Imagine launching a product and having Walmart ask you to pitch to them in your first year of business…sounds too good to be true? Not for Kerry Roberts, co-founder of Everipe Smoothies. Everipe smoothies are made from organic freeze-dried superfoods, in a convenient single serve pouch that are ready to blend.
In this episode, learn how Kerry and her business partner, Greg McMullen, created Everipe, ready-to-blend superfood smoothies in 2018 and landed a Walmart listing in short order.
There are so many great nuggets in this episode. We’ll talk about
- How you need to fall in love with the problem and not fall in love with your solution.
- Why you should launch with your minimum viable product
- How these founders landed a Walmart listing within their first year of business
- The not so shiny side of being an entrepreneur
- And how being humble is a blessing in business
About Kerry Roberts:
Kerry is a CPG marketer turned consumer insight specialist turned entrepreneur. After years helping other brands find their place in consumers’ hearts, Kerry met her now co-founder who had created a genius concept for an all-in-one superfood smoothie kit that uses freeze dried fruits to store in the pantry, offer clean nutrition and delicious taste without any of the work. Kerry recognized the potential the concept had for disruption and jumped in with both feet as a co-founder. Everipe is just a few months into launch, growing steadily and already partnered with Walmart for a regional test. When Kerry isn’t blending smoothies, she’s snowboarding with her husband and two boys in the Catskills NY, hiking with her golden retriever or taking (sometimes teaching!) spin classes.
Mentioned on the show:
IG and FB: @everipe
View the full transcript
[00:01:17] Welcome, Kerry.
[00:01:19] Thanks. It’s great to be here.
[00:01:22] Thanks for coming. Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where did you start your career then? Where did you go?
[00:01:29] Yeah, I Kraft wasn’t my very first job, but it was my second I actually started in personal finance and banking with Scotiabank. One of the big Canadian banks. And I spent 18 months and had to move three times, which I quickly understood as the life of a banker. If you want to move up, you have to move on. And one of those moves was way up to a remote town in northern northern Ontario where, it was an incredible story of a paper mill that was going bankrupt and the employees all mortgaged their homes to keep their jobs and invested in their own company. And five years later, completely turned it around and the company was bought.
[00:02:22] And all of a sudden, this small little town was full of millionaires and they were paperwork people, you know, lumber workers.
[00:02:30] And and that still is one of those like really poignant moments in my early, early career where I was flown out there and had to work with all of these families to try to help them build diversified portfolios and try to connect with them.
[00:02:50] And I ended up tossing out the script that the bank gave me because I could tell that wasn’t resonating and all of my sales pitches. Basically, we built hockey teams and I used the analogy of building a winning hockey team in the same way that you would build a diversified portfolio that you don’t have all forwards and you don’t have a defence meet on your stalwart goalies.
[00:03:16] And I still reflect back and I tell that story a lot because it was one of those first moments where know your audience, be relevant, tell a story and connect. And so anyway, that experience principally shaped me. And I then came over to Kraft, where I actually came from, banking right into finance. And I was at Kraft Finance and I realized that the company was run by marketers. And I didn’t like to be bossed around very much. So I asked to be switched to marketing. And so then I spent that was where I met your husband, Paul.
[00:03:57] He and I worked on cheese with our boss, Dan, and we would drive up to our manufacturing plant. And, you know, the funniest part about it is if there’s one thing, if any anyone who knows me well knows that I have a lifelong disdain for cheese.
[00:04:15] I don’t eat any cheese. I cannot stand it. Some people say I’m really lucky. I can’t stand cheese in any form, whether it’s cream cheese or cheddar. I for some reason, I have an aversion, maybe an allergy. And I can remember being up there and Paul and I were in, you know, that the masks and inevitably on the days that we would go to meet our production team, they would be grinding cheese for Kraft Dinner Mac and cheese. Right. It’s like the finest powder. And so and it just smells like the things in my worst nightmares and I’d be walking through that plant with cheese on my eyelashes like blink, blink. And it was like just such an experience. And anyway, it did not win me over. I’m still have a strong aversion. And if I wasn’t working with such fun people like Paul at the time, oh, my gosh, I probably would run for the hills. So, yeah, I spent years at Kraft. Six years, I think.
[00:05:28] And during that time, in addition of brand marketing, one of my favourite roles was being able to work on the magazine. And what was important about about the Kraft magazine at that time was it was the beginning, I think, of my awakening in terms of what marketing really needs to do. And I think when you start off as a brand marketer, you are trained to think about your brand and so you communicate sort of from a grant, from a brand out perspective. And I can remember another Kraft colleague of ours, Jill Nykoliation. I can remember her standing up on a stage and all of us, you know, young brand marketers were sitting in and she said, you know, nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, boy, I wonder what I’m going to do with my miracle whip today. Right. And we were all sitting there going, what they don’t?
[00:06:27] People are thinking of my Kraft peanut butter when they wake?
[00:06:31] And it was the first time I thought that, you know what? What what we need to do as a food company is solve food problems. These are, you know, moms are looking for lunches and breakfasts.
[00:07:15] So I think, you know, for me, it was the first time that I started to think about the role that we played in people’s lives and solving problems and and not thinking about it from, you know, just from the brand perspective.
