All brands seek to make an impact. For some it’s profits, for some it’s mission, for others it’s leaving a legacy that can be handed down to future generations. This is the ultimate contribution a brand can make to its legacy – bridging the generations.

Before I begin, I want to remind you that there’s a free downloadable guide for you at the end of most every episode of my podcast. I always try to include one easy to download, quick-to-digest strategy that you can easily adopt and make your own. One that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively. Remember, the goal here is to get your product on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. If you like this podcast, share it with a friend, subscribe, and leave a review. Remember, this is about you and it’s for you.

Here’s today’s episode. Today’s story is about a disruptive brand that revitalized a dying category. While you’ve heard me make statements like that in the past, what’s unique about this brand is they found a way to bring new shoppers into the category. Non-traditional shoppers. While there is some question as to who to give credit to this quote, one of my favorite quotes is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I share this because the story that you’re about to hear is about a brand who was able to connect that thing that we hold most dear, to education and to the love of food. Quality food.

Most of us remember times where we helped make something in the kitchen with our parents. How that brought us together and helped formed the communities that we know and love. Our happiest memories are usually spent around a table, talking and sharing with the people that we love. Today’s story’s about a brand that was able to make a connection between their products and that consumer. To not only revitalize a category, but to revitalize the relationship we have with our loved ones, especially children.

You’ve heard me often say say that consumers are confused. They struggle to understand the difference between non-GMO, organic, et cetera. With all the noise and clutter out there, it’s difficult to really understand what quality food looks like and what it means. What a better way to teach children, our children, about the value of food with a simple product that brings families together. It gives them an opportunity to connect. Teaches them to love and know food. Helping them to develop a trust and appreciation for the good quality and nutrition that’s gonna get them through the rest of their lives. I cannot think of a more important mission for any brand than to leave a legacy for the ones that we love. Another thing that I really love about this brand is the way that they work together. The passion, the enthusiasm, the team spirit. The dedication to making a real, lasting difference.

Here’s Greg Fleishman with Foodstirs.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Foodstirs

Click here to learn more about Purely Righteous Brands

Click here to read: Turning Rejection Into Triumph: How Sarah Michelle Gellar and Her Co-Founders Built a New Baking Brand in Entrepreneur Magazine

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #81

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #81

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

LETS ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND GET STARTED!

Dan: Before I begin, I want to remind you that there's a free downloadable guide for you at the end of most every episode of my podcast. I always try to include one easy to download, quick-to-digest strategy that you can easily adopt and make your own. One that you can use to grow sustainable sales and compete more effectively. Remember, the goal here is to get your product on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. If you like this podcast, share it with a friend, subscribe, and leave a review. Remember, this is about you and it's for you.

Here's today's episode. Today's story is about a disruptive brand that revitalized a dying category. While you've heard me make statements like that in the past, what's unique about this brand is they found a way to bring new shoppers into the category. Non-traditional shoppers. While there is some question as to who to give credit to this quote, one of my favorite quotes is, "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." I share this because the story that you're about to hear is about a brand who was able to connect that thing that we hold most dear, to education and to the love of food. Quality food.

Most of us remember times where we helped make something in the kitchen with our parents. How that brought us together and helped formed the communities that we know and love. Our happiest memories are usually spent around a table, talking and sharing with the people that we love. Today's story's about a brand that was able to make a connection between their products and that consumer. To not only revitalize a category, but to revitalize the relationship we have with our loved ones, especially children.

You've heard me often say say that consumers are confused. They struggle to understand the difference between non-GMO, organic, et cetera. With all the noise and clutter out there, it's difficult to really understand what quality food looks like and what it means. What a better way to teach children, our children, about the value of food with a simple product that brings families together. It gives them an opportunity to connect. Teaches them to love and know food. Helping them to develop a trust and appreciation for the good quality and nutrition that's gonna get them through the rest of their lives. I cannot think of a more important mission for any brand than to leave a legacy for the ones that we love. Another thing that I really love about this brand is the way that they work together. The passion, the enthusiasm, the team spirit. The dedication to making a real, lasting difference.

Here's Greg with Foodstirs.

Greg, thank you so much for coming on today. I really appreciate you making time for us. Can you start by talking about your background? What led you to Foodstirs? How you got to this place?

Greg: Well, thanks for having me on, Daniel, I appreciate it. It's been a long time coming and I'm happy to be here. So I started my career, my very first job was at Kashi when it was a startup. A hundred thousand in revenue and did classic entrepreneurial role where you're wearing many hats. And then scaled that up and it was purchased by Kellogg and then I stayed another eight years. And then after that, I flipped over to Coke, who contacted me and said, "You know, we just purchased this brand Fuse. Can you come over and make it the Kashi of the Coke portfolio?"

And I got there and then they snuck in the energy drink portfolio. Which I told them, you know, "You guys know I worked at Kashi, right? I'm not into selling death in a can to 15-year-olds." But so I brought it in, it was great learning. And then I quickly handed that off to somebody else. And then I worked, did a tour at Sambazon, wanting to get back to California. And then I opened a brand building firm called Purely Righteous Brands where we worked to try and replicate the Kashi model across a number of emerging companies in the green space. First client was SUJA, and worked to build that out.

And then brought on brands like Chameleon and Rebbl and several other folks. Even GT's, and ironically, Kashi ended up being a major client along the way. Doing a number of different activities, from brand positioning to business planning to even capital raising and organizational design. Just everything you would need to help an emerging brand thrive and grow and scale without losing its heart and soul in the process.

And then along the way, I met a guy, Larry Praeger, who we did some work for and we became friends. He knew Jules Wainstein, who was gonna be on The Real Housewives of New York City and then very quickly within a six month period we created a beverage brand called Modern Alkemy and Japanese Super Tonic and launched that in the Northeast and, you know, it's kind of going everywhere at Whole Foods.

And then my day job, Truly Righteous, was now being run by my lifelong business partner, Andrew Aussie and Julie Sweet, another Kashi ex-pat. And my day job is Foodstirs, which I co-founded with Galit Laibow and Sarah Michelle Gellar. And tried to re-transform the modern baking experience.

Dan: Which I really want to get into that, because I think it's fascinating what you guys are doing. It's such a needed thing in this industry to be able to teach young people how ... Kids ... what's behind food. Can you back up a little bit and talk to us about or share with us some of the stories that you learned? Your LinkedIn resume is really impressive. What are some of the experiences that you gained that helped you with Foodstirs and also Purely Righteous Brands?

Greg: You know, I think there are ... I think about it on a daily basis, just the continuous improvement, continuous learning just to be better, be best and reflect that. I think there are some adages that never change, no matter what industry you’re in or what period of time you're in, really. Which is if you want a job done right, do it yourself. And if that is important, nobody is ever gonna be as obsessed and knowledgeable as you are about a particular topi whatever your job is.

And so it's important to bring on allies and people that can support you, but at the end of the day, you own the vision and you own the road map. And you've got to shepherd that in. And be careful about relying on people that have not proven themselves yet. And before you hand over key business practices or actions or activities. That's what I have learned a lot and I've had to learn a few times.

And then I think there's another adage about surrounding yourself with really great people. These are some of the challenges today. How do you find really good people that will share your philosophy? Will be that cultural fit and will end up, will have the technical skill sets that you need in any given situation? There's criteria that you can always be looking at that you can adapt to your own situation, but having that filtering process for finding really great people to surround yourself is something that is just a critical learning throughout I think my entire career.

And then I do think everybody says, you know, you can't be an expert in everything. I think it's important that you try. I hear a lot of founders say, "Well, I don't know finance." Or, "I don't know branding." Well, your job is gonna be made 10 times harder if you don't teach yourself and you don't surround yourself with the right advisors that can help train you up to being a little bit of an expert in every single area. Then your risk for failure or trial and error will be diminished. And I'm not at all saying that failure is wrong. I think failure ... You know, Sarah Michelle Gellar is always saying, "Failure is the first attempt at learning." And I agree for sure, but you want to try to reduce the number of failures 'cause they cost time and money.

Dan: Absolutely.

Greg: There's so many different experiences throughout my career that have shaped who I am today. But those are the two that I think about today on a daily basis.

