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Leadership, validating your product in 3 steps & creating with integrity, with Kinfield’s Founder Nichole Powell

by Female Startup Club
November 3rd 2020

Joining me on the show today is CEO and Founder of Kinfield, Nichole Powell. 

Launched in 2019, Kinfield makes Great Essentials for the Great Outdoors—effective, plant-powered skincare and bo... More

This is Nicole Powell for female startup club. No, hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of the female startup club podcast. I'm your host, Dune rasheen and joining me on the show. Today is Ceo and founder of a company called kin Field. Nicole Powell launched in 2019. Kin Field makes great essentials for the great outdoors, effective plant powered skincare and body products made from ingredients that are safe for both the planet and people. They believe in a happier, healthier tomorrow through more time spent in the great outdoors and actually creating products that you need to make most of your time in nature, whether you're in the back country or your own backyard. Today we're talking about what makes a sustainable company and how they tackle things like packaging when trying to do better for the planet. Nicole's three step process to validating her idea and the lessons she's learned along the way. Being a venture backed female entrepreneur, This is Nicole for female startup club. Yeah, yeah, it's safe to say that most of us have been doing more online shopping lately.

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C. To create your free account today. That's K. L. A. V. I. Y. O dot com slash F. S. C. Female stock up club precincts. Nicole, thank you so much for being on the show today. Thank you so much for having me. I'm really happy to be here. Me too. I'm so excited. I always have to start by getting my guest to introduce themselves and a little bit about what your brand is, who it's for, what it is. Yes, all the good stuff, All the good stuff. So uh so hi everyone, my name is Nicole Powell and I am the founder and ceo of kin field and kin field. We make great essentials for the great outdoors. So we make something put simply, we make clean products that are personal care and skin care and really designed to make it easy and accessible for everyone to get outside and make the most of the great outdoors and I should also say that they all look so beautiful.

Your branding and your website and your social media, there's such a vibe going on there. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I remember actually when we were designing our packaging and I, you know, we were working with this amazing agency and we were they had pulled, you know, you're the first thing they usually do when you're, when you're thinking about your brand and how you want it to show up as you pull all of the other brands that are sort of similar on the market. And I just remember looking at them and saying, no clip art of mosquitoes I don't want like I was like please, like we can make a repellent that doesn't was killed on Uh but thank you, we really put a lot of love into the packaging and to thinking about how the visual identity would show up. And so thank you for that. Mm I totally feel it. I totally feel it Okay, I want to go back to life before Qin Field. What were you doing? What kind of got you interested in the outdoor space?

Why these kind of products um what was life like before? So why these products actually is kind of take you all the way back. So, I grew up in Minnesota, which is, you know, I think a very outdoorsy state and my family was super outdoorsy. So, I grew up mountain by gracing and backpacking and camping and playing in our backyard and that was really, you know, kind of all I knew and I, at the time, you know, growing up, I didn't know what entrepreneurship was, that wasn't something that I had access to, you know, I think my, you know, my parents have very traditional careers and so when I was thinking about like a five year plan, all I really knew is that I wanted to go explore and and be elsewhere, so I want to go to new york, I'm gonna go to California. My parents of course were very supportive, they said you can go wherever you want with your education and so I certainly did and after graduating school I actually ended up going out to California and I looked at a bunch of different careers after graduation and ended up starting work with a rotational program with into it, which is a large tech company based out of san Francisco and while I fairly quickly realized that the work that I was doing there was not necessarily what was getting me out of bed in the morning.

Um it did have a really critical step in the journey, which was introduced me to start up culture within the bay area, there's a really, really healthy ecosystem there around startups and entrepreneurship and you know, you really can only create what you can imagine and it wasn't until there that my eyes were really open to this idea of, oh you can, you know, you can have an idea and do more than just kind of like wax poetic about it with your friends, you can do something about it. So I ended up leaving into it. I took about six months out to travel. I was doing copyrighting and content creation for brands while I was traveling. And then when I got back to the bay area at that point I knew I understood about myself by that point that I really love to create, I really love to be in that place where someone's like, we have a problem, we have no idea how to solve it. Can you just figure out how to get started? And I loved that energy. And so I ended up wanting to then go join another start up because I had not the faintest idea how one started a startup.

So I was like, well go to a startup and I'll learn from there and then eventually I'll figure my own thing out. And thankfully I ended up meeting the founders of modern citizen, which is a women's fashion e commerce company. Um, they very intentionally wanted to go to a female lead startup. I very intentionally wanted to go to a really early company and they had just gotten started and I ended up joining them as their first full time higher and that was really my trial by fire into the start up world and I think it's really to their credit as leaders that I did, you know, worked with them for three years and still wanted to start my own company by the end of it because you can certainly, it's not for everyone, you know, there's a lot of task switching and you know, blue sky, which can be really energizing, but it can also be really overwhelming. And so I was working with modern citizen and having the time of my life, getting to build that community and and build that brand and company with them. And as ideas I think time to do, they tend to find you. And I was getting ready to take a group of friends camping in Yosemite packing for this trip, realize that all of my skin care beauty, even home cleaning products had become these beautifully, sustainably sourced, beautifully made values driven brands and the outdoor products that I was bringing on my trip, the repellent that died lime green aloe gel, my sunblock, they were all the exact same brands that I remember growing up with.

