Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey everyone! We are Chelsea and Mitch Glaser, a sister/brother team that just launched Fredi, a female-focused productivity brand aiming to re-define productivity as a sustainable form of self-care. Our goal is to provide holistic wellness for busy brains in order to help women bring their best selves to work and life on a more consistent basis.
Our first product, Focused by Fredi, is the first female-focused, all-natural nootropic supplement formulated to promote focus, memory, energy, mental clarity, and stress reduction. Our all-natural ingredients include commonly used natural herbs, mushrooms, and amino acids such as Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, Bacopa, Lion’s Mane, Citicoline, and Natural Caffeine from Green Coffee Beans.
We launched Focused by Fredi in mid-April and did about $3.5k in sales in our first month. We are working tirelessly to create content on our social platforms where we now have almost 8.5k followers! Check us out on Instagram.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Mitch spent 7 years working on Wall Street as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs & Deutsche Bank. While doing so, he started taking nootropics (which are dietary supplements designed to promote cognitive function) to help him stay sharp and manage stress as he worked long hours. He found these products to be extremely beneficial, and yet barely anyone around him had heard about them.
Because of this, he decided he wanted to launch his own brand. After bouncing the idea off of his sister Chelsea (who founded her own branding agency called Launch it Girl) to get some advice, the two began brainstorming. It quickly became clear to them both that the underserved segment of the market was women and that if they teamed up, not only could they introduce a new, up and coming product to the female market, but also continue to push Launch it Girl’s mission of empowering ambitious women! This is when Fredi was born.
Mitch left his finance job to focus on Fredi full-time, while Chelsea continues to work on growing Launch it Girl.
Fun Fact: With our mission of empowering women (which often means doing so in male-dominated workplaces), we wanted to be ironic with our name by putting a feminine spin on a masculine name. The name “Fredi” was actually inspired by Freddy Mercury when we broke out in song during a brainstorming call after we decided we wanted the name to promote some “Don’t Stop Me Now!” vibes!
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
With Chelsea having co-founded a branding agency, the initial branding was actually pretty easy for us. Launch it Girl focuses on branding female-owned businesses (that often target women), so Chelsea and her partner Lauren at Launch it Girl hit Fredi’s branding and web design out of the park for us! The iterations we went through were mostly around creating an aesthetic that was positive, energetic, and encouraging, and appealed to women without coming off as too “girly”.
Leveraging the brand and web design work that Launch it Girl designed for us (that we had fallen in love with), we hired a graphic designer who specialized in labels and mailer boxes. The only guidance we provided him was that we wanted our website, mailer box and product label to all have very similar aesthetics. After about 2-months of back and forth, we settled on designs for both our label and mailer box that incorporated the wavy, free-flowing design of our website (see image below). We love the way our different physical goods relate to each other and think the “wave” of our design is now a big part of the Fredi brand!
The actual formulation of our first product, Focused by Fredi, was also relatively straightforward, as 1. Mitch had already tried most of the different nootropic ingredients on the market and 2. Both Mitch and Chelsea knew they wanted to use only natural ingredients. We hired a formulation specialist who did a fantastic job for us based off of Mitch’s favorite ingredients, popular ingredients in competing products, and extensive research that had been conducted on each ingredient. The formulation expert was able to leverage the aforementioned to create a formula with the proper ingredients and dosages that ensured efficacy and safety. We later had the formula’s ingredients and dosages reviewed by medical professionals to get a 3rd opinion on our formula’s efficacy and safety.
Once our formula was set in stone, our formulation specialist referred us to a supplier he had worked closely with in the past who we ended up bringing on as a full-time consultant. He has been incredibly helpful to us as he helped us find the highest quality ingredients, put in place a marketing agreement with one of our registered ingredient suppliers (Cognizin), find a GMP certified manufacturer in the Los Angeles area, find high-quality glass bottles and lids, and find a label manufacturer.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our first, “ultra-soft”-launch actually occurred the second Mitch decided he wanted to create a nootropics company but hadn’t yet talked to Chelsea. All he knew was that he wanted to create a nootropics brand and target working professionals that wanted an extra boost to help them get through the day. He immediately launched an Instagram meme account called “Crying Under My Desk” and started putting out memes about the struggles of office life. He knew that he could start acquiring followers who would eventually become potential customers by targeting people that worked in an office, who could relate to “the struggle”. Fredi’s first 500-600 followers were actually acquired under the alias Crying Under My Desk!
