Jeff reveals the story behind Kuju Coffee, how they came up with their branding, positioning strategy and their approach to wholesale distribution.
Jeff also talks about the importance of knowing your margin, understanding production capacity and why they chose to manufacture in-house.
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, Ken Ojuka.
In this episode, I talk with Jeff Wiguna, Co-Founder and CEO of Kuju Coffee, a leading pour over coffee brand targeted to the outdoor market. Jeff was very generous with his time sharing the origin story for kuju coffee, their branding, and positioning strategy, and explaining their approach to wholesale distribution.
He also talks about the importance of knowing your margins, knowing your production capacity and why they chose to manufacture in-house instead of using a co-packer. Jeff is an awesome guy that really brought it for this interview. Enjoy. Alright. Hey Jeff, how you doing, man? Thanks for joining me.
Jeff: I’m doing well. Glad to be here.
Ken: Hey, um, so you’re the CEO, one of the founders of a kudu coffee, and we’re really excited to talk to you and kind of hear the, hear the backstory here, your journey. Let’s uh, let’s actually start off with a little bit about yourself. Um, this is a company you founded with your brother. Is that right?
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. It was in 2015, we were on a camping trip to Red Rock Canyon and, uh, everything around us was beautiful. And we just remember the instant coffee we had just didn’t live up to the experience. So that’s kind of like the small epiphany that happens. So if you check out the company or brand store, which was founded by two Eagle scout brothers who got tired of instant coffee while camping, and so that’s kind of what started at all.
Um, so I guess you can say it’s worked out, it’s been an interesting journey to say the least for the coffee world and the outdoor world, but, um, yeah, that’s how it got started.
Ken: So, um, who who’s older? You or your brother?
Jeff: Uh, I’m older. Yeah, we actually have another brother. Um, and, uh, so I’m actually the eldest of the three he’s the youngest.
Ken: Okay. And the Eagle Scouts, is he an Eagle scout too?
Jeff: Yeah, we we’re both Eagle Scouts. Uh, we were in different troops growing up, but that’s, you know, I think scouting is a pretty powerful institution in the U S so you get a lot of a certain amount of cultural alignment, I think when, when two people are Eagle Scouts, so, yeah.
Ken: Okay. Very cool. And, uh, where’d you guys grow up?
Jeff: Uh, we grew up in Southern California. So I think most people across the country, uh, would probably be more familiar with the area of Long Beach. But the city specifically is the city of Cerritos, which is maybe five, 10 minutes from long beach
Ken: okay. Cool. Cool. And I want you to tell us just a little bit about your, your, your work history, you know, what’d you, what’d you do once you got out of school and, um, what did you do before you, you started, could you coffee?
Jeff: Yeah. Before all this, I was out of school. I was a sales rep for Johnson Johnson on selling medical devices. And that was a pretty, pretty hard crash course. And just. How to sell, uh, I would walk into doctor’s offices, uh, nine times out of 10 cold, unless you built a relationship and just take my, or find my time to chat it up with, uh, folks in the front desk. And eventually, you know, try to speak with the doctors and keeping them stocked on, uh, J and J product.
The company specifically was called LifeScan and. And just being on the road all the time. Um, so I didn’t even really have an office. I had a company car and everything, uh, and it, it didn’t love it because I knew that that category work was phasing out. And it’s not so much salesmanship as much these days it drives revenue.
And then over time I gave it a go at a first company, uh, that didn’t work out, but it moved on. Did some work for display advertising company. Uh, I got fired from that because that didn’t do well. I was still too distraught from my experience with the first company not working out, but then I landed at this, uh, fair trade greeting card company that wasn’t just in a handful of whole foods stores.
And that ended up being a great experience. I had helped take that company from a few stores to the national distribution and whole foods. And that’s when I realized that, you know, coming, I was living in San Francisco at the time, uh, that, that physical goods consumer packages was what I was probably more interested in and able to be successful at.
So. That was a great job. I was supposed to transition into the CEO role after that, but negotiation saw through, so then I had to resign. So, you know, so, you know, being fired once because performance and then performance was good as at this company because alignment wasn’t there. I was also let go. Um, and then that’s around the same time we were on this camping trip and we had the epiphany with instant coffee, just not being.
