This is Helen Hall for female startup club. Hey everyone, welcome back to the show. It's dune here, your host and hype girl today, we're learning from Helen Hall who is the founder of a business called blender bombs. In this episode, we cover her journey from starting this business in her kitchen with just $300 growing organically through consistent social media, the serious ups and downs of entrepreneurship and how she found mentors that changed the course of her business. Also, I don't know about you, but right now I am totally obsessed with Tiktok. So if you're on that platform and you're doing some cool things, let's be friends. You can find me at dinner scene. D double O N E R O I S I N. I would love to see what you're up to on Tiktok. Now, let's get into this episode. This is Helen for female startup club. Getting an online business off the ground isn't easy. So if you find yourself working late tackling a to do list, that's a mile long with your fifth cup of coffee by your side.
Remember, great email doesn't have to be complicated. That's what Clay Vo is for. It's the email and SMS platform built to help e commerce brands earn more money by creating genuine customer relationships. Once you set up a free Clay Vo account, you can start sending beautiful branded messages in minutes. Thanks to drag and drop design templates and built in guidance and with e commerce specific recommendations and insights. You can keep growing your business as you go get started with a free account at clay vo dot com. That's K L A V I Y O dot com Helen Hi welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. I'm so excited to have you here and learn about your business and everything that you're up to for anyone who's not familiar with your brand yet, do you want to give a quick introduction into who you are and what the business is? Yeah, so I am originally from Atlanta live in charleston south Carolina 29 when I was 24 I started a business called blender bombs.
The first product we launched the main product. It's like an energy bite, but for smoothies. So it's a superfood ball fear smoothies. It makes it easier to get your superfoods in your smoothie and obviously it just makes it easier to make a smoothie. Yeah, I mean that sounds amazing. I feel like I need that in my life. I would love that. Where do you like to start your entrepreneurial story and that kind of journey of thinking, Hey, I'm on to something that I could turn into a business here. It was an accident. So I was a personal trainer, like all through college, I gained £30 trying to figure out how to lose it. Did the whole yo yo dieting thing and I wanted A permanent lifestyle because you know, I would do a random diet and I would lose 15 lbs, but then when I started eating normal again, I would get it right back, just like we've all experienced, right? And then I came across like just a plant forward diet, more plant based, having smoothies. Like I would have a smoothie monday through friday, I would eat probably, I like to call it 80 2080% whole food plant based, 20% whatever I wanted and the way it fell off, but it also wasn't a struggle.
So I started falling, that was like, what got me in love with the health and fitness industry, I was a fashion major before uh not in that, not in that realm now, but who knows later. And so I It became a personal trainer, tried to get my clients to do that 80, 20 lifestyle smoothie lifestyle as well and they just wouldn't do it, they just wanted to exercise right, you know, they wanted to, you can't out exercise a bad diet. So instead of trying to force them to change their lifestyle, I made a product to make it easier for them to make smoothies because I kept hearing them say it takes too long to make a smoothie. It's annoying. I'm like honestly, it is annoying, I agree with you and when you are busy, you don't have time to make a smoothie. I had time to make a smoothie because I wasn't, You know, doing a typical 9-5, right? So I took all the dry ingredients that I wanted them to put in their smoothie, rolled it into a ball and started giving it to them with their personal training sessions.
I didn't make them pay for it. That was a mistake. But then their wives started asking for them. Their kids started asking for them, Their husband started asking for them. Like they're friends started asking for the blender bombs and it was just a very organic way of being like, huh? I guess people want this, you know, might as well charge for it. Were you calling it blender bombs right from the beginning or is that something that you came up with? Because it just sounds so like spot on for exactly what it is. It was actually called a smoothie bomb. And then I got a cease and desist from a company in Australia that I obviously have never heard of because they were in Australia. So we changed the name to blender bombs, which now I know because they were an Australian company, it wouldn't have even mattered. Like I could have kept using blender bombs. I mean, smoothie bombs if I wanted to, but I'm actually like the new blender bombs better. So it's okay. It worked out. Yeah, I love blender bombs. I love an alliteration kind of vibe. Well, I just want to talk about that cease and desist in for a second then before I kind of move on when you got the letter, you know, were you just instantly like, okay, I'll change the name or did you have to hire legal representation to be like, what do I need to do?