[00:07:28] And I kind of connect that to one of my favourite favourite sayings that I think is so helpful for all founders, no matter what business you’re in which is to fall in love with the problem and not fall in love with your solution.
[00:07:47] Because I think that that you know, that to continue to chase the pain point and how you’re solving it.
[00:08:00] And that might mean being open minded enough to pivot.
[00:08:04] So what is the problem that you’re solving and continuing to chase the solution to that rather than continuing to potentially force fit your solution into the problem that you imagine there to be? So I’ve always I’ve always loved that saying. And I and I remind myself of it pretty often.
[00:08:25] That’s so good because we all talk about our brands all the time and people aren’t thinking of them they’re just going about their day. So we have to you have to appeal to what they want to hear and and solve their problems. So that’s very good.
[00:08:43] Yeah. Absolutely. So six years at Kraft. And that was when I started to realize that I loved the consumer more than anything. And I thought that my next move, what I wanted to do was get closer to the consumer. And I thought, who is closer to the consumer than a retailer?
[00:09:03] And so I kind of married my passion for books and my desire to get one step closer to the consumer than a CPG company. And I joined Indigo Books and Music, and I was there for a few years.
[00:09:22] It was fascinating to go from a CPG company where, you know, the smallest projects say take six months to execute from start to finish and to go to a retailer where, you know, you have one bad Saturday and they want you to fix it by the next Saturday. And it wasn’t exactly the I would say that the consumer intimacy that I hoped for.
[00:09:47] And I think that that’s a that’s a gap for a lot of retailers that I think that they’re that they’re fixing. And I think particularly Indigo watching them, you know, battle back from Amazon, battle back from a lot of retail failures. And they are doing a brilliant job and and have for a long time realized that they have to expand beyond books and be a trusted place and a second home. And so they’ve done a brilliant job. But for me, it didn’t quite it didn’t quite scratch the itch that I wanted, which was, you know, I was just such an intensely curious marketer, always wanting to know more about what made the consumer tick. And so I worked at Indigo through having two little boys pretty close together. So they were 15 months apart. And so I had two babies. And, you know, that was probably not the best time to jump into a consulting role. But I joined a brand strategy and consulting company that works out of Toronto and has clients all over North America. And that was Sklar Wilton. And then eight years, nine years working in different roles.
[00:11:03] Most of that back to CPG and consulting mostly with the Mars family products, pet food, their food division and confectionery and executing on consumer research to really help them make decisions from a consumer centric place, which is, I think at the core of of my passion and probably my strength.
[00:11:30] We moved to the United States in the middle of all of this. And I continued to work remotely. And and then as my kids got older, like you, I stayed with some fitness. So I was sort of working part time. I was teaching spinning classes. I was PTA president. I’m one of those people. I think that is happiest when they’re overcommitted.
[00:11:55] I hear you.
[00:11:56] And then, you know, my kids got a little bit older and I wanted to get back into the workforce in a really serious way beyond part time and wasn’t sure what that looked like. But but opened my mind and started to tell people I was looking to take on some clients. And that was where I was introduced to my now business partner who had this nugget of an idea for smoothies and needed some marketing thought leadership.
[00:12:25] Here we are.
[00:12:26] And so at that point, did you guys say, OK, we want to start a business together or he was just looking for consulting help?
[00:12:34] My business partner – any of your Toronto listeners will know Summerhill grocery stores, which are, you know, probably one of the most beautiful grocery stores you’ll ever set foot in.
[00:12:45] So his his family. He comes from the McMullen family for their third generation specialty grocers in Toronto. He left that business. He worked at BMO, actually, Bank of Montreal. And he just was a really healthy eater and started to create his own super food smoothies every morning before work. And his words, I love this quote. But he said, I felt like I was baking a cake every morning. That was how much he was chopping and measuring just to get out the door. And so he switched to powders and just found them completely joyless like he was plugging his nose and chugging it. And he just thought that there had to be something in between. And like most entrepreneurs, it didn’t start with let’s let me start a business. It started with somebody has to have figured this out and I want to buy it. And then doing that research and seeing that it didn’t exist. That was when he thought, OK, I’ve I can marry my passion for this space with my background, my family’s background in food and sourcing. I’d like to take a run at this. And so he worked with a local chef and a local nutritionist. And their discovery process led them to freeze drying, which is really the key that unlocks what makes Everipe so unique and brilliant because freeze drying is a 100 percent natural process. It locks in more nutrients than freezing does. It creates something that is shelf stable, which is a CPG word, but basically means it stores in your pantry doesn’t need refrigeration or freezing and freeze dried fruits stored at room temperature can last for years and years and years. So now we’ve got this. And actually, maybe most importantly, what freeze drying does is it actually just eviscerates the moisture, but you’re left with that amplified taste. And so you’ve sort of got like a freeze dried raspberry. It is such a taste sensation. And so when you when you reblend and reconstitute it with water, you have this beautiful, fresh, blossoming taste that just amplified so much more than freezing. So freeze dried won out on, you know, a lot of consumer benefit, operational benefits. It’s lightweight. It ships easily. It’s easy to store. And that was the eureka that said, I’ve got to take a run at this. And once once he had been playing around with some recipes, he had some Tupperware containers. And that’s when I came in.
