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Million Dollar Toothpaste Brand in Under 2 Years
Level 2 - Value Investor
It’s been a good 9 months since you’ve heard from the biöm team.
Since the launch of our flagship product NOBS Toothpaste Tablets last November, we have had an insane year.
Like, imagine a cartoon alligator and deer running around with their heads chopped off.
Oh, and they accidentally went out of stock of their only product (January 2023).
And they launched three new products at the exact same time when everyone told them not to (February 2023).
And the third product wasn’t super well-received, so they had to go back to the drawing board (April 2023).
And they needed to move manufacturers because their initial, small manufacturer couldn’t keep up (May 2023).
. . . and they were trying to formulate multiple new products at once, expanding into an adjacent niche, and testing paid ads all at the same time (Q3 2023).
With an unexpected emergency that forced them to fly to Mexico on a few day’s notice . . .
And caused Fawn to get stuck in [redacted] for more time than she even spent in Mexico, effectively going AWOL at her job by accident.
Well, no one said it would be easy.
Let’s rewind, shall we?
Part 1: The Meteoric Rise
Getting started wasn’t particularly difficult.
At the time that we launched NOBS, we had a combined 15,000 followers on Twitter.
Shortly after launching, Gator’s account went vertical (as covered in the first post).
The man literally stacked tens of thousands of followers in a single week from viral post after viral post.
Looking back, what happened afterward was predictable.
On January 7, we went out of stock.
Initially, I tried to assure Gator that this could be a good thing - “Maybe it’ll give people FOMO. Maybe it’ll seem more exclusive!”
As I later learned after talking to one of the Jungle’s resident e-commerce experts BowTiedOpossum, I was wrong.
The whole “going out of stock = exclusive = more people will want to try it” thing only works for luxuries.
Not for products that people need to use everyday.
So, we had a situation on our hands (hooves?), and we needed a miracle.
Alexa, play Hallelujah.
Part 2: The Minor Fall
Nothing worth having ever came easily, right?
biöm is doing well, but we’ve had our fair share of mishaps over the last year.
Come along for a trip down memory lane with me.
2.1 Second Class NOBS
Right after we went out of stock, our Distribution Center (DC) discovered about 100 jars of NOBS sitting around.
The jars were slightly scratched, a little beat up, but totally usable.
But we couldn’t sell them like we normally would.
In a stroke of genius, Gator had the bright idea for us to hold a “Second Class NOBS Sale” in which we sold the jars at a significant discount.
Because our operation is so small, we rarely run sales or discounts.
Second Class NOBS was a success, and it’s something we would consider doing again in a similar situation in the future.
2.2 The Silk Debacle
Not every product can be a home run.
Gator and I developed Silk Dental Floss from all-natural, biodegradable corn silk as opposed to cheap, plastic stuff you get in the grocery store.
Is it way better for you and for the planet?
In the end, did any of that matter?
. . . not really.
Due to its natural fibers, Silk shredded unlike plastic floss and made for a subpar product experience.
Our customers didn’t rave it about it the way they raved about NOBS.
While most people didn’t say anything about it, Original Silk simply did not live up to the biöm standard.
Stay tuned though - you may see it return in a reformulated, redesigned, and reimagined fashion.
2.3 The British Invasion
Let me brag for a second: everyone loves NOBS.
We’re talking worldwideeee everyone loves NOBS.
We are constantly getting notifications, emails, and DMs from people asking that one single question:
“When can I get NOBS in [my country]?”
While we’re still working our tails off (animal joke, get it?) to open up international shipping, we do have third-party distribution in the UK.
A few months ago, Mandi Mart approached us to develop a partnership.
As of me writing this in September 2023, they are our exclusive UK partner, and NOBS is officially offered across the pond.
Would you believe I had no idea what wholesalers do before this? Trial by fire.
Now that we’ve got our feet back under us after a summer spent in product development, we theoretically have more resources to dedicate to international expansion.
However, the issue is threefold:
Every country - with its own regulations around nano hydroxyapatite, cosmetics, and drug claims - requires individual attention
We haven’t even touched 1% of the American market yet - how can we reasonably begin dedicating resources to international expansion when we haven’t finished our work domestically?
Tariff and tax hell. Need I say more?
So, while we would love to open up internationally, it doesn’t seem feasible for the time being.
But I’ll never say never.
2.4 A Brave New World
Well, a brave new manufacturer.
It’s not that deep.
Our original manufacturer could not keep up with the demand any better than we could, and our lead times were excruciating.
Not to mention our concerns about the world shutting down for COVID again which would prevent us from getting our product into the States.
We needed to find another solution quickly.
Thanks to the resources of the Jungle, we were able to find an awesome contact that has taken over production of NOBS and some of the products launched in the last month.
In addition to NOBS, this manufacturer helped us with the development of new products including SWISH Mouthwash and four new NOBS flavors.
We have also expanded production for new products to other manufacturers in the States and the EU.
I’ll get to that in a second.
2.5 Paging the Jungle Fire Department
Right when you think you’ve finally found your sea legs after a storm . . .
The ocean just loves to smack you one more time.
Except this time it was a fire.
I’ll spare you the whole story, but essentially, Gator and I had 72 hours’ notice that we needed to solve a big problem.
In another country.
You see - when we tried to bring manufacturing back to North America, we had trouble sourcing the exact same ingredients as the original formula.
C’mon . . . who knew there were a thousand different mint varieties that all taste different to different people?
Watching the reviews roll in was fascinating - some people loved the new mint varietal while others hated it.
Some people thought it tasted exactly the same, and others thought the new one was way better.
Ah well, can’t please everyone.
We got the formula as close as possible to the original without compromising our commitment to efficacy and safety.
