Disrupting a Stagnant Market through Self Funding
by Felix Thea Podcasts Oct 15, 2019 47 minute read Leave a comment Email Pinterest Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Josh Elizetxe has been a serial entrepreneur ever since he was a teenager. Having a knack for building websites, SEO, and managing ad dollars, Josh managed sites for an array of businesses when he was still in school. Despite the early success, it wasn’t until Josh befriended his dentists through multiple braces treatments and jaw surgery that he found his calling.
Josh was intrigued by the dental industry and invested his own savings to research an at-home whitening system to disrupt the stagnant market by starting Snow Teeth Whitening.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll hear from Josh Elizetxe of Snow on how he found his interest within the dental industry and why it’s important to pace yourself in the entrepreneurship journey.
You’re hiking Mount Everest, but look how far we’ve made it already, and look at the view, it looks a lot better than down there, and look how far we’ve come.
Tune in to also learn
How they’ve stepped up influencer marketing to work with celebritiesWhy he invested millions of dollars of his own money into his companyWhy all his retail partners are calling him to stock his productHow to think of entrepreneurship as a marathon and not a sprintDon’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.
Store: SNOWSocial Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, InstagramRecommendations: UserGems (Shopify app)
Felix: Today I’m joined by Josh Snow from Snow. Snow is the number one selling teeth whitening system guaranteed to work on all smiles. Was started 2016, based out of Phoenix Arizona, and is projected to hit $100 million in revenue since inception. Welcome, Josh.
Josh: Hey, so much, Felix, appreciate you having me on.
Felix: Yeah excited to have you on. And I wanted to talk to you because you’ve already had plenty of self-made success before launching the Snow brands. Tell us about your paths and where did you come from?
Josh: Yeah, so I stumbled into entrepreneurship, maybe like a lot of others. And I wanted to be a doctor growing up, and I kind of stumbled into entrepreneurship because I was 13, 14 years old, and I wanted to work, I wanted to get a job, and I couldn’t really find a job because I was under the working age.
Josh: And I was hanging out at the public library where, obviously, there are computers and books, and so there was a reading competition, and I started reading the For Dummies series. And I had always been interested in computers, and I was really good at typing, because I had a weird hobby growing up. When I watched cartoons and stuff, as a kid, my mom brought home an extra keyboard from her work, and I would literally type out, I guess, transcribe cartoons and shows I was watching.
Josh: And I just did it for fun, and I got really good at typing which, ended up lending itself toward learning web development when I was 13, 14 years old. Because I kind of realized instead of playing games, I wanted to make games. And instead of playing on websites, I wanted to make them, and I got really, really hooked on creating websites.
Josh: I never knew that you can make money from it, I never knew that was what I was going to do, but once I started creating websites, for fun, and then teachers would see me staying after school working on websites, they started saying, “Hey my friend, who owns a bakery.” Or. “My friend who owns an auto repair shop needs a website.”
Josh: This was before Shopify when things were a lot more difficult, a lot harder to get started with good websites, but I didn’t know any better, I was 14 years old and, they offered me 500 bucks to make a website and I said, “Heck I could use the money.” I was trying to save up to get my first car.
Josh: And so I started making websites as a teenager, and then I couldn’t stop. All I could think about while I was in school was building the next website. And then, eventually, I stumbled into eCommerce, because clients wanted to sell their products through their website. And so I started to learn about that whole world and kind of never looked back.
Felix: So you started learning about eCommerce, started getting exposed to it. What about eCommerce hooked you like the way learning about computers or playing on the computer hooked you to creating websites?
Josh: Well initially I was really excited by eBay, because every time my family needed something, I would say, “Hey, before we go to the store and buy it, I think I can save us some money if I find it on eBay.” The earlier days of Amazon and all that, so I love the vast categorization of the internet and be able to find very specific parts, and pieces, and all that.
Josh: And so I kind of became The Dexter for the family, for the neighborhood was, “Hey Josh, fix my computer. Hey, Josh, I’m looking for this part, can you find it online?” And so I loved being able to find whatever I wanted online and, generally, at a discount.
Josh: And then just the magic of ordering something, in seconds, and then a few days later, it shows up at your house. And it’s just that magic, click, click, boom, it’s there was really, really exciting. And then being able to see my clients, early on, transform their businesses. They had zero online sales, like an auto repair selling parts for Ford cars and GM, etc. being able to eventually outpace their offline growth.
Josh: And these are 20, 30-year-old businesses, and they are outpacing their growth through their website, without having to have a storefront. And that was really exciting, seeing the transformation of offline to online really got me excited, made me think about, “How many other things could be sold online, and how can we make that experience better and better for the customer?”
Felix: Got it. So we’ve only talked about the things that have gone right so far on your path. What are some of the challenges during this path of creating websites, or transitioning to eCommerce, through eBay to then, eventually, working and building eCommerce websites? What are some of the challenges that you faced along the way that maybe had you second-guessing if you’re on the right path or not?
Josh: Well I think the first thing was generating traffic, generating sales, and getting people to the website. That was tough because I started off with 100 bucks; that’s all I had to my life savings. So the only thing that I … And I went and read every book I could. I went on YouTube, and I went on forums trying to figure out, “How can I get more people to my website, and how can I get more people to my client’s websites.”
Josh: And AdWords and all these other things, paid advertising was around. The only thing that stood out to me was search engine optimization, SEO, because that was something that I could do for free. And I said, “Okay, I guess I got to become the best at SEO because I can’t afford to do anything else.”
Josh: And that ended up becoming an incredible blessing because I had to, by necessity, become really, really good at it. And it turned out that not many people were really good … and I’m generalizing, but at least in my area, not many people could do SEO at the level that I could. And that meant that I could generate, potentially, millions of dollars in sales for clients with, effectively, zero dollars in ad costs, and that I could replicate those strategies and test them on my own stuff. So that was a low-cost way, just took up my time.
Josh: So the struggle, in the beginning, was how do we get people to the website? And then, eventually, how do we create that customer experience they keep coming back? So it kind of trickled down, but I would say … And it’s never left me, that challenge is still every time I start a business is which channel? Is it Facebook ads, it’s Snapchat ads, Pinterest? Which channel mix is going to be most effective for this business, and what is the most affordable at this stage of the business to try out and try to conquer? But SEO is something I figured out early on and that allowed me to, eventually, get into paid media where things really took off.
Felix: Got it. So let’s talk about a timeframe. So between the time that you were first building websites to the first time, you opened your own online business, what was that timeframe?
Josh: Yeah, that’s a good question. So I was 13, 14 when I started creating blogs and then creating websites, and by 15 or 16, I was working for a bunch of different clients. And it was easy to get clients through word of mouth because everyone was talking about this teenager who can make a website in a weekend for a fraction of the cost; so that great value really spread the word.
