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The backdoor approach to getting your CPG food brand stocked in Wholefoods, with Lil Bucks Founder Emily Griffith

by Female Startup Club
April 22nd 2021

Today’s episode is brought to you by Klaviyo and I’m chatting with Emily Griffith. Founder of Lil Bucks.

After discovering the potential of an underutilized superfood while living in Australi... More

before we dive into the show. Today we have some super exciting news as of this month. Female startup club is officially part of the hubspot podcast network, something we love about the hubspot podcast network is all of the inspiring shows dedicated to helping professionals learn and grow, especially women in business. So if you love female startup club and want to check out other shows like us, we definitely recommend checking out being boss, the gold digger podcast and the shakeup. Check out all these shows and more at hubspot dot com slash podcast network. This is Emily Griffith for female startup club. Mm Hey everyone doing here. Today's episode is brought to you by clay vo and I'm chatting with Emily Griffith, founder of Little Box, after discovering the potential of an underutilized superfood while living in Australia Chicago native, Emily Griffith founded Little Box, the buckwheat company with a mission to offer innovative buckwheat snack and breakfast products while promoting a more nutritious diet and soil health in north America.

We're chatting about how she got into whole foods pitfalls to look out for when you're in the CPG space and building your network and if you've heard me mention our listener research interviews but haven't reached out yet, please do I want to speak to as many people who are enjoying the show as possible and I would be so honored to have a moment of your time to ask you a few quick questions, you can reach me on email at hello at female startup club dot com and we can pop the time in the diary, but that's all for now, let's jump into this episode, this is Emily for female startup club daily customers want more from brands, delivering more means owning the customer experience, taking control over data acquisition analysis, creative and delivery. Clay vo calls this owned marketing and believe it's the best path to growth for more, visit clay vo dot com slash F.

S. C. That's clay vo dot com slash F. S. C. One last thing before we jump into this episode, I want to quickly shout about our course the ads M. B. A. Although I'm totally biased, I'm told by so many of the hundreds of women who have taken it so far that it's amazing and they've been able to increase their revenue in their business using the methods taught the ads. N. B. A. Is A. D. I. Y. Course to help you master the technical skills needed to run profitable facebook and instagram ads by yourself. We've partnered with leading performance marketing agency amplifier to create the best online program out there And these guys know a serious thing or two about performance marketing. They've spent more than $100 million dollars in ads during their time. You'll learn everything from winning ad creatives to identifying your target KPI s implementing retargeting funnels and deploying scaling strategies to increase your revenue to upwards of six and seven figures per year.

It includes six modules with more than 30 video lessons and you can learn at your own pace. But what we're most proud of is that $30 from every sale is donated towards girls secondary education through the Malala Fund, a charity that champions every girl's right to 12 years of free, safe quality education and is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead to learn more. Head to female startup club.com. Female startup club precincts. Emily Hi, hello and welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to chat with you. Really cool podcast and I can totally relate to a lot of the stories. Oh thanks, Love that. Do you want to start by introducing yourself and what your business is? Uh yeah, so my name is Emily Griffith, I'm the founder and ceo of little bucks where America's buckwheat brand. Um, so we make different crunchy snacks and breakfast toppings from activated buckwheat seeds.

I got this idea which we can get into. I was living in Australia and kind of found widespread use of buckwheat there and yeah, so right now we're still like whole foods in the midwest online amazon, both retail and online are huge parts of the business. Um, and we're expanding quite a bit this year. So lots to share on this journey. Let's just share. It sounds like it and I love that. This starts in Australia obviously being Australian? I love it, Let's go back to that time. What was the light bulb moment or what was the experience that got you thinking about buckwheat of all things? Yeah, So I mean, I'm from Chicago originally, so similar to London. Bit of a joke, There's a Perma cloud over Chicago for summertime shack. That's a good time. But so I always been California dreaming and when I was in college, I studied abroad in Sydney and really felt like I was coming into my own there and I was like, oh my gosh, I need to go back. So I got a job, I got an agency, ad agency to sponsor me in Australia and went back down under, living my best life, like trying to learn to surf.

Like loving the food team, obsessed with just like the Aussie brickies and like spreads and like going to the beach and like having every kind of dip and I felt like it was, I was still blown away by it because to you in Australia and you're probably like, yeah, whatever. Like we have great breakfast, like, but to me, it was just so interesting because I felt like healthy food was so integrated with life. Like, it wasn't just for like the health hippies or like the hardcore like L A like weird potion drinking people. Like, it's like everybody's like, yeah, cool, this is beet dip or whatever, like this openness to ingredients first in the US, like we're like a little afraid of you think, especially in the midwest, where like a lot of the trends takes years to get to the midwest and then there's a lot of they're a little scared to try things. Not everyone obviously. Yeah so I'm living in Australia loving all that, loving the food culture, loving my ah zebra keys and I have a life changing a sybil there at this wonderful cafe in bronte by the beach.

What's it called? Bare naked bulls. Um They started in Manly and now I think they have like a few locations but highly recommend right shout out to them, going to check them out and I can't wait to go back and be like you guys like it's part of you start this business that is now like all over the U. S. Uh But so they use sprouted buck. We activated buckwheat is what I think Australians and new U. K. People say. But so that you sprouted buckwheat as a green free granola replacement on the bowl. And I just loved the crunch, big crunch fan. So first and foremost blown away by like the texture of it. And then more so after the fact like how I felt after eating it. I just felt amazing verse maybe having like a really sugary granola and a stable with like honey and a lot of you know you kind of get a sugar rush and might feel a little sluggish after and I just felt like really satisfied and energized so so much so I went back to the cafe and I was like what are these weird seeds activated buckley?

