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The all female-founded functional sparkling water brand that’s taking on big players in the bev CPG industry like Recess, with heywell’s Ashley Selman

by Female Startup Club
October 21st 2021

Today on the show we’re learning from Ashley Selman, one of the co-founders behind heywell. If you're in the beverage industry THIS is an episode for you. We talk through how to approach a launch a... 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 Ashley Selmon for female startup club. Hey everyone it's doing here, host and hype girl today on the show, we're learning from Ashley Selmon, one of the co founders behind Hey, well if you're in the beverage industry, this is an episode for you. We are talking through how to approach a launch and some real game changing alternative channels to market through Ashley and her co founder brit founded, hey, well on a mission to make wellness more simple and accessible for everyone every day.

They found wellness solutions often prioritized function over flavor and wanted to make something that was good for them, delicious and inclusive. Their line of functional beverages are made with adaptive jin's antioxidants and organic caffeine to help when people want a little energy immunity focus or help managing stress, Low in calories and sugar, they're functional waters are refreshing tart and sweet and as part of their mission they donate 1% of sales to nonprofits advocating inclusion and as always, if you're feeling generous, please do subscribe and leave us a review so that other ears can find us. And if you're shouting about an episode on instagram, remember to tag us in your stories too. So we can follow you back and get to know you better. We would love to meet you there. Let's get into this episode. This is Ashley for female startup club. Yeah. Two. Sure. Are you working around the clock to build the business you always imagined?

Do you want to communicate with your fast growing list of customers in a personalized way? But in a way that gives you time to work on the rest of your business. Do you ever wonder how the companies you admire the ones that redefine their categories do it. Companies like living proof and chubby's. They do it by building relationships with their customers from the very beginning while also evolving in real time as their customers needs change. These companies connect quickly with their customers, collect their information and start creating personalized experiences and offers that inspire rapid purchase, often within minutes of uploading their customer data. Clay vo empowers you to own the most important thing to any business. The relationship between you and your customers and the experiences you deliver from the first email to the last promotion to learn more about how clay vo helps you own your growth visit Clay vo dot com slash F. S. C. That's K L. A V. I Y. O dot com slash F.

S. C. Female startup presence. Ashley, Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thank you, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. I was just saying for everyone listening off camera that I'm selfishly very excited to be learning from you as someone who is much deeper in the beverage industry than I am. So I'm very, very excited for this episode. How do you like to introduce yourself and your brand? Hi everyone, I'm Ashleigh Salman and I am a co founder of, hey, well, hey, well is brand that my partner Britt Doherty and I launched two years ago, which is kind of crazy. It's a line of sparkling adapted genic beverages that are made for modern life. So they help you with things like stress immunity and energy and focus all the things I need in my life, all the things literally all the things everyone is in their life right now right?

I bet you've boomed during the pandemic because I feel like everyone now is like how do I get more of all of that in my life? Less dress better health, more immunity. I mean it was certainly something that was important to us before covid and um during, you know obviously since then, I mean we need all the things, we need all the only bury all the, all the shoshanna um to help us support us right now. So yeah, we definitely feel like um me every day is like all the supplements. It's at the moment. Yes, it's at the moment, I was reading about you today and online, sort of having a look at your linkedin and your profile and I was seeing that you come from a super-long background in the beverage industry, something like 15 years at a brewing company before you started. Hey, well, so when I think about that, like from that perspective it's really obvious why you would be incredible at building your own brand in this space.

But I'm wondering what was giving you the drive to actually go out and build your own business and what actually kind of made you take the leap and switch. Yeah, I spent a number of years in the beverage industry, as did my partner bret daugherty and that's where we know each other from, we were colleagues and good friends and we were to senior marketers for a very big global brewing company and we loved it, we loved our jobs, we love the Bedford industry and you know, I have a lot of accomplishments that, you know, we were just really proud of, but after developing brands for somebody else for a really long time, you get to a point and you wonder about developing something for yourself brit and I were spending a lot of time really engaging personally outside of the alcohol industry and specifically we love functional things because you know, we're two women leading really demanding, you know, jobs and had full lives and so, you know, we were really engaged in things like adaptive genes and looking at supplements and we were personally doing all that outside of, you know, what was going on in the alcohol industry and we just got to a point where I don't know, it just, we love trying all the things like we order all the things all the time and there's a lot of great products on the market, but we always felt like they were lacking something and the number one thing we felt like a lot of these functional things were lacking was accessibility and taste and so so after a long time in the beer business, we just got to a point where we're like, you know what if ever there's a moment, like let's just do it, let's let's start our own thing.