Dan: I appreciate your sharing that, because that's exactly why this podcast exists, why I put out the content I do in the courses, everything…to be able to teach brands how to do some of this on their own. Not necessarily to be the expert, but let me back up. Let me rephrase that. One of the biggest frustrations that I hear, and maybe you can share your insights around this, too, is a lot of brands effectively hand the keys to someone else and say, "Here, go run my business." Whether it be a broker, distributor, agent.

And again, not throwing any shade against them, but the point is this. It's your baby, like you said, it's your brand. You've gotta be obsessed with it. And when you effectively hand the keys to someone else with no clear expectations of what needs to be done or how it needs to be done and no real understanding of why the different things that they're doing or rear vision or whatever, why that needs to be baked in and really leveraged against building your platform, your baby, the way you want to.

And so thank you for sharing that because in my mind, this is one of the biggest challenges brands face ... Big brands too, but especially natural brands. They lose sight of their direction. Because they're so focused on all the different things that they need to do that they ... and Wall Street and earning money. They have this belief that CEOs should be perpetual fundraisers and it's taking them away from their core mission. And their core mission is to take that invention, their brand, and help get it onto more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. Your thoughts?

Greg: I agree one hundred percent. And it leads me to something else, which is know your strengths. You know, manage around your weaknesses, but know your strengths. I think when you're the founder of companies, it's best when you have this trifecta. So somebody's the visionary, somebody is the operator, and somebody is the promoter. I think that has helped. When I look at really successful companies, that's usually helped. I'm on the Board of Fourth & Heart as an example. And Raquel Gunsagar is amazing. She is in my view, the Oprah meets Steve Jobs of the natural products industry.

Dan: Really?

Greg: Can't say enough great things about her. She has got that three legs of the stool kind of thing going. I mean, she is this creative genius. Super visionary. And then she's also very strategic. But she has carved out a role as being really the light, the vision, the one that lays out the road map. And then she's got somebody in now that will do all the day-to-day execution as a COO.

Dan: Good.

Greg: And then she has a couple of people that are doing the ... Or one person that's really activating as the promoter. And those are the key ingredients I think for helping build a brand these days in the climate that we're in today for sure.

Dan: Absolutely. And you've gotta like you said, surround yourself with people that are really good. People that are better than you. The other thing I find is a lot of the CEOs, a lot of the entrepreneurs, they're good at producing something. But to your point, they don't know how to do everything on their own. And I find that the best companies from my experience are the companies that have a leader who has a vision, who can impart that vision into other people. And then have people execute to the best of their abilities. So to their strengths. So that they can really excel and not hold them back.

And what I'm getting at is that if you look at some of the different brands like Tesla or like Apple or some of those other iconic brands that we all know and love, the difference is that those leaders, they have really, really high standards. And they surround themselves with people that can help them solve complex problems and they raise them to a level that is greater than they currently are. But they also realize that they have to step back and let those people excel and grow into those positions and contribute to their best of their ability.

Greg: That's so well said. Pushing people is a big one, too. So hiring people that want to be pushed, that want to be better. And I think it really doesn't matter whether you're a late stage company or an emerging brand when we talk about surrounding ourselves with good people. It's not just the technical skill set and the cultural fit, it's also humility and hunger to learn. The wanting to push themselves to be greater. You need that element inside your company and inside individuals. And that is, you know, in a lot of ways the most critical part of it. Because they can use that obsession, that passion to be better to fill in any knowledge and skill set gaps along the way. And they end up creating a really great dynamic. I feel like we have that at Foodstirs.

And we have that dynamic between Galit being the visionary and she is amazing. She's actually the complete total package. I would say one of the best Founder/CEOs I've ever worked with. And I was so happy to partner with her because she has these X factors. One is incredible situational awareness. We've got a great partnership going on at Foodstirs. And then Sarah's amazing in a bunch of other areas. And is also the classic promoter being a celebrity.

But everybody within Foodstirs has the humility and hunger to learn. They're always, "What's next? What can I do different? What can I do better?" And they like to be pushed. And that helps when you're trying to transform a category that nobody cared about, you know, baking. You know, the tired old category that hadn't seen any innovation in 10 years. And so you need all these people that are super hungry and not only really good, but also good people and really good on the emotional intelligence side. Which to me, everybody talks about, but undervalues or can't get after.

Dan: Oh, yeah. And it's such a key component of their success. It's going back to what I keep saying. It's what makes natural natural. We talked a little before I hit the record button about our experiences and mainstream CPG companies. And they tend to ... I'm trying to think of how really I want to put this ... The way that those companies are designed, the incentive structures, et cetera, they're not designed to really foster that kind of growth. That out of the box thinking. That hunger that you talked about. And so to see that in the natural brand and see people not being stifled by the way that they need to go to market. That we need to think through problems, to me again, that's what makes natural natural. That's what I love about this industry.

Greg: I tell you, it started off as ... It's very clear we all have our own roles to play in the company, so that was defined early on.

Dan: Good.

Greg: And, you know, like I said, Galit, visionary. She's the one that actually came up with the idea and approached me about it. And I was like, "I love this. It's a great time." You know? And then Sarah's does so many other things, but she's the promoter, and I'm me, a guy with all the experience. I'm the operator. We have the right differences but we're also very similar. And we do everything together.

Dan: Good.

Greg: We traveled to Peru and then we also raise our kids together almost, like so we're all involved in the business. We all took our kids to New York to do Christmas in New York last December

Dan: How nice.

Greg: And that was just a great bonding opportunity. The one thing I was gonna say, too, is that as companies get formed you need to think about the four ways in which a business operates. So one is you need the vision. You know, they're based on archetypes, really, if you know Jungian theory of archetypes. So one is, what is your true North or vision? And that's usually the idealist or the innocent, you know? The John Lennon, imagine a world. And then the other is how you innovate, and that's the creator. And that's just solving problems across anything, whether it's supply chain or marketing. And then the other is how you get stuff done, and that's usually the ruler. And that's bringing a little of the Nike or the P&G way of flawless execution. The last is probably one of the most important ... Or that and the idealism part, is how you bond together as a team and to relieve pressure.

And companies will do that in a number of ways. And the way that Foodstirs does it, and it's why Galit and Sarah and I bond so well, is it's the jester part. The way we laugh, we laugh so much. And that helps us relieve tension and bond not only the three of us together, but also the entire company is also that. So we love puns, we love satirical humor and dry wit. And that has bond us together. Think about other emerging companies. I encourage them to find those different elements and make sure that you've got that defined within an organization. The true North, how you get stuff done, how do you solve problems, and then, how you bond together as a team? All of this needs to come together to build a thriving organization.

And I gotta say Sarah is one of the smartest people I've ever met. She is so quick-witted. I mean, and there isn't a pun that she can't create or doesn't like. All of the copy you see from Foodstirs is generated by her.

Dan: Really?

Greg: Yes and it's incredible. Her copywriting skills are unbelievable.

Dan: Fantastic. Impressive. And I love the fact that you guys have that.

Dan: Do you have any experiences or any stories you can share around that?

Greg: Yeah. And I, you know, at Kelloggs we experienced that. So, you know, we were purchased and then we were able to stay separate, but we were beginning to leverage Kellogg as a tactical resource from sales to operations and stacking stuff like finance. But people that were connecting into the business had a different set of accountabilities and KPIs than anybody at Kashi. People at Kashi, it was about what but also how. To ensure that the personality of the brand wasn't gonna get messed with as it was going into a large company.

So working alongside somebody that you knew was only gonna spend 18 months on your brand, that they're only motivated by gross margin and really bottom line metrics was at a paradoxal tension with the folks alongside at Kashi. And I don't think has changed a lot. When I look at other big large CPG companies, the tours that folks do on brands or on the portfolios they might be under is usually at around 18 months. And they are, you know, "Did I hit these key metrics?" And then they'll do that sort of springboard into some other role.