I start seeing it just used as a hero ingredient in a lot of breakfast products there, cafes, putting it on like avo toast salads, just even in desserts, like there's some dessert, chocolate company is putting it in desserts and I was like this is so interesting, how is this not a thing and I was like maybe it's a thing in new york and L. A just hasn't made its way to the midwest but turns out americans were missing out on this country, super food. So I was like it kind of started as a simple, I was a graphic designer and I was working on an ad agency side marketing experience, I was like how hard could it be, I'll just launched its brand and you know, starts out like buckley oh my God, I love it, I just want to focus more on this kind of light bulb moment because you know I see things all the time that I'm like wow, this is amazing, love it. Cool, high five done, you know what I mean? Like how do you actually think I'm actually going to turn this into a brand, I love it so much that this is a vibe and like how did you go about validating the idea and sort of thinking it through to building it into a business Yeah, it's funny, I could have actually had a lot of people would be like, oh, like did you always think you're going to be an entrepreneur?

Like, were you looking for an idea? And this was just like the one and I was like, I wasn't, that wasn't the case, like looking back and looking at my personality and how I work, it makes a lot of sense that I fell into entrepreneurship, but I was by no means looking for an idea. I was not feeling like I fit in with the traditional ad agency model and this was my second agency in Sydney and I was like, I mean I had great friends there and learned a lot, but I just really did not feel like my career, it was driving with me, so I was struggling in that way, but then that's still, you know, I still, there wasn't really that when your jump from, I'm gonna go from ad agencies to like buckwheat business, but it really was just a genuine obsession with the sprouted buckwheat seeds. Like growing up, I always loved healthy replacements to like unhealthy things are, you know, like paleo pancakes or even like a solid gold. I love because you can literally, if you make them right, like it tastes like ice cream. So I just love that. So I think, I mean, I'm not kidding, I didn't just think of a good idea.

I started eating sprouted buckley every day, so I was buying it at the shop going through like a pound bag a week. And then once I was kind of just this habit is getting a little expensive. Um I started learning how to make it at home and I was like this isn't that hard, like you just sprouts and seeds and dehydrate them and I didn't have a dehydrator. So I was like rigging our oven to make it work. And then it really started like genuine kitchen exploration. I started making like, oh you can have a flavored granola, like a chocolate granola. Then why can't you have a chocolate buckley seeds? We just started messing around with it. And then at the time just like this isn't that hard and I should try to, you know, I'm a graphic designer, american, make a cool logo, like let's just start sharing this with americans. And I think it also came from a place of just loving my experience in Australia and not really being ready to leave. But when I quit the agency job, I did need to leave because I was on a sponsored Visa. So I was like a way for me to bring some of that inspiration from the Australian food culture back to the U.

S. With me. Like via this buck we idea. But yeah, I feel like the idea gods just like bestowed this idea on me and I became obsessed and it really like was never in question whether or not I would do it, it's always worth case it fails but I can't not do this. Like buckwheat will be the thing in the US and either I'm going to be a part of it or I'm gonna attempt to be a part of it. You know totally whether it works or not we'll see you followed the buck wheat crumbs. Yes. You made your own pathway. You you're following the trail literally. What were the people around you saying that we're like trying the buckwheat that you were making at home and you know your friends and your family. What was the vibe? I mean I think people are a little Confused at 1st. They're like I mean like well the Australians are kind of like okay like we have this like you know that's cool. And then my american friends, I've actually moved back to the U.

S. And was doing some tests while we're waiting to move in together. I was like living at my boyfriend's place with his two other roommates and I'm like hey guys like doing buckwheat tests in their kitchen. So they probably loved that. But they were there for the ground shattering moments of little bucks creation. But yeah I mean they were like oh this is good but you know I think people didn't really think anything of it. Like they're kind of like Emily's on this book anything but he's on this buck weight thing like whatever you know it's so foreign and not the buck weeks in florida because actually are buckwheat that we get is grown in the US and you know, now it's kind of becoming more widely understood partially thanks to us I think. But you know, there's kind of like Emily's moved back from Australia, she's going down this buckwheat rather whole, who knows what it is? Maybe it's gonna be a cute like farmers market granola brand, which is great, but I don't think they really saw what I was seeing in my mind, I was like, this is gonna be in every pantry in America, like got it, got it, you know, it's a while and I couldn't have to like learn how to talk about the products and explain it properly.

So like when I started sharing, you know, my early real bucks recipes, I'd be like, hey, do you want to try my green free green free high protein, high fiber, like super food, whatever. And people like that sounds gross because how concerned to be that healthy, then it doesn't taste good. So then when I started leading with like, oh try this crunchy delicious, then you can put in your yogurt smoothies. People like, okay, and then you're like, oh also it's really healthy so I'm just gonna have to learn how to talk about it as well, had a lot to learn, especially Being a new entrepreneur, I was 25 I think when I moved back to the US. So new to the industry new to trying to start a random food business that seemed random at the time. So really interesting insight on the, you know, the importance of language when you're trying to sell the product and tapping into consumer behavior and what consumers actually want and what they're, you know, struggles and pain points are versus what you think they want and what you think you should be saying, oh that's a classic and like such a good lesson for.

