With all the buzz about influencer marketing, it's easy to forget that many of your customers have their own online presence and a network they can influence.
On today's episode of Shopify Masters, we invite an entrepreneur to share how she grew her business by creating a micro-ambassador program for her best customers to become her influencers.
Cindy Collins is the founder of Euphoric Herbals: maker of herbal products, specializing in pregnancy and postpartum, for women and their families.
I’ve had over 1,000 people apply to become an ambassador of the influencer program that I created. Over 1,000. And I’ve obviously not chosen them all, because it’s so many people.
Tune in to learn
- How to know which business to focus on when you’ve started multiple businesses
- How to think bigger as an ecommerce entrepreneur
- What is a micro ambassador program and how to identify worthy ambassadors
- Store: Euphoric Herbals
- Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
- Recommendations: Simon Sinek, Loox (Shopify app), Privy (Shopify app), Bold Subscriptions (Shopify app)
Felix: Today we’re joined by Cindy Collins from Euphoric Herbals. Euphoric Herbals makes herbal products for a woman and their family specializing in pregnancy and postpartum and generated $380,000 of revenue in 2017, and was started in 2010 based out of Milford, Delaware. Welcome, Cindy.
Cindy: Hi Felix, how are you?
Felix: Good. You mentioned that you got started by, it was kind of a hobby of yours. You were going to craft shows and got started on Etsy. Tell us a little more about this. How did this hobby turn into a business over time?
Cindy: Sure. The hobby started after my second son was born. At that time I was making herbal products and herbal tea, and I really got into it during my first pregnancy. Mostly making products that were just for myself. Then after I became a doula, I started making products for my clients that I was serving. Then it became to my family and my friends. I always liked creating and crafting things, so naturally, I would think, well, I want to sell these products. I’m gonna go to a farmer’s market and craft shows. Then eventually I started selling on Etsy. In 2010, just as a hobby, ’cause I was at that point … I had three children. My third son was born in April 2011. I just started selling on Etsy a little bit here and there and locally at different craft shows and event. That’s how it originally began. Now it’s much different to that.
Felix: Yeah. So you said you had three children at the time that you got started?
Cindy: Three children, and I actually had three businesses as well.
Felix: So how did you squeeze in the time?
Cindy: Well, yeah, none of the businesses really were really demanding full-time work. Part-time work, it was just a little bit here and there of things I enjoy doing. I was doing photography part-time and I was a doula attending births part-time. Then just creating herbal products on the side. So it’s just kind of whenever. But it was really after the birth of my third son was born that I realized okay, I can’t do this all. I’m only one person and having three young children, running three businesses. And Adam, my husband, he was working full-time, part-time and doing his master’s degree. I was like, there’s … not the kind of life that I had really want to have.
So I really started to focus and have a shift, you know. That kind of came about when one of my customers had asked me to create a product for them. They said, “Can you create a lactation blend?” I used to be, did lactation counseling at local hospitals, so I was very familiar with that. I also studied herbalism. Personally, just for my own desire to learn more about the herbs that I was using. Never intended to do it on a professional level. I said, “Yeah, sure, I think I can do that.” So I created the lactation blend, created the formula and packaged it and sent it in for feedback.
But I also would send it to other testers, because I really wanted to get a wide variety of people, based on their health circumstances and situations, to test these products. Test this new product that I had created and give me feedback on it. If I wanted something I wanted to regularly sell. I got really good feedback on it. I just thought well, maybe this is something I could add to my product collection. At that time was just herbal teas and herbal salves. So then I added that in there and that new product development, the lactation [inaudible], that was the first product of my lactation collection. Really set me on a whole new path and trajectory that I never expected.
Felix: Was it sales that you’re talking about that just like, hey, this is going to be … this is something that’s worth investing time and because it was doing so well in terms of selling?
Cindy: Yeah, it was sales. So that was a big part of it, that it started selling more than my other products. And so that demanded more attention and focus. As it demanded more attention and focus, I started thinking about, well what if I just did this? Or just did herbal products. I was starting to get tired of trying to have three businesses, realizing that I only have a finite amount of energy and time. Then people would ask for more products. Can you create another lactation blend without this specific herb or this specific ingredient in it. I said, yeah, absolutely. I’ll give it a try. And it started growing between that was just a lot more of what I was doing and it was much more easier for me as a mother with young children, especially a new baby, to be able to do this from the comfort of my own home, from the convenience of if they were taking naps or were at school or something like that. Whereas it was much more harder to fit in being on call as a doula and scheduling photography shoots. So this was much more convenient for my lifestyle at the time.
Felix: Got it. So it demanded more attention and focus, but you could have been in a situation where it demanded time and your attention but then you also still wanted … you still could have done everything else that you were doing to and spread yourself completely thin. What made you decide, you know what, I’m going to, instead of spreading myself thin, I’m going to just double down and focus on one thing?
Cindy: Yeah. It was really hard when I, I loved everything that I was doing, and initially, when I started in this industry of working with mothers and babies, my whole goal was eventually to become a home-birth midwife. That’s what I thought I was really called to do. Then after I started having really good feedback and was all [inaudible] success, and the products that I was creating and the difference it was making in my customer’s lives, that really just filled my soul. I just thought, okay, you know what? What is the one thing that only I can do. That only I can do that no one else can do.