And I was looking at these, I was unpacking them and going, why am I still using the same products that I remember from when I was eight years old, surely there should have been some innovation in this space by now and there wasn't. And you know really the options I talked to a lot of friends and did about six months of research, but the options that were on the market were either the kind of legacy incumbent brands or these sort of homegrown, often ineffective alternatives which were made with the best of intentions but weren't put through the same rigor that uh, you know, just in terms of like efficacy testing and the kind of regulatory controls that we've gone through now that really I think put a product into the market that you can trust. And so that was really kind of where it got started was, well, can we make better products and and build a brand to around the way that most people get outdoors today, which is to say a little bit less of the kind of like machismo like you can trek to the top of mount Everest with this product and, and really more so around.

Can we make you something that you're makes you excited to just get in your own backyard or that you can take with you on a day hike and really make kind of return the joy of the outdoors to the brands that are trying to get people outside. Yeah, totally. I'm wondering why people hadn't innovated in that space. Why was it because it was too hard or because it wasn't interesting or I'm trying to understand what was the reason there. Yeah, it's a good question. And when I thought about a lot, I think it's a combination of, you know, it is hard certainly to make something new. Um, we spent a year and a half. So for example are repellent product, which is one of our kind of products that were the best known for called Golden Hour and Golden hour. It took us a year and a half to formulate it's made with a strain of citronella that I actually sourced personally in Indonesia. My first thing when I launched the company and I will say this is hideously backwards. And I notice now, but at the time I didn't know how to how to make a product.

But what I did know was that better products started with better ingredients. And the only time that I had used a non deep repellent that had worked was when I was traveling in Indonesia. And so, you know, returned to the scene and I was like, great, how do I make that? And you know, had gone back and did that work to source that. But it was a long process to be able to and it was kind of, you know, following those breadcrumbs of, okay, well, I've used a natural alternative that worked. Once let's go find that. Why did that one work? And it was, it was a lot of a lot of bread crumbs, you know, at one point in the process, I flew to Nebraska to go meet with the USDA researcher who um is has was a fantastic help in in my education in the repellent process and space and um is still someone that, you know, we were, I'm in touch with today and I deeply admire. Um, but you know, I think a lot of it is that you see brands and companies trying to innovate, but just not having the access that I had in terms of being able to go and find those natural, natural ingredients that would perform better.

They're, you know, they're kind of like other counterparts. And I think a lot of larger legacy brands don't necessarily have the, like either maybe the resources or the, you know, desire to innovate. Why, why cannibalize your own space if it's working. Mm Yeah, totally. Gosh, that's so interesting. And it must have been such an exciting adventure to be like, cool, I'm gonna go out here and find some citronella like, where do I find this? Oh my parents thought I had lost it. I remember I left modern citizen and quite literally the first thing that I did was fly to Indonesia and I just remember calling my family and saying, okay, I quit my job and I'm going to go to Indonesia and I'm going to go surf and I'm going to go source this citronella, you were just floored to their credit, very supportive. But they definitely, we're taking a leap of faith and to be fair, I was taking a leap of faith with myself too. So yeah, but, but innovation has to come from, from taking risks and taking the leap.

So totally just a side note, I moved to bali last year for six months and I just had the best time of my life. So incredible Indonesian people, balinese people rather, I was just so beautiful. Such a special place. Very cool. Lucky you getting to go there. I feel like, I feel like I'm secretly hacked something something in the life, the life life continuum where I now have a reason to be able to go back to that magical place frequently. Yes, Yes, 100%. I love that. Okay, so you have the idea, you've kind of tracked down the citronella, which is one of your key ingredients. How do you then go from validating the idea to being like, okay, I'm actually gonna start a business and like turn this into a thing. It's a good question. So I, as I said earlier, you know, I had known for a long time that I liked being in the space of having, of building something from scratch and it took me a while to land on the idea that was Kingfield and every idea that I had, I would sort of vetted against three things.

So I would say, Is this something that I am deeply passionate about, you know, is this um, you know, when you're starting a startup and launching into a company, if all goes well, you're going to be doing that for many, many years longer than most, most jobs. Right? So, ideally if you're thinking about it, is that something you want to be thinking about talking about for the next 7 to 10 years at a minimum. And then I also wanted to look and see, is there a market for this? So one of the examples that I was given once was you can be the best Trombone oil maker in the world, but what is the market for Trombone oil? Do you need that? Probably not. Um what I was looking at within kin field was that, You know, we knew that more and more people are spending time outdoors and we also know that 87% of consumers want cleaner products within their personal care, skin care. And so the combination of those two things, I was looking at that and going, well, there's not a clean effective alternative to these conventional goods, but we know that consumers want it. So I knew that there was a market there and the outdoor market is a $31 billion business.

So we knew that there was an ample opportunity. And then the last question there is, do I need to be the person to build this? So it doesn't matter if your passion, it doesn't matter if there's a market there. If any number of people could do this, Why you? And so for me, I was looking at it, I knew that these were products that I wanted. I had grown up using these kinds of products. I had grown up in the outdoors, I was always the person who was taking my friends camping and wanting to introduce more people, real health benefits that come with time outdoors. And and I had the combination of having the startup experience during my time at modern Citizen had built an incredible network of other female founders, female businesses and I really felt like I had the support system that I needed to be able to build this. And I also know that I have the tenacity of a bulldog and I will see anything through. And so it got to the point where I was like, I have to be this person, but once you, I think may choose to make that commitment then from there, it's just a matter of asking the questions and you're taking it one day at a time, mm totally.

