“One person can make a difference and change the world”, powerful words that inspired a brand and birthed a mission to do more and to be more. Building a robust community around them, they focused on helping our overlooked and forgotten neighbors. 

Today’s story begins with a single phrase, one person can make a difference and change the world.  Some of the most powerful words in the English language. Think about it. This is where dreams begin. This is what this show’s about. It’s about you and it’s for you. It’s celebrating thought leaders and brands that go out of their way to make a difference, to give back, to become something more than they currently are, to make a difference, a lasting difference, in our world and in our community. Today’s story is about two accidental entrepreneurs. 

What I mean by this is that they didn’t set out on this path. This is a path that called them. They saw a need and they rose up to the challenge and in the process built a brand that’s making a real difference in our community and beyond. When I say our community, I’m talking about the natural channel. I’m talking about all the brands that are going to be inspired by this story to want to do more. One of the key takeaways in this story is how these two accidental entrepreneurs were able to leverage the people around them, how they found a community of people that wanted to help support them by donating their time, by committing to supporting them, by helping them realize their dreams. 

Today’s story is about the Soulfull Project.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about The Soulfull Project

BRAND SECRETS AND STRATEGIES

PODCAST #48

Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #48

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: Welcome. Today's story begins with a single phrase, one person can make a difference and change the world. Some of the most powerful words in the English language. Think about it. This is where dreams begin. This is what this show's about. It's about you and it's for you. It's celebrating thought leaders and brands that go out of their way to make a difference, to give back, to become something more than they currently are, to make a difference, a lasting difference, in our world and in our community. Today's story is about two accidental entrepreneurs.

What I mean by this is that they didn't set out on this path. This is a path that called them. They saw a need and they rose up to the challenge and in the process built a brand that's making a real difference in our community and beyond. When I say our community, I'm talking about the natural channel. I'm talking about all the brands that are going to be inspired by this story to want to do more. One of the key takeaways in this story is how these two accidental entrepreneurs were able to leverage the people around them, how they found a community of people that wanted to help support them by donating their time, by committing to supporting them, by helping them realize their dreams.

Today's story is about the Soulfull Project. Here's Megan and Chip. Hello, Chip and Megan. I really want to appreciate you for coming on today and making the time for us. Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? Chip, you want to go first?

Chip: Yeah, sure. My name's Chip Heim. I'm one of the co-founders of the Soulfull Project. Before the Soulfull Project, I was working for Campbell Soup Company on the innovation team. My background is mainly in creative direction and graphic design. I was on the innovation team for a few years. Then prior to that, I was on Campbell's brand teams as well.

Dan: Then Megan?

Megan: Sure. My name's Megan Shea. I'm the other co-founder of the Soulfull Project. Before creating Soulfull, I was in a marketing role for the Campbell Soup Company on the innovation team with Chip. Before that, I was at Nestle USA when it was in Los Angeles working in beverage in a variety of marketing and sales roles. Very traditional large consumer packaged goods background.

Dan: Cool. Your slogan, I love that. One person can make a difference and change the world. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with that? By the way, I read your story on your website, but for those who haven't, please go read it. Could you tell us a little bit about it, Megan? Why did you guys decide to do this?

Megan: Sure. Chip and I were working with a team on an innovation project for Campbell's. We were doing consumer research at the time and we were doing in home ethnographies, which is a form of research. For those that aren't familiar, ethnographies are where you basically go in and walk with the consumer as part of their life versus a focus group where they come in and sit in a kind of sterile room and tell you what they think. Ethnographies are amazing because you actually get a chance to either go grocery shopping with them or watch them as they cook a meal, but you really see how they live.

We were working and meeting with consumers specifically around finding healthy snack choices for their kids. We were supposed to be meeting with pretty affluent households, so households that made over $75,000 a year, which is very affluent in the United States. It was our last research stop of the trip, and we are pretty tired. We pulled up in front of this house and knew pretty quickly that this house and this family was probably not within our target. Boarded up windows. Broken down cars. Pretty much didn't look like an area or household that made over $75,000 a year. Honestly, I said to the researcher, "Maybe we should just call it a day."

She said, "You know, you never know what you're going to learn, so you should go inside." We went in and we met this mom and three kids. She was a single mom. She worked nights. They were living hand to mouth. When she invited us on a tour of her kitchen, she opened up the pantry and the fridge and there was not a thing in there. It was completely empty. The cash that she had in her pocket, she would take the kids to the store before she went to work and that's where they would buy dinner and the rest of the meals they were to eat at school. We were really taken with this family. Spent two hours with them. They were so optimistic and just doing the best that they could.

They were struggling trying to not just put food on the table, but also healthy choices, right? How to make healthy choices. We left this family and got in the car and got into this huge fight. One of our first of many fights that we've had over the past years and basically said like, "We have to help them." We argued about how we should we help them. We agreed that we were giving them extra food and extra money, but we said, "We have to find a more meaningful way to help them." We made this promise to ourselves to help them.

Chip: Basically what happened was we got on a plane. We headed home. We kind of got back to our everyday lives. I mean we both have kids and families. You get back to driving your kids around everywhere and everyday things that happen at work. Before we knew it, a year had gone by. We realized that we hadn't done anything. It's the type of thing that keeps you up at night. Every once in a while you think, "Man, we never did anything and it's already been a year." Just totally by chance we were working one night in the warehouse in Camden. For those who aren't familiar with Campbell's, Campbell's is based in Camden, New Jersey.

