Must Love is made for those looking to make healthier choices when it comes to frozen desserts. Hannah explains what makes Must Love a healthier product and describes the strategy they used to get into grocery stores in Southern California and then expand nationally.
Hannah also shares the challenges of distributing a temperature-controlled product like ice cream in the CPG space and how being on Shark Tank forced them to embrace D2C and perfect it.
Finally, Hannah talks about how a chance meeting with a customer in Hawaii led to an introduction to a Costco buyer and eventually a fantastic deal.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical product Movement. The podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host Kent Otsuka.
Ken: In this interview, I have the opportunity to talk to Hannah Hall. Co-founder at must love a Los Angeles based nice cream company founded by her and her best friend, Molly. She talks about her experience working in brand strategy and innovation and how that taught her a lot about the attributes of a winning CPG brand and pro.
Ken: She talks about the strategy that must love to get into grocery stores in Southern California, and then to expand nationally from there. She also talks about the importance of maintaining relationships and how a chance meeting with a customer who loved her product in Hawaii led to an introduction to a Costco buyer and eventually to.
Ken: She talks about the challenges of distributing a temperature controlled product, like ice cream in the CPG space and how being on shark tank forced them to embrace direct to consumer and just figure it out. Most of all, I loved Hannah’s passion for the space for her brand and for a product and her expertise about CPG in general. It was a fun interview and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Ken: All right, Hannah, how are you doing? Thanks for jumping on today with me.
Hannah: Oh, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me. How are you?
Ken: Hey, I’m good. I’m good. Welcome to the podcast. I’m looking forward to digging into your business. You’ve had a lot going on. So I want to hear your story. This is going to be great.
Ken: I like to kick off the podcast with a quick quote, maybe something that’s impactful to you in some way. Do you have something in mind that you could share with the audience?
Hannah: Yeah, this is actually really big. It’s not catchy, but it’s a guiding principle for my best friend and co-founder Molly.
Hannah: And I it’s that if our business is a success, but our friendship is failure, then we are failures.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. I like that. And you mentioned, yeah, you, you went into business with your best friend Molly, and that can always be a little bit tricky and so I’m curious how do you make sure that you actually follow that person?
Hannah: So before we started our company together, which was like five years ago, we did our own kind of self guided premarital counseling because starting a business together is really like getting married. It’s a lot of work and it’s a really big commitment. And Talked about how you really would, if you were marrying somebody like what are our values?
Hannah: What do we want, what are our goals? And then what are we willing to do to get to those goals? Like those kinds of just foundational questions we spend an entire weekend basically interviewing each other, to be able to verify that we were on the same page and we did this, but Molly and I have known each other since we were.
Hannah: 20 years old, 19 and 20. And she’s younger than me by a year, but so we’ve known each other for a long time, like 17 years now. So a lot of this stuff we knew we were on the same page instinctively, but I think. It’s still important to be explicit and to basically write it down so that for sure, and you don’t leave anything unsaid or vague.
Hannah: Yeah. And so that was that, and we revisit. Those conversations are around January. Cause people are naturally just thinking about new year’s resolutions or their goals for the upcoming year and where they are in their lives. And so we always end up talking about it around January, every year.
Ken: Yeah. Got it. Got it. No, that’s good advice. And especially the part about revisiting it because I think sometimes you can have these conversations early on and then things get forgotten and we show you our business plan from year one versus now it’s your one is I know it’s kinda funny sometimes it’s actually better it’s the being a little bit naive when you’re going into something as hard as starting a business, like not knowing everything is actually probably okay. Especially just how hard it can be sometimes. Like I think that’s surprising to a lot of entrepreneurs. So my question was just personal. If you think about your 1920 year old self, do you think you would’ve done it still? If you knew how difficult it could be?
Hannah: We were in 1920 when we met, we were not 19 and 20.
Hannah: When we started the company, we started just five years ago. But knowing how difficult it is. It is and continues to be I think we still would do it. We both grew up watching our parents start their own businesses in a country where they didn’t know the language and had to learn lots of new things.
Hannah: And it’s, and I think that kind of education from watching our parents really go through the hustle and the grit to be able to. Find their slice of the American dream pie, like that sort of thing. It really instilled in us that kind of entrepreneurial drive. And so I think that we would definitely do it. Maybe it’s something different now that we’ve gone through it once.
Hannah: But we definitely would have done.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And of course it’s an impossible question to answer. Because you don’t know those things it’s sorta like having kids would you have kids if you knew how difficult it could be, and it’s yeah, of course.
