Flip The Switch Episode 60: Ora Organic

John Saunders
By John Saunders

PAT: Today on Flip the Switch we sit down with Will Smelko and Erica Breyers, cofounders of Ora Organic, a Shark Tank company that creates plant-based vegan supplements that actually taste good. The company is growing like crazy, so we want to sit down with them and try to understand what’s making them stand out so much in their industry. If you’re passionate about personal health and entrepreneurship, this is the episode for you. Let’s get into it.

01:08 AUSTIN: Welcome to Flip the Switch presented by Power Digital Marketing. This is episode number 60. Woo!

01:14 PAT: We don’t have anybody for 60, do we?

01:16 AUSTIN: No, I’m just celebrating cause we made it to 60.

01:17 PAT: I’m surprised we made it to 60 but thank you.

01:21 AUSTIN: Round of applause for us. I’m not surprised. I said this at 50 too.

01:24 PAT: I’m just trying to be humble. I don’t want people thinking that…

01:26 AUSTIN: Oh, good point, yeah. It’s not impressive that we made it to 60. That would be a humble brag, right?

01:31 PAT: That would be a humble brag. Very Tom Brady-esque of you. That could be our athlete. It’s the humble brag episode.

01:35 AUSTIN: And also a lot of comparisons. We both have average body types.

01:38 PAT: Very average body types.

01:39 AUSTIN: And surprisingly perform decently?

01:42 PAT: Sure, sure. At any rate, we have a great episode for you guys today to commemorate that 60th episode. We talk to Will and Erica from Ora Organic which is an awesome company. It’s a really good interview too. I think this was one of the most fluid conversations that we’ve had on an interview so far.

01:57 AUSTIN: Yeah, it was really cool because one, they’re a client of ours so we get to see and have that experience with them on a day-to-day basis of living with the business, and also getting to hear the kind of the genesis of the idea and then how they’re passionate about just sustainable life and the products they create are really good for the environment and also us as humans. And the best part is that they actually taste good, so we’ll hear about that and how important it is to them that they can actually enjoy this as a part of their daily meal and not just have to plug their nose and kind of attempt to put a…

02:30 PAT: Yeah, grin and bear it or whatever.

02:31 AUSTIN: Yeah thank you that’s the word I was looking for. So without further ado we’ll let them tell all the good stuff. Here is Ora Organic.

02:39 AUSTIN: With us today we have Will and Erica from Ora Organic, a client here at Power Digital, a great partnership that we have going on… we’re really excited you could join us. Thank you so much.

02:48 ERICA: Thanks for having us, yeah. Hopefully we don’t disappoint.

02:51 AUSTIN: Oh absolutely not! Not with not with that accent, at least.

02:55 PAT: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say… that’s… our listenership just went through the roof.

02:58 AUSTIN: Absolutely. Yeah, you’re reminding me… we had David Walker on from Firestone Walker and he has this amazing British accent, and it was so soothing, the whole time we were sitting here just like, just keep talking, keep talking. So I think we’re gonna have a little bit of that situation here for the next hour or so.

03:11 ERICA: Alright, I hope so. I’ll try not to be too rough New Zealand. I’ll be posh New Zealand.

03:16 AUSTIN: So intro… We’ll give a little background on the both of you so then we can kind of get the audience knowing about you. I’d love to hear about Ora Organic, how it came to be… how you both met and kind of just the whole entire story, a little bit… maybe not the whole thing but a little bit of background on who you are.

03:35 ERICA: Yeah, for sure. I mean the story differs on how he met depending on who tells it. Do you want to kick it off, Will?

03:44 WILL: Yeah, I mean we met in a bar, that’s kind of answer to that story. Yeah, the company started back in 2014, and I was… my professional background was doing life sciences and health care and supply chain consulting, so I was really geeking out about supply chain which is something that people don’t normally geek out about, but I really liked it. And so got into plant-based nutrition on a personal level at the time. So Erica and I met like before Ora started in Australia. I went over there to have my quarter life crisis, decided I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, picked an English-speaking country. The currency exchange was like terrible at the time. It was so stupid, I lost like a ton of money. Everything I saved… blew through it.

04:31 ERICA: But you didn’t have to learn a new language, so it’s fine.

04:32 WILL: That’s true. And yeah, went over there… was managing a vegan blog which was not very successful… was just my excuse to go around to vegan restaurants and try them out and write about them and pretend like I was important.

04:45 AUSTIN: Well, which year was this?

04:47 WILL: This is 2013.

04:48 AUSTIN: Okay, so you’re right on the crux of basically the vegan lifestyle coming to be as big as it is now.

04:53 WILL: Yeah I was a bit of a vegan influence.

04:57 PAT: You could credit me with starting the trend, is what you’re really trying to say!