I mean obviously in consumer packaged goods because you're literally asking someone to basically not by something else and instead buy your product so that communication and that messaging but in anything obviously is so important. I think copyrighting like I've taken some courses on like I've just read building a story brand and I think whether it's service based or product based business. Yeah like messaging it and putting it away to make it something people actually want rather than forcing something on them because I'm like trust me, like it's so TC and so good for you. You're gonna feel amazing like you need to like speak to them in their language and like pull out like they want to try it. But I even use like trends dot google dot com to look up like you can look up different even like for flavor research, I'll look up like what people the U. S. Are more interested in right now. And even early on I was calling you know we're like little buck's activated buckwheat but that's actually turns out is more of an activated is a more common term in Australia and the UK and in the US we say sprouted but it kind of means the same thing.

So early on I did a switch, it was very early so it wasn't a big deal but hadn't ordered too many activated buckwheat stickers yet. But yeah it was like I've been just doing that simple research. I was like oh people are searching for this way more. Yeah that's super fascinating. Yeah crazy. So I want to go back a little bit to actually how you started the business, what were the key steps to getting this off the ground in terms of manufacturing the product and getting that product or getting your first order or whether you made it at home and how you sort of started putting that out there into the world. Yeah so I think one of the biggest things for me, I moved back to the U. S. And started just playing around the recipes. Of course I already have the brand ready because as a designer and I'm very brand forward and had a lot again like you said to do in the background of like manufacturing, getting packaging, like how do we finance this all these things and I'm very much a learning by doing person and did not have startup experience, so from the perspective of like, okay, we have an idea in our business plan and now we're going to go raise $1 million dollars to like build out a team and like do that, like, I did not know anything about that world, and I'm very much a learning by doing person, so I was like, I'll just, I freelanced, I had my own marketing consultancy when I moved back to the US, I'd put the job in Australia, so I was using and that was going very, very well and I was using that money to bootstrap little box, so using any profits from that, besides paying my rent to that, and just, you know, by mass buckwheat by the packaging and all that.

So from that perspective, that's the route, I went with financing, but then obviously there was a ton to learn on the manufacturing side, and I think the best thing for me was meeting on other entrepreneurs in this space, so you just learn absurd amounts from people in your industry, and especially you're going into something, I mean, I'm sure for someone with you, like, you know so much about podcasting that would just like, you could have a 10 minute conversation with someone who's just trying to learn about it and blow their minds and like that's me with the food industry now, so I went to a panel where there were like four people, major Chicago food entrepreneurs that have done really well and so obviously to talk to them after and got introduced to an organization in Chicago called the hatchery which is a non profit for that helps food businesses in Chicago grow. So basically they're just trying to provide resources, like they literally had a starting a food business one on one class and I was like oh my gosh this is the perfect class for me.

And then you know started getting into their courses like getting the proper licensing to produce in a commercial kitchen because we didn't start manufacturing. Like I started making the product which is a whole other thing because it's very time consuming to be freelancing full time and trying to sell the little box and make the little bucks at night was really intense. But yeah I just kept like every step of the way like okay now I need to learn what the requirements are for packaging, how do I get a barcode? You know if they I didn't have a resource for it, they would introduce me to someone who did. So it's really just networking and talking to as many entrepreneurs and industry folks as I can. Like in Chicago there's a lot of big food businesses as well, so getting connected to like I think Bell brands, their U. S. Headquarters in Chicago. So even just I worked with a packaging specialist for like six months who she was just doing it for fun but we were testing different compostable bags and testing the shelf life and whether it would preserve our products, so really not working and talking to the entrepreneurs was probably like it's very time consuming and I gave it a lot of three little bucks because you know all you can give in return sometimes, but I think the most crucial thing I did to get to where we are and learn about the industry as fast as possible cause there's so many potential pitfalls you can run into.

So having someone be like, hey quick note, don't do that, okay, like you could avoid months of pain. Oh gosh! Like even um I mean this one is like top of my mind just because like we recently it's not like you're going to avoid all pitfalls and I think you have to have a lot of Greece with yourself for that. But for example, we just started working with, there's two really big natural food distributors in the U. S. Um that service a lot of the big like whole foods and big grocery chains like that and getting into them is kind of key to growth in retail, especially when you're starting out. And we just launched with one of them and we opted into this program that, you know, they make it seem like it's really great for emerging brands and all this stuff, but really like there are huge, huge food distributor, there's a lot of challenges with working with them and basically the program, long story short, not good for emerging brands. Like it was very expensive and just like didn't not the, you know, it's supposed to get us in front of all these new accounts and all this stuff and basically just like did not do that, and like if anything, it just cost money down the drain, and if I talked to someone who had experience in distribution and they could have looked at them like, that's not a good idea, Like, this is why I like this distributor, this is how they're structured and like, this is just like using it to get you into a funnel to like make more money off you rather, and I'd be like, well, well, but you know, that's one example of us falling through, you know, a pitfall and we're gonna be fine.