Ken: Because of all the good times and it’s definitely worth it, but sometimes it’s better not to know exactly how hard some of these things are
Hannah: I agree.
Ken: Yeah. Let’s just jump into your background. So you mentioned that your parents are immigrants, right?
Ken: Where are they from also?
Hannah: So Molly and I, both our parents are from South Korea and both our parents started their own businesses in different industries and things like that. So actually we both grew up in Southern California and that cultural and our family expectations were to do well in school, go to college and find like normal professional careers.
Hannah: Maybe don’t become ice cream makers, but we did when we graduated undergrad, Molly and I. At Berkeley, we were both business majors and that’s how we met. She became an investment banker and I wasn’t management consulting like very traditional types of jobs graduating with that degree from Berkeley.
Hannah: And we had like pretty typical, I would think kinds of white collar professional jobs. And we went on to both get our MBAs and at different schools. I PR I specifically went to UCLA Anderson I’m here in LA, so that I could focus on marketing and work in food. That had always been my ultimate goal of getting my, is to be in brand management in CTG.
Hannah: And so when I graduated I ended up working at Bolthouse farms in Santa Monica. And made lifelong friends there. And then Molly, when she graduated, she focused actually on operations. I think she was just more open in terms of her career search, but a priority was for her to get back to California.
Hannah: And she was at MIT, so really far away. And then there just happened to be an opening on my team in innovation at Bolthouse. And our boss is very. Like open to different backgrounds. Like you didn’t have to have that traditional CPG background to come work for her. She just cared if you were smart and if you had a passion for the industry and you had a creative problem solving mindset.
Hannah: And she interviewed Molly. I slid her resume across the desk as if she was. Someone I knew from college, not like my actual best friend who was my matron of honor or maid of honor at my wedding. So I totally played it down that I would have been flipping out if she didn’t get the job.
Hannah: So she of course got the job. She’s amazing. And at the time still, nobody knew we like we’re actually best friends. And I think that facade lasted for about two hours into her first day. And then. You guys know each other really well. And it’s yes, we’re actually best friends. And then we worked together on CTG innovation, apple towels, and it was during that time that she made banana ice cream for me.
Hannah: And that was like the beginning of everything.
Ken: Okay. Yeah, we definitely want to dig into that. I’m just curious, what did Molly study at MIT? What did she do?
Hannah: She got her MBA too.
Ken: Okay. Got it. Okay. So what does innovation look like at Volta Bolthouse farm? What kind of stuff were you doing?
Hannah: Never launched. I don’t think I can talk about yeah working for any larger CPG company, there are a lot of research hurdles. I guess I would call them that you have to meet to be able to launch something. And now having launched my own products, I understand because the investment is huge to be able to bring something to market at a scale that makes sense for.
Hannah: Like a fortune 500 company. And Bolthouse at the time was owned by Campbell’s. So you have to be able to bring something to market that is big enough. And sometimes when you have innovative ideas, they’re like, especially if it’s like a groundbreaking category, it’s really hard to quantify that.
Hannah: So I think a lot of the time in innovation was spent on trying to quantify that and trying to make sure that the product was the right product for. That said, an old house is incredibly entrepreneurial. I think it still is. I still have friends who work there and the way they approach innovation was you had to do some of that, but there was a lot of room for you to fight for ideas.
Hannah: If you had heart for it, even if the numbers didn’t quite like it wasn’t like a slam dunk case. And I really appreciated that about the leadership team there that they grew. An innovation team that was allowed to do that.
Ken: Okay. Got it. And it sounds like you enjoyed what you were doing in your happiness, you had a good time there.
Ken: So tell us sort of the evolution. What happened next? You mentioned that Molly made you bananas and ice cream, right? What’s the context of that?
Hannah: Yeah. I did love my job. And I think working in innovation in marketing at a food company is like the best job ever.
Hannah: So I loved my job. But when Molly made banana and ice cream, At the time, it was just frozen bananas and a food processor with a splash of almond milk. You’ll see it on Instagram and Pinterest like everywhere. I had no idea what this product was. Or this recipe. She just made it for me after dinner, just because she had frozen bananas in her freezer and we wanted ice cream, but both of us are lactose intolerant.
Hannah: And she was like, oh, you know what we can make. And then she made this and it blew my socks off because it just. All our needs and more like she and I are both lactose intolerant, but it was just bananas and all the mills super clean, just real fruit. You can feel good about eating it. And it tasted amazing.