[00:15:36] Wow. Cool. So then he said, hey, you’ve got the marketing expertise. I’ve got this idea. Let’s let’s make this work.
[00:15:45] Well, yeah, I mean, at that point, I was a consultant. I was a brand strategy consultant with a consumer research background. And what I said was, you know, I’ll scope you out a project, I’ll conduct some workshops, we’ll do some consumer research.
[00:15:57] And I spent a day with him and some of his stakeholders, including his wife, who is a brilliant strategist, the chef, the nutritionist, and seeing the concept in action and tasting it and knowing what I knew about CPG. And their sort of storied history in being fraught with preservatives in the centre of the store and knowing basically that, you know, what Greg had created was clean nutrition in the centre of store that didn’t go bad. I just knew he was onto something that could had the potential to be so huge that when we really clicked and had a great working relationship for a few weeks, I asked him if he’d consider taking me on as a partner and I had never made a smoothie. I didn’t own a blender, but I just knew he was onto something. I’m not even sure he knows that, but I ordered it. I ordered a blender on Amazon like the day after he said that we would go into business together. Yep. And so we’ve changed that there were two smoothies down so far in this house. My son had a chocolate one for before school and Andrew got off the peloton and blended a strawberry banana smoothie. So, you know, now a full on smoothie-ing household. But I never in a million years would have ever corralled all of these ingredients, measured, chopped, figured out what the superfoods do, it never. I’m just not I’m not someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. I avoid my kitchen. I try to assemble meals instead of cooking. I’m the perfect consumer target for this – really busy mom just wanting some nutrition. And I’m not willing to break the bank or take all day.
[00:17:54] Yeah, I’ve tried them. They’re delicious. I’ve got one right here. I had it this morning. Oh you’ve got our old recipes. Basically our first our first iteration of product just wasn’t wasn’t hitting the mark. so we relaunched.
[00:20:49] So what it what is it that you changed from the original recipe?
[00:20:54] When we launched our first batch January of last year, I can’t believe it’s been a year already. They we weren’t getting. We were getting a lot of great uptake.
[00:21:07] We were getting a lot of fantastic feedback on the convenience. But our repeat just wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be. And we you know, we started to get the sneaking suspicion that. We just didn’t taste yummy enough for consumers to make it part of their routine. So it was that coupled with the Wal-Mart opportunity, which I know, you know, we’ll talk about and you know, Wal-Mart being willing to take a bet on us and what that meant from a consumer Target perspective that really had us take a step back and say, OK, we might be a little too sophisticated nutritionally. Taste profile wise and the bigger opportunity, the more mass opportunity, the opportunity that helps us help more people is a tastier, yummyer smoothie that is still clean. Still easy. No preservatives, no sugar added. But may be a touch more round, a touch more fruit forward, flavours that have broader appeal. So like a strawberry bonanzas. Kind of table stakes in a smoothie world. We have this chocolate one and both of these are have been from what we’ve heard so far real kid pleasers and real picky eater pleasers.
[00:22:37] So from a mom perspective, our line-up now, I think we’ve got through this ginger turmeric one that is sophisticated for a mom who appreciates the benefit of turmeric.
[00:22:52] And then you know that the one that tastes like melted chocolate ice cream. But still, we have chia and hemp. And so each one has just. Open the wine. I’ll drink after this. So nice each. Each smoothie has inside freeze dried fruits that are all chopped up for you.
[00:23:14] And I know you saw that, but also a packet of superfoods. So this is where we really save all of that time. So this blend in particular has chia seeds, hemp hearts, bee pollen, ginger and turmeric. And we’ve already done all of the measuring for you. We know it’s going to taste good. And then, you know, just this is really where all the nutritional gold sits. And so basically, that’s the concept now.
[00:23:42] Very cool. You don’t see anything like that out there. So you see powders like protein powders. What else? You see frozen fruits like in the freezer aisle.
[00:23:53] Bags and a bag of frozen fruits. I mean. So, you know, I mean, to do a 10 ingredients smoothie you know, you you need three or four bags of frozen fruits plus a banana, plus your containers of the super foods. So that’s a really cumbersome proposition.
[00:24:14] Right. And then you’ve got to mix them properly. So they taste good. Because I know I tried like adding hemp hearts or Bee pollen or whatever. And it may not taste the same every time.
[00:24:23] Exactly. Yeah. We we did our consumer focus groups and we had you know, we had moms in some of the groups and we had, you know, younger millennials in some of the groups. And so they coined the phrase blender fail like there’s nothing like to them as they’re watching their budgets.
[00:24:42] There was nothing worse than like dumping out like a sludgy smoothie that they had, you know, worked 15 minutes on. Spent five dollars on the ingredients. And, you know, whoops, I put in too much goji berry powder and it tastes awful.
[00:24:58] I hate how many. Feel like you have to drink it. Yeah. That’s amazing. Awesome. And what else did you learn from consumer research?
[00:25:08] Was there anything that you like learned that you had to change or just something wasn’t right?
[00:25:16] Well, we like most founders who don’t have, you know, a lot of dollars to continue to go back.
[00:25:23] You sort of you iterate on the fly and you iterate in market. And I think that’s like signature to what a lot of found why so many of these emerging brands you know, I think that the notion of putting out an MVP, a minimally viable product, you know, get it. Get it out there and learn and listen, you know, listen, listen, listen.