How did you actually handle it in the moment? I googled what a season Asus was I called my friend who was an attorney and they're like, you don't have to worry about a season Asus really. And then I started telling them about the company. I started looking at the company and they were in Australia. So then he was like, go find the trademark. Go look up the U. S. Trademark website and see if smoothie bombs trademarks and I did. Which now I know is uspto dot gov Yeah. I don't know. They've never been to a trademark website before. Now I found my own trademarks because I learned that. But it was my first time going to the website and I just play everyone with the website until I found the search bar, the right search bar for the trademarks, not the patents, not copyrights, all that stuff. And there was no smoothie bombs. So I knew that they hadn't trademarked it in the United States at that time. But just to avoid anything, I just changed it to blender bombs. Right? Yeah. Gosh isn't that interesting how it's just like one tiny moment you receive this letter and then you're like, gosh, I've got to change this whole thing that I've worked so hard to build and you're kind of like, well I don't want to save myself or I want to save myself the hassle for the future and like take away that risk.
But also like right now I'm not doing anything technically wrong. Yes, exactly. And a lot of times cease and assist are sent to scare people. Like I sent cease and assists a couple times a year to people like if, if I hear someone like honestly sort of slandering something we've done. Like my old boss actually used to work at a smoothie bar out of college and he tried to say that I stole the blender bombs idea from him, which is not true because he paid me to come up with energy by recipes, but I guess he was just like jealous or something. So he was telling everyone, oh yeah, she stole the idea from me and it's just not true. So you just send him a season assist. It doesn't mean anything. It just scares them and it gives them to be quiet. Did he stop talking about you? Maybe? Probably not. I actually sent that season, this is myself. I didn't even like pay an attorney to do it. And then I, there was like a more serious decent assist that I need to descend to A smoothie bar who was using the 80 20 trademark that we had as their name and I sent them the Susan says they never changed it, but they actually ended up closing down.
I could have sued if I wanted to, but we didn't have enough intellectual property around that trademark for it to be worth because showing someone's like 5 to $10,000. Like it's a lot of money minimum 5 to $10,000. So you just got to pick and choose your battles. Gosh, wow! Cool. Okay. Oh my gosh, I jumped ahead. I've got so many questions going back to the very beginning. In a lot of lawsuits. Yeah, dealing with a lot of lawsuits. Sounds like a massive headache. My God, it is especially when the guy I was, this is funny like the guy I was dating for four years when I first started blending, this was an attorney. He did not help me protect my business at all. I like had to figure it out on myself. I don't know, wow, Good riddance. Goodbye. Let's go back to the beginning. I read that you started with, you know, something crazy like just $300 of capital to build your business. You managed to bootstrap it for, you know, up until recently, could we go back to the very beginning and talk about the money piece of the puzzle, how you were thinking about money, how you were just thinking about the vision of this business in general, like did you expect it to be what it kind of has grown into?
Or were you just thinking side hustle? Where was the kind of vision at that point my entire life, I've always been broke. Um I grew up like and upper middle class family but they always, they had me on a budget, like a very strict budget. I had to work for my play money. Um I was lucky because they, you know, they paid for my college, I mean I got scholarships and institute tuition but They gave me you know, $400 a month in college to live off of and I had to make that work for the month. So I was always used to like penny pinching and making sure that what I was buying was worth it if I wanted an outfit, I would always go to Ebay and buy it used like if I wanted um I remember one time being in college and I fell in love with these TSC bars but they were too expensive and I remember literally budgeting to pay for these bars like how many of these bars I could have a month. So I definitely grew up understanding the value of a dollar and then I had like $300 in my bank account when I first started this business, I was 24.
I've always been a spender because I like nice things. So I spent all my money on like having a happy life, you know, I would spend on experiences or concerts or going out to dinner. I was not a saber at the time, but I wasn't I never let money stress me out either. And that's like a privileged thing if I was ever in a bind, you know my parents would help me out if I needed it. But I did, I tried to like raise myself with the money and not ask for help um then so that's why I started personal training as a side hustle, right? So I had $300 in my bank account and it was my birthday, I was turning 24 and I asked my dad to buy my L. L. C. for me. And this was maybe after two or three weeks of rolling these blender bombs for my clients. I had just bought the ingredients from like Harris teeter or something, but I've been making them for about three weeks and I knew it was something. So my dad was like you need an L.
