Bart: [00:00:00] Kevin, thanks for joining us today.
[00:00:01] Kevin: [00:00:01] I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:03] Bart: [00:00:03] Absolutely. And I see you’ve got your hat on. Is it cold where you are?
[00:00:07] Kevin: [00:00:07] It is, yeah. We’re in Connecticut. We’re on our, our farm here, and, uh, it’s about 40 degrees today, so it’s not super cold, but it’s a. It’s cold enough to where it
[00:00:18] Bart: [00:00:18] held enough.
[00:00:18] Yeah. So Kevin, before you started Anne Marie skincare, you found success on YouTube. You had a channel, and I, I’m wondering if even before we talk about that, if we can go back even a little further, what were you doing before you started a YouTube channel?
[00:00:34] Kevin: [00:00:34] Well, my wife Ann Marie and I were personal trainers.
[00:00:37] We had. You know, had an interest in fitness. She was an athletic trainer at a division one school, and I’d always had a strong interest in fitness and running and, and weightlifting. And so we decided to one point, we sat down and I don’t know what it was, and we were looking at our finances and. As an athletic trainer, I looked at, you know, the hours she was working in, the money she was making.
[00:00:58] I said, you know, I think you’re making about $3 an hour. And she was like, what? And so obviously that kind of putting that perspective, it kind of changed a little bit of what we were thinking about. And so we’d, we, I was working with a real estate investment companies, so just like fixing up houses and running the project management of that, which I was.
[00:01:18] Absolutely horrible at, I think every project lost money. So they were glad to see me go. And uh, and so we, we decided to start personal training. And so we, we started an in home personal training business. And luckily at that time, because of the real estate investment. I known a little bit about like Google ad words and a local Google search, and that’s kind of how we started to get a lot of our clients.
[00:01:44] We decided that we weren’t going to use the gym route. We were going to actually travel to people’s homes. And so I just basically advertise, know every single town in Connecticut that we were willing to travel to with personal trainer at the end. So like, you know, Fairfield, personal trainer, Brookfield personal trainer, Greenwich personal trainer, uh, with Connecticut, obviously there with geo-targeting.
[00:02:03] And, um. And that’s how we started, and then we started to get leads and that’s kind of how it all began. What year was this? Oh my gosh, this must be 2005. 2006 okay. So even before that,
[00:02:15] Bart: [00:02:15] pretty early, there wasn’t a lot of social media or anything like,
[00:02:19] Kevin: [00:02:19] Oh yeah, I can’t even imagine if you know the cost per lead, um, at that point was somewhere between a dollar to $2.
[00:02:26] I can’t even imagine what it’s like. Now, like in particularly in this area or any area where we’re personal training would be, would be highly profitable.
[00:02:34] Bart: [00:02:34] Yeah. Interesting. So it was actually, how many years did you do that before you kind of started YouTube as a channel for yourself?
[00:02:41] Kevin: [00:02:41] Yeah, I did it for a couple of years and then transitioned my clients to Marie.
[00:02:46] And, uh, I met a guy here in Connecticut named Ryan Lee, who was doing business, uh, you know, kind of online business advice for personal trainers. And so we went to a couple of his conferences and he was like, you got to start blogging. You know, you got to write an ebook. And so I, I drank the Koolaid. And is that even cool to say anymore?
[00:03:08] I don’t even know. That’s probably not really cool to say. Um, so I’ll insert another analogy. And, um, and I, uh, and I just, I went for it. And so I started blogging and I was up all night, you know, just writing blog posts. And this is around 2007, I think. And that was just my whole thing. And you know, Anne Marie was, was working crazy hours with all the, all the clients that she had.
[00:03:30] Know, inherited and including her own client load. And she was kind of looking at me like, saying, what are you doing? You’re not making any money. And I was like, trust me, this will eventually something will eventually happen. I mean, Ryan says so and so, uh, you know, so we, we kept at it. And, um,
[00:03:46] Bart: [00:03:46] so you were creating content while she was doing actual coaching?
[00:03:50] Kevin: [00:03:50] That’s correct, yeah.
[00:03:51] Bart: [00:03:51] Yeah. And you were like, Hey, this content based on what Ryan is teaching me is going to result in us having what? Exactly? More leads for personal coaching or
[00:04:01] Kevin: [00:04:01] no, this, this was, this was definitely a, a bigger play. You know, we felt like we had a strong message. We were doing functional fitness back then, body weight training, you know, a lot of the popular things now.
[00:04:11] And we just felt that that was the way that. You know, you should be working out, you know, not like, you know, back in, uh, biceps and chest and Tris and maybe do a leg day, um, to not look like a complete triangle, you know, so like, all that sort of stuff was our, you know, it was kind of our thing. So we felt like we, people need to get this.
[00:04:31] And so we, we came out, eventually, I wrote an ebook. It turned into a book called the busy person’s fitness solution. Please don’t buy it. Um, actually, I don’t know. I haven’t looked at it in awhile, but, you know, it was just a. It was a stab at it, trying to do something cool and spread a message. And
[00:04:47] Bart: [00:04:47] is that self-published?
[00:04:48] Kevin: [00:04:48] Yeah. Yeah. We self published a lot of, but we’d probably self publish six or seven books in a period of a me four years.
[00:04:56] Bart: [00:04:56] I don’t know. I bet if you went back and looked at that first one, you’d be like, Oh, this is actually pretty good. You know, you’d probably look at it and you’re like, Oh, it was my first one.
