In this episode of The Physical Product Movement Podcast, Elena Guberman, CEO of newly launched CPG brand TBH, joins us to discuss creativity and art in operations and how learning new things on the job and through a community has always helped her thrive.
TBH is an honest snacking company founded by Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp, which makes a healthy hazelnut cocoa spread that you’ll love having in your fridge.
As the CEO, Elena explains why operations in the CPG space should work closely with sales and marketing to succeed. She gives some insights about the best practices in operations when it comes to manufacturing, sourcing, and supply chain.
Elena also provides valuable advice on managing challenges and what to focus on when building a team.
Listen on Apple Podcasts here or Spotify here.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a 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 Ojuka.
Taylor: Today’s episode is with Elena Guberman. She’s the CEO of the newly launched CPG brand TBH. An honest snacking company founded by actor Noah Schnapp, a name you would definitely recognize if like me, you’ve watched “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Elena has been in the CPG industry for over a decade. She landed her first job in operations by walking the aisles of Whole Foods, picking up products she liked and contacting those companies through the “Contact Us” emails on the packages, that sense of initiative and creativity that led her to do unique things like that permeate her career. She talks about creativity in art and operations. How learning new things on the job and through a community has always helped her thrive. Why operations should work closely with sales and marketing to truly win and succeed. Why it’s important to be iterative and flexible. Her rule of five whenever asking someone for advice, and plenty of other words of wisdom, I had such a great time learning from Elena, and I think you’ll love what she has to say. So without further ado here is Elena Guberman. All right, Elena. Welcome to the Physical Product Movement Podcast. How’s it going?
Elena: It’s going great. Happy Tuesday.
Taylor: Happy Tuesday to you as well. We’re both kind of in colder climates. So you got your beanie on and I’ve got my sweatshirt on mine and I usually have a little space heater under my desk too.
Taylor: I don’t want to come up there on the audio. So I’ll just have to be a little colder.
Elena: Real chilly, it’s ok.
Taylor: I’m super excited to talk to you. Exactly again, for the blood strain. That’s a good way to look at it. Well, I’m super excited to talk to you. This is the first time that we’ve ever formally chatted, but obviously I’ve been following you on the socials and in your OMG CPG Facebook group and all the places and just stoked to get to know you better and to hear more about TBH and everything.
Taylor: But to start, we always like to start this off with some kind of a quote or mantra, something that is inspirational for you either now or in the past.
Elena: Yeah. So, I’ve become, I never was when I was younger, but I’d become a little bit of a history nerd and love Winston Churchill. And he has a couple of really good quotes, but one of my favorites is, that success is going from failure to failure without a lack of enthusiasm.
Elena: And I think that was especially special just because often when folks talk about their lives, it is easier or maybe more memorable to highlight the positives. But often there are a lot of hardships and a lot of negatives in between. So for me, those are kind of the building blocks. And I love that quote, it kind of acknowledges that there are failures, but it doesn’t treat them as such. So I often repeat that one to myself.
Taylor: I love that. Yeah, because I like people in general tend to highlight successes and on social media, that’s kind of what everyone puts forward, but it really is like behind the scenes, there’s so much failure that happens and you have to be able to move from each phase of failure, to, you know, enthusiastically in order to really reach and reach your goals and a failure. It doesn’t ever stop. It’s not like once you succeed, failure stops, right?
Elena: Yeah. I read something I’m going to butcher this, this memory, but there was something about like, if you bought apple stock. In like, you know, 50 years ago or something, or, you know, 40 years ago. That was great. But you would have had to go bankrupt like 400 times.
Elena: Like you would have to go through like 400 failures in order to truly come out of it. And that’s just another way of looking at it, but, but yeah, you’re right. It’s just though his ups and downs,
Taylor: For sure. So, I mean, I’m going to ask you, I’m going to kind of put you on the spot with that quote then. So you’ve been in the CPG space since 2008, according to your LinkedIn, is that, right?
Elena: That is, yeah, my first job wasn’t in food and beverage. So I’ve been in operations, I guess since 2008. First job out of college was with a manufacturer who made things in Asia and imported it into the United States.