I had to choose something ’cause I really had to focus at this point, if I want to have a bigger impact. I thought, well, there’s doulas in our community. And anybody can become a doula, it’s not super challenging. I thought, well, anybody who gets a camera can become a photographer, or thinks they’re a photographer. I said, plenty of those people in this industry.
I thought if I want to start creating these products that I’m creating, that I would get these feedback and testimonials from customers that would just make me want to cry. I’d go, I think there’d be a negative gap in the marketplace and that would be the biggest impact that I could make. In a different way support the quote-unquote “breast community” from a totally different perspective and different angle. And create advocacy and awareness from a different way. But still creating products. That was something that I said I want to focus on this. Once I started to focus, that’s when I saw a huge shift in my business. I was no longer trying to put my energy in all these different places. That’s when my business really started to grow.
Felix: Got it. I liked the question that you asked yourself, which is what’s the one thing only I can do. At that time, and maybe even today, was there no competition out there? Was there no alternative for people that wanted the same solutions for their problems?
Cindy: Yeah. There are definitely other alternative brands and companies and products in the marketplace that definitely serve the same need. At the time I felt like there wasn’t, and sometimes maybe there’s still not, the same company that’s making everything from into preconception into menopause for women. So there might be companies that focus on a specific niche, maybe just pregnancy and postpartum, but I really wanted to serve women and their families in a much more greater capacity. Even if it isn’t a product that I personally use but if felt like something that my sister might need or my aunt might need or something that I might need in the future. So I just didn’t want it to consider only me being my ideal consumer. So I wanted to consider it a different way.
So there was alternative options but there wasn’t … you couldn’t go to one company and buy everything that you needed. My lactation blends, even though they’re about 85% of what I sell, they actually came last. Everything else came first. So all of my herbal teas that I created and all the different topical salves I created, all came before the lactation blends.
Felix: Got it. Could you walk us through the new products you introduced? What was the very first thing that you introduced that was selling and then how did you start branching out to other products, other almost categories that you started adding to your store?
Cindy: The very first products that I started creating were products that I used personally. It was an herbal tea for pregnancy. An herbal tea for postpartum. Then I would make a topical herbal salve, an ointment, for my baby. So I had just created herbal teas, and it was like I wanted to find herbal teas. It’s really hard to find a specific product that is safe for pregnancy or postpartum. So I would do the research, for the resources that I had and the textbooks that I had of what was herbs that were safe for me to use that would be safe for pregnancy and postpartum. So these were products that I personally used and that my clients used.
Then when the lactation blend came, the first one, which is called Dairy’s Fairy, someone asked for that. Someone asked for alternative options without a specific herb, which was fenugreek. So then I developed a sister blend, if you go, of Dairy Diva. So after about two years of having Dairy Fairy and Dairy Diva, somebody asked for an alternative blend that would be much more suitable for someone that might be sensitive to hormones or sensitive to birth control or may have a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome, which those different health conditions impact milk supply. Then I created a blend of herbs and superfood called Milk Machine. At that same time, I just created a symbiotic blend called Lush Leche.
So those two blends, I created those … maybe that was 2013, 2014 I created those blends. That was kind of the evolution since then. I might have created maybe one more product. I think maybe a salve called Muscle Mend. Since then it’s just really focusing on refining those products. I haven’t created any new products since quite a few years, because I’ve just been simply trying to build and scale and create infrastructure and systems and getting to a really refined product process of creation.
Felix: Right. So was it really just like one person that would come to you and say hey, I would love if you could offer this as one and then you just dove right in, or were there most of people or was there something specific that people were saying that made you say okay, let me do this one instead of all the other potential product ideas?
Cindy: Well, it was multiple different people. So after a while, if somebody, different people would ask for the same thing, obviously I started paying attention. Okay, well somebody keeps asking me for a tea that for headaches that’s safe for pregnancy and safe for nursing. So after a while, a couple clients would ask for that, whether it was doula clients or customers that would purchase online. I’d listen to them. I’d say absolutely. If they’re gonna tell me what they want, and I have the means and the ability and the skills to create it, why wouldn’t I. It wasn’t too much different than what I was doing. So I’d create a product and a formula and test it. Always when I create new products, I always wanted of course have people test the products to see if I needed to tweak it or change the formula a little bit.
Felix: Got it. So you mentioned that you’ve essentially paused on growing the catalog and you’re now trying to go deep and focus on business building to make it more scalable, build out that foundation, build out those systems. What made you shift and say this is the more important thing for us to focus on as a business?
Cindy: I think when my … for a long time my business was run out of my house. I like the thick [inaudible] above my garage where I would build and create products. And when it was starting to grow beyond the capacity of that room, you know there’s a lot of foundational things. If I’m really gonna scale this business, I need to work on the unfun parts of creating the business. So that’s the just [inaudible] infrastructure, looking at what are the things that I can scale, what are the things that I need to outsource that I can’t do anymore. As somebody who was considered … I consider myself to be a maker. Outsourcing certain parts of the product and hiring people was really challenging for me. But now it’s really one of the best things. It was so liberating to get to that point.
Felix: Being a maker is a great way for people to start right there. Makers are always starting things, but then once it gets to the point where they have to essentially give up the more creative side that really drew them in, in the first place is really hard. So what were some of the first things that you looked at and said, okay, I cannot be doing this anymore?