L. C. And he's always been there. He never supported me. Um Like if I wanted to go out to dinner or movies, like I would have to pay for that. But my dad would always pay for my arts and crafts growing up or anything creative. I wanted to do any time I wanted to cook if I wanted to bake. Like if I wanted to do anything with my hands, he would always like fund to pay for that, take me to the art store, give me paint supplies. Um So I was like, dad, I want to like turn into a business. He was like, you need an L. C. I don't know what that was. Anyway, he taught me how to get an LLC And I asked my mom to take me to the grocery store for my birthday present. So I went to Costco and we spent like $150 on ingredients and that's how I got started and I sold the blender bombs at first just for costs. I didn't value my time at all. I couldn't even put a price on it. So I was just getting back money. So I profited like probably I made like 100 and 50 bucks off that first round because my mom paid $150 to ingredients. Then I had 100 50 bucks right?
And then I went and I got more ingredients and this time I charged more for my time And I made, I had like $300 and I literally did that for like the first six months just saving, I penny pinched, I saved everything. I would, I think I got a Shopify website like three or four months into it and if a local person ordered off my Shopify website, I would charge them shipping but I would go drop it off. So like I saved as much money as I could for the first six months. And then I got to a point where orders were consistent and the reason they were consistent is because I was posting All day every day on my social media, which started with 1500 followers and I talked a lot about Baby 20 lifestyle. Um, you know, my clients transformations, my transformation, um, just kind of regurgitating like information that I've learned and giving credit where credit was due sometimes not learning the hard way and I Grew to, you know, 12,000 followers in a few months and then it just kept growing.
I've been at like 86,000 followers for like a year now because not growing anymore, but I just started to talk last week. Um, and it was social media that gave me my following on social media that gave me my sales for the first like three years as a busy entrepreneur. If you're anything like me, you'll love easy life hacks that improve your mental focus, sleep quality and nervous system. Last year I started taking a G1 by Athletic Greens because I was struggling a lot. If you've listened to the show since then you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I was totally burnt out and I needed a serious boost. I heard about athletic greens through tim Ferriss podcast and some of my other founder friends and it felt like it was a sign I needed at the right time. All you need to do is take a single scoop and shake it with water or blended into a smoothie and you're giving your body and mind 75 high quality vitamins, minerals, superfoods, probiotics and adapted gens for a very limited time. Only athletic greens is going to give female startup club listeners a free one year supply of immune supporting vitamin D and five free travel packs.
With your first purchase, all you have to do is visit athletic greens dot com forward slash startup again, that's athletic greens dot com forward slash startup to take ownership over your health and pick up the ultimate daily nutritional insurance. So basically to sum up your strategy, it was just organic posting every single day consistently all day, every day sharing what your values were, what your mission was and this 80 20 lifestyle, not trying to be a fancy influencer, just being authentic and that was just driving all your sales for the first three years, wow. Yeah, I mean for the first year really specifically and then we started doing wholesale about two years later. So for the first two years I would say not three, do you think that it was majority like specifically from the instagram and kind of social media landscape or do you think it was also in combination with word of mouth and people just sharing it with their friends and kind of people finding you that way. I think people share my social media with their friends, but I don't think people would have talked about it if I didn't focus on social media, like I got a lot of influencers to, to, I would just send packages influencers and I would form relationships with influencers through DM and like support them and they would support me.
