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Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

Gooder Podcast featuring Sashee Chandran

“Luck is hard work and opportunity meeting.” – Sashee Chandran 

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Sashee Chandran, the founder, and CEO of Tea Drops. We discuss the historical colonial influence in American tea culture and how her diverse background has encouraged her to create something new: Tea Drops. We also learn about the tea category shaking innovation of Tea Drops’ products and some of the trends her brand is leveraging. Along the way, we get to hear the inspirational story of a diligent and humble entrepreneur who transforms the traditional way of enjoying tea. 

In this episode we learn: 

  • About the history and inspiration of Tea Drops. 
  • The surprising A-ha moment of her product idea. 
  • About her go-to-market alternate channel strategy, and why it worked.
  • Where Sashee’s passion and drive for risk-taking come from.
  • What Tea Drop’s give-back program has been doing to tackle the global water crisis.
  • Diana and Sashee’s personal stories about their love for tea and how tea has helped them connect to their loved ones. 
Gooder Podcast

Pioneering the New Tea Culture in America featuring Sashee Chandran, Tea Drops

About Sashee Chandran: 

Sashee Chandran is the founder and CEO of Tea Drops, which creates bagless whole leaf teas using a patented process — shedding about 15% less waste than traditional teabag packaging. Tea Drops has become a favorite among new and experienced tea drinkers alike, launching innovative tea experiences that merge flavorful blends, food art, and edgy design. Tea Drops an omnichannel brand, selling D2C and also available in 1,500 retailers — loved by Oprah Magazine, Chrissy Teigen, and former first lady Michelle Obama. Sashee is a 1st Place $20K Women Founders Network pitch winner, 1st Place $100K Tory Burch Fellow Grant winner, and the 1st place $50K PepsiCo WomanMade Challenge winner. She has also raised over $3.5M in VC funding for Tea Drops. 

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sasheec 

Email: sashee@myteadrop.com 

Website: https://www.myteadrop.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Loose leaf tea is tea that does not come pre-packaged in tea bags. Because the leaves are not crammed into a tea bag, the tea maintains a higher quality and aroma while offering the best possible health benefits. 

eBay Inc. is an American multinational e-commerce corporation based in San Jose, California, that facilitates consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer sales through its website. eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar in 1995, and became a notable success story of the dot-com bubble.  

Bubble tea is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls, but it can be made with other toppings as well. 

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification. 

Tory Burch Foundation competition Designed to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools and platform necessary to grow their business. 

8Greens is an effervescent dietary supplement tablet, packed with enough superfoods to give your healthy diet a green boost.  

United Natural Foods, Inc. is a Providence, R.I.-based natural and organic food company. It is the largest publicly traded wholesale distributor of health and specialty food in the United States and Canada. UNFI is Whole Foods Market’s main supplier, with their traffic making up over a third of its revenue in 2018. 

Nordstrom, Inc. is an American luxury department store chain. Founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin, it originated as a shoe store and evolved into a full-line retailer with departments for clothing, footwear, handbags, jewelry, accessories, cosmetics, and fragrances.  

Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., originally Neiman-Marcus, is an American chain of luxury department stores owned by the Neiman Marcus Group, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. 

The Thirst Project is a non-profit organization whose aim is to bring safe drinking water to communities around the world where it is not immediately available. The Thirst Project collects money and builds wells all across the continent of Africa where villages do not have immediate drinking water.

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 Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

Gooder Podcast featuring Jessica Lyons

“It’s important to be able to leave a footprint and get to know an impact.” – Jessica Lyons

This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Jessica Lyons, the Director of Promotions and E-Commerce of PCC Community Markets. We discuss the history of PCC Community Markets – the nation’s largest community-owned food market. We also learn more about PCC’s initiatives in building relationships with potential brands and what they do to drive organic as a standard. Along the way, we get to hear the amazing story of an inquisitive and resourceful relationship builder who continuously creates a thriving community around her.