Cindy: Well, I’ve always had, ever since my third son was born, I’ve always had some part-time assistance. So whether that was a friend’s daughter that would come over after high school and help me a little bit. So it was just kind of like let’s fill the immediate need right now. At that point, I was not really thinking vision and longterm like I can now. I didn’t have the capacity to do that. So now it’s only been a couple years where I’m able to outsource part of the product production where it’s like my capsules. I couldn’t keep up with that. We were doing that all by hand and always behind creating herbal capsules and supplements. I didn’t even know how to grow and scale that. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was very naïve at the time going I know I’m supposed to keep doing this. I don’t know how but I feel it’s gotta be … it’s gotta change for me to continue. And I’ve got to scale it.
I eventually would go to an expo, a natural products expo and got connected with a contract manufacturer that would help me create the products on a scale level. That, in itself, changed the revolution of my business. I felt like then I was able to … the people that I’ve working for me at the time, they were all part-time and they still … I have just part-time employees, able to use them and utilize them in a different way. So that way we could meet the demand faster and then I could focus on different areas of my business.
As things have changed and grown, I really think okay, what does … I hire when and where it hurts. So if something’s taking a lot of my time and I’m not the most efficient or effective at it, I feel like okay, well, that’s where I need to hire more. I need to hire for those types of people and conditions. If I’m not the most skilled at it, or it’s going to consume too much of my time, and then I can’t think of managing the employees that work for me, and scaling my business ’cause I’m too busy responding to emails or running ads or things like that or doing things on social media. I can outsource those things. Even though I might enjoy it, maybe I’m not the best person for it. I have to remind myself and reflect on that a lot.
Felix: Right. It’s also really easy to create a very long to-do list based on the nagging problems that are right in your face, but then it’s much harder to do what you’re talking about, which is almost to think bigger, think vision and finding solutions for problems that are gonna come up. Maybe it’s not here right now, maybe it’s not hurting your business now, but then if you don’t spend the time on trying to build solutions today, you won’t be ready when the problem actually comes. What were you doing on a day-to-day basis or what were you doing to take time aside to think about these things. How did you even begin to make that shift from thinking tactically day-to-day to more what’s our plan in the next six months?
Cindy: I think making that shift for me was a lot of internal work. I think listening to books, listening to podcasts kind of really giving myself the psychology of going what is it, what my business looks like this right now, but what does it mean for my business in the three years or in a year or five years or ten years. And what does that require of me, ’cause right now I’m not there. And I have to get to that point. So just thinking okay, what are the tools and the resources that I need. That requires [inaudible] books and reading and courses.
It also means reaching out to local agencies where I’ve gone to, like the local small business administration and [score] office. I go I listen, I don’t know what you guys can offer me, and this is just even a year ago. So not that long ago. I don’t know what you guys can offer me, but what things do you have available that I might need in the future. I don’t need them right now. I feel kind of solid now, but until they tell you what you have, you know what, and then these things come up.
For example, I went to this local small business administration a year ago and then they networked me with the director of the world trade center in Delaware who later has introduced me to the director of this export tech program. It’s a three months program about exporting, which is starting this fall. In September of 2018. So that’s a three months program that’s limited to a very few people but they help you put together a solid strategy for exporting to buyers and brokers in different countries, and really assessing those countries to make sure that’s a good place for your product to go to and really consider any barriers and to exporting and customs and tariffs that I don’t about right now at all. It’s so easy for me to ship direct to consumer. I ship direct to consumer is associate countries, but I have no idea what it means to scale an export on a distribution level to another country. That’s why i try to find the next people that can really help me along on that journey, even though I don’t need it right now, but maybe in six months I’m there. Or maybe in a year I’m there.
Felix: Right. Are there any books or thought leaders that you’re a big fan of, that helped in your business?
Cindy: The one that comes to mind so I really like Simon Sinek and you know that’s really just about a leadership model. I do have team members who work for me. While it’s still important to build the business and the products and the infrastructure, obviously, focusing really important on the people that I’m serving them, who work for me, is very important to me, and building a company culture.
Without company culture, I think a business will crumble really quickly. That’s one thing I have that I listen. I have all of his books and listen to the podcast and interviews and things like that.
I look at other business models that are a bit different to mine. They really inspire me, so I might listen and read books that are relevant to that specific company.
Dogfish Head is a local craft beer company here in Delaware and I love the way that the business has been built and scaled and their company culture. So, I’ve read books by the founder of that company. Then also, of course, the E Myth by Michael Gerber. I remember reading that a couple years ago and I had an epiphany going, “Oh my gosh, I’m a small business owner. I want to be an entrepreneur, and those are not the same things.”
Felix: What’s the difference?
Cindy: Well, the small business really depends on that individual who started it. So, trying to … that’s where the systems and infrastructure come in going, “I want my company to be able to run without me there, nurturing it on a daily basis.”
Felix: I think this is another potential conflict with makers, where when you start talking about becoming an entrepreneur and then you are trying to start a business that doesn’t need you anymore, you gotta separate. You start separating yourself from the baby that you created. Right? What was that process like, and any suggestions you have for someone that just cannot think of a business that they created and be able to separate themselves from it?