Hannah: Like it was super soft, like it was like eating soft serve. And when I tasted it, our day jobs are thinking about consumer insights and how to bring the right product to market. When I tasted it, like it just, I immediately understood the consumer insight there because I’m Molly, we’re the consumers.
Hannah: And. I was just like, why is no one packaging this, because this is an incredible product. And then we froze that very batch in some, just Tupperware from the house and put it just in our home freezers. And then the next day when I tried to eat it, I realized why absolutely no one packaged it because it froze like super, super hard, like a rock.
Hannah: And I guess like I could have just been like, oh, I guess that’s why and left it at that, but I couldn’t get this product out of my head and. I just felt instinctively like in my gut, like this is, this product might have legs. And I couldn’t, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Hannah: And so I kept iterating on like different recipes in a home like those home ice cream makers, the kind where you freeze the bowl in a freezer, like you might make ice cream with your kids using a Product like that. It’s not like a professional ice cream maker, but I had one and so did Molly.
Hannah: And so we would just make like different batches trying to figure out how to make a product that met the consumer expectation of that occasion, which is scoopable ice cream right out of the freezer. And staying true to the ethos of the inspiration, right? Like it being made with bananas and being really wholesome.
Hannah: Recognizable ingredients. And then we got there or we got close to there. And as soon as we got to an MVP a close enough product, I immediately quit my job. I was just like, I really believe in this, I’m going to do it. And I just quit. And I didn’t even have a business plan to be honest.
Hannah: But Molly took more convincing and she needed a business plan. So she made us write one and then she left. And so then we both have been full-time on it for five years now. Sorry. Once he asked me a question, I like to launch into my spiel and then I don’t know where to stop sometimes.
Ken: It’s great. And I’ll be honest. That’s why I love talking to entrepreneurs. It’s just, the passion just comes through and we can definitely sense that and that’s awesome. So I, a couple of questions about that. Were you calling it nice cream? Like where did that name come from?
Ken: Where you’re calling it that early on,
Hannah: You know, I think what people call it? If you
Ken: Google it right now, Okay. Yeah. And then also, so it sounds like you were thinking about it as a product and as a business pretty much from the time you tasted it. What was Molly thinking? The same thing or, no,
Hannah: I think that’s our mindset because.
Hannah: We’re business people. We always thought we would do something together one day and we just didn’t realize it was going to be ice cream. But I do think that is how she thought about it from the beginning too, but she’s the more measured one. I’m the one that flies off the handle a little bit.
Hannah: So I was willing to take the leap right away and she needed a little bit more time. And That’s to be able to like, feel confident in plunging into light. Yeah.
Ken: Yeah. And that makes sense. And probably why you guys make such a great team. So the other question is you had obviously experienced researching and really digging into.
Ken: These other CPG brands, but for maybe somebody that, that doesn’t have that same experience, like what about it made you think that it was, would be a good the potential CPG product you talked a little bit about the product ethos and things like that, but what about did you even think about any of the metrics the margins in a product like that, did you take any of that kind of stuff into consider.
Hannah: Yes, of course. And like I kinda mentioned earlier, what I really appreciated about our former employer is that they left room for ideas, just because you had hard time to be able to fight for those ideas. And I am definitely. Definitely like a more gut driven marketer, like I had a feeling.
Hannah: And so I, that makes me sound crazy. I know. But that’s like your instinct, and maybe that comes from years of training. But my instinct was that this had this had legs. And with that. We still needed a business plan for us to be able to execute. And we did our due diligence. Does this meet at least some minimal threshold margin that we see line of sight do?
Hannah: Cause let me tell you, we did not meet those margins year one because you’re not buying things by the pallet at that time. So could we see line of sight to a sustainable margin? Is there of course, consumer appetite, which is, that’s what I had my gut feeling on. There is consumer appetite for this, but is there retailer appetite for this?
Hannah: And if you have something that doesn’t require you to maintain a certain temp state, so if you sold. Like granola bars, for example, or like chips that can be shelf stable. It might not be as important immediately, but eventually you’re going to get to a point where you have to think is a brick and mortar retailer going to take this.
Hannah: And but for us, because we have a temp controlled product, it has to stay frozen, melted ice cream is essentially guarded. So it’s trash. So it has to stay frozen during the entire value chain. Going wholesale is the easiest way to do it. It’s like the most it makes the most sense.
Hannah: And that’s also how people still mostly buy groceries, especially things that are controlled. We knew that we needed to prove out that a retailer would be interested. And so that’s why when we first started our operations amongst many reasons, but one of them was that we needed to start small to just test.