In this episode we learn: 

  • About PCC Community Market and their involvement in the monumental changes within the food industry at a national level. 
  • About the vendor partner program that Jess is managing and some common misconceptions about this program. 
  • Customers’ high demand for product’s transparency in the food and naturals industry.
  • How the vendor partner program has helped underserved and underrepresented communities in the food/naturals industry.
  • About Jessica’s emphasis on creating a community, and following passions.
  • Diana and Jessica’s personal stories about imposter syndrome and how to transform that into positive energy which creates growth and self-awareness. 
Gooder Podcast

The Movement of Natural’s and Better-For-You Products and Brands featuring Jessica Lyons, PCC Community Markets

 About Jessica Lyons: 

Jessica (Jess) Lyons has built her career following her passions. She’s been successful in a wide range of experiences throughout her nearly two-decade-long career, making her a valuable Swiss army knife in any workplace. Jess currently serves as Director of Promotions and E-Commerce for PCC Community Markets, the nation’s largest community-owned food market. In this role, she lives out her foodie fantasies with a company centered around community and scratch-made organic food with a sustainable twist. Her greatest achievements at PCC include project managing an overnight co-op-wide rebrand, overhauling the in-store sign program, and developing a strategic, revenue-generating vendor partnership program. 

Prior to PCC, Jess’s enthusiasm for running was the starting line for 15 years in the outdoor industry. She gained retail and sales expertise during her 10 years with Finish Line and Fleet Feet Sports before joining Brooks Running Company to lead the retail marketing team. Her time with Brooks Running also included sales and customer acquisition, event marketing, and community partnerships. 

A native Texan, she proudly builds upon her hands-on experiences and is a self-starter by nature. When she’s not working or running, she can be found leading community fitness, hanging out with her husband and son, or cooking up something plant-based in the kitchen.

Guests Social Media Links: 

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lyonsqueen117/?hl=en 

Email: jesslyons117@gmail.com 

Website: https://www.pccmarkets.com/ 

Show Resources: 

Brooks Sports, Inc., also known as Brooks Running, is an American sports Equipment Company that designs and markets high-performance men’s and women’s sneakers, clothing, and accessories. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Brooks’ products are available in 60 countries worldwide. 

Ventures: they’re a nonprofit group in Seattle and they work with entrepreneurs. A lot of them are low income or people of color or immigrants or women that are basically incubated to launch their products. 

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) are items used daily by average consumers that require routine replacement or replenishment, such as food, beverages, clothes, tobacco, makeup, and household products. 

UDaB‘s mission as an alternative breaks program is to create a variety of issue-based, service-learning experiences. Our programs are available to undergraduate students of all backgrounds and incomes during spring and winter breaks. 

Hint Water is an American beverage company based in San Francisco, California, as an alternative to soda and sugar beverages. It was started by former AOL employee Kara Goldin. 

The November Project is a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2011. The name “November Project” comes from the Google Doc that the founders shared to track their progress in November 2011. While sessions occur year-round, the name stuck.  

Recovery Café Network (RCN) is comprised of Member organizations committed to serving people suffering from homelessness, addiction and other mental health challenges using the Recovery Café Model. 

Lily’s Sweets is a line of delicious chocolate bars, baking bits and baking bars that have less than 1 gram of sugar per serving.

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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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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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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Driving a Mission in Plant Based Meat Products featuring Christie Lagally, Rebellyous Foods

Gooder Podcast featuring Christie Lagally

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Christie Lagally, the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods, a food production technology company working to make plant based meat price competitive with traditional chicken products. 

In this episode we discuss how Christie’s development of “Meatless Mondays” while working as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry at Boeing, helped her understand the barriers to plant based meat in offices and institutions. Join us as we discuss how Christie has parlayed this information into building her own company to bypass those barriers by catapulting meat alternative production toward price parity and convenience with animal-based meat.

In this episode we learn:

  • The history of Christie’s brand Rebellyous, how it was started, and reasons for its existence. 
  • How Christie is using the pricing method to make her products accessible to everyone and why that’s important.
  • How Covid impacted their company, the opportunities that came up, and how it affected their market, and how they responded. 
  • The importance of why brand owners should understand the purpose of their brand’s existence before they focus on the income. 
  • About the process of enrolling investors and partners.
  • Christie’s vision she has for Rebellyous and what people should expect in the near future.
Gooder Podcast

Driving a Mission in Plant Based Meat Products featuring Christie Lagally, Rebellyous Foods

About Christie Legally:

Christie is the founder and CEO of Rebellyous Foods and a mechanical engineer who holds multiple patents in manufacturing technology. She spent much of her career in the aerospace industry working at Boeing. Previously Christie served as senior scientist for the Good Food Institute and covering the technical barriers in the development of plant-based meat and clean meat. 