[00:05:04] Not that great.
[00:05:04] Kevin: [00:05:04] I dunno. I’ll do it after and then rebrand it
[00:05:09] Bart: [00:05:09] updated a little bit. Yeah. Rerelease
[00:05:11] Kevin: [00:05:11] the flip phone on the cover. No, no, not anymore.
[00:05:16] Bart: [00:05:16] Okay, so you were looking to monetize in a different way or a different revenue model through online content creation?
[00:05:23] Kevin: [00:05:23] That’s correct.
[00:05:24] Bart: [00:05:24] Yeah, and I’m trying to remember when YouTube was born.
[00:05:28] I’m pretty sure it was born in the night it was born before. It was what, 2006 or seven somewhere in that range,
[00:05:35] Kevin: [00:05:35] I think. I think we’ve got five, but like, yeah, some somewhere in there. And we started doing YouTube videos around 2008 or 2009 I mean, the good news is that the digital history is there. You know, you just go back and look at the first one, but, but I believe it was around 2008.
[00:05:48] Maybe between 2008, 2009 got it.
[00:05:51] Bart: [00:05:51] Hmm. Okay. And, and how did it go? Like, did it take a while to get any traction?
[00:05:55] Kevin: [00:05:55] Well, what, what happened is that we started to do what is now known as the summit model. The online summit model, which you may or may not know, or your listeners may not know, is where you gather a bunch of experts and have them speak over a certain period of time.
[00:06:10] And then, uh, you know, charge for the transcripts and the audio recordings of that. We did that. And. 2007, 2008. Um, I think we did maybe seven or eight of those, one of the first on the, on the map to actually start doing those. And, uh, and so that started to build our readership in our following. And that allowed us to actually, I guess, for people to, for us to become some sort of influencer.
[00:06:29] You know, I imagine it would’ve been really hard if we had just continued to publish videos without finding some sort of. Existing audience that would listen.
[00:06:37] Bart: [00:06:37] Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s also called a virtual summit. Right? Currently it’s virtual summits. And that worked out pretty well.
[00:06:44] Kevin: [00:06:44] It did, yeah. It pretty much launched the, the, the show, the Renegade health show.
[00:06:48] Um, you know, at that time we were pretty strong, uh, vegan, raw food, plant based diet people. Um, we’ve since changed that, but you know, we stuck strong to that for a long time and had a pretty loyal following where we were able to, not only blog, but travel around the. The country in an RV for two and a half years, uh, interviewing all different types of health experts, natural health experts, uh, diet gurus, all that sort of stuff.
[00:07:13] Um, it allowed us to source products that we put under our own brand, sell on our online store. Uh, publish more programs with doctors and practitioners that we particularly liked. And so it, it helped us, you know, have a pretty successful blog, um, in a matter of really only a year or so, I think, don’t forget the, you know, the sitting at the computer and thinking that I was doing nothing.
[00:07:36] Time to, you know, no success overnight.
[00:07:40] Bart: [00:07:40] I’m sure you’re not alone. I think that a lot of people were trying to figure out, how do I use this to build a business or do something. Yeah, and it takes a while. It’s not a one day thing.
[00:07:50] Kevin: [00:07:50] No, not at all.
[00:07:51] Bart: [00:07:51] But you, you grew something. You grew the Renegade health show to a fair amount of.
[00:07:58] Kevin: [00:07:58] Yeah. I mean, at the time, I don’t know how long, how big the email list was. Maybe it was over 100,000 people and I haven’t looked at YouTube in awhile. Um, I don’t know how many views there are there, but you know, it kind of pales in comparison to some of the, you know, the amazing influencers now.
[00:08:12] I mean, you know, YouTube is ripe with them and there’s so many. Good people doing good stuff, but back then, you know, it was a thing. Yeah.
[00:08:20] Bart: [00:08:20] Yeah. And okay, so this is kind of where the story gets into what you’re doing now, right? Like you. Ah, well let’s hear it from your own mouth. What, uh, what happened? How did you think to start Anne Marie skincare?
[00:08:33] Kevin: [00:08:33] So we were, you know, promoting. All different types of cool products that, that we really loved and used and our readers, mainly female, cause that’s just tends to be, you know, what the what the health audiences online they were asking and re, you know, that’s great Kevin. You know, shut up. What does, what does N reuse on our skin?
[00:08:51] You know, cause we want to know cause cause we’re, we’re using products and we don’t know if they’re cool. And so. She went into the bathroom cabinet and looked at all the stuff and brought it out, and we looked at it together and we’re just like, wow, this is, we can’t recommend this stuff. So we went on our own personal journey trying to find a good brand that that we could really represent and put our names behind.
[00:09:12] And that increasingly became a challenge. We really had trouble finding something that we could really get behind, and at that point we looked at each other and said, Hey, maybe we should just try to. Make one ourselves. And we talked to various formulators and, and what we found out that happens a lot in this industry is that what you get is not necessarily what is on the label.
[00:09:34] So even from formulators, I mean, you know, I can tell stories about formulating a shampoo and, and getting it and getting the bottles ready and getting all the stuff together and then smelling it again, saying, you know, this doesn’t seem right. And I remember calling the woman that formulated it, and Kenny was saying like, well, what’s the ingredient list?
[00:09:51] And she says, you have it. And I said, well, no, but what’s really the ingredients list? And she’s like, but you have it. And I said, none of what’s really in it. And then she faxes over this ingredient list that is nearly 70% different than what she sent over email the first time. Excluding, like egregious things like emulsifying wax and things that like, you know, yeah.