Hannah: Any retailers would take this. Cause we didn’t want to gamble everything in like Lisa signed a year long lease somewhere or something like that and not have any proof of concept. And so we took that MVP recipe I mentioned and then started making it in a kitchen that you would rent by the hour.
Hannah: So every hour we could make, literally, I think at most. Because of the size of the machine we were using like 20 pints of ice cream. We never made enough ice cream at that time to even pay for that hour of renting that kitchen. So like we knew though, however, it was like an investment in our idea to test.
Hannah: If it was worth investing more because obviously, even though we never paid for that hour with the product we made, if we leased a kitchen and bought bigger scale equipment, that would have been like cash out the door immediately and a much bigger investment without any proof of concept. So that was how we approached it.
Hannah: And we walked door to like natural grocers independently run mom and pop shops here in Los Angeles. And Made our first few sales calls ourselves. And those were hilarious. Let me tell you, so our benchmarks. Yeah. Sorry, go
Ken: I want to hear about so much to unpack there, but I want to hear about this sales pitch, right?
Ken: So you’ve made this MVP. Of this ice cream you’ve got, I assume 20 pints or not a ton. But you walk into a grocer and what do you say?
Hannah: The first pitch we did was that this local grocers, grocery specialty grocery store in downtown Los Angeles called grow, and we’re still carried there.
Hannah: It’s my first account ever. And we walked in and I. One did not know how to purchase ice cream packaging in small quantities. And so instead I just went to smart and final and purchased the only packaging I could find that seemed close enough and they were clear deli cups. So basically like the stuff you put homeless in like they looked like homeless containers and our ice cream was made with bananas and deeds.
Hannah: So they also looked like hummus at the time too. So I had that packed in a cooler with dry ice. And then we just walked in and I had. And this is so typical, big CPG, right? Like I had a 20 page PowerPoint presentation on the product and who the consumer is and why we’re a fit for this retailer and all these things.
Hannah: We showed him the samples and started going through the deck and he was just like, I’m just going to stop you right here. It was like, after one slide, it was like, I’m just going to taste it. And he grabbed a spoon out of his pen cup, like he had on his desk and he just tasted it and he was like, I like it.
Hannah: When can you bring it in? And that was it. Oh no. He asked you for the packaging, cause it was obvious. Thomas containers. So then I was like, yes, I was like there’s lockup packaging. And so he was like, okay, that looks good. When can you deliver? And that was it. That was my first sales call. And I think what it really taught me though, was like at the end of the day taste is what matters.
Hannah: You need all the light product attributes to really move and all those things and to make sense, but you need to be able to taste the product. And especially when you’re a tiny brand, you need to get to the point real fast.
Ken: So had you set up an appointment with that?
Hannah: I did. I called in advance to ask if I could speak with the manager or the store buyer.
Hannah: And they gave me an appointment, but sometimes that’s not possible because if you imagine, like what goes into running an independently run grocery store day to day, like that person is incredibly busy. So sometimes I would show up. To try to get an appointment, but then I would also be ready to pitch them right there, which again, if I had a shelf, a stable product would be a lot easier because you could just keep that in your car.
Hannah: But I had to always have coolers and go buy dry ice and have things like temp controlled, which was really challenging. I’m starting from the ground up. I need my first few doors to make sure this product makes sense. Like I was willing to do that of course. And make sure that.
Hannah: We had the opportunity for the sale when the opportunity presented itself. I think that’s really important.
Ken: So besides the taste what do you, what else do you think that the buyer liked about your product and about you guys and your.
Hannah: Yeah. And our product has gone through iterations from that very first MVP.
Hannah: Like it’s only gotten better, but we’ve always stayed true to the inspiration. So we always use real recognizable ingredients, simple recipes in our art, of course plant-based and It’s sweetened with real fruit. At the time we only had aligners made with bananas, but today we have a line made with oat milk and we have, so it does not taste like bananas for those banana overs.
Hannah: We, so we have a line of pints, which is what we started with and we also have a line of novelty bars. Chocolate Denta ice cream bars and they’re all plant-based, all sweetened with real fruit, no refined sugar and most importantly, very delicious. And so I think those things are the things that still resonate with consumers today.
Hannah: When we talk to our consumers, they always say, the reason why they tried our product for the first time is because of the clean ingredient lists, but why they come back is because it tastes good. So I think. Product slightly different from back then, but it’s still the same in the most important ways.