05:00 WILL: I had like 25 website visitors. It was sick. And so I was… I met Erika at the bar. She approached me. She was dancing up on me, it was really awkward.

05:10 ERICA: I didn’t approach you! I looked at a guy, and I don’t know, like a minute later he’s standing right next to me.

05:18 PAT: Is that the part that differs the most in the story?

05:21 ERICA: Yep, that’s the part!

05:24 WILL: So yeah, I started talking to her about veganism, I think, the very first night we met.

05:29 AUSTIN: Our Lord and Savior, Veganism.

05:31 WILL: Yeah, she thought I was really weird and she made fun of me. She was like eating bacon for every meal pretty much at the time.

05:37 ERICA: At the time, I just liked it, but not anymore.

05:40 WILL: Not anymore. So, I converted her it was great and then… yeah, we started… we actually started working on the company, it’s about six months later. Just started building everything, getting going, and I’ll let you tell the part about how you got yourself involved.

05:58 ERICA: That’s a good way to describe it. Yes so, Will and I were dating and we were actually dating long-distance at the time. He moved back to the States and I was still in Australia. I was doing my Master’s in business law and business information systems. Which sounds super exciting when I say it like that. I was also working in finance at the time too, which makes it yep…

06:20 AUSTIN: very well-rounded though.

06:22 ERICA: Yeah, I think before that I’d gone to art school, so it was a little bit different. So I did like my undergrad in fine art and fashion design…

06:29 AUSTIN: Very cool.

06:29 WILL: Had your fun doing undergrad and then…

06:33 ERICA: Yeah, exactly! I was like, I’m gonna do stuff that’s super fun! And then I was like, oh gosh it’s interesting to get a job now.

06:38 AUSTIN: Right?

06:39 ERICA: Yeah, I got one. I worked in fashion for a little bit, but it just wasn’t really my passion, so I went back to school. And anyway, I started… like we’d be talking every single day and he’d tell me about what was happening with this company that he was getting off the ground, and then I started sticking my nose into it. I was like, oh well, what are you gonna call it? What’s your website gonna look like? And my brother and I around that same time actually, had started a digital marketing agency. Just a small one, just us two and then our cousin as well. And we’d started creating websites and doing some branding work, and then I just sort of was like… hey, can I do this? Can I do this for you? And he was kind enough, or scared enough to say sure.

07:23 WILL: Not sure which one.

07:24 ERICA: Yeah, and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. So, yeah, that’s the short story, I guess?

07:29 WILL: Yeah you thought everything I was doing pretty much sucked.

07:31 ERICA: That’s not true. I wouldn’t say suck. It just could have done with some improvement.

07:36 AUSTIN: It’s okay, we can all be honest here.

07:37 WILL: It was a good first iteration.

07:38 ERICA: Oh, ok, that one sucked then, yeah.

07:41 AUSTIN: Yeah, right you have to refine to get that MVP off the ground.

07:44 WILL: Exactly, thank you. We were just trying to get some data that’s all it was. Beta testing. It’s fine.

07:49 AUSTIN: So fast-forward… Now we’re in 2018, and it’s… the company’s really taken off. You guys have done amazing. And I know a lot of that was… I think in what… 2016 was it, you were on Shark Tank, right?

08:01 WILL: Yeah, February 2017, season eight, episode 18. Not that I’m counting.

08:06 PAT: No. What was that experience like? I’m just curious, because we’ve had other clients that have also been on Shark Tank and it’s really changed the trajectory of their company, but there’s a little bit of that pressure too, after you’ve been on. Just could you speak to that a little bit, like that whole experience?

08:18 WILL: Definitely. Honestly, I felt like I blacked out a little bit. I don’t remember too much about being in the room.

08:24 PAT: Full autopilot when you were in there?

08:26 WILL: Yeah, it was totally. I think I’d chug like 12 cups of coffee beforehand. I was all amped up. It could have gone really poorly, and you don’t know how they’re gonna edit it either. So, it was one of those things where we… I think a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs experience before that we just didn’t ever consider it. I mean it wasn’t an idea of ours. We would be in a taxi or like a lift or whatever and we would just be talking about work and then… it happened pretty regularly like the Lyft driver would turn around be like… you guys should go on Shark Tank. We didn’t even know he was like listening. Of course he was.

08:57 PAT: Of course, that’s all they do.

08:59 WILL: Yeah, and so we get that advice and we are like ha-ha okay, yeah whatever. And I had a friend who went on a few seasons before and we got connected, put in our application, went through the process, not even thinking it would happen. And then we got the call and it sort of materialized really quickly, which was cool. But the overall experience was great. It was definitely nerve-racking, not knowing what the edit was going to look like, but I think came out awesome. The biggest thing that we were hoping for going into the experience was that they would like the products. I mean, we saw the horror stories of companies that go on and like… the Sharks will say this is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my life, that tastes like absolute crap, I don’t know how you guys do this, don’t quit your day job… kind of thing.