Elena: I worked with them part-time when I was in school and I studied abroad, came back from Brooklyn, so just a good job, like filing and doing random stuff around the office. And then when I graduated in 2008, I didn’t have anything lined up and their logistics manager had just left and they were like, well, you seem to know where the invoices are, maybe you’re good with it, you’re good to go. And yeah, I kind of took on that job. I graduated with international relations as a major in art history and really wanted to gravitate to more like human relations and languages and arts, but kind of fell into this job and I was there during the dotcom boom. When we used to sell to big box stores, we made composters in greenhouses, imported them and then sold them to places like BJ’s, Walmarts, Costcos, Sam’s Clubs.
Elena: And it was fine. But I was with them through the dotcom boom, and normally have like 20 orders a day but then I walked in on a Monday to 5,000 when we launched on Costco.com and imagined like I was printing out every single order. Keying it into a computer and sending it to our warehouse. So after we dealt with that little disaster of hiring temps and making sure those orders go out, I kind of took a step back and realized that there was just a better way to do it.
Elena: I’ve always liked technology, but really, again, didn’t really see myself going into business. So although my parents might disagree with that, if they look at me from an earlier age. So I spent two and a half years at that company kind of redoing their internal infrastructure. So learning EDI and learning how to map systems.
Elena: And we grew from about one and a half million to 22 to 23 million without hiring anyone. It was still just kind of me and the COO, and our CEO. So I really love the kind of optimization to growth scenario that I helped create and fell in love with operations and how it allows a company to really grow and scale.
Elena: And then in my mid twenties realized I didn’t love green houses or composters, and I really wanted to connect more with a brand. So I, you know, kind of in the middle of a turning point in life, just quit my job and walked around Whole Foods. I was like, I love food. I want to work in food and walked around Whole Foods, picked up packages and just emailed them like hello @ emails on the back.
Elena: I did that for maybe a week, like a couple hours a day, just spent in Whole Foods. And then finally a baby food company in Brooklyn emailed me back. They were just getting going and just moved to Brooklyn from Massachusetts, just about into Whole Foods. So I joined the little duck organics team. That was my first kind of entry point into CPG, at least natural and organic, which is the space I tend to live and thrive in.
Elena: And I was with them for two and a half years. I love CPG and love the organic natural space. I thought the people were incredible and full of life and motivation and desire to bring new, good food into our homes. And I kind of fell in love with that. I think food is one of these things that cross cultures, cross languages, I’m Russian. So I think food is important to me as a cultural identity. And I was really just so happy to fall into CPG.
Taylor: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. I was going to ask you, because your education you said is kind of in art and literature, operations is obviously some would think on the opposite side of that, right? Like one is kind of more, right, right. Uh, creative and the other is more left brain, more logical processes systems, and that kind of thing. How was that adaptation or adaptation for you and kind of that process of using, not that you couldn’t use both sides of your brain, but that you kind of went from one side to the other and found that you liked it. Like, what was that process like for you?
Elena: Yeah. You know, I’m like a terrible artist, so maybe I’m not as far in one direction as my degrees might think. I really like art history as much as history. And I think that being an immigrant, I moved to the states when I was six. So I had to learn English in elementary school and really didn’t know it until about third, fourth grade.
Elena: I think that kind of allowed me to think a little bit differently. My parents have worked really hard and are always persistent and kind of taught me determination. We didn’t really have to give up or any kind of weak thought when I was growing up, they kinda just moved somewhere. Totally new. Didn’t know anyone didn’t know the language and, kind of persevered.
Elena: Like I never felt any kind of. Yeah. It felt just like all the other kids, except I didn’t know the lingo. So I think the change for me and maybe this is just me, but I think a lot of operators might feel this. I think there’s actually a lot of creativity in operations. Maybe it’s more mathematical creativity, but, and maybe it’s, you know, spreadsheet like spreadsheet creativity, but I think that building a supply chain for something completely unknown is perhaps to me the same as, kind of a creative outlet and, truly like I did have internships that connected to my major. So I majored in international affairs, wanted to work for the UN and my secondary kind of concentration was art history and Spanish. I interned at the UN and I worked at Christie’s auction house and both of those experiences kind of showed me that wasn’t the place where I felt great.
