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Marea Wellness is the Small Business doing $50k in monthly rev, with no paid ad spend. Monica Grohne breaks down her strategy (Part 1)

by Female Startup Club
April 24th 2023

This is Monica Grohne for Female Startup Club.

Hi! It’s Doone here, your host and hype girl popping into your ears on from Sydney Australia. If you’re new to the show - welcome - every we... More

This is Monica Groy for female startup club. Hi. Hello, it's Dune here, your host and Hype Girl popping into your ears from Sydney Australia. If you're new to the show, welcome. Every week. I'm chatting with some of the world's most successful female founders and entrepreneurs to understand how they've built their business to 78 and nine figures in annual recurring revenue. We talk about what's working now and what's not quite working. And we love to dig into the money piece and the challenges that come from going through the hard times today on the podcast. We're learning from Monica Groy. Monica is the founder and CEO of Maria, a menstrual wellness company supporting you with the foundational nutrition needed for healthier happier cycles. Monica spent 17 years struggling with P MD D before discovering the life changing benefits that nutrition could have on helping her live without the cyclical roller coaster. And I love this episode so, so much it is so packed with value.

Monica has built the business to $50,000 in monthly rev without spending a cent on paid ads. And this is a really important conversation around building your business and proving out the concept before you start to invest in paid growth. She also shares some great marketing tactics that she's been using recently that you'll be able to use to. And while I've got you here, I've also updated the grants do with a bunch of new grants from all over the world that are ready to be applied for now and you can download it by going to female startup club dot com forward slash grants. Specifically, the Cartier Women's initiative is open right now and it is one of my favorites. You should check it out. Alrighty, let's get into this episode. This is Monica for female startup club. Monica. Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thanks so much for having me. I'm so excited to be chatting with you. How's your day going so far? It's going well, there's a little stress happening in, in the biz right now.

We just hit an out of stock period and we have a delayed, a delayed inventory shipment. So lots of customer service tickets right now. I did see it was out of Stoke. I did see that. Damn. So how long until it gets back into Stoke it'll ship this week. So um from our manufacturer to our three P L. So we should be, we're like in a good position, we can fulfill our subscriber orders with our sample packs that we still have. So it's just a lot of like product swapping on the back end and making sure subscribers know that things are coming and just logistics. It's a little bit of a nightmare. Can you turn it into a marketing campaign of like preorders are open? Like we've been selling out blah, blah, blah or? Yeah, we're working towards that. The um our product is getting a little bit of a format update. So we're kind of gonna do like a relaunch of it. Um So we're just what does a full update mean? Yeah, this is actually really exciting. Uh We got a lot of feedback from our customers on a couple of very specific things.

One they wanted to reduce the waste of our product. We have individual serving stick packs and they're like, I'm not always traveling. I love that this is convenient if I am traveling, but like can you launch a bulk option of your powder? So we are launching a new bulk option. Um And then we did make a slight formula update as new research comes out, we're always looking at it and making sure that we are utilizing the best ingredients at the right forms and in the right quantities. So we've made a couple of tweaks as new research has come out as well. Exciting stuff. Cool. Yeah, super cool. I'm actually so excited about today in this interview because I know that you, well, my experience in chatting with you is that you love to share and also because you're a little earlier on in the journey from the women that I usually have on the show in that you're kind of pre ads, but you're kind of kicking goals with your monthly rev. You've kind of, I think you said it was up to like 50 K months.

You're, you're doing so well, pre ads, pref fundraising, all that kind of stuff. So I'm really excited to chat with you about how you've gotten to this point. Do you want to start by giving us a little bit of an introduction into what the brand is? Definitely. So Maria is a nutritional wellness company that supports women with their nutrition for their menstrual cycle. So we are all about bringing easy convenient nutrition to you that's going to actually help support your hormone balance. This all came to me and I think a lot of the brands in the hormone space. The story is becoming a very prevalent story. But um from my own personal experience with my periods being really horrendous. I have P MD D, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and that is basically P MS times 1000 in the mood department primarily. So I had really, really severe mood swings.

Uh I thought I was bipolar for a while, didn't know what was going on. I spent 17 years with just these like radical mood swings that I didn't even fully correlate to my period until I was like 26 years old. Um And at that point I think a lot of us have had this experience where we go to our doctor with some symptom, some, um, kind of issue whether it be with a period or not. And we're given a prescription. And so I was given options, like you could try birth control, you can try antidepressants and not one person told me about nutrition. Um, I had to, like, go and dig for that but it, when someone did offer me a nutritional solution, it was absolutely life changing for me. And I didn't have to go get a prescription. So I really wanted to bring that to other people. As I started to learn about nutrition in the menstrual cycle, nutrition and hormones. I realized that there was a lot of research in this space that just wasn't really getting shared. And initially I was like, ok, cool.