We hired a web developer to implement the design Launch it Girl created for us within Shopify instead of using one of Shopify’s pre-made templates, as we really wanted to differentiate ourselves from a design perspective. The second our website was complete, we launched our website and first product, which was mid-April 2020. Our launch occurred on our Instagram page, which at the time had about 7.5k followers, as well as our own personal accounts.
The most complex part of gearing up for launch was setting up our back-end fulfillment. We decided to use Amazon FBA for all of our shipments, which means in addition to figuring out how to get our finished product from our manufacturer to the Amazon warehouse, we had to also get approved by Amazon to list our product on its marketplace.
For whatever reason, the integration between Shopify and Amazon was a bit of a struggle as we had accidentally created our listing on Amazon, and then again when we pushed our product listing from Shopify to Amazon through the Shopify embedded integration. We were able to eventually figure it out by going through weeks of back and forth with Amazon customer support. It’s now connected seamlessly to the point where every order placed on Amazon is automatically fulfilled and every order placed on our Shopify website is pushed to Amazon for fulfillment. This has been so important for us as we don’t need to spend any time packing and shipping products and can focus all of our efforts on marketing and business development efforts.
This business was financed with Mitch’s savings and a ~$80k investment from an ex-coworker of Mitch’s. We have provided a list of some of our biggest up-front investments below that we hope you find helpful:
- First batch of inventory: 3,100 units at ~$43,000
- Branding / Web Design: ~$6,000
- Web Development: ~$10,000
- Consulting / Legal Services: ~$11,000
- Photoshoot: ~$6,000
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I think we’re entering a new era where every consumer business needs to go above and beyond for their customer. With the proliferation of Shopify and Amazon FBA, it is easier than ever before to launch a business, which means consumers will have more options than ever before. In order to stand out, we have focused heavily on our content strategy on our social channels. Instagram is our bread and butter, but we post our content across Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and TikTok as well. As far as Instagram goes, the most effective way of growing our follower base has been a strategy that includes Content + Engagement.
With our target demographic of ambitious women, and our mission/product that encourages productivity, we came up with a content strategy that would include inspirational/empowering quotes, productivity/communication hacks, empowering/funny memes and videos of our cofounder Chelsea speaking on these topics.
In order to maximize engagement, keep a steady flow of value going toward our followers, and keep the workload of our two-person team manageable, we landed on posting two times a day, everyday.
Engagement, the way we define it, includes engaging with our followers in terms of likes and comments, but more importantly, includes commenting and liking photos of members we would love to join our community. In order to reach these potential followers, we utilize hashtags. To this day, we continue to go to relevant hashtags such as #bossbabes or #workingmoms and comment and like these photos.
The most important part of this strategy is consistency. Between the two of us co-founders, we each comment on 200 photos everyday.
This strategy has been incredibly effective for us to grow our follower count in the exact demographic we’re targeting as potential customers.
Paid Social Ads
We have started experimenting with paid Instagram ads with moderate success. After playing around with different ad formats and strategies, we were able to begin driving traffic to our website for about 40-50 cents per click, but the conversion rate on our site was horrible from that traffic.
During this paid ad journey, we were actually reached out to by a well-known health & wellness personality who has her own TV segment on CBS / KLAS who asked us if we would like to purchase a spot in her segment. This will air in the 2nd week of June and is exciting for a few reasons: The first being that, we will obviously get discovered by a large number of consumers who see the segment, but more importantly, this will allow us to use the language “as seen on x, y, z”, which will hopefully provide us with a bit more validation in the eyes of consumers.
For us, a startup with a product in a not-so-well-known segment of dietary supplements, we think that validation will be a huge factor in driving conversions with our customer base. We plan on diving deeper into paid ads once we can utilize this language (“as seen on”).
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
In our first month of sales, we sold 67 units (disregarding some initial discounting that’s $3,350 in sales). We received 32 orders from our Shopify website and 35 orders from Amazon. This was directly in-line with how we modeled our business of 55% of our orders coming from Amazon and 45% coming from Shopify. In our view, with recent research out there, over 50% of product searches begin on Amazon, not Google, making Amazon a crucial strategy for most CPG companies.