Cindy: Yeah, That is really challenging because sometimes the girls who … the people who work for me, they will be doing a task and a chore, sometimes I’m envious because I’ve gotta take a phone call or I’ve got to pay taxes. I want to do all these fun things or make these appointments and just have these meetings that are not so fun, and sometimes I might miss going, "Oh, I wish I could [inaudible] or I wish I could make that tee, or I wish I could do shipping, but at the same time, I have to remember, I’m creating opportunities for other people.
While I’m not getting to do that specific task, as creating, as the moment, I’m creating work that gives purpose to something just beyond me. I’m creating a company where they can come and they can work they can enjoy their jobs, which is really important to me; to create a fun workplace atmosphere. And, so, I can’t focus on; it can’t just all be about me and [inaudible] my own fulfillment. It has to create fulfillment for other people. So, it’s so hard to let go of that, but knowing if i really want to go out and scale this, I have to look beyond myself and outside of myself.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
What’s something that you now need to give up, like probably a task or an activity you today you know you have to give up, but you’re just holding onto for dear life right now?
Cindy: Hmm. Let’s see, well, we are just opening the first Herbal Apothecary in Delaware, so it’s our first retail store. And, so right now I know that I will be the person that’s kind of manning it to start, but I know I have to train associates to run here and man the apothecary. ’Cause I can’t be the only person. ’Cause I have to mind manufacturing and I have to mind shipping, and then I’m gonna have to mind the store. And, I’m only one person, so while I love the idea of really serving customers and clients when they come into the apothecary and helping them find the products that they need and engaging them and getting to know them, I can’t be that only person. So, if I want to grow this apothecary to meet the community to it’s full capacity, I’m gonna have to let that go.
It’s not even open yet. We’re opening in a week or two, so it’s very new. I have these ideas of what it may be like, but it may be very different than what I’m saying right now. I can just assume what it’s going to be like. In reality, it’ll be totally different. But, I know that’s something that I’m gonna have to let go of; that I can’t be at the store all the time serving customers, because there is so much bigger things that I’m gonna have to consider if I’m growing and scaling.
If I’m traveling to trade shows, which is something that we’re starting to explore, but you know, what does that look like to go wholesale, beyond just a direct customer? So, finding those people. That’s what I have to consider; all those things. And, it’s not easy to do that at all.
Felix: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, where do you go to hire employees?
Cindy: Word of mouth. Mostly. I’ve been really blessed with the people that have worked with me. I haven’t had any problems. There’s really been word of mouth. But, I’ve also been interviewing, and just being very careful about who I interview, so currently, we’re having a sales associate position at the apothecary and this is the first time I’ve done this is a retail setting. I’ve never ran a retail store before. So, that'll be a new adventure, to keep it on point with the brand, but that’s also relevant to the community.
So, letting people turn in their resumes, but knowing them from who I’ve hired in the past. Making those barriers, where it used to be just so easy to apply, so making it a little bit more challenging to apply for a position.
It’s good, but it’s different, where just turn in an application, and now they actually have to send in resumes. And references. And cover letters. And I’m going, “Oh my gosh, four years ago, I probably didn’t apply for my own position.” You know? I wouldn’t have a clue how to do that.
Felix: Are you mostly hiring part-time employees? Or, there are full-time employees that you also have on the team?
Cindy: Yeah, part-time. I don’t have a need just yet. I think one is slowly turning into my first full-time employee, but it’s always been part-time. Like, one day here, two days here, but now everybody has a schedule. Everybody has a schedule of where they’re at, what department they’re working in, what they’re doing, so we’ve become much more systematized. Before, it used to be flying by the seat of my pants. You know, what fires are we putting out today?
But now, all of a sudden, we can forecast what we need to do for the longer term, and think weeks and months ahead into product production.
So, that’s the process at the moment.
Felix: Got it. Do you think business owner typically hire employees too early? Or too late?
Cindy: I think too late.
I think definitely it could be too late, because I know that I put it off for so long. You know? And sometimes, we don’t realize that adding that employee into the business could really free that business center up to do other things that are more valuable and really considering how valuable a time it is.
And so, we all have valuable time but my time as a business owner and the creator of the company casting vision, is much more valuable than me shipping orders at this current time. So, I eventually will have a full-time person. I dream about what that person will be like, and for me, that’s a general manager. I think about for someone; I’ve already been thinking about that for about a year now, and just thinking, “Okay, when I’m ready, what does my revenue have to look like to be able to pay for a salary or the hourly pay of a general manager who actually has experience?”
Because I don’t have time to train a general manager. I’ve never been a general manager. I’ve just created a company. So, I definitely think about that long-term. You know? Having a general manager being a full-time person. He can oversee all the departments when I’m not available and keep things running smoothly. At some point, I wanna take a vacation.
Felix: Yeah, I’ve heard this concept or way of thinking where, is if you want to become a million dollar person, you have to start thinking and treating your time as if it were that precious; that expensive. Let’s say, what it breaks down to, let’s say your time’s worth $1,000 an hour, would you pay someone $1,000 an hour to pack boxes, right?
If that’s something that you would pay, then that’s not a good use of your time. So, as you start wanting to become larger and larger, you got to value your time much much more, and grow that over time. That’s exactly what you’re talking about.