[00:25:47] Constantly be asking for feedback. So I mentioned that our first round of recipes we were selling, consumers were trying, but they weren’t necessarily coming back as often as we wanted them to. And that was when we realized, OK, you know, we’re clearly not really delivering on the taste profile. You know, as well as something that consumers feel, that is what we wanted with cravable clean eating. And I think we were still having consumers blend something up and it felt maybe a little more nutritious than “I can’t wait till tomorrow, smoothie”.
[00:26:28] The other thing that’s happening in the better for you space. The whole landscape is changing.
[00:26:37] And I think today’s affluent, educated, really sophisticated consumer right now, it might change. And certainly if there’s one industry that, you know, changes with the wind, it’s the food and diet industry culture.
[00:26:53] And so right now, that sophisticated consumer is very concerned about paleo and keto. And these were trends that we weren’t willing to hook our wagon to. What we want to offer really is just pure foods with no sugars, with no preservatives, no chemicals.
[00:27:22] And, you know. There’s a danger in it in the sense that we aren’t trendy enough to get noticed, and so we have to work a little bit harder and we have to think about who our consumer target is a little more sharply. But, you know, eating clean Whole Foods from the ground is never gone out of style. And so we feel good.
[00:27:47] We feel we feel much better now having targeted busy families. I mean, are all of us all of our smoothies have been crafted with the guideline that we want to have all of the sweetness and the taste come from Mother Nature. So it’s all all the sweetness comes from fruits.
[00:28:08] And the sugar profile is set to be no more than like a medium sized banana. And so if you are a consumer that wouldn’t finish your whole banana because of sugars, you’re not our consumer. And I think it’s just as important to know who is your consumer as it is to be able to articulate who is not your consumer based on what insight and why that makes sense.
[00:28:31] Totally. Yeah. So I hear you. There’s so many trends out there that are sort of trends. And also there are some fads and you can hop on that bandwagon or you could go with something that has longevity. I don’t think clean eating is ever going to be out of style. I think you’re perfectly on trend. So good for you for sticking with your guns and knowing what the problem is and appealing to those busy families that need it the most.
[00:28:57] So let’s go to, you know, kind of your background in marketing and consumer insights. Would you say that this helped you during the process and and what would you say to those people out there who don’t have that background?
[00:29:12] Oh, I definitely think it helped in terms of thinking about the messaging and thinking about being crystal clear and continuing to drill down. I think having worked, as you know, on so many creative briefs. Right, and the discipline that it takes to write a creative brief where you’re trying to focus it down to, well, what’s our one thing, what’s our one thing that we are going to stand for? And then after that, why why should consumers believe us? Why should they believe us rationally? How are we going to appeal to them emotionally? So the discipline of those frameworks, I would say, really helped us because they were second nature to me. If you’re not a marketer, I would say those frameworks exist online. Just like just like I might have had a marketing skill set to lean on. I didn’t have an operations skill set and I didn’t have a sales and distribution. And so the one thing I think that entrepreneurs sometimes don’t say enough out loud is that Google is your best friend. The the interweb is full of information. And I cannot tell you how many things that we have solved just by starting by researching. How do you add a barcode? How do you make sure it’s going to scan? How do you you know, do we. Can we make a claim about our nutrition content? How do you get FDA approval – all of these things? You know, I would say we started with a Google search and we nosed our way to a solution.
[00:31:06] That’s awesome. Yeah. So if you’re not in marketing. No worries. Basically, you can start your own product business and you can figure.
[00:31:15] You call someone like Nicole.
[00:31:18] There you go, good advertising. Call a he coach and we’ll walk you through it.
[00:31:24] All right. So then how after you’ve got the product formula, how did you find your manufacturer? Because you mentioned that’s not your strong suit. How did you go about finding that manufacturer? Because I know that’s one of the things that people struggle with, is where to find companies and so on. Is that Google?
[00:31:45] So, yes. Yes, it was. And it’s been such a long time now that I can’t remember the exact platform. But if I take some time and research it after this, I can flip it to you so you can include it maybe in the comment section. There is a. And I’m based, even though I’m Canadian and based in the United States now.
[00:32:06] So there’s a platform whereby you can almost put like an RFP out that describes your product a little bit and then a whole bunch of co packers and manufacturers look at that almost like a job board and they bid on your job. And so what we did was we put our we put, you know, brief the concept up. We said what we were looking forward to. We guessed about our volume expectations. And I got maybe 50 co-manufacturers who wanted more information. I then then that whittled down to, I would say 10 who were willing to consider it once they realized that we weren’t going to back down from 10 ingredients, that we weren’t going to let them, you know, push us to all we need is three ingredients. And we were we were really, you know, passionately sturdy on our proposition needing to truly solve what you know, what a pain smoothies are to make. And the fact that you might never add bee pollen and chia seeds and hemp hearts and almonds. And so we needed somebody who was willing to take us on with all of our complexity. And we shipped samples after that that we had made by hand to a very small group of co-manufacturers. And all of them backed out except one.
