Supply Chain

How to Generate More Sales as a Product-Based Small Business Owner

The Hartford

As a product-based small business owner, it can be very easy to fall into the mindset that you need to sell a wide range of merchandise in order to generate a substantial revenue. After all, wouldn’t more products attract a larger client base? However, while this strategy might work for other big box stores, it can actually put smaller businesses at a disadvantage, particularly if they are just starting out. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis along with Minna Khounlo-Sithep and Jacqueline Snyder, co-founders of The Product Boss, share their expertise on how to generate more sales with strategies that are specifically tailored to the product-based small business owner.

Podcast Key Highlights

  • What Are Some Common Mistakes that Product-Based Small Business Owners Make When They’re Starting Out?
    • Lacking a network of likeminded business owners or mentors
    • Devoting more time to the creative aspects of their business rather than the entrepreneurial side
    • Not knowing when it’s time to step up as a CEO and hire more employees to take over some of your previous responsibilities
    • Trying to develop too many different products
  • How Can the Owners of Smaller Product-Based Businesses Boost Their Revenue?
    • As the owner of a smaller product-based business, your first step towards fostering revenue growth is to diversify both your existing marketing channels and your sales channels.
    • Rather than trying to sell a bunch of different products to expand their client base, small business owners should focus on their bestsellers and capitalize on those by creating variations on them.
  • What Are the Advantages of Niche Marketing for Small Business Owners?
    • It helps solidify your brand image
    • It allows you to target a specific audience
    • It enables you to develop your expertise on this specific product topic
    • You’ll save money on product development
    • You can get better deals when you’re sourcing
  • What Can Product-Based Small Business Owners Do to Thrive During the Pandemic?
    • Use this time to build your skill set
    • Seek expertise either through mentors or podcasts
    • Build a supportive network consisting of other small business owners
    • Survey your existing client base to see how you can improve your products and service
    • Share your journey and your stories on social media to generate more interest in your brand

Links

Transcript

The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.

You’re listening to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, brought to you by The Hartford.

Jon: Hey everybody. And welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis and I am joined with two special guests today, Minna Khounlo-Sithep and Jacqueline Snyder, co-founders of the online educational platform and podcast, The Product Boss. Ladies, how are you doing today?

Jacqueline: We’re great. Thanks for having us on, Jon.

Minna: Yeah, thank you so much.

Jon: Yeah. Thanks for joining us. I’m excited to jump into the conversation. As our listeners know, we talk a lot with different business owners, different experts, and predominantly around how folks can manage and grow their business. But I would say, humbly, that we probably over serve those who are in service-based businesses, as I think a lot of the category does. I’m super excited to have you two with us today because you focus on what I think is probably the larger set of businesses I encounter, at least out there, which are people who sell physical products or maybe digital products, but they’re selling something besides just what they do in themselves.

Jon: And this has been an interesting couple years, especially for those folks who maybe started in the beginning of the pandemic with still inventory and a way to digitally activate. But, then saw the back tail impact of things like inflation and product shortages and how do I bring my product to bear? Really jazzed to understand your perspective on that and things people can maybe do to think through that as we face the long tail impacts. But first, I’d love to hear about both of you as individuals, a little bit about your journey to entrepreneurism, and how you partnered up to bring the Product Boss to life.

Jacqueline: Well, thank you for having us and thank you for asking. Both Minna and I, this is Jacqueline everyone. So both Minna and I are first generation Americans. Our families came to this country in different ways, but we were really taught from a very early age that whether you call it the American dream or you can make money out of nothing, I think that is something that we learned very quickly. That you could start over and you could just start. And I think that’s maybe what led the two of us into entrepreneurship. I was raised by entrepreneurs, Minna was not, but the idea of hitting our own destinies and the choice there. And so we’re both from big families. We have lots of siblings. Definitely, I think, we’ve been leaders within our families, as well.