Do I like, speak about it on social media? Do I become an influencer? Do I become a health coach? A nutritionist? I don't really know. Um, but my background was actually in e-commerce in marketing and I wanted to create the product that made it easier and created the bridge for women where they're like, I don't have energy to implement lifestyle changes. I don't have like, I just can't even think about it. Um And what I found in my personal life when I added supplements in was that it gave me the energy. It gave me a little bit more balanced mood where then I could also implement other lifestyle changes that made the benefits, like 10 times better. Um, gosh, I feel like your story resonates with me so much. I don't know if we've ever personally spoken about this, but I've been on such a period journey. I don't know if you saw when I posted all that stuff, but when I was living in London, yeah, it was, you know, just so awful and I, I never even heard the word endocrine system.

Like that wasn't something that I knew about. But when I posted, I, I reached this point for anyone listening, I reached this point where I could spend 4 to 8 hours with severe vomiting, severe diarrhea from my period pain. And I was like, shit, maybe this isn't normal and I reached the point where I was and I'd never really even thought too much about the fact that it had spiraled because I used to be someone who with the easiest period, no problems, whatever. And then over the last kind of eight years, but specifically, since more like 2020 it got so bad, so bad, so bad that then I was like, wait, maybe this isn't normal. Maybe I'm having a bit of like, I haven't thought too much about this, but this isn't normal. And then I posted it on Instagram to be like, ok, I'm dying today. Like, I've been vomiting for four hours. I'm so unwell. Like, what do. I do because I don't know. And that's when I got so many different pieces of advice and kind of like, got recommended so many things. And that prompted my journey with a naturopath and a GP to kind of work on regulating my system and what was going on in my body and things like that.

But it's so crazy because I'd never even heard that word before. I'd never even kind of, I never even knew it's like this whole other world and that there were so many people who reached out to me being like, I'm going through the same thing or I've been on that journey and this is what helped me. Yeah, I mean, the numbers, when you look at the statistics of women that experience like debilitating issues or just any symptoms at all, like 90% of us are experiencing something related and it's, it's just crazy and you know, the solutions that were coming up were created by men. So they weren't really real solutions. They were like cover ups, they weren't getting to the root of the problem. And so it's, I think just really in the last like five or six years that some really amazing solutions have started to pop up. Hm. Thank God. Yeah. Ok. So let's talk about the beginning stages. You have this light bulb moment. You're like, I want to be this person. I wanna like learn about this, create my own solution. How do you actually get started? Like, are you, do you then go and, you know, train as a nutritionist?

Like what actually happens? Yeah. So, as I was digging into the research for myself, I was taking note of where I was finding the research and the people involved in it. Um, and I started to reach out to dieticians that had been involved in either previous articles or previous studies. And I told them my idea, I was like, hey, I started taking all these nutrients, but it's really inconvenient. I'm buying 100 and $50 a month of supplements and it's like 10 to 12 pills every day. And I just hate the process. Like, can we create a better solution that just provides that foundational nutrition? That's all in one. And I didn't know if it would be pills and like sachets or if it would be a powder like it ended up becoming, but I was just looking for the medical side to support me. And it turns out like the first few people I reached out to, they were like, I love this idea. Yes. How can I help? And I was like, oh, ok. That was like, felt far too easy. Sometimes you just have to ask, do you mean sorry, like a food scientist or you mean like a dietician or a nutritionist or a doctor?

Like, who are we talking about? Yeah. So this is a registered dietician and I was just looking for someone to be like, let's look at the research, look at the science and see like what the formula should really be. I knew what I was taking, but I wanted something that would match like the largest population and be beneficial for people. And were you working with that person as like a consultant or were you like, hey, you could be my business partner. What was your approach? I just asked them to be a medical advisor and at the time I didn't offer anything other than the title and asked if they could support. And I've always said, like, you know, we can talk about equity, we can talk about advisor shares, all of those things. But the initial R D that I worked with was just happy to help. Uh which is to me like mind blowing. Wow, that's crazy. I want to understand a little bit about the R and D process in kind of the supplement industry. Like what is the supplement industry like? What are the M O Q s like? How long does it take to create something like this?

Yeah. So once we decided what we wanted the formula to be, the next step was really for me to go out and try to find a manufacturer to work with who could create the product. So at that point, I was just cold emailing people um and felt it was very scary. I didn't even know the, the word, right. Words to use the M O Q as I was getting back would have been like 100 and $50,000 orders. Um That whole process was really scary. I actually had a friend that lives close by who's in the cosmetic industry. She owns a skincare business and a lot of times manufacturers for supplements and for skincare have some overlap. And so I asked her, I was like, do you have any recommendations? And she ended up hooking me up with um someone who helped you find a contract manufacturer and he helped us find our first facility who would do a lower M O Q at that time? That, that the cost of that was still like $80,000.

