Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, where I interview entrepreneurs for an audience of entrepreneurs. I know I’ve said this before, but the distinction is important. I think when you interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of people who are just kind of looking for stories, you end up with a very shallow understanding of business.
The kind of interview that I do intentionally goes in deep about where you get your customers, how you figured out this product, what’s the trend that this is a part of that we should all be aware of because I know that my audience of entrepreneurs are actually looking for ideas to build their businesses, looking for stories that will help them understand how they can improve the companies they’re building today or going to start and grow in the future.
So one of my early interviewees was a guy named Jason Calacanis, who went from being an entrepreneur to an angel investor. He said he had an opportunity to invest in Dollar Shave Club, and he said, “No freaking way. How am I going to invest in Dollar Shave Club, which is going to compete with Gillette, number one, which is a powerhouse, and number two, is going to sell direct, which means it’s competing with Amazon, which is another powerhouse?”
And of course, Jason has said it, so I would feel comfortable saying–actually, I would say it even if he didn’t say this publicly–he made a mistake. He missed out on that incredible opportunity, which is fine. We all make mistakes. What we want to do though is understand what did he miss? What he missed, I believe, is that it is getting easier to create physical products. It’s also getting–well, it has been for a while–easy to ship them out and to sell them online.
But it’s also getting easier to create brands. For a brand, people will go out of their way. The original Apple Store used to be right on Market Street here in San Francisco. They’ve got a big enough brand that they’re now making you walk over I’d say about a mile, maybe two miles away from the main line, away from Market Street where the train stations are, to just go into them because they’ve got a brand that you’re willing to walk over for.
So, with brands, you are willing to leave the Amazon safety net and ecosystem to go purchase. In fact, you feel better about it. So the combination of getting easier to create products, easier to create brands and the existence of ecommerce and direct to customer opportunities which have existed since not the early days of the internet, but earlier on in the internet, has made it possible for companies to build things and sell things we couldn’t have done in the past. That’s why I’m excited to bring on today’s guest.
Josh Meyer founded a men’s brand, what you might, if he was selling to women, call a beauty line. It’s basically high-performing skincare and grooming products for men. It’s called Brickell Men’s Products. I want to find out how much of this analysis that I have is right and how he’s taking advantage of it to grow his business.
Josh–well, I should also say my two sponsors and I’m going to get into them later. The first is a company that will, if you are trying to sell online, help you do it intelligently. It’s called ActiveCampaign. The second is if you need to hire greater developers for a company called Josh’s, it’s called Toptal and they’ll help you hire them. But first, Josh, my analysis of the changing environment, am I right?
Josh: Hey, Andrew. Yeah. It absolutely is. It’s kind of a multitude of different things. People, for one, they’re more likely to buy off the internet now than to go anywhere. It’s very easy now. It used to be where to create a brand, you had to get something into stores and then the stores really built you up. But now, as you mentioned, Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, all these men’s grooming brands, you can start a great brand online and then you get the stores coming for you. Really the stores are no longer the trendsetters, on top of the fact of what you touched upon that it is a lot easier to make physical products now because of the internet at the end of the day.
Andrew: We’re going to get into how you made this because it’s still not an easy process. I don’t want to at all say that it’s as easy as selling software, but it is easier. I think there’s an opportunity for someone who’s listening to us who’s looking for a new direction in their lives to think about how can I enable more people to create physical products? How can I simplify it? Is it online directories? Is it factories that are more accessible to the individual? Is it something else that’s a completely new approach to this? But it’s definitely getting easier.
You also are saying, “Listen, Andrew, when you create a brand, stores come to you.” Give me an example of a store that came to you guys.
Josh: A couple of them–Bloomingdales, we sell in there. Beforehand, it would have taken years. We’ve only been around about two and a half years. It would have taken years to even get into them. So, for them to come to us–that also makes the conversation easier when approaching stores as well. Even though we’re mostly online, of course you do still want to align yourself with great brands–Bloomingdales, high-end department stores because what we’re selling is a high-end line at a higher price.
It makes it a lot easier. It makes the conversations–they can see who you are. They can go online quickly. Your website is really your online resume. They can see the press that you’ve had. They can see who you are as the brand. They can see the look, the feel. They can see the products. It makes everything so much easier.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m seeing Harry’s now at Target, for example, this thing that was an online brand now went offline for similar reasons. What I don’t see with you though, Josh, is a lot of social media. The other brands that I’ve had on and that I will have on in the future are really good at social media.
I’m thinking ideally of HiSmile, which gets a Kardashian to pose with their product but also some hot girl or guy showing their abs posing with this teeth whitening. You guys don’t do that. Your Twitter following is fairly small. It’s in the low thousands, right? In fact, it’s under 2,000. Where are you building your brand?
Josh: Well, I’ll kind of speak to two points. Email marketing–for us, social media is good to have just as a presence, but at the end of the day, guys are not sharing their face wash purchases. They’re not sharing that they bought an eye cream, that they bought anti-aging products. We tried. When we first started, we incentivized the crap out of people. We discovered we did have some people take photos with the products, Instagram influencers. We discovered it didn’t move the needle.
We really had–Instagram, I can count probably the amount of orders we received from Instagram, from Twitter. Facebook does a little better. We realized email marketing, it’s really a personal choice what you use, what to wash your body with, what to put on your face.
Andrew: How do you grow your email list then?
Josh: Facebook ads, which are, I mean, I’m sure you’re talking to most companies are lights out for us. We offer like–it’s hard when you have a physical product to allow for a free trial. Obviously MailChimp, what have you, you can go on there, sign up for 30 days and try it out. For us, we have these starter kits, which allow people to try the product and we then give them back the money they paid for it as an incentive to make a follow-up purchase.
Andrew: So they buy it once, and then you don’t give it to them for free. They buy it for a low price and then they get to reuse that money to get their next thing.
Josh: Exactly. Yeah. We tried free samples, free stuff. You end up getting people who just like free stuff. You don’t end up getting people who are interested, hot prospects or people who are going to buy your product. So we really started to go that route on Facebook ads.
If you go to our site, we do everything we can to gather emails, basically every marketing thing we do online, all of our channels have been built out to collect email addresses because that’s really where we make our money because we discovered early that social media–I’m friends with a few other brands who are men’s lines and they say the same thing now.