Jacqueline: My background is as a fashion designer. I went to Otis College of Art and Design, became a designer, worked right out of school for some big companies. And then was given an opportunity by my parents where initially they let me, I say, let me, but I was at UC, let me transfer to art school. It was that ability to do something that was out of the norm in the arts. And then as a designer, I back in 2007, started my company, which is Designer Consulting Co-op, where I consult startups. I basically design, develop, produce and startup fashion brands. So, apparel and accessories. I’ve launched over a thousand different brands. I like to say 999 more than most people from startup. In that time, I also had my own line, an accessories line, and that’s actually what brought Minna and I together.

Jacqueline: I’ll let her get into her story. And then we can tell you how the two of us found each other, because exactly what you said about this podcast. Very much so, an entrepreneurship. We feel alone and there is a lot of support for service. But for physical product based businesses, there wasn’t that support. When we found each other, we’re like, “Ooh, we speak the same love language of inventory and shipping. You want to be my best friend?”

Jon: Yeah, logistics.

Jacqueline: Yeah, right.

Minna: And for me, I didn’t start off in physical products at all. We each have our own other business. For example, outside of the Product Boss, Jacqueline has Designer Consulting Co-Op, where she just talked about how she got into consultancy. My path was very much a formal lead up to education. My parents came here. They knew they wanted me to go to college. They knew what they wanted me to marry well. Basically, a very traditional upbringing. And so it was very unlikely for me to, very uncommon for me to go into a creative mode. But, I was always creative. I think that’s one thing I learned I can make money from anything, from nothing really. And I learned that from my parents. Hard work will get you anywhere, but you have to be the one that puts in the hard work and you have to be scrappy and creative and resourceful getting there. When I was growing up, it was go and get your degree.

Minna: I do have my master’s of business administration. I have my undergrad in advertising and psychology. But innately, I knew that I wanted something different than that. I wanted to control being a leader in my own life, being creative, getting to create something. And that’s what really, through all these things, I was a graphic designer for corporations. Actually, that’s where I started with my degrees. I ended up going into overflow agency work for creative annual reports and print collateral. Back then, maybe the youngins don’t remember, but there was a lot of print collateral that would come out. And that was how I came up, was in annual reports, newsletters, actual physical ones. And as I started having children, I realized that I would get really burnt out, in the middle of the night, because I would be a night owl, cranking away on my computer.

Minna: And then eventually I became pregnant with my second daughter. And this was somewhere, I had started my entrepreneurial journey. I got my MBA in 2004 and I started doing graphic design freelance. And that’s where I really started with. And I picked up a big roster of clients. And then I had my first daughter in 2010 and then in 2015 I was pregnant with my second child and I thought, I cannot make another newsletter. You know how you get to that point, even as an entrepreneur. And I thought, I can’t do it. I ended up developing my own labels company, it’s called Lil’ Labels. And then I started figuring out how to sell on Amazon. And then, it’s like the stars really aligned for me well. First I sent in the wrong adhesive, so the stars were not aligned at that point yet. But, I knew I wanted to start something else and I knew I could do it with my skills that I had.

Minna: And as an entrepreneur, I put on my entrepreneur hat and I thought, what can I create? I know a lot about commercial printing because of my annual reports and that sort of thing. And I figured out how to do washable adhesive for baby bottles and that sort of thing. And I was pregnant with my own child. Five years later after my first child, I thought nobody has figured this out yet. I can figure this out. So I figured it out. Put it on Amazon. Again, wrong adhesive, the first run. So we all make mistakes, right?

Minna: And then I pulled the inventory. Got it back on. And miraculously that happened right before the very first prime day. And so that really kicked off my business. And then I was able to have that business. Jacqueline and I will circle back to the story of how we met. We ended up meeting a couple years later. And we happened to have children the same age at that time. And we are in the very similar personable season of business, but we came up the same way. Somehow we came, we converged. The stars aligned at that point too, for us to meet because we met on the worldwide web, essentially.

Jacqueline: Which is WWW, no.

Jon: Was it an AOL chat room?

Jacqueline: You’re right. That’s all weird. What’s interesting in being on a podcast right now. Those of you that are listening, it was a podcast that we both listened to for female CEO entrepreneurs, six figures. The podcaster mentioned Minna and said. Minna, I think, had had a strategy session with her and she’s like, “Minna has this huge business on Amazon. And if she ever wanted to be an Amazon coach, she could be.” And meanwhile, Minna’s like, “I will never be someone’s coach.”