[00:10:11] Fragrance and things that, you know, we’re totally against. So, I mean that it just became, you know, maddening. And, and the activists that we were, you know, it just made us even stronger and more willing to, to keep looking. And finally, Ann Marie found a product in a small spa in Patagonia, Arizona that she just absolutely loved.
[00:10:30] The minute she tried it, she just was blown away. And we contacted the owner and we’re like, Hey, you know, and again, we still didn’t want to create her own company. We just wanted to like, you know, we would have been better just to sell something in our, in our store. It was easier. It was a lot easier, you know, like even at most maybe private label.
[00:10:49] And, um, she, she was like, Emory’s like, well, can we sell your products in our store? And she’s like. No, I only sell the spas. And we’re like, Oh man, you know? And so we were a little dejected and we did a video about it, the products. Anyway, and then about a week later, I was like, you know what? I think that these products are so special.
[00:11:07] We should, we should talk to her again. So we went back to bunny and her name is bunny, and we went back to her and we’re like, look. Will you work with us to formulate a, a new line? And she’s like, yeah, I saw your video. Like, I think you guys have a good heart around this, and, and, sure. Uh, and so that, that was the start of, you know, now, almost 11 year relationship with her.
[00:11:25] She’s a part owner in the business now. Oh, cool.
[00:11:27] Bart: [00:11:27] You know, what struck me as interesting at the beginning of that story was that it was really your readers or your, your audience that asks the question, what skincare does Ann Marie use is skincare solutions. It sounds like there were some in your bathrooms and you know, you looked at them, but you hadn’t really thought about.
[00:11:47] All the different things and what, what would it mean to get behind something? How would that change your use of it? Or how would that change what you’re willing to use? I guess that’s, that’s interesting.
[00:11:57] Kevin: [00:11:57] Yeah. I mean, we had a reputation, right? You know, we were talking about super pure diet, super pure food, whether you agree with it or not, you know, we, we had our, our standards and then they weren’t.
[00:12:09] To be compromised and the, you know, like everything, you know, I’m sure that you have friends and everyone’s listening as friends who are like super staunched about one thing, and then, you know, they’re doing something else over on the other side and you’re just like, wait a minute, this is like, this is so crazy.
[00:12:25] You know? Like, you’re, you’re super, you know, into climate change and you have a suburban, you know what I mean? But you know what I mean? But, but, but you’re doing all the things, you know what I mean? Like, or better exams, like single use, you know, like single use, pajamas, suburban, you know what I mean? We all do it.
[00:12:39] And so it’s not, there’s no shame in it. But yeah. So that’s where we were. And I’m sure you, if you came to my house, you’d find things like that. Now what, why are you doing
[00:12:47] Bart: [00:12:47] that? Yeah, absolutely. And, and. Online can be a little one dimensional, right? They see one dimension, and that’s the dimension that you present at the end of the day.
[00:12:57] That’s not the full picture of who someone is and everything that they do. So yeah, and it makes total sense that maybe, you know, you started with certain things and you started moving toward kind of, Hey, we have an opinion about, you know, these types of like workouts versus these and other things that you were putting out there, but it hadn’t yet gotten to skincare.
[00:13:17] And then they were like, Hey. What about skincare? And so you figured it out for them. I liked that. One of the reasons I pointed that out is because I, I’ve, have you read the book content inc or heard of it?
[00:13:27] Kevin: [00:13:27] I have not. I probably should.
[00:13:29] Bart: [00:13:29] So you’re a, you’re a living example of the strategy that’s described in content inc and you did it organically and a lot based on, it sounds like what you learned from Ryan Lee.
[00:13:40] But, um, the, the basic idea is. You start putting content out there and you start to gather an audience and you really listen to that audience and you, you know, track down the answers to those questions. And over time you really understand them and what their needs are. And you develop products and services based on that understanding.
[00:14:00] So it kind of flips at us, you know, the traditional. Business creation model of like, Hey, I’ve got a great idea. I’ll go spend a bunch of time building a product or, or preparing the service, and then I put it out there for the world and see who bites and it, you know, it’s, it’s the other way.
[00:14:17] Kevin: [00:14:17] Well, we did a lot of that too in the beginning.
[00:14:19] Like the busy person’s fitness solution, busy people aren’t asking for fitness solutions. They just want like a trainer to come.
[00:14:28] Yes, you’re absolutely right. We do it now. Every day, all day. We have a retention team who calls, uh, our insiders, our subscription customers, and ask them questions. You know, what products do you want to see? What products don’t you like? You know, what other products are you using? So we can, we can get that Intel so we can make our own decisions.
[00:14:46] We send out surveys. Uh, to our customers after they’ve purchased three times that asked, you know, what products do you want to see? Oh, what other products are you using? Um, we do send products after like one time, a survey after one time, but those generally are like, you know, it’s either like, I love it or, or it’s too expensive, or, you know what I mean?
[00:15:04] So those are not really as a juicy, right. But yeah, we’re doing it all the time. Just asking. And, you know, shampoo and conditioner was one of the hardest ones. Yeah. I mentioned at the beginning we tried it and it didn’t, it didn’t launch and it took us 10 years to finally come out with one that, that we really liked, but our customers were asking about that since like day three.
[00:15:23] Bart: [00:15:23] Yeah. Interesting. Why did it take so long with shampoo and conditioner?