Guests Social Media Links:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christie-lagally-875b9a4/

Email: info@rebellyous.com

Website: https://rebellyous.com/about-rebellyous-foods/christie-lagally-founder-ceo/

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

Blog: http://christielagally.wordpress.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BqLQI4MjHif/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_medium=loading 

Show Resources:

The Good Food Institute is an international 501 nonprofit that promotes plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs as well as cultivated meat.

Rebellyous Foods is a food manufacturing technology and production company defined solely to catapult meat alternative production toward price parity with animal-based meat.

Humane Society is a movement leader when it comes to farm animal advocacy in The United States.

Food Equality Initiative in Kansas City Improves health and end hunger in individuals diagnosed with food allergies and celiac disease through access, education, and advocacy.

Seattle Food Tech​​ is a food manufacturing technology and production company on a mission to “catapult meat alternative production toward price parity with animal-based meat.”

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.

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Naturals Brands: Is Your Charismatic Founder Helping or Hurting the Business?

We’re just gonna make a bold statement here: If the sole reason for your company’s success is the actual, physical presence of the founder — during visits with retail partners, sales meetings at trade shows, in-store demonstrations — then you have a branding problem.

Because when that charismatic founder/owner isn’t in the room, the wind goes out of your sails.

It’s a challenge that we see frequently in the natural food and beverage space, which is populated by brands launched by individuals who developed products that initially met their own needs. (Think: an avid hiker needed an energy bar to power through day-long treks; a parent with a kid with a food allergy needed a clean snack.) Typically, a brand rides to out-of-the-gate success on the back of that passionate, visionary founder.

But as the brand grows and the founder/owner can’t be everywhere at once, a few gaping holes begin to develop. While the sales team is capable of selling the brand’s offering to retailers, the product itself doesn’t match the hype. Consumers don’t see the brand as meaningfully different from competitors and choose lower-priced options. The brand loses velocity and risks discontinuation. It’s exhausting to rely on charisma, and it’s expensive to not get the sell-through you need to stay profitable.

When the Founder Becomes a Liability

In the lifecycle of a brand I describe in my book Beloved & Dominant Brands, the risk of founder-as-brand shows up when the brand tips from Beloved by Default (still riding the visionary’s coattails) to One of Many (lost in a churn of copycats).

First & Only — an innovative, world-changing newcomer

Beloved by Default — a niche brand attracting a growing audience of fans

One of Many — a once-darling brand copied by cheaper competitors

Beloved & Dominant — a category-crushing superstar so favored by consumers that it’s competition-proof

Two fundamental truths about entrepreneur-led brands are at play here: One, the founder can’t replicate herself, and as she spreads herself too thin her influence wanes. Two, and perhaps more important, the leader and her executive team assume, wrongly, that they ARE their customer. They fail to see that consumers’ needs are different, and that the product doesn’t fit as well into their lives. They think: “Everyone must love this brand as much as we do.” We see this especially in competitive categories where the barriers to entry are lower (e.g. snacks) and where look-alike products are hard for consumers to differentiate.

Faced with dipping sales, the marketing team often steps in with quick fixes: tweaks to the packaging design or sometimes even positioning. The deeper the bias of the founder or leadership about their product’s superiority (when for retailers and consumers, it’s parity) the smaller and more frustrating the moves. Marketing is often unsuccessful or merely produces a short-term bump prompted by ad campaigns or discounting. Meanwhile, the brand struggles to meet minimum velocity hurdles. Sales and marketing are doomed to fail if the brand and business are hinging on the charisma of the founder.

Separating the Brand from the Individual

So, how can marketing executives steer the brand away from the founder’s persona? Very gently.

First, it’s important to remember one definition of brand:

Brand is what they say about you when you aren’t in the room.

That’s because it’s about them, silly, not about you.

Perhaps the smartest thing you can do is to enlist an external ally to help identify the issue — the primacy of the founder/owner is creating serious branding and business problems — and to deliver the difficult news and take the heat for saying so. And yes, there’ll be some heat. (We’ve been in that chair, and we’re well-versed in sharing tough news with grace.)

Just as important, you must frame the situation not as a complaint about the founder, but as a natural, growth-related challenge that has a strategic solution.

Think of other brands pegged to an individual founder: Bob, Barbara, Justin, Annie … it’s been a long time since Bob or Barbara was in a regional retail sales meeting. But Bob and Barbara still project a halo of wisdom and a promise of quality over the brands, even those that are now owned by large multinationals.

