, oh, we found your product. That looks great, but it wasn't out, out like we were literally getting our stuff in before shark tank out. I can't remember the timing and we were fine with sending them this sample. That's what we were gonna do is send them this prototype because it was everything else was the same except for the sound was wrong and we actually lost the opportunity because they wanted to be able to press it on air and we're like, well, why can't you just like, do it in a, you know, an earpiece or play it separately or, you know, but you didn't work.
00:12:06Edit So another one lost, that ended up working out fine and then So that's crazy. Oh my gosh, this has been so great. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your journey and all the ups and downs. It's like a therapy session. I always say when I get done it's like, oh, ok. I got all that off my, off my chest from the ears. Hopefully it helps somebody else. Well, I've loved hearing your story and I'm sure there are so many people who are gonna listen to this and be like, wow, that was just so inspiring and I'm so grateful. Thank you so much. Thank you. I appreciate it.