Josh: And this was in 2007 to 2010 when a lot of small businesses were realizing they had to have their own websites, and they really wanted to sell their products online, as opposed to just having an online brochure-like just a basic website. So it was good timing for a lot of these businesses to want to get online, and that was during when I was 13 to 16, is when I was really learning a lot about web development, web design.
Josh: I remember I couldn’t afford Photoshop early on, or InDesign, or any of the Adobe tools, so I remember downloading a pirated copy of it, and then it kind of messed up my computer. But I was like, “At least I’m able to …” Yeah, I couldn’t even afford the 500 bucks or whatever it was initially, and I remember it messing up my computer. I was like, “Okay, the first thing I’m doing is buying an authentic version of Photoshop so this doesn’t happen again.” But I had to learn all that stuff.
Josh: So by the time I was 16, though, I realized that I wanted to start doing some of my own stuff on the side, mostly because the clients were a lot more risk-averse, they didn’t … I would tell them about a new technique or a new strategy, and they’re like, “It sounds great, Josh, but does it work?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, but I think it’ll work.”
Josh: So I knew I needed my own projects, on the side as a testbed, before rolling things out to clients. And little did I know those side projects ended up becoming massive because there was no red tape, I could just do whatever I wanted on there, and cutting edge techniques, things I was thinking about. So that was the 16 to 20 range is when those things started to take off.
Felix: What was that first side business that turned into something massive where it was totally eclipsing the kind of revenue and income that you’re making from these clients?
Josh: Well I started a couple of review websites, and it’s funny because I wasn’t an avid reader or an avid writer at the time. But once I realized I could make money from it, then I … It’s funny how that works, all of a sudden I became a super avid reader-
Josh: A super diligent writer. And so I started creating these review websites on software products, on technology, on iPhone accessories, and all this stuff. And I found out about Google AdSense first, and I remember making a few pennies a click. And then, eventually, I found out about affiliate marketing, and then I started to take on my clients saying, “How about just pay me a percentage of all the sales that come online? Zero percent of your sales come from the internet right now, I won’t charge you anything, I’ll do all the work for free, and then you just cut me in on whatever comes in online.”
Josh: But I started to see my side project and side deals start to take off because there was a snowball effect on SEO. And the more content I was creating, the better I was getting at SEO, and then I was reinvesting the money I was making from my clients.
Josh: First I bought Photoshop, then I bought my own computer; that was really the first computer we had in the house. Then internet access, and then my first car, and it kind of started to snowball from there. And before I knew it, I said, “Wow if I had 10 of these websites.” And then it wasn’t just me writing content, I went to odesk.com, which is now Upwork, and Elance, and Freelacer.com and started hiring other writers and training them how to write for me, so that I could focus on SEO.
Josh: And then, eventually, I started hiring an SEO team in India, Pakistan, Philippines, even the US, because I was in school; I mean, I was in school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. football practice. So I, literally, went to Google and searched, “How to hire people online.” And found the freelancing economy.
Josh: And I started to build my own team to not only help with the client projects but also to help with my side projects, which really started to take off. The affiliate revenue started to skyrocket, and I, literally, was just at school all day and sleeping, and the websites were growing, and growing, and growing.
Josh: And then I found a marketplace called SitePoint, which is now Flippa, where I could sell these websites. So I was like, “Whoa, I can build something from scratch, I can have my teamwork on it, get the revenue up, and then I could sell it for revenue multiple.”
Josh: And I started getting really good at flipping those websites that I was creating, and that’s when things started to really take off, where I was like, “I think I can make a lot more money doing these side projects.” But at the same time, my client business also started to take off, because we switched from just website design and development, when it was just me, to advertising management.
Josh: So we started managing millions of dollars. And I say, “We.” It was still me locally, no office, but I had maybe 20 freelancers who were working online for me through Skype managing SEO. We started to charge $10,000 a month, $20,000 a month to some clients for SEO projects, managing millions of dollars of AdWords spend.
Josh: And then, obviously, Facebook starting to creep up in there and managing that spend. So that started to also take off, so it was a constant battle of which side could make more money: my side projects, or my main project which was helping build the businesses for my clients.
Felix: That’s amazing, I think one theme I’m hearing from this that you seem to have either never encountered, or you smashed right through it is this hesitation that entrepreneurs have to look for permission, or look for, “Why do I deserve.” Or, “Why would someone hire me? Why do I deserve this kind of success?” But you just kind of kept on going 100 miles per hour, and not even stopping to consider that. Is that true? Did you ever think like, “Why would someone hire a 15-year-old, 16-year-old, 17-year-old to manage millions of dollars of ad spend?”
Josh: I was a bigger guy, but I was like, “What can I do when I meet a client in person to make me seem older?” The scariest thing for me was if someone asked how old I was because now I think it’s a general … It’s well known, I guess, that it’s okay for younger people … You see executives and billionaire CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel from Snapchat being in their 20s. That wasn’t normalized back then, it was still 50, 60-year-old executives running internet companies.
Josh: And so that was scary for me. I was so ‘ashamed’ most of my life, and I wish I could take that back. I eventually broke that limiting belief, but it was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m 15, 16 years old, there’s no way I could ask for $5,000 for a website; they’re not going to pay that. I have to handicapped by price because of my age and blah blah blah.”
Josh: And so I would deepen my voice on the phone, and I would whiten my teeth so that my teeth were whiter when I smiled on my first impression, and I’d bring my briefcase, and I’d dress up. And what I realized, though, is that over time, the work started to speak for itself. And the more that I became myself, showing up in jeans, and just really sinking into that of who I really was, people just felt more comfortable hiring me and working with me.
Josh: Because like, “This guy, he’s not putting up a show, he’s not telling me something that I don’t feel that he could deliver on, he always delivers.” So being consistent on your integrity, and your follow-through, and then just kind of settling into that help. But, yeah, I would say what helped a lot for me was reading and watching stories of the Forbes list, for example, just to be like, “Look at these huge success stories. They must have started with a silver spoon, or they must add some secret and realizing that a lot of them didn’t, a lot of them were self-made, a lot of them started in even worse positions that I did. And that helped push me through a lot of dark days where I was doubting myself. Even going to university being the first in my family to go to university, and sitting there in the Honors College at Arizona State University, I still had those limiting beliefs of like, “Hey can you do this? Are you aiming too high?” Or, “Are you being greedy?”
Josh: Or all these things, and then the imposter syndrome of, “Am I really good enough to do this?” And I will be honest with you, and candid that every once in a while, those thoughts still come into my mind. And as you aim higher, and higher, and higher, and now we’re aiming at disrupting a massive industry, it’s like, “Can we do this?”