Minna: You couldn’t pay me enough to get back into client work was what I thought, at that time.

Jacqueline: Four and a half years later, we’ll get into that. We were in this Facebook group for this community and I found her on there. I don’t typically reach out to people to be 100% honest. I reached out and I was like, “Hey, I have this product that I’ve created that I want to liquidate.” Thinking about Amazon, because Amazon’s this whole new world that reaches so many people. And so she was generous enough to offer me an online coffee chat. Then we just got along and hit it off. Just so everybody knows, I was living in LA. I was bi-coastal between LA and New York and Minna lives in Iowa. Our whole relationship, including this beautiful business we’ve built, has really been online, pre pandemic, right? She jumped on and then we started chatting with each other. I would drive to downtown LA. I’d be in forever traffic. She’d be talking to me. We’d leave each other voice notes on this one app that we use.

Minna: Unlimited access to everything.

Jacqueline: Which we realized that there was a 15 minute limit of how long you could speak. We would leave up a 15 minute monologue and then stop. And then she would reply with a 15 minute…

Minna: You would use this app called Voxer, which is a walkie talkie app. We were starting to get to know each other more and became very fast friends, not having phone calls, but having walkie talkie access to each other.

Jacqueline: Which led to being ideal podcasters really.

Jon: That’s awesome.

Jacqueline: We just vibed. And so what we started talking about, because I was coaching, consulting, and designing for product based businesses. She had her own. I came from a traditional manufacturing world, traditional manufacturing in Los Angeles and overseas, wholesale. Minna had come out with her business where she also manufactures. So neither of us are traditionally makers. She was manufacturing for herself domestically and then shipping on what we used to call was the new platform. Amazon was new. Subscription boxes, flash deal sites, that kind of thing. We combined our powers. And we started chatting and we were like, “People just don’t ever talk about inventory.” Or when you listen to these online business podcasts, they were saying, “How to grow your email list, get an opt in. Give them this download.”

Jacqueline: And we’re like, “That doesn’t make sense for product.” As we started going back and forth about it, I was speaking at the LA Textile Show and they asked me to put together a panel. And so I invited Minna to be the speaker on Amazon. She flies out to LA. It’s the first time we’re ever going to meet, but we’re staying in an Airbnb together. And then I was like, “Should we sell a mastermind at the end and go into business together?” And she’s like, “Sure.” And so that’s literally the beginning of this business where the first time we ever met, we also made money.

Minna: Literally, 50 people in the room that we talked about doing multiple streams of income. And we were like, “If you want to be in a virtual mastermind with us, meet us out in the hallway.”

Jacqueline: We were PayPal-ing.

Minna: Clipboard, meet me out in the hallway. I’ll do a PayPal transaction for your deposit. And we got nine businesses to sign up out of those 50 people. We knew that we weren’t the only ones that felt really lonely and unguided and loved to mastermind together in the product sphere. So that really solidified, for us, that we have this audience of people that feels lonely as well and loves to talk product business. And then months later was when we started the podcast. And now the podcast, so we’re talking 2018. How many years has it been? Four and a half years? And now we’re almost at three million downloads.

Jon: Awesome. That’s incredible. Congratulations.

Jacqueline: Thank you.

Minna: Thank you.

Jon: Tell me a little bit more about The Product Boss. So that was the Genesis of this idea of people need support and help and education and you had some information and insight to give. And today, you’re a fully fledged business and online destination and content channel and shopping guide and everything else. What is it really that The Product Boss does in the current day?

Jacqueline: Like we say, we’re an online education company. Our goal is to help physical goods. Physical product based business owners, people who have to manufacture or they’re makers and they’re sitting with inventory and they’re shipping it to retailers or direct to consumer because it’s a different world there.

Minna: And they’re primarily small businesses that are started from living rooms by women. We tend to attract, obviously, who we are. So women who are starting empires out of their garages, their basements, and they are bootstraps. That is really what we focus on is organic growth. And our audience is global, but primarily women that are bootstrapped.