And so we left and we created, hey, well that is so cool, so cool, I love that for both of you, if you had to talk me through kind of your key milestones in those early days of bringing this brand into the world, what does that actually look like? And obviously I'm asking is someone who's very interested in the beverage industry of like what are those key kind of steps and milestones and things that need to be considered to bring a beverage brand to life. There's a few things I think for us, it started with our mission. So we really started with what were we about and what did we feel like was important to other people and how are we going to connect with people and so in a meaningful way. So we started there actually, we started there before we even really decided on beverage. We were really open minded about what that could be. And so our mission is all about making wellness a little bit more simple and accessible.

And so we started there and we said, okay, well that to us means, you know, staying well is hard and you know, like on some days, yes, like I'm getting my exercise and getting my sleep and I've like prepped all this healthy food for the week and like I'm managing my stress and you know, all the things and some weeks you're on your game and some weeks you are not. So, and that's why we were engaged with that. Yeah, some weeks, you know, maybe multiple weeks. So, um, you know, we, and that's why we were engaged in, you know, in adaptive genes and, and other things is that we were just looking for, not something to like replace all those things that are good for you, but just something that supported us and helped us, especially on those days that we weren't kind of making it all happen. So we started there and accessible meant there's a lot of great things out there, but sometimes they're hard to understand. They're not convenient. Like I don't want to take powder, like a little cute jar powder around and be mixing stuff, you know, they don't taste good.

So some of the functional ingredients that we use by themselves, maybe they don't just taste great when you just put them in water. Sparely, No. Yeah, some of these things just like they're good for you, they just maybe don't taste great. You know, mushrooms sometimes by themselves just don't taste great. Well then, you know, also for us, part of the accessibility was not only bringing those things in a way that was understandable, but it was also about being inclusive. So we came from the beer industry which is not always inclusive and when we were creating our own business that became really important to us, we're like, okay, this is our business, we get to run it the way we want to run it and inclusivity and wellness, which is, you know, whether it's wellness or food and beverage is still super male dominated and not always approachable. I think very aspirational sometimes, even still, I think a lot of progress has been made in the last year, especially on this, but we just felt like there was opportunity there and bringing that to our brand.

So we started there, we just really spent a lot of time thinking about that are better mission and what that meant and then what it meant from what we were going to create and we did go to it, we did gravitate to beverage just because we love it and that's you know what we're, that's what we know and so we developed that we spent and we're marketers, so we spent the first part of the time thinking about, you know, how that comes to life, talking to a lot of people sharing that mission, kind of just pressure, testing it, like does that mean something to somebody else? So you know, we kind of gathered a lot of our friends and really spend some time exploring it. So we started there and that is probably, I think the most important when it comes to any idea is is this something that comes from a true place from you, something that you're passionate about and it's just something that really resonates with other people, You have to have that as a starting kind of foundation. Then came the other stuff, which is okay, so how much is this going to cost us?

Where are we going to make this? I mean all the like, you know, all the nitty gritty and I think really putting together kind of your business plan, how much, how much is this going to cost? What is the Mark? What's happening in the marketplace and you know, what are your cost of goods going to be? Where are you going to source this stuff and that's a really hard part and it's a really kind of daunting part, you're like, I feel great about this thing and we want to make and this idea and we have all this stuff and we know like we want to use cassandra and we want to use our military, we love these things and then you get to, and this is the scary step of, okay, how much is all this going to cost, like, where am I going to find all that information, you know, how do I get this made you know, how do I get this? What's a three pl look like all this stuff? And so that was, we felt comfortable in the other space, we didn't feel as comfortable and that space and it was a huge, huge learning curve for us, but I'll tell you one of things that we love so much about being entrepreneurs and starting on business is how generous other entrepreneurs are in sharing what they know and then like contacts and connecting, and I'll tell you it was a huge surprise to us and especially because in a corporate world and especially in beer, that's a very competitive category, it's not like that at all.