And so I was like, well, like I know what I need for my first run of product. Wow. And so $80,000 how many units is that like, what like were you being like? Ok, let's get 10,000 units or like what was the, it was 5000 units? 5000? Wow. Yeah. So still a really big kind of first batch of products. What were you thinking in terms of like, like how confident did you feel that you would be able to sell that based on your experience coming out of working in e-commerce? I was confident and I think a little bit like blindly confident, you know, that, that early stage where you're like of the night that pushes you forward. Yeah, like this is just gonna, this is just gonna work like sure 5000. That's easy. Great. Yeah, let's do it. Like I'm not, not going to do this. I think when I look back on it, my eagerness probably got in the way a little bit. Um I probably could have done more due diligence and found someone who would be willing to do even lower M O Q s. But as soon as I found someone who like said, yes.

And it, I was comfortable with their facility. I went and visited, I was just like, I just need to move forward. I need to keep going. So I said yes and went with it. And so just to paint the picture, are you working full time at this point? Yes. So I was the director of marketing for an e-commerce business that was in the pet space at the time and I was still working full time there um up until January 2021. And so you have the order for $80,000 but then there's also kind of like launch capital website, blah, blah, blah. What do you think all in you spent around getting the brand to launch? It was about I'd say like 100 K. Mhm. And I read, I think like at some point you, you got a grant maybe or you like some kind of local thing that was able to help you in that early phase. Can we talk about kind of like that time of funding the business getting this grant and like how it all kind of played together?

Yeah. So once I knew what the cost of our first run was, my next kind of action point was figuring out where the money was going to come from. I was not sitting on a pile of cash. Um, my husband and I were in the middle of renovating our house. We just bought our first house in 2017. We had a mortgage. Like all of these things, I had to find money. It wasn't necessarily my money. And I was so lucky that there is quite a startup community where I live, even though I live in a very small town in Wyoming and there was a state grant happening where they were giving companies with high growth potential $50,000 grants, no equity attached to it, like no attachment. It was just the money. And so I had applied three times before I got it and I just committed. I was like, I'm gonna get this money. I don't care. Wow. The board that I was pitching to every time I pitched was five men from Wyoming like cowboys like the and they were like, what are you talking about?

And finally the last time I pitched to them, I was like, I'm getting it this time. Like I was just like, are you all married? And they were like, yes, I was like, do any of you have daughters? And they were like, yes. And I was like, ok, you know what I'm talking about? And they were like, yes. And I was like, and half of the population is our women who like 90% of them experience something like this. And I was like, there is high growth potential for this business. And finally they were like, like I got awarded the grant. I remember the day it was like May 2019 and I was sitting in my husband's truck and I just like started screaming. I was so excited. I mean, I feel excited for you in this moment. That's so cool. Wow, I love that. And so this obviously played a big part in that first order and that start up capital the really early phase. Ok, cool. So what happens? How do you launch the brand? Yeah, then, so that was May 2019.

I was like, I have capital, I didn't actually receive the capital until September. So I was kind of like going through the process of like figuring out how to receive the capital. At the same time, we were working on branding so that I knew like going into manufacturing the product, we had packaging and all of that ready to go. And around like November, we had placed our order and we're ready to move forward and it just the manufacturing process it always takes longer, especially for your first order with a new facility than you ever expect. And we started to drag into getting close to the Chinese New Year and we are ordering our packaging, just our boxes from China. And all of a sudden COVID happened and shit, it was like the manufacturing plant that we are getting our boxes from just didn't come back from the Chinese New Year because of COVID. Uh And so we were like, oh crap.

So we had to really quickly pivot to find someone in the US who could do our boxes and we didn't end up getting product until like mid year 2020 because there was just so many delays. It was the beginning of COVID. Everything was going crazy. So when we thought we'd be launching January 2020 we didn't launch until July 2020. Wow. Oh my gosh. And it was also like, I was working full time, right? So I'm like, this is ok. Like if it's gonna take this long, like I'm just gonna be patient. Um We'd switch to like, I wasn't in the office anymore. I was working from home, which felt like more flexibility. So it was just kind of like a crazy time of me, like a lot of unknown, like a lot of balls in the air. Me trying to navigate. This is the first time founder and doing it alone. Yeah. Absolutely. Oh my gosh. I have a few quick questions before I wanna like stay on this marketing side of things. But just quickly you, when I look at your website and your brand, everything looks so beautiful, so smooth.

Like the experience on your website is great. The quiz is great and you can tell that you've invested time money energy into that. Is that what you launched with or have you since changed that there's been a few small tweaks, you know, product page updates and that kind of thing. But this has been what we launched with. I'm actually at the point now where I'm like, maybe we should update it because I'm sick of it, but I've thought about it every day. Do you think that's something that like in hindsight, you would recommend to early stage founders to kind of create that premium experience or do you think you could have done it kind of that lower level below? Like a little bit more scrappy for me. It was important. Um And I think that's something that as a founder, you just have to ask yourself of what your consumer cares about for us. We were creating a higher end product, we knew our pricing was going to be higher. And so we wanted the experience to really represent that. So the branding was important. Um At the end of the day, I felt like I was creating a product that I wanted in a way.