They have an area that's kind of outside of the main building and there was a warehouse just outside across the street. The warehouse is really basically in the middle of Camden. We were working there late one night on a Wednesday night and just kind of unexpectedly a mom and three kids knocked at the door. They asked us if we had any food and they needed food for dinner that night. We gathered up what we had and we gave them food. They left. We sat down inside and said, "You know, this is crazy. I don't know if we really helped them. Not only did we not help them, but we never really helped that family from before." We sat down that night and we started to sketch and come up with ideas.

I'll tell you, this idea came to us pretty quickly. We felt really good about it and knew that we had something. That inspired us to keep going and to build it.

Dan: Great. I love your story. Very inspirational. I talk a lot about one of the main differences between the larger brands and the smaller brands. To frame this, a lot of people in the bigger brands use what you called focus groups. For small brands, they can't afford to do that. One of the challenges with focus groups, you guys can tell me, give me your thoughts on them, but you don't always get the best information. You pay a bunch of people to come into a room and give their opinion about something. It's been my experience working for a big CPG company that a lot of times those opinions are not accurate.

They don't reflect what the consumer thinks that actually buys the products. I'm always recommending that small brands go out and talk to the customer at the store to get involved, to have demos, and be able to physically ask that consumer what they think about their product. It's so much richer because you're actually spending time with that consumer. Not only are you talking to them in the aisle, but you're talking to them where they live. Could you unpack that and talk a little bit more about that and some of the other experiences and stories that you've got around it?

What I'm trying to do is make a comparison between that and being able to talk to a consumer in an aisle about how they use the product, when they use the product, et cetera. The point being is that I keep saying that brands need to become an expert in their products, in their consumer, in their competitive products and more importantly, in the consumer that buys those products.

Megan: Yeah. We talk about this all of the time.

Dan: Great.

Chip: It's our favorite topic.

Megan: Chip and I have an interesting perspective on this because this all started with big companies and big research methods that as a small company that we are now doing as a startup we cannot afford first of all. We don't have a lot of time for that. My opinion on focus groups is completely that, which is I think if all of us were being honest, if anyone asks you in front of a group, "Do you eat healthy," everyone is going to say yes, they do, or pretty much everyone will.

When you're doing really rich consumer research like an ethnography, if someone says, "Do you eat healthy," and you say yeah and then go on a tour of their kitchen, you can make your own judgment on whether or not that's healthy or not.

Dan: Well said.

Megan: You have a lot more details. I think ethnographies are much richer. On the other side, speaking of richer, are those focus groups and those ethnographies. That research can be incredibly expensive and also incredibly time consuming. From now switching our point of view running this startup that is so small and we're just trying to get as many deep learnings as possible, but as quickly as possible without spending any money, we've really had to look for other ways of doing it. One is we looked at doing some really inexpensive research, just asking people for feedback when they bought the product. As far as the demos go, this is Chip's main area he loves to talk about this. I'm going to turn that over to him because we do demos. Go ahead.

Chip: The demos have been incredible. To your point, you really get this crazy opportunity to get direct feedback from a consumer and you hear it firsthand. They have no idea who you are. We've done so many of our own demos. When we started, we did all of them. Basically people thought we worked for Wegmans. When we actually started, we were doing our demos at Wegmans. All the time they would ask me where things were and I'm like, "I'm sorry. I don't know where everything is in the store, but I can give you some cereal."

Megan: By the end of it we did, we did actually.

Chip: The coolest thing was that you would hear them. They don't care. They would tell you, "This needs more sugar. This doesn't have enough this. This doesn't have enough that." We would use that, and we would take that. We would go back, and we would reformulate, and we would discuss it, and we would figure out how we could do it. Not only that, it gives you a chance to practice how you talk to your consumers. You can work on your positioning. You can work on how do you communicate with your consumers. You talk to them about what they have in their cart.

It's like the most incredible opportunity to gain knowledge on how you can kind of connect with the consumers.

Megan: You really tell the story too. You learn how to tell the story, what convinces them. My favorite is when I would choose someone with the competitive products in their cart. I'm a naturally competitive person. Why are you buying that? Do you always buy that? Try to understand like why and then see what it would take to actually get them to consider switching. Now we still have our affiliation with the Campbell Soup Company. When we are here in the office and people ask us like, "Oh, what should we be doing differently," Chip's first response is, "Go do demos." People look at him like he's crazy, but it's true. We still carry demo kits around.

They are the best way of getting instant learning, and people do not care. They don't care if you created this. They're going to tell you exactly what they think about it. It's great.

Chip: The thing that I think happens... we've had the really cool opportunity to speak with so many different entrepreneurs and people that are starting these startup companies. The advantage that most of the time they have is that they started it for a reason and they are the consumer. They already have a deep understanding of the challenges and the things that this consumer is looking for because that's them. When you're in a bigger company, a lot of times you're put on a brand that you're not the consumer for. You need to figure out a way to kind of get up to speed on what they want and what they need. It's deeper than just reading a deck.

You need to experience it. You need to do what they would do everyday. We changed our social media feeds. I mean my Instagram and my Twitter feeds are like insanely connected to everything that our consumers read about and do and follow.

Dan: So important.

Chip: We're really into it as much as we possibly can to learn as much as we can.

Megan: We were really amazed. We launched in 14 Wegmans stores when we first launched. We had so many conversations with our board members who come from large food like, "So you're in 14 retailers?" Like no, 14 stores, right? The perspective is so different. When we launched, we actually went to all of the 14 stores. We might have done it everyday to see if our products were actually on shelf because we were so excited, but then we also did it. We met with the store managers and told them about our product and gave them samples to try for themselves and the employees.

Then when we expanded to the 68 stores that we are in, we then went up and down the East Coast doing the same thing. We continue to try to do that. What we realized was that the store managers were expecting to see us because all of these other startup brands are doing it too. They're really getting out and telling their own story. It does not matter. It's not about efficiency. It's not about reaching as many people as possible. It is about connecting one-on-one and building really loyal advocates who will then tell others for you. It's a really different way of thinking about it than you traditionally do in a large marketing organization. At least that's my perspective.

Dan: Well, it's so very critical. It makes all the sense of the world. I just recently launched a free course about teaching brands how to do what we're talking about today. I'm so grateful that you guys are talking about this. This is the one area brands screw up on. Even the big brands. As you said, it’s so critically important to your success. Not only do you learn something about like you said, the honest feedback they give you, they tell you what they think about the product without a filter, which you need. In addition to that, you're able to build your selling story around it. It's not scientific.

A lot of people would argue with that, but yet it's real and it's authentic. You'll hear a reoccurring theme over and over again. Then as you said, you can build that into your marketing message, in your communication. Again going back to that storytelling, the course that I put out and this podcast and everything I do is about teaching brands how to develop a solid selling story that they can take to every retailer. More importantly, it's got to resonate across every touch point in their funnel. I love the fact you guys did that. In kind of a funny note, I used to work for Kimberly-Clark, and you're talking about needing to get engaged in your products and be able to understand them.

Well, Kimberly-Clark sells feminine care. You could probably tell my voice is a little bit deeper than some women. The point is that I had to become an expert in that stuff. I was able to have the empathy in the diapers because I had a new kid, but it was such a challenge. People could tell that I didn't have that user knowledge. For you to be able to share that and be able to communicate that back to the customer, not parrot it back, but be able to use it, to leverage it to develop your selling story. Then as you were saying, it is so different and natural where we do build things from the ground up.

We’d go store by store by store, as opposed to getting distribution across the entire retailer. It's a very different atmosphere. Point being is that your story is what helps you get into the store, in the first store, and it's your story that resonates. If you can tell a good story and if you can talk about how you can help a specific consumer's problem, solve a consumer's problem, at the end of the day, that's what retailers want.

Retailers want to be able to make a little bit of money by selling your products, they want a reasonable profit. More importantly, they want that foot traffic and for you to tell them how to drive foot traffic into their store, one, and then two, how to increase market basket size. I love the fact you were talking about that. I think it was Megan talking about what's in your basket when you buy this. Thank you for sharing that. Any other thoughts around that?

Megan: Yeah. I think for us it's been really interesting. One, as far as like knowing your consumer and walking their footprint, I always use to say that you have to fall in love with them. It's so the opposite of what you're typically taught, right, which is you want to have this data mindset and understanding of your demographic. You need to fall in love with your consumer even if it's not you. You really do have to have a love affair with them and understand why they're making choices and understand it and not judge. I think that's really important even if they're completely the opposite of you.

Because otherwise, I don't think you're going to be able to really have that kind of connection, where you're going to have that emotional connection. That's what brands are all about. For us personally, the story is ... it's more than a story. This really is our personal promise that we made and we broke. We set out to do this. We weren't sure if other people were going to understand or like it, but we wanted to make sure that people understood that what we were trying to do was really make up for the fact that we wanted to help someone and didn't know how to do it.

We did a lot of things at the beginning, and still do, that it was all about being inefficient because it was about making that personal connection and trying to tell people why we were doing it. There were lots of conversations around how are you going to scale that tactic and what are you going to do. That's not our focus right now. Our focus is really about telling people why we're doing this and who you're helping by doing it. For every serving that someone buys, we donate a serving to a food bank in the same region. That's the whole idea of The Soulfull Project. Giving you a chance to help a neighbor with your everyday purchases.

We really wanted to make sure that this method was understood and that people understood that it really came from a very personal place.

Chip: The other interesting thing to me is when you know your consumer well enough. Even if you're not an entrepreneur that's kind of the consumer, if you do your upfront work and you really put the time into understanding your consumer, it helps in the backend because you have to make decisions on what your product extension is going to be. It could even be making decisions on how you advertise or how you promote, where you promote. You can make those decisions much faster. You don't need to continue to rely on research as you move forward and say, "Okay. Let's test these two ideas and decide."

It's like, "No. I already know because I already have enough knowledge of the consumer. I can make that decision right now and we could be so much faster." It may seem in the beginning that you're spending a lot of time on it, but in the end, it's completely worth it. It saves you time. It saves you money. We found most of the time we've been totally on just because we have that background and knowledge of our consumers.

Dan: Well, you need to. To your point, and to go one step further, and I don't think you've ever said this in this way, but the achilles heel of the big brands, if you're listening big brands, is the fact that you're not aligned with your core consumer. Doing what you're talking about, this is the way that big brands and small brands alike can differentiate themselves, that authenticity. Being able to put yourself in the consumer's shoes and understand what they're doing with the product, how they're using the product. That is so important.

Another thing, I don't know if I ever said this in this way either, but it's sort of a pay me now, pay me later persona. The idea being that if you don't take advantage of these strategies today as you just said, Chip, you can do it down the road, but it's a lot more costly to make a lot of mistakes along the way. If you got the wrong items in the wrong distribution, in the wrong stores, and that may sound kind of counterintuitive. I get into that a lot in the podcast, but having the right products available to the right consumers, to the right places, et cetera, is key. If you don't have that from day one, your success is questionable.