The real question about one’s Amazon strategy, in our view, is how you value brand discovery on Amazon vs. actually converting sales on Amazon. A strategy that we have seen play out is listing “teaser” products on Amazon, which allows for brand/product discovery while still requiring customers to go to your website for your full suite of products where you have more control over the customer experience, where you’re able to collect more data and where you experience higher margins (even when utilizing Amazon FBA). At the moment, we are a single product business, so we don’t have the ability to utilize this strategy yet, but do anticipate doing so once we roll out future products.
Right now we are hyper-focused on running an efficient, one-product business and gaining recognition in the market as the company behind this product. In a year or so, we anticipate being able to begin rolling out other complementary products that strategically fit under our productivity theme that help women feel great or help enable them to more efficiently tackle their to-do list at work or in life.
As it stands, our gross margins are just over 50%, with each bottle costing us just over $14 each, with the rest of the margin going to Amazon. We believe that as we scale we can get these margins to be in the upper 50 % as product costs come down per unit.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The main mistake we made was hiring a social media growth agency for a few months. These firms will always tell you that they fully understand your brand and ambitions, be able to acquire relevant followers that will one day convert to customers, and that they will be able to do so quickly. It’s possible that some of these firms can do a good job here, but through our experience, they are more focused on gaining your followers through any means necessary and will NEVER spend the time to truly embody the mission and feel of your brand.
Hiring a social media growth agency for a few months was our main mistake. These firms will always tell you that they fully understand your brand and ambitions, but will NEVER spend the time to truly embody the mission and feel of your brand.
We started getting the impression this firm was buying us followers, as followers started pouring in that, were completely outside of our demographic (think 13-17-year-old boys….??) who would realistically never resonate with our completely female-focused content. We negotiated out of our initial contract the second we could no longer give them the benefit of the doubt, but it still cost us thousands of dollars and actually destroyed the engagement we were experiencing on our page.
It’s really important to understand that in social media (referring mostly to Instagram), the algorithm has become so advanced that it can recognize quality content and will only show that quality content to followers it thinks will like it. When you acquire a bunch of followers that don’t care about your content, the algorithm will start recognizing your content as low-quality because no one is engaging with it. At that point, the algorithm will reduce SIGNIFICANTLY the number of your followers who see your posts, EVEN THE ONES WHO WERE HISTORICALLY LIKING YOUR CONTENT!!! I believe we are still weighed down from the couple thousand followers this social firm acquired for us who don’t engage with our content.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Website: Shopify & Amazon
- Fulfillment: Amazon FBA
- Blog Hosting: WordPress
- Communications: Slack
- Productivity: Google Docs
- Collecting emails and phone numbers: Klaviyo
- Affiliate program (just rolled this out): Refersion
- Accounting: Quickbooks
- Credit Card: Brex
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Superfans - Great breakdown of how to create a passionate consumer base
- Building a StoryBrand - Great breakdown of how to create a brand that resonates with your consumers in a far deeper way than just loving your products
- 5am Club - An enjoyable and valuable read about how to create a daily routine that maximizes your productivity and personal growth
- Everything Gary Vee - Next-gen advice on how to build brands
- ECommerce Fuel - Helpful e-commerce tips and tricks
- Entrepreneurs on Fire - Helpful e-commerce tips and tricks
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Think deeply about THE TYPE of business you want to start, before brainstorming IDEAS
Before we settled on our product and company, after YEARS of research, Mitch decided he wanted to create a consumer brand, that targeted a passionate group of consumers in which we could tailor a compelling content strategy toward a product that would work well as a subscription product.
From there, it was far easier to efficiently brainstorm ideas that fit this mold.
Educate yourself NOW
There is so much information out there - books, podcasts, YouTube videos that will 1. Help you figure out the type of business you want to start (ex. Learning about Amazon FBA may completely change the way you think about starting a business) and 2. Help you avoid SUPER COMMON pitfalls.
Don’t bounce your ideas off of family members
Instead, seek out professionals that have a working knowledge of your concept.
Family members would often rather see you stagnate where you are than see you in a vulnerable state where you could “fail miserably”.
Reflect deeply and make sure that entrepreneurship is something YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO
Once you get to the point where you know deep down to your core that if you are lying on your deathbed in 60 years and you haven’t started a company, you will be full of regret, the decision to push forward becomes a simple one. When things get hard, which they always will, you won’t be tempted to backpedal to your old job/situation.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings