Launching a Healthy Protein Pancake Business
Hi! Tell me about you and your business.
Hi, I'm Ashley Drummonds, and I am the creator of the ABS Protein Pancakes High Protein-Low Carb meal replacement line! The ABS Protein Pancakes is an All Natural, High Protein, Low Carb Meal Replacement that allows people to enjoy pancakes and waffles every day while sticking to a healthy nutrition program.
One serving of the ABS Protein Pancakes makes 3-4 pancakes for under 250 Calories, under 8g Net Carbs, and over 24g Protein. It is all natural, gluten-free, and low in sugar. Each bag makes approximately 40 pancakes, and one serving can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes making it super easy to make a quick, healthy and delicious meal!
We have three flavors of ABS Protein Pancakes: Chocolate Chip, Vanilla Cake Batter, and Cinnamon Roll. It's great for fitness enthusiasts, those who follow a low carb nutrition program, on a weight loss program, or anyone who just wants to enjoy a healthier option for pancakes and waffles. It's also great for individuals on a low sugar or gluten-free diet, or if you're just looking to get more protein on a daily basis!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before starting ABS, I was a personal trainer for seven years with a passion for helping people feel better and hit their fitness/weight loss goals. I always had a desire to do something bigger that allowed me to have more free time while still helping people. I am a foodie at heart and have a passion for breakfast food - specifically pancakes. Years ago, I came up with this protein pancake recipe that I used to make every day for myself as part of my breakfast routine.
At the start of 2014, I was going through a bit of a rough patch and needed to do some soul searching to figure out where I was headed with my life. I was still so passionate about the fitness/nutrition industry, but I knew that I couldn’t be a personal trainer forever and expect to make the money I wanted to make. I spent about two weeks meditating, journaling, and setting out clear goals of what I wanted my future to look like. I came out of that realizing “the answer” or “the how” would happen naturally through life, the universe, and God.
See your entrepreneurial journey as a marathon and not a sprint. It’s the daily things you do that keep you moving forward.
One day I woke up and starting making my morning breakfast with my protein pancake recipe and the thought popped into my head: “I wonder if anyone else would eat this recipe as a way to help them stick to their nutrition. Could I package this recipe and sell it?”.
So I started telling my personal training clients about it and gave them little ziplock bags of single serving sizes to try. They loved it. They started telling their friends about it, and before I knew it I had someone on social media reach out to me asking to buy it because they had heard about it from a friend. That was when I started realizing I had a product I could turn into something big.
Describe the process of creating Abs Protein Pancakes.
I started marketing ABS on social media. Every day, I would post on Instagram or Facebook telling my followers to send me a direct message if they wanted to order.
I did everything manually at first. When I received an order, I would send the customer an invoice via PayPal (I didn’t have an online store at the time) and go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients in bulk. I bought a cheap scale to measure out all of the ingredients for one serving and used mylar bags I bought on Amazon to put the mix inside. I also purchased a heat food sealer (used for tight sealing freezer bags for meats and frozen goods), so I could heat seal each bag.
Once the customer made their payment, I went to my local post office, grabbed loads of priority mailers (because these are free and flat rate shipping costs) and would print off a shipping label using Microsoft Word, then go back to the post office to mail out the orders. I did this every day, and during some busy times I was showing up to the post office with a moving box full of priority mailers for orders to go out. I became very familiar with the employees at the post office!
I started all of this in my apartment kitchen averaging probably 8-20 orders each week. I was definitely grinding. I was exhausted every day running to the post office, the grocery store, mixing up bags, sealing them, printing labels, then back to the post office to ship them out. I usually had to do all of this in the evenings after I finished up with my private personal training sessions. This was often as late as 11 PM, and then having to wake up at 5:30 AM the next day for more personal training sessions!
I had somewhat of an "official" launch where I live in Tampa, FL. The local news station ABC Action News had me on the air for a 4th of July Health Segment. At this time, I didn’t have a website, professional packaging or anything - I just winged it. Looking back, it’s funny how terrible the packaging was. I had to go to Target to buy a food saver bag and slap a Kinko’s label on it and pretend like I knew what I was doing. It worked though! Fake it 'til you make it.
As business grew, I realized I needed to move away from making the product in my apartment kitchen.
The hardest part starting out was researching and learning all of the rules and regulations of packaging, manufacturing and fulfillment processes. I searched all throughout the country for a manufacturer who would make my product. However, I was too small for any manufacturers to take me seriously. They had minimum order requirements of thousands of units which I wasn’t producing in sales.
I spent the majority of my time “googling” and asking anyone I knew lots of questions. I finally found a manufacturer out in San Diego who was willing to negotiate with me and produce a minimum run of 500 units for my very first order.
But even making a relatively small order from the manufacturer like that was a tremendous learning experience. I had to figure out packaging, labeling, and branding. I also had to learn about barcoding, how to make a nutrition label, how to get nutrition certifications, expiration dates, and the list goes on. It’s a lot! I don’t think people realize how much work goes into each package of any product they use or consume, and how many hands are involved in the process of packaging alone.