Um I was one of you know, I was the original consumer of the product. So I had to ask like, what would I want? And then also we had done like a trial of the product with about 50 people. And so we kind of had this small group of people we could ask their opinions about too. And it was just across the board, like people wanted a good brand experience, they wanted packaging that they would put out on their counter and see every day. And so we did invest in it. I wouldn't say we didn't go like over the top. It wasn't super expensive. I think the website and the packaging and the overall brand was like six grand. Ok. Yeah, totally, totally decent. When you say 50 people who were those 50 people, how did you find those 50 people? Yeah. Before we went out and actually had the products made, we did like our first beta test and these are people that I found in Facebook groups. Um If you think back like 2019, it was kind of like when Facebook groups were kind of popping off and there were a lot of P MS hormone P MD D groups.

And I had just gone in there and asked people like, hey, I have P MD D. I started taking these supplements. They really worked for me and I want to see if they're going to help other people. Um Would you be like, ok, if I bought you supplements for three months and then you gave me feedback on how you felt. Oh, wow. Yeah. Cool. I love that as a strategy. Yeah. And so wait, did you do that for 50 people? Yes. Oh, my gosh. That's a lot. Yeah, it was kind of expensive. But I was like, this is like a great way for me to feel confident. I mean, there were studies out there on these nutrients but I was like, also needed to know and feel confident that this product was going to work. And the only way I could know that is if I gave these people nutrients and asked them how they felt, how did you get that kind of feedback without it being biased? Because obviously over that time, people would like what you're doing be like cheerleaders and supportive of you. So how would you make sure that you got the data without it being kind of like in your favor and like genuine?

You know what I mean? Yeah, I mean, it was not by any means a like a study. Um there was no control group, anything like that. So I don't know that I did control for biases. It, it was truly just like they had no reason not to say or like not to say that it wasn't working. So I don't know that I have a great answer. But, you know, 80% of those people saw a symptom improvement and for me, I was like, OK, I want to keep going tick of approval. We're here. We're going love it. That's so cool. I love that. So it's like July 2020 you're ready to launch. Are you doing anything in the lead up to launch? Yeah. So a lot of my strategy leading up to launch, we started some of our like social media channels. I mean, at the time, it was mostly just Instagram, tiktok wasn't really on the scene yet. Um And I had done a lot of pr outreach and this was just very scrappy me reaching out.

I had found a bunch of articles that of similar brands similar like founder story I um and just like hunted high and low for email addresses of the writers. Um and Forbes picked us up in July and that was like how we got our 1st 100 subscribers? Oh my gosh. Wow, that's cool. Like as in paying subscribers of the product? Yeah. Yeah. Wow, cool. And then you launch, you have 5000 units. What are you doing? Like what are you doing every day after work before? Work? Like what's your process as a full time worker and founder? The biggest thing for us early on and like continuing today has been our practitioner outreach. So it's really about reaching out to health coaches, nutritionists, dieticians, even like O B offices. So doctors offices and just letting them know what we're doing and inviting them to into our affiliate program ultimately.

So doctors office is not as much, that's more just like sending samples and info cards that they can have for their patients and trying to educate doctors on the importance of nutrition. And then on the nutritionist dietician side health coaches, we were really looking at, they're like what we call our influencers if you will. And so even micro, like if they have 1000 followers, but they are a health coach and that's like their business or like this product can be a great foundational multivitamin for your product. Like we'd send them samples, we'd try to get them on board with promoting it within their client base and within their communities. Um And that's been a really, really great program for us to date. Even. What kind of commission structure do you pay them per sale? Yeah. So we have two different programs in our affiliate, um two different tiers. So we call this practitioner program, our pro tier and they get 35%.

So they can offer 15% to their clientele and they receive 35%. So that first purchase, we're really thinking of that as like our advertising budget, right? But we have a guaranteed sale if we're paying someone and we see that if it's a practitioner that is, you know, suggesting the product, the LTV on that customer is way higher because it's from a really trusted source. Yeah, absolutely. And so it's just on the first sale, not the ongoing kind of subscription. Is that how it works? Correct. We, we do use it now as like we see our really strong affiliates, we'll go to them and do other partnerships with them. So we'll be like, ok, like this month we have this thing going on, we're gonna pay you this flat rate for these things. So we kind of use it as testing ground to see where like our conversions are really happening. Um And, and then go out and offer them more, especially if their consumers are sticking around for months on end, right? We want to continue to reward them.