To contrast against the Harry’s and Dollar Shave Clubs of the world, those are very viral products. If a guy has a beard, he loves sharing it. He treats it better than probably his child. He probably has a name for his beard.
Andrew: It has become a little bit weird. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, Andrew, I’m using this face cleanser. I’m using this shampoo,” not a single time since I’ve left high school.
Josh: No. Guys, especially guys, guys just don’t share that information with each other.
Andrew: So I see, you’re saying–and you get asked this a lot–is anyone even buying this? Are men actually buying grooming products? And you say you’d be surprised. They’re doing it. They’re just not talking about it.
Josh: Exactly. A big consumer research firm, they discovered that, in 2014, guys actually spent more on skincare products than they did on shave products for the first time ever in history.
Josh: Yeah. It’s actually interesting online. In store, in retail stores, shampoos, face washes, body washes, things like that do best because they’re public areas. Guys are going in, they feel comfortable purchasing those products. Online, over 60% of our sales are anti-aging products and things having to do with taking care of the skin and it’s simply because guys feel more comfortable.
They can do research from their homes. They can go online and make the purchases. No one is going to know. I have so many customers who tell me, “Josh, I love your products. I use them every day.” I ask them, “Hey, would you be willing to share, do something online?” They’re like, “I don’t feel comfortable. I’m a customer for life.” It’s probably the reason we discovered social is not there for us.
Andrew: I get that. I have a friend who’s I wouldn’t say like an overly masculine guy, but he’s got a conservative job, he’s doing okay. His wife told my wife that she uses some kind of foot softening something cream and you have to leave it on for a while and my wife said to her, “What does your husband do?” She said, “Well, he does it with me too.”
There’s no way that he would want me to know about that. I feel like they just violated his privacy. I get that this stuff stays private among people. In fact, you weren’t someone who was even looking at this. As I understand it, you’re someone who you had a girlfriend, took a photo of you and then bam, she did something that changed your life. What did she do?
Josh: Yeah. We took a photo together. A couple days later, I was looking at the photo and I was like, “I look a little different for whatever reason.” She’s like, “Oh, I took the photo on Photoshop and buffed out your forehead wrinkle.” I was like, “What? What do you mean? What’s wrong with my wrinkles?” It made a spark in my head. Like skincare, I used whatever cheap face wash I could find from the drugstore just to wash my face when I felt gross. I was like, “I’m turning almost 30, I should really start taking better care of my skin.” That really kind of set that off.
Andrew: Did you know you had it? Do I have it?
Josh: I don’t know. You’ve got a couple. I’d suggest a couple of our products.
Andrew: Really? I’m starting to get it?
Josh: Honestly, I never even thought of it. It didn’t even occur to me that I even had that line. Then I started looking. I’m like, “I think that things getting a little bigger.
Andrew: You see it. I can’t see it, but let me try it on the iPhone. I think that I’m on a small screen with you. I know when I moved to L.A., I said, “The sun is beating down on me all the time. I’m constantly outdoors. That’s got to be affecting my skin somehow. This cannot be good.”
Now I’m in San Francisco, there are times I’ll spend the whole summer in Napa Valley just enjoying myself out in the sun, working out in the sun. It’s got to be affecting me somehow. Let me see. I’ve got to turn it around. Were you in that similar situation? I see a little bit, actually, you’re right. Stuff’s coming in.
Josh: Yeah. I loved it in San Diego, fun in the sun every day there. I’m in Miami where it’s sun beating down every single day, and I hadn’t ever thought about skincare and thought I want to look good into my older years. I don’t want to get all wrinkly. It’s normal to want to look and feel good, wellness, taking care of yourself, fitness. I just started looking into men’s skincare. I actually can’t have gluten or dairy, not by choice.
So I’m always looking at labels at everything I put in or on my body. I was looking at this one product. I couldn’t pronounce the name of the chemical that was in it. I just randomly Googled the name of the chemical. The first result that came up was that it was known to shrink the testicles in mice. It was linked to a study, a legit study that it was known to shrink their testicles.
Granted, if you were a human, you’d have to swim in a lake of it for years. But it didn’t occur to me that you could put those kinds of ingredients in product. I thought lotion was lotion. I didn’t realize ingredients make up lotion. What did I know? I just started looking at skincare in general and just thought, “Wow.” I couldn’t really find a high-end brand that used natural ingredients that was geared towards men.
I saw the–I won’t name our competitors, but I saw them and thought to myself, “I think there’s an opportunity here.” It was actually kind of funny because my business partner and I, we G-chat all the time. That’s how we primarily communicate. I’m in Miami and our warehouse is up in Maine.
I just happened to write him. I said, “Hey, man, I think there’s an opportunity in men’s skincare.” He was kind of laughing like, “We don’t know anything about skincare,” especially up in Maine. It’s very rural. People don’t care about that stuff. So he was just like, “What are you talking about?” I convinced him. I showed him market data. He started slowly. He’s like, “All right, we can reach out to a couple manufacturers and see what it takes to even get going.”
Andrew: And the market data you showed him is roughly the kind of stuff that you mentioned earlier to me, that men are actually buying it, there’s a big enough market here that we should be considering it. Did you look at online competitors? Did you say, “Hey, there are a couple of giants in the space and you need to have Amazon and nobody cares about an individual new company here.”
Josh: Yeah. It actually validated my thought. I don’t consider Dollar Shave Club a competitor. They go after a certain type of person. They started releasing skincare products. They’ve actually–
Andrew: I’ve noticed that, pretty early on.
Josh: They’ve actually been releasing a ton of them for that simple reason, that once you get a guy comfortable with shaving, spending a little more, what have you, you can then–it’s easy to say, “You need a better face wash. It does help with your shave. You need a face moisturizer.” That really kind of validated my idea. Typical entrepreneur person with a slight ego saying I saw a few competitors and said, “I can do this better. I can make a better brand. I can just do it better. That’s of course the approach that we take.
Andrew: My sense is part of your analysis came from your finance background. I asked you if you were on a Windows PC or Mac today before we started and you said you were on a Windows for work, Mac for private and you said it came from that finance background, that’s where you guys operated in the Windows world. My sense is the other thing you took from them is the analysis. Why didn’t you, considering how analytical you are, why didn’t you stay with the mutual fund business you were in or the finance business that you had? Excuse me, the finance job that you had, it wasn’t a business.