09:43 AUSTIN: Right.

09:43 WILL: Like, I really hope that’s not us cause one of our co-founders is a chef. Like we put so much pride into what we do on the flavor side so… we were just hoping we would get past that barrier and after we did, in the first few minutes of talking to them, I mean unanimously they were like, you know what? Even, I think one of them is either Mark or maybe Mr. Wonderful was like I normally hate this stuff. This is actually pretty good. We’re like, alright well, if that’s from Mr. Wonderful that’s as good as it’s gonna get, probably.

10:09 AUSTIN: What was the sample that you gave them to try?

10:11 WILL: Yeah, we gave them a few things… part of the value proposition behind our products, part of why customers like it is because we design them to either bake well or mix well in smoothies, and you can kind of combine recipes. So we wanted to show the Sharks how people could integrate it in their daily lives. It’s not your traditional supplement where it’s like… we just want people to pop pills, or we just want you to like, pinch your nose and swallow this really grimy dirt and grass flavored shake, right? Yeah, so we did like some truffles… we did some other smoothie recipes… we kind of mixed it up. Let them try it on its own, let them try it with some other recipes.

10:43 ERICA: And that was using like… we had like vanilla chai protein and we did like a… we have an omega-3 spray that’s flavored with organic orange as well that kind of tastes like candy, So…

10:53 AUSTIN: That does sound good. I’m a little hungry right now.

10:55 PAT: I was gonna say, getting my appetite going’.

10:57 AUSTIN: Who is the most intimidating Shark, would you say?

11:01 WILL: I don’t think any of them were that intimidating.

11:05 PAT: best possible answer.

11:08 AUSTIN: Sending this to Cuban. I don’t know if he was there, but he’ll spread the word.

11:10 WILL: Yeah. No, they’re all actually pretty, pretty nice. I think… because I like to think we’re not assholes… I think they feed off that energy. Yeah, if you come in and you’ve got that arrogance and you come off looking like a jerk, then they up their ante, right? I think they’re all Type-A personalities, of course, and they… it just becomes a pissing contest, and for us we just wanted to stay true to ourselves and just be respectful and if they had feedback for us, we just wanted to thank them and appreciate where they’re coming from. I mean, they do have a lot of experience, that they’ve been around… they’ve seen a ton of companies so we didn’t take any negative feedback or criticism personally. We’re just grateful to be there for the opportunity. I think that came through and it kind of lowered their guard a little bit, I think, because they weren’t out to get us. They just wanted to be real, so…

12:01 PAT: That’s awesome. Even speaking about the supplements a little bit… So you mentioned that you did have that background, a little bit in like plant sciences and things. How much influence did that have, I guess as a foundation for the company, versus maybe just observing other people in the industry that were doing things well or that you admired.

12:17 WILL: Yeah, so coming at it from a supply chain perspective where I started. The biggest challenge that I had, wanting to create a fully plant based line and also organics that that would support… for example like supplements is… you rarely hear people say, oh wow have you heard about this really sustainable supplement company. There’s like a hundred yoga pants now that are made out of like some sustainable material but like no one’s ever raving about their supplement company being sustainable. And so for us that became a supply chain challenge. It’s like how can we partner and find producers, find farmers, find ingredients and at scale create nutritional products that are made from organic food and plants. So that’s where we started. I mean took us about a year… almost a year and a half to build out the supply chain to partner with trusted producers and get everything down to a cost where we felt comfortable launching. Because we didn’t want to launch like a $250 protein product. We wanted to try to reduce it. So, that’s pretty much where it started. I think the industry overall, there’s been a lot of progress, but it is one of those spaces where people for the most part have bad things to say. I mean they’re like, Oh did you hear about that supplement company with amphetamines and did you hear about some supplement company that didn’t contain what it said it contained. And that for us was a cool challenge. We’re like, we want to fix that. We want it to be a force for good.

13:38 AUSTIN: And even just how you guys position and brand the product too. How does that change…? I guess how does that core mission change the way that you were looking to represent the product and brand it?

13:48 ERICA: Yeah, one of the things that we wanted to do with the brand is make it feel a lot cleaner than your typical supplement. I mean the product itself is so clean that that should be reflected in the way that the product looks as well. So that was sort of what guided us to choose pretty clean minimalist branding. So we like to have a bit of fun… what we think we’re funny. I don’t know that we are. We’ll add little cute names to the products, like the probiotic for example is Trust Your Gut or the protein powder is So Lean and So Clean because we really like OutKast.

14:22 PAT: That’s awesome.

14:22 ERICA: It’s just like having a bit of a joke with people but creating something that they would actually want to have sitting on their kitchen table and not feel like it looks… an eyesore basically, yeah.