And so when you have that nomadic journeyman life, you know, with an employee at a larger company, you end up having people that won't internalize the brand mission. Won't take risks. Push for greatness, because nobody is incentivized to do so. And when you look at some of these brands, these legacy brands that are starting to falter and some of them are even going away, I could pin it to the board all the way down to the management team and down into rank and file. All being incentivized to drive profit and margin. And that has killed them because they've lost their way with these subsequent generations of consumers that would then fuel the growth of these brands.

So I experienced that a lot at Kashi. I experienced it a lot at Coke. I think, I like to see that the new leadership at some of these larger CPG brands are getting that and so they're radically changing and quickly changing. Conagra's a great example of that. And I've spoken to the CEO there and who's laid out their program for challenging status quo when it comes to how people are incentivized and motivated so that they can bring the heart and soul to their business and elevate and evolve and get better so these legacy brands don't go away. And working alongside of that can be soul killing. And I'm encouraged to see that there seems to be a change coming with that regard.

Dan: I am too. I can hardly wait. In fact, on that note, being from a big mainstream CPG, I saw the same thing going to work for Unilever. Kimberly-Clark was unique in that we were allowed to think out of the box. We were encouraged to be different. And then, of course, we started focusing on Wall Street versus Main Street. But that's why I spend a lot of time working with other organizations, large organizations, speaking with the Category Management Association. Putting together webinars or helping FMI, Food Marketing Institute, helping these big brands understand what makes natural natural. So kind of back to your point, help them think about the world differently.

And let me go one step further. One of the things that frustrates me and that I'm really working to change is that the big brands tend to commoditize the natural shopper and the natural brands. And what I mean by that is they think, and I'm being a little bit flippant when I say this, that a LOHAS consumer is someone that goes out and eats a couple of salads and goes for a walk. Whereas in our world, that consumer is someone who is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Someone who is very focused and invested in the environment and making the world a better place for everyone else, their kids, et cetera. And they miss that opportunity.

So going back to where you're at where your focus is, the ability to be able to help foster future generations to do more, to be more, to go out of their comfort zone. To be, as you said, obsessed and surround themselves with good people. Become an expert in different things. Learn about different things. I think that's what's really changing. So let me frame it this way. What you're doing at Foodstirs is really impressive. The fact that you are teaching people what quality food means.

And I've had a lot of conversations on this podcast where I'm talking to people and they really don't understand, or at least consumers don't understand, everything that goes into making a product. And not that they need to, but the appreciation that small natural brands have for every little detail. Organic clean level, transparency, being able to authentically trace the ingredients back to their origin, that's unique and different in this industry. And more importantly, if you are what you eat, then you what you eat matters. Meaning that if you fuel your body with the proper nutrients, then you have more energy to get through your day. To be successful, to think better, more clearly, et cetera.

So the fact that you are teaching young people, children, how to appreciate and love food at such an early age, I think is such a critically important mission. And I really want to applaud you guys for doing that. So can you talk a little bit about Foodstirs? What is the mission? What is the brand? What do you do? And from your perspective and your co-founder’s perspective, why did you guys start this business? And like you said, a tired dead category. Why did you decide to go in this category to begin with?

Greg: Well, I'll tell that story in a second here. You know, what I like is brands that solve a fundamental emotional problem that consumers have first. So, and this did come from a place of wanting to solve our own problems. So Galit, Sarah and I are all parents. You know, we each have two kids. They're all under 10. And we were thinking about how we grew up and about how we had these traditions and moments that allowed us to connect to our family members in a deep, rich, and long-lasting way. And the amount of screens that are available today, we were concerned that we weren't developing those deep emotional connections that would last a lifetime with our children.

So we said, "Well, how can we do that? And how can we use food to do that?" And we thought to our own times about those rich experiences that we had growing up. And they usually were centered around food. They were usually centered around something that happened in the kitchen. And it just so happened that we all loved, you know, treats and baking and whatnot. And so that’s where it really came from. The problem was wanting to use a food experience to create these connections with our loved ones and be able to tune out for 25 minutes to an hour and create those sweet moments.

And so that was the impetus. The problem was the connections. We were using food, sort of as baking experiences as the solution. You know, you go into that category and you find out it's so dead. And I remember we were talking to my friends. I mean, there were all these people that you know in the industry calling me up or I'd see 'em somewhere and they would just tell me how nuts I was to want to go into a category that it couldn't have been worse. And I had worked in 17 different categories across the store. And I had worked in center store through Kashi and other brands. But I'd never touched the baking aisle.

And they just thought I was nuts, you know? Nobody goes down that aisle. Nobody wants to bake anymore. And I was like, "No. I think once you get 'em hooked and you can ... You know, all it takes is 25 minutes and the value, the return on that is investment is so big and huge." I knew it was the place I wanted to go in. And with two people, you know, Galit and Sarah, that are just amazing and relentless and I mean, that we were gonna be able to conquer it.

But so you had a problem with this connection, the food was the solution. And we just created the home kit business, where treats come to your door. A little more involved and crafty, but they quickly went into retail and developed a line that was playing in all these classic segments. And then also started to branch out into things like the first-ever bake your own chewy granola bar, which helped to upgrade the lunch box.

And then now this first-ever bake your own protein bar. And so the ultra clean ingredients, really easy to make in 25 minutes. And then the value is so incredible. And then coming out of it is something the whole family can enjoy. And, you know, baking fresh food in a quick amount of time and then from that you've got these rich experiences that, you know, you want kids to remember and other loved ones to remember years down the road. And we're starting to see that.

Dan: Good.

Greg: Having launched it broadly in retail in 7500 stores last year, added on 8,000 Starbucks, we're starting to get the feedback from consumers that are telling us that we're on the right track. So happy with the progress. Feels like we're getting it done. But if If you ask Galit, Sarah, the most fulfillment is ourselves because we involve the kids in our business. But also that idea that, you know, every Sunday we're doing the chewy granola bars and they end up in the meal planning and the lunchboxes throughout the following week. And then you're getting the feedback from our own children that we are creating these experiences that we feel incredibly fulfilled by.

Dan: I love the fact that you're doing that. Well, and I've often said that food is the only common language that really branches or brings together communities. And a lot of people don't really think about that. I mean, it's you know, all the different dialects and races and all the different people from different parts of the world, et cetera. Food is the one thing we have in common. It's the one thing we can all celebrate together. It's the one thing that can help us stop and really think about or not think about but develop those relationships.

You know, I was one of those fathers that said years ago that dinner time was time for no technology. We would sit at the table. We would have a conversation. No TV, et cetera. And then those relationships, you know, those opportunities are what built those lasting impressions. And back to your point, the kitchen, I remember baking cakes with the kids and teaching them what food was and how food was put together and what was involved in preparing it. And how to choose food at the grocery store, et cetera. It's so critically important.

And to go one step further, the one thing that we can't get back is time. And time with our loved ones, our families, our friends, is such a precious commodity. And the fact that you guys have been able to leverage that story, that mission to bring together those communities and help improve the family dynamic, again, hats off to you guys.

So the baking category, what I find was really interesting to go one step further, is the baking category's the category where they just throw all the other stuff in the store. Which is really sad. So you're gonna see a lot of mixed items. Like some of our retailers around here. They have the naturals set, a separate natural set in the baking aisle. Which is a sort of hodgepodge of anything they can't figure out where to put someplace else. And they have the shelf stable dehydrated milk and just have a variety of things that really don't fit the category.

And so the fact that you're helping to redefine the category, to drive foot traffic into the category, to revitalize a segment in the retail store which was, like you said, pretty much dying or dead , at least old and flat and bringing back those experiences that we appreciate in our childhood, again, hats off to you. I think it's great what you guys are doing.

When you're talking about your retail expansion, how's that working? And then how do you help educate the retailer as to why do they need your product?

Greg: Yeah, that's an interesting dynamic. So we looked at who we are targeting from a consumer standpoint and where do they shop. So where is baking indexing right now? Overlay the consumer that we're targeting, and that ended up building out our sales channel road map. And then you mash that up with retailers wanting these days cross channels to get in the game early on emerging brands. And that's everyone from Target, Kroger, Safeway, and of course, Whole Foods and Sprouts and the usual folks. But launching in one retailer and one region was not seen the way to play it these days. You've got too many locals. The barrier to entry is so low. Everybody's getting after food now, so you have to do the land grab much earlier than before.