Andrew: Give me an example of what made you say, “This is not for me.”
Josh: A couple different reasons. This isn’t my first company. I had a couple before. After college, I started out in finance just because I always liked numbers. I liked dealing with money, paid well. But kind of quickly on into my first job, I was asked to do this rigorous analysis and I spent days on it and gave it to my boss.
He looked at it for like two seconds and was like, “Oh, okay, thanks.” That’s when it first hit me that I didn’t want to work for somebody else. I did all that work. He didn’t really care about all the work I did. It just didn’t feel fulfilling. So I started little entrepreneurial ventures here and there. I had a small success with like a Groupon-like knockoff.
Andrew: Then you said, “I’m going to start my own business.” You saw Groupon starting to take off. Groupon was a Chicago-only based business for a while, and then it expanded to the rest of the country and then the rest of the world. I remember living in Argentina and it came to Argentina and we were excited. You said, “You know what? There is no Groupon in Maine.” You created a Groupon in Maine. Did you go around to local Maine businesses and personally sell them on this idea?
Josh: We did. Actually, in between my stint in finance, I taught myself programming. So I kind of knew the financial and the technology end of it. So I and some developers built the platform with my business partner. We just went door to door. We built the platform and then we went door to door and said, “Look how successful Groupon is.” People obviously knew who they were. They’re like, “Oh wow. We can have this in Maine. We can do this.” And yeah, we started it.
We were super successful for a couple months and then fortunately and unfortunately for us, Groupon and Living Social launched in Maine. It was beyond obvious we could not compete with them. They had money. They had connections. Everyone knew who they were. Everyone wanted to work with them. We ended up selling the business to Maine’s largest media partner.
Andrew: How much did you sell it for?
Josh: It was actually kind of a funny story.
Andrew: Tell me.
Josh: Long story short . . .
Andrew: No, tell the story. Don’t cut that story.
Josh: My business partner and I, we were cocky young guys. We thought we had this great idea and we were going to be able to sell it for a bunch of money. Especially when you’re young, you hear all these stories of people selling businesses for tens, hundreds, billions of dollars in technology. We went in there, asked for a couple million dollars. The company wasn’t remotely worth that.
They basically just laughed at us. We felt so stupid. They cut the meeting short, like we’re not even on the same page. Thank you for coming in. Goodbye. The meeting lasted maybe ten minutes. We were just looking at each other in the elevator down, just so mortified that we were that dumb. They ended up–they emailed us a few days later and said, “We’re willing to think about it, discuss this a little further. We’ve got some ideas and an offer.” We sold it them for $85,000.
Andrew: Okay. All right.
Josh: Not much at all. We made back the money we put into it, paid off my student loans. That was a good learning experience.
Andrew: Bought a car.
Josh: Yeah, I paid off my car.
Andrew: Paid off your car. All right. That’s a decent first exit. How did it impact your confidence? We hear a lot about entrepreneurs doing well, selling their businesses, growing something. Frankly, Mixergy is one of the places where people get that fire in them too. But there’s this question that, “You know what? Is this really possible or is it something that someone is just kind of saying?” Once you had that first sale did you feel like you could never really get as big as Groupon or did you say, “There’s an opportunity here and I felt the first jolt of it?”
Josh: After we sold the company?
Andrew: After you sold it, yeah. Did it validate it or did it make you question–tell me about that.
Josh: Yeah. Before that, I had a couple small ventures that weren’t successful. It just validated that I could do it, that you can do it. It wasn’t what we had dreamed and obviously what everyone wants, but that definitely ignited an even bigger fire in me to keep wanting to figure out other companies to start. Once you have that first–it’s kind of like getting the first sale online for your product. It gives you that confidence. It’s, “Okay, someone is actually willing to buy a company from me? I can do this again. I can take what I’ve learned and do it again.” It was a huge motivator. I wouldn’t take it back.
Andrew: By the way, why did you call it Deals in ME, meaning Maine? Were you thinking this was going to stay a Maine-based company and not go outside or did you think you were going to create Deals in NY, Deals in CA, etc.?
Josh: It’s actually kind of funny you say that because after we purchased the domain and started the company and started having a tiny bit of success, we were kind of like, “We’re kind of stupid. Why didn’t we make a more generic name?” We started buying up similar domains for the New England region. That’s actually one of the reasons we got purchased. Everyone under the sun, newspapers, they wanted to start these types of companies. The domains themselves, besides our email list was incredibly valuable.
Andrew: I see that. Speaking of email list, one of my sponsors is a company called ActiveCampaign. You’ve talked about the value of your email list to you. What are some of the clever things that you do with email? We’ll talk about ActiveCampaign, my sponsor, in relation to them. What are some of the things that you do in email that sets you apart?
Josh: As much as I like to give myself credit, I have to give all the credit to the email software program that we use. Most people use something like–I don’t want to name names, but they use like MailChimp, things like that that are really meant for email campaigns. We use a software called Klaviyo, which is just beyond amazing. It’s built for ecom shops to make money off email lists.
So you can data mine and upsell, cross-sell. You can basically data mine–we use Shopify. You can data mine all your Shopify data and say, “Okay, this person, they bought a shampoo 45 days ago. Let’s try to sell them a hair conditioner because hair conditioner obviously goes to shampoo. Let’s hit them up 20 days after they buy the shampoo,” like you can do all these crazy if-then statements and it makes–it really just personalizes the email because that’s really what you want to do, especially with personal care products, but also ecom to personalize the experience and we do that so much.
Andrew: So I’ve actually talked to so many people I interview who use my sponsor ActiveCampaign, but I’ve heard people say that they love their competitors, which is, like in your case, use Klaviyo. Others have used Marketo. I’m perfectly comfortable with everyone who’s listening to me knowing there are tons of alternatives out there–Infusionsoft is one. There are tons of really good alternatives out there.
What you brought up is one of the reasons why I like ActiveCampaign a lot. The ability to create an if-then statement is critical. Anyone who has just an email system that allows you to email anyone who’s signed up is making a big mistake. This is 2017. Frankly, even if this was 2014, you should be in a world where you can say, “If someone just bought this or looked at that, I want to treat them differently with my email.” I don’t think it has to happen on the sales level.
One of the things you could do with ActiveCampaign is if somebody comes to your website and they look at–let’s suppose you were selling exercise gear and somebody looked at the bicycle, the cycling, your email needs to take into account that they looked at cycling videos and then not try to sell them on running shoes or a running training program, but instead say, “For everyone who’s cycling, we have this online program that makes it easy for you to train for your first century.”
You can even say, “Have you ever done a century, yes or no?” If they click on no, then the following messages come up with, “We have this training program that will get you to your first century, century means a 100-mile bike ride. Because you told us you’re interested in cycling and you told us you haven’t done your first century wide, we want you to know we have this training program which doesn’t just tell you every day what you should be cycling and eating to prepare for your first century, but also will adjust, we’ll also put you in contact with someone who’s done a training recently.”
All that can only happen if you have marketing automation. That is critical. The problem with most marketing automation apps and the reason that I’m not at all scared to tell you guys that Marketo is by far one of the leaders in this space and is a big company and that Infusionsoft has had a head start in this, for sure. There are tons of options.
The reason that I feel very happy and very eager to tell you about ActiveCampaign is because ActiveCampaign makes it easy. All this stuff is useless if it ends up causing so many headaches that you have to hire people to maintain it and then hire new people to figure out what the first people did. And if you go to ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy, one of the first links that I’d like you to click on, even if you don’t buy, is click on the features link and then look at marketing automation. What you’re going to see there is how they use a flowchart to help organize the sales, the whole sales and communication process.
So, with drag and drop precision, you can say, “I’m going to drag a decision diamond right here,” because if somebody says I’m into cycling, I’m then going to drag an email that goes to them just about cycling. If they say they’re into running, I’m going to drag and email box and put it under the decision diamond so they go into the running sequence of messages. That kind of thing needs to be easy. I’m smart. I can figure out the competition. I’m geeky enough to get into it, but that’s not enough. I have to make it easy enough for my team to be able to do it and to be able to understand what I did with it, which is why I like ActiveCampaign.
If you guys are out there, you could see, take note of how Josh and more and more, maybe every single interviewee I have on now is not just emailing–they of course understand the power of email–but they’re doing email marketing automation to understand what people have bought and that they have bought and treat them differently, to understand what they’re interested in and treat them differently.
I know this is an ad I’m going a little bit longer because it’s important beyond the ad that you embrace this and you don’t look at–you mentioned a competitor, so I will–you don’t look at the MailChimp ads and say, “This is for me.” Those are for mom and pops who have no understanding of technology or startups. You are not that person. Even if you don’t use ActiveCampaign, recognize you are not that person. The world has evolved beyond that. You have to have smart, intelligent marketing automation.
I’m urging you to check out ActiveCampaign. I’ve turned off–I’ve said no to a lot of their competitors because I want a company that I can feel confident and feel excited to have you tell me that you signed up for it. If you want to check them out, there’s a special URL–I’ve got to end this ad because I’m going way long on it–if you want to check them out, go to ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy.
When you go there, you’re going to get your second month free. They want to know that you’re really committed before they start giving you freebies. They only want committed people. They then will also give you two free one on ones, so when you sign up you’re going to get to talk to someone who’s an expert at marketing automation and you’re going to get free migration.
So, if you maybe have lived with a simple email software for a long time and you’re thinking of upgrading, they’re going to make it easy for you by giving you free migration. Go check out all the details on ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy. Cool. I love that you actually get into this stuff. More and more, I’m finding that my guests are into not just the marketing when it comes to ads, but into what happens afterwards.
All right. So, coming back to your story, you said, “Great, I know now that businesses can be built from scratch and can be sold. I can do better even than I did the first time out. I have this problem, which is my girlfriend is starting to clear away wrinkles. Who knows what’s going to happen when I turn 40, 50 years old? I want to take care of it now. There is no good solution out there. I’m going to start creating it.” You then went out to look for US-based manufacturers. I’m wondering why. Why US-based? Why did you even give a rat’s ass where it was made?
Josh: I get that question a lot. It was just easier. We knew–it didn’t occur to us that you could even go to China, get that built, have it shipped over. I knew vaguely there were some regulations, but at the end of the day, we wanted US manufacturing simply because the main initial question you asked in the interview is we knew it was getting easier to work with US manufacturers because so many people have been burned by China. There are so many regulations.
More US manufacturers have kind of stepped up and said, “Holy crap, we’re losing a lot of business to China, to all these other third world countries because of cheaper labor. We need to start making prices better. We need to start making minimums lower.” We probably couldn’t have done this five years ago. We take the product, we bottle it, we label it, we’ve been able to do what we’re doing simply because more and more manufacturers, they want the US business.
Andrew: They make it, they send it to you in some big container, you put it in the bottle yourself, you label it yourself and you ship it out. Is that right?
Josh: Yeah. So, we’re doing a lot of the end work. The US-based manufacturers, it’s easier.
Andrew: Josh, I’m actually now Googling what I imagined you might have done when you were starting. You had no background in this. You’re a finance guy who was a software person first. I just typed in skincare manufacturers USA. I’m coming up with companies like Cosmetic Solutions, LLC, Covalence Laboratories, GS Cosmeceuticals.
Josh: Cosmeceuticals, yeah.
Andrew: They’ve got a low rating here. How do you know them?
Josh: I just know the word cosmeceuticals.
Andrew: I see. I’ve never heard of cosmeceuticals before. So this is essentially what you did and then you started calling them up and talking to them and doing the kind of interviews if you were hiring a person, only here you were hiring a manufacturer, is that right?
Josh: Basically. It was a little less interview and me kind of pleading, “Can we buy at these lower quantities. We’re looking to create this custom formula. Can you lower your minimums?”
Andrew: How did you know what the custom formula should be?
Josh: We knew what we wanted the product to act and feel like. I had some general idea just from Googling. I tell people all the time my company and most companies nowadays are built from Google. It’s how you find out everything. I went and purchased all these skincare products and noted what I liked, what I didn’t like being a guy and said, “This is in general what I’m looking for. This is in general what I want in the product.”
Then you work with them and they tell you, “If you have this, then it’s going to be like this.” They’ve done it for so long. They have an idea that, “You basically want this kind of product. We’ll let you mix it up and let you see if you like it.”