Good. And we said, well, maybe this is the time to give it, give it a try. So I think a lot of entrepreneurs tend to be, you know, you can definitely start it from a place of privilege for so often. And it’s driven my, uh, A strong need to just get something done or make money. I think for me, it’s probably a general mix of a lot of things, but that’s, that’s kind of the, in a nutshell, my path to this, it’s not like I was working for an outdoor company or doing coffee too much before this or anything.
Ken: Sure. Sure. Um, but I’m sure, you know, your, your experience with those other companies was w was relevant, uh, you know, specifically about selling, you know, uh, that first job seems like, you know, learning how to go in cold, talk to doctors and sell them. That sounds very good.
Jeff: Yeah. That was definitely valuable to build up a skin to just say, you know, I’m going to ask somebody a million times until they say yes and.
No, it doesn’t phase me if they say no a million times. Uh, I, I don’t know how valuable maybe the other experiences were directly, um, because we’re at a place now at Fuji coffee where we’re scaled past a lot of the stuff that had done. But I think if I learned anything, it was just one realizing that I was an entrepreneur, which is why I was just like, not necessarily happy holding a job for a prolonged period of time, but also just the grit and the perseverance of getting laid off or getting fired and working hard and realize that you just keep going. And that’s, that’s what it is as a founder. So.
Ken: So looking at your LinkedIn profile. Um, so was your previous job, was it with a good paper? Is that right?
Jeff: Uh, before Cujo coffee? Yes, I was with good paper. That’s the fair trade greeting card company. Know the whole foods deal.
Ken: And so it seems like it’s about that time that you started taking a hard look at CPG products and, and maybe started an interest in maybe launching that.
Um, you’d mentioned that you were interested in it. Was there anything particular that, that stood out to you or was attractive to you that drew you to CPG?
Jeff: Yeah. What I liked about CPG is that it’s actually a very marketing driven industry. Because the truth is there’s so much package goes out there that is not too differentiated and that’s why you have shelves of like various types of bread and yogurts and so forth. Um, but at the same time, I was actually always fascinated by the idea of monetizing commodities. Um, so like the idea of a Duracell battery existing alongside an Energizer battery. I mean, they’re both batteries, but they’re different products.
That’s just so fascinating to me. It dawned on me that I think I’m physically good. And if it’s a commodity like coffee, it could be a really great product to build a brand and build something, build a culture that could be. Um, very culturally relevant, um, where the value is almost in the way that you mold culture.
Whereas if you’re Google, you know, so much of your market cap is based on actual product functionality, but if you’re a Starbucks, um, you know, how, how are you really that different from every other coffee shop? I mean, they are, but it’s, it’s more through the marketing and positioning, not, not the actual coffee.
Uh, itself and that’s, that was always fascinating to me. And it continues to be, uh, to this day. Um, I, you know, as far as physical products are concerned, you know, I don’t think anyone has an appreciation for the complexity of, of how a supply chain can affect a number of elements of a packaged goods business.
But, but that, that in itself is also so dynamic. I think it’s interesting and fascinating as well.
Ken: Yeah. So it seems like the marketing, the differentiation, I mean, you guys have nailed it. You’ve got fantastic branding, you know, even just the whole feel of, of everything that you do, the way you phrase things on your, on your website and on your product.
And so that comes, uh, you know, I think out of this, this desire to differentiate, is that how you thought about it initially or have you, in other words, have you always positioned kudu coffee this way? Was that kind of how you started?
Jeff: I was, yeah, we, we were the first pour or singles or poor over in the U S at scale, we had debuted at outdoor trade show and shortly thereafter, when went into REI and pre that we did a Kickstarter to just test our business jobs and everything.
I think our tagline at the time was brew fresh anywhere, but it was all outdoor photos and then so forth. So we’ve evolved since then, but. The core positioning and strategy has stayed the same. And the challenge now is actually less. So how, how can we expand out of that, but how can we go deeper, um, and build even more equity through investing as our brand roots.
And, and it’s a great, it’s a great channel to be in because. Not a lot of coffee companies thought the outdoor market was worth the time a few years ago. Cause it was too small. Um, but it’s worked well for us. It’s a very memorable occasion to be drinking coffee when you’re camping. And it does build a lot of positive energy and impressions and brand equity and memories around what you’re trying to do.