Gosh, it's just such a big adventure to embark on and I'm wondering how you went from like, you know, going and exploring Indonesia and finding someone who can sell you citronella and then is it you being like, okay, now I need to go back to the U. S. And find a lab and get them to ship the sintra nella over there, or do you then produce it in Indonesia? How do you figure out those blocks that are key to building the foundation of a brand? A great question. So definitely wanted to start with the product, I knew before anything else. You know, building the brand, building a website, we had to have a product that was better than anything else out there. So I initially thought that this was something that I could formulate in my kitchen, I was wrong, but I did try. Uh so, and you know, to my, my credit to my roommate at the time who she was very patient, she'd come home and they would be, you know, slew of everything all over the kitchen counters, but I quickly realized that that was not going to work and was not going to create a product that again, could stand up to the market and so what I actually ended up doing was tracking down a mentor within the space and so I went to an event that was held at this wonderful place in SAn Francisco called the Assembly and they were hosting an event with the Environmental working Group which happens to be based in SAn Francisco and had a number of amazing panelists who were all talking about creating cleaner products and are definitely experts within the space.

And one of the experts on that panel was a woman named Jay Timmons and Jay Timmons is a legacy within this industry or a legend within this industry. Her company, o organics has supplied organic ingredients to both labs and brands for upwards of 20 years and she was on this panel, I remember just sitting in the audience and thinking, I have so many questions for her, all of the same questions of like, okay, I have this ingredient now, what do I do with it, how, you know, thinking, okay, well she works with labs, she probably knows a lab, I bet I can ask her her credit. You know, I approached her after the event, I was just like, hi, I have so many questions and she really, you know, I think, I think she saw my enthusiasm and she said, here's my email, why don't you email me? And I ended up going and meeting her for coffee and she later actually ended up joining us as an advisor, but that really just came from organically, you know, just honestly Googling and going to these events and really relying on cold emails to be able to help me level up the knowledge that I had because I had no idea where to get started and I was like, okay, but I need to find someone who does know how to get started and ask them the right questions.

And so Gay was really that first person who then said, Okay, well you need a lab and you probably need a lab with a low minimum because you can't afford to go and start with 25,000 units of something, which some labs will say. And so she said, Okay, why don't you go talk to this lab and she put us in touch with our first lab and once you go there, you know, you start talking with this lab and you're sort of pitching them on what your idea is and they decide whether or not they want to work with you and then you begin, you give them what's called a product development request and you write out, you know, I wanted to smell like this and I wanted to use this ingredient and some labs are really, you know, they just give you a white label motion and they'll say what fragrance do you want to put in it? Okay, now it's yours, but we really wanted to innovate on something from the ground up. And so that process was a legacy and a long and arduous process for trying different things, making sure that it would dry the way we wanted to, the way that, you know, be as effective as we wanted it to.

And it just, you know, like I said, a lot of it was a lot of it was Googling and asking people what don't I know about this space, what what should I be aware of? What questions should I be asking and going from there, wow, that's so cool. And how are you funding the business up until that point because, you know, a year plus of development I imagine is a costly thing to undertake to not know if you're going to find your perfect forever product. Um, I imagine it takes a lot of personal investment to get started. It does, that's the unfortunate thing with, with consumer products I think is that there is a hefty amount of startup cost with it. Again, you know, my family was not coming from, you know, an entrepreneurial family, I really wasn't sure what that would entail, so I ended up doing a small round of friends and family um, we were, I was fortunate enough to me to be Charles Hudson who is the managing partner of a fund called precursor and they intentionally fund, you know, minority founders, female founders to at the pre seed stage at the earliest stages, which is really oftentimes when people need the most, like, you just need a little bit of capital to be able to get started.

And so I, I did that, that kind of like early friends and family around um, and that was what gave me enough capital to be able to get the idea off the ground, but that was hard, I had never pitched before. I remember, you know, a friend of mine who was, who was another founder that I had met in san Francisco saying, she introduced me to our first angel investor and I remember meeting her and she was saying, let's go to coffee and and me saying, oh we can't go to coffee yet, I don't know what, you know, I'm not ready to pitch you. And I remember saying, we can just go to coffee and you can tell me about your idea, that's okay. Um, and you know, she made a very welcoming space and then later I did figure out how to pitch and I'd build a pitch deck. But um, yeah, you know, it's, it is, it's hard to get capital to get started. Um, but it really came from, I think, demonstrating that there was a need, there sort of showing that white space within the market, um, encouraging them to, to go and try to find the types of products that I was looking for that was always my favorite and they would come back and they say, gosh, these are all really ugly and none of them look very effective and they don't get good reviews.