So, yeah, absolutely. And so for you, like this is the in those early days that first, you know, year in business, that's primarily what you're doing to shift the needle and get sales. I also read, you were doing kind of like I G live every day and, and doing like kind of preorders and things like that. Was that shifting the needle or do you think that was more building community? Yeah, I'd say more in 2020 22 we did a lot of lives. There was one month where we did a bunch of lives and that was really, really big. We were doing like a P MD D Awareness Month movement. Um And I had just realized that what was resonating the most with our audience was truly like my story and hearing the story of other, other people who'd experienced similar things. And so to go out and try to find people who experience P MD D and just talk about this topic more because we've really honed in on that audience has been really powerful in growing our community by like, cross sharing with other people who we know are already talking about the topic.

Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I feel like for you, like, I guess there's something in parallel to the brand that's happening and that's your personal kind of growth explosion. And I don't know when this totally comes into the picture, but let's bring it up now. So I looked at your account recently and I was like, holy shit, you've kind of gone from, I don't even remember what, but like, I feel like the last time we spoke maybe last year, things were really different. And then now you're kind of creeping up towards 200,000 followers on Instagram and you have a lot of content on there. You've positioned yourself as an expert as someone, you know, who is an authority in the space. Can you kind of paint the picture from where you were last year where you are now? What's happened and then how that kind of has trickled in to build the brand. I kind of joke about this because at the beginning of this year, I was like, I'm manifesting a celebrity partner. OK? And then I was myself.

I was like, I think I just made myself the celebrity. Yeah, it's definitely you. So at January this January 2023 I only had 3000 followers personally. What currently? Right now it's April 17th. I have 100 and 80,000 plus. And people, oh my God, I love this. And when people are like, everything's too saturated, it's too hard to grow. You're like, wait, let me tell you. Yeah. Well, that, that's the insane part. And also people are like you paid for followers. And I was like, I didn't pay a dime like, no, no. So fall of last year, I started talking in my personal account just I turned 33 last fall and I started to notice a lot of changes in my body. At the same time, I was trying to conceive and was hyper aware of what was going on. My my cycles like was tracking everything was super anxious about the whole process, which is probably why I didn't conceive. But anyways just noticed a lot of changes in my body and I started to share about it.

And I started to dig back into a lot of the research that I'd been in before I started Maria. So that led me to like Doctor Stacey Sims and going back and reading her book and I realized I wasn't eating enough protein and my muscle mass was changing really drastically, which for women, this happens as we age, we, it's harder to hold on to muscle and muscle is an endocrine organ, which is crazy shit. I didn't know that. Yeah. So I started sharing about it. I watch a lot through your content. I should just say this is the like most I'd ever gotten engagement on my personal people were d ming me asking me questions. How are you eating more protein? What does it look like to eat more protein? What kind of protein? How much? And I was like, whoa, I'm literally one of those people. Yeah. But I mean, you're not alone like it just was such a hot moment. And then you started to look at like the well and good wellness trends for 2023. And they were all saying protein.

And I was like, oh my God, like this is like a thing. And so as people were asking me all these questions, I was like, OK, I just have to like, give the people what they want. This is what I'm learning about. I'm just going to share as I learn and I decided for January because the most common question was like, how are you eating? What are your meals look like? Show me what you're eating. I was like, I'm gonna show people what I'm eating every day for 30 days. And so I did this series for the next 30 days. You and I are eating meals with at least 30 g of protein because 30 g of protein is the muscle protein synthesis threshold for women. That's how much you have to eat to like, maintain your muscle in a meal. It's a lot. It is. But when you get used to it, it's like, it's not, it's really not. Um But it just went wild within the first week I was at like 10,000 followers and then like the second week it was like 50,000 followers and I was like, oh my God, what have I done?

I've created a, a master that is crazy. And OK, wait, let's just, let's just pause here. So you're creating the videos, they're like recipe videos, some exercise kind of videos. Are you like hash tagging? Are you doing all the best practice stuff as well? Or you're just kind of thinking about like the content and the audio. Are you on stories like every day? Like, let's just like, think about the posting schedule here for, for me, it was like really focused on posting daily. I was pretty much doing that for Maria before. But now all of a sudden it was on my personal page and I realized it was just growing way faster. So it was always real and it was the same format with the same intro, the intro I think was a huge part because you say for the next 30 days and people are like, great. I want more of this. I'm going to follow because I want to see the next 30 days easy. Um Like I said, protein, everyone wanted meals with more protein. So that was like easy. But I think the fact that it was recipes that's a highly saved post regardless, right?

You see a recipe you want to do, what do you do on Instagram? You save it and the algorithm love saves and shares. So people were sharing, people were saving, people were sharing the recipes to their stories. So I think that just like triggered this perfect storm on Instagram where they were like, this girl is sharing great content and they just kept pushing, oh my gosh, love it. So the 30 day challenge, where does that lead you at day? 30 anxious. And I'm thinking, what the hell do I do next? But I was like, OK, I have this audience who's primarily women. The age group is mostly it's like 24 to 45 which is right on the money for, you know, the brand as well. And I in a handful of the recipes also talked about the connection to your menstrual cycle with the foods I was using in the recipes. So I started to talk about cycle sinking your food within the protein recipes.