So, let’s jump back to the beginning. So, revenue was $80,000 in 2017, just last year, what were you doing the very first year? Give us that deal, like where you started in terms of revenue.
Cindy: I think in 2011, ’cause I was not tracking or monitoring anything before 2011. In 2011, I think I did somewhere around maybe $3,000. That was probably online, craft shows, everything. And to me, that felt amazing. Tremendous. I was so happy, and I still am. I learn to be with every stage of growth to be content. ’Cause I feel like it could all go away tomorrow.
So, I’m super content with the stages of [inaudible]. In 2011 was about $3,000. [inaudible] and then, in 2014, and I can’t remember the specific things, but it grew up over time. I think it was 2012 it might have been maybe $5,000 I did in revenue for the whole year. Of course, that’s not a profit, ’cause I didn’t even calculate expenses and profit at that time. I did not know.
Felix: Might have been losing money, who knows.
Cindy: I had no idea.
Cindy: I didn’t even know my cost of goods, I didn’t know my profit margins, I didn’t know any of that. Now I know that to the penny. So, I know all of that to the penny, now.
2014, I think it was probably, I wanna say maybe about 20, maybe $30,000 in 2014. And then, I remember I started really using social media more for my business at that time. And, doing on Facebook and Instagram. And Instagram, I really feel like, is my international bridge. And, that’s where a lot of our international customers have come from.
We direct [inaudible] to 58 countries. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think was possible; to have customers in 58 countries. And so, as I started developing a lot of customers on Instagram, I thought, “Well, I see a lot of big companies who are super corporate, and they have a big marketing budget, and they have brand ambassadors, and brand advocates making a lot of money.” Well, why couldn’t I use my current customer base who are already loyal fans, and those who want to buy the products, but they can’t afford it? Why can’t I create a program to give them the opportunity to use the products, to create an incentive and to give them some product in return for that.
And so, I think it’s about six months, 2014, I really took six months to tweak out what that would look like, how that would feel, how long should the program be for a single ambassador? And, yeah. So then, in 2015, that’s when I really, really got it figured out, and that’s when I saw a huge jump from 2014 to 2015.
Felix: Right. You told us that the orders jumped by eight times and revenue jumped by six times once you really got this ambassador program rolling.
Cindy: Yeah. Yeah. It was tremendous.
Once I got it rolling, I just saw the order number just climb and climb and climb and suddenly, over 2015, I think 2015 I did, I wanna say it was about 200,000, I think. Maybe. Maybe it was less than. I can’t remember. But, it was a tremendous amount.
Felix: An inflection point in the business.
Cindy: Yeah. And then, I was just like, “Oh, this thing I’m building with part-time employees and only me as full time, this is phenomenal. What is the potential?” I had no idea that was possible! Then, I started to really learn how to dream and cast vision long term, beyond just the day to day and the week to week. And, the next month, what do I want my business to be next year? And then, the year after that? So, now I try to cast a vision for five years ahead.
So, it’s much different than it was since 2014, 2015.
Felix: Yeah, I’ve heard you say this couple of times now. Casting vision. I’ve never heard of it described that way. It’s very descriptive in my head when I hear you say this.
What were you doing, maybe, what kind of thinking were you doing when you first starting casting vision? And nowadays, how do you try to make that as wide or as large as possible?
Cindy: Yeah. So, you know, just dreaming about how do I want my business to feel to me? What does it mean to my life? How does it impact my lifestyle? The people that work with me and work for me, the customers that I serve. And so, and thinking in the long term, like a legacy. What impact does that have in my community as a whole, and to the marketplace?
So, for me, that’s casting vision. So, I’m thinking about where we’ve created a couple programs where I created a [inaudible] scholarship program that I’ve been in three years in a row, and to me, doing that on a long-term strategy is where I have a scholarship program where I get to choose midwives and we get to choose different organizations. For me, that’s casting vision about what impact I’m making in the marketplace to people and agencies and organizations, and kind of mission work in a very different way through my business.
Felix: Got it. So, when I usually hear vision in business, people usually say, “Oh, I wanted to build a million dollar business,” but you’re talking about what kind of impact I can make with a business, and then, that just trickles down into building a business that can impact the community; impact your community in the way that you want it to.
Cindy: Absolutely. Yeah.
Absolutely, so you know, revenue is great. And, it’s great to have a wonderful business that creates revenue; that’s profitable. And now, I’m able to pay myself a salary, which I didn’t pay myself for years. You know, I always paid all the people. I had assistants, so they would help me. I always pay them, but I was able to eventually start paying myself a salary, which is amazing.
When I think about the impact that I’m making in my community, we just opened an apothecary, and so it’s our retail store, but it’s so much more than what we have online. Where it’s the loose bulk herbs, and it’s the raw materials and it’s product packaging for other makers in the community if they wanna come in. What can this apothecary do for the community? So, other than creating products, and holding classes for them, are there different associations in my community that I can partner with as a business and give back to them and create a giving campaign through this retail location. Which would alternate a regular basis?
We serve a lot of mothers and babies. That’s a big part of our client base. So, naturally, I’m gonna look for something that is in harmony with that.