So it was very relationship based, but I was also never afraid to like ask someone to post and share the product. I feel like this leads us to around circa 2019 or maybe early 2020. And when I read about you now, I know you're doing like millions of dollars in revenue. The businesses, you know, valued really high. What takes you from there to now, What are the key kind of strategies and things that moved you forward that connect those dots? Yeah. And before I even get into that, it's so funny hearing people say that because people have a perception, oh, she's national with whole foods like, oh, they're doing almost four million in sales, like she's rolling in it. But the truth is like, I'm not, I'm comfortable, but the businesses still like penny pinching um, as as much as we can, you know, there's been some years that are scarier than others and that's because it's so expensive to grow. It got to a point where the first year I was super profitable. Like cash flow was not honestly for the first two years, cash flow is not an issue, but you have to decide like, am I gonna stay this lifestyle company where I grow really slow and like super Southeast focus, I'm happy and for employees and or am I going to do, I want to be a national brand that can one day sell for millions of dollars and it's gonna be a lot harder of a ride and you're gonna have to give up equity and it's gonna be, it's gonna be way more stressful than just like this happy go lucky lifestyle brand, but that's the direction we chose because it's a good product and we want to get it out there and also like I'm the type of person where if I'm not growing, I'll go nuts, like if I'm just doing the same thing every day, I'd go crazy.
Um so I knew growth was a strategy, but how you, how I got there was mentorship and finding people who have done it before. Um I think I could have gotten there a lot quicker if I had found the right mentors at the beginning, but I've always been really bad at asking other people for help. I've always, my whole life, I've tried to figure it out. My parents are both entrepreneurs in their own way and I've never asked them for help for anything, like just and I still struggle with it because I have been burned sometimes by asking for help and trusting someone and then it wasn't the right advice and cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars later and mistakes. So I think joining the right mentorship who's done it before they've grown a business that's the best way you can go. The mentors that we've been using right now, the founder of Milk in May, okay, that almond milk company, she has been really helpful, like astronomically helpful.
Um and then Another guy who's in the alcohol industry in sales, who helped grow a company like 47 million in sales. And so that's that has been key is finding people who already have a reputation in the industry and once you get older and you are successful, like you want to find people in a mentor, so don't be afraid to ask people for that. I have to follow up questions on this. The first is how did you find those mentors and kind of like how did you approach them to even ask? And the second question is like is it a formal or informal relationship, like do you pay them as a consultant on going to kind of give you strategies or is it kind of like let's catch up for a coffee here and there. So it depends there's mentors and there's advisors and consultants and there's business coaches and they're all different mentors are the only one of those who are not paid. Um but they are people who, How II asked. So the Mach one started off as a mentor for like a year and then we wanted her actively involved in the business and then it became an advisor now she's paid but for the first year she wasn't she was just giving me free advice um because she had made so many mistakes and learn from them and she was like I just wanted to teach as many young women out there like what not to do, I'm like I'll listen to you, I will take it.
So how I reached out to her was I was we bought an RV for the business and we branded it with our fun, bright colorful logo because one of our growth strategies the first couple of years was doing pop ups were meeting customer space space and in person in the southeast and we were spending, you know if I was going to go to Athens Georgia for a week we would spend X amount on an Airbnb and I would do $1000 2000 dollars in sales per pop up. So then I would calculate, alright if I do three pop ups, I brought it this much and then you have to subtract housing and travel. So I'm really only profiting this much and it's like if I plan to do this once a month for the next two years, would it be worth it for me to get an RV so I can just stay in these RV parks in these cities because at the time I had that wander loss you know young I want to just be on the road sort of vibe. I don't feel that way anymore, but I did feel that way or mid twenties and got that out of my system though.
Yeah, so we've got the RV and we kept it for like three years and I met august the founder of Mulk um we were in Houston for some pop ups and I just slid into her DMS and I asked if she wanted a cup of coffee. Um so I tried, when I was on the road, I tried to meet with at least four people a week whether it was another business owner or an influencer or an ambassador or something like that and I just, she just looked into the business, she was like, I want to help you. So she gave us free advice for a bit and then we brought her on the nose as a paid adviser. Wow, that is so cool. Gosh, amazing. I love that. Also kind of piece of advice like wherever you are, try and just set yourself a goal to catch up with X number of people and connect and build your network in as many places as possible because obviously you will meet people who will be able to help you whether it's now or further down the track. Yeah. And I will say I'm so different now, I don't do that as much anymore because at that I always try to go with my gut like what I'm feeling, what's working at the time.
