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Sustainability is Good for the Bottom Line featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, ECOS

Gooder Podcast featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks

“Everyone has the right to a healthy home.” – Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks 

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, the President and CEO at ECOS. We discuss all things ECOS: innovation, leadership, sustainability, and life. We also learn about the trends that have come up in the natural cleaning industry, accelerated due to the pandemic. Along the way, we learn the story of the transformation of a family legacy into a category champion and hear about an innovative leader who advocates for corporate social responsibility and sustainable manufacturing.

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the family history and legacy of ECOS.  
  • How far green science has evolved and its impact on product efficacy in home cleaning and personal care. 
  • Reasons why consumers resist switching from traditional industrial cleaners to more people/planet/pet-friendly cleaning products.
  • About product innovation and trends in the natural cleaning industry. 
  • The behind-the-scenes efforts of developing one of the most disruptive environmentally friendly supply chains and its net-positive impact for consumers pocketbooks. 
  • How Kelly’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and love inspires a brand that continues to break all the rules on its way to saving the planet. 
Gooder Podcast

Sustainability is Good for the Bottom Line featuring Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, ECOS

About Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks: 

As President and CEO, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, leads the strategy and production environmentally friendly cleaning products at ECOS. She oversees four geographically diverse facilities across the U.S. as well as a European Manufacturing platform. She has been widely recognized for her highly effective movement, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable manufacturing. 

Vlahakis-Hanks has led ECOS to become a Climate Positive company and the first company in the world to achieve the sustainability trifecta of carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and TRUE Platinum Zero Waste certification. Her sustainable business   practice has made ECOS a model for green business in the U.S. ECOS is a primary manufacture that has received many awards for its innovations in safer green chemistry, including the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Partner of the Year four times. 

As an African American woman and the daughter of a Greek immigrant, Vlahakis-Hanks has made environmental and social justice a cornerstone of ECOS’s mission. She actively promotes a corporate culture of diversity and empowerment, ensuring that over 50% of her C-Suite and top executives are women. She supports a green economy by creating sustainable manufacturing jobs across the U.S. and offering strong employee benefits and a living minimum wage of $17 per hour, one of the highest in the industry.  She also offers financial incentives to employees who make sustainable living choices such as purchasing a low-emissions vehicle or solar panels. 

Vlahakis-Hanks received her undergraduate degree at UCLA and an MBA at Chapman University Argyros School of Business and Economics. She has been featured on CNN, CBS News, FOX News, NBC News, Bloomberg and Marketwatch and in publications such as Fortune, Entrepreneur and the Los Angeles Times. She has received many awards for her sustainable leadership, including Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Powerful Women in 2020 and Conscious Company’s World-Changing Women in Conscious Business Award. 

She is an active member of several boards, including the Environmental Media Association and the Chapman University Board of Governors, where she serves on the Diversity Task Force. She is active in industry councils and public policy advocacy, including the American Sustainable Business Council and the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, working to promote higher standards for consumer products to protect human health and the environment.  She is also a member of YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) and Abundance 360, Peter Diamandis’ select community of executives and entrepreneurs using exponential technologies to transform their businesses. 

Vlahakis-Hanks resides in southern California with her husband, teenage daughter, and rescue dog Mina. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyvlahakishanks/   

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kvlahakis?lang=en 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellyfromecos/?hl=en 

Website: https://www.ecos.com   

Show Resources: 

ECOS’ One-Step Disinfectant – Fragrance Free. 

ECOSNEXT™ Liquidless Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear. 

The University of California, Los Angeles is a public land-grant research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School. 

Brown + Dutch was founded in 1996 when Alyson Dutch and her chocolate Labrador Rocky Brown found themselves starting a PR agency, quite by accident.  

Walmart Inc. is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores from the United States, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and incorporated on October 31, 1969.    

Sam’s West, Inc. is an American chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Walmart Inc., founded in 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton.  

Costco Wholesale Corporation is an American multinational corporation which operates a chain of membership-only big-box retail stores. As of 2020, Costco was the fifth largest retailer in the world, and the world’s largest retailer of choice and prime beef, organic foods, rotisserie chicken, and wine as of 2016.  