Jacqueline: Yeah. And all the guys and people in general that are out there that listen to us. We so appreciate it. But the thing is that, what we believe in, is both of us are bootstrapped. We believe in taking our creative abilities, seeing a place in the world that we can fill it with, with our product. We help them think higher level. A lot of people end up in small business, but maybe they didn’t have a business degree. They don’t feel equipped as business owners. Maybe they lean more to creative than business. And so it’s really that idea of what are the baseline things that they can do and understand. We really help them with their systems and operations, their visibility and marketing, and their growth in terms of sales and scaling.

Jacqueline: That’s a lot of what we teach. And then we also though, there’s a big mindset component. We also work with multimillion, to eight figure businesses, as well in our high end mastermind. And that part is where they’ve grown it to a certain point, but now it’s time for them to really level up as CEO and not do all the grunt work. A lot of that comes into the mindset around hiring, building out teams.

Jacqueline: The biggest conversation we have is, “Can you take a day off and actually do something for yourself, like go on vacation or stay in bed and watch Netflix all day?” And that’s probably one of the hardest things that they get to when they’ve worked so hard and have a multimillion dollar business with a team that can handle a lot. They’re still doing the same thing they did when they were grinding, getting it to their first six figures. We really are a holistic business of education, support, community. We just want people to know that they can make the life that they dream of and the vehicle there is with their business. It’s for financial gain. It’s stability. It’s for feeling of purpose. And that’s what we really want to support with.

Jon: That’s great. And I think, to that point, I feel like there’s been a rise of kind of entrepreneurship and small business ownership, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, I think. It’s safe to say most people realize anything that they plan for or thought was guaranteed is probably not. And there was this, I think, sense of urgency to understand how to figure it out, tap into that resourcefulness. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much in my YouTube algorithm about how to create multiple income streams and passive income or bring your idea to bear.

Jon: And as much as some of that can be service or thinking creatively about how you can access other things, a lot of it was, can I be a maker? Do I have a skillset? Can I bring my idea to life? And I think that’s really exciting for folks. But then fast forward a year, now can I get the resources I need to actually manufacture, produce and distribute. Keen on your perspective today about what you’ve started to see from that perspective, as people who are in the product world, how has that impacted folks’ ability to wholesale or source and thoughts or insights you might have there?

Minna: Yeah, we’ve seen a lot of that. Anytime there’s some big economical thing like a pandemic or recession or anything, there is innovation that happens. That’s the beauty of downturn of any economy is that businesses end up you give life to them. There is a lot more talk about multiple streams of income. The way that we teach it though, is that you take what you know that sells because the people that we tend to attract are people that want to bring something tangible to the world, something you can physically hold. And so they might have started a candle line or they’re making jewelry or whatever that is. But, what they are missing is usually an understanding and a grasp of upleveling their skill sets. Where will they make the mistakes?

Minna: Typically, it has to do with their skill sets. Getting to know their numbers, understanding their systems, utilizing a community, to be honest. Trying to do it by yourself is very difficult. It’s the most costly and most time consuming way to do it. We really fill that gap for them. We talk about those. And we bring the community as well as the education. And so we’ve been seeing where, while the businesses that start up in the pandemic or whatever, in any economy, the ones that really thrive and survive and become sustainable and actually lead to the life that Jacqueline was talking about previously, are the ones that really up level there themselves. The ones that take that business skillset. And then think about while we teach, yes, multiple streams of income, it’s different in that you take what works and you put it onto more sales platforms versus a typical mistake that a new maker, a new manufacturer makes is that I’m going to make all the things to try to catch all the people.

Minna: And I’m just going to do more products and see what happens. And they do more, more, more. But if you know to skip that more, more, more of the creative pull of an entrepreneur, you do it the way that we teach. And that is you take what you already know what’s working. You’re best selling candle. You’re best selling jewelry. You create variations of them. Or, but first, you start with diversification of your sales channels and diversification of your marketing channels. That’s how you do it. You become known for something because those other things of doing more products might work for big box. They will not work for a small business. Small business has limited resources. They have limited time. They have limited money. It’s really hard to use the same sort of business concepts that apply towards big business and apply them towards small business.