So during that immediate initial growth phase I was meeting and networking a ton, but it's gone too. It got to a point where like now what I need to be involved within the business, It's so time consuming where I don't have time to network as much anymore. Um, so now I say no to like 90% of networking things because I have to pick and choose where I'm going to put my energy. So I did it for the first few years, but now it's totally different when you think about, you know, when you were starting, you obviously grew a lot organically, you grew through word of mouth, you grew through these pop ups and you just mentioned a moment ago, you've started with Tiktok recently, what are your kind of biggest drivers for growth now? And how has that evolved? So our subscription is a lot of our sales, it's like 70% of our sales are from our website and then the rest is wholesale account. So we're in whole foods and we're in Walmart. Um and having a subscription platform is huge, email drives in a lot of revenue.
SmS drives in a lot of revenue instagram drives in a lot of revenue. I'm hoping eventually maybe in a few months Tiktok will be there, but we literally just started that. Yeah, I love that. It's kind of crazy when you think about how much tech we use daily, we use all these different platforms to do all these different things and to be quite frank, it can get really overwhelming. So imagine if you could streamline those routine operations and admin tasks that eat up all your time, things like lead management, employee, onboarding or even customer support. The average Sabia user saves over $10,000 in recovered time every year and it's so easy to get started. They have thousands of popular apps like google sheets, quickbooks or even facebook and google ads ready for you to automate almost any workflow imaginable. They've also got thousands of easy to use templates ready to go so you can get started right away. See for yourself why teams at air table, dropbox hubspot zendesk and thousands of other companies use appia everyday to automate their businesses, tries a P A for free today at Zap E A dot com forward slash startup.
That's Z A P I E R dot com forward slash startup for you. You know, in this kind of phase of business that you're in at the moment. Obviously trying to grow and do all the things I imagine you do need a lot of working capital for where you are right now and I heard that you've been going through a fundraise. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience and what you've taken away from it and kind of just where you are in that journey. Yeah. So capital raise, our first one. It's very scary. I went to school for fashion merchandizing. I did not go to school for business. So anytime someone's talked to me about like investing or capital raise, I've always just kind of like swept it under the rug because for so long we didn't need it because we weren't trying to grow very quickly. We were just kind of growing slow and steady and Now that we have a clear vision of where we want to go and we have proof of concept. We have proof of sales. Like we have a 70% customer retention rate, which more than that, that means More than 70% of people who buy from our website once, um, in a year by 3.5 more times throughout the rest of the year.
So we know that when people try the product and they add it to their life, it works and it makes them feel better now. We just have to grow and get new customers. But the capital raises is hard. I don't like asking people for things. I definitely don't like asking people for money, but that's where having our CFO come into play. Who's done this before And then we have a chief strategy guy that we pay a monthly retainer for and he has been helping us with it. We actually stopped the monthly retainer though until we raise capital and he knows that, but I would not be doing the capital raise if I did not have a CFO that I trusted with my whole heart finances are not my thing. Um, penny pinching is bootstrapping is, but like understanding performers as understanding like budgeting could never do that. So it's the biggest thing I would say for anyone who wants to go through capital raises, you've got to get someone on the financial side of things that you trust with your whole heart.
100%. Yeah, that's a really good tip. So we're prepared to give up, you know, 20% of the business I think. And at first it was 10 and the more I like think about it, especially with the financial climate, we're about to go into, I'd rather raise more capital and give up more equity just in case something does happen because at the end of the day, I can own 100% of this, you know, $4 million company forever because it will probably stay around four million in sales if nothing ever changes or I can give up. So my equity to a really good chief commercial officer and to some investors who can help us scale strategic investors, which for people listening to strategic investors, someone who will kind of be more in the weeds. Um, not just like, not just someone giving you their capital and then it's off to the races for you. Like we need advice as we grow or I can, um you know, 70-80% of something that is doing 20 million in revenue or in annual sales.