And I think as we were talking to retailers and getting the brand out there through, you know, various expos and other trade shows, we'd find retailers saying, "We want to reenergize this category. Will Foodstirs come in and talk to us?" And, you know, I'll use Food Lion as an example. Food Lion of all places, you know, owned Ahold Delhaize in the rural part of the country saying, "No, our shoppers are into organic and we want to renovate the aisle." So the way that we would educate them is not ... There's nothing black box about how you educate them, really. You have to show that there's white space in the category. That there is a consumer that's interested in the white space and that you have a brand that is disruptive enough, unique enough to really get after and successfully populate that white space.

So for us, we had education tools that talked about the consumer and the category. And then would overlay our brand into that. And that all happened through a couple different slides. And it was so compelling, so easy. There was again nothing mysterious or black box about it. It was so common sense at that point that this was the way to go for retailers and they could reenergize the category. They could start driving share growth and revenue growth out of the category, which was such a shock to them when talking. And then, you know, we're able to show our differentiation. The education would primarily come on the three points that we care about, which was the value, the fact that we're using next stage ultra clean and green ingredients, and that the ease of preparation was there.

And then everybody says that the coup de grace was gonna be obviously that the taste was out of this world. And that was usually the lynch pin in selling to any retailer when they finally put a cookie or brownie or a bar in their mouth. They were won over as a result of that. But I was a little shocked. You know, we had only planned to go into 3500 retailers. And then everybody came out of the woodwork saying, "We need to have this brand in our stores." And so we calibrated and adjusted and decided to go after it as a way and partnered along the way with a lot of these retailers strategically.

Whether it was Target doing holiday end cap items you couldn't get anywhere else. Partnering with Food Lion on some of their programs, that helped a lot. Once the education and we had got ourself in the door, it was to find ways to really leverage the retail partnership. So we weren't spreading the peanut butter too thin, which can always be an issue and always drain cash. You know, you can end up being in too many places all over the country and then not being able to support it. So we were very careful in how we managed the business once we got it.

And it's still early days, but so far, so good. And you can never underestimate the need to educate retailers on what clean and green really means. You know, what are you doing with your ingredients and their traceability and why is that important? Why would consumers care? Why is it different in the category? And the same thing on ease of preparation and the value. Why would consumers want to pay $5.99 for a box of mix when the legacy brands are at $2? And so educating around that and using data was really important, too, to the selling story.

Dan: I really appreciate your saying that. That is the one thing I've been trying to teach small brands to do. The value and the importance of being able to educate the retailer. Everything's negotiable. And so actually that's the basis or the foundation of why I produce my free Turnkey Sales Story Strategies Course. To teach brands how to do exactly what you're talking about. How to show the retailer that you're more than an ATM machine. How to show the retailer that you bring value. More importantly, that your consumers, those unique consumer's are gonna spend more in their store. They're gonna spend more time in your store, they're gonna read the labels. Their market basket's gonna be higher.

So let me back up a little bit. I wrote a feature article for the 2016 Category Management Handbook, and I'll put a link to it at the end of the show notes, where I was able to prove by looking at all outlet, every category, that organic, natural, plant-based, vegan, you know, all those different attributes, are the ones that are driving growth across every category. And in the absence, that small sliver of business that might be organic, if you remove that, then every category's flat or declining. And we see this because the big brands are struggling for growth. And the big brands are trying to figure out how do they tap into this consumer? This is your consumer, you already own 'em.

So being able to leverage that story and educate the retailer on why your consumer is unique and why your consumer matters so much is really the opportunity to help build you a relationship with a retailer and become a value-added resource and become a category leader. Now, category leader as I define it is any brand willing and able to step up and provide support and guidance to the retailer. I'm not talking about a Category Captain, where you essentially run the category as a third party consultant for the retailer. That's expensive, that's something that none of these brands should really be thinking about. But a category leader is any brand that can provide value to the retailer to help the retailer grow.

So one of the things you said, you leverage the relationship that you have with the retailer so that you're able to gain incremental space, incremental promotional opportunities, incremental distribution. I want everyone to hear that. This is exactly how you execute. This is exactly why all this stuff matters. And it's kind of funny that you were talking about how taste won retailers over. I know, it's funny. You give 'em a snack and they love you forever. When I was selling potato chips years ago, they always looked forward for me coming into the store. But when I was selling laundry detergent, not so much. So I appreciate your sharing that.

Greg: Sure

Dan: Yeah, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Where they love their treats.

Greg: Or pet food.

Dan: Oh, yeah.

Greg: Pet food is always one.

Dan: Yeah, they're not too keen on sampling that.

Greg: Do you know what's really interesting? So Galit and Sarah and I, we traveled to every retailer. So we flew 170,000 miles last year, you know, for over an 18 month period visiting with, you know, all of these retailers. And I'm not kidding, literally 90% of the buyers first of all were male. And second, were on some sort of diet program.

Dan: Sure.

Greg: Like, they couldn't do sugar or they couldn't do gluten. It was impressive. It doesn't matter whether a buyer can consume the product and still be able to buy it. Like I said with the pet food buyers. They don't have to try the food, you know? They would then share it with everybody in the office, and that actually worked in our favor.

Dan: Oh, yeah.

Greg: Because you had everybody who tried it in the buying office was going crazy over Foodstirs and that probably made it easier to get in. So it worked in our favor. But it is interesting how that dynamic these days with people's diets trying food.

Dan: Yeah. Well, and if you can get a retailer on your side ... By the way, proof of concept, I love that idea. But if you can get a retailer on your side and if you can become a value-added resource, if you can become a category leader instead of just another product on the shelf, then retailers will bend over backwards to help support you. Retailers will want you to come in and help guide them in other categories. Retailers will want to give you incremental opportunities.

This is where I hung my shingle. This is my claim to fame where I spent most of my career pushing around big brands because I was able to deliver at such a high value. So when they added incremental promotional opportunity, incremental shelf space, incremental whatever it was, I was the first person they called. And oh, by the way, I didn't have to pay for that because I was already delivering so much value to begin with. So the fact that you're able to leverage those strategies to help build your brand and grow your brand across so many retailers, that's really a testament to what you're doing.

Greg: Yeah. Exactly. So it sounds like you have a lot of experience in that area, for sure.

Dan: Well, yeah. It's really, it’s trying to change the conversation. I work and mentor a lot of brands. And I hate listening to brands tell the story about, like I said, how they effectively handed the keys to someone else and then they're disappointed because they did not know, they didn't have an expectation. They didn't know how to run their business. And someone else took their business in another direction. Or they weren't growing their sales the way that they should have.

And one of the challenges, and I think you would probably agree with this, is that a lot of brands are so anxious to get distribution that they don't know about, is that good distribution? Can they support that distribution? And so I find this a lot where a brand is so anxious to get distribution or to get products on the shelf that they don't put the right products on the shelf first. And what happens is that they dilute their brand so now they can't promote as well, they hurt their brand. They don't have the funds to come in and buy more space, et cetera. And then they're an easy target for other brands.

So let me frame this a little differently or kind of spell this out better. If you have 11 products and your top four items are what the category is selling. Say chocolate chip and vanilla and whatever. And if you don't have those core items on every retailer's shelf to begin with, then adding your items at rank number 11 or 12 instead of those items, have those in place of that, is just gonna dilute your brand and hurt your brand performance overall. And it's gonna make it harder for consumers to be able to find your product because then you don't have the story that you can leverage at retail. Your thoughts?

Greg: I agree in part. I would say that, you know, there's so much in that, what you just said. I mean, there is picking the right assortment to go after and having a proper SKU ranking or order of entry. I think there's, you know, a role for each SKU in a portfolio. Usually it's falling into three different buckets or sometimes four when you look at a portfolio. One is the scale driver, the one that everybody's gonna eat. The other is it builds up the equity or reinforces the brand positioning. And the other is you might sell less but it's a great margin, a bargain, an ATM machine essentially. And then there are others that frankly you just need to do because it's goodwill with a particular retail outlet. Not everybody agrees with me on that front, but those are generally the four I think criteria for driving or underpinning any portfolio or assortment.