As a spunky, entrepreneurial naturals brand grows, the role of the founder/owner must pivot away from hands-on, in-every-meeting doer to benevolent guide. The founder/owner becomes a shepherd for the brand rather than the brand itself. She shows up like a pastor or chairman emeritus; the brand stands for itself and its mission, and the individual hovers above in a sort of endorsement role. Like Justin or Annie, the founder’s presence serves as confirmation that the brand is a real thing based on real people.

Think of the founder/owner’s position like a patronus. (“Harry Potter” fans will recognize the patronus as a magically conjured apparition that guides, protects, and inspires a person in his moment of need.) The founder, then, doesn’t fight the fight, but serves as a beacon.

When we advise founder-centric brands on evolving the brand beyond the dynamic individual, we help turn the liability into a strength by involving the founder in the journey from lead warrior to champion. It often takes some coaching, but rarely have we seen the founder resist the move. Typically, he recognizes his responsibility for the business impasse, feels the pain of decreasing sales, and embraces his new role as vision-giver and mentor to the brand.

And then the whole organization breathes a sigh of relief. The overtaxed founder gets to step out of the day-to-day and focus on work that adds value. Product development responds to real market opportunity rather than the owner’s whim. Marketing moves the needle because the brand’s values align with consumers’.

Apple is often celebrated as a brand with a powerful connection to fans, and it’s also a case study in how dominant leaders can and should behave. In Apple’s darkest days, Steve Jobs was in every meeting, weighing in on every decision, driving every aspect of the business. When he stepped back to let other exceptional minds shape the company and instead became a spiritual guide and external presence at product-launch events, Apple soared.

If you’re working with an in-the-weeds Steve Jobs when you need a product-unveiling Steve Jobs, give us a call. We’ve traveled this path and can help founders find their most fulfilling and difference-making roles.

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.

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Leaders, Brands and the Hawaiian Value of Kuleana featuring Danielle Laubenstein, Godiva Chocolatier

This week on the Gooder Podcast I had the pleasure of talking with Danielle Laubenstein, The Director of Global Marketing for Mauna Loa. Danielle is overseeing the future and legacy of the company’s direction into becoming Hawaii’s wellness brand. She believes product development and holistic marketing looks at beauty as a combination of qualities of paradise, creating brand culture and products that empower the mind, nourishes the body, spirit, and evokes emotional health. Join us as we take a deep dive into the health and wellness industry and explore how brands should strive to serve their customers with healthy products.   

“If you’re Hawaii brand, then you’re a brand from Hawaii.” -Danielle Laubenstein

In this episode we learn:

  • About creating a brand community and how to make it be authentic.
  • The difference between a Hawaiian brand and a Hawaii brand or Hawaii owned brand.
  • How Mauna Loa is leading the naturals industry in staying true to its purpose of caring for everyone’s needs.
  • The concept of giving back and social responsibility or reciprocal responsibilities, where that comes from, and how it affects Danielle’s leadership style. 
  • About how Danielle is mentoring women, especially women of color, and why it’s important for her.
  • What the word Kuleana means and the importance it has within the Hawaiian culture.
Gooder Podcast

Leaders, Brands and the Hawaiian Value of Kuleana featuring Danielle Laubenstein, Godiva Chocolatier

About Danielle Laubenstein:

Danielle has worked in CPG Health and Wellness, as well as in the global travel luxury confectionery space for over a decade for companies such as Chocolove, Godiva and DFS. 

Guests Social Media Links:

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

Websitehttps://www.maunaloa.com/ 

Show Resources:

Godiva Chocolatier is a Turkish-owned chocolate maker that is jointly owned by Turkish conglomerate Yıldız Holding and MBK Partners. Founded in 1926, it was purchased by the Turkish Yıldız Holding in November 2007; then MBK Partners bought a stake in 2019. 

Chocolove is a chocolate manufacturer with headquarters and a manufacturing facility in Boulder, Colorado, founded in 1995 by entrepreneur Timothy Moley. The company produces all-natural and organic chocolate bars. Chocolove imports chocolate and cocoa butter from Belgium to produce its chocolate.

DFS Group is part of the world’s largest luxury conglomerate, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), and a pioneer in luxury travel retail.

Hawaiian Host is the original chocolate-covered macadamia. Hawaiian Host is also the largest manufacturer of chocolate-covered macadamias in the world, as millions of boxes of our treats are shared all over the globe.