Ken: Okay. Got it. And you laughed a little bit about your 20 page presentation, your PowerPoint that you got, that you had ready. And was it was Molly going with you or was that just no,
Hannah: It’s a whole thing. The two of us go and I say, hi, I’m Hannah. And she goes, hi, I’m Molly. And we say Eunice, and we’re the co-founders of must love.
Hannah: It’s like a.
Ken: So you laughed about the 20 page presentation. Why is that funny and how have you changed that when you talk to buyers today?
Hannah: Obviously, when you work for a really big company, there’s a lot more time that the buyer gives you because you’re a category leader or you’re the category captain or whatever.
Hannah: And so you have a lot more information to share like a self from syndicated data and things like that. So that’s why those decks are so long when you work at a big company. That was our training and we thought that we needed to have that kind of information. But when you’re a small company, you are pretty much on the cutting edge of innovation is my opinion.
Hannah: Because you are willing to try things that they do. Aren’t quite ready to do it yet. And so that’s the value you’re bringing to the meeting is showing them like what you’re doing, what your product is and showing them the consumer insight that you’re seeing, that the big companies aren’t.
Hannah: And so the way we approach these buyer meetings, I think we shed some of that like more corporate policy. Suit I guess, and are just more ourselves and just sharing more about us because yeah, I don’t know the CA I know the category, but I’m not going to have as much information at my fingertips as like the lover, like they’re going to know way more than me about category trends based on data.
Hannah: Like I can’t, I don’t have that kind of information to share, but I can share from a consumer perspective what we’re seeing and why our product is doing so well.
Ken: Okay. Awesome. So let’s fast forward a little bit there’s a couple of big milestones. It looks like you’re able to raise some money from friends and family and then continue to build your brand.
Ken: That looks at least from what I read you were able to then raise from. I guess that, that round that you raised I’m reading 1.4 million, is that accurate from friends, family, and institutions? Is that right?
Hannah: I think that’s all, all in the many small little rounds, but yeah, like not all at once.
Ken: Yeah. Obviously fundraising is just something that I think any entrepreneur needs to get familiar with. And the process, what, what worked, what do you think investors were looking for? That kind of thing. So I just wanted to dig into that for a second.
Hannah: I, it really depends on your stage, and. I think even still though, like the thing that is most important is the founders. Cause we’re still looking for people who are investing in basically the, in Mali, but those first few phone calls, especially the ones that were to my actual literal friends and family, I’m asking my friends and family to trust me.
Hannah: So that’s who they are investing in. And it’s yeah, you can like, and obviously you have. Your basic information and your numbers and things like that. And it has to make sense, but at the end of the day, that is who they are, what they’re investing in it is you even now when we talk to potential investors or anything like that, of course, like the business case needs to make sense, but ultimately they’re still investing in Molly and myself as like the leaders.
Hannah: I think that is something you can’t overlook. Yeah.
Ken: Yeah. That makes sense. And we went through fiddle, we went through a friends and family round as well. And one of the things that I realized is that a lot of times like a friend or even family’s perception of you and your trustworthiness is built over the entire relationship, right?
Ken: So this just happens to be the business that you’re doing and the specific circumstance, but their trust in you and their confidence in you is built over years and years.
Hannah: Let me tell you I don’t know if you felt similarly.
Hannah: Those first initial questions I made because they were from literal friends and family. Like I always wanted to puke. Won’t do it because I’m always so nervous. Like you’re asking someone who personally to trust you with their money and and it’s. I didn’t know I was so uncomfortable at first because I just felt so weird.
Hannah: I like doing that, but after the first few you get a little bit more used to that queasy feeling and you just like,
Ken: Yeah. And it’s interesting. I had that experience too. And. I had this one where it’s actually my wife’s, my wife’s sister’s family, right? So my wife’s sister and her husband ended up investing and they were great.
Ken: That I even considered them and asked them to, to invest and it was almost Hey, here’s an opportunity. I obviously really believe in it. Let me tell you about it. I would feel bad if we blew up and this company really took off and I didn’t even mention that this was an opportunity.
Ken: And so I don’t know. It’s nice to think about it from that perspective as well. And it’s how I would feel, let’s say that like my brother was starting this hot new company and it was taken off. If he didn’t present me with the opportunity to get involved or to put a little bit of money in.
Ken: I think that I’d feel a little shortchanged, so I don’t know. It’s interesting to look at it that way.
Hannah: Yeah, I wish I had that point of view. I think it’s like a mindset thing, right? Coming from like a place of having to ask for something versus offering an opportunity.