And when I see other brands follow that footprint, they not only scale faster ... We're not in an age where Red Bull approach, where you've just got one SKU, one flavor seems to be thriving, because consumers now just are not loyal. And they are switching left and right. So to keep them in you have to offer a broader range of assortment. I look at some of the bar brands and successful bar brands, that's generally their dynamic. They'll have a fruit, like a dairy berry or a blueberry. They'll have a chocolate-chocolate and then a chocolate-peanut butter. Those are three SKUs that make up 65% of their revenue. The rest of those SKUs are about driving brand loyalty and goodwill and margin. Like I said before.

So I think that, and I don't know that enough people spend enough time thinking strategically about their assortment and how to win from that kind of criteria. But there's plenty of other brands. Ice cream is another one where you can look at it as a model for how to set up a portfolio and drive it into retail appropriately. And again, this is just my point of view. I think you gotta look at the brand, you gotta look at the category, and decide how you're gonna go into it. And then that usually will tell you. But I'm using broad principles that I think can apply to any company.

Dan: I agree with you. I don't think I maybe made this point the way I should have. Don't sabotage your core KPIs, your core items, for something else. And what I'm getting at is that I agree with you completely. You gotta have that flavor, that uniqueness. What makes your brand what it is. But if you don't have the top two or three items in every store, then you do that at your detriment.

Greg: Oh yes. That's so right.

Dan: And that's what I'm getting at. So I know of one brand I did a project for where they had, say, 11 SKUs and in a lot of different retailers, they sabotaged or I should say, they swapped out item number two or number three for item number 10 or 11. And so by not having those other items, those two and three in the set with those items, that really hurt their growth. But I agree with you completely, that the flavor of that brand, the uniqueness of that brand was found in the other flavors. The unique flavors.

So helping the retailer, again, educating the retailer as to why they need to have your core items. And then have those other items.

Greg: You are right. You are right.

Dan: And that's what I meant. So ... Thank you.

Greg: Yeah. And I would add to that I ... You know, I was thinking about this this week that ... And again, I have a strong point of view and it's evolving. But the retail landscape has changed so much with e-com, you know? So with either direct-to-consumer through your website or Amazon Fresh Direct, you know, Thrive. Places like that. Good Egg is another one. So availability of a brand is solid ... Is pretty pervasive and requires different thinking than about how you treat velocity and SKU ranking. Because you might be number one at Amazon, but you need to have a little bit of availability at physical retail.

And so at that point, doing a one-size-fits-all and saying, "I'm going to every Kroger, every Target store" is I think a huge mistake.

Dan: Couldn't agree more.

Greg: You might not be top ranked in the category, but are you top ranked in the stores that you're in? And that and certainly when you aggregate them. And I think that is a different way to look at SKU ranking these days. So principally speaking, what you were saying earlier is absolutely right in my opinion.

Dan: Thank you.

Greg: The idea of wanting to be the number one or two brand or SKU in a category is mission critical, but now you need to think about what context are you in. Are you saying I'm number one or two in a category in Kroger? I don't think that's what you want. You would then have to be in every store. So it's important to think about the store set and think about every point of distribution as a unique place to sell product and not trying to think of Kroger as one big point of distribution. Which I think some brands do.

Dan: Very well said.

Greg: And I think that's a different stance. When somebody would say, like ... You know, another brand I'm on the board of is Once Upon a Farm, you know and I was obviously involved in helping put all of that together ... Is trying to look at that as region by region and store by store and not trying to look at a one-size-fits-all. And that has been successful, especially when you're placing refrigerators in similar fresh pad, you know? So that becomes a critical part of the strategy. And how you look at success is another way to consider it. Or how a retailer will look at success.

Dan: Oh, absolutely. My good friend Bill Bishop, the Chief Architect of Brick Meets Click and formerly the CEO of ... The Chairman of Willard Bishop Consulting ... Which by the way, back to your Coke days, he's the one that came up with the Coca-Cola Ad Council. So he's absolutely brilliant in this area. And he coined the phrase Personal Supply Chain. And it's exactly what you're talking about. Where if I walk into a retailer and I don't find what I want there, I've got a lot of other choices. And this is why this matters.

Retailers need to have different products, different opportunities, different selections for consumers to come in and buy the product. And I agree with you a hundred percent that you need to have an online and a traditional brick and mortar presence. And if you don't have that, then that is at your detriment. And these unique brands that are able to carve out a unique space like Once Upon a Farm or Foodstirs, et cetera, those are the opportunities for retailers to really drive sales.

So let me go one step further. Natural brands don't have the velocity of their mainstream counterparts. And so a lot of times I hear brands get lost in, "Well, we gotta be number one, number whatever." Savvy retailers already know how you're doing. The reality is that the retailers want insights. Actionable insights. They sell real estate in the form of the space that your product takes on the shelf. So instead of trying to have the ... Hold the same old argument that mainstream brands do. Look, we're ranked number one, et cetera. When your volume is not as high, work backwards.

Think about the market basket. You alluded to this earlier, Greg, where in the market basket, the consumer that buys your product spends a lot of money buying other products. So organic consumer, for example, might buy organic spread, organic beer, organic milk, et cetera. And your market basket being a much higher one, your contribution to the category and how your brand contributes to the growth of the category where some of the bigger brands may not actually be growing the category, those are the stories you need to be sharing.

And then more importantly as you said ... I appreciate you saying this, too ... You need to overlay that education with who is the consumer? Why did they choose your product? Why in the world would they pay $5 for a baking mix when to your point they can buy one for $2 or if they buy the private label, probably for under a dollar?

Greg: Yeah, so are you asking how do you get consumers to fall in love with your brand?

Dan: Well, actually that's a good question. Yeah, how do you get consumers to fall in love with your brand?

Greg: Oh my gosh.

Dan: You asked it.

Greg: Yeah, I know. I was thinking of this ... Yeah, I just remember the early days when it was so awesome. You could take 10 years to incubate a brand over time, you know?

Dan: Right.

Greg: You'd be in select stores and then you would ... You know, you'd drive awareness of a particular advocacy group. And get them to fall in love with the brand and then, boom. The next thing you know, it was spreading like wildfire. And then now ... I had read a data point six months ago that it used to be every rolling 24 months, 26,000 new items would be launched and now it is close to 90,000. Just everybody's now in the food space. And people are making beverages in their bathtubs and their home ovens and it's just crazy now with the amount of items.

And you've got consumers that can buy products anywhere. And I think also consumers now are ... You know, like when the iPhone ... I mean, the iPhone does everything. Email, surf the web, music, and text messaging, and everything. So now consumers are just like so used to having it all anytime, anywhere they want it. So it's difficult for a brand to cut through now. But some of the principles for brand building I think are the same. You still want to find an advocacy group, drive awareness, get them to try the product. Fall in love with it. And then advocate for it. Evangelize the brand everywhere they go. That seems to still be the greatest thing. That experiential marketing, it's still the greatest thing.

And instead of it being done through hand-to-hand combat where you're getting food in mouth or liquid to lips, it's now doing it through Instagram or some other social media where you're getting micro influencers to embrace the brand and advocate for it to their audience. And then that's how you get it spread through wildfire. So digital, it's still probably the crown jewel right now of brand building and driving that awareness, driving that brand love. And then in store, the shopper marketing is still very important. I would say that as consumers walk down the aisles, they need a secondary display that has "new" or some other key attribute on there to disrupt the field of vision and get people excited about a brand. And partnering with retailers becomes so important then at that point. And doing what you need to do to get that I think.

I was talking with somebody that does POS, does shipper displays, and their business is just skyrocketing now. When you've got any kind of display, whether it's fixed or permanent or temporary cardboard thing, they're really taking off. And then I ... You know, I talked about experientials. So digital. Talked about shopper marketing and owning the store. And then you've got experiential, which generally with on the PR and on the influencer marketing side which is just absolutely critical now these days for building brands.

And then I do look at Amazon as its own entity, because surely Amazon after Google is what people use as their search engine.

Dan: I was gonna say that, yeah.