[00:15:27] Kevin: [00:15:27] Natural shampoo is super hard because it’s either super expensive and. Effective or super cheap and ineffective. Yeah. And so like, you kind of have to find that effective and, uh, and affordable. So, and I, I wouldn’t say our, our shampoo is like, is super low.
[00:15:43] Um, but it’s, but it’s not like crazy expensive. So it’s, it’s, it’s been, it’s been quite a challenge for sure.
[00:15:49] Bart: [00:15:49] Did it cost a lot to get this up and running when you first started developing products with bunny? You know,
[00:15:54] Kevin: [00:15:54] it. Didn’t, because of how we, we kind of structured the deal. We kind of let it, let it be loose and I don’t know if I would ever recommend to do it this way to anyone else because you know, we’ve had various deals that have gone wrong doing it this way, but it was just, it was just very loose.
[00:16:10] We’re kind of looking at all the products and we’re like, what products can we start with? She would come up with some ideas at that point. Now we control, you know, most of the formulation. You know, ideas and all that. But at that point, she was, she was by far the expert over us. And then we’d say, all right, let’s, let’s see how they sell.
[00:16:26] And then, you know, it got to a point where we probably had about 15 formulas that were 15 skews that were on the market, and we had to button up our contracts and all that. And so we made a deal where we would pay her. I don’t know. I think it was like 75 grand for, for all the, the work she had done. And you know, as I was presenting it to her, I was like, you know what?
[00:16:45] Like this doesn’t feel right. And she’s like, okay, and I’ll ask you like, what does feel right? I’m like, well, let me call you back. And so I went to Ann Marie and, and kind of chatted about it and we went back and we gave her an equity deal instead. And that’s been really great for both of us because, um, you know, she’s invested in the growth of the company and we don’t have to pay.
[00:17:01] Upfront fees for product development on, on her side, at least we did for other vendors, but not for her. So it’s,
[00:17:08] Bart: [00:17:08] you know, potentially more expensive to you in the long run, but also potentially bring in more value in the long run for having a great partner that helps you to really grow and build the business in the right way.
[00:17:18] Kevin: [00:17:18] Absolutely.
[00:17:19] Bart: [00:17:19] Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Um, so you didn’t get any initial funding.
[00:17:23] Kevin: [00:17:23] We got some friends and family. Maybe three or four years in.
[00:17:27] Bart: [00:17:27] Okay. And that’s when you want it to scale things up.
[00:17:30] Kevin: [00:17:30] We, we’d started to scale a little bit. We just, you know, with a consumer good business, there’s always cash flow is inventory.
[00:17:38] Yeah. I mean, you know, you can look at the bank account and have a balance sheet. You look at the bank account and you’re like, wow, we’ve got like 30 K and they look at the inventory. You’re like, wow, we got 1.8 million. Oh man. So you always, you always end up playing that game. And the challenge as you get bigger, it’s in the beginning it’s like a five or 10 K swing and like you’re freaking out because you’ve never really had to spend that much money or, or you know what I mean?
[00:18:05] Like come up with that money and now it’s like, now it’s a lot bigger than that. And I guess you get used to it. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens when it’s 100 million or whatever.
[00:18:14] Bart: [00:18:14] Yeah, I like those numbers. Yeah. You’re thinking big. So tell me, you said nine years or 11 years in. You’re 11 years in.
[00:18:22] Kevin: [00:18:22] It was, it was 10 years last year.
[00:18:23] So this is 10 and you know. Okay.
[00:18:25] Bart: [00:18:25] So that’s a good amount of time. Tell us a little bit about like those early days you had some traction with your YouTube channel, you were able to, to get some, and you even got the idea from your audience, but you know, what was it like? What were some of the challenges?
[00:18:41] What’s the story there?
[00:18:42] Kevin: [00:18:42] Well, I think there was probably. Uh, e-commerce management, self confidence issue that we had for a minute because we were traveling around in an RV. We living this Lake, modern, hippie, natural health kind of lifestyle. And, and we didn’t really want to settle anywhere. So we hired a management team that was kind of like getting, they were getting off the ground for themselves too.
[00:19:04] And it worked in the beginning, but then we realized we were. You know, a lot of the money that we were making was going straight to them. And so we did that just out of lack of confidence that we could run any eCommerce business, uh, because we were getting tired of just doing the online store for Renegade health.
[00:19:22] And that turned out bad. And we actually were forced to settle down and figure it out because otherwise the business probably would have gone under. And so, you know, we kind of, we kinda got all that situated. We started to hire a small team. We’ve got our, our office in Berkeley. Uh, at the time. And then we started to learn all the challenges of, of hiring and letting go of, and you know, that’s that sort of side of the business, which again, is still the hardest part for me.
[00:19:49] I don’t, I don’t really like hiring people in it, but I know the value that they can provide, but also really, really don’t like firing people because I. I really tend to, like most people I come in contact with. So that’s still a challenge. But the business was able to grow, luckily by our connections as we had been traveling around in the RV.
[00:20:08] So, you know, we were interviewing people, we were doing them a solid by introducing them to our audience. And we started to realize that they were willing to help us, you know, as we started to grow. So a lot of our initial business, and even to today, a lot of our business is driven by influencers. About.
[00:20:24] You know, I don’t know what it was then, but, but even today, I think I just saw the report recently, 28% of our sales last year was due to, uh, influencers in health and natural health and some beauty. So, so that’s, that’s been, you know, that relationship capital, I don’t even like to call it relationship capital.
[00:20:41] I mean, it’s just, that’s what the word people know. The friendships that we’ve made over time have really. You know, helped us kind of build what we have now.
[00:20:50] Bart: [00:20:50] Okay. So that helped with your growth quite a bit. Is influencers, and are you saying that basically in the beginning you were, um, you’re providing them with product and they were sharing it, or how did that kind of relationship work?
[00:21:03] Kevin: [00:21:03] We did an affiliate type deal, so they would make a, a percentage of, of sales over a certain period of time. Okay.
[00:21:10] Bart: [00:21:10] Got it. Yeah. And it worked for them, just like you were trying to do in the beginning, you were just trying to find a product that you could get behind and, uh, create a relationship of some sort.
[00:21:20] Yeah. Got it. And it
[00:21:22] Kevin: [00:21:22] works. And the cool thing about, you know, we went to a lot of health authors and, and the cool thing is that at that time. You know, back in 2010 ish, 2011 no one really had a skincare product that they could recommend. And so we, we kind of wear this like, secondary affiliate offer. So like, you know, generally what would happen, you know, someone write a diet book and then, you know, another person would write a diet book and they’d be like, Hey, you know, we promote my diet.
[00:21:49] And then the other person would say, well. Yeah. But you know, you recommend beef and, and I only recommend pork. You know, it’s like in all the other stuff’s the same, like all the same vegetables, all the same, you know, whatever. Like the recipes are almost the same. But like when, as beef, when has pork and suddenly like, you know, you can’t promote each other.
[00:22:08] So there was that, there was always that sort of like, weird. Mike jockey and going back and forth like, you know, my diet is holier than mouse, and we were able to just kind of slip in there and be like, Hey, well we’ve got skincare and there and it’s really awesome, and the product’s great and it’s super healthy.
[00:22:21] And they’re just like, yeah, that works. You know? So there was, there was really no, uh, it was that, that secondary, second tier kind of offer, which was, which was non abrasive. I guess it would
[00:22:31] Bart: [00:22:31] be that it was complimentary to other offerings.
[00:22:34] Kevin: [00:22:34] Exactly.
[00:22:35] Bart: [00:22:35] You could partner and collaborate easier. Yeah. Yeah. That’s fantastic.
[00:22:38] Okay. So talk a little bit, you kind of glossed over. I feel like, you know, not in a negative way, but it sounds like hiring and firing has been a thing. Um, can you speak to that just a little bit? Like what were some of the challenges there and how do you avoid it now?
[00:22:56] Kevin: [00:22:56] Well, one of the challenges for me was probably trust.
[00:23:00] Um, you know, letting go of things that I knew about or thought I knew about. Two people that that I didn’t know or didn’t trust or didn’t show a track record of really doing a job. And in some ways there’s, there’s a part of me that’s like, yeah, you know, maybe, maybe that was okay, or maybe I just haven’t gotten over it.
[00:23:19] You know, I don’t know which one, because what we were doing was, was new ish. I mean, we were doing direct to consumer e-commerce, you know, which, which takes a little bit of. You know, back in 2000 and whatever, 2010 2011 it was happening. But you know, we were, we were kind of doing this, doing it differently, you know, direct response, marketing, you know, landing pages, you know, running ads to certain things.
[00:23:43] Also, I mean, you know, we were doing it and so it was hard for us to find people who kind of knew direct response, but also. New eCommerce and also new, like just not even e-commerce, but just the product business, you know, and a lot of the product marketing product people were like, you know, they were doing retail sales to stores and all that sort of stuff.
[00:24:03] So she was just kind of a weird time. And,
[00:24:06] Bart: [00:24:06] and so was actually trying to find the people with the right skills and experience to be able to fit into your business.
[00:24:13] Kevin: [00:24:13] Absolutely. Yeah. And what usually ended up happening, which we’ve learned doesn’t work. Oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to give random percentages, but works less than, than more is bringing someone on and then taking the time to really train them to understand what’s happening.
[00:24:30] It does work in certain circumstances and those people, you know, we still have ’em in there and they’re awesome team members. But for the most part, you know, we, we realized even just recently, maybe in the last three or four years, that we’re kind of, for the most part, we’re done with a lot of the training and the, and the grooming.
[00:24:48] You know, we don’t really want to be a farm system anymore. We really want to bring in pros who can hit the ground running on. On day one. Yeah. That’s made it a lot easier on, on our team, our director of marketing, our COO. That’s really been a lot easier for sure.
[00:25:04] Bart: [00:25:04] Yeah, there’s pros and cons to both routes.
[00:25:07] It is nice to have people come in, they really just know what they’re doing.
[00:25:11] Kevin: [00:25:11] Yeah. And as I say that, I mean, you know, we have a couple of people who are, you know, ground level team members that now have been promoted as well. So like, I don’t know both.
[00:25:22] Bart: [00:25:22] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And maybe, maybe that’s the right answer.
[00:25:26] In general, this is a balance. You want people to have been there a while, but also you’d like to be able to plug and play.
[00:25:32] Kevin: [00:25:32] Yeah. And the culture, I mean, the culture thing is tough too, because like we’re, we’re like adamant about our culture. We have culture documents and, and we, we do really strong culture activities and all that sort of thing.
[00:25:44] And you know, unfortunately with culture, you know, when you hire culture first, which we always do sometimes, you know, you end up getting someone who may not like fully perform. And then when you’re in that situation, that becomes really super tough. Yeah. You know, when they’ve kind of seen their life cycle within the company and, uh, you know, what do you do then?