Ken: Yeah. That’s a good way to put it. Okay, so you guys raised a little bit of money. You got off the ground. Let’s talk just a little bit about those years leading up to you guys being just on shark tank. So I want to make sure that we get that. We cover that but tell us just a little bit about the growth.
Ken: I know it’s a couple of years there, but tell us about maybe a couple of milestones that you were able to hit in that timeframe.
Hannah: Yeah. Not to mention how we were renting an hourly kitchen. We grew very quickly to a year long lease like that, like our only space. But we were manufacturing our ice cream ourselves because.
Hannah: This is not how you make ice cream. Blend frozen bananas together to make ice cream normally at an ice cream factory. And so we honestly did not know how to co-pack it. And so we were like, okay, to stay true to what our inspiration is, we have to do it ourselves for a while.
Hannah: And so that’s all we did. And Until we won sprouts. And when we got into sprouts and not just regionally at the time, the volume you do your MBA throughput exercise on paper, and you’re like, I can totally do this. And I totally could not do it. It was terrible. And I did get an A in operations for the record, but I definitely got an F in real life because it was just a lot, it’s just different in real life.
Hannah: And we were like, We definitely need to co-pack. But our ice cream is very special. And so we need to find a partner who can work with us on this and really stay true to what our product is. And so that took a year and going through many co-packer tests to get to a point where we’re like, okay, this is the co-packer for us.
Hannah: They understand our product with these and these like adjustments. We can make what we want to make. And so we actually still cope with them and.
Ken: Do you mind letting me interrupt there just real quick, because that step right there, that’s actually one that a lot of entrepreneurs in this space struggle with, maybe just touch on what are some of the red flags, right?
Ken: Like when you talk to a co-packer and you didn’t end up going with them, and then what is it? They gave you the confidence that these guys could be a good partner with you guys.
Hannah: So I think so many thoughts, but one is one is you have to understand your position of power, right?
Hannah: So like at the time even today, or even today, we’re still very small, but we don’t have that much power as a brand. So I am not. Like a huge brand. That’s going to buy 50% of your capacity for the year. So I don’t have that kind of purchasing power with a co-packer. So you’re coming in from a position of.
Hannah: Strength when you are talking to a call back depending on their size. But in my category, that’s the situation. And so you have to be pretty careful, right? Like you can’t just be super judgy and demanding, from the beginning, you have to really feel out the relationship. And it’s also challenging because you’re coming from a position of less power.
Hannah: But when you talk to them, I think something that the co-packers that we do work with Has been an important trait is their willingness to learn from us and not being like. This is exactly what you need to do and how you need to do it. And this is what the recipe needs to be like. Otherwise your ice cream is not a real product.
Hannah: There were co-packers who were like that, especially in the beginning before we had significant retail distribution. And so I think. Gauging, especially if you have an innovative product, their willingness to work with you on doing something different is really important for us.
Hannah: And I think for a lot of the brands that are more innovative.
Ken: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. A flexibility and a willingness to change their process a little bit and not just coming okay, we’re the experts here. We know how to make ice cream. No, this is how you have to make your product.
Hannah: Yes. And inevitably you have to get to the what’s your volume, what are your minimum orders like conversation? And I think that’s an important part of making sure, like you’re a fit for each other. But that’s something, any category, any co-packer you’re going to have to get.
Ken: Okay. Got it.
Ken: Anything else about that? Maybe some red flags, like things that you looked out for that would end the conversation like these guys aren’t going to work.
Hannah: I think I’m a man. I haven’t thought about it that much because you feel so burned from the bad experiences. It’s like a really bad breakup and you want to forget about it as early as possible. But looking back, I think if I think about the ones where I think like that it was a mistake to work with them, or that could’ve gone better. I’m trying to think what are the common threads?
Hannah: But I think one of them would be lack of transparency. They can, if someone is saying all the right things to you, but then when you ask them a more detailed question or asked to be on site and they won’t let you do those things, then I think you have to be a little bit aware or worried that there might be something going on.
Hannah: Okay. It sounds so basic when you are so excited to start manufacturing at scale, you get blinded by the possibility of like scale or finding someone that finally will work well with you or all those things. And so you maybe ignore those kinds of red flags.
Ken: Yeah, and even furthermore, I think sometimes you get to a place where you feel like there’s almost nobody that will work with you. And so you’re always desperate where you feel like, oh, you guys will do it. Okay, cool. And so then you forget to really do your due diligence, realize that.