Andrew: So, Josh, I can imagine what I would do is I would get some skincare products from the pharmacy, get some from online, put them on and immediately, the ones that are oily, I get really turned off by. There are some that are really like Vaseline. I might say I want it to be a little bit drier. How do I know how express that to a manufacturer, not just the end product but how I want it? I wouldn’t be able to say, “I need it dryer and not as oily because I want less [inaudible 00:32:54]?” I can’t even pronounce cosmeceuticals. What was it called?
Josh: Cosmeceuticals, yeah.
Andrew: Cosmeceuticals I can’t even pronounce. So, how would I know? How did you know back then how to explain the ingredient that you wanted turned off so that it wouldn’t have the feel that you didn’t want?
Josh: Exactly how you just described it. I used whatever words possible. You interfaced with typically an account executive that understands your background probably isn’t in chemistry. So, that’s really what you sell them is say, “That felt too oily.” You basically try to describe as best as possible what you want and what you don’t like. Yeah. You should see my emails and my notes. They’re hilarious, like, “This feels gunky.” You just use whatever words.
Andrew: They start to give you the right terminology and the ingredients that caused the gunkiness and then terminology for the feelings that you wanted and the ingredients that lead to that.
Josh: Right. It does cause some issues because sometimes you’ll be trying to describe something and they’ll say, “We don’t really get it,” or, “You mean this word?” And you’re like, “I think that’s the word.” It can take, for a custom formula, about six months to get it right, just the back and forth because the first version is never right, ever. It’s usually the third, fourth, fifth. You can lose your mind trying to come up with the perfect formula because there is no such thing.
Andrew: They’re formulating it for you, shipping it out to you. You’re trying it on. You’re saying, “This feels good,” that kind of thing.
Josh: Yeah. The first batch that we ever got, I was at my previous day job and I went into the bathroom and I had a big box of the little containers and packets they give you and putting the stuff on in the middle of the day, one of my coworkers walked in and was like, “What are you doing?” He was just like, “Okay, weirdo.” So that’s what you do. He’d send them up to my business partner. We’d both try them. He’d give them to everyone you can get different opinions and try to get a general uniform opinion on what people’s thoughts are.
Andrew: Okay. And then you made a big mistake. You bought the right stuff–is it price per gallon, by the way, that you were paying?
Josh: Essentially, yeah. The more you buy, the cheaper it is.
Andrew: What was the first product you had made?
Josh: The first product we had made was we launched with four products, just to figure out is there a market? Are people going to buy this? What we paid per gallon I was going to say is probably–it was our face moisturizer. I’m going to say it was probably $600, something around there.
Andrew: Per gallon of it?
Josh: Yeah. Well, our thing, I guess, is that we make high-performing men’s skincare and grooming products for men that use natural organic ingredients. You go to any store, you see with aloe, with cocoa butter, whatever and then you look at the back of the bottle and you see it’s the last ingredient. That means there’s barely anything in there.
Andrew: Not only that, there was an article I think in the Wall Street Journal about how many products that say they’re made with aloe actually have zero aloe in it and I don’t know how they can get away with that.
Josh: There’s no law against it.
Josh: There’s no one to slap your hand. If you’re big enough and the FDA or another regulatory unit just wants to make an example of you, they might, but it’s kind of like protein. There was a big story where they discovered most of the most popular whey protein brands, ones anyone has heard of, they discovered they didn’t have remotely the amount of protein in them that they say they do.
Andrew: Here it is. It was on Bloomberg, November 22nd, 2016, no evidence of aloe vera found in the aloe vera at Walmart and CVA. I actually have seen other exposes of other products. All right. I get. I get that you said, “I’m paying a lot of money because I have this need for it to be the right product.” You then had a disaster. You get the product in these gallon jugs, I’m imagining. You start to pour it into bottles, you put a label on it. You take it in the shower and what happens?
Josh: My business partner, he ordered paper labels. So it’s like the things you don’t even realize. I always tell people when you start a business, you’re going to make mistakes and you constantly just need to always be improving. We bought paper labels versus [inaudible 00:37:39] labels. You’re going to be bringing a shampoo into the shower, you can’t have the label get all crinkly and dissolve because it’s just a paper-based label.
So, yeah, we got the first round of products and it was like, “You can’t take this in the shower.” And he’s like, “Oh crap.” We had to completely get new labels. Again, you’re dealing with minimums. You have to buy a certain amount of labels. It was a huge pain. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a big deal because it’s small enough to fix it, but it was an initial disappointment.
Andrew: All right. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the product. Let’s get into the promotion. The first big thing that helped you take off was getting into Men’s Journal. How did you get into Men’s Journal?
Josh: Cold calling editors. I basically just went and Googled Men’s Journal editors or GQ, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal. I just went to their websites, tried to find press contacts, went and looked at grooming stories, tried to see if maybe there was a Twitter handle or there was an email address, find the person’s name, guess their email addresses. Once you figure out a company’s Josh.Meyer@BrickellMensProducts, if you know the person’s name, you can assume that it’s going to follow the same format.
I just called up these men’s magazines. I emailed them. They’ve never heard of you. They’re not going to respond. It’s just like sales. After a while, eventually you bug them enough, they say, “Okay, this is a cool new product. Can you send some product out to me?” Eventually you get one who has a story. They have a deadline. They’re like, “Here you are. You fit into what I need. Can you send me something?” You get lucky. It’s like sales.
Andrew: So you got in there. Did it impact sales? Did it actually result in something or was it just an ego boost?
Josh: It resulted in just sales. Getting into Men’s Journal–it’s funny because Matt loves to save on costs and the editor at Men’s Journal said, “I need you to overnight it. I need it tomorrow.” Our warehouse is in Maine. They were in New York. Okay. Fine. No problem. It’s one day just ground shipping. I was like, “Matt, you need to overnight it. It absolutely has to get there.” “Okay, okay.” He sent it ground.
Of course, it didn’t make it. For whatever reason, “Sorry, ground, it’s not guaranteed it’s going to be there the next day.” I like pleaded with her, “Please, can we re-send you it?” She’s like, “Okay.” This is the editor at this large men’s magazine. I think it was the only argument Matt and I ever had. I was just like yelling at him, “Why would you do that? I told you to pay for the overnight shipping.” She was nice enough to say, “We’ll hold off the photo shoot for one more day.”
Andrew: They held off the photo shoot just for you?