And I was like, great. That's why we're here. So let's talk about that. Yeah, that's clever to show other reviews for, for other things and be like, hey, but look at this. Like, there's not something that people are loving in this space. That's quite clever tip to go through in a, in a pitching situation, um, for other women to keep in mind, I've read that you are a benefit corporation and this might sound like a really silly question, but like, what is that? And what does it mean? And why was that important to you? I'm so glad you asked, this is something that I'm really passionate about and I don't get to talk about it enough. So thank you. Great. So when one of the first things that you choose, when you are deciding to start a company is how you want to incorporate. So you can choose to be an LLC, you can choose to be very few people do this, but you can choose to be an S corp. Most people go with a C. Corp, that's the most common form of an early company, although there are a lot of LLC's as well and any lawyer can kind of guide you to what type of corporation is right for you based on your goals with the business.

The thing about be corpse or public benefit corporations is that by definition a C corp exists to provide value for its shareholders. So that means your investors, that means your whoever owns part of your company, your goal as a leader in a C. Corp is to provide value for them with a B. Corp you are functionally a C corp your tax the same time, but you have as a public benefit corporation and added part of your bylaws and you actually have to provide this to the state when you incorporate, we actually went back and forth, were incorporated in Delaware, we went back and forth with them to define our particular statement about this, but you have to have an additional purpose that is designed to provide a public benefit. And why that was so important to me was because I wanted to be able to make decisions that were in line with our vision of a more sustainable future and a more accessible future.

And so for us to be able to, for example, choose packaging that is more sustainable, even though it's more expensive, I never wanted that to be something that I wasn't going to be able to choose. And I wanted to be able to preserve my right as a leader to be able to make the choices for that more sustainable future. And regardless of, even if it means that we have a lower margin for example. And so to preserve that kind of optionality and really, I think build that into the foundation of the business. It was, it was important to me to incorporate as a benefit corporation and be able to build that into again, like the Foundation of Kingfield and really set that up from the get go. So that, you know, every investor that we ever bring on, there's no, there's no you know, um ambiguity about why we're here and what we're doing, we're not a non profit, we are a corporation, but we are also building towards a more sustainable future.

And we believe that we have a responsibility to do that. If we're creating products that are designed to get you outdoors, we need to be doing everything that we can to ensure that there is a healthy outdoors for you to be going to. So that was why we started, is that what it really means in terms of like the logistics of it, there doesn't mean a ton for us quite yet, we're in the process of also going through a separate certification which is to become a certified B. Corp. And that is something that's different than incorporating as a B. Corp. Although B. Lab which manages that certification does require you if you are not already a public benefit corporation to convert to that upon your certification as a B. Corp. So we are now going through the process of becoming certified in our status by that other organization. But we are and have always been a B. Corp for those reasons. Yeah. That's so cool. Thanks for explaining that to me. Um I think I've also read that's not crazy amounts of brands who are because there's like 3000 or something in the US which it's not a lot if you think about how many brains have started all the time.

So perhaps to you, That's really nice, a really beautiful thing to do for the world and for the planet. I also wanted to ask you just going on from um what you were saying about being a sustainable business and a sustainable brand. What actually makes a sustainable brand in your opinion and how can consumers trust that they're buying something that's actually doing good for the planet. Aside from the B. Corp certification, stuff like what does it actually mean? Because I feel like the sentiment is that there are lots of brands who claim that they're like a sustainable business. But then actually, if you were to dig beneath the surface and like really look, maybe they aren't. So what is it to you to be a sustainable business? And yeah, and then, you know, what should people be looking for? It's a great question. I think one of the challenges within sustainability as it relates to brands and especially within products is that conflicting things can both be true. So to give you an example when we went through the process of choosing our packaging for the first time, my original thinking was that we'll put it in glass because glass is infinitely recyclable and it will be a more sustainable choice.

That's true in some cases, but then you add on the layer of we are an internet business, we shift your product. So if you're shipping glass bottles of liquid, not only are they your heavy, but they also require a lot of like excess packaging, it's called damages, your fancy technical term for all of the stuff that comes in a box to keep it safe and to protect it. And so it's heavier to ship, which requires more carbon. And it also is again, requires extra damage, which means extra additional waste around it to make sure that it stays secure in transit, inevitably you're still going to have some that are going to break. And then the other thing is that I'm also giving you products that are designed to be used in active spaces, meaning it has to be able to be thrown into your backpack and withstand that, which means that maybe actually giving you a glass bottle of insect repellent is not the best idea. And so that was eventually what led us to them say, okay, well if not glass then what else could we be doing?

And so the way that we think about sustainability as it relates to our packaging specifically is what can we do to just minimize the amount of waste that we're creating at all? So not making it more recyclable waste, but what can we just do to minimize the amount of waste? So our wherever we can, which so far has been every product that we've made. We sell them without the external carton, so that's 90% of the time that external carton is actually just for additional marketing real estate, which means that our labels have to work really hard to be able to get all that information. So we wanted to reduce all of the excess packaging that we could, so we don't have that external carton, we don't ship with actually we should actually completely without damage at all. So are the boxes that we ship in R. S. F. I. Certified, which is a sustainable forestry initiative, which means that they are all sourced with sustainable forests and We are able to ship them, we put the products into 100% cotton produced bag and we put it into that box and we send it off to you and we have a paper tape and so there's nothing to throw away when you get the bottle in your hands.