Elena: Like I walked into an auction house and would stare at art, but truly it’s a business and that’s not why I was there. So I didn’t really connect with that environment. And interning for the UN was amazing and inspiring, and I love what they’re doing, but like I need faster action. So I spent, you know, six months organizing a meeting for heads of state when I studied abroad in Barcelona and planning something for six months, like I just , I wanted, kind of more, either more action or like more results. Like I love working with something tangible that we could taste, that we can get 10 people around a table and we can all eat it. And while even in CPG things take, you know, you want to work with a retailer that might take 12 months. It might take 18 months.
Elena: But, I don’t know. It feels like there’s something kind of tangible, connected to it. So I still think there’s a lot of, a lot of creativity in operations or maybe that’s how my brain is created it.
Taylor: Absolutely makes sense. And again, kind of coming from what you’re talking about where you know, UN is kinda what it’d be kinda like the would be kinda of like the pinnacle of someone who’s doing international studies.
Taylor: That’s like kind of as good as it gets. Right. There’s like lots of other things you could do, but like you’re here in the U S but you’re working with countries all over the world, but then you get in there and you see how much red tape there is, and kind of how slowly things move and I’m sure if you were to have stuck with that, you would have climbed the ladder and done great.
Taylor: Just like you have with CPG. And maybe you would have been able to make things happen faster, but I hear what you’re saying too about, one of the cool parts about CPG being that you’re selling something tangible and that even if it takes 12 months to get into retail, like you can throw up a website and you can make and ship a product out to somebody within a few days
Elena: Yeah, And I think that a part of like that acknowledgement of the world being greater than I has resonated with me. So I in my career have gravitated to doing good where we can and making it as tangible as can be. So there’s a lot of companies now that you can donate to you, but you can also volunteer or you can work with, you know, a company that has like tangible impact. So I think that kind of impact has resonated with me and I try to lean more toward sustainability.
Taylor: That’s amazing. Kind of speaking about operations, you didn’t study in college, you studied something that helped you use your brain and I’m sure learn how to communicate well. Right. So you’ve kind of had that skill set operations and stuff. How did you, how did you go about learning how to do it?
Elena: I think there are a lot of other. Entrepreneurs or folks in the CPG space will, would resonate with this would resonate with them. But I think a lot of times, especially for me, I learned by doing so that’s kind of any what happens, but, as I’ve gotten older, I also acknowledged that that’s just how I learn.
Elena: So for Ops in CPG or Ops in general, like I kind of just was thrown into the fire and had to pick up the pieces and learn. I think that’s kind of special because you immediately see impact, right? Like there’s no period where you’re studying and then you actually do it. You’re literally doing it in the moment.
Elena: And I think moving from import export as my first role, more toward domestic manufacturing and CPG, where there are a lot of more tinier parts, you know, CPG products. Kind of on shelf running anywhere from like five to, let’s say $40. I was dealing with greenhouses, which were, you know, a thousand, $2,000 purchase.
Elena: So one pallet was, you know, one item and here I’m dealing with boxes and a lot more corrugate, a lot more packaging. But I think you kind of just learn and I also am a strong believer in community. So as soon as I don’t know, something I don’t hesitate to ask. So you mentioned OMG CPG, that kind of group was created because, and now very close friends in the space who, Van was just like a new friend, both of us were in CPG, I had worked at a brand working with extrusion and she was starting a company that was making an extruded product.
Elena: So we were truly connected with, as girls who love extrusion, which perhaps were few and far in between in 2010. And we kind of shared stories and realized that I knew a lot that she didn’t, and she knew some things maybe in other parts of business that I did not. So, OMG CPG was really created as a way to acknowledge sharing Mindshare.
Elena: And it’s now a community of like 2,600. Founders, operators in CPG. I think we still have a backlog of folks that we were letting in slowly but surely. And it’s incredible to see how open people are with information. And really the scariest part is asking. So as soon as I got past the fear of the ask and the fear of like, seeming like you might not know everything, which is often almost always the case then, people are willing to help and support and you live and you learn.