Josh: Yeah. We got lucky.
Andrew: Unreal. So this actually helped you get some real customers. But it’s a one-time pop. What did you do to get customers on an ongoing basis?
Josh: It’s not though.
Andrew: It’s not?
Josh: No, it’s not. Those magazines, they sell millions of copies a year. They get left around in waiting rooms. Guys share those magazines. Whenever you get into one of the magazines, they end up writing an article too for online. They mirror what’s in their current monthly issue, so you get a link. That link is huge. That resulted not only in domain authority, you get people directly going to your site and purchasing. We had retailers who saw us in Men’s Journal.
No one had ever heard of us and it really kind of made us like, “They must be somebody because they’re in Men’s Journal.” It’s one thing to be in an online article these days. Anyone can type up a blog post or article and throw it up on Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, but to get into a magazine, that’s time. It costs them a lot of money. They only really–these magazines, you go to any of these men’s magazines, you only see really big brands. That aligned us with these other larger brands who have been around for decades and it really just from there, it helped us take off.
Andrew: And then the next thing that helped you take off was actually getting into a company, into what was it called? Canyon Ranch. How did Canyon Ranch impact your business?
Josh: Canyon Ranch–so, I would say Men’s Journal gave us the confidence and the branding in terms of being able to reach out to other men’s magazines and tell people, “Oh, look, we’ve been in Men’s Journal.” Then from there, it’s always good to align yourself with brands and partners who are much bigger than you. Canyon Ranch, they’re a well-known, high-end spa. They have them all around the world. Celebrities, CEOs of large companies go there.
That really gave us the confidence that we could work with a large chain like that, that we were good enough to be aligned with them. It’s one thing to get into a magazine, but then also to work with a large, well-known entity just from an operational, logistics standpoint. Can you meet their deadlines? Can you meet their orders?
Andrew: Was it cold calling again?
Josh: Yes, that was cold calling.
Andrew: Josh, are you the one who cold calls?
Josh: No. That was our sales team. I have a few guys who help me with sales. They had a prior relationship. We kind of got lucky because they were looking for a men’s line and we just happened to knock on their door and say, “Hey, here we are,” because everyone, most big brands, they like to carry other well-known brands, but they also like to carry unique new brands too because you want to be cutting edge. You want to be bringing in new, cool things. We happen to position ourselves that way. We just got lucky. I would say you get lucky, but if you work hard enough, you’re going to get lucky a lot.
Andrew: I used to like going to high-end gyms, partially it was because when I’d go to the shower, they’d have this really new interesting shampoo that I would never think to get on my own, but it would smell like cucumbers or something and I’d love it.
Andrew: Let me come back. I want to ask you more about that. But first, I’ve got to tell you about Toptal. I’ve told my audience about it for a long time, but Josh, you know Toptal is a place where you can hire great developers. Do you know who the number one collection of customers are for them for my Mixergy interviews? Your video froze, so I’m just going to tell you.
It’s my interviewees. These guys–you can see it in my interviews. No question, I talk about Toptal, they reach for their pens, they reach for their keyboards and they write it down because they’re always looking for great developers. They’re always looking to hire the best of the best. So, that’s what Toptal is. It’s a network of great developers.
One of the people who I interviewed in the past at Mixergy is a guy named Derek Johnson. He runs a company called Tatango, which makes it easy for people to text message their audiences, let their audiences subscribe by text and then they message them. This guy Derek says, “I know Andrew. He’s not full of crap. He’s not full of shit. If he’s saying this is a good company, I’ve got to go investigate it.”
So Derek and his CTO called up Toptal and they basically said, “Look, we’ve been doing 20 to 30 interviews here trying to find the best developers that we can. Andrew says you guys are good. Blow us away. What are you going to do?” And so Toptal went back and they sent them two different people. So, Derek and his CTO interviewed this two people. They said either one would have been good, but they went with the person who felt like the right cultural fit for them and they hired him.
They started out–I’ve got the salary here in my notes. It doesn’t matter. I don’t want to talk too publically about their information. They started out paying this person for a little bit of work and then they ended up with not just a full-time relationship with that person, but full-time plus, all through Toptal. The CTO said this guy is so good, he can actually be the CTO of Tatango. That’s how good Toptal is with them.
Since then, they’ve hired other developers and when he finally came here to see me in person at Mixergy’s offices, he bought me one of my favorite whiskeys ever to say thank you. I’ve told you guys about other people who I’ve interviewed who have signed up, guys like James Ashenhurst, who’s got a smaller company. Tatango is much bigger, much more self-developed software.
James Ashenhurst has a WordPress website. He just wanted to improve the search on it and he signed up. I told you about an audience member, Eric Brown who came to the office to have a drink with me who told me about how he built Permea, his website, using Toptal developers and designers.
If you’re out there and you’re listening, I’m giving you all their last names so you can feel free to contact them. I’m sure Derek Johnson, for example, is easy to find at Tatango. I’m sure they’ll all be happy to tell you their personal experiences with them. Not everybody is a good fit for Toptal.
What I urge you to do if you’re interested is to go to their special URL they set up for us and schedule a call with someone at Toptal. They will talk to you about your needs and if it’s a good fit, they’ll tell you yes. If it’s not a good fit, they’ll tell you no. Frankly, some people have been upset they weren’t a good fit, but I’d much rather turn them away and said, “Hey, sorry, you’re not ready for Toptal.”
If you want to sign up, here’s a special URL where they’re going to give you 80 free Toptal developer hours after you pay for your first 80 and that’s in addition to a two-week no risk trial period. Go check it out and get all the details on this software at Toptal.com/Mixergy. I know that I mispronounce this or I don’t pronounce it clearly enough. So, I’ll tell you. It’s spelled T-O-P-T-A-L, Toptal.com/Mixergy, top as in highest point, tal as in talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy. And feel free to let me know how it’s working for you and what you’re building with them.
All right. You get into–actually, wait, you mentioned salespeople, that’s what I wanted to come back and spend more time on. I know your revenues. You don’t have that much money you can hire a three-person sales team, especially not before you got this big client. How did you have three sales people back then?
Josh: What you do is get outsourced salespeople. Especially in the skincare world, very often there will be teams who sell for multiple brands. So, essentially, you’re buying time. So they obviously get paid. It’s sales, so you get paid base plus commission and of course, it’s a lot cheaper than going and hiring a three-person team. If you’re going to get good salespeople, you’re going to pay them $80,000, $100,000 base plus commission. That obviously wasn’t–we couldn’t do that.