[00:33:46] Yes. And so we thank our lucky stars every week, in fact, after this, I’m on a call with our with our our co-manufacturer. And they have been. Oh, gosh, the best possible partner – willing to learn. Freeze dried fruits are notoriously finicky to work with. They’re very fragile, you know, small variances in the recipe. And because of the taste, amplification can really change the taste. And so we just every production run, we get sharper and they are so willing to learn. This is this is just one story to let you know how dedicated they are and how excited they are about our potential. Our lead contact had a terrible fall and shattered his leg. And a few weeks later, he’s surgery and he’s on one of those scooters. And for whatever reason, we ran out of hemp hearts and this guy drove to Costco with his scooter and scooted into Costco and bought 65 pounds of hemp hearts to finish the production run. I mean, they are and they know they’re like family and we wouldn’t be anywhere without them.
[00:35:09] And we you know, we are very lucky that they have a lot of capacity to grow as we grow. And us coming into it at a national retailer wasn’t daunting for them. So it was just kismet, really, that we found these guys.
[00:35:29] That’s that’s incredible. I know that manufacturing is kind of a difficult area for most people. So they’d love to see that platform. It sounds like it’d be upwork of manufacturing. And after that, they produced your first run and you kind of knew where it was going to be distributed or what did you do or were you just selling online through your Website?
[00:35:51] That’s right. Yeah. We started and we started with social media advertising and turned on the lights on our Website and just wanted to see how it went. You know, the million dollar question, I think for every entrepreneur is do I even have a business? We’re going to ask that question probably until we exit it. You’re never sure. You’re never really sure. And you can vacillate between thinking you’re going to be the, you know, the next beyond me one day and and, you know, oh, my God, what am I doing?
[00:36:28] I’m spending my children’s college savings the next. So it’s it’s wild emotional swings. And and and you’re right.
[00:36:39] Well, yeah, that’s I think that’s good for people to know because I know everybody goes through that every new business owner – it’s like one day you’re on cloud nine and then the next you think, what am I doing? Why don’t I go back to my day job so I can totally relate to that.
[00:36:59] So I think that there’s a whole – the mental resilience is probably the biggest surprise in all of this.
[00:37:10] And having a partner that can, you know, ride the waves with you and it’s kind of like, you know, when you when you when you’re in like a rock solid marriage and you’re parenting and, you know, in one particular day, one parent might be losing their mind. And then the other parent swoops in nice and calm. And so, you know, having a having a business partner and surrounding yourself with people who can pick you up, dust you off. My own my own has been is now, you know, after two years of of this roller coaster, he continuously reminds me that it’s natural to feel this way. And. And the pendulum can swing sometimes too far. And, you know, you can be elated. And and, you know, morbidly depressed in the same week based on your last success or failure. And it’s really important to surround yourself with people who can empathize with that a little bit and give you the support that you need.
[00:38:25] Yes, so true. It’s important to give herself a network of people or a support group or mastermind or whatever it is so that you can talk about things together and they can lift you up because right as they say, you surround yourself with the brightest people and you’ll rise up.
[00:38:43] So after you’ve you’ve launched your Website, did you see a lot of traffic or like, how was that experience? And then, you know, we’ll talk about your next move into retail. But how is that like, you know, organic awareness?
[00:38:59] The headline is it’s expensive.
[00:39:02] It’s really, really, really expensive. And so, you know, I know that you’re coaching founders. I think that it’s it can be. It can be really intimidating if you’re not well-funded because, you know, you social media and Google AdWords and all of these things. It can be an expensive upfront proposition to fill the funnel at the top. And so that I say is that can be discouraging. I think we had the we have the double whammy of. We were funding to drive traffic to the top of the funnel. We were getting orders and then we were not happy. In the end, you know. The way the product was performing. And so subsequently we completely relaunched and updated the recipes and they blend better and they taste better. But if you don’t have a phenomenal product, whatever it is, whether it’s, you know, if it’s food, then, you know, taste is king. If your product doesn’t really solve that pain point and your consumer is not going to come back and come back and come back. It’s a really expensive proposition to try to just buy trial and buy trial and buy trial. And we’ll talk it in a minute about the retail opportunity that we were lucky enough to secure. But the next few months are going to see us launch on Amazon because that is the platform where our consumers are shopping.
[00:40:50] And so, you know, in hindsight, hindsight’s always again, 20, 20, it’s cliche. But now that we feel finally really proud about the product that we’re sending out and that and the experience that consumers are getting, I’m excited about the the opportunity that Amazon will unlock for us because. You know, they have the traffic already, so you will also be investing to make sure that you’re seen on Amazon. So it acts a lot. It acts like social media and Google combined. So you’ve still got to spend money on SEO because Amazon is now the biggest search engine in the world bigger than Google. It’s surpassed Google. So think about that. So you still got to invest in search engine optimization. Make sure you’re found, you still want to invest in advertising, but at least you’re not doing that. You know, you’re one step closer to a shopping consumer. I’m really optimistic that that that we’re going to see a lot more traction once we expand our our e-commerce platform to include not just our Web site, but also Amazon.
[00:42:07] That’s exciting. It’s true that retail gives you that instant awareness because you’re on a shelf, whereas they have to find you on your Web site. So it’s very difficult to get the traction in the beginning.