Josh: But then I’m constantly reassured by our customers, our team, our track record. And kind of entrepreneurs get so focused on the future, and living in the future, that it’s hard to enjoy the present, and be proud of the past because we’re so future-oriented, that we’re never happy with the status quo.
Josh: And so learning how to become happy and say, “Look, I’m 16 years old, and I’m making $5,000 for a website, and the client’s happy and referring more business, this is amazing.” And so I had to learn how to tell myself that over and over again, and reading those stories of from rags to riches so that it started to shatter those limiting beliefs little by little.
Felix: Yeah, I think part of it is this fear, too, that if you enjoy the present too much, you’re too happy with the results that you have, it takes away from that fire, from that hunger. But have you seen that to be true? Because especially I want to get your advice, specifically, because you’ve had so much success, and you had strings of success. Has looking at life that way, has that slowed down the potential progress, and is that okay?
Josh: Well I think that it’s okay to take a breather sometimes. Initially, I remember getting started, and I was like, “Okay, if I can just make enough money, I won’t have to work at McDonald’s.” That was the initial thought was like, “If I can make $10 an hour, break it down, then I don’t have to work a ‘normal’ job as a teenager.”
Josh: Then it was like, “Okay if I make enough money, maybe I don’t have to go to college.” That was kind of the next thing. And maybe I can have the strength to tell my parents I don’t … the confidence that I don’t want to be a doctor. Because I wanted to go to the medical field because I wanted to make good money to help my family out, and I wanted to help people; I wanted to genuinely help people.
Josh: When I realized that I could help people through the internet, through business, and I could make a decent living doing it, and create an opportunity, create jobs for other people, then I was like, “Wait for a second, it checks all the boxes. What’s wrong with being vocal about the fact that I want to be an entrepreneur?”
Josh: And I didn’t know what that was, but like I want to do this for the rest of my life. And I don’t know where it will take me, but I love it so much, and I’m helping people, I just want to keep doing it. And so I think that taking a breather, you can certainly … I went through a delayed burnout period when I was, I think, 21 years old.
Josh: After selling a company and just kind of feeling like I had lost my purpose. I was so used to … I graduated at 20 years old, so I came in with no credits, and I was thinking 22 credits a semester, finishing up my honors thesis my freshman year, running my business from my dorm room, taking calls all day long. I had so much going on, and then I graduated college at 20 years old, so all I said I could work 16 hours a day, so I did that.
Josh: Then when I sold my business, I wasn’t working 16 hours a day anymore, and I kind of realized that the pursuit was my happiness and there wasn’t this number, “If I hit this number, I’ll be happy.” Or something, I realized that for me that was arbitrary, and it really had nothing to do with a number. It had to do with my passion, my purpose, and helping people, impacting people, and creating opportunities.
Josh: So for me taking a breather, I think it’s very natural to say, “Wow, look at where we’re at, and look at what we’re doing. Yes, there’s so much more to go, but stop and smell the roses, look at the view. You’re hiking Mount Everest, but look how far we’ve made it already, and look at the view, it looks a lot better than down there, and look how far we’ve come.”
Josh: And I think that also invigorates the endurance you need because I realized that if you want to build something that’s around for 50 years, you want to build something that’s truly impactful on a global scale, or you just want to build something that truly makes an impact on your life long term, it’s a marathon, it’s not a race.
Josh: You’re racing the marathon sure, maybe that’s part of it, but it really is a marathon, you have to pace yourself, you have to know when to sprint and when not to. And I’m still figuring that out, but I certainly have got a lot better with mental balance, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life, we are doing better than we’ve ever done before.
Josh: And I think that goes to speak to how I structure the culture for myself, in my own mind, and then how I try to share that with the team so that everybody’s not working 24 hours a day, or saying, “We’re a startup, it’s startup culture, and work 18 hours a day till you burn out.”
Josh: Especially now in the space that we’re in, it’s like, “Hey people are going to have teeth for the next 50 years, we believe, and we believe that yellow teeth or stained teeth are never going to be in fashion.” So we’re in a space that we have that room to grow, and that space to kind of run the marathon versus the relay or the race.
Josh: So I would say yeah I still have those moments, but I look at it differently. I don’t look at it as like, “Okay I should be happy where I’m at, let me complacent, not asking for too much.” Instead, it’s like, “Wow, look at how far we’ve come already. And if we’ve been able to do this with limited resources, and no outside funding, and a small team, imagine what we can do it 10 years from now if we just keep this up.”
Josh: And so it’s more of like, “Nice view, amazing roses, I love it, and when you guys are ready, let’s pack back up.” But you got to stop in for a water break you got to stretch your muscles, you got to enjoy the view a little bit, you got to feel good about it; otherwise, you run the trap of burnout.
Felix: So I think this is important about the marathon versus the sprint. Why do you think entrepreneurs, why do you think that they feel this compulsion to sprint when it’s almost said everywhere that it … not everywhere, but it’s pretty common advice out that it is a marathon, but there’s still this compulsion to sprint. And why do you think that is?
Josh: Well once I had my Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of food, shelter, security covered, sometimes people are working a job that covers that for them, and so they’re able to moonlight working on their business. Understanding that it is a marathon versus a sprint, and if you sprint too often, you will burn out, and it will hurt you.
Josh: You can sprint inside of the marathon, certainly there are times for that, but just realizing that life is long, and the overnight success story is very, very rare, if ever. And understanding that looking at some of my favorite businesses and that they were built over a period of 30 years, and you look at Apple, and you look at … Even a lot of people see Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, people they look up to. John Paul DeJoria from Patron and Paul Mitchell Hair Care Systems, you look at it, it’s a 30-year marathon. And sometimes companies go through even bankruptcies and multiple things that happen throughout that before they’re the ubiquitous name that everybody knows.
Josh: So that builds character, and that makes you stronger, and things don’t get easier, they get harder, but you can get better. And just taking that approach of saying, “Okay, I will never be broke again, I have a skill set I can always go get a job, I can always figure something out.” And just saying, “I don’t want to burn out, I want to do this right.” And it’s more important for me to be in business 30 years from now than it is to have an overnight success or a one-hit-wonder.
Josh: And to just be conscious of that especially when you bring on a team, or you have other people working with you, the last thing you want to do is burn out those incredible people, especially the people early on who are taking a leap of faith to maybe take a salary cut to work with you. And all of that, and have respect for the marathon, and if you do that, and you understand that you can’t hike Mount Everest in a day, and it’s dangerous in many aspects.
Josh: So just thinking of it that way, the compulsion is natural, I still fight it today, or sometimes like, “Oh there’s an opportunity here let’s jump on it.” Sure certain times you got to run, you got to sprint, but the majority of the race is a marathon. And it’s about endurance, and it’s about resilience, and bouncing back, adapting along the way, being conscious of that.