14:36 PAT: Yeah, I think something too just even in the supplement space in general you see a lot of, like the product packaging and labeling can be like really aggressive at times? You see that a lot, like in the fitness world every like protein powder or like pre-workout has just some roided-out freak on the front that’s just like veins everywhere.

14:56 ERICA: Yeah, or if it’s a female focused pre-workout or protein, it has to be in pink and it has to have a sexy silhouette on it or it has to be in like a cursive font, and you’re just like come on

15:06 PAT: Yeah, and I think that kind of… I guess it marginalizes how much of an appeal the product can really have. Because it would probably be… it’d be equally beneficial to you, no matter…

15:15 ERICA: Exactly, yeah.

15:16 PAT: And so is that kind of the approach that you guys… cause even just looking at your packaging, like you said, it is a little bit minimalist. It’s very like, clean. It’s not sterile looking. It doesn’t look scientific as much. Is that kind of like… is that sort of I guess the brand that you’re going for?

15:30 ERICA: Oh yeah, totally. We want it like… obviously we want it to be clean and appealing to the eye, focusing on the ingredients as well. Yeah, I mean, I guess the other thing is that we don’t want it to eclipse any particular person. I mean, that’s… we do have a huge female customer base but that’s just because women make a lot of the household purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to food and when it comes to health. And we are seeing our male demographic grow a lot, which is really exciting. So we don’t really want to make it feel like it’s skewed one way or another, and I personally just have like a little bit of a vendetta against your typical like what is considered feminine or what is considered masculine. Like I think that that’s like bullshit to be honest. I want us to be sort of somewhere in between, where we can go either way and it doesn’t feel like someone’s putting themselves into a box by buying a particular product, if that makes sense.

16:26 AUSTIN: It absolutely does. And I think health and your body is not a female or male thing. It’s for everybody, right? Every human, right? We all want to feel good.

16:34 ERICA: We all have brains, we all have kidneys. We need to look after like random things like that where it’s like they function the same way.

16:41 AUSTIN: I’m curious because, I believe this is a vegan product, right? All products are considered vegan. How do you integrate this into society as a whole or maybe individuals that aren’t necessarily looking for a vegan product.

16:51 ERICA: That’s a really good question. So, one of the things that we’ve toyed with is whether or not we use the word vegan. Because vegan can be kind of eclipsing to people as well and so we try to use plant-based a lot. However, that also… so it’s like two sides of the coin, because when you use plant-based, not everybody knows what that means yet. It’s growing, but it’s still not… it’s not like a currently used term. It’s usually vegan, and we’re seeing that people are becoming more open to the idea of veganism now. One of the things that we try to tell people is that look, it’s a great product regardless of the fact that it’s vegan. If you compare it to a whey product, I can list out… like for example a vegan protein, I can list out the different reasons why it’s superior to that product. And it’s not really so much centered on it being vegan, but when it is vegan it’s better for the earth, it’s better for you and that’s the sort of thing we go with, is like just every little bit counts.

17:47 AUSTIN: This may be a dumb question but I’ve always wondered what exactly is whey and what is the differentiators between your product and whey, which is probably the largest known supplement.

17:56 PAT: Yeah, what is whey? Let’s start there.

17:58 ERICA: Go on, Will. What is Whey? No, I’m talking too much.

18:02 WILL: So, it’s sort of like a byproduct of the cheese making process. It originated as a lot of food ingredients. People are looking for an outlet for like scraps or byproducts or coproducts trying to turn it into a revenue stream. So a lot of the times… and there’s definitely a higher-quality whey on the market now. They’re claiming grass-fed organic etc. but at the start it was just kind of like you take the worst of the cheese making scraps and process them.

18:33 ERICA: They find out that it’s a really high protein content and you’re like, oh we can monetize this. And then it becomes more… like it’s more of a driver of the dairy industry. Just a waste product.

18:42 AUSTIN: I think when I was in college I decided I wanted to bulk up for like two months. I was like whey protein!

18:47 PAT: Whey protein is gonna make me huge.

18:50 AUSTIN: It’s all cheese? Wow. My mind has just been blown. That can’t be good for…

18:54 WILL: Dairy based, not great. Dairy based derivatives in general just aren’t good for your digestive, either.

19:05 ERICA: Oh, totally. You’ve got to have the right enzymes to digest it and most of us stop making those enzymes when we stop being breastfed. So it’s like, how are you supposed to…

19:16 WILL: So many customers switch over to us after claiming that… just dealing with bloating issues after taking whey. They’re just sick of it. They’re not even vegan. They just are done feeling like they’re having a baby immediately after drinking their protein.

19:29 AUSTIN: Absolutely. I mean this just makes way more sense if you’re caring about your body long term and kind of differentiating that in the market. I’m curious about maybe partnerships or platforms that you’re trying to get into, to grow the product cause obviously it’s gonna be better for everyone, but it’s hard to reach that person and help them understand so I’m curious about that.