Andrew: So what would you search for to find that? I typed in skincare sales reps and I came up with Indeed, which is a list of ads for people who are looking for them. What did you search?
Josh: This was actually a referral. I had cold emailed, as I was still the top sales guy. I approached a retailer asking them if they wanted to carry us. The owner wrote back and she said, “Good for you. You’re the owner and you’re still doing the sales. I commend you on that. You might want to check out this group that I use.”
She basically just referred me to them. I was kind of at the point where I didn’t want to do the sales anymore. It was almost like a godsend that was being–she referred me to them because I was like, “This is a perfect fit. We finally have the money.” We have a little money to spend on, so we were able to make something work.
Andrew: I see. So that’s how you discovered it, but there are these groups of people who do nothing but sell products like yours. They get charged a base and a commission but they don’t need full-time commitments?
Josh: Correct. Yeah, because they’re also working with other brands too. They might represent three or four different brands, whatever their capacity is. It’s nice because especially in the skincare world, it’s the normal wholesale strategy is working with distributors, but that comes with a lot of back and forth on that. It’s really a negotiation versus if you hire a sales team, it’s their job to sell. If they don’t sell, they lose you as a client and if they do sell, obviously everyone wins. It’s better.
Andrew: And then how did you end up with Bloomingdales? They just cold called you because they saw you somewhere?
Josh: Yeah. One of the buyers had actually seen–I can’t remember where exactly they saw it. They didn’t see an advertisement. They saw us somewhere, reached out and just started a dialogue. It takes forever to get into one of those large retail stores, so you really kind of build a relationship because especially with men’s grooming, we’ve had a lot of places approach us, simply because men’s grooming is booming. Everyone wants to find new various products that are out there.
So we just started a relationship and a dialogue and from there, you really have to prove to them that you’re ready because if you’re a new young brand, they realize they have a lot of tough requirements in terms of inventory and shipping and doing things right. So, they really are kind of interviewing you to make sure that you can handle them.
Andrew: What’s The Cure Group?
Josh: Cure Group, that’s our sales group.
Andrew: That’s the team that you hired, that you talked about?
Andrew: They helped you also with this Bloomingdales deal?
Josh: Correct. I’ve never sold in big retail and there are just a lot of different terms, a lot of things you’ve got to understand about how that works. So that helped immensely being able to have the conversation where I didn’t look like a complete idiot.
Andrew: I think this is TheCureGroup.us is their website.
Josh: I actually make fun of the guy who owns it because his website has been under construction for years.
Andrew: I can’t even log in for some reason.
Josh: Basically in that industry, it’s a lot of referrals. It’s brands like me talking to another brand saying, “Hey, I’ve got this great company I work with.” That’s how they get new customers or clients.
Andrew: I’m not even sure that URL is the right one because I can’t get into that site for whatever reason. Meanwhile, you’re a guy at that point still making sales. You’re still young enough you’re going out or you should be going out, but you’re not. You’re living in Miami at the time, which I know is a really good environment for going out at night, much better than San Francisco, where people pride themselves on drinking taps at dive bars. But you can’t go out. How is that impacting you at that point in your life?
Josh: It’s stressful. You want to be successful but then at the same time, there’s the pressure of friends and you’re dating, to go out, drink, have a good time, go out to eat. So it was very hard. I mean, you’re constantly torn between going out and having a life and then also having your entrepreneurial life because obviously anyone listening, if you’re an entrepreneur, you live a life that’s so different from everyone else that they’re never going to understand.
Your friends are never going to understand. They’re never going to understand why you’re working on the weekend, why you can’t go to the beach. Your girlfriend, your parents, no one is sever going to understand unless you’re doing it. So it created a constant struggle in your mind. That right there can stress you out.
Andrew: How’d you deal with it?
Josh: I wish I had some magical way I dealt with it, but I have to say I just dealt with it, just mentally said, “Okay.” I’d go out for like an hour. My friends would make fun of me. In Miami, they go out super late, so more like 11:00 or 12:00, I’d go show up for an hour and then leave. I’d, “Hey, how are you?” have a drink, “How’s everything going?” and then I’d leave. That’s how I dealt with it. They gave me that break and I’d come back home at work.
Andrew: Yeah. The way I dealt with it–I remember I was living in the Upper East Side in Manhattan. My office was right it Midtown on 57th Street and I’d have to walk through all the great bars to get home, where I would go home and work on a Friday night.
Andrew: The way I dealt with it was by feeling superior. “I am better than them because they’re just drinking and nothing good is going to come of that. I am going to go to work and build something much better.” That would fire me up. There was a part of me that I was definitely suppressing that I wanted to be a part of something, that I needed a little bit to understand how to even go and enjoy myself, but I definitely left it build me up. You feel any of that?
Josh: Yes. Actually, as you said that, you asked how I coped with it. That was probably the best way. My same line of thinking was, “I’m going to go home. I’m going to be building something awesome. I’m doing something awesome. Everyone here is just drinking,” suppressing, of course, the natural desire to go hang out with friends. Yeah, kind of the flip side of that is you get your brain into such a zone in that matter that it’s hard to unwind, it’s hard to go back.
The business is successful now to the point where I can go hang out, not worry about going back home in one hour, where I have a hard time enjoying myself because I’ve basically just for the past couple years conditioned my brain to think that. So it’s like now you’re guy who can’t have fun, who only hangs out for an hour when it’s like you can enjoy yourself. Yeah, I have trouble going between the two modes, as you’d say, yeah.
Andrew: I heard you used to watch motivational videos on YouTube to keep yourself going on those late Friday nights at work. What are some of the good ones that helped you out? Who were some of the people you used to turned to?
Josh: What’s his name? Les. . . He’s a very famous motivational speaker, Les Brown?
Andrew: I think it is Les Brown. Yeah. He’s been around forever.
Josh: Yeah. I love that guy. Actually, I joined Toastmasters kind of at the beginning of when I started the company, simply because I knew it would help from a business, just help in business in general. That was good too because that gives you confidence you’re surrounded by like-minded people. You hear a lot of motivational speeches, people want to be motivational speakers. I would honestly go on YouTube and type motivational speakers and motivational music and they show me inspirational music set to an inspirational speech.