Josh: So once I realized that the entrepreneurs, who I really look up, to have built significant businesses over a long period of time, did not do it overnight, weren’t right all the time, and that perfectionism, a lot of times, leads to disappointment or leads to burning yourself out, or other people out.
Josh: So just really looking at other people’s stories, looking at my own past, and realizing instead of income hopping, or trying to find trends or, now drop shipping’s really popular, just selling; there was nothing wrong with that. But trying to think of, “How can I build something for the long haul that is going to be respected for the time we’ve been in business growing year over year?”
Josh: And maybe there’s a down year and that’s okay, just really doing my research to understand that the media might glamorize overnight success stories, or what seems like overnight success stories, but once you dig deep enough, you’ll see that this is not Elon Musk’s first rodeo, that he’s been doing this for a long, long time.
Josh: And even what he’s working on now with space, and energy, and vehicles, it’s not an overnight sprint, it’s something that’s going to take a very long time. Even with someone with the resources, and past record, and intelligence of someone like an Elon Musk, it still takes time.
Josh: And so I realized that, and I had to keep telling myself that so that every time I get the urge to sprint, I have to remember that, “Is it the time to sprint to exhaust the energy right now, or do I need to pace myself at this moment in the race?”
Felix: Yeah, I think a part of this, too, is just especially when you’re starting something new, there’s this need to find out as quickly as possible if you’re investing your time in the right thing or not. What’s your process? How do you know if you … especially if you’re thinking about building something that’s going to last 30, 40, 50 years. How do you know if you are investing your time in the right thing or not? Are there certain things that you can look for, a test that you can kind of run, or just thought experiments that help you out to make sure that you are investing your time on the right projects, on the right businesses, on the right things that you’re doing throughout your day?
Josh: Yeah, I’m still building that formula. I think month by month reviewing where we’re at, what we’re doing, what we’re learning. I think that what I’ve kind of figured out for myself, up until now, is that the disruption over innovation for us at the point I am in my life, and where we are resource-wise, that disrupting … So, for example, you look at the mattress industry, and not creating a whole new behavior, so telling customers or consumers, “Hey, instead of sleeping on a mattress, you’ll sleep on rocks.” Or something like that; that’s completely innovation out of the left-field; which high, risk high reward certainly.
Josh: But just like if you look at Tesla Motors, they’re not saying completely stop driving regular cars, it’s like, “Look at this sexy car, it’s an electric-powered vehicle, but electric powers vehicles can be sexy as well, and premium.”
Josh: And then eventually saying, “They can be mass market.” And then eventually saying, “They can self drive as you gain the confidence.” But that stuff kind of takes time, but I look at disruption over innovation is generally a theorist proposition for an entrepreneur, depending on where they’re at in life.
Josh: Not to say innovation … I applaud and look up to those who challenge to innovate from the ground up. And you can certainly innovate within your category like our new system that we’ve launched with Snow is completely innovative, but it’s disrupting a space where consumers are used to whitening your teeth at home already, they’re comfortable with that.
Josh: And so I look at that, and then I also look at market risk, and execution risk. And so the market risk is something like Bitcoin where some 16 year old, or me and other 18 year old in the dorm room, could take me on with zero dollars; that’s a market risk that I’m not willing to take at this point in my life.
Josh: Execution risk, on the other hand, is taking a dormant category like mattresses, or suitcases with and looking at them say, “Okay, how can we disrupt the suitcase industry and make it a better product with a better brand experience? And then how can we execute better than the other people that have been in this space and maybe execute faster?” But not that a 16-year-old is going to come out with zero funding, and be able to completely eradicate our innovation. And so that’s a playbook I’m leaning into right now.
Josh: And then just understanding if it’s something that’s going to be around for 10 years, is this something that we can continue to improve on? Business is tough so, ideally, you like what you’re working on; even better if you love it, you’re obsessed with it. I’m obsessed with every market we go into, I read every research report.
Josh: And we’re constantly learning, we stub our toe, but learning fast, and just never giving up. And so, if that’s how you feel, it’s kind of a feeling mixed with that checklist of, “Is it going to be around for 10 years?” Is that a growing category, or is it a shrinking category? Is it something that is being disrupted by the internet, replaced by the internet, robots? Kind of just understanding where my landscape is going to be, and what it’s going to look 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and if that’s something that I’d be proud of being a part of for 20 years.
Josh: And if it’s not because I could certainly make a lot more money if that’s what I was looking for, doing a lot of other things. There are a lot of other industries that I could enter where it’s much more lucrative out the gate, where I’m not having to reinvest every dollar, and I can go into all this stuff. But for me, it’s about that purpose, that vehicle for purpose, and for building a team for the long haul.
Josh: And so that’s kind of what I look at, it’s not a perfect dance here, but at least we’ll help people get to that. And you don’t have to get through it overnight, I was building websites for clients, and making my money that way so I didn’t have to work a normal job. And then eventually hedging my risk by creating moonlighting, creating my own projects, and so those started to take off.
Josh: So it was still an eight-year process, but I eventually got to a point where I was like, “I want to do something that I could do for a long period of time, in a growing space, where I potentially have an unfair advantage.”
Josh: So if you’re a dentist … I happen to be friends with incredible dentists, celebrity dentists. And I had jaw surgery on myself, so I spent so much time researching … I wanted to be in medical school, so I love researching medical papers and the market. So that all led to me having, not a huge unfair advantage from the start, but a slight enough at least for the fact that I was passionate and interested in what we were working on, and that’s very important early on, even throughout the way.
Felix: Hmm. So we talked a bit about the limiting beliefs, on the flip side of it, do you feel there’s a particular trait or attribute about you, about your personality that has kept you on this path to success? And if you didn’t have this particular trait, you would not be where you are today?
Josh: Oh yeah for sure. I would say that in two words: chase difficulty, so I’m someone who chases difficulty throughout my life. I am competitive but I’m not outwardly competitive; if that makes sense. In my own head in terms of, for example, graduating university in two years, wasn’t because anyone pressured me to do so, wasn’t because I won an award, or grained recognition, or wanted recognition for it, it was simply one, my business needed me, I wanted to get a degree, I wanted to go to university, and I want to do it for me, my family, my future family, the community, and something that just I was passionate about. But I realized that if I took 22 credits a semester, I could get it done sooner.
Josh: So I’m constantly adding more and more to my plate, and I try not to be too hard on myself it’s more like a game, “Can I do 10 meetings today, or can I knock five things off my to-do list?” So I’m chasing difficulty, and I trick my mind to really almost lust after it. It gets me so excited to be like, “Oo, that’s challenging.”