[00:26:08] I mean, we, we tend to offer alternative, um, you know, opportunities in the company if there are, but at the same time, like, you know, not everyone feels good about that. You know, uh, it’s, it’s the best we can do, but we also offer something called happiness conversation, which they can sit down with us and, and we can work through some options for them.
[00:26:26] You know, we’ve helped place, um, other people after they’ve worked with us and, and that sort of thing. So, I mean, it’s the best we can do. It’s, you know, again, I don’t like any of it, but it just. It just is it in a perfect world, everyone would just get along and everything would be cool and everyone work hard, you know?
[00:26:40] Bart: [00:26:40] Yeah. It’s hard when that isn’t the case though. So are you just direct to consumer or do you distribute through other channels as well?
[00:26:48] Kevin: [00:26:48] 97% direct to consumer. Well,
[00:26:50] Bart: [00:26:50] yeah, and others are like. Small boutiques or,
[00:26:54] Kevin: [00:26:54] yeah, this is about 80 little wholesale, 80 wholesale, small, small accounts. Okay, cool.
[00:27:00] Bart: [00:27:00] And why did you choose to do it that way versus like going to Sephora or, you know, some other business competitive.
[00:27:07] Kevin: [00:27:07] We’re able to like look at all our data, know our customer, you know, make decisions based off all of that information that we have. And I just never . I don’t say never now, but up until maybe a year or so ago, I just never wanted to, to be involved in that competitive type business. When you look at getting a product to, you know, a buyer in a regional Sephora versus, you know, selling one off.
[00:27:33] To, you know, hundreds of clients or customers. I’d rather do the one off to hundreds of customers because at least I can get in their inbox, you know, and their inboxes are flooded, but not, but not like the buyer, Sephora, you know what I mean? Like they’re, they’re getting, they’re getting bombarded by, you know, I don’t know how many dozens and dozens of people trying to sell their product, you know, each advertising that it’s better than the next.
[00:27:55] So, but we can continue to tell our story. To our customers. So, so to me that was, that was cool. I’m not opposed to growing our retail presence, but we just, you know, it’s not my specialty. So we’d have to hire some more people will do it.
[00:28:07] Bart: [00:28:07] The way you describe it almost, it’s actually interesting, I haven’t thought of it this way in the past, but direct to consumer brands are often very community focused.
[00:28:17] They really understand the customer. And. They really, you know, kind of own that relationship firsthand. Whereas if you go to other channels, you start to give that up a little and potentially not just like, it would be convenient for some of your customers to just be able to buy there at times, you know, when they’re already at a shopping mall or whatever, if that’s still a thing, shopping malls, but at the same time.
[00:28:42] It starts to be like you say, one among many products sitting there and you potentially start to have this kind of second level. Obviously it’s second level distribution, but relationship as well. Like people might just like buy it, try it out, and they never actually know the Anne Marie skincare story.
[00:28:59] They never really, you know, learn about Kevin and Rachel and bunny and all of that. I think there’s something there that’s, that’s really interesting. You maybe sacrifice a little bit of that to scale. Or maybe in this case, you don’t have to because most of your customers are already online and, and, uh, you know, able to kind of find you through the channels that you have found.
[00:29:20] Kevin: [00:29:20] What solidified it for me was, was, were two statistics, and I’m gonna butcher one, but one I know for sure is that, you know, anytime we would tell people that we have an organic skincare company, they’d be like, you gotta be in whole foods. And, and I was just like, gotta be hopeful. It’s, and I was questioning it and I read it.
[00:29:37] It was like a study from maybe new hope or something like that. They’re like the trade association that does the expo West. And it was like 11% of people who go into whole foods go into the, uh, go into the personal care and beauty aisle. And I was just like, Whoa. I’m just like, that’s crazy. I mean, obviously they’re passionate about it.
[00:29:54] But then I was thinking like, well, what happens there? You know, how many products are in there? And then is there an advocate for that product? Our product in that store? I mean, you have to get to the person, you have to get the person who’s on the ground. And that just seemed overwhelming. It was just like, wait, no, no, no, no.
[00:30:10] You know, and so our whole strategy or philosophy, I don’t even know if it’s a strategy. It’s like, let’s build this to critical mass. Where. If we do get in the stores, then people will know who we are and then they will buy it just because they already know. And I don’t know if we’re there yet, but you know, I’m willing to experiment with, with some places where we can, you know, train the team, you know?
[00:30:33] And, and we’ve done it with some of our smaller, and I don’t mean smaller in terms of like, you know, their business size, but just some of the smaller places that we’re in. Not the whole foods, not the forests or the credo and all that sort of stuff. We’re training them and then they promote the products and you know, they’ve been wholesalers for for years cause we don’t want them to fail either.
[00:30:54] We don’t want them to buy our products and then no fall off. I mean, that’s not a good relationship.
[00:30:58] Bart: [00:30:58] So can you give us a sense of the size of Ann Marie skincare? Like you’ve grown over the last 10 years? Our direct to consumer pretty much.
[00:31:08] Kevin: [00:31:08] How have you been? We close out last year over over 12 million.
[00:31:11] Bart: [00:31:11] Well that’s fantastic. And all without any real funding. Yeah, that’s awesome.
[00:31:17] Kevin: [00:31:17] And, and it’s good. I mean, it’s some, some years are great and some years, you know, we’d make mistakes. Yeah.