Minna: And then on top of it, what you see in the market a lot of times is service based providers talking to product based businesses. And it doesn’t flip exactly how they need it to happen, especially for small business. I think that’s one of the things we’re the most proud of is being able to take a somebody who is a maker and then help them develop themselves, but develop their team and their strategy and think in a different way where it really does apply to them as a small business. So when they hit those roadblocks of, like you said, perhaps, raw goods supply chain, or what we saw with the pandemic of other competitors coming into the industry, or a sales channel shutting down like trade shows, or Amazon was shut down to essential items for a bit and Etsy and all those things. We’re able to really, really help them because they start to understand, “This is how it applies towards me. This is how it’s relevant and then to my customer.”

Jon: Awesome. I think that makes a lot of sense. I think you can’t really underestimate the value of, I guess you could call it like nicheing down, right? When we talk a lot of a marketing concepts, you got to understand your target audience. That can’t be everyone. But, I think what’s really interesting about what you’re saying, too, is if you can get that one thing that does well, there’s probably some element of it that you can scale, or you can vary or build on and not have to reinvent the wheel all the time because I think you’re also really right with that kind of creative drive. There’s an innate energy, I think, in any business owner or entrepreneurial spirit where it’s that constant push and pull of what do I like to do versus what can I do versus what could I do and then way over here in what’s going to make me money. And how do you find that intersection and still stay fulfilled and energized and ready to take on more.

Jacqueline: We say, save Fridays for that. Monday through Thursday, do the things that have a return on your investment. We really are known for teaching about the best seller and we’ve got so many examples in the world about it. I’ll give the example of Juicy Couture. Since you were in fashion, remember the Juicy Couture tracksuit?

Jon: I do.

Jacqueline: Our youngins out there…

Minna: by the way Jon.

Jon: I saw. Yeah. It’s funny. I was watching an interview with Paris Hilton and that came up the other day and she was walking around in one still. It was just a very nostalgic moment for me.

Jacqueline: Is it 1998 again? What year are we in? The tracksuit, I’m just going to bring that up because it’s a really big business that has an example. I owned denim from Juicy Couture from ’97. No one knew that they had denim pre-tracksuits. But what put them on the map was they created the velour tracksuit. Obviously, celebrities wore it. But let’s just say it had the J on the zipper and it was pink and these bright colors and it was a hoodie with long pants. Now, they hit big with it. Celebrities wore it. People wanted to buy it. They didn’t stop. They didn’t go like, “Okay, I’m over it. I’m now going to move on and go back to denim or t-shirts or purses and handbags and jewelry.” They were like, “What other variations of this tracksuit can we make? A gazillion colors? Short versions.”

Minna: Hoodless.

Jacqueline: Hoodless. Sleeveless. All versions. And if you were a Juicy Couture fan, you probably had a lot of velour. And when we think about that brand and we think, “But. I do own a purse and I own perfume from them and I own jewelry and all the things they did.” That was all once they got bought out by a huge company. That’s when the market expanded. That’s when they expanded the brand. And by the way, no longer. What’s coming back? The track suit, not all the other stuff. What happens is for small businesses, especially for going into a down economy or things are costing more and there’s inflation and all the things is, we want you to lean into the things that you know that work. We need to double down on the things that we know people want to buy, that you could be known for.

Jacqueline: So whether you’re a startup business or you’re a bigger business, what do they know you for? How do you give them more of what they want? And the variations of it. It’s not time to then say, “I’m going to go add on. I have candle company, but now I’m going to add on room sprays and other types of fragrance things.” Because it’s going to cost you money for development. And so if you can then instead dig in and sell more of your number one candle in a scent, in a size jar, and get that onto Amazon, get it into a bunch of retailers, sell a direct consumer, maybe get some press on it.

Jacqueline: That’s the thing that’s going to, we call, poor gasoline on the fire of your best seller and put you on the map. That’s the thing that’s going to put money in your bank account. And you save money because then when you’re sourcing, you can ask for better deals. I’m going to buy not a hundred from you. Now, I need to buy 500. What’s a better deal you can give me. You’re buying in bulk. There’s just so many benefits to leaning into your best sellers. Keep the creative stuff for a Friday or shelf it and really start to generate the kind of revenue you want with your best seller by diversification.

Minna: Yeah. You go deep before you go wide.

Jon: I think that’s a good tip. And what’s interesting there is, buried in there is, I think, something super relevant for today too, right? Because, if you can laser in on that one thing and start to scale that, there is the reality of people having a hard time finding raw goods right now. If you can put yourself in a position to still monetize it. I guess single idea feels a little bit too small, but a concept, a smaller family of concepts, you do get that opportunity to not have to worry about how do I find everything because you can start to, whether it’s scale your purchases or eliminate other sourcing adventures to focus on a couple elements that you can manufacture and distribute.

Minna: 100%. That’s what we really try to push our makers and our product bosses to do is that they should try to go for the fact that 20% of their products will give them 80% of their revenue. It will yield 80% of their revenue. And let’s say that supply chain hits and they can’t find their best seller’s glass jar, but they can use a creativity and their resourcefulness to create a small batch of variation of that, in a different vessel perhaps. That’s just an example of problem solving because that really is a skillset that will get them through these supply chain issues, is thinking about how can I be creative in my marketing, still connect the dots for my customer because they will buy what I tell them to buy. People don’t buy what they don’t see. They don’t buy what you don’t tell them to buy because they have such decision fatigue.

Jacqueline: They buy what’s on the mannequin. They buy what’s in the store window. They buy what’s on display. They buy what you send in an email.

Minna: If you have a color display, they will definitely buy that one versus other colors or whatever bundle. But, they tend to buy what they see. And if you can give them, let’s say you do hit supply chain and you can’t find this specific vessel. You get creative with it. You have a specialty limited edition item that you take most of what your best seller is telling you because that’s historical data of why most people will buy, is because of some reason that they are drawn to that. It has the best stories. It has the best results. It has the best customers. All of that. The best pricing, perhaps. The best connection of messaging. And you create a version of that that’s more limited edition until we get through the other end of when supply comes back. Because, now as you can see for a big box who doesn’t have the ability to pivot as quickly, a lot of big box hit supply chain issues.

Minna: Target and everything. They hit supply issues. And now the influx has come in and now they actually have oversupply. If you have a return to make, they won’t take it into warehouse anymore. They will have you keep it and donate it and give you a return. You can even start to see economical, I guess, consequences of, I guess, of the timing of things happening. And so now They won’t take it back. And there’s oversupply. But, it is dripping out, obviously, in different categories. My point is that get creative with what you need to do now to have yourself sustain the amount of money you need to make for your business and use it towards that. But, don’t go crazy and make a whole different category just because you’re hitting supply chain issues. Stick with what you know and create a variation or seasonality to it that still can hit with your customers and use some strong messaging to connect the dots for them.

Jacqueline: And if I can add just a little side story to that is that we had a student that made candles and could not get the vessels. This is what we’re talking about. And so she had found green vessels. She’s like, “What do I do? Do I tell them I couldn’t find the clear vessels that I have to use the green vessels and promise them blah, blah, blah?” We’re like, “No, make it a marketing moment.” You found the green vessels call it a limited edition, whatever bestselling scent, limited edition jar. And she sold them.

Jacqueline: A lot of times I think small businesses are like, “Do I tell them? Do I not tell them?” When there’s also this level of needing to order furniture and you can’t get it for six months and they keep pushing it out. I think it’s the idea of getting scrappy and resourceful, which as entrepreneurs we do. Raising your prices if you need to. I think retailers right now will be raising their prices about 11% to catch up by the holidays. That’s what we’re starting to see in the buying patterns of what they’re buying now. It’s going to trickle out to retail. But, people are raising prices. We’re paying $7 a gallon for gas in California right now, but it will swing back down the other way.

Minna: Yeah. It actually has already started coming down in the Midwest. Obviously, it gets higher or worse before it gets better.

Jacqueline: LA is going to keep charging. It’s like green juice, a gas here.

Minna: Trench coat selling gasoline.

Jon: Interesting too is, I think, your journey is another way to think about that. I do think another kind of, I guess you could call, silver lining of the pandemic and just the past couple years is this renewed focus on supporting independently owned businesses and the small business category. I feel like to your very early point, there’s this sense of always needing to find community. Or it’s hard to find people like me, but I think people have been more focused on doing that. I do wonder too, in situations where maybe you have a top selling item, but maybe you don’t have the right inventory, does that create these moments for open collaboration where you can actually start to cross poll the audiences. Maybe you have another handmade vessel maker and you’re the scent person. You could almost do a co-branded unit if you could find someone to sync up with.

Jacqueline: 100%. We see this with, we are investors in a fully funded female beverage company, and they’re having a lot of trouble coming to market because of the supply chain issues. We’re a year and a half late on coming to market. She is actually collaborated with another one of our students who is a fragrance company and candle company, and has come out with a rose scented inspired by what this beverage is going to be, candle and perfume line. There’s still this idea of bringing something to, I know this is totally different than us saying go deep, not wide, but this is just a creative concept of how do you give something to your customer, an audience, if there’s an issue? Or a collaboration or a cross promotion?

Minna: Yes, absolutely. It is still going deep because they took their best sellers. Rose Summer is what it was called. And she took her essential oil perfume. Basically, it’s clean perfumes. Those are her best sellers. But, it’s a marketing diversification. You reach new eyes that you never would because they crossed each other’s audiences at that point. But to your point, Jon, I think that the main thing that we have seen, and this is why during the pandemic, our community of product bosses, we’re really, really proud to say that they thrived, of everybody that we saw. Businesses will go out of business. We know this. It’s a business cycle. It’s very normal.

Minna: Even, economically for businesses to go into business, businesses is to go out of business. The thing that sets most people apart is their willingness to do it together or to do it in spite of because if you’re doing it alone, there’s nobody to tell you, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what that feels like.” Or, “Oh my gosh. Hey, let’s do something together. I’ll get you through the hard times.” And that is really in 2020, we saw that that was really why our community thrived, because we were, the way to best do this is to do it together. We’re going through something unprecedented. Really, really hard. We definitely have kids or neighbors or all these different worries. You feel so isolated.

Minna: I don’t know any of my neighbors. She says that because I’m the introvert of us too. And she’s the extrovert. I’m always like my neighbors, if I knew them.

Jon: Funny. I bought a house in October and I tend to be like that too. When I was in the city, I made friends with my neighbors because you’d walk in the door at the same time. But, this is the first time in my life where, I was painting one day, they poke their head in the window. I was so caught off guard because I’m like, “Who’s using my porch?” It was just to say hi. But now it’s if I’m traveling, they take my trash barrels in for me. I finally have learned the joy of good neighbors.

Jacqueline: Yeah. But that’s how we formed. Minna and I formed because we were operating for so long independently of each other. And I was going through a rough time when I met her. And so I think that’s the idea here. And I think that’s the beauty of podcast that it creates this community. You can have someone in your earbud while you’re working on things or working through things. You can resource, finding answers to questions. And then we’ve built community up around our education because it’s the hard times that you need it. Answering your question about small businesses. It’s tricky because now that there’s talk of recession and money being more expensive, inflation and all the things, there is a big push for people to shop at Walmart again. And big box stores that are discounted. People are afraid.

Jacqueline: I’m not going to spend that amount with a small business. There is this flip from 2020, we’re like we got to keep the small businesses in business. And we’ve gone back to people being like, “How do I stay afloat?” It really is going to come down to the stories you share, to the attachment. The people who know their customers best are the ones that are going to win. And so we want everyone to make it through which you listen to our podcast. We have ways of making multiple streams of revenue. It’s The Product Boss podcasters. The resources you can get from podcasts like this one, especially, is just so informative. But it’s like you said. It’s going to take diversification.