So what you see is nothing more than just an evolution of what we exactly started with. So we’ve not shifted from that too much.
Ken: And do you think that that positioning was born out of kind of who you and your brother were and that experience of even thinking about the idea, you know, on one of these trips or where’d they come from and was it brilliant side of you for a while?
Or did it kind of just all come together?
Jeff: No, it really wasn’t a trip. We were, we were on the camping trip and then you wake up in the morning and it’s really colorful usually. And someone gave me coffee. I think it was ness cafe. And I drank it hoping to, you know, when you drink, like a nice warm cup of coffee or tea at home, that’s kind of assuming a warming feeling.
And it was warming to a certain extent, but it was just disgusting. I think it tastes like fuel or something. Like the thing with instant coffee is it has a very flat flavor profile. So it’ll hit your palette, but it will stop there and that’s not it. So if you go to higher end coffees, you know, specialty coffees around, we go like we do, um, you’re getting a, what I call just a much more dynamic flavor, topography experience.
So I guess you can say it tickles the senses a lot more and it’s, it’s just much more. Uh, edifying to have that kind of coffee experience when you’re outdoors, if you’re a coffee person that said five years ago, people might not have been as nerdy about their coffee in San Francisco. They were always crazy about their coffee.
So we really just thought of ourselves as bringing that level of passion about coffee to the outdoor setting. But today coffee is just. Such a big thing in general and it continues to get more specialized or especially coffee is becoming more popular. So people have really continued to appreciate even further the level of pour over coffee quality that we make accessible for their outdoor adventures.
And I think that’s why it’s worked out, but, but you’re right. It is a, an idea that was rooted in something that was authentically experiential. We didn’t go and analyze the market like a consultant. And say, Hey, this might be good. And I think that’s afforded us the ability to be natural with how we build a brand over time.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. Understood. So you have this, uh, this great idea and you guys have executed on it, on it pretty well. Um, actually remarkably well, um, I’m just curious about the first steps, right? So you have this idea. Do you think it’s a good one? Uh, you and your brother, you know, both, both want to do it. What did you guys do first and how did you get this thing off the ground?
Jeff: Yeah, what we did first is one week we, we had some product samples that we didn’t want to touch because we, we weren’t able to make them easily. Uh, and we said, let’s just kickstart the brand. So we actually kick-started without really having any products, kind of the whole solid before you build it. And then that worked out and then we use the funds from the Kickstarter to buy really simple, like sealing machinery.
Uh, in nitrogen flushing machinery at the time, it was just this $1,400 machine that you could put on a table from India. But I remember just thinking that was so expensive. Uh, I just thought, Oh my God, this is $1,400. And I hope this works and I hope it actually arrives. So, and then we found packaging companies and you just make phone calls and say like, can you make something like this with these dimensions?
And you start putting things into bags and start seeing.
By hand. Uh, so in the beginning we can only make maybe a maximum of 1600 pouches a day on an eight hour day. And we had help from Craigslist. Uh, you know, we had two people who had come in and do it, but we were also hands stooping, coffee, grind grounds, putting them into the filters. And then sealing those.
So all of it was manual. And I remember staying up and packing for hours at a time, all the way to 11 o’clock at night and just thinking, this is not what I wanted for my life, but I know this is what we gotta do. Um, and it wasn’t until we finally scaled up with machinery, we found an operating partner, and now we can, you know, we can do way, way more than that.
And we don’t ever touch production at least. Um, Uh, at least on the management side was company, so. Sure, sure. Yeah. It’s different now, but yeah, it’s tough. It’s tough. This is what I’ll say.
Ken: So you, I mean, you mentioned Kickstarter, you know, are there any tips that you could give to people who, you know, want to have successful Kickstarters?
You know, so many, it’s so easy to launch a Kickstarter, you know, it’s easy to put up the page, but it really comes down to, you know, the marketing and getting, getting the press and, and, uh, getting attention. Um, is there anything that you guys that you felt, you know, um, that you guys did particularly well that helped you to have a successful Kickstarter?