And those posts were getting a lot of engagement. And so I was like, people are into the hormone talk. I'm gonna do another 30 days where I focus on for the next 30 days. You and I are doing things to support our hormone health. And I was like, and that's where I started seeing your videos. And maybe also because I'd had this period thing that I posted, I must have been getting fed hormone hormone health stuff. And I started because I actually don't scroll on Instagram. I, I don't like um go through my feed but whatever the first video that pops up, I'll like, see it and you know, either share it to a friend and blah, blah, but your video was like constantly popping up as like my first like video in my feed and it would be like hormone health and I'd be like that's relevant to me. Let's, let's talk about it. OK. Right. Oh Wait, so wait just to pause here for a second. OK. So this happens in January. You get to however many, you know how many followers you have by end of Jan? Um I don't even remember probably like 70 K.

OK. Very high. Are you talking about Maria during this time at all? And what are you seeing the impact on the brand at that time? Yeah. So in my stories, I was like just sharing my life um and part of my everyday life is drinking the Maria P MS Elixir which is a drinkable or drinkable multivitamin. So I'd share that and I'd get questions, you know, people would be like, what is this like? You know, what does it do whatever and I'd do like the screenshot, like show the question answer the question kind of thing on stories um and was starting to notice some traction and some crossover. So in my mind, I'm kind of like, ok, great. I need to keep integrating this one. Like it's going to be great for the brand and two, it's very authentic to my story. So yeah, I started, I started to talk about it and integrate it for sure. As the hormone like month went on, it was very natural. Um Every day wasn't going to be about Maria.

I think there was like one or two days that it was incorporated into like a recipe or a smoothie or a Sleepy girl cocktail. And that was when, when I posted it started posting the Sleepy Girl cocktail, which is our product and tart cherry juice. And I also would post my whoop data. So my sleep data off of my whoop after taking that for a night. And it is insane, the deep sleep that I get after I drink this. And so people could see like it wasn't, you know, artificial. It was like truly my sleep data. The nights that I took that was insane. And everyone was like, what is a sleepy girl mock tail? I want, I need to know more like how do I do this? And I was like, OK, I want to get our sample packs into these people's hands and so I just like went on stories. It was literally I think like 10 30 at night, I was going to bed. I just mixed up my sleepy girl cocktail and I was like, if you order in the next 48 hours, I'm gonna refund initially. I said five orders in the next like 48 hours of our sample packs.

And all of a sudden we just started getting like so many sample pack orders. And I was like, oh, and I was like, I didn't even like, say I was gonna like, it wasn't free. People were still paying for it. I was like, use this code because I wanted to know who'd seen it. And so there was a specific code that got them like 10% off. And then we were, we got like over 100 orders in 48 hours for a sample pack sometime in the like next 24 hours. I was like, I'm upping it like I'm gonna refund 10 orders and it like went off again. And I was like, oh my God. And the conversion rate, I don't know the conversion rate like exactly from sample packs to subscribers. But so many of those people have now subscribed and they're in my D MS being like, I love this product. I use it every day. I'm so glad I found you. Like, it's helping my sleep, it's helping my energy. I love it so much. And I'm like, Wow, that was so cool. Oh my gosh, the power of social media still blows my mind.

And it's also really interesting to see that, you know, we're all out here being like it's tiktok, it's tiktok, it's tiktok. But for you, it's actually been Instagram in such a big way. I mean, you are also on tiktok. Yeah. So this whole time I cross posted, I actually would post on tiktok and make the content on tiktok and then download without the Watermark and post it on Instagram simultaneously. I was also posting on youtube shorts. So I syndicated across all three tiktok audience is up to like 70 K and then youtube audience dressed from shorts. Is that like over 700 subscribers? Oh, wow, that's so cool. Oh my gosh, here's a few questions. Hang on. How big is your team? Is it just you? It's just me. I do a lot of um outsourcing. So I have several VA s that I work with. I've of course read the four hour work week like six years ago and was like, yeah, I'm gonna outsource my entire life.

Um So I work with a lot of virtual assistants. Um I outsource a lot of things that don't light me up but day to day. It's really just me. Wow, goodness. OK. And how long do you spend creating content? And like, when does that fit into your flow? Because obviously now that's such a big priority for you and it works. So, what is your kind of like day to day look like? I wish I had more of a flow. I wouldn't say that it's the most organized, it's like organized chaos. Um But the amazing thing about the audience that I've created is they really like things that I do every day anyway. So the food I cook because I want to know about. Um So it's really easy for me to be like, ok, I'm just going to record what I'm making for dinner tonight and then I'll just throw it together while I'm sitting on the couch at the end of the day. Um Other content that people are really liking is voiceover from podcasts. I listen to, if I'm listening to a podcast and there's a quote or a moment in the recording where I'm like, whoa, mind blowing.