[00:31:23] Bart: [00:31:23] Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t have picked anything. Otherwise. You’re a business. Any make or break mistakes or challenges that you’ve had that are like, Holy cow, we don’t get through this.
[00:31:34] Kevin: [00:31:34] I mean, the most, the most like podcasts, like friendly is, is when we got hacked and, and, uh, someone from, uh, Nigeria took a $212,000 out of our bank account over a weekend. Um, yeah, Rachel, our COO came up to me on Monday and she’s like, did you write. A whole bunch of checks. And I was like, no. It was like over the weekend, like, no.
[00:31:58] And she’s like, well, the money’s gone. And I’m like, what do you mean? And so we looked in and we saw, you know, all these checks gone and we call it the bank. We did all the things. And I was like, Oh, like who could have done this? And I looked at, and I asked the bank for the IP addresses that were logging in, and they did a good job of masking.
[00:32:15] You know a lot of them until I found one that was just like straight up, you know, uh, is it logos? I think it’s logos, Nigeria. And I was like, guys, like, could you just just this some allows this, like, it’s okay if your customers from there, but like, you know, straight up like. You know, all Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley, Berkeley, you know, where, where’s the alarm?
[00:32:39] I mean, even if it was in the Amsterdam or, or anywhere else, you know what I mean? It was a mess. That’s crazy.
[00:32:46] Bart: [00:32:46] So did you just lose it or did they
[00:32:49] Kevin: [00:32:49] had to, we had to go multiple channels to figure it out. We eventually made whole, but, um. Yeah, it was, it was a pain. It was, it was total, total stress. But what, what it did was we actually, um, I th you know, again, this, this direct to consumer model thing really, really helped us out because we were able to generate money the next day.
[00:33:10] We essentially did like a huge, like 20% off sale for a week. And generated, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars. So it’s a really, I mean, I don’t know how you do that, you know, think about going back to that model of the retailers, like you’re going to call like buyer of whole foods a West coast and be like, Hey, you know, we just got hacked.
[00:33:32] Can you buy like a bunch of our products? You know? Um, it’s a whole different relationship. Right, right. That’s crazy.
[00:33:40] Bart: [00:33:40] So I want to ask really just two more questions. One is, do you have any specific advice around growing a business? You know, building a business for our builders as they think about, you know, Hey, I’d love to be that sort of direct to consumer business like a Kevin and Ann Marie.
[00:33:58] What are the things that you would, or you do probably tell people when they ask you that.
[00:34:02] Kevin: [00:34:02] Yeah. I mean, in, in order to, to have a, uh, a good party, you have to, you know, find out where other good parties are happening and convince people that your party might be a little bit better or maybe come afterwards.
[00:34:15] Right. So, I, I use that model for pretty much everything. Every kind of strategy that we’re trying to look at. Where are the people already that we know, like what we have and how can we make our presence there where there’s a tension. You know, cause I mean, cause we’ve gone to plenty of just like natural health events and we’re lost in the shuffle there.
[00:34:35] But you know where there’s attention, where you can get like that direct response direct kind of like. Pitch like, Hey, try this product. I like it. You know, the endorsement. That’s how I like to think about anything, and if people are asking about their business, I’m always trying to think of like, where’s the group of people already like or would like what you have.
[00:34:53] That’s definitely like number one. Definitely number one. Number two is, I mean, we’ve been bad at this for a long time, is I’m just reading this book now. It’s called financial intelligence. It is. It’s great for someone like me who, you know, was a TV, radio, film major, and, you know, had no history in business, said, uh, no history in finance or, or accounting, you know, admittedly, didn’t really even know how to read a balance sheet until maybe a couple of years ago.
[00:35:22] So like, it’s such a great . Bought it for all our managers too. If you can get that sort of background, if you don’t have it, you know, simple books. I mean, that’s just a great book to read is so much more helpful because you’ll realize if your accounting team is screwing up or not. Yeah.
[00:35:36] Bart: [00:35:36] Okay. So two pieces of advice, financial intelligence.
[00:35:40] As a book, you actually liked that specific book or just
[00:35:43] Kevin: [00:35:43] I do, yeah. I mean, it, it spoke to me as someone who, you know, really doesn’t have a background in that and, and, and have been listening to people talk about all this stuff for awhile and just saying, yeah, you know, okay, cool. You know, balance sheet, you know, P and L and I understand all that stuff, but, you know, depreciation and all that sort of
[00:35:58] Bart: [00:35:58] thing.
[00:35:58] Yeah. Cool. And then the first one was a cool way of describing marketing, right? Like. I really like how you described like where’s the party, where are the people, how do you bring people over to your party? And that’s kind of like, who are you targeting? Who’s your customer segment, and a, what do they like and why, and what’s your unique value proposition that’s gonna make you, I’m just adding a bunch of like business lingo, probably
[00:36:23] Kevin: [00:36:23] like AOV in there,
[00:36:26] Bart: [00:36:26] like about lifetime value and AOV and all kinds of things.
[00:36:29] Um, no, I like the way you describe it in your own way, so that’s cool. Okay, last question, Kevin, what are you doing? Do you feel like to build Ann Marie skincare to stay? Obviously you’ve touched on some of these things, but, uh, if you, if you were to, I’d say narrow it down to your top one or two things that you think are like.
[00:36:50] You’re taking a longterm perspective to build a business in a way that will last over time and be successful, not just be transactional. What are those one or two things?