To come up with the packaging design I actually hired a local creative service that specializes in logos and branding and it took weeks of going back and forth to come up with the design, colors and logo that “felt” right to me and the brand. To come up with the nutrition label I had to send the ingredients to a lab in California for them to test all the claims then send back the certified nutrition label. I thought the barcode was something you could just put on the package or would be handled or my branding people. It was not until they asked me to send the pdf copies of my barcodes for each label that I realized I had to do it myself (You have to register it on the Gs1 website). You learn a lot when people ask you for things that you don't even know about.
How have you grown and attracted new customers?
Since day one, I have attracted almost all of my sales from social media, mainly Instagram and Facebook. To this day, I still use that as the majority of my marketing and exposure.
In 2016 the ABS Protein Pancakes aired on ABC’s Shark Tank as the very first episode of the 2016 season which brought HUGE exposure to ABS and brought customers from all over the country.
The Shark Tank exposure was and still is incredible! My website crashed 2x the night of airing, once when it aired on the East Coast, and then again when it aired on the West Coast. I had maxed out my server protection to allow for the highest traffic possible, but it still couldn’t handle it. I went from about 50 visitors to my site to over 30,000 in a matter of seconds. It was incredible! The sales I made in weeks after the Shark Tank episode surpassed the previous year's entire sales numbers.
I still implement social media strategies such as Facebook ads, Instagram hashtags, cross promotions, contests, and influencers to continue to grow the brand and customers.
With Instagram, I've been most successful doing collaborations with like minded-brands. What I do is reach out to other businesses and brands who have a mission that aligns with ABS, or if they have a product that compliments ABS.
For example, I've reached out to a lot of protein bar companies, nut butter companies, and fitness gear businesses and have collaborated with them on giveaways. What we do is agree on a specific amount of days that we will share posts that include both of our brands, having followers repost and tag us in their posts. Then, at the end of the promotion period, we give away a few bags of product. This is HUGE because people start reposting like crazy and tag all of their friends because they want free stuff! All it costs you is some time and a couple of bags of mix. This is also a great thing to do in the beginning when your marketing budget is tight and you are looking for inexpensive ways to grow your following or leads.
How have you dealt with competition?
I don’t see it as competition. I think people are drawn to ABS and other brands like mine because of the connection, the story, and the quality. I know that there are other brands out there that have great products that are helping people as well. They will attract different customers than I do and that’s perfectly fine. I simply run my business and my brand the best I can and I think customers appreciate that more than anything.
Where you are at now and what are your plans for the future?
I am very grateful that the last three years of hard work in building a foundation for ABS is continuing to pay off. In the beginning, I always knew my goal was to have an online business that was automated so that I could travel, live life and do whatever else I wanted to do.
The hard part was putting in the time and effort to build strategies, funnels, emails, etc. Now, I am very grateful that the business is mostly automated. If I want to go away for the week and not touch any emails, I can. The business will still run successfully.
As far as the future for me, I recently launched ABSFitLifeTV.com which is an online membership video library of at-home workouts, dumbbell workouts, nutrition tools, and mindset tools to help people stay fit while traveling, on the road or in the comfort of their own home. I call it the “Netflix” of fitness! This has been my most recent project that I am continuing to improve.
I'm also exploring one of my other passions of wine and recently became a Certified Sommelier, and I'm super excited to see what kind of doors will open from that. Ultimately, I want to continue to grow and explore my passions more than anything!
What tools do you use for your business?
The ABS Protein Pancakes storefront is on Shopify which I think is the best platform for e-commerce businesses. It just makes things so easy! As far as other tools I use:
- Klaviyo: Email marketing platform.
- Instagram: My main social media platform.
- VHX by Vimeo: Video platform for ABSFitLifeTV.com.
- Recharge: Subscription platform where my customers can get their ABS Protein Pancakes auto-shipped every month at a discounted price.
- YotPo: For customer reviews on Shopify.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When it comes to making decisions for your business, trust your gut and listen to your own intuition. Take others' advice for your business with a grain of salt, even if they are successful entrepreneurs. Only you know what's best for your brand.
See your entrepreneurial journey as a marathon and not a sprint. It’s the daily things you do that keep you moving forward. If you try doing too much at once, you will burn out, get frustrated and give up. Just take one step each day or every other day that brings you one step closer to your goal, even if it’s as simple as researching a new platform or making that one phone call.
There have been multiple times on my own journey when it was tough, and I wanted to throw in the towel. When this happens, I usually take a few days off to refresh, regroup and just zoom out to remind myself of the bigger picture. Don’t let the day to day grind make you forget the big picture goal.
What are the most influential books you've read for your business?
I recommend The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris to entrepreneurs and friends just because it’s so great about really living life more! I also love Infinite Possibilities by Mike Dooley.
Where can we learn more?
- ABSPancakes.com, AshleyDrummonds.com, and ABSFitLifeTV.com.
- Facebook: ABS Protein Pancakes
- Instagram: @ABS_ProteinPancakes & @AshleyDrummonds
- Twitter: @AshleyDrummonds
- YouTube: ABS TV
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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