A lot of brands fail. One of the biggest reasons they fail, is because they go to market before they understand things like this. As simple as it is. It might sound simple, but it's very complex for most brands. You must understand your core consumer. I think Campbell's has done a great job with that. One of the things that I don't remember if it was Chip or Megan that told me that when you decided that you guys were going to do this, you basically handed in your notice ... I'm paraphrasing. You guys can clean this up, but you said, "No. We're going to leave the company."

They said, "No. No. No, wait a minute. We're going to get behind you." I love the fact that Campbell's is one of the leaders in this industry. One of the few big brands that understands that the tide is shifting. They need to be paying attention to that different consumer, that unique consumer. Can you talk a little bit about how that happened, how that unfolded and how they decided that they're going to embrace you and not let you go so to speak, even though you're still within their four walls?

Megan: Sure. What's really funny is that Chip nor I ever set out to build a mission-driven business or be social entrepreneurs or anything like that, right? In fact, my parents are entrepreneurs. They had their own businesses, and I swore I never would be because I watched how much they struggled to make payroll on Friday. I never wanted that part of my life. I never wanted that stress, but this idea was so compelling for us. The initial team that worked on it, we just continued to push it forward, but didn't tell people at Campbell's because we weren't really sure if this was going to work, right? We were always doubting ourselves too.

Then we got to the point where it was like we have something here and we're ready to go and we had the opportunity to pitch to Campbell leadership. The emeritus at the time actually said to us, "I don't hear you asking. I hear you telling us that you're going to do this." That was a real moment for us where we realized, "Yeah. This is what we're going to do." Campbell leadership got behind this. The initial launch was so small, right? It was like let's test and learn. It started to scale way faster than we ever expected. That's overwhelming.

We're really grateful to all the consumers that stepped up and said, "Yeah, this is something I want to be a part of it." From the top down, Campbells has just been incredibly supportive of this idea, but what's also been incredible for us and one of the reasons that we were able to get to market and start to scale quickly was because of the individual people at Campbell's that stepped forward. We are so grateful. Large companies kind of get their reputation for being this nameless behemoth, right? The individuals at Campbell's had stepped forward and helped us and said, "I like what you're doing and this is something that I can help you with."

Someone from my team raised their hand and said, "On a Friday afternoon, I'll help you build your website," and did. We gave him beer. Someone in accounting, after she finished closing Campbell's books for the quarters, she would help us close ours. We have so many different individuals that stepped forward and said, "This is something I want to get behind and help you." That's just been overwhelming. I think it's really a sign of the type of culture that they're building here.

Dan: People always ask me what makes natural natural and I have a lot of discussions around this exact thing. By the way, the fact that you're second guessing yourself, that's just part of being an entrepreneur. Is this gong to work? I mean I had that problem too. Once you get to the point where you realized that you're committed to your mission like you said, this is what we're doing, not can we do this, then you're going to find that there are lot of people out there, a lot of great resources. The next piece of the puzzle is who do you ask, who do you lean upon.

I want to take a little segway and go back to the comment about being a big behemoth and being cold and impersonal so here’s my point, if a small brand raises money from venue capitalists, family, and friends, those family members, friends, and venue capitalists want results - they hold that brand accountable. If a large brand buys a small brand they too hold that brand accountable to something. My point is this, if a bunch of venue capitalists buy a brand, they don’t necessarily have the resources to really help that brand beyond giving capital but if a large brand buys a small brand they have the resources frequently to be able to help their brand make introductions get on more retailer shelves and get more runway and leverage their distribution systems. Long story short, it’s a win-win for the small brand as long as they’re able to remain true to their mission. For example, one of my favorite clients, Pacific Foods, was bought by Campbells. They are really excited by the notion that they’re going to get the kind of support and guidance that they need to really help them out and there are lot of stories of brands succeeding, small brands succeeding in and doing very well under the ownership and the guidance of a large brand. I know that this isn’t the case all the time but my point is that to be able to get a brand like a Campbell’s to step up and help support you is very inspiring and again I applaud them for doing that.

Where I'm going with this is is that belief, that spark exist swell beyond natural. To have people step up and say they want to be a part of something more. Naturally what I'm getting at, consumers want to feel good about what they purchase. They want to feel good about who they're helping out in the decisions they make. If I buy a couple bags of your cereal, it's not just, "Hey, this stuff tastes great, but I'm giving back. I'm doing something that I may not have the opportunity to do because I may not be able to take time off work or I may not be able to go work in a soup kitchen."

The point being is that consumers want to feel good about that, and being able to leverage their resources around you, again that's the that ripple in the pond. That's exactly where that starts. You're able to take all those fantastic resources and help and really build something. Again that's the essence of what makes natural natural, so kudos to you guys. Where are you at in this process now? I mean working with Campbell's and building your brand?

Megan: We've been scaling pretty quickly. About 18 months ago, we were in the 14 stores. We launched with a breakfast item, a hot cereal, right? You've got oats, some quinoa, chia, flax, all those ingredients that everyone really aspires, but very convenient, non-GMO. We launched in these 14 stores and we had three giving partners right around the area of the stores that we were in with Wegmans. The idea was let's test and learn. We expected to stay in that test for about year. That test went really well, so Wegmans expanded us pretty quickly. We just over the past 18 months have grown from those 14 stores to about 2,000 stores around the country.

Dan: Congratulations.

Megan: Thank you. Plus Amazon. More importantly, we went from those three giving partners to 200 food banks around the country. We're partnered so that for every serving that someone purchases, we donate a serving to a food bank in the same region. We set a goal of a million servings.