TerraCycle is a private U.S. recycling business headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey. It primarily runs a volunteer-based recycling platform to collect non-recyclable pre-consumer and post-consumer waste on behalf of corporate donors or municipalities to turn it into raw material to be used in new products.  

Whole Foods Market, Inc. is an American multinational supermarket chain headquartered in Austin, Texas, which sells products free from hydrogenated fats and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. A USDA Certified Organic grocer in the United States, the chain is popularly known for its organic selections. 

The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970; it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. 

Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses, and purchasers find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment. 

Green For All is an organization whose stated goal is to build a green economy while simultaneously lifting citizens out of poverty. It is a DC-based group that brings unions and environmentalists together to push for anti-poverty measures and a clean-energy economy. 

The Environmental Media Awards have been awarded by the Environmental Media Association since 1991 to the best television episode or film with an environmental message. 

YPO is a global leadership community of chief executives with approximately 29,000 members in more than 130 countries, according to the organization’s 2019 YPO international fact sheet. 

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. 

Daniel Pink’s Master Class: Teaches Sales and Persuasion. 

Kellogg Garden has operated as a family-owned and operated company. Established in 1925, they have remained a stable, steadfast family business guided by the core values of their founder, H. Clay Kellogg: integrity, innovation, loyalty, experience, commitment, and generosity. 

Beyond Green is a Certified B Corp making positive change easier by inspiring everyone to create a sustainable world. 

Rivian is an American automaker and automotive technology company founded in 2009. The company develops vehicles, products and services related to sustainable transportation. 

Publix was founded in 1930 in Winter Haven, Florida, by George W. Jenkins. Their mission is to be the premier quality food retailer in the world.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Food & Beverage Companies: Time to Go from Bland to Brand

If you’ve walked the health and beauty aisle at Target in the past few years (back when leisurely strolling a retail store was an everyday occurrence), you’ve seen the rise of a particular brand aesthetic.

Lots of whitespace, sans serif type, an absent logo, soft modern colors. Designers and marketers have dubbed this aesthetic “blanding” — a sort of no-brand branding. Lots of successful brands have adapted this style: Brandless (the exemplar), NativeHey Humans and others. Target’s newly launched Favorite Day brand of 700 (!) indulgent food and beverage products is another example.

The personal care and natural food/beverage categories are ripe for the blanding approach: The aesthetic is right for wellness or better-for-you brands because the whitespace and cleanness echo an old-school pharmaceutical look that implies health and purity.

Why Brands Embrace Blanding

Brands favor this blanding style because it plays well on social media, it’s scalable for different digital channels and screens, and it’s easy to systematize. Blanding is essentially a kit of parts: Pick a sans serif typeface — or, if you want to parrot Goop, a quirky, cute serif — add Pantone’s color of the year, no need to design a logo, and you’re cooking.

Online, this less-is-more bland style pairs with perfectly imperfect lifestyle photos — all midcentury modern and luxury décor and rose gold and other visual cues that appeal to Millennial shoppers. Millennial consumers especially like to curate their lives, with products that have a complementary look that they can display on a bathroom vanity or kitchen counter. For that reason, blanding is purpose-built for Instagram, which is highly visual and focused on beauty. Consumers get to associate with that vibe and imagine themselves immersed in the images they see in their IG feeds.

Too, there’s a sort of faux consumer confidence that emerges among lookalike blands. “If my snack bar looks like my deodorant looks like my vitamins, then it must be good.”

Because it’s a) super popular right now, so a proven creative concept, and b) really easy to pull off without hiring a high-fee design agency, many startup and direct-to-consumer brands have adopted the blanding approach right out of the gate.

But there’s a real challenge for these companies. As a FastCompany article puts it, “Blands are like teenagers. They dress the same, talk the same, act the same. They don’t have a defined sense of self or, if they do, they lack the confidence to be it. It’s a school-of-fish mentality where the comfort and safety of the familiar outweigh the risk of attracting too much attention.”

Blanding is simply a visual style. It’s not branding. And without a capital-B Brand, your product risks becoming a commodity. By Brand, I mean a mission or purpose: a wrong that your company and its community strive to remedy, a higher calling, a better way of life for your customers.

Blands recede into the swirl of other similar products on the shelf; brands — especially Beloved & Dominant brands — stand up, stand out, and stand for something. And to do that, you have to use your own voice.