It's not like the end of the world, but I think the more you talk to people, the more you kind of pick up those like, oh, it was a good idea, that's not a good idea. And there's been plenty of times where like, I was about to go gung ho on something and then someone like, you might want to rethink that or just be careful because of X, Y, Z. And then, you know, you it just helps form the strategy really key. Yeah, absolutely. I'm even going through that kind of stuff now where I always look to people who are a few steps ahead of me or even a lot of steps ahead of me, but they will take the time to talk to me to figure out what's going on with the journey of the podcast and what the product offering looks like and all that kind of thing. So yeah, I totally get it. It's definitely key to have those people who are ahead of you who have been there, done that and can give you the kind of key learnings along the way. For sure. I want to switch to talking about when you launched the product and how you actually started selling it and getting in front of customers. Yeah, so we launched in April of 2018 and our birthday is actually coming up 3rd birthday, Happy Birthday mrs Wilde.

I launched it at a fitness festival in Chicago and of course April 20 could go either way. It could have been an 80 degree day, but that they happened to be 30 degrees of horizontal lens, which I guess I'm using Fahrenheit. So it was really cold. Uh pretty sure actually 30 is like negative one Celsius, so not one. Oh my God, that's like extra cold. Yeah, well Chicago. Um it's so extreme and it's an outdoor fitness festival. So literally like I negotiated with this climbing gym in Chicago, they were putting it on and all of these like local, You know, fitness studios and gyms were participating and it was an outdoor workout day and there's gonna be like a 30 minute session from like a barn class and a boot camp and the climbing people and yoga and all these like health food things. I'm like this is perfect for me to like have a tent and I negotiated like normally the brand sponsoring, I mean it's at least $1,500, sponsorship.

And I was like, can I just made me get a little tent for like $200 and they're like okay, but bring your own tat like fine. And so I'm setting up this like yankee time. Well everyone else has like nice tents, like Clif bar was there, they were like huge. And my mom was supposed to come into town to help me that morning. I'm like it's freezing, like don't even come, it's gonna be stupid, no one's gonna show up. And it turns out people are very dedicated to their work out and they came out and it's like freezing cold day. I've made a crunchy like vegan fudge with the low box, so it was kind of showing a way that they're used and the sample spread around the whole festival and everyone's coming up and we sold out of our bags that day and actually got into our first little store on the spot. The owner of one of my favorite juice bars walked up and she was like, oh these are great, like I own this juice bar, we'll sell them and I'm like, cool, how do I sell to you? What does that mean? Yeah, so there's a lot of, you know, just kind of learning by doing, like remember the first person coming up and like, okay, like this is almost like awkward in my mind because I'm totally faking it like this was my product and this is how I'm going to talk about it.

And then like, I mean just after one person came up then you just all of a sudden you get in a groove and you do it. It's really just that Nike phrase just do it. And yeah, of course those, you know, visual marketing, graphic designer had the website ready, so where you know, it was a little shaky on like how do I have a tent and like how am I gonna do this festival Stayed up till 3:00 AM, the night before perfecting our website because I thought that everything needs to be perfect and that was a lesson that not everything needs to be perfect and it never will be an entrepreneurship. So let go of that idea. But I stayed up before the festival protecting the website launched on instagram. Like obviously at the festival and I launched on my personal instagram and was just like, hey everyone, I launched this buckwheat brand and All of a sudden got like 50 orders and mostly from friends and family. But then it was nice because people are in the festival could like see You know try us and start ordering on the website and I was like cool, I got 50 orders and then I was like Oh now I have to ship them.

And so I'm like digging through my apartment buildings recycling, taking out like peoples used amazon boxes and using those to ship out the products. I just like didn't have any of the logistics on the back of like when I say learned by doing like I learned in the moment there's a lot more pain that way I think by the lack of planning, especially in the logistics end of things. I joke about that a lot. But I talked to a lot of early stage entrepreneurs now and I'm like now let's just like go through the transaction, you are you ready and to end like what holds you need to fill like do you have shipping set up two boxes, Do you have a printer? I can go and buy a printer and print labels. And so just helping people think about the full picture because I think you know this could be, I was naive young. I'm so marketing minded even now I still like can fall into that trap of just wanting to think about marketing but thinking about the business as a whole and what holds you need to fill whether it's an ops or finance. Um so I think that's also goes back to like surrounding yourself with entrepreneurs and other people in the industry, especially people that compliment your skills.

So I even brought on our first advisor, I brought on, he has huge experience in finance and ops and we're pretty much the opposite so he's been really helpful because he points out a lot of things that he's like you're not thinking about this and I'm like oh my gosh you're like yep never thought about it, I never thought about it. Never. You have since grown into hundreds of retailers, you're doing really well. Did you see what has that scaling looked like? Like how did your marketing evolved to get there? Like how did you get from A. To B. So I think we did have kind of that big break where we needed to, it was almost like that first year I was very much doing like farmers markets and kind of learning and still talking to people and I think especially for having a new product to the U. S. Like people don't know what sprouted buckwheat is even now we're bigger, it's still really new to a majority of the population. You know, I had to learn how to talk about it and like what our packaging should look like and servings and flavoring but then yeah I got a chance to pitch the whole foods and they by by region.