Chip: Right now we're just over 700,000 servings to be donated from the beginning. Our whole idea again is not just to buy one, give one, but we want to also inspire people to get involved in their communities. When we launched in August of 2016, we said, "You know what? We have to really better understand what it takes to actually contribute to a community like this. How can we help?" We challenged ourselves to do a hundred volunteer events in a hundred days with our first three giving partners. We basically did everything that we did normally in the day and then volunteered once a day.

The whole idea was really just to just show people that with a little bit of time you can make a big impact. We said, "We're just going to use Facebook as a timeline for us." When we launched, we had about 300 Facebook followers, which were basically like our family and we couldn't even get all of our family to like everything. We were using the events. We were here and we volunteered and did this. We went to community food banks and we did this. Within the first couple of days we just happen to turn to the person next to us at one of the events and said, "Hey, why are you here?"

The volunteer next to us said, "Well." They started telling us these incredibly stories. Like there was a woman named Lydia in one of the community food bank events. Her father had passed away. He had done the same volunteer event. He had been at the same mobile pantry every week for years. In honor of him, she arranged her work schedule so she could take his place.

Dan: Great story.

Chip: It's crazy. We started to write about the stories of the people and how they inspired us. People would share it. Before we knew it, we went from 300 Facebook followers to by the time we hit the end of the hundred days, we were over 19,000 followers on Facebook.

Dan: Well, as you talked about, I mean that's how you do it, your website. Again, one person can make a difference and change the world. This is what you guys are doing. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to talk you guys today is that being able to share that story, that authenticity. To go back, everything that you're learning throughout this process ties back into how do you build the brand, how do you help the retailer to understand that you're more than just a red/blue box or a blue box or something like that on their shelf. You're a lot more than that. That consumer that will now go out of their way to buy your product, that's true loyalty.

What I'm getting at, and let me know what you guys think about this, I think loyalty cards are really more about coupon cards. My point being this, I have a loyalty card for every airline that I fly on, for almost every retailer in my area. The loyalty card is not something that I think of where I am going to shop. I think in terms of which brands do I would buy that I want to support. I think about the store that gives me the very best service and the brand that meets my needs or how I believe the world should be. That's exactly what you're tapping into. Your consumer is far more valuable than the consumer that walks in and buys the red box or the blue box.

I'm just making up stuff in terms of packaging, but my point is that this resonates with people and that's how you drive loyalty. That's how you drive traffic in stores. Any more thoughts around that?

Chip: Yeah. I mean we have been operating on the belief that your dollar is your voice.

Dan: Oh yes.

Chip: We think especially today that consumers make decisions ... I'm calling them consumers. They're people.

Dan: Right.

Chip: People make decisions based on what their values are. They want to support a company that has their values. They want to be proud of the companies that they support. The things that they eat, they wear, whatever. They want to be able to show, "Hey, I support this." That's why to me it's even more important that a company does the right things and really looks for ways they can make valuable contributions to society.

Dan: Absolutely. It goes back to another point that I keep making is that you hear that price is the only thing that motivates consumers to buy at the shelf. I hate that argument because it's so untrue especially in natural. Point being is that if you can help a consumer feel good about their purchase decisions and if you can provide real value to them in terms of the nutritional value or the ability to help them feel good about what they're buying, consumers will go out of their way. Your products are not price sensitive, not like a big brand, a lot of the big brands. Not only are you helping build category sales within the retailer, but you're helping give back.

Consumers want that. Again I know I keep going back to that point, but that is so overlooked especially as big brands. Like you said earlier, they're talking about scalability and volume and all those metrics that were droned into us long before. I've always had a passion for natural. It's the natural products that they can't scale. They can't do some of the things that the big brands do, but what they do is they connect the retailer to the community. That's sometimes far more important than whether or not you can get into 2,000 stores or as you're trying to say, 14 retailers by day one.

Megan: You know what's funny is as you're talking, I was thinking about the other piece that we really discovered. We didn't even fully appreciate it, but it’s giving the retailer and your customer a chance to tell their story as well.

Dan: Yes.

Megan: It's really important. They're a key part in this. What we've really discovered is first of all, our customers are typically just about everywhere. The number one donor to our food bank partners in every community because they're the ones that are pulling product and saving product and making sure that it's going immediately to the food bank that day. For many of our food bank partners, they're in these stores everyday picking up. These customers sit on the boards. They're doing huge work in the community to help and fight food insecurity. They're really focused on supporting the communities that they're in for the most part.

I think that giving them a chance to actually tell their story and give them some credit in the work that they're doing, that's actually been a huge opportunity, and then just the emotional connection. The people that are actually working for your customers, right? The people that are managing the stores and stocking the shelves. They also really love the idea of helping with food banks that they talk to everyday. You really give them a chance to actually celebrate the work that they're doing because the customers, our retailers are really on the front lines of helping to fight food insecurity.

Dan: You know, I don't think most people realize that. You're absolutely right. When I was a grocery manager, I remember working with a lot of retailers. As a DST driver, I remember being able to work with the food banks and work with the people that are giving back, but there are people within each retail store that are really passionate about their community. I mean after all, if they don't have a community, they don't exist. To go one step further, retailers generically don't make anything. They sell other people's stuff. They're reliant pretty much solely on being able to have a customer come into their story to buy their products.