Graduating from Bland to Brand

I get the appeal of blanding. When done well, it can be quite attractive. It’s why so many charismatic entrepreneurs in food and beverage start-ups leverage the style: Their product looks great, their packaging looks great, and by association they look great.

My sense is that this design trend would have passed already were it not for the pandemic, which forced emerging DTC and ecommerce brands to rapidly ramp up their consumer presence in the first six to eight months of the quarantine.

You can get away with a bland for a while, but as the brand matures and starts to stand for something, this one-of-many design style becomes useless. The challenge is that just like emerging artists who haven’t yet gelled their own style, these young brands emulate their peers.

When the quarantine is over, people will go out to shop more frequently and more leisurely than they do today. And the blands will quickly start to feel like private label.

Bespoke brands understand how to stand out enough to become Beloved & Dominant category leaders. The first step is to look critically at the ecosystem of your consumers and then work to becoming a one-of-a-kind standout in their world. If Instagram frames your worldview, then you’ll land on the same visual construct that other players in your category are using.

Blanding is normcore — it’s riskless, you don’t have to stake a claim to meaning, it’s the easy path. Branding is unique — it’s risky, pegged to an idea, and demands a deep understanding of your consumer and their world.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with blanding as the tool kit that your startup incubator gives you; a beautiful package might get you into a conversation with retailers or investors, especially if you’re riding the passion of a charismatic founder.

I think of blanding as a “fake it ‘til you make it” business strategy.

But once you’ve lost velocity or aren’t selling through or can’t get meetings with new channel partners, then you’ve outgrown it. If Target wants you on the shelf but your products don’t move and then they make a private label version of your offering, then it’s time to hit “eject” and move on.

The good news is that you’ve already begun to build a following. Now it’s time to do the work to establish a strategic foundation before you get to the cool stuff like making a logo and choosing a color palette. That includes:

— Defining the brand’s mission and values

— Articulating a brand story that’s bigger than your product

— Identifying places where you want to play, outside of Instagram but in the real world of sales

In order to become a category leader you have to exit the superhighway of blanding and go offroad to seek your tribe who will love you forever and will pay what you ask in order to deliver on your mission.

Elevating from one-of-many bland to Beloved & Dominant Brand takes guts, vision, and leadership. It’s a massive, exciting opportunity because it means you’re ready to grow up and out. We can help you take those steps, so let’s connect.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Massive Innovation is Coming to Food and Beverage. Is Your Brand Ready?

2021 will launch more innovation at one time than we’ve seen in a while. Here’s how to prepare your brand for the competition.

By switching to a brand-driven innovation strategy, better-for-you brand owners are future-proofing their business and retooling for growth.

Download this white paper to learn how to:

  • Understand where you are in the Brand Life Cycle.
  • Capitalize on the innovation boom in food and beverage.
  • Prioritize consumer-facing communication to increase brand relevance for your best-performing products.
  • Identify two types of innovation and decide what makes sense for your brand.

Get this exclusive report brought to you by Retail Voodoo, the branding firm who has helped Essentia, KIND, Russell Stover, Sahale Snacks, HighKey, and Starbucks build brand-driven strategies that create meaningful, sustained growth.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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7 Tips to Expand Your Better-for-You Audience Without Losing Your Fans

It’s the No. 1 concern for every better-for-you company we talk to: How do we rebrand without alienating our current fans? This is an existential question — because growth always means adding new consumers to the fold, and in appealing to those new people you risk leaving your early adopters behind.

Marketers mistakenly worry that building an audience is a zero-sum game: for every new customer you lose an old one. But it’s possible to grow and retain. In a marketplace that’s moving at breakneck speed, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you know what you’re doing. If you do your job well as a marketer, you can’t possibly blow this. (Read on for strategies to manage a big brand change with your audience.)

Brand Changes that Consumers Care About

So what kinds of brand changes may be off-putting to your longtime fans? Let’s look at four big ones:

Identity — Particularly for “badge brands” whose logo has become a marker or status symbol for consumers, a change in graphic identity should be done with care. For positive examples, look no further than professional sports, where teams regularly update uniforms and tweak color palettes, and fans flock to team stores to buy the new versions.

Packaging — Any packaging design change other than an evolution, without any preview and explanation, make consumers wonder what else is changing (i.e., ingredients, cost, company ownership).