The Hershey Company, commonly known as Hershey’s, is an American multinational company and one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world.

Project Potluck is a professional community founded by People of Color with a singular mission: to help people of color build successful companies and careers.

Lei Day is a state-wide celebration in Hawaii. The celebration begins in the morning of May first every year and continues into the next day. Lei day was established as a holiday in 1929. Each Hawaiian island has a different type of lei for its people to wear in the celebration.

Siete is a Mexican-American food brand, rooted in family that makes delicious grain-free products.

Books Mentioned:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

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.

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The RIGHT Strategic Partner for your Naturals Brand

There are times when even the smallest business decision feels like life or death. When, despite your experience, smarts, and leadership position you hear that voice that says: What if I get this wrong?

Happens all the time. We’ve seen companies delay (often for years) committing to an initiative or innovation because executives can’t make up their minds or fear making the wrong choice. The same goes for beginning a branding project or even choosing an expert partner to help with the work.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps you’re in charge of a brand and it’s clear that you and the company need to make some changes. But you’re not exactly sure what the problem is, and so you’re challenged to choose the right team. You might delay getting started, or break a big project into small chunks that don’t effectively tackle the larger issue you need to resolve. (We understand; we’ve coached marketing leaders in your chair before.)

Recognize What’s Giving You Pause

If you’re hesitant to engage a strategic partner or commit to a project, it might be helpful to first understand why. A few insights:

Some organizations are built for comfort, not for speed. Even if your brand was founded on passion, innovation, and entrepreneurship, the growth of the organization may have dampened those early risk-taking tendencies. As the company has added staffers, won fans among consumers, built retail partnerships, and grown revenue, decision making becomes more difficult. The stakes feel higher. Your butt’s on the line, and you’re afraid of making the wrong choice.

Two, growth tends to throw even upstart brands out of alignment. When your organization isn’t aligned to a common cause, personal agendas overwrite the brand’s mission and purpose. Decision making is tainted by individuals’ preferences and interests. The more people you ask for input, the harder and more confusing it is to make the right decision.

Let’s also acknowledge the immense anxiety that’s pervading society and, by extension, business right now. Uncertainty breeds fear and indecision.

What to Expect When You Engage the Right Strategic Partner

Which marketing strategist is the right group for us to partner with? Do we even need outside help? What should we hire them to do? What if we make the wrong choice?

If uncertainty is in the way of your decision, then knowing what to expect may help sweep that aside.

Imagine what is possible when the brand is surrounded by a team of internal and external experts who are passionately committed to the cause. When you bring to the table expertise that your bench doesn’t currently have and an objective point of view that your internal folks can’t possibly possess.

An outside partner — the right outside partner — will help you see the opportunities right under your nose that you’re too in the weeds to see. They’ll walk alongside your team, sharing expertise and experience, helping you make the decisions with confidence and bravery. They’ll give you tough news gently and cheer your wins enthusiastically.

When you build a team that includes both internal and external experts, you establish a think tank around you that elevates your own expertise. You have weapons and systems at your fingertips that you didn’t have before.

A strategic partner can also help you undertake challenges that your team has been struggling with for years. They can diagnose problems and prescribe solutions quickly so the organization can spring into action. In our experience, any hesitation that marketers feel about letting outside experts in the door evaporates as they see the big picture, understand what they need to do, and become hopeful instead of skeptical about the future.

When prospects make the decision to enlist our brand strategy help, they become lighthearted, relieved, open to change — frankly, they’re jacked out of their gourds. (To be clear, we’re not for everyone, and that’s okay.)

As a sign-off, I’ll share a bit of reassurance: The risk isn’t choosing the wrong outside partner. Because even if it’s not the right fit, you’ll still gain a ton of valuable insight. The risk is to not engage at all.

So …

Trust your instincts.

Reduce the number of people you’re talking to about this initiative to your mentors or closest business partners. The more you shop around a decision like this, the more conflicting opinion you’ll hear.

Be afraid and do it anyway. Any fear lies in the decision-making process, not the decision itself; you just need to get over the hump.

Understand the reality of what you can and can’t do. When you hold off making a bigger commitment to a strategic partner, you may instead try to chip away at your business problems piecemeal.

Know that in any engagement with outside expertise you’ll gain intelligence and insight, change the way you think as an organization, and start to see your blind spots. You can’t really blow this decision.

Ready? Give us a call.

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.

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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