Josh: Where other people if you don’t … You can train your mind to do this. I wasn’t born with this, but I learned that if I chase difficulty, instead of chase simplicity, that it will build an inherent mode. I’ll learn from it, I’ll get better, I may stub my toe, it might hurt, it might be painful while I’m going through the process, but next time I face it, I’m going to have that much better of time going through it. And so anytime something bad happens, or something’s difficult in front of me, sure it’s easy to ignore it, or to say, “I want to watch TV, or just want to sleep in, or let’s just avoid it and go the easier route.”
Josh: Instead I’m like, “Let’s figure this out.” Because clearly the people that have figured this out, went to the same process; there’s clearly a solution, and it’s going to make us stronger. I think that my whole team has really adopted that mindset to say, “Oh this is really difficult.” Instead of raising my hand and giving up, let’s do it, let’s go through it, let’s not go around it, let’s not go over, let’s go through it.
Josh: And that means that sometimes it is painful, but chasing difficulty, resiliency, not giving up, I will never give up. That’s something that I really drilled into myself that I would never, ever give up on my team, on my customers, on our mission. And you pair that with hard work, and an obsession for wanting to build something that people appreciate and experience, and something that you appreciate, you’ve got a pretty good formula for success, in my opinion.
Felix: So when you talk about chasing difficulties, it sounds like you’re saying you try to add a lot to your plate. How do you balance this with focus, or is that not in the equation for you? How do you make sure that you’re not diverting your focus away from what will move you closer to your goals?
Josh: Well so I think that mastery is found and developed through depth; that’s my opinion. And so you need to focus in order to reach the depth where mastery lies. And so, for me, I’m chasing difficulty so that I can dive deeper, and deeper, and if I never give up, I’m 26 years old. If I am fortunate to live another 60 years of my life, I think for 60 years, I can chase more, more difficult things, the difference is every year I hopefully get better, I learn from my mistakes, other people’s mistakes.
Josh: And I’m hopefully only going to get better, which means I can take on bigger challenges; that’s the way I kind of frame my life. And I balance that with health, and taking free time, and mental space, and reading, and hanging out with friends. And I certainly have a great social life, so I certainly balance it as best as I can.
Josh: Sometimes there’s an imbalance, and that’s okay, and that’s temporary, but I’m cognizant of that; I try to be as cognizant as I can of that. But I would say focus, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both said the same word, focus, is one word they would recommend to entrepreneurs. And it’s so easy with today the low barriers of entry of starting 100 different stores, that you want to try different things. And that’s okay, the earlier on, that’s okay.
Josh: What I found out, though, is that once you lock in on something, if you look at all the channels that Snow is on just from advertising, marketing alone, we’re on every channel that we want to be on right now, and there’s 20 more than we would be on.
Josh: And there’s just so much to do within one business that you’ll always have something to do. And so it’s like SEO, Pinterest, retailers, patents, the accounting, team building, so much going on that I never check all the boxes from my task list for the day.
Josh: I’ve accepted that I’ll never have inbox zero, but I’m going to get as close as I can. Priority kind of takes away the urgency. Urgency and priority together, and I’m going to get done what needs to get done by the end of the day as best as I can. And you realize that within one business, or even one product, you have a never-ending list for the next 50 years to do stuff.
Josh: And you realize that really what you’re seeking for, you’re seeking for validation from the market, you’re seeking growth, and if you find that you can do that with focus, which is truth, in any industry, there are 1,000 industries other than oral care that this applies to, and maybe many more where if you just focus on bathroom supplies, tires, whatever the pro- … And it doesn’t have to be a product, it can be a service, you’ll have enough to do inside of one focused project for a very, very long time.
Josh: And then the fun stuff starts to happen because people get really good at starting from 0 to .05, or 0 to 1. But from 1 to 100 is really where the extreme difficulty lies and, beyond that, and that’s what I’m chasing. So for me, people might get good at beating Super Mario Brothers levels 1 through 10, or Candy Crush levels 1 through 10, but if you the game that you’re playing, and you want to be on the leaderboard, you have to keep playing that game, you can’t switch between 20 different games, because then you’ll be on 50 different leader boards at the very bottom.
Josh: But if you want to be on one leaderboard near the top, you have to play that game consistently for 20 years, and get better and better at it. And doing levels 1 through 10 are no longer fun because it feels like you have a cheat code doing 1 through 10, it’s no longer as fun as it used to be, where going higher levels is where the excitement comes from.
Felix: Got it. So you chase difficulty down the same focus path; that makes sense. Okay so I feel like we spent a lot of time equipping our entrepreneurship mindset, and ready now to talk the tactics of everything that you’ve done, so let’s talk about Snow. Where did the idea come from?
Josh: So I had braces multiple times in my life. I mentioned that I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on lots of teeth whitening. Everything I could find I tried for teeth whitening because, for me, I was a bit self-conscious of my smile growing up. I had an underbite growing up and, eventually waiting for surgery, I kind of became friends with my dentist and the oral surgeon.
Josh: And they would see me come in on a Wednesday, in the middle of the day, and they’re like, “You’re not in school.” I said, “Well I graduated.” And they’re like, “Well I see the cars you’re pulling up in, what do you do?” And so I would start to share it with my medical professional what I would do, and then we started becoming friends.
Josh: And as I was looking for categories I wanted to disrupt and really stick to it for a long period of time, I knew that I needed a big category. And oral care was something I was researching so much already because I was going into jaw surgery, and braces and all these procedures being done on my teeth, I recognized an opportunity for me too, essentially, put my life savings into an industry I was intrigued by.
Josh: It kind of paid some homage back to me wanting to be in medical school, and learning as much as I could in that industry, and realizing there was a there was an opportunity for us to create something that was radically different; hopefully radically better. And I kind of realized the selfie has put a lot of attention on the smile on the face, and so you see a rise in makeup and skincare.
Josh: And I kind of saw that the oral care market was kind of being neglected in terms of technology, true technology, not anything gimmicky, anything like that, true technology, true design. I said, “I’ve been selling beauty products for a long time. My background’s in programming and technology, I love high fashion, I love luxury products. And so what if I can combine all of those interests in a seemingly dormant category that I get to grow in for 50 years?” And oral care kind of lined up with that.
Josh: I had a lot of resources, the dentists and everyone who I became friends with, that I could tap into, and kind of get research from, and learn from, and get help from. So it just kind of all came together, and as I started doing more research, I realized that we had a really good opportunity in front of us if we wanted to take it on, but it wasn’t going to be easy; still isn’t easy, I don’t plan it to ever be easy.
Josh: But that, again, I’m chasing difficulty in a place I can be it for 50 years, where we can be the market leader in our space. And I thought about, “Well when was the last time I was excited to buy toothpaste?” Never. I said, “Well why can’t I be excited? Just like I get excited about buying a mattress now because it comes in a box, why can’t this market be disrupted? And why can’t we be the ones to do it?”