19:46 ERICA: Yeah, for sure. I mean, this morning we had kind of a fun thing happen to us, where we went into our favorite coffee shop, waffle and coffee in San Diego in Normal Heights on Sevengneur. If you happen to be in that area definitely go by. It’s awesome.

20:01 AUSTIN: I’ll check it out.

20:02 ERICA: Amazing matcha, coffee… like they’re the best people as well. And we just released an organic golden milk product which is a turmeric powder with different… a few different herbs like ashwagandha and I won’t go too deep into the details but it tastes awesome. It’s like a turmeric latte with a little bit of maple sugar to sweeten it. We’ve brought them some samples and just because we wanted them to try it and wanted their opinion. And they told us today, they’re like, hey can we buy this from you guys? And like make it in the actual store? We thought, like yeah definitely, absolutely. Can I go get it for you now?

20:39 PAT: Exactly, can you guys hang tight for a few minutes?

20:40 ERICA: Yeah, so it’s kind of cool to have people being able to sample it in person. I think that’s something that we want to start exploring… maybe working with a few different local places where we can actually do that. And in addition to like having something delicious, you’re also doing something really good for your body, so it’s a win-win. But…

20:59 PAT: I think that’s a pretty cool point you brought up too, because it sounds like… because you guys are B to C most of the time. Like directing to see through your site, but it sounds like there might be B to B opportunities as well, given the right… like if there’s the right product market fit, right? So maybe even like smoothie plate like blenders or whatever, here in town, that make like smoothies and things like that or stuff. But I think that’s an interesting point that you brought up and especially… I think that you guys did… because you do a good job positioning the product in a broad way these companies could take it on and use it in their recipes or whatever they’re making without it being like conflicting with anything else that they’re trying to do. So I guess given where you guys are at right now what is the biggest priority? Is it still to scale? Is it like do you guys have a revenue goal that you’re trying to hit? Like kind of what… like where are things right now, I guess?

21:48 ERICA: I mean, I really like to sleep.

21:53 WILL: Yeah, so we’ve been launching a lot of new products recently. That’s been a big one for us, is to get more on the market. I think as we… one of my favorite parts about where we’re at now as a company is that we have so many customers and we’ve got this growing base that we can become just better listeners. I think something we talk about when you’re starting a company. We started it with what we think is cool, because we did some market surveys. You go out and you asked your like parents or your… you go to Thanksgiving and you ask people like, hey try this. What are you giving me? What is this powder?

22:24 PAT: Yeah, right.

22:25 WILL: Those are the early days. But you’re really building the company around what you think is gonna be great. And now we’re at the point where we really just want to turn things around and be amazing listeners. So the products that we’re launching are based on what our customers are asking for, right? And that’s super exciting for us is to be at that stage where we don’t have to… we don’t have to think too hard about some of that stuff now, other than just thinking about how we can be even better listeners, how we can gather feedback. So that’s why we’ve launched just three products now in the last three months.

22:55 AUSTIN: Wow. Would you say the process is getting easier for you to understand at this point? Or is it pretty refined?

23:01 WILL: Yeah it’s… some parts are getting easier but then the challenge is just grow. So I think that the scaling to answer the other part of the question. It is about how do we scale is about answering those questions and thinking through our distribution channels and what value each one of them is gonna provide to us. Because some of them we’re thinking are more of a customer acquisition, more of an exposure play. We are a for-profit company, we still have to make money. So we have to figure out where our margin is gonna… where we’re gonna retain that. We have an amazing subscription model but that’s also offered at a really steep discount for our customers, because we want to reward them too. So we’re trying to find the right blend of channels and distribution that’s gonna make scaling a bit easier for us going into 2019.

23:45 AUSTIN: Yeah, and I’m curious about kind of the demo side of it and who you’re marketing to and curious about and maybe age range and we talked a little bit about a female population but males growing. But what would you say is typically who you’re selling to just from an age perspective?

24:00 ERICA: Yeah, our biggest demographic… woman from the ages of 25 to 34. And then after that it sort of split between 18 to 24 female and 35 to 44 female, as well.

24:12 AUSTIN: Gotcha. And then in terms of the entire world, Southern California has got to be a hotbed for the product. But I’m curious about where other opportunities are in the world, outside of here.

24:21 ERICA: Yeah, I mean the next step for us is Canada. We’re really excited to… my brother who works with us as well, he’s based up in Canada at the moment. And I mean he just had an event the other night where people came into his co-working space to like buy things for Christmas and he had a bunch of Ora products there and he just sold out within like under an hour and he’s like okay!

24:42 AUSTIN: Where in Canada?

24:43 PAT: So this might work.

24:43 ERICA: Vancouver.

