From corporate America to healthy snackin'
Welcome to this week's rundown of the DTCX Exceptional Ecommerce podcast! Chris Meade dove right in with Michelle Razavi and Niki Elliot, co-founders of Elavi, to chat about their biggest lessons moving from corporate America to running their own DTC business. Watch the full episode below! ⤵
From demanding corporate jobs, to teaching fitness classes, to eventually co-founding a successful protein bar business, Niki and Michelle have dipped their toes in just about everything since graduating college.
After meeting Niki when the pair worked at Equinox, Michelle sought after something that would help fuel her body between teaching, working out, and juggling her 9-5 corporate job. Noticing how many of her co-workers had collagen but rarely consumed it, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create her own collagen protein bars.
With both Michelle and Niki at a crossroads with their careers at the time, and a clean recipe for a protein bar that everyone seemed to love, the two paired up and co-founded Elavi. Taking their time, Michelle and Niki invested their own capital, bootstrapping any money that came in from family and friends for their first production run and the year that followed.
With the growing success of Elavi, the co-founders found themselves learning some pretty important lessons about growing a DTC business — including the importance of not having a LTL (less-than-truckload) deliver pallets of inventory to their home in San Francisco. Keep reading to learn more about Michelle and Niki's biggest lessons. ⤵
Keeping things balanced ⚖️
With the growing popularity of their protein bars, and the urge to leave corporate America, Michelle and Niki knew it was time to go all-in on Elavi. How did they manage this when they had no investors? Sweat equity and capital equity.
From the beginning, Michelle left her corporate job to take care of the day-to-day of their new business and kickstart everything, from making calls to potential buyers and handling production, putting in sweat equity. Niki continued working her corporate job to be able to fund their new brand, adding capital equity to Elavi. Finding this balance was key to their success, as was transparency and trust in one another.
Boots on the ground 🥾
The best advice Michelle and Niki can give to all DTC brands looking to move into retail is to start local. Boots on the ground, going into local retailers with samples for customers in store, re-merchandising so their products aren't on the bottom shelf, and even buying their own product to give away to customers were just some of the ways they found retail success.
Another important step in moving into retail is to have a thought-out sales flow process. Finding the right buyers and merchandisers, sending them samples, and following up with them every week or two with something of value — whether that be press mentions, sales stats, or customer feedback. The key here is to show the buyer why they should buy your product, not just that they should.
Showing off 💁
Having the right collateral is a key player in growing your business. What does this look like for Michelle and Niki? Their number one piece — sell sheets. Creating a visually-stunning, 1 page document that showcases the product and its ingredients, the packaging, and what it looks like on the shelf is one of the best ways to show off your product to potential buyers at stores and trade shows.
For potential buyers that they reach out to online, instead of sending a static PDF of their sell sheet, Michelle and Niki have created a dynamic version of the document in the form of landing pages. These pages help visualize their products, and also let them know who and when the page was visited — a very helpful stat showing who may be interested and who to follow up with.
Streamlining processes 📈
It's only natural to stumble here and there when climbing to the top. One of the biggest lessons the co-founders learned was that not every aspect of DTC can be streamlined to retail.
One of their biggest hurdles came from their packaging — as they were initially a DTC-only brand, Elavi bars were packaged in super lightweight pouches that shipped well and looked great. When it came time to move into retail, they kept the same packaging and sent retailers a reusable carton with the expectation that they'd take the bars out of the pouch and put each individual bar in the carton for display. With the realization that this was a huge ask for retailers to constantly do, they swiftly made a decision to pre-package the cartons for retailers, and to do what's best of each individual channel to help streamline processes for everyone.
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