Josh: And it just matched my timing, it matched my resources, it matched kind of where I wanted to be, and kind of stumbled into Snow with teeth whitening initially. We’re still very much known for our teeth whitening system, we just launched our new system, but we also are launching toothpaste, and floss, and many, many other products that our customers are asking us for and we’re really excited to bring the market.
Josh: And so I realized that we have an opportunity to continue to create, innovate products, and market products for a long period of time. And we’re never going to give up, no matter what comes at us, how big or how small, we are never going to give up this mission.
Josh: And if that means that … Right now we’re a self-funded, totally bootstrapped, zero outside money business. If that means that I have to raise a ton of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, the smile direct club is looking at an IPO; that’s exciting. Whatever that means for us, I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing this for the market, I’m doing this for the entrepreneurship community, I’m doing this because I feel I have nothing else I could do that would keep me up at night as this does in excitement.
Josh: And I have the toys, I have the stuff that I wanted, it didn’t bring me the happiness that Snow brings me. And so for me, this is my life’s passion, this is my life’s work, and to be able to open the kimono and share that with entrepreneurs along the way, whether it’s getting bullied by bigger companies trying to keep us out, or whatever we’re going through, I try to share that with other entrepreneurs to say look, “I’m going through this too, here’s the truth, here’s what’s happening, here’s where we’re at.”
Josh: And being as transparent as I can and it’s become a part of my identity, and it’s become part of my life mission now. But that was just a result of saying, “I see an opportunity, we have some unfair advantages compared to maybe other people in the space. Can we take advantage of those unfair advantages to get a head start?”
Josh: And now, with over 10 million people who shopped our website, just our online store, and dentists who sell our product, med spas sell our product, and now retailers who want to carry our product, we’re like, “Okay, we’re onto something. We just can never give up, because we know now the market wants us, and the industry wants us in terms of the retailers, and our partners.”
Josh: And once it creates a life of its own, you are now its caretaker and have become a kind of a servant to what has become Snow, or what is becoming Snow. And that’s kind of exciting because it’s no longer just like your baby, it’s thousands of entrepreneurs who follow me, it’s their baby too, they want to see the little guy win, whatever that means.
Josh: And our partners and our customers, we have an incredible returning customer rate even though we don’t push subscription plans, and so we know that we’re onto something, we love what we’re doing, and it gives me life, and I can’t put dollar price on that.
Josh: Because I’ve gone through burnout, I’ve experienced a little bit of, I guess, depression when I felt like I didn’t have a purpose, or anything that. And entrepreneurship is everything to me, it gives me life, and Snow is a vehicle that I hope to be a part of for the rest of my life.
Felix: That’s amazing. So you believe in this so much, and you saw the vision for it so far out that you were willing to invest half the amount. I think that you invested lots of your savings into the research and development of that first system. So what kind of R&D was required to get this thing off the ground?
Josh: Well, initially, it’s maybe $100,000, $200,000 to test the initial product, and kind of test a couple of the disruptions we wanted to do to the teeth whitening space, and kind of understand where the market had room to grow, and all that; so that was the initial set.
Josh: And then we’ve reinvested nearly every dollar back into the business, millions of dollars at this point, to continue to mature, hire better and better people, better law firms, better accounting firms, better team members, better software, better marketing; all of that. And as a result, we feel like we’re a tiny peanut compared to where we would be, but we made so much traction the last three years.
Josh: I decided to go all-in and double down, and still haven’t raised any outside [inaudible] funding, we do get a ton of inbound interest from a lot of different firms and agencies who are starting to see what we see, and starting to see that Snow is truly unique and truly has unique positioning that other companies would have a very, very hard time mimicking, or would become me too.
Josh: And once that kind of starts to take hold, it’s another layer of excitement, because other people want to see you win, they want to put a lot of money behind you to see you win. And all of a sudden, you want to put all your money on this horse because it just keeps winning the race, and you want to make sure that it’s taken care of.
Josh: And so now, on a very philosophical level because of the external support from the community, from the VC community, and from retailers, and partners, and internationally, now it’s like, “Okay, how can I really go all in?” And so now it’s I would put any amount of money into this business, because we’re also trying to prove a point, too, that a small company could rise in a dormant, competitive, really commoditized business and build a brand that is around for a very long time.
Josh: And so I haven’t exercised any of those opportunities yet, terms of external funding and certain things that. And we also never been to a trade show, we get all of our retail has been inbound, retail and trips, and all of our sales have been generated mostly by ourselves.
Josh: I mean 95% of our sales have been generated by our own two hands, and really our customers have been our investors since day one. And we’ve been fortunate to be able to put all that money back into research and development and will continue to do so until we feel that our products are truly something that we’re proud of.
Felix: So obviously you’re working much larger scale than I think a lot of people that are listening, but when it comes to reinvesting, how do you know where to put your money in a way where it will add more gas to the fire?
Josh: Well certainly sales and marketing are key because without revenue it’s hard to grow a business. And without profit, if you’re self-funded like we are to this point, you have to make sure that if you’re putting a dollar in, you’re at least getting a dollar back. And so being really diligent on what is the next best affordable step?
Josh: We’d love to do a Superbowl commercial this coming year, but it may not be in our line of sight for this year, maybe next year, maybe the following year. But just understanding what’s next, what’s best, and what’s affordable at the stage of the business. And so reinvesting has been very, very key for us because we’re picking areas that we believe will either add to the customer experience, or to the revenue growth of our business; ideally both.
Josh: And so whether it’s packaging, whether it’s customer support, we’re continually breaking our customer support because when we scale, we realize that we need a stronger supply chain, we need more and more inventory. We fulfill every single package ourselves to every single customer. And so reinvesting in the team, hiring the right people, customer service, customer experience, packaging, marketing, advertising, branding; those things are key for us.
Josh: Supporting our retail partners, our dental offices, or med spas, things that we believe that if we put a dollar in now, we might not make a dollar in tomorrow, but we believe it’s going to raise the brand value of what people think of Snow. Yeah, we get in front of 15 million American consumers every month through our advertising channels online, and one day we hope that to be 100 million people a month.
Josh: So just reinvesting in places that work, so just straight up math; put in $1, $1.50 comes back, okay that’s good enough. We can cover our costs, then we can keep growing, and we keep learning from our customers, and then reinvesting in our customers themselves. Whether that’s promotions, new products that they’re asking for, extending our product line, extending our frontline customer support, extending our marketing team, and then continuing to reinvest into the brand so that we continue our great traction.
Josh: We don’t ever want to lose that traction, what that looks on the growth numbers doesn’t matter. But if we are continuing to earn the business of our customers, and treat them better and better every six months, every three months, every month, then we’re moving in the right direction.