There’s a place called mom’s house, so that serves single mothers as they’re going back to school, so that way they can provide childcare for them. It’s a non-profit organization. So, those are different organizations like that that I’m going to look to partner with so I can serve my community as well through our retail location.
Felix: Got it. So, I wanna jump back to that ambassador program that really took your business to the next level. So, how do you start if someone has maybe a small customer base, and they were like, “Hey, I wanna be able to build an ambassador program as well.” Where do you start?
Cindy: Well, I think you just start with just handful of customers that really love your product and that really are a fan of you and your business. I think reach to them directly going, “Hey, you know, I really want to [inaudible] my business. Would you be willing to help me in exchange for some product or some store credit?” I think that’s an easy way to do that, or maybe there’s a different perk that would work for that specific customer, depending on what the business is.
So, just having a very candid conversation and just saying, “I’d like for you to help me. I think you’re really great.” You know, that customer is just a fan, who’s gonna be a fan no matter what you do and make. Those are the types of customer that I really look for, ideally. I mean, the type of ambassadors. It doesn’t have to be, when people think of ambassador programs, I think they naturally think, “Oh, I need somebody that has 10,000 followers, or 100,000 followers or a million or whatever it is.”
I [inaudible] micro-ambassadors and micro-influencers who are brand loyal and loyal to your products. I feel like those are the best ones. At least from my experience, having done this now for three years and having worked with a variety of influencers, if you will, online. But, usually just trying people who are regular users of my product, or just dying to try my product, but maybe they have limited funds, you know?
And so, those are the people that I’m typically gonna choose. Literally, one or two. It doesn’t have to be a large amount of people that you partner with for influencers or ambassadors, and then working out what does that structure and system look like as you scale it beyond one or two. Maybe three or four. And then, 10. And always a finite amount.
When I started the ambassador program, originally it was for like, I thought, a six month duration. Well, the life cycle of my customer may not be six months. Knowing that if they’re using my products, and primarily, most of them are nursing or pumping, they may be for six months, but depending on when they become a customer of mine, they might have three months left or they might have six months or a year left. I don’t know. But, at the same time, I wanna make sure that I’m choosing new people, new customers, and giving people new opportunities. You know?
I’ve had over 1,000 people apply to become an ambassador of the influencer program that I created. Over 1,000. And I’ve obviously not chosen them all, because it’s so many people.
Felix: I mean, if you could sustain it, is there a downside to having 1,000?
Cindy: Yeah, well, it’s hard to manage them all. Yeah. I mean, I’ve never had more than probably 15 active ambassadors or influencers at a time. Never. Never more than [inaudible]. Because I wanna make sure if they any of the questions that I can answer those for them, until, I find-
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Cindy: questions that I can answer those for them. I find like an assistant that can be able to take over that at some point. Well, I enjoy doing it. I can’t continue to do it if I’m going to grow and scale my business. So, it’s something I have to think about. How can I teach this to somebody else to do? As I’ve been building it and changing it and tweaking it a little bit here and there. So, yeah. Never more than 10 to 15 at a time because then I couldn’t manage them all in addition to all this stuff that I actually have to do and I don’t even do it every month. I do it as I have time.
Sometimes I may not be two, three months but right now it’s definitely helpful for my business and the traction and the traffic it brings to my website and the revenue. But at the same time it just might be a very stressful time for me to do [inaudible] ambassadors. Like during the summertime I have three boys home with me all the time. And so, that’s a really stressful, very intense time for me. So, for me to [inaudible] ambassadors at the time consistently is very hard to give them attention for what they need for that 30-day cycle.
Felix: So, you mentioned that you don’t need to look for ambassadors to have 100,000 followers. There has to be a threshold though. What if someone wants to enroll and they got 10 people and they’re all their friends or family. Is there a limit that you at least try to respect?
Cindy: Definitely. Well, I want to make sure if I’m evaluating someone, are they going to be a good ambassador? I have a really good memory. So, are they engaging with my posts and my social media, my different Facebook or are they’re already a current existing customer with their engagement. How often are they on whatever social media platform that I am grab my ambassador program of. So, for me I use Instagram. That’s where a lot of my customers are hanging out at.
I considered other ways to do an ambassador program and different social media platforms, but I felt like Instagram is just easiest for me. And so, I look at and see how often they are posting. How frequent they are online, what are their engagement rate? So, what’s their activity rate? If they’re going to get log on Instagram maybe once a week or maybe once every 10 days, they’re not ideal for me. Someone who’s really highly engaged and love Instagram as much as I do.
Felix: Got It. And what’s the smallest following that you’ve allowed, I guess, into your ambassador program?
Cindy: Probably less than you 200. It’s probably less than 200 followers, so not a lot but as long as they … I kind of give them a strategy and a plan to kind of how to execute it. So, as long as they can follow the strategy and plan I’m fine with that. I felt like I’ve done, I’ve worked with other influencers and ambassadors on a casual level, but also on kind of like, “Oh, let’s pay for you to be an influencer for this post.” And I felt like I got more engagement and more activity from the micro influencers and the micro ambassadors who would do it anyways not be as they’re looking to grow a following or they’re looking to get paid to post there.
Felix: Yeah. I think there’s also some kind of ad blindness when you are working with an influencer that’s just churning through products and they have a new one every week. People will start … If you’re following someone, they’ve only promoted one product ever, where for the first time you only seen them promote once. Then it is going to be more impactful than someone that’s always churning out new products that they’re promoting. So, when you do have an employee that you’re delegating this to, what would it be a first thing you want to teach them?
