How Going All-In On Amazon Grew Our Men's Personal Care Brand To $1M/Year In Sales

Kyle LaFond
$80K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
9
Employees
American Provenance
from Blue Mounds, WI, USA
started May 2015
$80,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
9
Employees
585K
alexa rank
15.1K
followers
985
followers
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A Dropshipping Men's Grooming Products

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

My name is Kyle LaFond and I’m the founder of American Provenance. Unlike many other personal care, wellness, and cosmetic brands, we are a true manufacturer, producing all of our products in our facility with our people.

Specifically, we make men’s grooming products including deodorants, body washes, shaving supplies, and skin care regimes. We cater to conscientious consumers looking for products that contain minimal, better-for-you ingredients.

Since our inception in 2015, we’ve now eclipsed $5M in lifetime sales and we are on pace for our first $1M year.

american-provenance

We decided in June of this year to end all paid digital advertising and go all-in on Amazon. This decision has paid off as our Amazon sales have continued to grow 10-15% MoM and we’re saving nearly $50,000 per month in ads and management fees.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

The past several years have presented us with the same challenges faced by many startups. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on our business. From 2015-2019 we experienced nearly 100% YoY growth. That growth came to a halt in 2020 as countless men abandoned their personal care and grooming routines. Simply put, if guys weren’t going to work, school, or socializing they generally didn’t take care of themselves. 2020 was our first down year as sales slumped by 15% compared to 2019. 2021 followed suit as sales were down an additional 10% compared to 2020.

As quarantine measures were lifted, we started to see a rebound in sales in late 2021.

In 2022, our sales are again approaching 100% growth compared to 2021. We’re getting back on track after doing all that we could to merely make it through the most difficult time in recent history.

Our business has grown this year through two primary channels. First, we’ve added some larger regional and national accounts. This growth has come in the form of big spikes as we’re adding chains of 25-400 individual locations at a time. This is very different from our early years when we were adding stores one at a time.

Second, we’ve started a contract manufacturing operation. We’re now making products for about 15 other brands. The revenue generated from contract manufacturing is intended to cover our fixed costs with additional revenue supporting brand expansion.

Along with diversifying and increasing the revenue streams we’ve also cut expenses. Throughout the pandemic, we spent significant money on paid digital advertising. These efforts are intended to drive traffic to our website. Unfortunately, with iOS14 the effectiveness of these ads was substantially diminished. We decided in June of this year to end all paid digital advertising and go all-in on Amazon. This decision has paid off as our Amazon sales have continued to grow 10-15% MoM and we’re saving nearly $50,000 per month in ads and management fees. This is a strategy that I’ve recommended to other CPG brands if they have not already made this decision for themselves.

We’ve also reduced our expenses by terminating expensive PR contracts and campaigns. We did this with the realization that we were getting more mentions and placements when I reached out to writers and editors directly. I researched popular freelance journalists and contacted them through either LinkedIn or Instagram. This has been more successful than the efforts of any and every PR firm that we’ve ever worked with.

The best advice that I’ve always received has been from people that have had similar experiences and have accomplished significant goals. I’ve found that many successful people are more than willing to provide mentorship because they had someone willing to work with them when they needed it most.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

The last year has presented significant challenges, but we’ve managed to address and overcome them. As most startup founders know, cash is king. Even after 7 years, we’re still concerned with cash flow from month to month. Unlike a lot of our competitors, we haven’t taken on substantial venture capital. We’ve been methodical with our growth strategy and have focused on the long-term and reaching profitability. This is part of our Midwestern mentality and makes us rather unique.

This same Midwestern mentality has limited our ability to fundraise. Being located in rural Wisconsin has made it very difficult to attract outside investment. Most investors are more interested in technology rather than consumer packaged goods. The reality is that operating a manufacturing company is capital-intensive. Most investors are looking for lean businesses that can scale quickly. This simply isn’t the case with what we are trying to achieve. I’ve heard no more than I care to admit and I’m already looking forward to the day when I no longer have to seek outside financing to grow our business.

I’ve struggled with my mental health and well-being. All of us are now dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety and that is only amplified by owning and operating a business. I’m always thinking about my team and what I can do to be a better provider for their needs. I’ve relegated and sacrificed my health to be stronger for them.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

This last year I’ve again learned to trust my instincts. I know my business better than anyone else. Very rarely have my intuitions been wrong. I value the opinions of others, but in most situations, these opinions don’t take into consideration all of the history and experiences I’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ve also learned to only really listen to those that have been there and done that. Again, everyone has their own opinions, but they don’t mean much if they aren’t supported by experience. The best advice that I’ve always received has been from people that have had similar experiences and have accomplished significant goals. I’ve found that many successful people are more than willing to provide mentorship because they had someone willing to work with them when they needed it most. I’m not afraid to ask for help anymore because I now understand that there are good people out there that want to help us succeed.

Alternatively, I’ve also learned that there are some pretty awful people out there. I’ve learned to never sign a long-term contract and that any business relationship needs to be tied to results. Digital marketing agencies and sales brokers are amongst the worst business partners to have. I’ve come to realize that the only ones that are worth working with are those that agree to compensation based on results. Any group unwilling to do this is simply not worth it.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Over the next several years, we have outlined a handful of attainable goals. First, we want to reach a point of profitability. We should be able to achieve this by either the end of 2022 or early into 2023. Second, we want to continue to expand our contract manufacturing practice. Ideally, we would like to service approximately 100 clients. Third, we would like to expand our brand to 10,000+ locations. This is also within reach as we add new retail partners. Fourth and finally, we want to have our monthly eCom sales eclipse $100,000. We are close to this number and feel that we can accomplish it in 2023 or 2024.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

The best thing that I read this last year has been Build by Tony Fadell. This book made me think about our purpose and the reasons why we need to continue. I have recommended it to just about every entrepreneur I’ve come across.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their businesses?

Starting and growing a business is never easy. I would encourage anyone to give themselves patience and grace. It’s easy to look at social media and compare yourself to everyone else posting things that aren’t necessarily true. Many of these outlets are just garbage. Stay away from these channels and focus on the things you can control. Build a good team and empower them to make their own decisions. Focus on the big picture and don’t get bogged down by the day-to-day. Face challenges head-on and don’t let little things turn into big things. Keep your head up and know that there’s nothing you can’t overcome.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We’re very well positioned to continue on our growth trajectory. However, we’re always looking to hire intelligent and talented people to help us achieve our goals. I’m more than willing to meet with anyone who has an interest in being a part of our company to see if there is a potential fit. We don’t necessarily hire positions, but rather bring on people who share our vision and values.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Kyle LaFond, Founder of American Provenance
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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