Formula — This is a big change, and it can be risky for brands that have anchored their positioning on a singular ingredient or flavor profile. Mission-driven brands will have an easier time altering the product itself, so long as the change upholds the larger reason for being. A compelling case study for shifting or expanding formulation is Krave Jerky, which made a logical stretch from meat-based protein snacks to include plant-based products.

Size — Even if your audience isn’t value-conscious, they’ll notice a downsize in packaging, especially if you’re the only player in your category making the change.

Avoid the arrogance of thinking, “Our consumers will figure it out; we don’t need to explain it to them.” The worst-case scenario if you pull major changes on your brand loyalists without communicating to them is that they’ll abandon you for an alternative. You may fear social media backlash, and in fact, some of your fans will call you out for changing a brand they love. That’s actually a golden opportunity, however, because you’ll hear the complaints and be able to respond and make your fans part of the solution. But without a dialog in which you acknowledge their concerns and educate them about why you’re making the change, you’ll lose them forever. The essential ingredient in any brand change is communication.

7 Considerations & Strategies for Brand Change

As you contemplate a brand change that you think may have repercussions with your loyalists, consider these points:

1) Your current consumer may not really be your real target audience. Marketing to your current consumer means you are always looking backward and inward. You probably think, mistakenly, that the customers who buy your product are just like the people leading the brand. Instead, you need research and analysis to identify future consumer needs, habits, and trends. For example, Essentia came to us with the notion that their target audience was primarily athletes and fitness buffs who needed to replenish water lost in workouts. But our research identified a whole new universe of people across all kinds of interests who wanted superior hydration to fuel their work and interests.

2) Change is easier when you’re leading. From a marketer’s perspective, the ideal opportunity to do something big is when you’ve had such consistent and tremendous success that you’re now faced with having to stay ahead. The worst time is when the brand is on life support and you know it.

3) Marketing cannot supplant change when change is necessary. You may fear you can’t do anything meaningfully different from other brands in your space, or do anything your original customers won’t like. That you have to stay in your lane and just work to out-market the competition. But you can’t out-market the competition — especially store brands — because they’re simply copying what you do at a cheaper price point and stealing your thunder.

4) It’s nearly impossible to over-communicate with your audience when you make a change. There are three platforms of the Brand Ecosystem to leverage: in-store (packaging in particular), social media, and your website.

5) Start communicating change with a bug or banner on your existing packaging. The best example of communicating change came from Chobani: They added a “new packaging coming soon” message to the inside of the lid, so it was unmissable to existing consumers.

6) Use social media to build anticipation and excitement before the change. Look at how your loyalists engage with you and tell them through that channel that change is coming. By the time it happens, no one will be surprised; in fact, if you bring them along they will embrace and advocate for the change.

7) Marketers commonly make the mistake of waiting to update the brand’s website until the change is already happening. Instead, make that your first communication platform to share the news, so that if the loyalist sees something about the change they can go to your website and understand why it’s happening.

When brand marketers and executives consider a pivot — a new mark, revised packaging, whatever it may be — they may fear a loss of share that never materializes. When fear overrides opportunity, you’ll swirl in a constant cycle of incremental tweaks instead of making great growth strides. Remember: Your original tribe will never entirely go away — as long as your brand stays true to its core values, the risk of losing your core consumer is small if they see that you’re upholding your brand promise.

David Lemley

David was two decades into a design career with a wall full of shiny awards and a portfolio of clients including Nordstrom, Starbucks, Nintendo, and REI. His rocket trajectory veered when his oldest child faced a health challenge of indeterminate origin. Hundreds of research hours later, David identified food allergy as the issue and convinced skeptical medical professionals caring for his child. Since that experience, David and Retail Voodoo have been on a mission to create a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable food system for all.

Connect with David
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Does Your Naturals Brand Have a Mission? Or Just a Mission Statement?

Type “how to write a mission statement” into Google’s search field, and it’ll return 434,000,000 results. Clearly, there’s a lot of advice out there for writing a mission statement.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about capital-M Mission: Your brand’s true purpose.

It’s easy to have a mission statement. It’s harder to live a true Mission. If your operations team or customer service team don’t know how to do their job against your company’s Mission, you’ve got a marketing tactic, not a vision for the brand’s higher calling in the world.