And so that was one of the things for us, as we, you know, we on top of that, we also offer a recycling program. So if you send your bottles back to us we will make sure that they are sustainably recycled with terracycle. So it's not a perfect solution. We are looking at doing more within recycled plastics. Um Next, which I think is a hard thing for early businesses because the minimums on those packages tend to be extremely high To give you an example. We wanted to do one of our current bottles into PCR which is um post consumer recycled plastic. And the minimum purchase on that bottle is normally 10,000, and if we wanted to run it in PCR it would be 100,000. Right, so it's tough. So I I asked all of you if you're listening to this um to be patient with small brands, we are we are definitely trying, but the real thing that you can do is if you if you're curious about what a business is doing from a sustainability perspective, ask they should be able to tell you and for us a lot of that just really comes down to offsetting the carbon that we do create.

But generally just trying to reduce our footprint as money as often as we can. And then as many ways as we can, it's better to just not create waste at all than to try to create ways that will be recyclable. Mm Yeah, wow, that's so interesting. And I love how for you guys, it just means that you actually need to talk about it a lot and I'm sure you need to like any, any chance you can shout about that sustainability message that you have within your packaging so that people just know about it. So before the fact of them receiving that product and being like, oh there's nothing on here, like I wonder why blah blah blah. I love that. Very cool. I want to switch topics and go into the marketing side of things to find out what you were doing when you launched, especially when you were trying to find you know, your very first customers. What were those? Like 50 people who were they? How did you find them? And I like this notion that we talk about in marketing a lot around, you know, the 1st 1000 customers are like the only 1000 that you like kind of care about or like not care about that The 1st 1000 are like the 1000 that you focus on.

So then growing from, you know, say the 1st 52 the 1st 1000 like how that evolved for you guys, I adore her customers. I am serious. Our customer carrying community lead has to actively tell me too, like she's like I've got this like I'm like I'm like, but what I want to know. Um so I think I think that the good news is is that if you create a product that people want, there is definitely an organic amount of word of mouth that will happen. So we actually just recently started testing paid ads for the first time. But for the full first year of our business, we never ran ads at all. It's in an entirely through press and through word of mouth. I'm only launched. You know, I had, I had a healthy amount of self doubt uh wondering whether or not anyone would care and like I just poured the last year and a half of my life into creating these products and you know, we came out with three products that are repellent. We had a cooling alarmist that's like the best of a hydrating facial mist within a healing aloe product and a solid moisturizer.

And these are all products that I wanted. But then there is the natural thing of will anyone else want these. So for us, you know, the first set of customers that we had really either came from people that I had interface directly with during the development process. So I was a part of a facebook group in san Francisco called the bay area outdoor women and I had asked a bunch of them, you know, to fill out a survey when I was doing the research of our these products that you would want and so I reached back to them, many of them were a part of our initial development process of testing out the different products and they were some of our earliest customers then because of course once we launched they were personally invested in the process. The other thing that we did with launch was that's the only time that we've invested in a um in hiring a PR firm. So PR compounds upon itself if there is ever going to be a time that you are going to hire a PR firm launches a great moment to do that because a good PR team will help introduce you to the right editors, the right writers who are interested in your space, who are thinking about your space and they you know, you can really rely on them to help you network with the right people who are interested in brands like yours.

So we worked with the PR team at Launch. Love them. They were fantastic. They were definitely expensive. PR usually is but it was marketing investment again, you know, we had limited dollars and rather than run ads, I elected to put that towards PR and thankfully the writers that we spoke with were similarly abused by our vision and wanted to write about it. So we came out of the gate with, You know, we were featured in the New York Times Refinery 29 pop sugar beauty, independent Vanity Fair. We were able to get all of this press because people saw the enthusiasm that we were getting from our earliest customers and recognize that this was something interesting and worth writing about. So that was that was really the first thing, How far before the launch did you have to start working with them to kind of prepare and get everything ready to go in that lead up so that they were able to like, you know, briefing editors and all that kind of thing. Yeah, they usually say and we found that this was effective as well.

It's about 6-8 weeks before you want to launch is when you want to, when you want to be starting with an agency, which means that you probably want to be at least in our experience, you probably want to be interviewing different potential agencies or individuals well ahead of that so that you can as soon as the time is right, just say, okay, let's go and you don't want at that point trying to negotiate a contract or or figure that out. So I would I would probably recommend if you are going to do PR starting to ask around for recommendations or look up recommendations probably like three months in advance, spend a couple of weeks talking to a few different ones, see who tells you what your their vision for your brand is. You know, give them your feel of what you think that you can do and then say, how do you see this evolving? Where do you see the sitting in the market? The reason that we went with the Pr agency that we did and we worked with a Cioni, which is an incredible firm. Um It was because I gave them my version of our story and I saw what they then said back and I was I was inspired by hearing how they talked about the brand and that's when I knew that they could represent the brand when I wasn't in the room.

I really love as irony. They are forever like in my inbox um suggesting amazing female founders that they work with. Um really, really cool company. Love that for you. Do you still work with them? We don't, I absolutely adore them. We're not currently working with a pr firm. I think like many small businesses this year with Covid definitely lead everyone I think to go kind of lovingly into survival mode. We were no exception to that. And so we fortunately have benefited from so many people spending so much time outdoors, but we're definitely running a lean ship. We're operating on limited resources. I haven't done additional fundraising since the capital that I took before launch, which means that I don't have the benefit of having $4 million in the bank to, to go kind of throw it everything. And I do have to be really thoughtful about where we spend, where we spend our pennies. Yeah. And when I guess when there are like things like product launches and things that are coming up that you can like tap back into those, um, networks to amplify the messages when you can do that stuff.

Exactly On the topic of COVID-19 and just in general, you know, young businesses or small businesses facing challenges. What are the kinds of things you've been? Um, you know, what are the hurdles you've been facing recently? Not even if it's just Covid, but just in general, what's, what are some of the challenges you face at this stage of your business? So I think the two greatest challenges all, all of the smaller problems can be summed up within two to kind of key challenges for any early Early Entrepreneur one, which is prioritization of resources. So how are you spending your time? How are you spending your dollars? They're not infinite dollars unless, well maybe there are for some people, there aren't for me, not, there's not infinite dollars and there's not infinite time. And so looking and being really, I think on the offensive about how you structure your time and not letting, I think things kind of creep into that and trust me. It is so hard because I am an ideas person and I can have a million and seven ideas that I want to execute on before lunch.

But the hardest thing for me and my active check that I have to do is do we need to do this right now? And the answer for probably one in 10 ideas that I have is going to be yes day saying if I don't have eight out of you know, all of the other ideas that I have to say, ok, I love this, I want to do this but we have to wait because we don't have the time to do that right now and that is one of the most important sentences that you can learn to say is I want to do that but not yet because you can't do everything at once and learning that prioritization um is really challenging, but it will help you, it will help your team to to be really clear with their time about where they should be spending it and recognizing kind of what those key like biggest value add things for your business and that totally depends you know for us when we are focused on marketing, we're focused on marketing and now my right now my time, this energy is spent primarily on product development. So you know our operations leading, I will spend hours a day looking at you know trying different formulas, thinking about different active ingredients that we should be incorporating, thinking about fragrance, thinking about all of those different pieces and then my time will swing as we get closer to launching those products again towards marketing.

And then the other thing that I will say is in addition to prioritization of time, it is recognizing that if you are helming a fast growing business, you need to be a faster growing leader and that means that you need to be up level in your skills faster than the business is growing. And so if you want to be leading a fast growing business, you need to be comfortable putting yourself into the constant position of needing to push yourself to be harder and better and faster and smarter and more well rounded from a mental health perspective, like you need to be keeping up with your business because you need to be leading it, which is, you know, it can be uncomfortable and it's not an easy thought to be and sometimes you get exhausted and you just have to say, okay, I'm gonna go to bed early tonight and we're gonna wake up tomorrow, we're going to do it all over again. The sun will rise tomorrow and I'm gonna have to do it all over again. Son has continued to rise every day that I've opened up so far so totally. I really love that notion of the, of you know, being really good at prioritization and it feels like it's like a muscle that you need to build right because it's something you just need to like constantly get good at.

And I guess when you're the leader and you're the ceo at the top, it's like who do you look to to be like what should I prioritize? Like you have to decide and and kind of work on on building that skill for yourself, which I'm sure it's difficult. It definitely is. And I catch myself to its and it's having to have an editor's eye with everything. Mm totally. Where is the business now? How big is your team? What does the future look like? What's happening We have had. So we just about about two months ago celebrated our first year in business. And let me tell you 2020 as a first year in business is a, what I keep telling myself is listen, if we make it through this year we can make it through anything. So where we are with it is that we are getting ready to launch our most requested category, which is really exciting. So that'll be something happening next year, which again, patience is not my strong suit. But I've definitely learned to be patient because the, the cycle of things just takes time.

But where we are as a business. You know, we had an incredible summer I think with, with so many people getting outdoors. Um really seeing that that healthy appetite, we actually ended up Selling out of our repellent twice we had 2500 bottles preordered before we could get it back in stock? You know, we had some wonderful press this summer again between the new york Times group, we've added a bunch of retail stores, which has been a really exciting development for us to, and you know, we're a small team. Um you know, I have, I have uh, you know, someone who leads operations for us, someone who leads community customer care, um kind of manages our wholesale accounts, but otherwise everyone is agencies and contractors. And I actually think that one of the harder, one of the stumbling blocks that people can face is trying to hire too many people too soon. And so if you can do more with less and you know, rely on freelancers, rely on Hourly help, you will be able to do far more with that.

Then I think that you would initially think. Um and so I always kind of laugh when I hear people who are, you know, similarly highs to us in business say, Oh, we're really small team, we're, you know, we're only 15 people. I'm like, what would I even do with 15 people right now. Um, but you know, I think, I think creativity loves constraints and and we're really happy being a small team that makes it really easy. Everyone can be on the same zoom. So yeah, totally, Oh gosh, love that. I'm excited for your products coming out next year. And also I should say happy birthday, that's so cruel, I hope you celebrated. We did, we did great. What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to launch their own business? Well, start to be honest, I think it's funny because, so when I had started my time with modern citizen, but long before starting Canfield, I had thought, okay, I'm spending three years as the first employee at business.

I am getting the best possible. I'm basically getting a starter course in, in founding a company and I was to some degree, but there is no experience to prepare you for starting a company, like just starting a company. Um, I'm not saying quit your job, but I am saying just started if it's perfect when you launched you launched too late. And so if you can get a landing page job or start bringing it to your target customers within your own community, find your target community. You know, there's such, the internet is such a wealth, I think of groups and you know, some divisions of people who have different interests that do you want to test your idea, there are lightweight ways to test your idea online and just doing focus groups and that kind of thing just to see if there is a there there and people, I think what I've found is that especially early customers are incredibly forgiving and they love and want to be a part of your process just as much as you want them to be a part of your process.

Uh We still to this day. Um I send an email to customers after they purchase and it just says, you know, thank you. And I truly mean it, I'm so grateful for every single one of our customers. But I say thank you. And I say if you have any feedback or product requests, let me know, and if you hit reply to that email, it's it's my email. Um and I get my favorite notes back and you would be shocked at how many customers will will respond back to that and just say, oh, thank you. Well, actually, while I have you, you know, I really love this product and and it really just comes from talking to your target customers. But yeah, because this comes, just start, don't worry about it. Get your ego out of the way. Just start. That is so cool. I love that you have that direct feedback loop, like, you know, inherently like built into everything that you're doing and you're just picking up bits of, you know, gold from your target customer, who is your customer. It's so cool. That's a really great idea. We're up to the six quick questions part of the episode. Love it. Let's get ready for ready. Let's do it. Amazing.

Question number one is what's your y people people are the reason behind everything that I do. I think that human connection is why we're here and making people happier and healthier is truly like, what lights me up every single day. And I've seen the joy that more time outdoors brings to people and that's where kin field comes in. But for me personally, it really does come down to how do I make, how do I leave this world better than I found it? I love that, totally so true. Question number two is what's been the number one marketing moment that's made your business pop who? Well, it's two things one, it's creating a memorable product in the first place. We have a repellent, which everyone, you know, kind of laughed at because what an unsexy product, right, But it's a memorable product. And so people do when they hear about it, they're like, oh, yeah, okay, that's interesting. And then the other thing was not something that I had orchestrated at all, but the new york times wrote about the product this summer, and it was the best sales day that we've ever had, was was on the day that that sunday times came out and that was surreal to say the least.

I read that you, I think it was on your instagram that you like, sprinted out of the apartment to go and get a copy of the new york times, because you're like, what is happening? I didn't know that it was coming. So I, you know, it was a sunday, I was kind of fussing around my apartment and cleaning and just you know having a sunday and I remember I get all of our orders to my phone and my phone kept thinking and actually the Shopify app, it's a cash register and so it was like the cash register, I love it, the sound genius, whoever came up with that and I just remember it kept going off and being like weekends are good for us, but this is really, really a lot. And then we have a survey question after you finished checking out that says how did you hear about us? Um which inquire Labs is who adds that? Shopify add in and it is my favorite Shopify add ons. If you're building your company on Shopify, you should add inquire labs to be able to get this question. So I was reading through the responses on that and I was seeing new york times, new york times home edition, new york times, sunday edition, like what the heck is happening?

So yeah, I had no idea. Oh gosh, that is so cool, Amazing. Love that for you. Question number three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading? What are you listening to? What do you hang out? Books, 90% of the time? Books and my, you know, kind of like 10 X people. So I always feel you know, I think back on that, you know, you're the combination of the five people you spend the most time with and so always just looking for the people that kind of light you up and and level you up and then from a book perspective, my grandmother who is actually one of my favorite people in the entire world, used to be a librarian. So she, I'm always asking her like where should I, what should I be reading next? And yes, I have, I have a very robust, good reads, so friendly on there. But yeah, you know, I read a mix of both fiction and nonfiction um I recently read bob iger is the Red of a Lifetime, which is um he's the ceo of Disney that was an incredible business read. And you know, I also picked up, you know Brooke Bennett's The Vanishing Half, which is amazing, but I think it's healthy to have like a good balance of both like business books but read other things, read everything, you know, Chanel miller's know, my name was incredible and heart wrenching and you know, it really just opens your eyes up to so many other things and it's it's so, so reading really, I love getting lost in a good book question number four is how do you win the day?

And that's around your AM and PM rituals that keep you feeling like happy, successful, productive, so winning the day for me starts the day before and it starts with sleep to be honest. And so I've done a lot of work around my sleep hygiene and then finding a good wind down routine that works for me, my brain if I let it will go all night long. Um, and so for me that means that I usually by nine PM I try to have all of my devices off and I like to read at the end of the day, maybe take a bath, you know, wind down, I take ash, Uganda and magnesium three and eight at night, which also really helps. And then I try to, if I can wake up without an alarm clock and so I let my body get as much sleep as it needs. And then when I start the day I try to leave again, not touch my phone right away, but start instead with a macho in bed and then I'm either reading or journaling um doing some visioning for the day and what I want to bring forth into fruition and then that way, by the time I'm out of bed I'm ready to start, ready to fire, ready to fire.

Exactly. I just started doing, um I was really bad with my phone in the mornings and I knew I was starting my day, like really filled with anxiety and I was just having such a bad start to my day and I knew what I was doing was wrong, I was literally looking on instagram the moment I woke up thing, we all do it. God, it was driving me insane. My husband and I, when we just moved into our new apartment a few weeks ago, we were like okay, we need to set some new routines. So we, you know, set our alarms super early. We wake up and we meditate, we have a hot lemon and water and we just read for 45 minutes in bed and we don't look at our phones and it sets us up for such a nice day and it's so crazy. You know, this stuff like, you know that it's bad for you, but you still do it and since we've changed it, I've seen such a difference in like my headspace throughout the day and, and the way I, you know, I am able to yeah, show up and and do things. I love that. And I have to ask, what are you using for meditation? We found this meditation, I forget the name off the top of my head, so I'm going to send it to you afterwards.

And I'll also link in the show notes, but it's this woman and it's specifically a guided meditation for the moment that you wake up. It's 10 minutes long, which really suits me because I, I'm just not good at meditation, but I'm trying and she's really talking about positivity and you know, starting your day with positive energy getting out there being happy and fulfilled and it's just a really nice meditation to start the day with and I actually just really enjoy her her voice. So um I'll send it to afterwards. Please do. Yeah, I've definitely found a meditation is really helpful and I have been using an app called Waking Up, which it sounds is like a bit similar where it's short, 10 minute morning meditations and it really does. I'm going to I'm not as consistent as I'd like to do with it, but I definitely notice the difference when I do. So I think in some ways I maybe need to just perhaps crackdown on myself a little bit more about every day. Yeah, locking the habit. I think it's like they say 21 days to make a habit and we're like fully, fully, I don't, maybe we're even there already, I don't know, we're not, we're a week away.

Um but yes, yes, so good back to it. Question number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? I would do two things. One, I would go reshoot r visuals, I think that people, humans are visual creatures. And so if you create really beautiful photography, um beauty by the way you can mean whatever you need not works for you. It doesn't have to be the same kind of like pastel tones that everyone does, but creating something that's really memorable and will make the visuals of your product pop, I think can do a lot of difference to helping to communicate what your brand is about. The other thing would be creating a really robust referral program and then shipping, spending the rest of that money on shipping the product that we have to our most loyal or the customers that we're trying to get in front of and encouraging them to help share the brand because that groundswell can do way more than you might initially think And all you need are are, you know, like you were saying before, those kind of 1000 true fans, so anything that you can do to entice them by giving them beautiful visuals and a reason to refer people to your product and I think that you'd be surprised what you can accomplish with that.

I love that true fans. I was that's what I was trying to think of earlier when we were, when we were going around that 1000 customers. Last question question # six, is how do you deal with failure? And that can be a specific personal experience or just your general mindset and approach when things don't go as planned. Uh, so failure and I don't think I'm unique in this. I hate failure. I have actively as a part of this year, really re try to rewire my interpretation of failure. Um I think, you know, I have, you know, I've anxiety that I manage and so it's really easy, I think to start spiraling when something doesn't go your way or you get a rejection and you know, especially if you're going through the fundraising process. It is no, no, no, no, no, by the way, your, your product idea is terrible, your market is terrible and you're like, oh my gosh, like why am I doing what I'm doing?

Um uh but what I've realized now is that if you talk to anyone who has achieved success by whatever definition, they choose to define it as they have all faced failure over and over and over and over and over again. And so now the way that I've been thinking about it is it's just, it's like the, it's like the checkmark, right? Like you're like, okay, great, I'm one failure closer to what I define success as, and so now I even have a so silly, I'm a very visual person and so I even have, like, this little, this little, like star chart basically that I keep next to my desk where a map successes and failures and I think of them as accomplishments in the same way and so, you know, it's not to say that I don't still have failures that knocked me back, you know, I, I've gotten rejections from people that I really admire um who, you know, are saying, oh sorry, I don't have time to meet with you or um no, I think this is a nice idea, but you know, maybe later you're kind of like, okay, um but at the end of the day, how you choose to work through success and how you choose to work through failure, I think says it says a lot about the business and so trying to see that as an important stepping stone and pushing yourself to kind of collect those failures just in the same way that you want to collect those successes and looking at both of them as being there the same, it's the same coin.

So yeah, I try to, I try to just keep a good attitude about it and sometimes you know, you just have to say, okay, I'm gonna shut my laptop for today. I'm gonna go for a walk. I'm going to call my mom because she always reminds me that I'm doing a great job tomorrow, we'll be back at it. Oh, I love that. You call your mom. That's nice. So what true, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast today. I have loved learning about your brand and all the cool stuff that you're doing and what you're putting out there into the world. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me. I love what you're doing with this. I've listened to so many of the episodes and really learned so much from the other woman who featured, so thank you for letting me be a part of it. I really appreciate it. Oh, that's so awesome. I love that. Thank you. Hey, it's just me here. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the female startup club podcast. If you want to hear more, head to my instagram at Dune rasheen to see my filmed interviews with incredible female founders like Erica from fluffy Beauty Greta from drop bottle and Sammy Leo from breeze bomb.

And if you like what we're doing here, visit our website and sign up to female startup club dot com to get all of the good stuff delivered straight to your inbox and lastly, subscribe to the female startup club podcast. Mhm. Mhm.

Leadership, validating your product in 3 steps & creating with integrity, with Kinfield’s Founder Nichole Powell
Leadership, validating your product in 3 steps & creating with integrity, with Kinfield’s Founder Nichole Powell
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