So I got to pitch to the midwest region which I really weasel into it was kinda like the stars align like it's kind of crazy that I got a meeting with them but I got a meeting with them. Yeah. And they ended up taking on our product lines into the entire Midwest region, which was 51 stores. So we're like, you know, cool, that's not crazy. High five. How do we do this? Yeah, exactly. I was like, I got the call, probably one of the most exciting calls will get because that's their first, you know, that's like a big break. And so I'm like, wow, so excited. Did a little dance and I was like, okay, we need to like get manufacturing, real packaging, organic certification because money, like we've got basically five months to make it happen because that's when the whole foods thing was going to launch, Which was March 2020 last year, right? When Lockdown began. So that was another journey. But yeah, so then I kind of, since I finally had something like whole foods on board that like validated my idea and showed that it was going somewhere like it was going on to the whole food shelf that kind of gave me a little more leverage to talk to higher up people and be like, get connected further with like fundraising, you know, operations, manufacturing.

It even gives me leverage with the manufacturers because it's not just like, hey, I'm just chick with crash bags and stickers on the bags and I sell it at markets and online which is great and you can make that a very legit business but it was more challenging to get people to take me seriously, especially as a young woman. But then when I'm like hey I got whole foods like you know people are listening so that kind of help really start working with a really amazing manufacturer that was able to meet the demands. And then while we still work with them now use this launch as a catalyst to raise a small friends and family around of financing. I, you know, started going out a huge brand ambassador team. So basically my plan was let's repeat what I did in Chicago with farmers markets and just getting out there and sampling and giving out samples and letting people try the crunch and then you know done deal because no one's had a crunch like this before, if you like crunch, if you eat yogurt, oatmeal smoothies, whatever you're gonna be in heaven.

So that was the plan was training up all these brand ambassadors and like 15 cities across the midwest to start supporting these whole foods and do samplings at yoga studios and fitness studios and all that. And then we launch into whole foods in March, you know the pandemic and that's when it was really really started rolling through the U. S. So it was just, we got like a week of demos which are samplings in the stores in and then obviously those shut down it was really intense. I really just had to pivot every thing about marketing to mostly aligned. And fortunately I do have a digital marketing background but I hadn't really put a lot of like effort into it just because whole foods was so all consuming and I'm like this is our big chance to make it in retail. So it did kind of teach me that you know the obviously E commerce grew up quite a bit in the past year but with people having to stay home and ordering online. But It showed me that you know are governing last year was 50 E Commerce, retail.

So like whole foods and stuff. So we're trying to grow both hand in hand and have an omni channel presence because you never know like if A lot of food businesses have their business was in food service so that being like juice bars or whatever and then all of a sudden everything shuts down and 50% of your businesses like not in operation. At so yeah there was a lot of really good learning lessons. I feel like the pandemic was like that's kind of when we really started expanding widely and getting bigger and finally had a little bit of funding and then it was also probably the most challenging time. So it was like the ultimate boot camp like 8000 million lessons learned But fortunately made it through 8000 million. Yeah, like Is that a number? Who knows? But yeah, fortunately, you know, but now we're in about 250 stories, we're watching a few more bigger chains in the next couple of months. So you know, we made it through the wood. That's amazing.

Yeah, love that for you, love that for you love that for americans. How did you get the meeting with the whole foods file? Um so I actually just went to go back to networking. I feel like he's gonna weasel around, you know like and have no shame like who cares? You got the Oscars like, hey, can you introduce me to person? No or a worst case you get ignored. That's kind another thing I learned within failed and networking is like, I don't think especially women were afraid to ask or were like afraid to be a burden and not saying that I'm totally like over this. Like sometimes I start to push myself like what's the worst thing that happened? Just ask or just go and you will be surprised. And so I went to expo last, which is like the huge natural products trade show. I think it's the biggest natural products trade show, potentially the world people come from all over the world for it. And so I was just walking the floor. I literally just got my cute little single serve little buck samples and was handing them out of my backpack to people. So that was kind of me and choosing it to the wider industry in my weird way.

And while I was, their friend introduced, she was like, oh, I used to work with this guy who's a whole food fire and he was a whole foods corporate beverage buyer. So he's buying beverages on the national level, so not my category or my region, you know at all. And he was probably so annoying. But she's like, I'm gonna text you guys in a group text and introduce you and he's probably like, like whole foods buyers like turn around their badges at the fast these trade shows because they're so like everyone's obsessed to talking to them. And so he's probably like so annoyed. Like everyone's trying to meet with me, like I don't want to meet with your like Weird friends. So he's like, I'll meet with you for 10 minutes. I'm going to sample like the new college in waters that vital proteins like meet me outside of this booth and we'll like talk and I could tell he was kind of like. but then like, you know, like I'm a normal person, you know, we had a great chat end up hanging out like half an hour walking around sipping our college in waters as one does and then I sent him products and I believe what happened, I mean, obviously I was like barking up whole foods tree in every direction.

Like I submitted for the review process of course And like was following up by email and you know, kind of didn't break into their office but would let into their office after hours and like dropped off more samples. So I was, I didn't break in, but like I may have been in there when I shouldn't have been. Yeah, exactly. Like I was like, there was not a break in, but I was just going to drop off some, you know, care packages and like the cleaner let me, so, you know, I was trying all the, like this like whole foods, you gotta put on the full court press. But I think what ultimately happened, I think it was the networking that did it because you know, I'm doing all these crazy things and I think the simple thing that got us the meeting was this beverage buyer George put it on the corporate breakfast buyer's desk and was like, hey, I met this like buckwheat check and it looks like maybe she actually up to something and they sent it down to the midwest region and were like, you should check out this funky thing and boom and boom, holy Goodness 51 stores.

That's wild. Yeah, waza love that for you. It was exciting. That was a good breaking into yeah, just, you know, do a little breaking and entering a little, just weaseling around annoying people. I love it. That's so cool. What does the next say 12 months look like for you, what are you able to shout about and jump on about? Yeah, so I think the next 12 months are gonna be really crucial in the future of Roe bucks. I'm really excited about it. I'm kind of having this mindset shift from creating the thing to growing the thing. So everything that we've talked about has really been me and my idea and my creation story and like selling it at farmers markets, been so personal. I mean I'm the person that made this happen, but now we're at a point where we're like, we're in distribution in multiple regions were doing really well, growing quickly. There's just like a lot, you know, going on in the amazon on our website and with whole foods and other retailers.

So we're getting into like more of the big leagues and now I'm really transitioning to, I just brought on my first corporate teammate last week and another one starting in two weeks. So I'm like, you know, all of a sudden I used to be like, I don't need to read about leadership and now I'm like obsessed with reading that leadership and team building and you know, enabling others to go out it go forth and you know, kind of fulfill their best skill sets on behalf of little bucks. So it's interesting because I kind of have to hand off some of that like control and you know, get things out of my head like so much of the brand and like the ideas and all this historical knowledge is in my brain. So it's been like putting a lot of processes in place, it's not like we're by any means a big corporation where there's like tons of processes and approvals and it's not like, you know, it's still very much startup, but it's really exciting to take that step, get on project management software, bring on a little, put a village behind low box and we'll be doing a lot more just basically we're on these channels were established, we have two product lines now, so it's really just growing within those channels and there's a lot of growth to be had.

So just taking it to the next level sounds super exciting and definitely, you know that new skill set of learning how to be a leader and lead the team and sort of transition out of solo entrepreneur into ceo and later and and all the things sounds super fun. Yeah, it's definitely a good challenge and nothing has been more interesting, nothing has been more challenging, but nothing has been more interesting. I'm really grateful to, you know, open the computer every day, even in some days. Really stuck. Yeah, always interesting. That's true. No day's ever the same. No, what advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to start their own business, my advice would be, I mean I keep going back to this community is essential to growing any type of business and I've talked about it a lot in this interview and how I really got off the ground from learning how to start the business to ultimately getting in whole foods and it's not really networking, just like I want to know these people just in case they can help me one day, but genuinely learning from people like you said that are maybe a step or two ahead of you that have been there before, like try to talk to people that are in the position you want to be in a year, five years from now and see what gaps you need to fill to get there.

So not only the community and just kind of surround yourself with people that you know admire and want to follow their path or follow a similar path, but then also in general like making sure you have a good community of you know, is it friends, family, like your support circle because it can be really hard and even building, just connected with other entrepreneurs. I think the first year I was going at it alone and bootstrapping everything, it was really intense and by the end of it felt a little overwhelmed and alone and then when I started talking to other entrepreneurs and realizing they felt the same, we actually started like a little Chicago female food finders group and we get together and do happy hours previous then like of course, but even though we start like a little group text and it's just great to connect with people that understand what you're going through. I mean that just really unlocked by potential I think by taking that burden, I'm just going through it alone off myself and just having community, both in business and outside of business has been huge.

Yeah, the support network for sure, love that. Thanks. We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode I ask every woman on the show the same questions, some of it might have already come up but we're gonna go through it Anyway, so question number one is, what's your, why? Why do you do what you do? My wife just comes down to, I want to share this literally life changing, crunch, tastic buckwheat experience with other people. It made me you know, taste good, made me feel great. And I literally always just go back to that moment that I had when I was so excited to discover something that could taste so good and make me feel so great but I'm like I need to share this about people, Oh I love it. Question number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that's happened in your business? Ooh, I think that The # one Marketing Moment I think has been getting into bon appetit and healthiest.

So we've had some really good pr and I think that's helped us not only with e commerce but general brand awareness marketing is all about touch points and a touch point. You know getting at least three if not six different touchpoints before someone actually makes a purchase and then with something that buckley where people don't know what it is or how to eat it, we really need that exposure and education. So PR hits have been big with that bone appetit hit was we've been working hard on that. I work with the PR team as well now but it really generated a lot of new customers and new emails and great S. E. O. All the things that really took our e commerce to another level. So was exciting, wow. Are you able to share kind of how big that push was like how many customers did you get or how much revenue does it drive to get one of those key pieces of press that really hit the nail on the head. Yeah I mean what's something like that? I'm trying to think of the actual number but It was around like 500 orders in a day and that's like not something we were used to, wow I mean you get to pick a day if you can get like depending on your average order size like 1050 order 5, 10 and 50 orders depending how big your business is obviously.

So getting smacked with like a massive traffic increased and then borders coming in that night and throughout the next day it was overwhelming, but really kind of amazing. So we wanted to make sure we capitalize on that. Got him into email, marketing funnels and kept communicating with them too, you know, kind of welcomed them on this buckwheat journey. Yeah, so that was huge. And yeah, I've also heard with getting into so actually what's been an interesting follow up is that once you're in it trying to make those pieces work the most for us. A lot of brands, you'll see like advertising like as seen in bon appetit like we would we're not advertising right now, but we're going to start soon and we would advertise like, oh my God, we're just in bon appetit even though it was like six months ago. Like consumers don't, like, a lot of people might have missed it. So you kind of can milk that pr piece for what it's worth. And then also getting into one of the healthiest newsletter which just happened like two or three times where they recirculate the peace in their newsletter and then we'll all of a sudden get like, You know, 30 40 orders just out of nowhere.

So I think those pieces where you think about not just, you know, and it's interesting which ones work and which ones don't and it's kind of a test and learn things like, you know, we've gotten into Forbes a few times. There's obviously a great, you know, publication and then great thing to get into. We don't really see that one drive as much sales per se. Obviously there's still value in getting into it, but it's kind of testing, learning, finding these ones that share it again and again, you'd be kind of surprised like we were on a local Chicago tv segment once and that also huge with orders and I think really good for our local retail presence in Chicago. So spiny ones, you can milk a lot of shares and views. Absolutely. And I think the bon appetit thing, it's like the people who are reading and browsing bon appetit uh foodies, their food lovers, they want to try, they want, yeah, they're hungry. Whereas maybe the people who are Reading Forbes are other entrepreneurs and they're looking at you as the female founder and the head of the business versus like, oh, what's this new product that I'm really interested in buying right now.

So it's interesting to make those Exactly, it's kind of like a reader intense. So Exactly, yeah, totally love that help are great for like different, like depending on your goals and when you're early you're just trying to get sales. So obviously, you know excited about both. Both are great, but you know, bone appetit That's a good 1? That's a good one Question # three is where do you want to get smarter, what are you reading or listening to or subscribing to, that's helping you get smarter. Oh, I love that. Um my favorite thing to listen to get smarter is NPR how I built this, especially if I've had a bad day, you know, sometimes you get bad news or like manufacturing runs a blade or like, you know, a fundraising rounds falling through, like all these things that you hear other entrepreneurs, like they might happen to you as hard as you try to avoid them and I'll just going to run and listen to one of those and you just hear these crazy stories, people persevering people the most ridiculous stuff for like, getting so crafty and like doing these crazy things to make their business come to life and you relate to all those stories because like yeah, oh my gosh, like that reminds me of when I'm trying to make our products and our shared kitchen at midnight and like spilling buckwheat everywhere, or when you're weaseling into after hours, whole foods offices, breaking into like, I can really relate to these ridiculous stories and inspire me endlessly, like no matter the industry, obviously the food ones that was exciting in three weeks can especially relate to that, but um that's not my favorite and I mean even I love tim ferris, you know, like just figure out that was interesting because it's not as much traditional entrepreneurs and people that have, like, learned a lot of digital entrepreneurs or athletes and they learn how to really optimize their life.

So I think I learned it's kind of good for me to get out of like direct business podcast stuff even though they are super inspiring and I learn a lot, but just kind of also helping me and how I can live my best life, that's gonna make me be a better, like I'm going to think smarter, I'm gonna be a better leader and I'm obviously have a huge impact on the company's trajectory. So if I'm in a good place then being a good place. So true Question # 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? Um Yeah, actually my friend had this idea that I just started doing like a few months ago, but we have wellness check list, so it's um, 010 things and the point is to try to get to 80% of them and not getting mad at yourself friend because, you know, there's a lot of people, especially entrepreneurs that might be formally, you know, high achievers are perfectionists, you're like, oh no, I only got 29 out of 10 things like I suck, but making the bar 80% so you're trying to get to eight out of 10 of those while those things and maybe simple things you like.

So some of mine are um making the bed and movement. That's a big one for me. So whether it's, it could just be going on a long walk, but or like going for a surf montini go right now, so not something in Chicago. So like that. Another one for me. That's so there's obvious ones. Like it could be like cooking a meal, drinking, you know, hitting your water goal for the day, take your vitamins. Super simple things to help you get in the habit now. I'm actually taking my vitamins every day, so I think I'm gonna switch it out with something new. But one of mine on the checklist for example, is more I practice my spanish because I think I love traveling and seem to have a really any Graham seven for anyone in any grams. But on travel, I think I'm really motivated and inspired by traveling. This whole brand came from like being inspired by Aussie culture and you know, smoothie bowls. So learning spanish is kind of like an escape for me and motivates me to, I don't know what inspires me and traveling.

And it's also almost meditation because you're like, yeah, it's another language, love that, Love the wellness checklist idea. I think that's really sweet. I'm going to give that a well for myself. Yeah, I was like, Oh, that's my friend's business coach. Like talking to do it and the 80% goal, Like the 80% goal, that's great because then yeah, I don't get mad at myself if I do like all these great things, but I didn't practice my spanish then it's not a field day totally. Question number five is if you only had $1000 left in the business bank account, where would you spend it? Oh my gosh, that was a dollar, like that would be gone in seconds. I'm just like buckwheat alone. Um I would spend it on a teammate helping with ops because that's a big priority for me right now. I think something I learned, um better than others is rather than spending more on contractors or ads or whatever, like first having in place like really sound operations and just a team to handle the workload because like, oh, it's great if you put three K behind advertising, but yes, you're not equipped to optimize the marketing funnels or check the ads or like make sure they're like, you know, like really work at it because you're too busy processing the orders and dealing with the customer service on the back end, then you're not getting the most out of that campaign.

So right now I like my focus the past month especially has been like building more of a team infrastructure around myself. Obviously we're kind of going into another new growth phase. So that's important. But yeah, before we start up like advertising again or like getting and we're starting in the big stores, I want to make sure the background is set up and I realized there's so many people out there that want to be a part of a business, whether it's from a part time, you know, a lot of freelancers, a lot of people starting their own hustles and I just resisted bringing other people into the business for so long, like, oh, I need to do everything and I'm gonna do it the best and blah blah, and that might be true that some of the things you could do the best because it's your business and your brainchild and you care the most, but like you gotta let go, like I'm trying to relentlessly delegate, which I'm not good at. But I think, yeah, bringing on someone who's helped with Ops has been like a huge weight lifted off my shoulder and gives me so much head space to think more strategically about the business, so I would put it behind a person and I think you raised a really good point where it's like if you're also not doing things like your attention marketing funnel and figuring out what their next purchase will look like with you, then it is not a wasted opportunity, but it's dollars that haven't been optimized like you said, which is a really good one to think about for other entrepreneurs who are going through that scaling phase.

Exactly, like even being whole food is amazing, but getting onto the whole food shelf is like About 1/10 of the battle. It's like once you're on the show, that's where like the real challenges began From merchandizing to making sure there's no out of stocks and it's on a store level. So now all of a sudden I went from 0 to 51 stores and having to deal with each of those individual buyers and making sure everything's been stuck in the capital relationships with them and being the right part of the store and doing sales and blah blah blah. So you need to have people or resources because you know if it's just me, like I'm a bottleneck and I can't put all the love that whole foods deserves into it. But then you know, if someone else is helping uh and they're kind of taking the lead on that or they're doing some other task for me, so I can put more energy in the whole foods, then we're going to have a lot more success there have success Either way, we have a good product, but like how good is it gonna be? And like, you know how we get the next level.

I think you need to like kind of bring out other people and and also just find what you're like what is the best use of your time and your talents? Thanks for the longest time. Even for me, like I'm like I just come to terms with the fact that I'm gonna have to manage all the manufacturing around an ordinary ingredients and like dealing with the apps until like we get to the next phase blah blah blah, we can't afford a VP of operations yet. Well it's like you don't know what you're doing, I'm probably the worst logistics operations person ever and I figured it out obviously because it's my business and you know, I've learned it, but these are things that someone else can do, so actually last night put together job description, so it's such an ongoing practice for me, but really thinking about what can be delegated so that your times opened up and I think it's always a process, like there's still things, I'm like, well I have to do that and then like a week later I'm like, I don't have to do that. Yeah, you flip it, you flip it and be like maybe I don't, I'm conscious of time, so I'm gonna ask you this last question, I don't want to, I don't want to take up your time passed our moment, is it?

Okay. Okay, great. Yeah, so question number six is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things don't go to plan? Um I tried a lot of grace with myself when things don't go to plan or feel and I think the first thing I always do is go do some sort of activity because exercise always makes me feel better and sweating out the frustration, so, but it's surfing or going a really long run or boxing, I think it just kind of gets out that energy and anger or disappointment, whatever it is, that's kind of my first thing because you know, the mind will be running of all these things that you could have done right or like how did you mess up, blah, blah, blah 9? I think it done is kind of meditating on the why and while you're doing something and do you need the pivot is the why not working for you anymore? Just reflection on, do you still feel connected to the y and you want to keep moving forward? And then if you do Hi Peralta NPR how I got this podcast or whatever inspires you.

Like for me then like going back to what I was so inspired by in Australia, like maybe I'll go to just let myself enjoy a part of the industry that I love. Like go to a smoothie shop and just get back to why I fell in love with in the first place and got excited about it and get excited again and then just start again. I don't know. My boyfriend said just me once we had a particular disappointing news in the fall, which now is pushed past and all good, but regarding fundraising and it was probably the lowest I've ever been in the business. Just like this blows, how can I, like, don't know how to go on, but I'm gonna go on because they believe in this and my boyfriend and I just said to me when he was like, you just have to not quit and like, just keep showing up and the right opportunity will come, but you have to keep showing up and being there for that opportunity when it comes. Um I was like, okay, that's kind of a good point, I'll just not quit, which is easier said than done when you're like in the pits and you're like, how can I do this?

And android? Like I've tried so many things, um I'm so sick of like pitching this or whatever it is. Um but you know, you dig deep and just not quit. I love it. I think a mantra that my husband and I often say it's in the same space, it's just stop stopping. Yeah, I like that. Yeah, I love it. That's like a little cute and just like, you just got to not quit, stop stopping. Stop serving Emily. Thank you so much for being on the show today and taking the time to tell us all about little box and what you're building. Yeah, that's just super fun. Thanks for dealing with my choppiness and over excitement on buckwheat dudes can't help but love the chatty nous, love the over excitement on buckwheat seeds. Yeah, well there's no super fun. So I appreciate you having me, hey, it's doing here. Thanks for listening to this episode of the female startup club podcast.

If you're a fan of the show, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our newsletter and learn more about our D. I. Y. Course. The ads. M. B. A. I also truly appreciate each and every review that comes our way. It might seem like such a small thing, but reviews help others find us. So please do jump on and subscribe, rate and review the show. And finally, if you know someone who would benefit from hearing these inspiring stories, please do share it with them and empower the women in your network. See you soon. Uh huh. Mm hmm. Yeah.

The backdoor approach to getting your CPG food brand stocked in Wholefoods, with Lil Bucks Founder Emily Griffith
The backdoor approach to getting your CPG food brand stocked in Wholefoods, with Lil Bucks Founder Emily Griffith
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