Everyone needs to know this fact, I'll just record the voiceover and then use video behind it. Um And so the content that I'm creating, it's not really time consuming. I would say. So I probably spend like maybe an hour every day doing personal content. And to me, I've always just really liked content creation. I have a creative brain. I used to work in production. Um I really like that stuff. So it's like kind of a hobby and then like stories and stuff. It's, it's not planned. It's literally just like, here's what I'm doing today. Welcome to my life. Here's what I'm up to. What I love about. Your story is like, you've really gotten to this point of, like, you've totally proven the concept. You've proven the product. I feel like I hear so many founders who are, like, ok, I launched my brand. I'm gonna hire an agency and run ads and I'm like, no, wait, no. Ah, that's painful to hear. Like there's so much work to be done before you jump into ads.

And you're the perfect example of someone who has kind of slowly been chipping away, chipping away, chipping away at what works. And then you've kind of hit the nail on the head with the organic content stuff, which is like, what we're all talking about, you need to be kind of narrowing down your storytelling skill set to get yourself to that point. I'm wondering for you, like, what is your mindset around scaling because now it seems like you're ready to kind of take it to that next level and for you, is that ads, is it more of a retail play? Is it partnerships? Is it? I don't know what something else. Yeah. I wish I had a super concrete answer for you. Um, God, it's so, it's so challenging and like you said, it's been like a slow grind. We're bootstrapped, um, gonna remain bootstrapped. But for us we do have a couple of channels that work really well. We do paid search and that is profitable for us again. We always have to focus on profitability because we're always looking to our next inventory purchase and as a bootstrap brand, like you have to be purchasing that inventory with cash and it, so we just have to be kind of piling that away and we can't be throwing money at channels that aren't profitable.

We've tried Facebook advertising three times and it just was not a situation where we would be able to make an inventory purchase again. Right. So do you mean like with an agency or you mean yourself? We tried with an agency once last fall? Um It was a terrible experience. I think we, I think we'll continue to try and test Facebook advertising. We have a really good LTV. Um And it's important to us that we do scale and that we can hit our growth levels a little bit. Um I'm gonna continue to lean on my audience and continue to kind of utilize that. I think also from my audience, it has allowed me a lot more connections to other people with larger audiences. So starting to think about some larger partnerships for sure. Um And then also we have a couple of new products that I think are gonna be really expansive and exciting one.

It's gonna grow our existing customer revenue and two, I think it'll bring in a lot of new people, especially a lot of people in my audience. Um And the amazing part about the products that we're creating right now is I'm bringing my audience along for the journey of the creation and really creating what they want and listening to them. So I think that part of that will be just create like a really high conversion rate with what I've created and will create a lot of growth for us because then all of a sudden we'll have higher A O V s um and allow us a lot more to try to like then like continue to figure out what's next. Yeah, absolutely. So for you, you said a moment ago, you know, you're bootstrapped, you don't have any plans to raise or that's not kind of like on your, on your mind at the moment, how are you approaching capital and like the working capital piece of an e-commerce business, we know it takes a lot of money. You've already said, you know, it was an $80,000 upfront order like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Now you've got multiple skews, you're launching new products. There's a lot going on here. How are you approaching the capital piece? And what are the levers you're using I E Shopify capital, Clear Co Clear Bank, um Way flyer. Like how are you utilizing those kinds of things to your advantage? We do have a line of credit which I'm really grateful for. And so that has allowed us um to kind of like offload some of the inventory stress. So uh that's just through our local bank. Um And we utilize that. I haven't done any of the like, Shopify capital or anything. I, I kind of personally think that that money is a little bit too expensive. Our line of credit like is really great and we know we like have a certain schedule, we pay it back on. I also implemented a profit first, like operating an accounting system within our business. And so twice a month, we deposit money into five different buckets and it really allows us like visually, ok, we're growing because this operational bucket is growing and that allows me to also look at it and be like, what else can I outsource, what else can I get off my plate?

So I can start to think about more about the growth and more about these new products. Um So I think for me, it was just like putting systems in place where I could really quickly and easily like twice a month, see where we were at financially and know what buckets were growing. And then also always be saving for that inventory because one of the buckets is inventory. I love the profit first method. Like how did you know how to do that? It's ok. Well, I working in e-commerce and being the marketing director at another company. It was also a startup actually, really exciting. They just sold last week. Um My gosh, that's exciting. Did you have equity? I didn't um, I know I was their first employee but they, they didn't give equity to anyone. Oh, ok. Right. It was like, oh my God, I was like, wait, what they didn't give to anyone, but I'm so excited for them and I'm really close to the founders. So it was a really cool experience. But I hope you still get some kind of epic bonus. If you're listening, owner of said company, treat your employees well, I don't think that will happen, but I learned so much working with them and I'm so grateful for my time there.