The Difference Between Mission and Mission Statement

You’ve done this at some point in your marketing career, right? Been part of an internal task force to develop a mission statement for the brand. Someone on the team Googled “how to write a mission statement” and you went through the steps. Maybe you even stenciled the resulting copy on the conference room wall. Mission statements are Marketing 101.

But a mission statement without a Mission is BS. “Ensuring stakeholder value” does not a brand Mission make.

Mission, rather, is the very soul of your brand. It is your promise and the ways in which you keep it. It’s the wrong you exist to right in the world, the fight you fight, the good you do.

Why does Mission matter? Because no matter how good your product is, eventually, someone’s going to come along with a cheaper version. David outlines how this happens, inevitably, in his book Beloved & Dominant Brands.

And if you aim to rebound from One of Many to Beloved & Dominant status, then your Mission is essential. It’s the foundation of your brand strategy. Remember: People don’t buy products. They buy brands.

Mission is a Holistic Business Strategy

Your brand’s Mission doesn’t just guide how you market the product to consumers. It flows throughout the entire organization:

  • Does your corporate culture match? Do people in the organization treat each other according to your higher values?
  • Does your payroll match? Can your employees afford your products?
  • Does your decision-making match? Are the strategies and initiatives you pursue in line with your Mission?
  • Does your ops match? Is your ingredient deck as clean and natural as possible?
  • Does your philanthropy match? Do you work to solve real needs?

Every employee, from the C-suite to the folks taking customer calls and the marketers repping the brand in social channels, should understand how their work advances the Mission. It’s like the guy sweeping the floor at NASA in the 1960s, who knew that his role was essential to getting people to the moon.

When your Mission is clearly defined, it serves as magnetic north on your corporate compass; you can say no to all the stuff that falls outside the lines. Mission builds internal alignment, team trust, and momentum. If you’re working in a company that has a mission statement without a Mission, you know it: Every decision is hard, marketing campaigns don’t land, the organization is dysfunctional, and your product development is all over the map.

What a Strong Mission Looks Like

When we consult with a struggling brand, we often start by helping them identify or refine their Mission. A Mission should be a BHAG — a big, hairy, audacious goal. Furthermore, there are four key attributes to a strong Mission:

It must be an action – it leads with a verb to describe what the brand does toward the goal.

It must be specific and quantifiable – you need to have a dashboard on it so you can track how you’re delivering on your promise.

It must change lives — it’s not just about selling stuff and returning value to stakeholders.

It must avoid sentiment – you need to develop language that is not so emotional or self-focused so you can’t enroll the broadest audience both internally and externally. [Note: When you translate the mission into marketing, it can become highly personal and emotional.]

The magic happens, of course, when your Mission resonates so deeply with so many people that sales naturally follow. Consumers so thoroughly buy-in that they will stick with your brand over all others, no matter what. That’s Beloved & Dominant. (And that’s what we do!)

Organizations often write mission statements so they can check that box on the “what companies do” list. But there’s no there there.

Frankly, you can get by if you have a Mission without a catchy mission statement. But the opposite is not true. You can’t Copywrite your way out of a lack of Mission. No matter what those 400 million Google search results might suggest.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Brand Slam Episode 5 – featuring Plant Works

Brand Slam 5 – Finding Your True Audience and Standing Out in a Crowded Category

Download now to watch this fun and informative webinar where we audit Plant Works’ brand ecosystem and identify gaps, highlight opportunities and help the team understand where to focus her marketing spend.

Brand Slam was created by Retail Voodoo to help CPG entrepreneurs in food, beverage, and wellness reduce their struggle with brand growth in the face of Covid-19. Using the auditing process models created by Retail Voodoo to develop Brand Ecosystems, (which we’ve used for some of the world’s most beloved brand and featured in the book Beloved & Dominant Brands,) we will benchmark Plant Works and provide strategies to help Anna, Trever and the rest of their team regain brand traction.