And so we kind of enter this new phase of this new community that we're in Chicago and which is right here, this is a huge food and beverage market and there's a ton of people here and a lot of brands and a lot of innovation and so, you know, we really had to get a lot of help, you know, just thinking through. So first thing we did was kind of, we made some assumptions and we wrote a business plan and we said, okay, this based on all these assumptions, this is how much we think it's going to cost us to make it, these are, you know, how much we think we want to sell it for, and then all the things that go into making it happen. So he drafted kind of a straw man for that And from our beverage backgrounds, we had some connections in terms of formulating what we wanted to and we brought in a lot of nutritionists and some people to help us. So that part, you know, we had some connections in and that's a really important part is and even if you don't have connections, they are spending some time to find the right person to help you, that's really knowledgeable, that's open minded to your ideas, so you're really collaborating so that you ultimately make the thing you want to make when we made this taste, there was kind of those three key pillars, We wanted something that was really good for you and we wanted something that was approachable and easy to understand, that's kind of where brain comes in and it had to taste good, it had to taste good.

So there are so many things that taste bad like that, I'll try and be like how did this come to market? Like who drinks this? I know I know I know it's kind of you feel bad you're like oh I love this idea of love this concept and you buy it and you're like I'm excited to try this and you're like oh no you're primed to buy it, you're like this is amazing and then it does not fulfill and you're like but how right and that was kind of key for us. We're like people will try it, they won't come back to it and they will certainly you know make it a part of their life even if the brand is great even if you create a great sense of community but if people just don't like it then they're just not going to buy it again. So I would say that we spent a ton of time there and more time than we thought we were going to. We were really picky about the ingredients we wanted to use, we were really picky about you know how those things came together and so that spent quite a bit of time, how long did it take you and how much capital did it cost you to get to launch and get through that R.

And D. Time and process. Yeah the R. And D. Time. I mean we spent 78 months round and round and round and round. We developed a well we knew we wanted these to be occasion based. So we have energy and immunity energy and focus calm and restore. So we knew we wanted to start with occasions and we knew the ingredients, we wanted to use the functionality, we wanted these to have, we wanted to use adaptive jin's, we wanted to use only bury, it's a great source of natural vitamin C. We wanted to use organic caffeine and energy. We wanted to balance that and we wanted to use real organic juices so we wanted not just the sparkling water but a little bit more. And so we're trying to marry the occasion with these functional ingredients and then pairing it with a flavor that would work well with those functional ingredients and also matched the occasion. It was a lot, it was a lot we were trying to put together. So energy and immunity sparkling grapefruit is you know where we landed, we felt like the grapefruit flavor with citrus was a great match to immunity and the great fruit flavor, We felt like balanced really well with those functional ingredients, strawberry, lemon is energy and focus.

We felt like with something bright and refreshing for the middle of the day and that strawberry, like it has this really fresh, like you're in a strawberry fields smell and taste and so instead of reaching for something sweet like candy or other snacks, you know, you're getting a bit of that sweet, let's start with the lemon and the blackberry ginger so calm does not have caffeine and we wanted this to be kind of a for us it was a red wine occasion and so it was a little more complex with blackberry and with ginger and um we wanted something that I could pour into, you know, a wine glass and feel like this is just as satisfying, don't get us wrong, we love our red wine too, like we love that too, but on nights where you don't want all that sugar or you don't want to hang over or you know, whatever and but we didn't want to feel like we were compromising in any way, so this was so we spent a lot of time, they're like just trying to think about the occasions um when we would be drinking these and what the functionality was and how we would pair it, we wanted a bigger range of products out front, but we ended up spending a lot more money in formulating over and over again to get to what we wanted to with with the three.

And so we had to kind of parking lot our concepts and ideas, although we did just launch our fourth skews, so we're super excited about that finally, but We focused in on those three and you know, I'd say in the beginning you've got costs, like you're formulating your, you've got legal fees, so you want to make sure that the claims you're making the things you're talking about, you can support and you want to bet that so we spent there was a lot of money of hiring, you know a good law firm to make sure that when we were talking about something and that's because we're functional, you know we're talking about immunity and stress and things like that. We wanted all of the things that we were using to be really well vetted documented and then have that other layer and filter. What do you mean by vetting it? How do you vet it with the lawyers with nutritionists with medical documents? You know really spending some time like is this a really well documented like cassandra, cassandra is a very, it's super great for stress and it's really well researched, really well documented.