Jeff: Yeah. I had a friend who was running a company who wanted to help with delayed payments, which helped companies do pre-orders. So the company was called salary and then it got acquired by Indiegogo, but, um, he knew tons about Kickstarters stats and he told me that typically. Whatever amount you’re trying to raise.
You’ll need to budget about 20% of that amount. Uh, and having it go towards, uh, you know, production and marketing and everything. So if you’re trying to raise a hundred K you need to be prepared to sink about 20 K. Uh, but. But so that’s the first piece just being realistic of the resources that might be required.
The second thing is actually just start off with as clear, a level of intent as possible. So we didn’t raise a ton of, we only raised $16,000 and most people usually think you have to raise a bunch, but we didn’t want to raise that much more because we’d have to fulfill everything. Um, what we were really trying to do was test our chops to get it done.
Uh, tests or shops to get fulfillment done on time and test our marketing and positioning to see if it actually struck a chord. And it did. So we were able to accomplish the Kickstarter, get it fulfilled, get it done, and then move on to the next thing to move towards, starting to build a company or a product that might be successful in market.
If we had raised 50 to a hundred K we might’ve spent in inordinate amounts of time, just fulfilling. As opposed to figuring out how to translate the initial set of momentum into a product sales process, to get it into place it’s like REI. So I think you have to be really clear with your strategic objectives for why you want to do a Kickstarter.
Cash is definitely part of it. Um, but there, there are a lot of other reasons you might want to do it. And I think being clear with that, Is very, very important. Um, and then thirdly, which would be the last thing is just be clear about your fulfillment. Be clear about what you’re trying to provide as prizes, uh, what those will cost you, you know, understand your margins because we, we were able to get more money than we thought, and it carried us much farther than we thought, which was pretty cool.
[00:18:20] I mean, granted, it’s a small project, but. It’s nice when your money goes farther. Um, so a lot of it will just have to do with the planning. Uh, the planning will always drive success. If you’re talking about campaigns or things.
Ken: Yeah. Awesome. Um, and did you guys launch with, uh, just one, uh, brew or did you have several different ones or how did you think about that?
Jeff: Yeah, we launched with our current bestseller, the medium roast base camp blend and our second best seller, the bull awakening, which is our dark roast. And we just kept it simple. So that was it. And then shortly after launching, we came out with our angels landing light roast so that we could enter the market with a trio, but it was just the two rows to start.
Ken: Okay. And then one of the cool things about your product too, is the, is the pour over a filter, the portable filter disposable one. How did you find out about that? Or how did you develop it? How did that go?
Jeff: The single certain pour over is a product that’s actually existed in Asia for almost 10 years now, or maybe even more.
And we had discovered it when we were traveling in Southeast Asia and someone had wanted us to try to sell it to the U S and so now we weren’t interested. So, um, the reason it became an interesting idea for us is because when we were on the camp picture, we thought. Well, instant coffee sucks. Maybe we can bring one of these.
And that’s like the connection between the idea and how we really got started. Uh, the problem is no one was manufacturing. These, this is not like trying to manufacture a new brand for popcorn or something. And we, the first set of innovation that we embarked on was actually supply chain. How, how can we create these things?
At scale. Um, and, and that’s, that’s kind of, th that’s really, that’s really the biggest problem that I started out with. And once we got past that, we were able to really, uh, think about a lot more things on the marketing side and revenue generation.
Ken: Okay. Would you describe the filter for, for those who haven’t seen it, you know, and, and what it is, what makes it unique?
Jeff: Yeah, some cruiser coffee is a fun outdoor pour over coffee brand. And we are pioneers in the singles report or format or growing, which is essentially a poorer filter, uh, with anchors that expand out and anchor to your mug. And this poor results are also has coffee grounds, uh, already ground and freshly sealed inside the filter and that filter.
And therefore he’s in a pouch. So, what you end up with is a pouch about the size of a cliff bar. Uh, and if you’re hiking or camping, you can open it up because it’s nitrogen flushed. It’s just as fresh as when it was ground. And you tear the filter and open you spread out the anchors, you can put it onto your mug.
And so you have a pour over, uh, coffee experience that is possible with about three steps, inclusive reporting. Whereas if you had a real horror room and take, maybe. Seven or eight steps or more depending if you’re grinding your beans. So we make through this filter, uh, pour over coffee and very easy and accessible for maybe settings that you might not be able to bring all the equipment or might not have the space to do that.