Part of that community effort like you said is being able to tie all the different parts of the community together. Not just the retailer, but the other stores in the center and more importantly like you said, the food bank. Those people that are underserved in the community. Then of course, a lot of people work with the different churches and other organizations to help give back. It's very inspirational because again helping consumers feel good about what they're doing, about their purchase, as you said, voting with their dollars, being able to fill that need and unite that community, at the end of the day, that's a win-win in my mind.

That's what a lot of the conversations I have on this podcast are about - how do we do more than just put a box on the shelf and then try to drive sales and focus only on our product and what matters to us. More importantly, what matters to the retailer. Can you talk a little bit about some of the stories that you've learned there? What I'm getting at is what stories have retailers shared specifically with you about your ability to make a difference say compared to other brands?

Megan: I think we're too new enough where they tell us that we're making a difference compared to other brands, but I think when we started ... like when we first went and pitched to Wegmans, we actually already had our giving partners, which is very backwards, right? Typically you go and you try and get your first customer. Well, we already had our first three giving partners. The buyer for Wegmans just immediately said, "This is a great concept," right? They are such a community focused retailer.

Dan: They are.

Megan: They said, "This is something that we want to help you test and learn and build." They have been an incredible partner from day one. We are so grateful for that support. As we've expanded, I think it's been incredible to see that this is something that happens everywhere. I will also say now that I'm thinking about it, when we first launched, we were working with one of the Wegmans really close to us in Cherry Hill, New Jersey and met one of the store managers. It turned out that she had a personal relationship with food insecurity and had experience with it from other parts of her life.

When you're in the store and you're talking to the actual individual people that are working in the store and that know their customers on a first name basis and have that personal relationship and their own personal mission, it gives them a chance to talk about what they're actually doing everyday in the community.

Chip: This actually goes back to the demos for me again.

Dan: Oh yeah.

Chip: I had done so many demos at the local Wegmans by me, in Warrington, PA, that I knew everybody when I walk in. They would talk to me about personal things. It was a very cool thing. You kind of forget that retailers are, they’re people that work there in the community and the people that shop there in the community. They're a place that people meet.

Megan: They live in the community.

Chip: They live there. There's something kind of special about that. Those locations that people can kind of gather there. They have people they know that work there, and there's people that work there, and people they know that shop there. It's a real opportunity not only to find ways to get involved in the community, but it's also an opportunity to share ideas and to talk about the things that have meaning to them. By building the relationships with the store managers and things like that, you do get the word out about your product. I mean I don't know how many times I've been in an aisle either I'm shopping or I'm about to do a demo and somebody who's walking and shopping says to someone who works there, "Hey, what's a good cereal? You have any recommendations?" That's like a trust and that's an opportunity to really talk about your product and what you do.

Dan: Absolutely. Again it gets back to the authentic conversation that you're having with people. I love the way you phrased that. I hear a lot of people talk about well, everything's shifting to online. We don't need traditional brick and mortal. Well, I play in that space. We're trying to understand the impact and how all that works. In fact, it's interesting. A lot of people scratch their head when I say this, but retail is all about the theater. It's about the connection. It's about the community. You don't necessarily go to a retailer because you want to buy groceries, but as you said, it's about learning about the products.

It's about connecting. It's about being a part of something more than just yourself. Like you said, retailers are people, and they live in that community, and they want to do well. They are a tremendous wealth of knowledge for anyone listening. Where I'm going with that is that if you want to learn what's going on in the pulse of the community and what's really driving and helping trends, et cetera, the grocery manager's typically one person that you can really get those insights from. I think that they're under appreciated certainly by a lot of retailers. Now Wegmans does a fantastic job. They're very progressive. I love the store. I love the chain.

The point being is that they're working harder to remain connected to their community. Now I think one of their core strengths is that the community matters to them. They don't view their customers as being just another shopping cart out the door or someone trying to make another sale. It's about that community. There are a few retailers in this country that really do that well, and they're certainly one of them. The fact that you have that test kitchen within your market is great. Let’s talk a little bit more about the giving partners. Could you talk a little bit more about that? I know we shared and I think people could probably get the gist of it.

When you're talking about giving partners and donations and giving back, can you share more about how that works?

Chip: Yeah. I'll first say that the word partner in that is huge.

Dan: Yes.

Chip: First of all, we didn't know if this idea was going to work. We went to the Food Bank of South Jersey and asked them to talk to us about it. We didn't know. We thought we’d walk in there and they would say, "Sorry. Great idea, but no one's really going to be interested." Not only did they tell us ... Again that's us being like doubting ourselves, right? Not only did they love it, but they helped us with it. They helped us with the branding. They helped us with the messaging. They helped us with the product. Our worst nightmare would be that we were giving a product, we were giving the giveback with something that people wouldn't need.

We said, "Look, let's make sure that doesn't happen. Tell us what this product should be." The really kind of interesting thing is that, and we learned this from the beginning, is that most of the people that food banks help are what you would call working poor, which basically means they are just like us. One day there's an issue with a medical issue. There's a job loss. They have to make a decision between paying the bill, electric bill, or buying food. What that means though is that it just so happens that we're all the same consumer. We developed something for people in a food bank. We're developing for us.

We talked about the idea of equality and the fact that what we make is what we need to give because why shouldn't we all be equal and get the same quality food. The food bank helped us developed our 4 Grain. We used this knowledge to develop the rest of our line. Their partnership has been completely invaluable. I mean we really have had such an experience with them. Not only with the Food Bank of South Jersey, but every food bank we meet. We've been personally meeting with them. Out of 200 food banks in the network, we've personally been to over 94 or 95. We've been at almost 100 food banks.