Taylor: I love that. And I’ll just throw in a quick plug too, and we’ll link it up in the podcast notes, but, OMG CPG is a fantastic group to join. It was one of the first groups that I joined when I kind of made my foray into the CPG space, at least on the software side of things where I am now.
Taylor: And that group in the start-ups CCG group are probably my two favorite because they’re super active. And like you said, people in the group are super helpful. And you can pop in there and ask a question about any topic I try to go on and answer questions to try to be helpful when I can, I should probably jump in there more often, but awesome groups.
Taylor: So for those of you listening, if you’re looking for that community, you know, like Elena mentioned, um, a place where you can go and connect and share and learn and ask the questions and you know, all that stuff. I definitely recommend that group.
Elena: Thanks. Thanks. I think, a lot of the folks that joined in the earlier years when Courtney and I started OMG CPG are now founders, who’ve gone through exits and just like you, like, we might kind of be busy with other things, but I think often people jump in and help, like as much as they can. So you do get these like pockets of folks who are super incredible, very knowledgeable. And as long as the question I found, like maybe the biggest learning I have is from that group, it’s like how to ask questions, right? Like even now fundraising, like the ask is one of the most important parts and I want to make it easy for people, but, there’s a lot of us in OMG CPG and in startups. They’re around, like people are willing to help, especially if you ask a question and it’s kind of an you know, like where do I get this ingredient? Or does anyone know XYZ? You know, bigger questions? Like, how do I manufacture or what do I do about this or that, like, maybe that becomes like a zoom call with a couple of brands, but knowledge sharing has been absolutely incredible.
Elena: And it’s really a way to like level up your game without, I mean, it’s, it’s like a free little, I, it as like. MBA education. Like I was considering getting an MBA and then I realized that like, I’m literally getting it every day. So.
Taylor: That’s awesome. I love that. I wanted to ask you something you mentioned when you transitioned from your first role in operations and the first company that you were at after college, and you kind of transitioned into the CPG space that you decided to go to Whole Foods and walk the aisles
Taylor: looking at products and then just contacting the companies on the backs of the labels. Like that’s a pretty creative way to look for a job. Like, did you call us out on your own? Did someone tell you to do that? Like I have to ask about that.
Elena: I think I did come up with that on my own. My entire family was not pleased and especially before I had another one set up, which is a, no-no not at all, not at all. I come from like a Russian family. So I think the job I had was fine and they didn’t at first see anything wrong with it now they’re, they’re very proud and happy that I kind of take my own road often. But no, I didn’t hear that it, that wasn’t advice I got from someone that was just, spontaneous. You know, looking back like great decision, but in the moment, like very questionable choice that I made.
Elena: Some advice that I’ve gotten later in life that follows a similar framework was, and this, you know, ties into community a lot. If I ever kind of need something or I’m trying to learn a new skill, I usually think of five people who generally might know something in that realm and ask them that question, but also ask them for five other people that I can talk with.
Elena: And at the very least you get like 25 other humans that are either probably interesting number one, but also could help you with whatever that information is. So, you know, if I, like for example, currently I need an accountant, so I emailed five people that I think might have good accounts. And if they don’t, perhaps they have friends.
Elena: So really like leveraging just humans, other humans, like we’re surrounded by each other all the time. So we can leverage each other’s knowledge. That probably is easy because just in our heads. But that’s, it follows a similar framework of just like go out there and ask and do it. whether through others or through yourself.
Taylor: I like that a lot. That’s a really, that’s a really simple but powerful framework to follow. And I can see how that would apply to not only finding a job, but when you’re in your job and you need help and want to connect with others and ask questions and that kind of thing, that’s like a, that’s a cool way to like, talk to the people that, you know, might be able to help, but also recognize that they might know someone that you don’t know or kind of, they, they might know something or someone that you don’t know that can help you. And so just by asking them to connect you with more people, your network expands and then your likelihood of being able to solve the problem increases exponentially as well. That’s awesome. I love that. I love the little like simple rules like that. That can have such an awesome impact. Um, yeah, that’s really cool. So operation stuff, I’m curious. Cause you’ve obviously got a lot of experience at various brands on your own, your current brand as a CEO as well, which I want to get to that, but as far as operations go, you said that you learned it on the job, which is awesome when you needed help or when you had, when you ran into roadblocks, you would go to communities and kind of find the answers that way, ask people for help. Just kind of in general, what are some of the, kind of the best practices that you found over your years in operations when it comes to manufacturing, sourcing, supply chain, all that stuff. Like what are some best practices that come to mind knowing that not every situation’s the same and it depends. It’s probably going to be your answer for a lot of things, but maybe some just kind of a general best practices that you’ve found to be useful for you?