24:44 AUSTIN: Oh, awesome. Yeah, I was just up there earlier this year. Incredible place.

24:47 ERICA: Oh, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

24:49 AUSTIN: It’s a great kept secret up there. They’re just running this incredible society, and everything is so well done and I could see how that would be huge there because they’re very health conscious. A lot of great like vegan restaurants and in high quality goods right on the water there so that’ll probably a huge hit.

25:03 ERICA: Oh yeah and a lot of young business owners as well. So they have that community they really foster that which is exciting. So yeah, we’re just getting some of our products certified for that at the moment and hopefully that… we’ve already got a couple ready to go. Our probiotic line, which is exciting but man is that a lengthy process. It’s a bit of a headache. And then the next thing will be going into Europe, which again is a lengthy process too. We’re really excited to launch on Amazon there and see how that goes.

25:31 AUSTIN: That was that my question is kind of around the distribution side of that and then maybe regulations. Is there some health hurdles that you have to jump through to kind of get that all rolling?

25:40 ERICA: Totally. There are some weird hurdles, like specific to our industry. Like things like there’s a maximum limit on the amount of turmeric cucumin that you can have in a product, like per serving. And if you go over that, then it’s considered medicinal, and so then you basically have to take a pharm around.

25:57 WILL: And that’s like in Spain specifically, right?

26:00 ERICA: Yeah, it was like specific to Spain or Italy, I think. And so I’m like, okay that’s really…

26:05 PAT: That’s really odd.

26:06 ERICA: It’s strange but maybe… you’re just like okay, well that’s one tablet for survey not three so…

26:10 PAT: Right, so you just have to… but that’s interesting though, because then given your different points of distribution, you might have to change your portions and things like that for your different products.

26:17 ERICA: Oh yeah. And the labeling stuff I think scares us a little bit too. Because I mean there’s… all of our products have fun names on them at the moment that are in English, like Trust Your Gut. That doesn’t translate into French.

26:29 PAT: Right, when you’re doing it like super literally! It’s like a Google Translate problem.

26:33 ERICA: So, like you just gotta have to rely on people, like just it staying in English, and people just get you to search it or yeah…

26:40 PAT: What’s currently your top selling products or the ones that people kind of jump for?

26:45 ERICA: Ah, definitely the probiotics. Those are, and I think that’s just because that category and the research is blowing up at the moment for that. So everybody is about gut health. And then following that I would say the protein in the pre-workout is doing really well.

26:59 PAT: I could so see that. Just because people… I mean it… you think about it. Somebody that is inclined to buy supplements is likely somebody that takes their fitness regimen really seriously so they need something that doesn’t taste bad because they’re probably taking it every single day. I know that like for me that’s been a big deterrent at times like if I’ve been in a good… like a couple weeks, like two weeks max like working out really hard before I quit again for three months. If like the protein like tastes bad like that’s something that I don’t look forward to. It like makes me not want to like drink it or even like work out sometimes.

27:33 ERICA: Yeah, you want it to be more like a treat, right? Otherwise, it’s like what’s the point, right?

27:37 AUSTIN: What’s your go-to… maybe protein shake or something that you would add after a workout?

27:42 ERICA: Mine is almond milk, banana frozen or like just ripe normal and then I’ll do like two scoops of the vanilla protein, and then I’ll add a scoop of probiotic cause it’s just when I like, I want to take my probiotic every day and it’s the easy way to get it. And I just put it in a Nutribullet and maybe I’ll chuck in some like peanut butter or almond butter if I’m feeling like a…

28:02PAT: Yes, give it a little bit of flavor. Yeah, if I want it to be like particularly decadent, but…

28:07 AUSTIN: Yeah, gotta add the peanut butter.

28:09 ERICA: Yeah, exactly. But it’s delicious and it’s super easy to do and I don’t really have to think about it. And it’s like, oh, I just get a little meal and yeah.

28:15 WILL: Yeah, people will just make fun of me at the office. It’s an ongoing joke that I… my favorite product is always the newest product. And I don’t really plan it. It always just happens naturally and then people just laugh at me.

28:25 ERICA: You’re not supposed to pick your favorite children, but he’s like whichever one’s the new one!

28:30 WILL: It’s new and shiny and I get excited.

28:32 PAT: Always marketing, I like that.

28:34 ERICA: Definitely.

28:34 AUSTIN: So, I think we’re curious about what’s on the horizon for you two. You obviously… things are taking off and this is growing industry. But what’s kind of the plan in 2019 and beyond. If you know anything. You both just looked at each other and were like, what are we doing tomorrow?

28:50 WILL: We’re hoping you guys could tell us. That’s why we’re here.

28:52 PAT: I was gonna say we’ll have to check in with the team on that one.