Josh: And we haven’t been perfect, we’re learning, we had a massive holiday season last year and it overwhelmed our customer support team, it overwhelmed our fulfillment staff, it overwhelmed our inventory, it overwhelmed a lot of things, it broke a few things. But we move fast, we break things, and we try to fix them as fast as we can, and we try not to compromise our products, our customer experience along the way.
Felix: Mm. So speaking of reinvesting in places that will give you an immediate return, like in sales and marketing, you mentioned earlier about the channel mixes that are most effective per business per industry. How can we answer that question for someone out there that is trying to figure out how to invest their money when it comes to advertising? How do they figure out what’s the right channel mix for them?
Josh: Well the right channel mix for us hasn’t changed too much. It’s evolving now as we move it to offline, and we move into a much more regulated environment where we have to beef up our resources on every single front. It’s talking to the customer, so that customer, each customer is an investor of ours; that’s how we look at it.
Josh: Someone who took out money to trust into our product, we haven’t been around 50 years, we’re not a, “Oh of course that works.” Type product. Even though we have an amazing amazingly low refund and return rate, because our product simply works, we talk to our customers, we try to get them on the phone whenever we can to learn about them: why did they buy, what would make them buy again, what products would they to see from us? That’s invaluable research that we’d have to pay a research firm a lot of money to try to figure out.
Josh: But instead, we just call our customer and say, “How’s it going? You know what? Thank you, what made you buy? What would you like to buy from us? What would make you share with your friends? Is there anything missing from your order?” So talking to the customers is key because then you get referrals. So our referral program is very strong, we’re building a very strong community of our Snow ambassadors, our Snow family who recommend the products on Instagram and Facebook, their friends and family.
Josh: SEO is still a pretty strong staple of our business and then, of course, you have the more expensive channels like Facebook, and Instagram, and Google which are great for generating new customers, and getting in front of new people and, hopefully, earning the right for them to come back.
Josh: And so our mix right now is pretty diverse, I mean we’re on Pinterest, we’re on Instagram, on Facebook. We just finished a case study with Snapchat, with a Facebook case study, so we’re trying to continue to innovate on the marketing front on those channels. But now we look at retailers, wholesale accounts, dental offices, med spas, international accounts.
Josh: That’s starting to become more and more part of our conversation when we look at massive, retail partnerships like department stores, and cosmetic stores, and all that, and the thousands of dental offices who can sell our product, and med spas, and hair salons.
Josh: So that just started to grow and grow then, eventually, our own popup stores and our own retail outlets, so the list goes on and on. But right now it doesn’t differ too much from three years ago when we started, which is talking to the customer, learning from them, getting them excited, and giving them an opportunity to earn a little bit of money if they want to share the product. And if you do that, it starts to compound and, no pun intended, the snowball effect; It really does start to snowball over time.
Felix: Got it. So let’s take it back to the beginning of how did you guys launch the business? What was the launch plan to get Snow out into the marketplace?
Josh: So we spent a lot of time on our formulation, I worked with our team of experts, our dentists, our oral surgeons, our orthodontists who are friends of mine to test the formula out first, and test it on patients, and give me raw feedback with no strings attached; and continued to just innovate on that.
Josh: And then reading as many reviews as we could from our customers, but also from other products already on the market. And then launching on Facebook and Instagram, and getting in front of an audience who we believe would be interested in our product; and then, again, just rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
Josh: So early on, Facebook and Instagram continued to be more and more expensive every single quarter, and I get it. So you have to become more and more disruptive with the type of advertising you’re doing, really innovate. On the type of creative and all that, your product truly has to work, you have to get it to the customer fast.
Josh: And as those channels become more and more expensive, we start to open up additional channels. As an agile company, we’re able to move quickly and aggressively with a very large market [inaudible] to be able to put behind it now. But early on it was Facebook ads, Instagram ads, talking to our customers, looking at the reviews on Amazon of other products, continuing to iterate upon our product, our formulation until we got to a point where our complaint rate was low enough that we felt like we could scale.
Josh: And then expanding on Google, expanding on any channel we think could work, whether it’s Pinterest ads, Reddit ads, Snapchat ads. Giving it a shot and seeing if it fits our product market at the moment and if it works just putting more coal to the fire.
Felix: And you mentioned that the retail partners that you have are mostly inbound. How did that happen, how come people are able to just find out about you and start contacting you for these kinds of retail partnerships?
Josh: Well I think that when people are looking for products they, depending on where they’re at, and that happens a lot with demographics. So if you’re someone who is a lot younger, you’re a teenager, or something that you might not have your own budget, or you might feel uncomfortable asking your parents to spend over $100 on a teeth whitening product or … Our products are definitely affordable but they’re certainly premium.
Josh: So it’s a premium product that we come out within every single product we launch, whether it’s our anti-aging lip care line or our teeth whitening systems; it’s a premium product. So I think that that naturally played well to the good, better, best kind of scenario where, generally, people will try good products, they’ll move to a better product, and eventually, they’ll move to the best product.
Josh: And I look at my friends who have had success and kind of have the budget to maybe shop in that best category, it doesn’t mean the best always cost that much more, but they have their briefcase that they’ve had for 10 years, and they spent $1,000 on it, but it’s something that they cherish, it’s something that’s valuable to them, and they carry it around versus maybe a $50 briefcase that breaks every year.
Josh: So I think because of that, the buyers at the different department stores, and cosmetic stores realize that they wanted to have the best product, a best option in a category that maybe has gotten used to good products, and maybe better products, and maybe they saw a gap for best products.
Josh: And I think that our packaging is something we’re very, very proud of, it plays very well in a retail environment, it’s a demonstrable product; seeing it in person makes you want to buy it that much more. And then having the online push, I mean, you’ll get so much traffic to our website and in front of our product, that it drives that in-store demand like crazy.
Josh: And so you see Target teaming up with brands like Harry’s, and we’ve been called the Harry’s of oral care. You see them team up with Casper, and so you see these retailers understanding the value of having an upstart, a disruptor in their store to drive foot traffic and to invigorate the brand experience as a retailer, and kind of partnering up with those upstarts.
Josh: So I think that as they look category by category, hopefully when they look at oral care, we’re standing out as a contender for something that would look good on shelves, move product because of our demand. And really the issue we face, and the reason why I believe we’re not 10 times bigger right now is because we’re not in every store, we’re not in a place you can go pick us up, or try out the product, or touch it, feel it, and we believe that’s a huge opportunity for us.
Josh: And I think that experienced buyers understand that, they see that, they buy the product. Most of our buyers reach out to us, and used the product for several months, and said that it’s the best thing they’ve ever tried, it’s truly unique, amazing packaging.
Josh: And they see the revenue opportunity for the store, they see the brand experience opportunity, and they get excited by the products we’re coming out with, the marketing we’re doing, and I can’t help but believe our celebrity customers, and those who promote the product who are A-list celebrities also help drive that brand awareness, and de-risk it for a retail buyer.