Okay. And you mentioned that, uh, developing the supply chain, uh, for this process. I mean, you had to find a manufacturer who could, could actually do this. How did you go about that? Uh, and how did you find your manufacture?
Yeah, we didn’t find a manufacturer. We just decided to be the manufacturer. So we own our manufacturing equipment and that kind of gives us, uh, early on, gave us the ability to actually produce when, when most people can not.
Um, and that’s, that’s a whole, that’s a whole different, different thing, but, um, we are a manufacturer we don’t come in or anything. Um, and so we, we have a direct line to, to our supply chain needs. And in that regard,
Ken: Okay. And you still manufacture internally in house. You guys still do that?
Ken: Okay. Yeah. And how have you thought about this? I mean, obviously there’s, there’s headaches and challenges that come with with manufacturing and a lot of brands don’t want to touch that or are intimidated by that. Um, and you know, I can understand maybe doing it early on and then, you know, kicking it out to a coal man once you’ve figured out the process.
Um, how are you guys thinking about this and why, why do you continue to manufacture it? I
Jeff: Think it would be hard to go into detail on that without getting into potentially proprietary sort of strategy pieces. But I can say the benefit of manufacturing is. You are not necessarily always buying time or you don’t a coal man will always have its incentives and it’s not necessarily to keep you stopped.
Put it that way. It’s just to drive volume on their machinery. Um, and it adds an element of negotiation that you have to be really effective with. Um, and then you’re also talking about varying levels of quality. And control depending on what type of coal man you’re going to, um, that said, if you’re trying to do, uh, an RTD ready to drink beverage, there are so many people doing that.
The Comans for that have no need to do sales and marketing because they have so much demand. Um, so I think it would probably be a two factor consideration on what is the actual demand for co-managing a certain type of product. Uh, along the, the need to actually be able to manufacture fluidly, because if you’re doing an RTD, there’s a lot of places that you can do it.
It’s probably not worth your time to try and figure out how to do it yourself, unless you’re starting out and you want to do it with a commercial kitchen. Um, but if you’re trying to manufacture something that no one’s really done before, uh, you, you have to be realizing that you might just have to figure it out yourself.
Um, and, but, but that’s not necessarily a downside because usually wherever there’s pain and wherever this, what this question is like, we don’t know how to do it. No, one’s done it. That’s usually where you can drive innovation, make more margin. Um, so I think it depends on the category, the industry, uh, the margin norms that you’re, you’re dealing with within the industry.
Um, and also the levels of expertise that you might have on your team. Um, some companies may opt to just start doing more manufacturing and then private labeling. But if you’re passionate about building brands and you have a lot of people in marketing in your community and your network, maybe you want to build a brand and that’s going to affect how you deal with potential overhead of manufacturing.
But the, the most important lesson probably is if you are manufacturing, doing it outsourcing or whatever, it’s important to realize that. It’s not it’s, it’s just as difficult as sales. Uh, I think it’s easy to think you turn the machine on and it cranks product out. It doesn’t necessarily work like that.
Everything breaks, supply chains get disrupted. Um, and so there’s definitely a, a, it would be a mature way to look at supply chain with the understanding that, that it does cause overhead, if you don’t give it the right attention, investment upfront.
Ken: Understood. So I think we’ve, we’ve talked about, um, you know, product development, how you came up with the idea, um, how you went about producing it.
Um, let’s, let’s maybe switch gears a little bit to your distribution. Did you guys go D to C directly or did you, uh, you know, launch out and try to get these wholesale partnerships right away?
Jeff: No, he was wholesale in the beginning. It was, we wanted to get into REI. That was really the first goal. And then after that we wanted to get into whole foods.
Um, and then everything outside of the house, just like, let’s see who else will buy our stuff. And we were fortunate because we didn’t get to REI early on. Um, and we eventually got into whole foods, I think maybe two years later, uh, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but for, you know, for a startup and zero revenue, you’re thinking like, Oh, I gotta wait two years to get into that store.
So whole foods in the grocery sector, wasn’t a big part of it. It was really about. Getting into outdoor retailers, uh, serving the outdoor community, uh, and, and making sure that we get aligned the way we built the business with that customer base. Since then, you know, we’re in gift stores, Orleanean cost plus world market nationwide.