But through that process, I really learned a lot because as the director of marketing, I was saying, let's spend this much money and I also need this much inventory if we're going to spend that much money. So I had already kind of known like projecting and, you know, looking at marketing, marketing dollars and understanding how much product we would sell with those dollars and worked really closely with one of the founders on inventory projections from a marketing lens. So I felt like I had a really good understanding and that allowed me to then be like, ok, how much money am I gonna need for inventory? How do I know I'm gonna sell it? And again, it goes back to that piece of like, oh, I'm gonna get 5000 units of inventory in our first run. Do I think I can sell it? And like, I've been doing all these models for this company of like, of course, I can sell it because look, I'll just do these things. Were you like? So with these five buckets, were you doing that? Like from day one, you know, like you sold one order and you would put it into your buckets or was it more like you hit a certain revenue kind of threshold?

And you were like, ok, now I should start doing this. Yeah, it was really last year trying to make the decision of if I wanted to hire this agency because I was like, what role do we need to hit? Like where do we need to be to make this work? Um And do we have the operating dollars to pay the agency? Um And stuff had just kind of been a shit show when you're like a single woman show, inevitably balls are getting dropped left and right. And sometimes that was like looking at our books or looking at our bank accounts and I'd read. So there's a book called Profit First and then there's another book called Profit First for e-commerce. And I'd read both of them before, but my husband had actually, he's also an entrepreneur and he'd picked it back up and it was sitting on our coffee table and like one morning I was like flipping through it and I was like, oh yeah, like I have no even idea what's going on or how the money is getting allocated right now because I'm just making decisions on the fly.

So it was like last year that I really implemented this and was like, I need to get very strategic about saving and um knowing how much we have coming in, how much we can push out. Hm. Gosh. Yeah, I'm gonna check that book out. It sounds great. What is your key piece of advice that you like to share for other small business founders who are in the early stages of building their businesses? Ok. I have two things. One talk to your customers. So if you're like pre launch, talk to as many people as you can that you think are in your ideal audience and just ask them as many questions as you can. Um And then once you start selling product, have one on one conversations with your customers. I still to this day, everyone who's made three purchases with us gets an email to my calendar and can sign up for 15 minutes with me and I have one on one conversations with our customers all the time. Oh my God. I love that. That's great. So just talk to your customers or potential customers and ask them everything you can possibly think of.

I'm going to stop doing that today. If you want, you can D M me on Twitter and I'll send you the questions I ask. Shout out to Caitlin Bego for her clarity. Call cheat sheets. Because that's where I learned it all from. Oh my God. Please send it to me. And then number two is I think, just remember that you don't have to do it, how everyone else has done it. I thought that I would raise, I thought that I would be scaling really quickly and spending money on Facebook ads. And it turns out like I'm not doing that, the business is still profitable. Are we exploding as fast as like the people we're reading about in Forbes or hearing on podcasts? Like, no, we're, we're not, but it's still working and I'm going to stay lean and scrappy for as long as I can and I'm just doing it different and you can too. I love that. That is such great advice. And I also think like I've been having conversations with founders and in 2023 some founders that I've spoken to are like, yeah, I've turned off ads and realized that we're still profitable and it didn't make a difference.

Like you can be building a brand in 2023 without that playbook. As long as you're focusing on the content piece, authenticity, storytelling founder, you know, on the camera, talking about the stories, the the journey 100% that feels like the playbook that's really working at the moment for also sustainable long term success versus like crazy hockey stick growth and then run out of cash close tomorrow. Yeah. And the hockey stick growth like that can also make you go out of business, you know, like just as much as slow growth. So, I don't know. I'm, I'm hoping it's sustainable and that we do have our pop off moment at some point, but it's also like being a first time founder, I'm like, I'm learning so much and I think if we grew really quickly, I would freak out. Mhm. Mhm. Gosh, I have loved this chat. This was so informative and I feel like our audience is going to get so much out of it.

Hey, it's June here. Thanks for listening to this amazing episode of the female startup club podcast. If you're a fan of the show and want even more of the good stuff, I'd recommend checking out female startup club dot com where you can subscribe to our free newsletter. We send it out weekly covering female founder, business news insights and learnings in D to C and interesting business resources. And if you're a founder, building an e-commerce brand, you can join our private network of entrepreneurs called hype club at female startup club dot com forward slash hype club. We have guests from the show joining us for intimate, ask me any things, expert workshops and a group of totally amazing like minded women building the future of DC brands. As always, please do subscribe, rate and review the show and post your favorite episodes to Instagram stories. I am beyond grateful when you do that.

Marea Wellness is the Small Business doing $50k in monthly rev, with no paid ad spend. Monica Grohne breaks down her strategy (Part 1)
Marea Wellness is the Small Business doing $50k in monthly rev, with no paid ad spend. Monica Grohne breaks down her strategy (Part 1)
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