We drive many times from food bank to food bank so that we can get as many as we can in a trip. We volunteer there. We meet with them and we drop off donations many times. Sometimes it's just to say hi and drop off some of our products so they can have breakfast the next day. We really feel like there's value in a relationship and in a partnership. Now there's three of us that work here.

Megan: Soon to be four on Monday.

Chip: Soon to be four on Monday. That's a really, really important thing because we feel like they are such an important part of the community. That if we can connect with them in any way, that we would be connecting better with the communities that they're in.

Dan: That's amazing. I love your story. The fact that you're learning from them, they're helping you build things. Okay. Now be honest, today is take your kids to work day. You guys doubled your staff in one day.

Chip: You know what? Our kids are way more productive than we are.

Megan: They are.

Dan: With the marshmallows. Exactly. Child labor. No, but the fact that you're able to engage and involve the food banks. A lot of people don't realize that, without getting political, most of the people in this country are one tragic accident, one tragic event away from being in that position. People don't realize it's not a hand out. It's a hand up. If you can help someone get back on their feet again, what a great idea. It just makes you feel real good inside. I mean sometimes all somebody needs is just a little bit of help. To your point, I've spent a bunch of time in different food banks. It's been a while unfortunately, but those people are so authentic and so caring and so giving.

They're so genuine. It's contagious being around them. The fact that you're able to to do that, I'm sure that feeds your soul. Part of that probably has a lot to do with the name of the brand, right?

Megan: Yeah, exactly. I mean it is. It's really around fill your body, fulfill your soul. That's where the name came from. Then the word project, meaning that it's going to require all of us coming together and doing it together. I completely agree with you on one, just the awareness around who's actually using the food banks and what they're there for, but on the other side of it, which is if we had known then what we know now when we met that family in Texas, the first family that got us on this journey, if we had known about the resources that are in every community and the help that's available, we probably would have been able to get them sustainable help.

It is heartbreaking and just numbing to realize that food insecurity affects every community across this country. It does not discriminate. On the other side, it is also amazing to see this network of food banks and other community resources that are there in every community staffed by caring and dedicated people and an army of volunteers that are really trying to make a difference. That is really one, just trying to raise awareness of both the fact that there is a need and who needs that help, and then two, how you can actually help and how much they really do rely on an individual to help in every community.

Dan: Absolutely. In fact, you hear stories about how around Thanksgiving time the soup kitchens have so many volunteers that they actually have to turn people away, which is sad. Food banks I think are undervalued in the sense that a lot of people don't think about, "Hey, I could give back to a food bank. I could make a difference in a different way." Like you said, thank you for sharing that because it's so important. Again most people don't realize how desperate some families are. They don't want to share that or they maybe have too much pride. There's a need in this country and I talk a lot about that on the podcast.

A lot of the thought leaders we've been talking to about giving back, about a mission that's more than just whether or not you're a red box or a blue box. I keep going back to that. Point being is that if you can communicate accurately what you're doing as a brand and being able to help people understand what your mission is behind it, if you can stay true to that mission, at the end of the day, sometimes that's difficult for brands to do. Let's talk a little bit about that. One of the things that comes up a lot is that brands are so focused on survival sometimes that they have to cut corners. What you're saying is you need to stay consistent. You need to be authentic and not do that.

A lot of brands struggle with that balance of, "Okay. I need to make payroll versus I need to stay open and be able to support my mission." A lot of brands unfortunately give into the way that some big brands focus on things where it's about bringing in the money or cutting corners or maybe not having the same quality ingredients. Can you talk about how your relationship with Campbell's has enabled you to stay true to your mission? What I'm really getting at here is I want to celebrate the fact that you've got a partner, and I do mean partner, that is willing and able to help support you without telling you that you're doing it wrong because you're using the wrong metrics.

Megan: I think those are all really good points and there's a lot there. I think that one is when we started this, we started this as a mission-based company. The giving model was built in from day one. We knew we had to solve for how do we do the giving model as part of it. That was the first business model question that we had to do and develop. That's how the business came to be. We truly believe that this business does not exist without the mission and this mission does not exist without the business. They go hand in hand. Our board is made up of people that represent both the mission and the business because we look at everything the same.

As a business, we look at our revenues and our financial metrics, but we also look at how many servings we have accrued. We set goals on servings and goals on volunteer hours. We also then build in governance around that. We build in guard rails around how the giving works and what are we actually donating, but also we went after those governance structures to help us. One, we're a public benefit corporation. We are obligated to provide some sort of public benefit as part of our corporate governance. Two, we also received our B Corp certification.

Dan: Congratulations.

Megan: Thank you. That one was really hard to do on a very small team because it's a grueling process, but it was really critical for us because that stamp of approval to say that we are following through on what we say we're doing is really critical and that we've met the metrics that they've set out. That one in terms of kind of how we operate and how we look at things and making sure that we're looking at both as equal is really critical. Let's shift the talk to what we actually give because that's really from the heart.

Chip: Sure, the way it works is that where every serving is purchased ... We divided the country up into nine regions. If you look on our website, you can actually see what those regions are. You can see all the food banks listed. You can also see an update on what we're accruing for each region and what's been donated. What happens is someone makes a purchase in one of the regions at any retailer or on Amazon, and we track where on Amazon it's purchased as well. Every serving that's purchased, we give a serving of our 4 Grain to a food bank in the region where it's purchased, so you're helping your neighbor.

The reason why we created the regions is because after having many conversations with various food banks, it was really around being able to essentially spread the wealth and say, "Hey, as we get bigger and we have more to donate, we'll be able to spread the donations to areas that might not have a retailer that sells us in that region and we can divide it evenly among the food banks on the region."