Elena: It depends. It’s definitely, it’s definitely the answer, I think, especially to like anyone who might listen to this or anyone in the CPG space these days, I think the last couple of years have just been so volatile that perhaps, you know, a good, good words to live by is just, um, Be iterative and constantly be adaptable, which is really hard for this industry because we deal with inventory and storage and physical goods.
Elena: So it’s really hard as opposed to, you know, tack where maybe it’s code or, engineering, like a backend infrastructure here. We have warehouses full of things and if something goes wrong or if we don’t have paper or corrugate or humans, human labor, we deal with challenges and roadblocks, I think one thing in operations that’s important to consider and I have to remind myself of this all the time, because it’s very easy to kind of get excited and want and wanting is fantastic. But I think looking at information, looking at data is really important. So, even for CPG, we’re an early brand. We’re only out a hundred. We’re coming up on like a hundred days in two days for the launch November 1st.
Elena: So data’s a little bit of a struggle cause we almost don’t, we don’t have enough or at least I want more maybe is the better way to say it. I think in ops you have to deal with the constant juggle of supply and demand. And I think making sure that the door between sales marketing and ops is ever fluid is really important.
Elena: Finances. I think deals with like the repercussions of these conversations, but between sales, ops, and marketing, I think it’s so crucial for everyone to be in communication because sales and marketing really drive the business forward. And operations has to make sure that everything is available in there.
Elena: But the dialogue between those three entities earlier in my career, I just remember, you know, like someone on the sales team would like get us into a retailer and all of a sudden. On the ops side receive POS, we would just get them. They’re like, I’m sorry, what? Like in a month or how come we didn’t converse about this?
Elena: How come there was no dialogue? So later on in my career, I realize that truly just like being in a room and being able to talk about what a department, which, what each department is doing is really important. So, I think really that’s my best advice or maybe the words that I live by is just constant communication.
Elena: And I think one other thing to notice how important marketing is like as an entity for any CPG brands, right? Like sales, at least on the retail side is a matter of doors and shelves and velocities. And of course there’s a much deeper conversation about promotional schedules and how you work with those retailers to improve those sales, but in a world where you know, now we have a Web 3.0 and NFTs, and like all of these other elements that can create these communities that are really powerful for brands. I think from the marketing side, we have to make sure. Like the email part of your company is functioning properly and there’s revenue that can be created there.
Elena: And your connections to an audience and community building is there. And that can be leveraged at other parts of a company’s life cycle. I think at the end of the day, even when I started this new role in-house, when I haven’t been in-house in a very long time, I think communication between me and my teammates is kind of first and foremost.
Taylor: All right. Well, I love that. And that actually segues well into the next thing I want to talk to you about, which is your current role as CEO. Yeah. You plan that well. So you’re currently the CEO at TBH, which I’m fond of that name because my intials are TBH. So it just works out really well. Taylor Brian Howe. I love it. So well done there. I knew it. You and Noah. Yeah. So I obviously heard about the company through you and then saw that Noah Schnapp, Schnapp?
Taylor: Schnapp. Okay. That he’s part of it. Obviously I’ve seen stranger things and love it, and that caught my eyes. So tell me about how you came to join TBH and what you guys are up to over there?
Elena: Yes. As many things in my life.
Elena: Maybe not accidentally, but seeming lead to me accidentally fell into play. So in 2019, 2020, and 2021, I really focus more in tech and I’m kind of still one foot out of CPG still advised and consulted a number of brands, but really try to focus on more of the tech side focused on litter, actually.
Elena: And then in 2021, after the pandemic. So it took its own toll on me. I stepped aside from my tech company and came back to CPG more with a focus on sustainability, acknowledging that we have to make a brand that lives on a shelf or travels. And it can’t be just in a completely compostable solutions. So there is this inherent difficult nature between CPG and sustainability, but I came back after researching litter and our recycling streams really invigorated to make more of a powerful difference in the CPG space when it comes to our planet as a whole.
Elena: And at first that looked like me consulting with some brands that I really, really loved, which was an interim CEO, a COO for a new hard seltzer company called Half Past, which is really delicious. And then as I was kind of phasing myself out of that role, they were bringing in revops.
Elena: We know it was kind of temporary to get them through the initial stages of their production. I was connected with the venture studio out of which TBH came from. And really they found me, they were looking for someone from the CPG space to take the brand, to market and scale it pretty aggressively. And I love fast growth.
Elena: That’s kind of where my energy comes from. So first and foremost, I actually didn’t know Noah was involved, you know, a lot about the product, but I talked to the venture studio and they told me a little bit about the background of how the company came to be. They had actually worked with Noah for a while on truly identifying something that he loves and
Elena: he was 15 when this process started and as a 15 year old, you know, he he’s been an actor for a long time. I actually didn’t watch Stranger Things. So I wasn’t familiar with him. I’m like the only person I think, in the world, probably. Um, but I, I loved the fact that UVS really took the time to understand who he was like as a human and what he love..
Elena: And what he loved was breakfast. He in a tele kind of as a practice growing up. And when they really dug into the ingredients, the components, Palm oil, specifically how much it was not a positive player in the natural ecosystem as a whole, and how much sugar was in the product. They really committed to creating a better version of it.
Elena: I came on board in the summer of last year, they had already kind of created the framework for what TBH was. We had a name, we had a brand identity. There was a story there. We had identified a manufacturer who feels like an amazing partner to us. And I took us through the last couple of rounds of formulation.
Elena: For me, tastes in CPG is number one. If something tastes crappy, no one will buy it again. They might buy at once, but you want the people that live and breathe, always have it in their fridge, always have it in their cupboard or at least that’s what I always gravitate toward as far as making CPG products, we want it to be incredible.
Elena: So I tried it. Okay. This is great. Took it to the final formulation. I think we landed. I’ll make the 14th version. And Noah loved it. His whole family tried it. We all tried it. Collectively we agreed. And we prepared for the next couple of months launched on November 1st digitally native. So we wanted to stay D2C for, for, you know, depending on how launch went.
Elena: We wanted to at least launch digitally native and really make this a product that lives first on the internet. And that launch was so much more powerful than I expected. I’ve not worked with celebrity brand, but I did talk to a couple of other operator friends who have been involved with celebrities just to really understand the scale.
Elena: And as an operator, I, in this role really have to juggle my data-driven numerical operator self with kind of the CEO visionary part that is constantly fighting the fact that, you know, we want to be here in six months. Let’s like do this thing. The data doesn’t show it. So it really is a struggle, which I think makes me a powerful CEO, because I do have this kind of reasoning in my mind, knowing how much goes into manufacturing, how difficult the processes, the fact that storage, you know, our product will be at a facility.
Elena: We don’t want it to sit too long. We want it to turn fairly quickly. So I think that actually makes me more powerful. And the community we’ve created for TBH since launch has been super fun, to be honest, it’s just people really, especially vegans, like people who are vegan haven’t had Nutella, I talked to a man in his sixties who hasn’t had Nutella in 30 years and he tried TBH.
Elena: It’s like, this is amazing. I’m so excited. And then parents were finding or giving it to their kids more just because the sugar content is, is better than when we have 50%, less sugar than Nutella. Our first ingredient is Hazel nuts and we don’t use Palm oil and kind of have a pillar for sustainability.
Elena: So far it’s been just like we started with just a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, but it is absolutely delicious and fun and feels like a good culmination of the last kind of 10 or 15 years of my career.
Taylor: I love hearing that story and kind of how it came to be your role there through connections and happenstance.
Taylor: And now it kind of, even though you left the CPG space to pursue tech for a little while that when you came back, you had the chance to kind of marry what you’re doing when you left with you know, what you did before and what you’re doing now and kind of how it’s all kind of culminated into your current role.
Taylor: I think it’s really awesome. What surprised you the most? So I think is this right? That this is your first kind of non operator CEO role. Like what has surprised you the most about being the CEO that maybe you didn’t, you know, that you didn’t expect to happen.
Elena: There’s a couple of things that are floating through my mind. So I’ll just tell you the first one that comes out. I love working remotely as a person. It really suits my personality and how I work and I appreciate it always open workspaces. I was a much bigger extrovert pre COVID. Now I think I’ve gravitated toward the other side, or maybe I don’t remember how to socialize anymore.
Elena: When starting rodeo CPG, we’re a fully remote team. Like Zach was in Colorado. I was kind of gallivanting around, but we were fully remote and I, I truly love that environment for me. I work much better, especially for deeper work when I’m kind of quarantine. Not to use that word for pandemic reasons, but truly like sequestered from anyone else, any humans, any distractions.
Elena: And I can go into a spreadsheet and sit there for like four or five hours without even noticing without eating or go to the bathroom or anything. And I will be fully submersed in wanting to accomplish something. And that is for me really great. I think one challenge that I’ve experienced here because I really want to create this awesome culture.
Elena: We have such a great product and Noah’s so full of energy and everything is super positive. Like we’re making this indulgence that is delaying. That is better than something that existed before that is unlike anything in the market. There’s truly nothing negative or crappy about it. It is one of those incredible things.
Elena: So I want our culture so badly to be this Ray of sunshine and Ray of positivity missed all of these tasks and projects and hurdles. And I think it’s a little hard remotely, I’ve talked with a couple of other. Founders and CEOs about how they do it. I think we’re doing everything we can and I can share what our team is doing and what we’ve put in place to stay connected as a team.
Elena: And perhaps there’s really nothing like high-fiving each other and sharing breakfast and lunches and, you know, disappointments and failures and stresses and family stuff and banter, which perhaps. Never really appreciated when I had it and maybe nothing can really replace it, but I think that has been, it hasn’t been a struggle, but it’s something I want
Elena: so badly for our team. I want this wonderful culture where everyone is lifted up and I want to motivate our team. So sometimes I find it a little challenging, cause I don’t know what’s going on through, up through a one’s minds, but we have a daily standing call 9:00 AM Pacific so that the folks in California aren’t terribly disrupted too early in the morning. And it’s an open, it’s an open call. So, you hop on there it shouldn’t last more than 10, 15 minutes. Sometimes we get chatty and that’s completely fine, or people can hop off, but it’s really meant to be a place to shoot off straight, like really fast, rapid fire questions.
Elena: Like, Hey, I sent you this a couple of times I needed, or this is my priority for today. Just everyone keep an eye out on slack, but it’s also a place for us to just reconnect and talk about. Whatever is on our minds right now. We’re an all girl team. So like, Hey guys, like what shampoo are you using? Other folks join in, like Noah’s always invited.
Elena: So I really appreciate that moment of space that everyone holds on their calendar for each other. And we try to do quarterly meetups. At least that is our intention going into 22. That is what we ended up doing in 2021 in preparing for launch, especially. And I think connecting with each other in-person is important.
Elena: So I think once a quarter is nice, we’re all in Miami for about a month for our launch with shelter. And that was really great. Cause we just got to be in person with. I think that’s been the biggest struggle. Other than that, there’s a little more reporting than I thought, but I think I’ve heard that through every Theo’s just like finding all of these elements and how do you report on it in the best possible way.
Elena: I’m a big process person. So which, you know, which tools are we using to maximize what we’re doing? And maybe one other thing. And this is advice I received from some folks in the CPG space when I first took this job as if you haven’t, if I haven’t been clear, like community is so important to me. So I just ask people often.
Elena: So when I first took this job, I kind of reached out to a few folks in the CPG space that have been doing it way, way longer than I, that are very experienced. They, they know me, they know my background, they know that my background is an operation specifically in supply chain and all of them across the board without talking to each other.
Elena: I don’t think told me to be mindful of how much I am in operations. They like, you need to, you need to acknowledge that this is your knowledge base and your baby, but you have to let it go. So bringing in someone to help with that has been really hard, but also just kind of game changing because. It challenges you to trust a lot.
Elena: And I think across the board, maybe that’s the challenge in general and building a team, you have to find people that trust. And for me, I’ve been watching this show co coaches on Netflix about coaches. I don’t know if you’ve watched it, but it’s so good. Coaches have like, um, very powerful. Athletes and just talking to them about what is their perspective?
Elena: How do they do it? And across the board, it’s just all like motivation and mindset. So I think for me kind of giving that piece away and making sure that our entire team is able to trust each other to be where they need to be. Right. I’m only one human. I can’t be in multiple places. If I didn’t trust someone to do operations, I would have to drop the ball somewhere else.
Elena: And I want to be ready for the ball whenever someone needs to throw it to me. And I think that’s not really a challenge. It’s more of just what the learning is that I’m going through right now.
Taylor: I love that. Yeah. They say I haven’t been a CEO yet. I’ve been a partner before kind of a smaller brand. I freelanced, but I’m not being the CEO kind of in a role like year and now, but I have heard, um, I have heard that, one of the, one of the signs of a good leader is to recognize when you need to bring in someone to kind of replace what you’ve been, what you been doing and to let them, and to trust them, trust has been a big word I’ve heard as well to trust that they’re going to do the job that they need to do.
Taylor: And to just bring in and build a team of people that really are smarter than you, right? We want to be the smartest person in the room. That’s a thing that our CEO here says all the time. He doesn’t want to be the smartest guy in the room. And if you are here in the wrong room, so it sounds like you’ve taken that to heart and have been able to build up a solid team so far. So that’s great.
Elena: Thanks. It’s again, an ever-changing ever-growing and for me, definitely a learning, but it’s one that I feel really really great about and really inspired by pretty much every day. So far it’s been wonderful. Yeah, it helps. I think another thing that like in CPG, a lot of the journey is tends to be fairly lonely, right?
Elena: Like, especially now we’re all kind of in our own boxes, in our own homes. And I think for me having UVS be a part of the journey besides our team has been really nice, just because there is other entities like other humans to talk to and to brainstorm of, and at the end of the day where we’re social creatures and we might need that, you know, word of acknowledgement or just another human in the room.
Elena: So it’s been nice having to build our team close together, as close as I can make us in this current environment. And also having the venture studio as a little bit of support for sure
Taylor: That’s awesome. I love that. Well, um, I’ve appreciated this chat. It’s been fun to get to know. You’ve been fun to learn about your background and all the awesome things that you’ve done in the CPG space.
Taylor: So, the last thing I want to ask you is if you have any other parting words of wisdom or any advice to other CPG professionals out there,
Elena: I mean, this might be repeated advice cause I think in the industry we say it often, but just find your customers like find the people that are absolutely crazy about your products.
Elena: Often we want to make something, we want to put it in the world because we love it or it has solved some kind of problem for us, but we are one person and we’re probably blinded by love as an entrepreneur. I’ve been there. Like I’ve been blinded by this thing where of course everyone will want this and how could I not want this?
Elena: But the truth is you just don’t know. So don’t be afraid, I actually asked myself, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? And then just kind of honestly answer that question and perhaps use that as guiding words. But I would just advise everyone to find the folks that love your product and use them as your voice, because at the end of the day, they will be your loudest and best marketing and customer together.
Taylor: I love that! We started with a great quote about moving from failure to failure, with enthusiasm. We ended with another great quote, even without you knowing it, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? So I love that we can kind of have those bookends there, those motivational book ends to our chat.
Elena: Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t even notice that. That’s a good one.
Taylor: Well, thank you again for taking the time to chat with me. It’s been awesome. And I’ll see you later.
Elena: Thanks so much.
Ken: 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 visit fiddle.io, and then make sure to search for Physical Product Movement in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or anywhere else, podcasts are found. Make sure to click subscribe. So you don’t miss any future episodes on behalf of the team here at Fiddle. Thanks for listening.