Cindy: I’d probably teach them on how to evaluate potential candidates for the ambassador program. So, like how to look through it, and how to evaluate their social media profiles, look at have they been a customer before or is this their first time? So, there’s a web form, that’s on my website, anybody can check it out. The questions that I ask. And it says what type of questions I’m asking to see if they’re a good person for it. Have they tried using the products before? If they’ve not, I mean, it doesn’t mean that because they have not tried the product before that they would not be a good ambassador but that helps me give a little bit more context to who it is that’s filling out the application. So, then I just evaluate their social media profiles.
So I’d probably, if I’m handing off this task to somebody else, how to onboard them, what scripts and emails to send them to walk in them in, to confirm that they’re still interested because maybe they filled out this application several weeks ago or several months ago. Making sure they’re still interested in being an ambassador and that works for them at this season in their life. And so, and how to onboard this individual into the program to make sure and clearly just lean out and defining kind of how it’s going to work in a step by step process and touch base with them throughout that time that they’re an ambassador over the next 30 days.
Felix: But what’s the first thing that you ask them to do, what’s expected of an ambassador?
Cindy: So, as an ambassador just ask them to post to their own profile a couple times a week. I think it’s like one to three times a week and authentically. So, that’s really important that they don’t sound like a commercial, an annoying pitch. Just authentically share what this product is that you’ve used and how it’s helped you. That’s all you have to share. Or maybe there may be a certain new, maybe they’ve not tried the product yet. Maybe they can repost some from my profile. Everybody reposts on Instagram all the time, different things, but maybe they’ve not tried it yet but they want to repost something and give their thoughts and their opinions.
So, that’s one thing that I ask to do and then maybe just engage and have meaningful conversations with other potential customers that are like them. But to be encouraging, not to be pitchy. So, nobody likes to be pitched to. So, if they find someone who is in their [inaudible] of life and maybe it’s another parent who is also [inaudible] my brand and they love the baby balm salve that [inaudible].
We know it’s safe for babies, maybe they find them and they can say, “Oh my gosh, I love your cloth diapers. This is the stuff that I use or this is what I like.” So, trying to create a conversation. And so, if I notice because I pay attention when I have ambassadors the conversations that they’re creating. If I find that they’re not having an authentic conversation, I suppose too pitchy, I’ll kind to gently and kindly go, “Hey, maybe let’s try to rephrase some of the dialogue or the scripts that you’re using because I don’t want to annoy anybody at all.”
So, that’s why it’s not so easy to do every month because I want to make sure it seems authentic and I want them to feel like they’re replicating me. Essentially. It’s what I would do. So, I want them to feel like if I can give them the tools and the scripts and the way to act on Instagram as an ambassador, that’s what I’m trying to do within the program.
Felix: What was the improvement that you made to the ambassador program that then made it more manageable?
Cindy: Well, when I first started it, I think it had a three-month term and that was way too long because it’s hard to keep people’s engagement for that long as an ambassador to sustain that relationship with them for three months. So, changing it to a one-month time I felt like that was really good and really helpful. So, I felt like just change to a 30-day cycle and then not trying to, I used to try to do it every month and that was just too much. So, I don’t have to do every month. There’s no rule that I have to this every single month, that I always have to have active ambassadors. So, if I go three months without having one, having any. That’s absolutely okay.
I can create my enrolls and my own guidelines because it’s my program and it’s my company. So, giving myself that flexibility and that grace is also very important. So, I feel like those are really good. And so, now I’m still trying to use some tools to really get a little bit more systematized on about how do I measure the effectiveness of past ambassadors as well as potential ambassadors? So, what social media tools are there that I can use to really tell if someone is going to be a good ambassador? So, that’s what I’m in the process now of trying to figure that out.
Felix: What other kinds of tools do you use today on your store in terms of apps or off of your store in terms of social media tools you use that they can depend on?
Cindy: Some of the tools that I use one I think is really visual is an app called Loox, it’s L-O-O-X. And so, that is just a customer view that people leave. So, I really enjoy that one because I’d be able to put all those reviews through that app, harnessed on one page. There’s a living page where all the reviews live on my website. So, if someone searches, Euphoric Herbals reviews, they’re going to land up with that page.
So, Loox is one that I use, of course I use Privy to collect emails, so that’s a really good tool as well. Let’s see, some other ones … And I also use because the products that I use, they’re consumable goods. Yeah. So, it’s a tea or a stab or a supplement. So, I use another tool, Bold Subscription app. So, that’s another one that has been really good to create recurring revenues. Those, I think, are probably some of the best apps that I would say that I think have had the most impact on my business.
Felix: Got It. What would you say is your favorite part of your website?
Cindy: Well, I had it custom designed when I moved over to Shopify, so that was really nice before it was just templates and kind of mess. Mess not so great. I think now a lot of people, typically, they can find things pretty easily. And so that was, I wanted to be able to make sure it was easily designed. Yeah. So, I can’t say there’s best thing, but it’s just like the brand, offline and online from the product packaging’s still the same.