Dan: That's great.

Chip: It's been incredible. I think I mentioned it, but we've already accrued over 700,000 servings. Basically 700,000 breakfasts. We're quickly approaching a million. Our goal is to hit a million by 2019.

Dan: By the way, I love that goal. I know of one brand that actually uses a metric similar to that to judge their performance. It's not about dollar sales. It's not about growth in terms of the tradition metrics. It's about lives saved. Do you use that as a key metric, the one million servings, as not only a benchmark, but as part of your corporate statement? Do you look at that everyday and say, "Here's what we're shooting for," more so than how many boxes or product or cups or product you send out the door?

Megan: Yes. I can tell you that as of today, we have accrued 716,631 servings.

Dan: That's great. You're up 16,000 since we started this conversation. Congratulations.

Megan: Exactly. That number is what we look at everyday. We look at our revenues as well, but we look at that number as our first number.

Dan: Thank you, because that's so important. Again staying true to your mission. This is how you do that when you've got that staring you in the face as your goal and you're trying to work hard to achieve that goal, that mission to be able to realize that. I can't thank you guys enough for coming on. I know we've talked about a lot. What are the things would you like to share?

Megan: I mean to me it's interesting. With the different guests that you've had and the different programs, I think it's really ... The food industry and the natural industry and big foods, it's changing so rapidly. It's a really exciting time. I think that there's a lot of it ... I have that misconception too. Oh, all of these new brands that are coming out. These young 20 somethings ... Well, we're not young. We're not 20 something. You have to be a type of social entrepreneur or kind of build a company like that from the very beginning. I think change comes from some of the most unlikely places. A lot of people say we're intrapreneurs. I looked up that definition.

It literally means change from within. Either intrapreneur or entrepreneur, I think that change can come from any direction. I think if you have a background in big food companies or small food, that world is blending so fast. I think that if we all can take responsibility to be more purposeful in what we are doing, how we are helping, what we're putting out into the market, I think our world could really be a better place and our communities could be a stronger place. I think it's a really exciting time.

Chip: I think within every person there is an issue or something that they want to solve or they feel like they have a way that they can do something better. I think that oftentimes we doubt ourselves, our ability, and you're kind of afraid to say what that idea is or afraid to go for it. I think that if you just take a second and realize that you can do this, if you have a vision, you can make something happen. You just need to have the guts to do it. It's easy to say, but I'm telling you, it's an amazing thing when you finally push yourself forward and go with your vision. You're going to have people that will tell you, "It's not going to work."

Megan: Including yourself.

Chip: Including yourself. I think you need to realize that no one knows that vision as well as you. Just stick with it. Stay with your vision. Find a way to make it work. You can do amazing things. That's the type of thing that can make major changes in the world and make the world a better place.

Dan: Again that's what I keep talking about. This is the heart of natural. This is one of the key components that makes natural natural, the community, the giving back, the purpose-filled missions, and going back to what we keep saying, as your slogan is, one person can make a difference and change the world. Well said. Thank you for your coming on today. Thank you for your time. I look forward to our next conversation.

Megan: Same here. Thank you so much for having us.

Chip: Yeah. Thank you, Dan. This was great. Thanks.

Dan: I want to thank Chip and Megan for making time for us today and for sharing their story. It was so inspirational. I love the idea that the brand called them. This isn't something that they planned to do. They saw a need, and they came up with a solution. I'll put a link to the Soulfull Project on the podcast webpage and in the show notes. You can get the show notes at brandsecretsandstrategies.com/session48. On this podcast, we talked a lot about the importance of storytelling and how it's your story that differentiates you and sets you apart from your competition. We also talked about how retailers want and need your help.

They want to know what your story is. They want to be able to celebrate your story to help drive traffic into their stores. Today's freebie is my Turnkey Sales Story Strategies course. It's free. You can learn more about it on the website and at turnkeysalesstorystrategies.com/growsales. If you like the episode today, please share it with your friends. Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. I appreciate your listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next show.

The Soulfull Project thesoulfullproject.com

This episode's FREE downloadable

Your brand's selling story is the cornerstone of all effective business building strategies. Learn How To Get Your Brand On The Shelf and What Retailers REALLY Want. This Is Your Roadmap To Success.

CLICK HERE TO GAIN INSTANT ACCESS TO MY FREE TURNKEY SALES STORY STRATEGIES COURSE

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.

Sign up today on my website so you don’t miss out on actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

I appreciate all the positive feedback. Keep your suggestions coming.

Until next time, this is Dan Lohman with Brand Secrets and Strategies where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

Listen where you get your podcast

The Essential New Item Checklist – The Recipe For Success

New product innovation is the lifeblood of every brand. New products fuel sustainable growth, attracts new shoppers and increases brand awareness. Know the critical steps to get your product on more retailer’s shelves and into the hands of more shoppers.

Empowering Brands | Raising The Bar

Ever wish you just had a roadmap?  Well now you do!

Don’t miss out on all of these FREE RESOURCES (strategic downloadable guides, podcast episodes, list of questions you need to be asking and know the answers to, weekly newsletter, articles and tips of the week.  You will also receive access to quick and easy online courses that teach you how to get your brand on the shelf, expand distribution, understand what retailers REALLY want and address your most pressing challenges and questions.

All tools that you can use, AT NO CHARGE TO YOU, to save you valuable time and money and grow your sales today!

Image is the property of CMS4CPG LLC, distribution or reproduction is expressively prohibited.