More About Plant Works: Being workout and protein fanatics, trying to maintain a better-for-you, more plant-centric diet, they made the switch from whey protein powders to plant protein powders. They soon grew tired of drinking terrible tasting shakes, made with low-quality proteins that lacked the right ratio of essential amino acids to help our bodies recover, so they decided to make their own. 18 months and many failed attempts later, they finally built a formula that met their goals. They combined a blend of high-quality plant proteins with super herbs, adaptogens, added BCAA’s and a few other natural ingredients to create a great tasting plant-based performance protein powder that helps the body recover, rebuild, and repeat.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Brand Slam | Call For Entries for Season Two

Retail Voodoo is recruiting participants for Season 2 of Brand Slam – Episodes starting March 2021.

CPG brands spend a lot of time telling consumers how different they are. And with the brand world changing faster than ever, the fundamentals of brand building are receiving scrutiny. What is a brand anyway? A logo? An idea? An ad campaign?

We have decided to answer those questions, in real-time and have created a monthly workshop for food, beverage, health and wellness company founders looking to gain insights on how to use brand positioning, language and strategy to gain unfair advantage in the market. Learn what opportunities and details Retail Voodoo looks for when building a strong brand and how your brand must use these tools to educate consumers about it.

Our Brand Slam Brand Tune-Up will start by auditing and benchmarking your brand against competitors in your categories to develop a powerful platform for brand growth. Our goal is to help you think about building a stronger brand by giving you tools and examples from a live case study.

Each month, Retail Voodoo’s David Lemley will choose one entrepreneurial brand (maybe yours?) to showcase the lessons and strategic thinking that go into building the heart of a brand – in a live broadcast.

Are you ready for a Brand Slam?

Application Criteria

  • Must be a food, beverage, wellness, or fitness brand
  • Applicants should be $2M or less in annual revenue
  • Must be in market a minimum of 6 months
  • Must be based, and doing business, in North America

Watch Previous Episodes:

Sign Up To Apply – Deadline: January 15, 2021

We can’t wait to meet you!

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

Gooder Podcast Featuring Denielle Finkelstein

In today’s episode, we are joined by a highly accomplished retail executive with a proven track record in growing large scale businesses profitably and creating new business opportunities within brands, sharp business acumen with a keen ability to assess business conditions and manage towards opportunity with a relentless focus on the customer, Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project). She is experienced in overseeing brand development and strategy, launching businesses, Omni-channel merchandising, marketing, international expansion and operations. She is also recognized as a passionate and strategic leader, known for relationship building.

Join us as we dive deep into healthy living, her organic business, plant-based organic period products and the challenges that come with being an entrepreneur and how to overcome them. We discuss the decisions that helped her leave the retail fashion world to focus on a passion and build a brand (from the ground up) to tackle the legacy taboo of period products, building a greener product and doubling down on the leadership and innovation that she’s been craving.

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis of The Organic Movement (TOP) – organic/natural period products.
  • How Gen Z is changing the conversation around personal care and period products.
  • What plant-based innovation has been a game-changer for the brand and the industry.
  • How the leadership experience of a large retail brand helps, and hinders the start-up business process.
  • The challenges legacy conventional brands may have converting natural shoppers.
  • What period poverty is and how pervasive it is in the United States.
  • Denielle’s call to arms to major period product brands.
Gooder Podcast

The Future of Plant Based Period Products with Denielle Finkelstein, TOP

About Denielle Finkelstein:

Denielle Finkelstein, President and Co-Founder of TOP (the organic project) was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. Post graduation, she moved to NYC with her future husband and started her career in fashion retail at Ann Taylor. She went on to executive merchandising roles at Coach, Kate Spade and Talbots. She was always recognized for her strength in building businesses, finding the white space and managing high performing teams. At the height of her career, she began looking for more purpose in her work and how she could do things differently for future generations.

After spending 22 years in fashion retail and sitting in the C-suite, she took the best risk both professionally and personally and left the corporate world to join Thyme Sullivan, to launch TOP the organic project. As moms, they went searching for organic period products that were healthy and safe for their girls and the environment and came away empty-handed. They have set out to build TOP as a business to drive positive social and environmental change.  TOP is bringing innovation to period products with Organic and Plant-based Tampons & Pads.  What we put in and on our bodies matters more than ever!

Show Resources:

TOP (the organic project) – We are here to educate, enlighten, and embarrass ourselves so that every girl and woman on the planet has access to healthy, 100% organic, eco-loving tampons and pads. and every step of the way, we’ll inspire stigma-shattering conversations about periods.