I got a lot of Michael Jordan, mostly because of how he thinks. He wasn’t the best because he had talent. He was the best because of how he thought. He’s a successful business man too. If you go and listen to him as to why he was just so good, it was because of how he thought. I listened to a lot of Michael Jordan motivational speeches and videos of him just dominating. It jus, you really have got to draw inspiration from wherever you can.
Andrew: How about Eric Thomas, ET, do you know him?
Josh: Yeah. I listened to some of his stuff too, all those guys. I can probably recite some of the stuff they’ve said. Eric Thomas, he has a thing about you’ve got to want it so bad where you’ve got to be okay with someone trying to drown you and you’ve got to fight your way up.
Andrew: Yeah. I remember that one. That’s the first video I ever saw of him. I’ve got to get Eric Thomas on Mixergy. If somebody out there knows how I can connect with him and invite him to do an interview, I’ve got to find out a little bit more about him. I think he’s also one of these guys who hates being called a motivational speaker, even though his Wikipedia page lists him as a motivational speaker. I know what he doesn’t want to do is be the guy who gives you empty motivation.
But when you’re Friday night working, not sure if the thing is going to work out at all, seeing your friends enjoying themselves, making good money because they’re smart people and you gave up a good job in finance to do this thing that who knows where it’s going to go. Man, I’ll take motivation any time at that point, for sure.
Andrew: All right. Now that you’ve built it up, you’re still in the process. We’re talking about a kind of early, early business. You launched it, if I’ve got this right, 2014. It’s officially 2014, but it’s two and a half years since it’s been out there. Am I right?
Josh: Correct. Yeah. It was the latter half of 2014.
Andrew: So, what are your revenues today?
Josh: Revenues today, on a monthly basis we’re doing about $250,000.
Andrew: Has that been consistent, $250,000 for the last three months?
Josh: Yeah. It was kind of interesting. Growth was like a hockey puck.
Andrew: Hockey stick.
Josh: Yes, hockey stick. I was thinking of it in my mind. We were just kind of slowly growing. We were growing. We were happy, but then all of a sudden Christmas this past year or the holiday season, which starts around September in retail, September/October, all of a sudden revenues just shot up and they’ve stayed–we thought it might just be a seasonal thing, but from there, we’ve just been growing about 20% to 25% a month.
Andrew: Wow. These are pretty high-end products. We’re not talking about a $5 product. Some of the products will cost $50, $60, $70. But I tell you what will cost about $5 and that’s the deluxe sample kit, $6.95 if we just go to your site, click the try us risk free. That’s where we get four different products, face wash, face moisturizer, shampoo and the shave cream, right? We get a $10 coupon towards the next purchase.
Josh: You get 15 products, actually. We’re actually expanding that too. We’re making that more robust.
Andrew: I see that. Actually, the page shows a photo of four products, but it says underneath it 13 products and it says underneath it 13 products and now you’re saying it’s going to be a 15-product set.
Josh: Yeah. It comes with a mixture of little jars, bottles and sample packets. We’re actually expanded the jars and the bottles as well. We’re making it retail ready so we can launch it in retail stores as well.
Andrew: I see. I can go at some point into a store and see your collection of samples that I can buy in an inexpensive way and try it right there that night.
Josh: Yeah. Exactly.
Andrew: This is big. Your revenue seems to have shot up. The reason I was checking with you did it last for more than three months is the revenue shot up since you were first suggested to us as an interviewee and I wanted to make sure was this like a one-month growth? No. This is upward trajectory. So you’ve definitely grown a lot since we first asked you to do an interview.
Josh: Yes. We continue to grow. It’s slightly overwhelming. We’re at the phase now where it’s less–when you’re starting, you’re doing everything you can to get the name out, then you reach a point where it’s, “Holy crap, how do we manage this growth?” So we’re going on a hiring spree to manage the growth. Up until then, it was basically just my business partner and I and I guess the sales team and individual freelancers helping us out. So now we’re at the point of trying to manage the growth.
Andrew: Fantastic. You are also on Amazon. The big thing I’ve taken from this is you can create a brand today. You can do it online. You can actually create products and ship them out without having to spin up a whole factory. And this stuff is really possible today in a way that it wasn’t a while back.
In a way that actually I would say maybe the early days of cable television, they couldn’t really sell much and then they discovered how they could create brands for other people. Then they started creating brands for themselves. So YouTube would start to basically become not just a brand on its own, but would sell its own stuff and launch brands.
What’s the one that–Girls Gone Wild was basically a brand created on E! But the big takeaway back then was you could launch and create a full brand on this platform that for a long time people made fun of, which is cable. Today, the same thing is happening on the internet. I’m excited to see it happen and I’m glad to hear you guys are doing so great. The website for anyone who wants to go check it out, it’s Brickell–how’d you get the name Brickell?
Josh: Brickell is an area of Manhattan that I would say is similar to–sorry, it’s an area of Miami that’s similar to Manhattan. So it’s like the up and coming area of Miami. So, whenever you see a photo of Miami, beautiful skyscrapers against the blue water, that’s not South Beach. South Beach is kind of a dump. Brickell is where you see these beautiful high rises, beautiful skyscrapers against the blue water. It’s the financial district. It’s where all the cool bars are, good restaurants.
Andrew: I see it. It’s right under Downtown Miami.
Josh: Yeah. It’s kind of like the hot area of Miami. I always liked the name, though it sounded masculine and it kind of–the people who go there, they probably do well. They have the income to buy our types of products. I thought it made sense.
Andrew: BrickellMensProducts.com for anyone who wants to go check it out. I’d love to know what you guys think of the product if you do try it. My two sponsors are the company that’s going to actually up your email game and also make it easy for your team to manage. It’s called ActiveCampaign. Their URL is ActiveCampaign.com/Mixergy if you want to take advantage of that offer they’re making our listeners.
And the developers that so many people in my audience and so many of my interviewees have used, they come from a company called Toptal, Top as in top of the mountain, tal as in talent. Go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. Let me know what you build with them. I’d love to help promote it–Toptal.com/Mixergy.
Josh, thanks for being here.
Josh: Thank you very much.
Andrew: Congrats. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy and subscribing to the podcast. Bye, everyone.