[00:42:20] So as a food entrepreneur? And circling back to that conversation we had earlier about how we all love to think that everybody is only thinking about our brand. Imagine if we all had to shop for all the things that we loved. One at a time. One Website at a time. Right. Imagine that.
[00:42:40] I’m going to wake up and oh, I get my coffee from Website A and you know, I get my almond milk from Website B and my smoothie from Website C, and you have to constantly put yourself in the mind of a consumer.
[00:42:53] And you’ve got to be a rock star brand for a consumer to be willing to, you know, to. They’re also grocery shopping and they’re also Amazon Prime shopping. So to add you and your Website to their procurement for their needs in a week, you’ve got to be amazing.
[00:43:15] That’s such a good point. And I can think about it just for every business, like every business has their own Website. But really, where are the consumers shopping? They’re not going Website to Website. They’re like just honing in on the major ones, the retailers. And that’s what they want, convenience. So I think that’s really good advice. So where do you. So you actually went to retail, next? And this is really exciting news. I’ve seen it’s all over linkedin and announcements that you guys are now at Walmart.
[00:43:48] Yes. Yes. So nothing like nothing like christening by fire. We went from, you know, our own our own meagre Website to the world’s biggest retailer. Yeah. And that was, you know, I would say a combination of mostly luck, good timing and a little bit of, you know, being a little bit savvy. So we we had launched, we weren’t really thrilled with the way our product was performing. We were starting to get the sneaking suspicion that we needed to potentially rethink our recipes, rethink our consumer target. And at that point, I signed us up for a conference and it was a conference specifically geared towards better for you emerging brands, founders, the investment community, some retailers. It’s mostly a conference with presentations. And I just wanted us to go and I would say feel less alone to learn some things, to pick up some content, maybe, maybe to build a bit of a network. And we were at that conference and on day two in a networking break, I happened to be be eating my lunch. And these three folks come over and we’re talking and we’re joking and we’re laughing. And one of them happened to be Canadian. And so we’re connecting. And then five minutes into this great conversation. Then we get to, well, what brings you to the conference? And lo and behold, I’m standing with three vice presidents from Walmart US and. Yeah. And, you know, I’m still a) so new so, you know, typical humble Canadian. Never in a million years did I think that they might be interested in a product like mine. But they ask the, you know, well, what brings you here? And this is this is the takeaway for all founders.
[00:45:55] As much as you can carry your product everywhere because you never, ever, ever know when you’re going to have a conversation and small tangent. But at 1:30 today, I’m having a conversation on the phone with an investor who I met on a chairlift at the Ski Hill. So always, always be ready to talk about your product. You never know who can introduce you to someone. So in my purse, of course, I pull out an Everipe smoothie. And the gentleman beside me flips it over, reads the ingredient deck. He saw that it was completely clean and shelf stable. And he said, oh, my gosh, we could use something like this. And, you know, and I laugh. Sure. Thinking one day that would be the dream. That would be amazing. He said, Do you have a card? And so I passed my business card. And that was the other thing.
[00:46:49] I thought business cards were dead. You need business cards. You still need business cards. Go and get really good ones.
[00:46:57] So I hand him a card.
[00:46:58] Thank God I had one and I never in a million years thought I would hear back from him. And by the time I sat down in my seat at the conference, he invited us to pitch in Bentonville, Arkansas.
[00:47:12] No way. Amazing – I was going to say, did you follow up with him? But no, he followed up with you. Incredible. OK. So then you went to pitch and what was that like?
[00:47:26] It is. We got introduced to somebody that worked for him, the buyer in the breakfast category, which is where we’re sitting in our retail test.
[00:47:36] Bentonville as a town is incredible. It is a happening and hip and cool middle of Arkansas, but completely. It’s like it’s like a sort of Disneyland created by the Walton family and everything there is in reverence to Sam Walton and It’s an incredible place, too. It’s like the Mecca. And as a steam Peachey, as a CPG person, you know, just being there felt like such an experience. We are given 15 minutes with our buyer and we basically their presentation rooms are a huge long hallway. I’m not sure, Nicole, if you ever got to go there, but I imagine that, you know, a long, long, long, long hallway with fishbowl meeting rooms, sliding doors and these meeting rooms like you could almost reach your arms from one end of the meeting room to the other. It is you know, you are just you sit down at a tiny table with your buyer in a five foot wide room and there’s 50 meetings just like you happening every 15 minutes, all day. With suppliers, yes, it was really interesting. Again, you know, two humble co-founders. We don’t have a team. We don’t have to work it out. We sort of just want to say, let’s meet with this buyer, let’s share the concept, not the product, because our product today is not right. We know it’s not delivering the best consumer experience, but at the core and why the vice president was so interested. At the core of it is clean, nutrition, shelf stable. And so we sat down with the buyer and we said, you know, today’s product is not right, but we believe that there is a huge opportunity to help feed busy families with clean nutrition, thanks to freeze drying. What might it look like if we could reengineer this to be a Walmart friendly product, to meet the needs of your shopper? And I think coming at it from that perspective. So we sat down ready to partner with her to solve her shoppers’ needs. Again, was one of those, you know, sort of the the that was the moment where we didn’t sit down and pitch our product. We asked her what she needed and she gave us the green light pretty much to to go for it. She offered us a retail test. That first meeting was in June. And she said if we did everything right for the next six months, she would get us into a small retail test in January of 2020. So we’re just now seeing Everipe on shelves in Wal-Mart stores. But it was a complete sprint.
[00:50:43] So that is really cool. You actually sat down and then worked with her on the right product for them that would meet the needs of their consumer, whereas most people would just go, this is my product it’s the best thing ever. And you were so collaborative and so humble to just go in there and go, what can we do better? What can we improve on? So that’s really, really cool.
[00:51:06] And we we we really we won the lottery with our buyer as well. She has been incredibly collaborative. She you know, we were brainstorming flavour names with her. I mean, she just has really taken us under her wing. She is our cheerleader. And I know that’s not always the case.
[00:51:24] Right. Yeah, definitely. And so then right now, you’re there at Wal-Mart. Any sort of early signs of how it’s going? I know it’s only January. So it’s hard to say.
[00:51:38] Yeah, it is. It was a you know, for all of Wal-Mart’s efficiency and operational smarts, it’s still a huge machine. I mean, they have forty six hundred stores in the United States? We are in fifty six of them. We were told that we were going to be in on shelf starting December twenty eight.
[00:52:05] And what they do in these big grocery retailers is they’re called mods. And a mod is basically this sort of like the the plan for the whole shelf if you can imagine like a map of where all of the products sit. And so every six months, sometimes just annually, they redo that whole mod of the plan. And so we we were expecting to see sales, you know, day one and day one, week one. And we’re learning that that, you know, a beast such as Walmart, it takes it takes time. So there are some stores where you haven’t even reach shelf yet and it’s the end of January. But but we’re starting to see some traction. And I have to tell you, I got in my car. We were on shelf supposedly for two weeks. I got in my car and I drove through three states to get to see our product on shelf.
[00:53:04] And I was terrified getting out of the car, walking across the parking lot. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was scared it wouldn’t be there – then it was. And it was just, you know, I wanted to share it with someone and I was by myself. And then, of course, I grab some and then I’m walking up to cash and I’m terrified it’s not going to scan.
[00:53:24] And then, you know, I wanted to tell the people in line behind me and the cashier that it’s mine, but I had nobody to share it with. So I posted it on social media.
[00:53:38] But yeah, it was a it was a life changing experience to walk down that aisle and see our products right beside these giant companies. Well, yeah. Yeah, incredible.
[00:53:52] I’m sure it will perform well. And did you have to do any like sort of support to help it move off the shelf?
[00:53:59] Yeah. You know, again, I think being humble is such a such a helpful gift. We are not naive enough to think that just because we build it, they will come, right? Nobody knows we exist.
[00:54:14] Nobody has ever heard of Everipe before. The concept is unique. Most people are used to maybe being in the freezer aisle. And so we’re we’re not naive enough to think that we’re just going to automatically start to generate turns at the grocery level. So we are spending pretty heavily on geo targeted digital ads in our zip code specific to those stores telling people about us, telling people where to find us really specifically. So we’re not just in your Wal-Mart, we’re in the cereal aisle and we’re not just in the cereal aisle. You can find us right beside Bare Naked granola. So really helping consumers. So we have this sort of this conversation map where they ideally they will see a little video that tells them all about us. So just build awareness. And the next time they see us, they might see, hey, you know, we’re in your Wal-Mart. And then the next time they see us, they would say we are in the cereal aisle beside Bare Naked granola. So you have to sort of think through. Almost as if you met someone on the street. What would you say to them first? What would you say to them second? What would you say to them third, all the way to. I’m going to walk you down the aisle and show you exactly what my product is.
[00:55:32] Oh, that’s brilliant. I love that. And so you’ve talked about getting on in the store and getting listed and supporting it with advertising. Did you have to get funding through any of this?
[00:55:46] We have been lucky enough not to need it. We have been just just really slowly, carefully and surgically bootstrapping all the way along.
[00:55:57] Wow. Nice. That’s awesome. Wow. That’s good. I mean, it’s good that you’re starting small with 50 stores, rather than 4000, right? Oh, yeah. Awesome. [00:57:07] [0.0s]
[00:57:11] So then you’ve gone into Wal-Mart. Were there any, you know, days that you kind of go, oh, that was the worst day ever? And I wish I could have done that over again. I know we’ve all had stories like that.
[00:57:25] Right. Right. And I’m certainly I hope anyway. I’ve been really candid about the entrepreneur’s journey is not, you know, not easy. And I think sometimes people think that from the outside, right, that I’ve got this great food Start-Up, but, you know, I’m still the one stuffing the envelopes in my basement from our e-commerce site. So. So, yes, we’re on Wal-Mart shelves, but I’m also the one that is sweeping the floor. And, you know, turning the lights out and licking the envelopes. So so you do it all. But if there was one worst day. It is. It is. It’s not hard to compete with our worst day because it was it was horrible. We had this incredible opportunity.
[00:58:15] We had we had we’d gone to Wal-Mart and we were invited back. And that was really our do or die meeting. So we had we had we had flown there in June. We had pitched. She had given us the green light. If we could deliver a product that she thought would be winning product with packaging that she thought was clear with branding that she was excited about. And so our pitch meeting we had, we we are overprepared. Both my business partner Greg and I. And so if I I am not kidding when I say that we sent smoothies on three separate airplanes to make sure that we had samples there so that we could blend them up. We had we had our presentation printed there and printed with each of us. We had boards, we had a potential broker who was was was ready to host us in the kitchen so that we could blend everything up. Just so we got the best water. We got the best ice. We practiced our presentation.
[00:59:24] The day before we get on the aeroplane, our buyer needed to shift the meeting from the afternoon to the morning so drops into our calendar, she apologizes and we’re both thinking, nope, that’s even better because then we don’t have to wait all day. Nervous, right? That’s amazing. So our meeting is now 9:00. Awesome. Drops into my calendar. I get on the plane from New York. Greg gets on the plane from Toronto. We line everything up. We call the broker. We’re gonna now be blending from eight to nine. We practice one more time. Everything comes together. We’ve got our boards. We’re feeling great. And our broker was so polite.
[01:00:03] He was dropping us off at the head office that we didn’t even have to worry about parking. I mean, we had thought of everything and we’d get out of the car. And I glanced down at my phone to double check the meeting room. And there’s eight emails from the buyer. We did not account for the time change between the East Coast and Arkansas when she moved the meeting. We missed our entire meeting. I when I can’t even physically, I’m shaking as I describe that experience to you even right now. It was the single worst professional moment of my entire life.
[01:00:49] Hands down.
[01:00:50] And I turned to Greg, my partner. And I said, I’m so sorry. This is my fault. And he turned to me and said.
[01:01:02] It’s equally my fault. And I mean, you could have literally physically scraped us off the sidewalk, scraped us off the sidewalk, we were we were silent and our poor broker. He was phenomenal. I quickly called the buyer’s desk, hoping she would pick up. Again, we scored the lottery. She’s the best person in the world.
[01:01:30] She said I thought this might have happened. I don’t have any more time today. When is your flight back?
[01:01:41] And we still joke about this moment. I could barely speak and I said, forget about our flight back. We live here now.
[01:01:51] We are going to stay here until you can meet with us. You just give us your first next free half an hour.
[01:01:59] And so, again, my business partner and I – we are physically in shock. We are apologizing to each other. We went back to our hotel, both immediately called our spouses. I broke down sobbing and my husband Andrew, answer the phone. And Greg is in the next room and he calls his wife. And again, you know, we have the best partners and spouses in the world. They were so supportive and just said, listen, you’re human. This happens.
[01:02:36] She has great faith in your product. She’s met you. She’s she’s going to find time for you. And so we dusted ourselves off.
[01:02:47] We spent the day doing store tours. We went to an art museum that if you’re ever in Bentonville, one of Sam Walton’s daughters has spent, she’s dedicated a good portion of her fortune, personal fortune in creating one of the most beautiful art campuses I’ve ever seen. We walk through the forest looking at sculptures.
[01:03:12] It was so Zen.
[01:03:15] And by four o’clock, we were laughing, drinking margaritas on a patio, dusting ourselves off. And I look back on that day and I think.
[01:03:27] I learned exactly who my partner was in that moment, you know, who what we were going to look like in a crisis, how we both immediately took accountability, that there was no blame that our spouses were going to cheer us on even when we were the dumbest people in the room checking the damn calendar twice. But I and.
[01:03:58] I would not even know. I felt like this the bond between my business partner and I just strengthened tenfold and I wouldn’t trade that experience. I wouldn’t relive it but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
[01:04:16] That’s an amazing story that is so incredible, I think like there are things in that story we can all relate to when we’ve done something in our careers or a business that at the time seems like it would never happen. And then afterwards you kick yourself going, Oh, that was so obvious, why didn’t I see it coming? You both reacted. I mean, I think there’s so many lessons in that. But the fact that you both took accountability, you weren’t blaming each other is just amazing and that your buyer was forgiving and understanding and believed in you so much. So I’m sure you’ll never forget that. And I’m sure you learned a lot from it. It’s so amazing. Congratulations again for getting into Wal-Mart.
[01:05:07] Oh, thank you. I hope I can help you get to circle back on this at some point. And as the lessons keep piling up. Yeah, I’d love to be able to to share more as you grow in your business. And hopefully we can help each other out.
[01:05:23] Yeah. Thank you so much for being on this podcast. I think everyone would get so much out of it. I know I did. And I’m excited to see your product grow and I’m excited for it to come into Canada.
[01:05:36] I know it is. It’s at Summerhill market. So if anyone’s in Toronto.
[01:05:42] And we’ve got to find space for the French language and then we’re there. We need to do it. We need to do it. We have a lot of fans up there. Our family and friends. So.
[01:05:52] Yeah, exactly. And so in the US, where can they get your product at Wal-Mart, obviously.
[01:05:57] So Wal-Mart in certain spots. So just the northwest and the northeast, Everipe.com. E-V-E-R-I-P-E.com And soon Amazon.
[01:06:09] Amazing. And where can people find you on your social media handles, et cetera?
[01:06:15] Yes. Well, we’re nice and easy, so it’s just at Everipe Instagram for lots of news. Follow our our journey where we’ve got lots of great stuff, discounts and giveaways and lots of great nutrition content as well.
[01:06:31] Awesome. Thanks so much, Kerry. Thanks for being here.
[01:06:34] Absolutely. Thank you.