Yes. That’s what I’m trying to create that whole customer experience from when they first come to the website from when they get the actual products in the mail that it’s still the same. And then I’m trying to create that whole experience as well in the apothecary. So, what does it feel like when they go to the website, to the store, to their products, they have the same experience.
Felix: Why is that important?
Cindy: Well I think for brand strength and brand identity. So, when somebody gets my product, maybe they’re going to get the product from maybe a friend gives it to them and they’ve never had any experience with my brand whatsoever. They’ve never been to my website. They never heard of it. So, when they go to the website, they have a certain feel to it or so maybe if they come into the store and then they, it feels the same, it’s not disjointed.
So, that’s one reason why I know people are searching actively for our products on Amazon, but I just can’t go there just because I lose that customer experience. I lose that relationship that I get to have with them from emails, from website to product packaging, that whole process that I’m trying to create and that’s always ever evolving.
I’m always refining it so that they know what to expect anytime that they go there. And so, that’s why moving into retail and doing wholesale is very challenging for me because I’m trying to think of every little facet and I can’t because I’m only one person, but to the best of my ability, when someone goes into a store, when I start doing, moving my products into many markets. What is their experience with the brand if they’ve never purchased my TB front line, don’t even know anything about my company or farmer’s market. We do a farmer’s market every week. I have another girl that runs the farmer’s market and trying to create that cohesive brand spiel from the product. How they’re displayed on table to the table cloths we use to the printed marketing material to everything. So, it looks on brand all the time.
Felix: And did you always, from the beginning, have a focus on that to make sure that you’re on brand all the time or is it something that you went back to revisit and then cleaned up after you kind of build out the business a bit more?
Cindy: Yeah, I definitely did not think about that beginning.
Felix: Can kind of slow you down. If you’re just so focused on making sure everything’s consistent, it can really slow down on business. So, yeah. I’m just curious when you decided to jump back into it.
Cindy: Yeah. Well, and it’s so easy, I think to feel like you have to rush ahead and then slow down. So, in the beginning it was, I felt like I was just managing the day to day and putting out fires. I never thought much about my brand. I mean I had a little bit idea about branding and what that was like because I was a photographer. And so, that was a whole branding thing. When I was a photographer, I really fell in love with the idea of branding and marketing. And so, that’s been a tremendous asset to me as this business has grown and that was just tipping my toe in the water and now it’s a lot larger than that. I understand but it wasn’t anything that I started in the beginning, and it’s something that I probably didn’t really start to think about.
Probably in 2000, maybe 2013 when I really started thinking about that. And so, even now I’m kind of in that mindset of, branding colors, fonts, the packaging, everything, from offline to online. That it’s all similar. If I’m using certain color palettes, I’m not going to send something in the package that’s not within my color Palette. It doesn’t make sense. I want them to have the same experience from even the tissue paper that I buy. It’s the same brand colors from the product packaging and the fonts they use and everything and the marketing materials, that it’s all the same. It’s all in harmony.
Felix: Got It. So, you mentioned that when you did move over to your own store, you guys had a custom design. Were there any specific conscious decisions that you made to make sure that the site was easy to navigate? Easy to use?
Cindy: Yeah. Making sure, the design from the years is
Aeolidia, and I’ve seen the ones that they had done before and I could not afford them years ago and actually just loved their work. And so, making that conscious decision. It was really hard to make that investment, but I was like I want a website that I’m going to absolutely love for years, for a couple years at least. I don’t want to hire a designer that’s good, but I want to hire a great designer.
So, being very intentional about that and I saved up for it and so it was a tremendous investment, but it was a well worth investment, and so that they really got to know my brand and my customer base and so as they really dug into my brand, they really helped me to kind of finesse the online presentation of the store. They didn’t help me choose tools and apps and things like that and tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.
But just kind of the layout and the ease of it. But I have looked at their portfolio so I knew who I was hiring and the quality of work that I was going to get. And over time I’ve just, I’ve added apps in tools. As my business has grown to see which ones would and wouldn’t work I think as I’ve tried a couple like loyalty apps and that haven’t really worked at just yet, but at the same time it’s probably because I have not given enough attention. I’ve been so busy doing other things, but I’ve not really figured out how to utilize that tool or that app to the best of its ability.
Felix: Got It. So thank you so much. Cindy. So, Cindy Collins, euphoricherbals.com is the website, where do you have your vision casted for next year? What do you want to be?
Cindy: Well, so having the manufacturing well underway we do [inaudible] and then of course we scale out our product production of our capsules, but being more stores the wholesale. So, that’s something that I’ve really, as I’ve been this year, building systems and infrastructure, so having our products in store so that way people don’t have to wait for shipping, they can just go to a store in their community and go buy some of our products. So, that’s a big part of it and then growing international as well.
Felix: Awesome. If anyone out there has any questions, make sure just drop them in the comments on the show. Show notes and the Shopify blog and Cindy would you be able to hop over there once this goes live to answer some questions that the audience might have?
Cindy: I’d be more than happy to.
Felix: Awesome. Again, thank you so much again Cindy, so euphoricherbals.com. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story.
Cindy: Thank you, Felix.
Felix: Thanks for tuning into another episode of Shopify masters, the e-commerce podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs powered by Shopify. To get your exclusive 30-day extended trial, visit shopify.com/masters.
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