28:56 WILL: Yeah, so the distribution… more product launches, expanding internationally, scaling up the team, growing… I mean it’s pretty much growth in every possible area you could conceivably imagine. This is what we’re doing so we’re looking at some… I mean we’re in Vitamin Shoppe nationally which has been fantastic and blending that together with… we’ve got some great independent natural grocers and retailers who we love and they’re so supportive of us. So giving them more support, I think it’s investing in the relationships that we currently have as well as scaling up some new ones. Like with the coffee shop example, testing out different things. Yeah, it’s challenging for sure, even just planning ahead because we know that things change every month or so, what we thought we were gonna be doing the following month, it just dramatically is different and that’s just part of life that we’re getting used to now. And we can’t control everything but we’re just giving it our best shot to plan ahead.

29:54 AUSTIN: I imagine there’s a lot of barriers you have to break down with your product too because it is growing. It’s not maybe a household or our mainstream idea of veganism and that type of thing so I can imagine it can be hard. What’s kind of been some trials and tribulations, if you will, over the last couple years that may be a barrier of entry you didn’t think you were gonna have, or that was kind of difficult to get over?

30:17 WILL: I think the customer experience has been the biggest one. So actually the the 2019 question overall at a macro level is emphasizing the experience. I mean to the point about taking a protein product or a pre-workout, then you get sick of the flavor. The stuff doesn’t scale as well, but what we’re trying to do is create limited-edition flavors, trying to introduce new flavors of the same products, maybe at a much smaller scale just to keep our current subscribers really happy. Because some of them are leaving because they’re just… they can’t take the chocolate protein every single day. So we want to really enhance the online experience, so that they can… with a text message or with a push of a button just easily swap out to a new flavor, try something else, they don’t like it they can send it back… there’s no issues. We’ll pay for shipping, like refund on anything they don’t like. They can swap it out for a totally different product. They can add something else to their cart. They can set their subscriptions so it’s 45 days or 50 days or whatever it is that they want. We want to make that experience in 2019 the best experience they’ve ever had with a supplement company. We want it to be like, not just state of the art for our industry. We want it to be like premiere for any industry.

31:22 ERICA: Aside from product as well, like giving them good content as well.

31:26 PAT: Yeah, I’d imagine there’s like a lot of educating that probably needs to go into this. Because you’re not just trying to get somebody to take a new supplement but you’re trying to educate them on why this is the right type of supplement to take and oh also, we do that type of thing, right?

31:38 ERICA: Yeah, like when you need to take it, for example. Someone’s like, oh like this probiotic is… doesn’t work for me. I take it every night before I go to bed. And we’re like, well, okay you should probably be taking it in the morning when you have your breakfast. So little things like that as well, where the content will really come into play and hopefully help with that. Or even like Will was saying, like flavor fatigue. Making sure people have good recipes and stuff like that to keep them interested.

32:02 WILL: Yeah, actually the biggest thing that I’m so grateful that we’re past now… the very first bulk of bad feedback would come from people who were… they’re of the like ugh supplements, just eat like organic fancy food, right? And we’re like that’s awesome, if you can afford that. If you can like maintain that diet, if you can eat perfectly every day of your life and plan your meals out, but a lot of people aren’t like that. So as we were… I think before we got off the ground that was just so consistent, especially a lot of Millennials who like us are foodies. We tried all the new restaurants, all the best restaurants on Yelp we can find. Like we’re constantly testing out and talking about what we’re doing and posting our recipes to Instagram. And that was a big point. And I think one of the reasons we got over that and are now past it and people are so interested in what we’re launching next and what we’re doing and we don’t hear that almost ever. I used to hear that, it felt like every day. It was probably like once a month. But I think it’s because the products that we’ve chosen to focus on are so scientifically backed. I mean they’re so core to foundational health. Things like vegan vitamin D, things like probiotics which you see new studies coming out every day on. Protein, you can’t say… you can’t negate the benefits of protein, right? Like it exists. So we’re focused on such core health areas that I think it helped people get past that barrier of, why can’t I just get this in food. And then we said but this is food. That’s the whole point. That’s why we’re different is that everything comes from food. It’s not artificial synthetic supplements. This is literally just like powderized, freeze-dried, extracted, concentrated food.

33:33 ERICA: And it saves you time, it saves you money, so…

33:35 PAT: Yeah, it’s like the good stuff from food. Yeah, like people that might not want to eat super, super healthy. Like you can replicate that basically with some of your supplements. I wanted to touch really quickly too on just like the competitive landscape because we know it’s like a growing vertical. There’s a lot of companies that position themselves in a similar way. What do you really feel is like that core differentiator that’s let you pave your own way within the industry and have the success that you’ve had so far, when it’s like consistently getting inundated with new competitors?

34:02 WILL: Yeah, so there’s a big difference… you see a lot of like natural or people claiming to be pseudo natural. There’s a really big difference between organic certified and natural, so that that’s a big one is our emphasis on organic. I think we do stand out in terms of our emphasis on sustainability, and that’s just core to our DNA. It’s not a competitive point. It’s just who we are and why we do algae Omega 3 instead of fish oil, right? It’s just a part of us and I think our customers really connect with that because they believe in the same things we do and they want to feel like they’re supporting a company that shares the same values. And I think overall and I might be unique in our company… I know we do talk about competitors. We do look at what else is out there. But I really genuinely don’t care about what they’re doing. I think for us our emphasis is on the experience. Where we found success is by just listening to our customers and delivering what they want and exactly how they want it and working really hard to make it happen. And I think if we continue to do that, we’ll be in a good spot. Because there is, there’s so much out there. There’s so many people claiming to be natural, so if we can just keep our customers happy and deliver new content and try to connect with them in ways that stands out in the industry, I think we’ll be ok.

35:17 AUSTIN: I do too. Yeah, and I think you’re primed for a big push, because people are becoming more educated on their health and being aware that they need clean products in their body so that they can be healthy for a long time. I think I saw a stat that that the average life of an adult in the United States like went down by 1/2 percent this past year, which is pretty scary if you think about it. You think where we’re at with medicine and everything. That might be loaded with lots of other things, but it is really important and I think we’re well educated on the west coast, at least. It’s a big part of society, but it is starting to trickle into other parts of the world and that puts you in a great position to be that partner for education of your body and to live a good life. And hey, it doesn’t have to taste bad, right? It’s just a part of your daily routine and it’s just as good as uh putting together something in the morning. You just have a scoop of this and you’re gonna feel great. So I think that you guys are in a great spot.

36:07 ERICA: Thank you. Can you write that up so I can add a little testimonial on the website?

36:12 AUSTIN: Sure! I do voiceovers too, so c’mon down.

36:14 Pat: Yeah, we’d be happy to. Will, Erica thank you guys so much for coming on the show today. It was a great time talking to you.

36:19 ERICA: Thanks so much for having us.

36:21 WILL: Appreciate it. Awesome.

36:26 Pat: Great interview. Thank you again for Will and Erica for coming in. I learned a ton about the industry. I actually had no idea about like half the stuff that they were talking about until today. So a lot of the questions that you guys heard were not premeditated in any way. We deviated a lot from what we originally were gonna ask, and I thought that the conversation was great. I learned a ton.

36:45 AUSTIN: That’s when you know it’s a good interview, is when we can just start getting curious about what they’re saying because it’s a very interesting topic. It’s also very topical, which is why we were excited for this interview. Is it’s something that is at the top of everyone’s mind in society, is that we want to live longer and we want to be healthy, specifically here in Southern California. And they’re on the forefront of that. They’re creating a product that is healthy, but also it tastes good, right. And that’s a really, really big part of this and they’re talking about that experience with Shark Tank and those guys are not gonna hold back. If they thought it tasted like crap, they would have said so, right? And it’s totally a situation where they’re integrating this into everybody’s life on a really simple basis. So we’re really excited about them as a client and just as a product. I think that they’ve got a real shot to do some amazing things.

37:34 PAT: Yeah, something that really stuck out to me too is like… their mission is really that authenticity piece. And that really like resonated with me because even Will, everything that he was saying, as opposed to like, I’m so glad we’re past that. They’re like we don’t have to deal with this anymore. He’s like I’m really grateful that were past that or like, yeah, we just wanted to show everyone that we appreciate them. Like they’re talking about their small distributors, how much they appreciate them. Like in today’s day and age, that’s what you have to do as a business owner, because there’s so many other businesses competing for that, I guess, distributorship or attention. And that was something that like just really stuck out to me. You don’t see that a ton with companies that are blowing up at the same rate that they are.

38:09 AUSTIN: Totally.

38:10 PAT: Yeah. Definitely a company we can all get behind. Maybe I’m gonna try some of their supplements, get back in the gym a little bit.

38:15 AUSTIN: Oh yeah. And go grab a couple beers.

38:17 PAT: Yeah, potentially.

38:19 AUSTIN: Before we go to the gym, I’m grabbing a couple beers.

38:20 PAT: Yeah that’s got to happen. All right everybody. Thank you for joining us here on episode 60 of Flip the Switch podcast presented by Power Digital Marketing. Join our forum. It’s Flip the Switch Podcast Forum on Facebook. We will add you to it. Austin is anxiously waiting by his computer to do that for you. We always post great content questions, quizzes, things like that. So join our forum. Until next week, this has been Pat Kriedler, John Saunders, Austin Mahaffy and Joe Hollerup signing off.

John is the Director of Web Development at Power Digital and thrives on the balance between creative and strategy. Using his experience in CRO, John approaches website builds with the user in mind, combining psychological and technical aspects of design.