Poo-Pourri – We’re Poo~Pourri. A poop-positive brand dumping the shame around the things we *all* do. We deliver quality products made with natural essential oils that leave the bathroom smelling amazing and liberate you from harmful ingredients and inhibiting worries.

Beautycounter – One by one, we are leading a movement to a future where all beauty is clean beauty. We are powered by people, and our collective mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone. Formulate, advocate, & educate—that’s our motto for creating products that truly perform while holding ourselves to unparalleled standards of safety. Why? It’s really this simple: beauty should be good for you.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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The Simplicity of Life and Health in a Bite-Sized Moment with Christy Goldsby, Honey Mama's

Gooder Podcast featuring Christy Goldsby

Food as medicine is not an out-of-the-box idea now. But back in 2011, it was not conventional thinking. After watching a friend struggle with food-related illness and attending the journey of wellness self-discovery, Christy went on a mission to change the diets of us all. The goal: refocus people away from diets fill with processed foods and bring back health empowerment through food choice . As she says – knowing what you’re eating may be the first step of and most powerful form of medicine.

Join Christy Goldsby, CEO and Founder of Honey Mama’s and I, as we discuss how her love of baking, innovating and caring for people developed into a healthy indulgence brand with the express goal of spreading vitality and playfulness into everyone’s life.

Innovation and change doesn’t happen in one moment. – Christy Goldsby

In this episode we learn:

  • The genesis of the Honey Mama’s brand.
  • How Christy’s health experiences combined with her baking background turned into a passion for caring for people beyond her immediate community.
  • How slowing down and being present can be a powerful leadership tool.
  • The long-term vision and impacts Honey Mama’s wants to make in the world.
  • Why brands producing snacks should innovative and promote healthy snacking.
  • How indulgent treats can boost our immune systems to prevent illnesses in more than one way.
  • Fundraising during COVID and how Amberstone Ventures is poised to help spread Honey Mama’s vision.
Gooder Podcast

The Simplicity of Life and Health in a Bite-Sized Moment with Christy Goldsby, Honey Mama's

About Christy Goldsby:

Christy Goldsby, CEO & Founder of Honey Mama’s, an award-winning premium melts in your mouth delicious, honey-sweetened cocoa bar in the refrigerated better for you indulgence category. Growing up in a family of cooks, bakers, farmers, and gardeners, the kitchen was always a place of celebration, creativity, nourishment and joy for Christy. She started Honey Mama’s as a way to share these celebrated family traditions, a passion for healthy living, and a love of the natural world. She was determined to create a treat that exudes vitality and playfulness, something you’d as likely take to a formal dinner party as enjoy on the hiking trail or share around a campfire. Made with pure honey as the only sweetener, Honey Mama’s are full of everything delightful: bold, deep flavors, and decadent textures and are naturally free from gluten, soy, dairy, and grain, allowing your body to thrive.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/christy-goldsby-30201866/

Show Resources:

Honey Mama’s – “We create opportunities that empower well-being for all people by making treats that are fun, nutritious and delicious. They are an invitation to be present, playful, open, and genuine. Our bars are full of bold, deep flavors, decadent textures, and are free from gluten, soy, dairy, and grain, allowing your body to thrive and your taste buds to celebrate. Made from five whole foods, Honey-Cocoa Bars are perfect to grab as a snack between meals, buy as a gift, or serve at your next dinner party.”

Amberstone Ventures – We started Amberstone to support entrepreneurs building breakthrough food and consumer product companies. We partner with brands at their earliest stages, providing the capital and insights necessary to scale efficiently into category leaders.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana
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Changing Consumers Behavior Around Happy Hour with Sharelle Klaus, DRY Soda Company

Gooder Podcast with Sharelle Klaus

In our current culture, alcoholic beverages have traditionally been the center of all celebrations. It’s how we wind down our day, relax and give ourselves a moment to rest. That is until now. Generation Z and Millennials are bucking those habits and finding better and healthier ways to relax. Part of it is self-awareness, the ability to recognize when alcohol is a crutch – rather than a treat, and some of it is “I’m not doing what my parents did”. They are normalizing alcohol-free celebrations, getting real about mental health, and creating an inclusive environment for everyone. It’s time for the sober revolution.