It's been around for a very long time used in Eastern cultures and so um we felt really good using that and we felt good about the way we were talking about it people that wasn't, we didn't, we see brands that have functionality that are way overstating things that they're functional ingredients use and we don't agree with that. We think that you know there needs to be a lot of integrity about the functionality that you are talking about that you've used and that you're being really honest with people about, you know what it does and not, we've seen claims, I mean all over the place like it's like it completely transforms your life you know and it solves these 20 things and it's like, wow, like the magic elixir. Yeah, I mean I'm so used to seeing that and being like, what the heck? Like this is just I'm sucked into it though. I'm like, I'll try it well. Yeah, it's intriguing. You're like, wow, what is that? You know, but I don't know for us integrity and what we were making was really important. So you've got, you know, obviously all your formulation, you've got to make sure that, you know, you are doing all the right things to make sure that these are quality ingredients you're using, you know, and you're feeling good about how much you're using what?

That, you know what that which you can really talk about. Then you've got brand building, right? So you've got a name, you've got a logo, you've got just, you know, who are you? How and then how does that visually come to life and how does that connect with what you stand for and back to the mission. Like how how does that connect? And then you've got to make it and when you're launching, you have no scale and this was this was a moment. It was a pretty humbling moment where you come from a big, a bigger company and you don't have trouble. You don't have any troubles like securing ingredients or you know, talking to somebody that can make your product or packaging and you know, we were so tiny that people are like, yeah, no thanks. We don't want to work on that. I'm experiencing that now. I feel like people are very like Takes 20 coals to get an answer and you're like, please take me seriously, please. I know you're like please can I just have, you know, I just need a drum 11 like drama of this organic juice.

And they're like, yeah, no, we like sell them by the hundreds and were like, we just need one just to start. And so it was humbling, like we couldn't get people to return our phone calls, you know, and we really had to, you know, and we were we knew what we wanted, but we couldn't always get it. And so that took a lot more time to in terms of getting ready for the production, in that, you know, sourcing all those different things that we wanted, getting them to the place at the right time, all the things from packaging. I mean all of it just took a while trademarking, you know, all that stuff I'm there. I mean, I think of that right now, I'm in that trademark phase and all those kind of early, early cost phase. But I have a question for you while we're still on the topic of R and D and before I want to kind of move into marketing and how you were building your audience in the beginning from my experience so far going through this process and dealing with production of the non out brand, it feels like there's no room for, we're being told there's no room for a small batch of samples.

It's not possible our minimums, I think 6000 bottles or 6000 liters. And So basically when we're happy with the formula and we're happy with what we think is good, we have to bite the bullet and order that 6000 without any real customer feedback, which is obviously pretty daunting for us. Having said that my business partner is a master familiar, so he is an absolute expert in what he does. He has an incredible palate, like using his palette and mine, which is very mass market together, we do feel quite confident, but I'm just wondering with that, did you have to go through something like that? And how did you approach or think about it if you weren't able to get that small kind of batch of even 100 samples? Yeah, we had, I mean, we we made samples and we knew we weren't going to make any money on it because the cost per unit was so high because with zero scale with zero scale and we knew it and that's part of the business plan, is that our cost per unit.

In the beginning, we knew was not where we wanted to go. So we have like down the road, like here's where we need to be like this is the cost and yes, when you get big enough and you're able to secure, you know, you're able to buy more ingredients, you get that scale and that kind of thing, but in the beginning we didn't, and you're right, you're putting this money out there, so you're doing all those things from branding and all this legal and trademarking and you're making your first small batch and you're putting all this cash out and it's really expensive. It's expensive and you're selling it to your first account and you're almost like giving it away because you're like, we've made this great thing and we just want you to try it and like you tryin your stores, like we'll give you all the cases like just try it, just like, you know, before and that way, you can just really get a real reaction to it and not just your friends and past colleagues and you know, and your own gut reaction, but putting it in the marketplace for total Stranger that doesn't know you or anything about it to see it on a shelf and are they going to pick it up and what are they going to feel about it?