Hannah: So right now, that is exactly how I felt like I was just like, please let this be the one please. And then, so I was willing to overlook things that normally might’ve been, you might’ve been like, why can’t I be there? Like things like that. Yeah,
Ken: I think it’s just common like I’ve been there.
Ken: I think everybody’s been there, and so you just don’t want to make the same mistake twice, okay tell us just a little bit about distribution. You said that you guys were able to get into sprout. How did that come?
Hannah: It’s real meat cute for us, considering actually it’s not like the NICU, it’s like online dating now, but they actually found us on range, me and like we did not have a premium account or anything, but like the someone from sprouts reached out to us. And so we were like, oh this is when we were literally in 40 doors, just local whole foods. And a few of those independent natural mom and pops here in LA.
Hannah: And so I was just very surprised to get the call or email, and we set up a meeting and that was the beginning. And so we started regionally with them, but last year went national across the country with sprouts and are launching two new items. There are milk Pines. First-time at sprouts, so it’s super exciting.
Hannah: And. Yeah. That’s how sprouts happened. Oh, can I share how we met Costco though? Cause that’s, I think the cutest story considering our industry. So we used to have a soft serve pop-up in Hawaii. And we used to make banana soft serve and I’m like, The Hawaii Costco buyers, wife liked our saucer, realized we had a CPG product, told her husband, he brought us in for a meeting, and then he introduced us to his LA counterpart.
Hannah: Who is the LA buyer for ice cream for the region? Then we cultivated that relationship with her for another year before we got a test and then we got a rotation. And so this year we’ll be doing our second rotation with the LA region. It actually launches in three weeks. So if this is in time, if you live in LA, please go to Costco and buy our product.
Ken: Definitely. And you said that w I guess with sprout though are you now. I am. Yes. I’m wondering how I can get some of this is what I’m curious about.
Hannah: Oh, did you? Yes, I think I did. I got an address and they shipped you sound, but we are at sprouts nationally. The new oatmeal Pines will hit stores like by the end of this month, I think that’s the reset.
Ken: Cool. Okay. Yeah, I appreciate it. And I’ll look for that shipment. I haven’t seen anything yet, but I always do these around around noon and I’m starving and you’re talking about ice cream and it sounds great. And. So anyway, I’m really craving it right now is what I’m basically saying.
Hannah: I’ll make sure to get you some, if you haven’t gotten it yet.
Ken: Okay. So let’s fast forward. How did shark tank come about?
Hannah: That’s also how they actually approached. A few years ago. And at the time we were in just it’s before we were in sprouts or right before a reset that’s when they reached out to us.
Hannah: And I was mentioning how my throughput exercise was not good and I was not doing well on the manufacturing that I need, I was running like double shifts, building pallets at 11 o’clock at night. Like I was just slaving away. It was just really hard operationally, but that’s when they approached us.
Hannah: And so obviously I’m not going to let this opportunity pass by. And we talked to them and for whatever reason, we were not a fit for that season. And I think in retrospect it’s a huge blessing in disguise because I was like working round the clock just barely.
Hannah: Barely making POS look naughty. Then my appeal failure rate was really high at the time, so I’m just pumping out ice cream and shipping it immediately, like constantly. And so if we were on shark tank at that time now, knowing how much time it takes to actually prepare and do the segment and then the aftereffects of it, we would have not been able to take advantage of it.
Hannah: Being on the show or having done a good job preparing. So I think it’s good that we got rejected that year. And then after we got national with sprouts last year Molly and I were talking and it was like, Ooh, do we still have that producer’s email? From the one who reached out to us like a long time ago.
Hannah: And we surely did. And so we emailed him because at that point now we felt a lot more ready operationally and marketing wise to be able to take advantage of an opportunity like shark tank. And so we reached out to them and there are like many rounds of selection and things you have to do.
Hannah: And we were lucky enough to be chosen to film and then lucky enough to air because not everyone who feels. Errors. And so we just aired three weeks ago now I think, so it’s really fresh in my mind.
Ken: It’s really fresh. And so what kind of impact has it had on your business?
Hannah: Yeah we are a wholesale item pretty much. And so we did not have a fancy website or e-com at all. And so we. You find out a few weeks before your air date. And we have been trying to get a website set up, but as someone who’s not an expert in those things, it took us a really long time.
Hannah: And we ended up getting it all together literally three days before air day. And so I like to joke that our lift from shark tank was infinite too, because our sales online before shark tank were zero. And you can’t divide by zero. Yeah. But it was a huge for. Only e-comm experience, but it was a steep learning curve because obviously shipping things frozen is very challenging.