Greg: And so there's just so much opportunity on Amazon. I do think that brands are missing some ... To really build out their marketplace on Amazon where you have an opportunity to tell the brand story in a very deep and meaningful way. And use it as a marketing lever, which I think is really important.

And the last thing I would say as a wildcard, I just kind of touched on a little bit, is leveraging points of distribution as a marketing lever. So I think about some of the candy brands and movie theaters wanting to change over their assortment. That's a great opportunity. A limited audience ... You have a captive audience, limited competition, great opportunity for it to break through. You're looking at United and United kits now. There's a chocolate brand which I won't name, their brand is just on fire now because they were able to get into a United meal kit as a great trial driver. And that's happened ... Historically just more urgently needed now because of all of the noise that's out there these days.

So I could go on and on about brand building. Every brand is different in how they want to jump start it. I think there's always the push for identifying the classic tactics that are tried and true and using them in your brand. And then the other is trying to find one of those X factor opportunities that challenge status quo. We were talking about travel, but I think about WeWork and there's a coffee brand that went into WeWork as the exclusive cold brew coffee and their brand took off. Again, captive audience, unique point of distribution, and they were the only game in town. And in that particular 8,000 WeWorks, it's just been incredible how these opportunities will help you cut through.

Some of the other folks that have gone off the Paleo-focused, it just always ... Nothing ever changes. It always is about the sweat equity ... Contacted over 3,000, you know, CrossFit boxes they call them and worked with their trainers there and did some sampling and then turned them into an army of advocates. So that was a really nice case study in how you go and identify and activate a key advocacy group.

And I was gonna say as I ramble on is that there are some things that you can just buy. Like, you can buy a Google Ad, Google Display Ad. Or you can buy an Instagram Ad. But there's still some that require you to stay up until two o'clock in the morning and stew on a personal level. And it's generally going to be those advocacy groups like the fitness trainers that tend to appreciate brands that have a good product and contact them directly.

Galit at Foodstirs, I mean, is up till two o'clock in the morning direct messaging influencers on Instagram. And they respond. They're like, "Oh, Co-Founder's contacting me and it seems to be a great product and then ship 'em out and next thing you know they're posting about it." I don't know that enough founders have even the awareness to think that they gotta do that stuff or the stamina.

Dan: Well, I was gonna say that's why we're doing this podcast, is exactly like this. To be able to teach brands that these are some of the things that you can do. You don't have to follow the tried and true rinse and repeat method that the big brands use. There's so many opportunities for brands like your brand to get in front of consumers. To find disruptive channels or disruptive opportunities to get in front of people.

To have those relationships whereas a lot of the big brands spend most of their time talking at us. "Hey, we're a big brand. Buy our stuff 'cause we're really big and we're great. And we've been around forever. And by the way, we're a big brand. You need to buy this." As opposed to having that one-on-one relationship like you're talking about where she's staying up late at night having that relationship and nurturing that relationship. Because at the end of the day that's how you expand your brand's story. Oh, and then by the way, you can take that and leverage that at retail.

So when you're working with Food Lion and any of these other retailers, "Hey, here's how I'm gonna help support you and your community and with your shoppers. I'm gonna apply social media. I'm gonna apply some of, you know ... Engage a lot of my brand evangelists to help drive traffic into your store. Traffic that's coming there to buy my product, but while they're there, these are some of the other things that they're gonna purchase at the same time."

Greg: I think ... You know, as we've been talking, I keep thinking about the single-greatest tool that I think a founder or somebody who's running an emerging brand, even late stage, is the set of advisors that you surround yourself with.

Dan: Absolutely.

Greg: Because advisors will make or break a brand. So I think identifying the right advisors ... And usually it is similar to an employee. Are they the right cultural fit? Will you listen to them? Will you have a dynamic that allows for healthy tension? Do they have the knowledge and skill set? Do they have current thinking? Are they adapting throughout out their careers that proves that they're not just set in their ways? And so I think those are like the criteria for narrowing in on a set of advisors.

And then how you choose ... I think there's two things that you should be looking at if you're looking at advisors and getting feedback from them. One, as they're giving you feedback, is it showing that it is being served up from a place other than gut or experience they have that goes back decades? And that doesn't show potentially modern or it being applied to your particular context. So showing, coming up and saying here's ... having a strong point of view on any particular subject is important. And having them tell you with, you know ... Is it fact-based and married with gut I think is really important. So, "I think you should go into Safeway, because the category is heating up because the buyer loves you. Because you are owning my space. Because you have the ability to execute."

And they're proving to you why they are saying what they’re saying. A lot of advisors, I think, are just saying, "Go into Safeway 'cause it's a good idea". So I think you gotta watch out and be very attentive. The other things is I've worked with some CMs in the past, I think they're really good at selecting advisors because they do the multiple data point method which is if they have six, seven, or eight advisors and three of them are saying the same thing, then that tells you that you should be listening. And that combined with our own feelings about a particular subject is a good way to go.

But I wish somebody would write a book about how to select advisors. Because I've seen them destroy a brand and I've seen them create greatness. I have a set of my own advisors that I go to and that's what I look for. I look for, are they telling me about what I should do that with intel that seems data? Like in the 1980's, this is how they did it. Then I don't think that's gonna help you. But if they're coming from a place of principles ... Or a lot of people are like, "Well, this is the way we did it at this brand, so you should do it at this brand." And that doesn't show modern or updated thinking.

I mean, you more than anybody, being an expert probably on how to select advisors. And I think you should write the book.

Dan: You know what, I might do that. I'm thinking in the back of my mind, "Oh, there's an opportunity." I would love to do that. So thank you for saying that, I appreciate that. And I could not agree with you more. Thank you, because this is exactly why this podcast exists. This is why I put out all this content for people, the courses and everything else. To teach brands why this matters and how to really leverage this.

This takes us back to where we started, Greg, where you said you need to be obsessed. You need to be continuously learning. You need to surround yourself with really great people. And you need to be an expert in everything. You've gotta be not afraid to fail. But you gotta be willing enough to be able to go in and understand, how do you balance the books? Or what does an income statement look like? And what are the components of it? And even if you're not doing the day-to-day accounting, at the very least, you've gotta be able to put your hand on the wheel and understand, what are the components of driving your success? And what are the things that you need to really help the brand go forward? Your vision.

And I think, again, it goes back to what I keep saying. The sad thing that I run into is so many brands hand their keys to someone else and say, "Here you go." And yet, they put all the passion, all their time, all their love into building the product and it just saddens me so much to see some brands like I said, kind of let go of that or put that in someone else's hands. When the reality is, they're the face of the brand. They're the driving force of their brand. It's their mission, their goal, their whatever that helps keep you driving forward.

So you keep talking about your co-founders and you share so many great stories and anecdotes about how engaged they are and how involved they are. And if you don't have that kind of support system within your brand, then I think you're somewhat lost. So again, my hat's off to you and the team you built.

Greg: Thank you for that. I think ... well, I think two things. One is I never thought I would go this deeply and do a brand again and co-found it. But I've been very lucky and fortunate and super blessed to partner with Galit and Sarah Michele. I mean, they're just absolute rock stars. And they check all the boxes. And if you read this Entrepreneur Magazine article that we did, I have in there these criteria, what I was looking for in co-founders and they checked all the boxes. Another thing is on this advisor thing, is I see founders play on the extremes. They either have huge egos and don't want to listen to anybody, or like you said, they're like, "I don't know. I came up with the idea and I don't know anything." And I call them like Chief Exasperating Officers, they're always like…

Dan: Oh, I like that.

Greg: "Oh, I don't know that. I don't know that." And like they're kind of throwing themselves onto the train tracks. And from that end, I was like, you know, just show you have the humility and hunger to learn and that you know this is a huge sport. But you don't have to constantly tell us that you don't know anything. That's not instilling confidence. And it certainly not building a good rapport. Because if you're an advisor and that's what you saw, you don't want to be partnering with someone that doesn't know anything and is claiming that they don't know anything. And then it's just gonna be one train wreck after another.