I think in may, uh, we are a nationwide sprouts farmer’s market. Uh, you know, we’re, we’re in a number of places now, but, but in the beginning we started with one, one channel of distribution and then. As it is with many brands these days, a lot more to you to see an activity is kind of happening in the market.
That’s the same with us, but we continue to have a health and wholesale business alongside a growing DTC and online business. So it’s just something that we have to manage as we play in both channels
Ken: To break down, uh, DTC versus wholesale.
Jeff: A breakdown. I probably wouldn’t share the, the breakdown for providers and reasons, but for the most part, we were mostly wholesale.
Um, and I can say, I think last year, our DTC grew by about 185%. Um, so we, we have, we have a strong business on both sides. Um, I think we’re just seeing a lot more growth happen on the DVC side, but, um, I think it depends on the channel too. Like, like growth. And presence and the gifts, uh, channel is pretty different from outdoor as it is from grocery.
And each of these channels, uh, are, are along a different section of a maturity as it is related to our product format. And so, as it pertains to the physical product, w what that means is you deal with different supply chain challenges and margin expectations from each channel. And retailer DTC has a different supply chain.
You know, distribution need. And so I think understanding how to bridge all those through one core strategy over time, uh, is, tends to be the challenge choice towards scale, which is what we’re working on now. So it can be crazy, but, but I think it’s kind of a fun thing. Once you kind of get a hold of exactly what’s going on.
Ken: Got it. Got it. So it sounds like you were pretty focused on REI initially, like right out the Gates. Was there any particular reasons why are REI. Yeah.
Jeff: REI is probably the outdoor industry authenticator, which is what an outdoor executive told me when we first entered the market. And so we knew if we can get in there, uh, we would be seen as, as very credible, I mean, just basically a big legitimizer.
So, uh, not only that, but they’ve proven to do very well for us. And, and we have a really solid relationship with them as well. Great.
Ken: And you mentioned the D the DTC has grown quite a bit. Do you think that’s an effect of the pandemic or what’s driving that?
Jeff: Not really. I think there’s a little bit of that outdoor is definitely bigger, but I actually think it’s just, if I can be really Frank it’s, it’s the combination of us just putting more investment into it, but also just our brand reaching an inflection point.
Uh, where we just have more awareness, more people know about us. We are in the highest rate of the seamless report. We’re on Amazon at 4.7 stars. Um, we’re close second in terms of number of reviews, but for an outdoor four or definitely the most. Um, and so I think when you put in the time to build brand foundations, get, get things lined up properly.
Um, the thing about physical products is it takes so much time to get distributed. That with every year that you exist. I think it actually increases the chances that you will continue to exist as opposed to if you’re a tech platform or product, if you don’t skyrocket in the first three to four years, um, with VC funding, you’ll probably Peter out just because it tends to be a winner, take all kind of market, but for physical goods, I mean there’s trillions of coffee brands out there and there’s enough space for us to be there.
And the longer we’re around, the more scale we get, the more efficiencies we get. Uh, the more brand awareness we get. So you pay, you pay up front with the hard work, but, um, you know, it’s the reason like a brand like Coca Cola and Johnson, Johnson stay around forever, but you can see other, other types of companies that might not lead that type of physical product.
Um, kind of just disappears over time. Obviously there are exceptions, but I think generally that’s kind of what I’ve seen.
Ken: So why don’t we just, um, kind of wrapping up here? Uh, I just want to know what, what you’re excited about. What’s coming, coming up. What are you looking forward to? Um, you know, what’s in store for, Kuju coffee?
Jeff: I’m, I’m just always excited for camping season. It’s the most fun part of the company. Uh, and I’m excited to get people by our poorer for their camping trips. And obviously that’s, you know, we want to grow, but, but we have so many people telling us stories about. Like my electricity went out and I couldn’t use my coffee maker, but I had yours and my TAC.
So I’m so glad I bought yours or they have these memories of pouring at the top of the mountain sand or something and just taking in the moment. Uh, and that’s something we never expected to be able to build a brand where people attach these emotional experiences to our product because they’re outside.