Felix: Yeah speaking of celebrities, you mentioned to us that celebrity marketing is a channel that has worked well for you. And this definitely sounds like a scale above the typical influencer marketing that a lot of stores are adding to their mix. When it comes to approaching celebrities to work with them, to be kind of representative of your brand, of your products do you have to approach them differently than you would, I guess, a more typical influencer?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, you have essentially three buckets; that’s how we put them, in buckets. So you have your micro-influencer, who’s generally our customer who wants to share the product on social media, they’re excited, they love it. They want the opportunity to earn either snowflakes, taking cash-in from our product points, or make money promoting the product just because they’re excited about talking about it.
Josh: Most of our customers talk about the product, and are not a part of the ambassador program, they just love talking about it, they’re excited. A lot of times they say they’re excited for the first time about oral care, and all that; so that’s the micro-influencer category, someone with maybe less than 10,000 followers.
Josh: Then you have your medium-influencers, I would categorize that anywhere between 100,000 to a million followers now, because of the maturity of the social media platforms: Facebook, and Instagram, Snap. And so those medium-influencers are generally people who we either reach out to, because we feel that they match our brand aesthetics, we think that they would our product.
Josh: We always send our product to our influencers, no matter the size, because we want to make sure that they’re confident of the product, that they know that they’re going to feel confident promoting it, and they’re going to use it. Otherwise, we’ve turned down so many deals that were in the pipeline because the influencer was not ‘using the product’. They may be a fan of the product, but they weren’t using it.
Josh: It’s very hard to sell something, or talk about something, or be excited about something that you’re suddenly being paid to talk about. We’re not a fan of that model, it certainly could work, but a lot of our micro, and medium, or inbound people who are customers or are looking for a product they can get behind, and feel confident, and they find Snow.
Josh: And honestly, a lot of our A-list macro-influencers, a million-plus, our customers first. And we’ll reach out to them and say, “Hey, it’s been a few months, have you had the opportunity to use the product, reach out to the management team [inaudible] ordered?”
Josh: We have a tool on Shopify called user gems, which will sort by the amount of followers the customer has, and we’ll reach out and say, “Hey, did you get the product? Is there anything we can assist with? Do you like the product?” And that kind of opens the conversation to say, “Is this a product you can get behind publicly, something that we can do a campaign together, or maybe launch products in conjunction with you?”
Josh: And if that conversation continues, then it does make a lot of sense. And I think that you look at Floyd Mayweather, for example, the deal we did with Floyd Mayweather, he was a fan of the product, and the team was a fan of the product. And that was a great opportunity because Floyd and his team were looking for a product, an American company that had a certain level of aesthetic, a certain level of quality that Floyd wanted to get behind; and so in those scenarios, we just kind of facilitate a conversation.
Josh: But if it’s someone we’re reaching out to if it’s an A-list, we have some in the pipeline who are incredibly, massively popular A-list celebrities, and I can’t name them because we’re working on them right now; usually I’d name everybody. But we’re excited about it because a couple of them are people we reached out to that we feel match the brand for the next 10 years, and we believe can not just be product endorsers, and brand ambassadors, but actual partners of ours.
Josh: Whether that means investors of ours, or partners of ours in an equity scale, or licensing deals. So we start to open that up and understand the world of licensing, and partnering with celebrities. And that kind of marketing, we don’t look for a direct ROI on, we’re not looking for a promo code, and how much of that promo code generate, or any of that. We’re determining, “Does it match our brand where we’re going?” And some celebrities we worked with in the past, no longer match where the brand is going.
Josh: And so we’re kind of slowing down how we work with those celebrities, and looking for new celebrities who do match our brand 10 years from now that we want to ‘get in bed with’ and if they’re excited about our product. So it’s a mix of outbound, reaching out to managers, agents, just really surveying the field, seeing what other brands are doing, and seeing if that celebrity matches who our customers, and who our customer will be, as someone we believe matches.
Josh: And then we send them the product, we send their team the product. If they’re happy with the products, if they see what we see, then we’ll continue the conversation and try to figure out how we can work together. Otherwise, we try to turn our customers into advocates, if they’re a fan of the product.
Josh: And the medium-influencers are a mix of either we’re reaching out to them, because we’ve come across them on the Instagram explorer feed, or we follow other brands, tanning brands or whatever maybe. We say, “Wow that guy or girl has a certain style of the way they post and the things they talk about.” Or a blogger who talks about certain things, let’s see if we can send them some product and see if we can start a conversation on if they’d be interested in becoming an ambassador of ours.
Josh: Really kind of organic, we don’t have one tool we use to find everybody or do everything. The majority of our business still takes place on Google Sheets, I mean we still use a spreadsheet to keep track of a lot of these deals. Because it’s not just about the quantity, it’s also the quality, because we’re trying to build a brand that’s going to be around for a long time.
Felix: Amazing. So Snow is a company at trysnow.com, and I’ll leave you this last question. What is the biggest lesson that you learned last year that you want to apply this year?
Josh: I would say thinking bigger is a constant theme in my life and our company’s life. Thinking bigger and aiming bigger, meaning going for bigger partners. Thinking about offline, the way we think about online in a similar way in terms of scale. And instead of just saying, “No, we’re never going to be an offline brand.” Saying, “How can offline complement our online and vice versa?” And really just thinking bigger.
Josh: And in terms of product line extension and saying, “We’re not just a teeth whitening brand, we’re not just a lip care brand, we really are a personal care brand that’s focused on oral care, and how can we reimagine all the products down that aisle, and create a unique experience for our customers?”
Josh: And international, how can we bring our products to our international customers in a great way, and then leveling up, thinking bigger and leveling up our resources. So leveling up who we’re working, leveling up our packaging, leveling up our technology, leveling up our office, leveling up our legal staff, our accounting; just being willing to think a lot bigger for the longer term.
Josh: And I know that sounds paradoxical to everything I’ve aforementioned, but it really is something that is a constant theme. And last year we really learned that people really … They don’t just want teeth whitening, our customers want Snow. They don’t just want toothpaste, they want Snow.
Josh: And realizing that we have a responsibility to stay in business, and to continue growing for as long as we can. If that’s 50 years that’s great, that’s 100 years great if that’s 10 years great. To be in business and grow for our customers is something that we’re instituting now as we look at additional products, beefing up our resources, internationalizing our brand. And being willing to challenge ourselves with those bigger goals, and being willing to do whatever it takes to make those happen.
Felix: Amazing. And thank you so much for coming on, Josh, amazing story. And the very inspirational story as well. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your experience.
Josh: Thank you, Felix, it’s been a treat. Thank you so much.
About the author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. Got something to share with Shopify Masters listeners? You can submit your story for consideration.