Mhm. 100%. And so for the raise, like what are you trying to raise? Hasn't finished? What are you going to be kind of putting that money towards specifically? Is it like team or marketing or wholesale accounts? Yeah. So at first we were going to use a crowdfunding platform because we do have such a strong community and when we mentioned, We were doing the race, like we had a lot of people message or an email and be like, Hey, like we want to win best, but we only have $2,000 or something like that. So then we're like, crowdfunding would be the way to go. But as we start talking to legitimate accredited investors, they don't want anything to do with crowdfunding. So this is why it's taken a little bit, It's because we posed on the crowdfunding side of things. I still am not 100% sold that we're not gonna do crowdfunding. Um it's really right now we've got, we've got several like assisting investors, but we're still trying to find the right lead investor.
So we're doing a 33 to $3.5 million raise And we're giving up, I think like 10-15% of the company. But it's anyone will tell you he's been through a capital raise, like who you find as your lead is the most important thing they can make or break your business, they can suffocate you or they can support you. So I've been really, we've been really diligent about finding the right lead investor. We want just like an individual who we don't necessarily want DC money yet. Probably the second round we take on VC money, but right now we just want a strategic individual investor. We've got a few that were talking to but we did change, we did lower our business valuation, it was higher at first, it was like I think it was 25 pretty money, 28 post money, $3 million dollar raise. And that's because it included our smoothie bar franchise. But what we found is that a lot of the investors who are familiar with CPG know nothing about the franchise industry and so it's very confusing to them.
Like a franchise is valued more than a CPG. So if the CPG company sells for 3 to 5 times a franchise company will sell from 8 to 12 times and that's because and franchises, you have the royalty fee, so A royalty fee for ours is 6%. So that means if someone opens up a hustle smoothie bar, We bum enterprises get 6% of their sales in perpetuity until they close. That's why those companies value out a little bit more. But we changed the raise since a lot of investors, they're not gonna both, they're good at one or the other. We kind of took out the smoothie bar piece. So now we've got the business at like a 20 to $22 million valuation, wow, that's amazing. And that yeah, I guess it makes sense to keep it kind of clear and you know, specific focus and having the right person that can kind of help you grow in one particular area versus like all over the place. When you say a lead investor, like what specifically does make a lead investor like what does that even mean when people say that?
So it means like if we're doing a three and a $3.5 million raise, the minimum check size that we prefer is a million. Like they need to invest a million or more and then we'll have, you know, five or six other investors split the rest. Yeah, That's what the lead would be. So they set the price. So if we give the lead a $20 million $20 million dollar valuation. So that's why we can't sign paperwork with anyone until we secure the lead that we feel comfortable working with right. Got it. Okay. Amazing, cool. I don't think I've ever had that properly kind of broken down on the show. So glad to know it. Thank you so much. Yeah, I wish I had had it broken down to me before. The bible of um terms in building a business. Yeah. And this, this might be interesting for your listeners to is we're doing it on a preferred note. So that means basically in layman's terms if we were to sell the company for like at least you know, 3.5 million, which we would do no matter what there is, like a worst case scenario.
So the company fails and goes to ship, we sell for 3.5 million. The investors get that money first and I would get nothing right so that it's preferred to their protected, right? Got it, got it, got it. Okay, cool. Obviously the reason they're investing is they want us to sell the company for like 50,000,001 day, wow, so exciting. I'm excited for you. What a big change! It's all happening. I'll be excited when I see it in my bank account. Gosh, what an exciting day that's going to be. Yeah, one day, what do you think is your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs who are in the food industry specifically or perhaps like even what was the best piece of advice you've received from your mentor, that kind of, you know, change something for you? I think that's really important um entrepreneurs and the food industry to come up with something different. I have seen so many people trying to start businesses or like make a better version of something, you know? And CPG is one of those things that it does require a lot of funding if you want to grow.
I got so lucky and that blender bombs had not been done before and there really was no competition. We also tried to start like a brownie and cookie line but like a vegan gluten free brownie cookie line and the thing is like there's a ton of ton of those already out there that are so well funded that our marketing just can't compete with those products so we had to scale back and focus only on the blender bombs which we don't have competition out there. The product actually works like our testimonials are through the roof. That's because it's a different product. So CPG food industry entrepreneurs if you're gonna go for it and you're going to invest a lot of your money into this business, make sure the product is extremely unique. Read the book play bigger, play bigger. We will link that in the show notes for anyone who wants to check it out. Hey it's dune here.
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