Sharelle Klaus and I walk through her journey of self-discovery, and the ins and outs of finding her and her brands true north. We discuss her passion to create inclusive celebrations for all people. And that sometimes, you just have to start all over.

In this episode we learn:

  • Sharelle’s aha moment that turned into DRY.
  • The story of teaming up with Sans Bar.
  • How Millennials and Generation Z are changing our relationship with alcohol consumption.
  • How to educate, socialize, and enroll behavior change for consumers.
  • How “bad news” can be the path to opportunity.
  • To trust your gut, even when you’re the only one in the room that believes it.
Gooder Podcast

Changing Consumers Behavior Around Happy Hour with Sharelle Klaus, DRY Soda Company

About Sharelle Klaus:

Sharelle Klaus is the Founder and CEO of DRY Soda Company  As the visionary behind DRY Soda Company, Sharelle has always had a passion for the culinary world and celebrating each part of a meal – including the beverage. After having four children, she didn’t want to let a lack of wine or cocktails stop her from being a part of the party. Klaus recognized an absence of refreshing, clean, non-alcoholic options in the market, and became determined to create the first line of botanical bubbly that was worthy of meal pairing. She believed savory and sweet flavors more commonly used in cuisine could offer exciting compliments to her favorite meals. In 2005, Klaus crafted the first batches of DRY in her home kitchen and officially launched DRY Soda Co. a few months later.

Klaus brings over two decades of entrepreneurial, financial and technology industry experience to her role as CEO at DRY, and oversees all marketing, strategic planning, and innovation for the brand. With guidance from some of the Pacific Northwest’s best chefs and a savvy corporate team, Klaus pioneered a new category of sparkling beverages, fearlessly leading DRY’s aggressive growth in a male-dominated industry. Prior to founding DRY, Klaus worked as a consultant for Infrastructure Management Group and Price Waterhouse. She also served as president of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, where she drove strategic development of programs, events, and fundraising for the organization’s 250+ Seattle-area members. Klaus has been featured by Huffpost, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Imbibe, and others.  Klaus has also won several honors including, Seattle Business Magazine’s CEO of the year, Puget Sound Business Journal Women of Influence, and PSBJ 40 under 40.

With a keen appreciation for humor and wit, Klaus is an avid supporter of entrepreneurship and frequently speaks at professional conferences, workshops, and the University of Washington Business School, where she also participates as a judge for the Michael G. Foster’s School’s well-known business plan competitions. She is also a board member of the Aliados Foundation that builds resilient community business based on biodiversity in the Andes and the Amazon—and connect them to markets across the globe.  Klaus graduated from Seattle Pacific University with an undergraduate degree in political science and currently resides in Seattle, Wash.

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharelle-klaus-1804078/

Show Resources

DRY – Welcome to DRY Botanical Bubbly! The non-alcoholic sparkling soda perfect for celebrating any occasion. Enjoyed on the rocks or in your favorite zero-proof cocktail.

Sans Bar – We are a growing group of average people who recognize that life can be fun without alcohol.  We are sober, we are on the move, and we believe that real connection happens when people are sober.  We want to create a space that is free of alcohol and welcoming to all.  We believe that the best version of anyone’s life includes healthy socialization, helping others, and taking care of both mind and body.  Sans Bar is composed of people who want to change themselves and the world around them.  We believe positive change can happen in the smallest ways, and still yield a tremendous impact.

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life (Book) – offers a new, positive solution. Here, Annie Grace clearly presents the psychological and neurological components of alcohol use based on the latest science, and reveals the cultural, social, and industry factors that support alcohol dependence in all of us.  Packed with surprising insight into the reasons we drink, this book will open your eyes to the startling role of alcohol in our culture, and how the stigma of alcoholism and recovery keeps people from getting the help they need. With Annie’s own extraordinary and candid personal story at its heart, this book is a must-read for anyone who drinks.

BevMo – a privately held corporation based in Concord, California, selling mainly alcoholic beverages.

Diana Fryc

For Diana, a fierce determination to pursue what’s right is rooted in her DNA. The daughter of parents who endured unimaginable hardship before emigrating from Eastern Europe to the U.S., she is built for a higher purpose. Starting with an experience working with Jane Goodall to source sustainably made paper, she went on to a career helping Corporate America normalize the use of environmentally responsible products and materials before coming to Retail Voodoo.

Connect with Diana