Hannah: And I’m really glad we were able to find a good partner to work with and in time to be able to do that. But it was a real trial by fire. And we’re on the other end of it now, and things are a little bit more normalized. But we definitely had a lot to learn and are still of course learning about this.
Hannah: On shark tank or, oh, okay. Spoiler. We did not get a deal.
Ken: And you still saw a huge lift.
Hannah: Oh yeah. I don’t think so, either. And we weren’t disappointed by that. Of course. Being the ACE student that I am, that would have been amazing, but our expectation going in was not to get a deal necessarily.
Hannah: It was like that would have been amazing, but it was more like, If we can tell America about our product that’s the price. I think just being on the show is really helpful. And of course the sharks had only the nicest things to say about the product. So that really helped.
Ken: Yeah, very cool. So let’s know we’re trying to wrap up here. You’ve got a hard stop in about five minutes. Let’s just switch over to the quick fire round and then end with some concluding remarks. Are you ready for four quick questions?
Hannah: Oh, I’m really bad at thinking on my feet, but I’ll try.
Ken: All right. What’s one tool or resource that you feel has helped you the most in your business?
Hannah: One tool or resource. Oh, you know what? We just started using it. For design, it’s new to me and I freaking love it.
Ken: Oh yeah. It’s awesome. It’s awesome. It’s really good for web and mobile stuff too. So yeah.
Ken: What is one book that you could recommend to me?
Hannah: Do you know, I just read it. It’s an older book, but it’s called focus. I think it’s called focus, but it’s about marketing and what does your brand stand for? I listened to it on tape, to be honest.
Ken: I know I always feel a little guilty, like saying I read it but I’m a total audio book junkie
Hannah: Oh my God.
Hannah: Now I feel old. It’s an audio book. It’s not a book on tape.
Ken: What is one piece of advice that you would give your 21 year old self?
Hannah: That’s a hard question, Ken, but I think I would say you’re not doing anything wrong. Like you’re on the right track
Ken: Who is a one person maybe another entrepreneur or somebody in your field that you would love to take out to lunch.
Hannah: Oh fly by Jane or that’s her name is Jane and her brand is called fly by Jane. So I think she’s incredible. And what she’s done in the past. Two years I think is how long they’ve been around is really exciting. And so I would love to take her to lunch. She’s actually local. So Jane, if you’re listening,
Ken: What’s her product?
Ken: I’ve never actually heard of it.
Hannah: Oh, it’s chili crisp oil. It actually just went national, I think national, but with the target of the lunar new year, and they’ve got a huge big promotion from it. Really cool. I just love that she’s really authentic through her roots and also being Asian American that obviously speaks a lot to me.
Hannah: And her product is very high quality and she’s changing a lot of perceptions of cheap Chinese soup, cause that’s like a stereotype rate. And like I love all of that. And I think they do a really good job of communicating who they are and Values as a company to their consumers.
Hannah: And I think that’s business wise, like I think she does an amazing job of that. And so that’s what I would like to talk to her about.
Ken: Very cool. I’ll have to check it out. Yeah. So as we’re wrapping up here I’m just thinking about the new year where the time we’re recording this, it’s the 4th of February.
Ken: So it’s early in the year. What do you have coming up here this next year that you’re looking forward to any new products or anything that you could tell us?
Hannah: Yeah, thanks, Ken. So we had our Costco rotation, that’s coming up and then our new opines hitting national sprouts, and we’re really excited about our geographic growth.
Hannah: So we got some new distribution in the Southeast of the United States at Winn-Dixie and looking to grow more. Throughout the country. So look out for America.
Ken: Awesome. Awesome. We’ll definitely look out for your product. If you could give any sort of parting advice to other food entrepreneurs that may be listening, what would you do?
Hannah: I think that it’s really important to find some founder friends, especially if you’re a solo founder, cause this is certainly a lonely journey sometimes, and at least we have each other.
Ken: No, that’s great advice. And even just sometimes just to know that you’re not the only one running into those problems.
Ken: That itself is really bad. Okay. Hannah, you’ve been great guests. I appreciate you taking the time. This is an awesome interview. Appreciate it.
Hannah: Thank you so much, Ken.
Ken: Okay, good luck. We’ll talk soon. Bye bye. The physical Product movement podcast is brought to you by Fiddle to find out more about Fiddle and how our industry leading inventory ops platform is giving modern brands and manufacturers full visibility into their inventory and operations.
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