Are they going to buy it again? You know, and you need to go through that process. It's a really honest, really vulnerable kind of moment of, I've spent all this money, I've spent all this time a year putting this thing together and now I've like put it on a shelf for someone to like maybe by, you know, will they buy it, will they be like well they, you know come back to it or they be like this thing is disgusting, like we're not trying it. And so we were really lucky and that we had our very first account was Foxtrot Market which is here in Chicago. I mean it's a dream account, it's a specialty convenience, you know market where they've got their in urban centers and they've got everything from coffee to wine in a really small scale and ready to to take drinks and foods and things and it was a dream account for us. We were like if we could be in one place it would be fox traps and so we just so happen, you know like my partner Britt was in Foxtrot and she actually had one of our cans of hey well like with her and just struck up a conversation with one of the operations managers and like that led to getting a sun shelf and yeah, at the time, you know we were like, oh you know like it was just a dream and then you put it on the shelf and you're like I hope it sounds so I hope it sounds like I hope people like it because you need that moment and you need that moment of vetting before then you're like okay now I need to raise a lot more money because now I need to produce in a bigger, on a bigger scale and the amount of money I need for that set up for that first production is, you know, is not insignificant.

So I do think it's good and is that what you did? That's what we did. So yeah, we laid out that first, you know, we said, okay, we have this amount of money and we're going to invest this to get to market and we know that like this is where it's the highest risk right? Which is like, we could get to market and people like we could get no response to it and so and we might just be out that money and that's part of it and that's why spending the amount of time you do in the beginning, in terms of what you're about while you're making it, spending the time to get the product right is instead of rushing it, it's so important because you are spending all that money and if you cut a corner, the, you know, at the 11th hour and you're like, and you cut the corner and then all that time and money like goes out the window and so even though you're feeling this pressure of like all this money and I need to get to market as soon as I can. So anyway, so that's part of our process was developing it, We did develop in a small batch which was about the same amount we were selling it to the consumer for so yeah, completely upside down just to get it launched, but we went through and we vetted it and then after that, you know, we were in Foxtrot and the initial response was awesome, it was amazing, and we were kind of growing week over week and these were like were like these are the people that we would love to have drinking our product, this is who we're talking to, they are the ones shopping here, and so we felt like if they're into it and if they're drinking it liking it, then we feel really good about moving forward.

And so then we got to that point of, okay, now it's like, okay, now we want to scale this thing and how much money is that going to take and like where do we go now? Because the place we went to develop our tiny small batch, you know, doesn't necessarily do bigger runs, um and not at the price we needed to try to get to, so that kind of, there was an initial phase and then we had to move into the next phase, which is, you know, starting to scale up and get ready for something bigger, something we've learned that's key to entrepreneurial growth is a solid Crm platform, Hubspot is the number one crm platform for growing and scaling businesses with a hubspot Crm platform, you have a purpose built solution that's tailored to your business and your business alone. We're super curious about all of the new tools and features they've rolled out this year. So here's a few that were really excited about business units allow you to confidently manage contacts, marketing and sales assets and settings across multiple brands, which means clearer insights to empower what's next new admin features like permissions, templates and dr integration makes it easier than ever to add, remove and edit users as needed.

And one of the features we're most excited to try is sandboxes where all admins have access to a production like account, allowing them to test iterate and experiment with new go to market strategies before going live, which is a total game changer, learn more about all of hope spots, new features and how you can customize your Crm platform at hubspot dot com. And so in that time when you were getting ready to scale up and find something bigger, I'm sure you know, finding a new production, you know, big batch of ingredients like all that kind of thing, what we then doing on the consumer side and also with your retailers, what was your strategy to get your first like either 1000 customers directly or scale out into retail distribution? Yeah, really for us from a timing standpoint, We 100% don't recommend launching in the middle of the beginning or the beginning of the pandemic. We with this whole process and we vetted it, we're so excited, we're feeling good, you know, and we're starting to expand Fox Trot, it was going so well, we're expanding to all their, all their stores and we had signed on with the distributor, we were getting ready to like, you know, start to, to get this thing out there to explode it, all of that in March and all of it in March, and we're, you know, we sent all this product out and you know, we started actually with our own product.

So from a marketing standpoint, we just felt like getting it in people's hands was the single most important thing we could do as we wanted people to interact with the brand. We spent a lot of time in the packaging itself and accessible means making this simple, plain speaking our name, hey, well is a simple invitation to wellness, it's just we wanted to be not, you know, overly conceptual with it, you know, we just wanted to be a little bit more accessible and simple and direct and the same thing on our packaging and all that. And so we did, we launched in March, received zero phone calls back in april So it was a pretty terrifying moment where we're like holy cow and especially because we had spent money to start to ramp all this up. So we had done that, we had done a raise more really with close friends and family and so we've done the raise to raise the money for that, not full scale, it was just the next size up, you know, where we had enough product and we had sent it out as kind of free refills too, you know to get in people's hands and then april happened and so it was a is a pretty terrifying moment for sure.

And we had to pivot pretty hard, you had to go in that direct to Consumer chase. We did and you know what, it turned out to be the best thing in the world for us and little I mean at the time it didn't feel like that was going to be the best thing for us and that wasn't our strategy and you know when you're in a moment like that you just have to really be creative and be really flexible and pivoting and the whole world pivoted and we had to either pivot with it or lose our business. So what do you do? We move to direct to consumer. And so we focused on our own online and then we really started looking for more progressive channels to reach people because people were changing their shopping, they weren't necessarily spending time in a retail environment discovering new brands, People put on their mask granted store got their stuff and got out. And so that became not a great environment to discover brands the way it used to be. And so we pivoted like the market did, there was an explosion of all kinds of new direct to consumer platforms.

One of them that we love is called snack magic and it's based in new york and they went from, you know, kind of a food service for companies for lunches and for meetings, they took it all in line and it was all about healthy beverages and healthy snacks for companies to send to their employees at home, since as a perk for not being at work and for engaging them and etcetera. So We pivoted to platforms like that when we were like, this is this is brand new, they went from 0 to 21 million in a year and our brand became their number one brand on their platform and so it was amazing, it was amazing platforms are there out there, there's like mind blowing to me, I've never heard no one's ever mentioned that on the show before, That's so cool, this is where we spent our time and money. So we were spending time like looking for these really progressive emerging platforms where people that were gonna like what we had made, they that's where they were going and so we had to meet them where they were going.

And so snack magic became an example of that and we ended up doing a ton of sampling through that, so we invested in, you know, they have a program where you can add a free free beverage, you know when they're checking out, So we invested and stuff like that and because people may be like, well I don't know what this is, I don't know how this is going to taste. And so we made it really easy to say yes and we knew if we could just get it in their hands, they would, they would, you know, interact with the brand, read what this was about on the packaging, we'd have it like in their physical and and then they try it and we felt like we could hook them and that actually worked so well for us. And I think that's why They have 135 different skews on that platform and we invested in that sampling and that's what we think helped us do just so so well on that platform that also, you know, our strategy was more of a regional strategy. So we were going to start in Chicago and in new york and kind of take a more geographical approach to it, which was a little bit more traditional And someone like snack magic, it blew up overnight and we became national and our number one state we were shipping to is California.

And so it's like our whole plan like blew up and we're like, all right, we're going with it like this, this will work for us. So anyway, you know, there's and you're just seeing the growth of those like good eggs out in California, we love it. It's, you know, there's, there's other platforms like thrive really exploded, you know, just a number of, you know, imperfect foods misfits, you know, like all these things and people had a little bit more time, they weren't spending all the time kind of going to retail and back and so people were discovering brands in a really new way during that year. Yeah, so that's from a marketing standpoint, creating connections to get into those platforms and then, you know, working within those platforms to just drive awareness and drive trial as much as we could is really where we spend our time and energy, wow, thank you so much for sharing that, that is so insightful and something I had never heard of and didn't know about before. So my mind is blown. What do you think is important advice for entrepreneurs who are in the beverage space to know, kind of coming towards the end of 20, and into 2022?

Well, first of all, I think it's a super exciting time, I think it's a really dynamic and really exciting time, especially from a consumer standpoint. So I think people are shifting from their approach is shifting and they're shifting not only away from things that aren't good for them, you know, lots of sugar refined, you know, all this artificial flavors and chemicals and things, you know, you saw this shift from away from things that are bad for you to things that are even more neutral, like a Lacroix and just plain sparkling waters to what we're seeing and what we're super excited about is that there's this shift to more functional things. So I want my food, I want my beverages to work harder for me. I'm living this like really demanding life. I'm expecting more out of food, I'm expecting them to have beverages to have good for me, ingredients that taste good and that are environmentally conscious and that as a brand, as an ethos, care about people and put people first and are walking that walk.

And so that's changed. That's a big change that's happened and I think really accelerated over the last year and a half. So I think that this is a really exciting time for new brands and not just big corporate brands and so people are really more open minded and I think that retailers are also really starting to embrace that. And so, you know, we saw the shutdown of the retail environment during covid buyers didn't want to take meetings, they're like, look, I'm just trying to keep up right now and with supply chain and everything else. And so now we're starting to see the shift of, you know, more of the retail environment embracing and I think, you know, taking a bit of a AQ two from what's been happening in the online space where people could interact differently with brands. So I think now you're also seeing retailers starting to embrace innovation again and starting to embrace new products, especially a great progressive retailer that understands where their own shoppers are going.

And so we love accounts like Irwan which is based in Los Angeles, it's a great account, they're really in tune with their their consumers, we love you know accounts like like good eggs, we love accounts like Fairway di Bruno's, you know and Dom's Market here that are really starting to embrace that and so I think it's a really exciting time for new beverage and kind of lining up those things, people care more, they care about where these brands come from, they care about what's in it, they care about you know, with how this brand, like who the people are and how they're giving back or caring about the environment, caring about people. Yes, absolutely. I'm super excited to be coming into this industry with the changes that you know, even the way that I consume myself and my behavior around like what I want to drink, what I want to eat and what I'm even seeing like in my friendship circles and in the wider community, I think you're so spot on, it's a really, really cool time to be innovating and disrupting and bringing new new cool things to shelves for sure.

So at the end of every episode we ask a series of six quick questions, some of which we might have covered, some of which we might not have, but I asked them all the same. So question number one is what's your why? Why are you doing what you're doing? You know, it kind of goes back to what I mentioned earlier, which is our mission and we want to make wellness more simple and accessible and that for us means making good for you, great tasting beverages that also really embrace inclusivity and as part of that were certified women owned business. And As part of our mission, we give 1% back two nonprofits that advocate for diversity and inclusion. We seek out other women owned, diverse owned companies to partner and to work with. And so the y is our mission and how we live and work every single day to align to that mission.

It's our north star. We always come back to it whether it is like choosing an ingredient or choosing a partner or you know, whatever that is. So that's our way, love it. Question # two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that's made the business pop. I I would say Foxtrot. I mean it's, you know, we're in a number of like and we're focusing our marketing efforts are really focusing on less sometimes on social media and more in a direct engagement with people where they are and that's getting our product in people's hands, that's connecting with people. And so Fox Trot for us was that kind of, it was our first account and it's a, it's an account that um I think they're shoppers are, you know, they're open minded, they're pretty progressive and I think that also other retailers look to Foxtrot as a trendsetter, so I think, I think that helped us a ton and then I would, you know, I'd say kind of, that was maybe a beginning moment, I would say that the covid did force us into this other lane of direct to consumer, that was not our plan at all and ended up actually being the thing that like probably helped grow our business the most propelled you forward.

For sure. Off plan. Yeah, A plan. Love that for you. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading or listening to or subscribing to that you can recommend to other founders? Yeah, it's really easy to say that, you know, you're spending a lot of time in trade and you know, thinking about the business part of it and other things I think, and we do, like, you know, whether it's listening to podcasts or reading books about things, especially things that we don't know, and I think any entrepreneur is constantly, you know, you're, you're not going to come into it as an entrepreneur and know all the stuff, you know, you just don't and it's okay to say, okay, this is new for me and you know, what is it? What is the three pl like I've never heard of that, so we spend time there, but I would say that the thing that's been most helpful for us is just connecting with other entrepreneurs and it's even surprising, like even people that are in a competitive space um so we have like a kombucha brand we were talking to yesterday and they're like, oh you know, you have help with your amazon, like we know this great agency that's really helping us all out of time, you know, and hey, what, you know, what do you know about snack magic and can you, you know, connect us and blah blah blah, so we just find that to be probably the richest area for helping us think differently to help us overcome some of the things that we may not be really great at or no and and maybe they've been there before, you know before, you know, they're ahead of us, you know, by a couple years, so we spent time there 100%, totally, so important question number four is what do you do to win the day?