Jacqueline: It’s going to take you not doing it alone. It might take, even when time’s so hard and you don’t have a lot of money, investing into a course, investing into an expert, investing into something that’s going to up level you because we only have so much time and money. Sometimes investing the money is going to fast track that time of succeeding and getting ahead and pivoting quickly. I think we’re going to see some dips with small business, but if you can truly connect deeply with your customers, then bring them along this journey with you and have them root for you as well.

Minna: We saw two things happen in the pandemic and I think that they’re going to be parallel to what’s going to happen coming up in this next year. Is that when the pandemic hit, we had two camps, really. People that did nothing and were scared and literally sat in that uncertainty and thought, “I’ll just wait to see what happens.” Then we had our camp of people that we were like, “Come over here. Let’s figure it out together. We don’t know what to do either, but we’re going to do this together.” And let’s just take action. Even, if it’s imperfect action. Even, if it’s pivoting. We’re not quite sure. The action is really the difference maker. If you can be someone who takes action, meaning like what Jacqueline said, if you have to invest, you do it. If you have to create a partnership, you do it.

Minna: If you have to do a collaboration, like what you were talking about, Jon, if you have to dive into listening to some podcasts, take action. And that will bring the clarity. That will get you through because times will get better. Guaranteed. They always do. And the other end of it is that, are you going to be better than when you came in or are you going to be the same? And or not be able to survive? Because the ones that did survive and thrived, to be honest, were the ones that took actions, even if they weren’t perfect every time. They simply were the ones who would ask for the sale, would reach out to the customer, would survey them, would ask for, “I know you bought this, you probably will like this.” Gave suggestions. People who showed up on social media. People who did a lot of different things.

Minna: But, to our point, is that when you decide to show up, you focus on the things that you know that are going to sell. Meaning I’m not going to show up and just tell you about some random line of lotion I came up with. I’m going to come and show up and tell you the best stories about my best customers and the reasons why they bought, the benefits of my products. But, the ones that sold. My best sellers, not my random one that I’m coming out with that I don’t have anything against. That really is when you show up, you show up and you have to go harder in times than when you’re having supply chain issues or whatever, you have to do the marketing pushes. And that will be really what sets people apart.

Minna: And that’s why there’s, if you see two candles next to each other and they pretty similar in pricing, what’s going to set it apart? It’s a lot of different things like aesthetics and brand and everything. But oftentimes, it has everything to do with everything around the product. The marketing pushes. The person being like, “Here’s the benefits.” Removing the obstacles and showing you, “This is what’s typically purchased. People love this one. They couldn’t live without it. It flies off the shelves.” You grab it now. That is what’s going to set that candle apart versus the other candle.

Jon: That’s great. I feel like we could talk for hours.

Minna: We definitely could.

Jon: And I think we should definitely plan a part two, because I’d love to get a little bit more insight from you both on some of the things you brought up today because I think there’s a lot of lessons our audience would love to hear. But, I know we’re close to time. For the folks listening, we’ll be sure to link your site, your podcast in the show notes. So definitely check out their podcasts. It’s awesome. I’ve been poking around the site the past couple weeks. There’s a lot of good information on there. I am now inspired to think about how I can do some things a little bit differently. But, just thank you both so much for joining us today. I think this was a really great conversation and really actionable advice, which is nice to hear.

Jacqueline: Thank you. And we’d love to offer a free checklist for the product bosses that listen to the podcast. If you go to theproductboss.com/hartford, we’re going to have The Product Boss’ Guide to Getting Holiday Ready checklists. It’s really going to help navigate the holidays. It’s a time that we really dig into supporting.

Minna: And beyond, really.

Jacqueline: Yeah. And it’s a time that we really dig into supporting and giving back to the community as they’re navigating the busiest time of year. And we’re at our podcast at The Product Boss. Jump back and forth between the podcast because we’re here for you.

Jon: Awesome. Minna and Jacqueline, thank you so much for spending the afternoon with us. For everyone out there listening, thank you so much. We wouldn’t be here without you. Make sure you catch us on the next one at SBA.thehartford.com. We can check out the blog for more insights and advice. And make sure you check out the productboss.com to see more about the great work that Minna and Jacqueline are doing. Maybe you register for class, check out their podcast and have a great day.

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