If you’re drinking coffee in your home, you’re not getting these impactful. You know, moments of experiencing your coffee, but, but we’ve been able to get to be part of that. So every year it’s exciting to see that community just get bigger. So it’s really a privilege to a certain extent because we can be part of people’s memories, literally, even if they’re just going camping once a year. Um, so that’s always fun, right?
Ken: All right. So just real quick, quick fire, quick fire round, got four questions for you. Um, what’s one tool or resource that, that, uh, you feel like you just can’t live without?
Jeff: I think coffee. Yeah. Maybe the second thing is, uh, I guess I dunno how, how that would work out without the videos.
Ken: Right, right. Um, what is one book that has helped you in your career?
Jeff: I would say my reporter’s competitive advantage. I read it years ago, but not the whole thing, but just getting some good business theory basics, I think is always helpful. As, as a baseline.
Ken: What is one piece of advice that you’d give to your 21 year old self?
Jeff: I would say you’re just a real idiot and you can, yeah, because realizing how little you don’t know when you’re at that age, but also just how darn okay. It is not to know anything. And it gives you the permission to try stuff. I think I was, I was at, but I think if I had known I was, I was as a. I was as dumb and inexperienced as I really was. I might’ve even tried other things that would, would’ve been cooler.
Ken: That’s great. And, uh, who is one person that you would love to take to lunch?
Jeff: Uh, just my wife. Yeah. We had two kids and we don’t get to hang out, uh, as often as we’d like, so getting to go get lunch with her as always, uh, Positive that’s maybe an unexpected answer. I think maybe a second answer would be just our customers.
The best companies are always customer driven and they’re the ones that matter. So getting a chance to have lunch with our customers and ask them questions. That would be great because that’s always hard to do
Ken: All right, Jeff. And so if somebody wanted to get ahold of you, what’s the best way to do that.
Jeff: Uh, promise, shoot me a message on LinkedIn. I get tons and tons of sales emails these days. Uh, so it’s hard since you me an email for me to see it, or you can, uh, uh, send me a picture of the product that you just bought.
Ken: And that’s awesome. All right. Uh, and just a final words, um, you know, there are people listening to this that are grinding it out in the world of physical products, you know, just doing the best that they can. Do you have any parting advice that you would give them?
Jeff: Yeah, I would say two things. Make sure you understand what the margin norms are for your category.
So if it’s typical to make 30% on a gross margin basis for a unit of product, try to shoot for that and exceed it. If it’s 80% shoot that any sooner, every industry is different. Um, but you need to know it because the closer you can get to it and the higher, uh, the better chance you’ll have at succeeding over time.
And the second thing is just acknowledged the fact that having a physical product is a very difficult thing that non-physical product companies don’t have to deal with. So I would probably share an interesting anecdote on this. I went to a grocery trade show, uh, years ago, went to the kind snacks, uh, booth.
And this dude was passing out samples and I was like, Oh, hi, can I ask you a couple of questions? And he was like, yeah, I’m John. And then I looked at his badge. It was that. Who are you? I thought he was a sales guy and it turned out he was president of kind snacks, passing out things. And I said, do you have advice for us as we’re starting out this coffee company, I thought he would ask, what is your brand?
How are you going to sell? Where do you want to go? The first question he asked me was how many units can you make? And that was a big deal. Cause this is, you know, he helped take time from 8 million to near 14 million is near a billion. And the first question he he needed to understand was how many product units could we actually manufacture?
And I understand now because you will only be able to market in proportion or as boldly as you want in proportion to the amount of product that you can make. Because if you can’t make a lot of products, you are just inherently and subconsciously not going to want to sell it because you’re not going to want to deal with making it.
But if you can crank out a million units a day, you’re just going to be able to let yourself go balls to the wall, sell to everyone and everything. Um, so really understanding the balance between manufacturing capability, capacity next to your sales and marketing and demand gen capacities. That’s super critical for physical product companies.
Ken: Hey, jeff. That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s uh, that’s fantastic. Uh, final advice. I just want to thank you. I want to be respectful of your time. Uh, thank you for taking the time to share with us today. I think this has just been a packed interview.
Jeff: Yeah. All right, Jason. Appreciate it. the chat.
Ken: We’ll see you, man.
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