So I think it's not about being on the extremes. You know, it's not about not knowing anything, but it's not about knowing too much. I think John Foraker, who you know, is my idol and who I am so thankful that I've got a partnership with on is ... He just did an article the other day where he talks about how he is ... All of the knowledge and experience that he has and the success that he's gained, he is still actively learning and wanting to learn. And he is one of those people that is constantly reaching out, you know, to get knowledge and information. Collect all these data points so it can inform decision-making.

And if you have an ego, that is going to ... That is I think a problem these days. It gets you into so much trouble. You can have confidence without being arrogant, and I think there's a big difference. And so I think founders that are playing on the extremes and they've got this arrogance and they've got a huge ego, that's gonna get 'em into trouble or you are weak and you feel, you know, like you can't do anything. That's also gonna get you into trouble. So try to find the balance.

Dan: Absolutely. In fact, John was on the podcast a couple of months ago. And I made the comment that, you know, thank you for all you do for the community and talk about humility. He said, "No, this is our community." And what a great thing to hear, such an important, such an iconic thought leader be able to share is, hey, wait a minute. This is all of us doing good together. So thank you for sharing that, 'cause I couldn't agree with you more.

Greg, could you please give me or send me the link to that article? And I'll put it in the show notes so everyone can look at it. So I'd appreciate it.

Greg: Yeah, it's on LinkedIn. You know, I love what I do, I've always loved what I do, so it definitely doesn't feel like work and I like getting emails and texts. And I probably sleep four hours a night. But that guy is always on social media commenting about something. I mean, there is ... They should do an article just on John Foraker and how he operates his personal life and his business. 'Cause that is something that I think everybody should use as a guide and emulate from.

My wife is involved with Girls Inc. chapters in San Diego. And one of her girls was impacted by some of the recent events. Sent an email to John and Ari from Once Upon a Farm about them needing food and John's like, "Oh, I think I'll just send my LinkedIn to everybody I know." And I'm not kidding, within 24 hours, thousands of dollars of product was committed to and started shipping out. This person that was impacted was set for a year. It is incredible.

Dan: Wow.

Greg: The reputation he has and how he constantly gives back. We all need people to emulate. And, you know, there's some great people in this industry. And that's another thing I would say, note to emerging brands, is you might be awesome. And that's great that you're awesome and you believe in yourself. I think it's important to look externally and find a true North. Find a couple of people that you aspire to. John Foraker is definitely one of those examples.

Sheryl O'Loughlin from Rebbl, who I've known for 20 years, is an incredible human being and an incredible professional. She just wrote a book herself. She's another one to emulate. And then the people coming up are the Galit Laibows who seem to have it all and make it look so easy. It's not, but she makes it look that way. And then Raquel Gunsagar. These are all people that I look to for inspiration. And I think that is really important. And I get that every once in a while, like, "Who should I be emulating?" And so I'm giving you my list. There are others. In fact, I was gonna do, although I think I would get myself into so much trouble, is put the top 10 or top 20 CEOs in this industry. Nobody is really doing that because they're probably worried about what ... You know, if they're a consultant or you're on a brand, what it might offend ... But like, I think people need fundamentally other folks to look up to and inspire to.

Dan: Absolutely.

Greg: And learn from. And I would ... That's another thing you should do, Daniel.

Dan: What?

Greg: A list of the top 20 CEOs in this industry that people can emulate. And I wouldn't put the people that are running, you know, these blue chip companies. I would put more people that are in the John Foraker or, you know, Raquel or Galit or Sheryl. 'Cause those are a little closer to home.

Dan: I love that idea. And by the way, please also provide me with the link to your Entrepreneur article that you were talking about earlier. So John Foraker is on Episode 36. Sheryl O’Loughlin is on Episode 50. To your point, that's why this podcast exists. To be able to celebrate them, to be able to learn from them.

So some of the other people that I've had on the podcast include Neil Grimmer. I'm looking at my list. Dave, you know, Dave's Gourmet.

Greg: You know Scott Jensen, you had Scott Jensen…

Dan: Oh, yeah. Last week.

Greg: Is another one. But yeah, and I think Clayton Christopher, you know? I think he is another one that everything he touches turns to gold. And, you know, he ... It's also their style. Like, he has a very easy-going style. All of these people-

Dan: They do.

Greg: Have just ... They are expert leaders in-

Dan: They are.

Greg: And I keep ... Sometimes I ask myself like, "What would John do in this? What would Sheryl do in these situations?" And that seems to help me when I'm feeling like I don't know what to do. And that always helps. I think if you were gonna sum up the key things I would take away from this, our time together here is that one, if you want a job done right, do it yourself. Don't give up, you know, key decisions or business practices too early in the game. And I think the other part is learn how to select the right advisors at the right time. It's never too early, it's never too late to do that. And the other is pick leaders out there, people that have been there and done that. That you can be inspired by and use as a true North. And that when you are in situations, you will ask yourself, "What would they do?" And it always seems to help and be somewhat comforting.

And then the other thing that I would say, and I think they should do an article about this and I was talking out it, is the entrepreneur's diet. Like, you need to have some way to constantly be running the marathon. 'Cause it really doesn't end when you're starting up a business or you're trying to drive an emerging business. So how do you get that stamina? How do you physically have the energy and the mental acuity to be really good? And I think that comes from how you relieve stress. And a lot of times people will do that with things that I wouldn't say are good for the body, whether it's alcohol or other things. But there are things that, you know…relieving stress is really important.

And then the other things is that mental acuity, whether it is coffee ... And then you need to find time to exercise. I know this is an interesting point to make, but when you are in those situations, you feel like you've worked, you know, 10 consecutive 90-hour weeks back-to-back. It can really wear on you. It can lead to frustration. It can lead to poor decision-making. It can even lead to depression. And I would say like, find your entrepreneur's diet. What works best for you. To relieve that stress, to give you the confidence, to make you happy, to make you have the mental faculties that you need to physically be able to stay up late when you need it. And I don't think people go into this, they wing it. And they don't think anything of it.

Raquel Gunsagar is I think so perfect. I would follow on her Instagram because she is always so on it when it comes to that stuff. And because she has a little bit of working out, she has a little bit of fun for decompression and re-energizing, and then she has her ... She does these Bulletproof Coffee things with her ghee butter that are phenomenal that helps her with the mental faculties. And that's another article, Daniel, you should ... Well, we should co-write that together.

Dan: I would like that, actually. We just started doing the coffee with the butter in it. So learning a lot about keto and that diet and how it really hones you.

Greg: By the way, I was gonna change gears a little bit, but the other thing that ... I love talking, by the way, about this stuff with you, because this is not ... You've talked to all these different people, and I am that constant student of our industry and life in general. And I'm always fascinated by all these different people. To me the John Forakers and the Sheryls O’Loughlins and the Jon Sebastianis of the world are my celebrities. Like, when I'm at a trade show, I actually get nervous when I'm talking to some of these people, 'cause I just think they're absolutely amazing.

But I was thinking that another good article we'd do is, how do you use insecurities to your benefit?

Dan: Oh, I love it.

Greg: When I think about everybody that has been on this, some people are always like, "Oh my God. Insecurity is a bad thing." No, I think insecurity is something that humans have bred over our life as a species for self-preservation. And there's a way to use insecurity to your benefit. And actually welcome it, because there is something there. It can obviously be destructive, but when I think about some of these people that I ... Some of them are very open about what they know they're not good at, and some of them are very open about their own paranoia or insecurities and how they've been able to successfully utilize it to their benefit. So ...

Dan: That would be a lot of fun. In fact, actually, you probably wouldn't guess this. I was a big introvert in high school. I was the worst. I was so shy. I wouldn't even look someone in the eyes. But I woke up one day and I said, "You know what? I don't want to be like this anymore." So I started looking at other people around me and there was a guy I used to see every Sunday morning at church that had a smile on his face. I never met the guy. But it was such a warm, genuine smile, I thought, "I want that." And then I found someone else that had a great presence. And I asked, "Okay, how do I get that?" I started working towards some of those things.

But to your point, I was terrified of this stuff. So now, getting up on stage talking to people, stuff like that, it's a blast. Because it's getting to know people. It's challenging yourself. Someone said that if you do the thing you fear the most, that would be the death of fear. And I keep saying that in the back of my mind. Every time I find myself not wanting to go forward or not wanting to do something.

So to your point, talking to the John Forakers. I've got a couple of other names for you. If you listen to podcast Episode 59, Steve Hughes,

Greg: Oh, yeah. And I did a lot of work for Steve, you know, on my Boulder Investment Group days with Epic and SUJA and Temple, and even Puji. And I don't know him well, I've only met him a couple of times. But man, I've admired him from afar. And look at what he has done.

Dan: Oh, yeah.

Greg: And he's certainly building out his new capital fund. It's just ... He's cool.

Dan: He is.

Greg: Who else do you have?

Dan: Neil Grimmer was on Episode 64.

Greg: Yeah. I know of him. I've never met him.

Dan: Yeah, you'd enjoy listening to Kyle Gardner, Episode 58. He's with Organic India. He's a former P&G guy and I was teasing him about that.

Greg: Yeah, I know Kyle. I've been on some panels with Kyle. He is very sharp and super witted. I was thinking too, by the way, is you gotta conquer the right fears. So if you do the wrong ones, and you get no benefit out of it other than you've just been rattled. And, you know, like some people like, "Oh, a fear of heights. I think I'll go do, you know, bungie jumping or I'll do some skydiving." And I was like, "Nah, that's not the fear." Like, public speaking, that's something that I think is torturous. That's stuff you gotta get over, you know?

Dan: Oh, yeah.

Greg: Especially if you're an introvert. It can kill a brand if you can't talk about it. Kind of like Galit had ... She probably wouldn't like me sharing this, but she had an insecurity about public speaking. And it's so groundless because when you get her, she is so captivating. I mean, the air in the room changes when she gets up on stage or whatever. She's so insightful and she says the most amazing things. And then I think now she's kind of over the fear. But it was such a fear of hers. They say public speaking is ... I mean, it is one of the ... It is scarier than jumping out of a plane.

Dan: I agree. The first couple of times I got up on stage I was nervous but now I love getting up on stage. I love giving back. I love serving and I love the questions I get.

Do you have any other questions? Do you have any other questions you wanna ask me? Anything I can help you with?

Greg: Well, yeah. I might. Based on everything that I've shared with you about ... What do you think are the top three things in which you support emerging brands?

Dan: How so? What do you mean?

Greg: Yeah, I was just thinking about ... Well, you have a philosophy on routes to market and building brands and finding yourself some good advisors. But I'm curious on what you think is the best way to select advisors as one thing as an example?

Dan: Well, a good question.

Greg: When you're thinking about ... Yeah.

Dan: Well, okay. Let me back up. I'm a Category Management Expert. I'm classically-trained in category management. So I've been a Category Captain, Category Leader, et cetera. Before that ... For iconic brands, by the way, like Kimberly-Clark and Huggies and Kleenex and Surf and Wisk and all and so on. But before that, I was a DSD driver and a grocery manager. So I've had the privilege of seeing the world, the retail world, from different perspectives.

So to answer your question, I love the fact that you were talking about the curiosity. So the first thing is I would look for someone who's always curious. Someone who's always willing to learn more. Someone who, to your point, isn't so full of themselves. That they're constantly learning. Someone who's constantly looking for new and different better innovative ways to do things. If they find a strategy in pet care and you're in the baking aisle, well, there might be some value there. So if they can bring those or distill those values down, that's important.

Two, people that know people. So I would say, Greg, that one of the things that differentiates people isn't the people that know everything because they read a lot of books or whatever, it's the people that know where to get the answers. It's the people that know who to call, where to search, and have that creativity or that ability to think out of the box and try to solve that problem. The next thing is people who have a track record of being disruptive. People that are unique in the sense that they don't follow the cookie cutter mold. That, "Eight o'clock I punch in. And at nine o'clock this is what I do, et cetera." But more importantly, they come up with creative strategies.

I talked about how I used to push big brands around, even getting exclusive distribution for some of the brands I worked on. One of the podcasts I did, I think it was Episode 68, I talk about how I was able to build a 4200 potato chip bag display for a store's grand opening. And Frito didn't get any displays at all. And to be able to do that as a small regional brand ... So find people that have that track record. And then, I think, you know, passion for what we're doing. A real understanding. Not someone who ... You know, I was kind of joking about the LOHAS consumer, but someone who gets it. Someone who lives the lifestyle. Someone who walks the walk and their lips and the feet move in the same direction.

And then I think the next thing is you find someone who's been around enough so that they have life experience. They have had an opportunity to as you say ... And I appreciate you saying that, too, because I agree with you ... You gotta not be afraid to fail. But someone who's fallen down and skinned their knees and really learned from it. I used to encourage my kids to fail. And now, that sounds kind of weird. But the point was, at this age where you're not responsible for things, try things. Fail. Learn what works. Learn what doesn't work. Learn to improve.

When I was a grocery manager working for Costco, for Price Club, it was ... you know, what are the things ... the six rights. But more importantly, how do we constantly improve? How do we constantly work faster? Do more with less? How do we constantly become more efficient? And at the end of the day, it's all about, as my mission is, making our healthy way of life more accessible by getting Foodstirs on more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

So it's all of those things I just shared with you and it's the strategies that you bring together to help really cultivate and motivate and excite and really encourage a brand like you guys are doing to take it to the next level and beyond. Does that help?

Greg: Yeah, absolutely. You gotta write this article.

Dan: I will work on that.

Greg: Alright.

Dan: And you know, again, it's about how do we raise the bar together? How do we ...what is the expression? That the rising tide floats more ships? How do we help the natural community? And again, that's why I do this podcast. That's why I put out all these free resources, content and courses.

And then that's one of the things I love about this is that it gives me an opportunity to get to know you better. We were talking before I hit the record button about how we've kind of bumped into each other, but we haven't really had the opportunity to get to know each other. And Greg, thank you. I've really had a great time getting to know you better. And I love your passion, I love your enthusiasm. I appreciate your wisdom. The way that you distill this down and the way that you view the world, we have a lot in common there.

Because we're both focused on changing the way people look at food. Changing the way people look at what's available on a retailer's shelf. Building lasting connections with our children. The people that matter so much to us. And then leaving a legacy for everyone in the world to really embrace and get behind and get excited about. So thank you for your time.

Greg: Well, I have really enjoyed this. And I'm so thankful and I'm looking forward to deepening our partner, you know, relationship here and staying connected.

Dan: Absolutely, thank you. I am truly honored that you said yes and that you made time for me today. And I will get this edited and I'll get it out next week.

Greg: Awesome. I look forward to it and likewise, Daniel. It's been an honor to be on this with you. You are a legend in the industry and it's just…I feel lucky to share this time with you.

Dan: You're so nice. Thanks, Greg. I appreciate it. I really do.

Greg: Alright, take care. Have a great week.

Dan: Thanks. You, too. Bye.

I want to thank Greg for coming on the podcast, for sharing his wisdom and his insights. I also want to thank him for sharing his passion and his enthusiasm for this industry. I'll be sure to include a link to Foodstirs and Purely Righteous in the podcast show notes and on the podcast webpage. You can get there by going to brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session81.

Today we talked about the importance of a selling story. Today we talked about the importance of bringing together all of your assets and all of your resources to help educate the retailer and your consumers as to why your brand's unique. What makes your brand stand out on a crowded shelf. And why consumers want your product versus other products. This is exactly the focus of my free Turnkey Sales Stories Strategies Course. I teach you in this course a strategy that I developed over several years. A strategy that helped me push around some of the largest, most iconic brands in the country. A strategy that some of my clients have had tremendous success with. And you will, too.

You can get there on the show notes, on the podcast webpage, or by going to turnkeysalesstorystrategies.com/growsales. As always, I really appreciate you for listening. And I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Foodstirs http://foodstirs.com/

Purely Righteous Brands http://purelyrighteous.com

Turning Rejection Into Triumph: How Sarah Michelle Gellar and Her Co-Founders Built a New Baking Brand Entrepreneur Magazine

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Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at brandsecretsandstrategies.com for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at TurnkeySalesStoryStrategies.com/growsales. Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues.

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