[00:37:00] Kevin: [00:37:00] So number one is continue to create a great product. Hands down. It’s like the simple thing. You know, when I was younger and listening to people say that, I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, I get the product thing, but some people don’t.
[00:37:11] And uh.
[00:37:13] Bart: [00:37:13] It’s easy to rest on your laurels once you’ve put in a certain amount of effort and get to the product to a certain level. And you’re saying you just keep on going.
[00:37:21] Kevin: [00:37:21] So true. You know, we just launched a mist, um, I don’t know, maybe six months ago. And you know, after smelling it and using it, I was just like, nah.
[00:37:32] It’s not working. So we went back, we surveyed our customers and, and we got about, I don’t know, maybe 60 responses back quickly, and you’re 37 of them didn’t like the smell. So, you know, I have the new one right here and it’s launching shortly. So like, it’s just, you know. Never like, just like you said, sit on your Laura, rest on your laurels and be like, what we’ve, what we do is great.
[00:37:52] You know, everything we do is great and listen to people, you know, listen to what they say because a lot of times your customers will have the best advice. The second thing is absolutely 100% commit to being a high touch business. Our customer support team is in house. They’re super caring people. They have carte blanche too.
[00:38:11] I wouldn’t say like Zappos level carte blanche to like, you know, stay on the phone with someone for six hours or order them pizza if they call in. But it’s pretty close to that. You know, they have regular customers that call in. They’ll do a lot of things for customers if customers are having a bad time.
[00:38:27] Oh, we have this thing called the customer love program and we review every week. Customers that either had a hard time. You know, we messed up on a shipment, a random customers, best customers for the quarter, and we send them, you know, all different types of cards or gifts or, or whatever, you know, whatever works out for our best quarterly customer.
[00:38:46] We Google search their hometown and, and find a really nice spa there. And, you know, a lot of times we’ll give them like a. A gift certificate to go there. If we’re lucky. Um, we’d have, we’d have called them, we have a retention team that’s calling our customers all the time now and gathering data about what they like.
[00:39:03] I’m taking notes. So in the future, if we need to use that, we can, uh, maybe they like a restaurant, you know, uh, an organic restaurant in town. So if they ever come up for a customer, love. Reward or something like that, or we just, you know, randomly want to do that for them, we can send them a gift certificate, you know?
[00:39:19] So just really trying to be as human as possible as an online company. Because again, that touch point, you know, we’ve all walked into a store or a restaurant and we felt recognized. You know, I think the restaurant is the best example. Um, there used to be a restaurant in Berkeley that we went to all the time when we lived there and man, we felt like King and queen Anne Marie and I would walk in there and everyone from, you know, the manager, uh, you know, down to down to the bus person would like, you know, they’d bring out our drinks before we even, you know, before we even order them.
[00:39:50] Cause they knew what we wanted. And that is always the thing,
[00:39:54] Bart: [00:39:54] isn’t it? Yeah.
[00:39:54] Kevin: [00:39:54] It feels, it feels really good. And then the, then Kevin, the, the, the manager laughed and the whole thing fell apart. You know, and we didn’t go back. Yeah. So, and again, I don’t know what went on this situation. I mean, from the outside look, everything looked great there.
[00:40:09] Um, but again, as a business owner, I know that’s probably not the case, but we’re, we’re attempting to do that as best we can in a virtual environment. And it’s, it’s hard. But, you know, we’re growing that retention team to continue to, to call on people, to give beauty consultations and to reach out and touch people in ways that.
[00:40:29] That, uh, that aren’t, the people aren’t doing anymore. [00:40:32] Kevin: [00:40:32] It has to be human, you know? And I think that’s the, you know, we can’t move away from that, that connection or else, you know, it doesn’t, it doesn’t work. I mean, that’s why we like stories about founders, right? That’s why people listen to your podcasts here.
[00:40:46] You know what I mean? I listened to the one with Griffin per Aveda guy and I was like, this is awesome. You know what I mean? Like, I love, I love hearing this story. So I mean, this is the personal story that people connect with. And if, and if, as a business online, if you can’t, at least. Try to convey it. I mean, you’re, someone else is going to come along with a better personal story.
[00:41:05] Bart: [00:41:05] Totally. There’s always going to be that need for a personal touch. Cool. Well, Kevin, really appreciate you coming on today.
[00:41:12] Kevin: [00:41:12] Great. This was fun. Yeah, that’s
[00:41:14] Bart: [00:41:14] a great story. I do hope that you guys get to a a hundred million in the next few years as well. Well, we’ll
[00:41:21] Kevin: [00:41:21] see
[00:41:22] Bart: [00:41:22] a few years. I left it up.
[00:41:26] Kevin: [00:41:26] You can be construed as like three or or 13.
[00:41:29] You know,
[00:41:29] Bart: [00:41:29] you can 10 X in a few years. No problem.
[00:41:32] Kevin: [00:41:32] Awesome.
[00:41:32] Bart: [00:41:32] I love your store, I think is inspiring and I do look forward to, um. You know, maybe even trying it out. I haven’t ever tried out Emory skincare. I’m not saying send us some. I’m just saying like I use like just the cheapest stuff from, from the store and I kind of want to try something else and see, see what it’s like.
[00:41:52] We’ll fix you up. Builders do visit dot com or Instagram for more exclusive content and links to Ann Marie as well as the books. We’ve mentioned, financial intelligence and content