What are your kind of am or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and motivated? Well, I love to cook and sew and that's kind of like the end of the day is like a really nice moment of like shutting everything down from it, especially as an entrepreneur because it's really hard to shut things down and you feel almost guilty, you're like oh my gosh, I have so much to do and like if you feel bad shutting down but I think that that is probably one of the most critical things to do is to walk away from it and just to put it down for me that's cooking and I really enjoy that and I'm not thinking about, hey, well for a minute and you just have to recharge your batteries and because you are playing this long game, it's a long game and so yes, you could work yourself to death and all the hours and staying up and stressing and worrying and that's not productive. So being able to walk away from it doing something that is fulfilling and for me that's cooking, I just love it. So that's, that's kind of my, how I replenish stuff, love that.

Food for the soul, that's what we all need. Question # five is what would you do if you were given $1,000 of no strings attached grant money to spend in the business. Obviously it's not a lot of money but kind of to show where the most important spend of a dollar for you, there's a bit of a toss up and so as a marketer, my kind of first inclination is to want to say marketing however as a business owner that is working in environment with supply chain issues right now, I would say as part of the foundation of our brand is because we are really picky about our ingredients, I would make sure that I have, I would spend it on my key ingredients, like I'd go buy all the shares chandra and lock it away. So, you know, it's probably not the sexiest answer and yeah, I'd love to spend on marketing, but for sure, like if I don't have, you know, the shandra, if I don't have a blueberry and I don't have it at the quality and from the source that I wanted from, then that's a compromise to the integrity of our product.

So yeah, that's where I would spend it. Nice. I love that answer. It's different. And last question question number six, how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things do not go to plan? Well, that happens a lot. And I think that's actually quite frankly a blessing. And sometimes a really great silver lining and I would say our pivot to, you know, direct to consumer and all these alternative channels is a perfect example of that. And I think as any business owner will tell you, you're going to ride the highs and you're going to ride the lows and they can all happen within 10 minutes of each other. You can find out this news, you're like, oh my God, we landed this account, it's so amazing. And then you get a phone call like, oh sorry, blackberry juice, there's no black grape juice anymore, like you can run your next production, you're like, oh, like, oh no. So, you know, in each of those moments I think for Britt and I, it's awesome to have a partner, you know, brit and I are, we're just really good friends and we respect each other a lot. And so for us having a partner to be able to talk it through, like, okay, like we got hit, like we got hit with this thing, we're totally not expecting now what?

And we just, we have to pivot and you can't dwell in it. You just, we immediately move into, okay, then then what's ourselves? Like how do we pivot? How do we shift this? And you have to think outside that box and just really okay, where are we going to go from here and be flexible with it? And then we'll come back later like, okay, well what we learn from it, but in the moment, you know, it is just like okay, we gotta get to this moment, we've got to think about, you know, an alternative. So we just talk stuff through and just try to be really flexible and move on to the solution for it. So instead of dwelling in it, love it. I love this so much Ashley, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show and share some of your insights and learnings to how you've been building, hey, well, so far and I'm so excited to see what happens next and, and for all your new products that you have coming out. Yeah, thank you. We um, you know, it's been a real privilege to be here. This is our lime that we are getting ready to like send out into the world. There is super excited about that.

You know what congrats on your business and best of luck as you start to, you know, hit all those fun and really exciting milestone. So best of luck to you. Thank you so much. Hey, it's Doom 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. Yeah,

The all female-founded functional sparkling water brand that’s taking on big players in the bev CPG industry like Recess, with heywell’s Ashley Selman
The all female-founded functional sparkling water brand that’s taking on big players in the bev CPG industry like Recess, with heywell’s Ashley Selman
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