In hindsight, it was an essential step towards biöm’s success this year and probably saved us a lot of headaches down the road.
Part 3: The Major Lift
Enough negatives, yeah?
Over the last year, we’ve had some big wins and learned a ton along the way - keep reading!
3.1 The Next Generation of biöm
Man, August flew by in seconds.
In the last few weeks, we’ve launched six new products:
NOBS Jr. Kids Toothpaste
All of them have been well-received so far, but our flavors are on a limited-edition run at the moment.
Once one of the flavors runs out, we’ll be sending out a poll to our customers to gauge interest in their favorite flavor and decide which one to bring back full-time.
The kids toothpaste seems to be a hit so far too.
Depending on feedback, we may iterate with new kids’ flavors in the future.
So far, we’re getting plenty of great feedback on Swish Mouthwash too, though we’re working on updating the seals on our packaging to improve the customer experience.
Product development is like throwing a pitch up one day and waiting 9 months until the ball lands and you can determine how well you did.
If there’s one thing that shocked me about e-commerce, it’s just how long everything takes.
You come up with a formula one day, and you think you can have the product launched in a month?
3.2 Hiring & Training VAs
Our VAs are the light of my life.
To hire them, we followed this guide to a T:
Conduct outreach on onlinejobs.ph
Hold interviews for candidates with relevant experience
Send candidates a relevant test to gauge skills and pay them for it
Hire the best candidate
Gator and I onboarded them based on our respective roles and responsibilities within the company.
For example, I may train our VAs on content writing while Gator trains them on customer service.
I’ve learned the key here is three-fold:
Pay VAs well and avoid micromanaging
Spend time training them and continuously provide actionable feedback with each output
Open communication channels so they feel comfortable asking questions and, therefore, produce the best outputs
Your goal should be to train your VAs so well that they can eventually train other VAs for you.
3.3 Bring on the Affiliates
(Note: if you run a reputable niche site in the dental/health/beauty space and are interested in featuring biöm products, send me a DM on Twitter or an email at email@example.com)
We ran our affiliate program through Share A Sale for about 6 months before it started being more trouble than it was worth.
Initially, I was accepting everyone who applied from the United States with a legitimate website as long as they weren’t running a cashback program.
This worked . . . until we started getting five high-risk orders per day, and I was spending hours figuring out where they were coming from, reporting fraud, etc.
Now, for the most part, we’ve put our affiliate program on hold.
We’ve kept our old trusted affiliates and only accept new affiliates on a case-by-case basis, typically initiated through email outreach.
Which brings us to . . .
3.4 Running Paid Ads
Back in May, our first-ever ad went live on the Darkhorse Podcast after Bret and Heather approached us!
When that went well, we decided to double down on it.
We reached out to our contact from DarkHorse, made connections to other podcasts, and started running more ads.
So far, none of the podcasts have performed quite as well as DarkHorse, but none of them are as big either.
Can you blame me? As evidenced by the 6 new products, all of our money was tied up in R&D and inventory!
This is a channel that we’ll continue experimenting with alongside Meta and Google Ads for the foreseeable future.
3.5 Social Media Strategy
My social media strategy?
Let my manic, brilliant dentist counterpart work his magic.
I vaguely run our brand accounts across social media channels, but we’re not doing as much with them at the moment.
For the most part, the cycle goes like this:
Gator writes a PhD dissertation tweet about whatever he thinks people will find helpful
It goes viral (or near viral)
I say “good job!”
He does it again, every single week (sometimes multiple times per week!)
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have an audience already baked-in when they start a business, but we were.
However, I won’t call it luck.
Gator spends meticulous time and energy crafting beautiful tweets and long-form posts that are both entertaining and informative.
The audience was well-earned and trusts us because of it.
Also, in the last two months, we started working with a TikTok agency to expand our presence on that platform.
We’re focused on getting set up with TikTok Shop now, and I’ll provide more details in a future post.
3.6 Content Writing
When all of your money is tied up in inventory and you still need to find a way to expand marketing, what do you do?
Look for the free opportunities.
This includes content writing, so I’ve rigorously expanded the blog section of the biom site.
I got long lists of keywords (KWs) from Semrush to target the ideas like:
. . . and more.
Then, I organized those keywords, threw them in SurferSEO, and started writing.
This is a long-term strategy and requires a ton of time and patience.
Depending on the content of the article, each one takes me about 2-4 hours to outline, research, write, and revise.
I also periodically comb through old articles to look for interlinking opportunities and places to link to new products.
Pro tip: don’t forget to submit your articles to Google Search Console (GSC) as soon as you publish them AND when you refresh them! Also change the publish date when you refresh them.
As aforementioned, I can now pass off some of this work to our VAs, but I always edit and revise the articles myself before they go live.
Thanks to the latest Google Core Update in August, we’re starting to see some major growth in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Articles I wrote back in February are finally ranking for tons of KWs and it’s gratifying to witness.
Content writing is an ongoing endeavor, and we just onboarded a new VA to take over more of it.
I’m a total beginner in this regard, but here’s what I’ve learned in the last year:
NOBS may be a nano hydroxyapatite toothpaste, but if I want to expand our organic reach, it also needs to rank for keywords like “fluoride free toothpaste”, “natural toothpaste”, etc. Same principle goes for our other products too
If you want to expand the amount of content on a page to increase opportunities to show up in the SERPS without killing the customer experience, you have to get creative
So here’s what I’m doing:
Creating multiple collections in Shopify with different names like “fluoride-free toothpaste” and “gluten-free toothpaste” such that I can link to them with appropriate anchor text within our blog articles
Fleshing out comprehensive FAQ sections for each Product Listing Page (PLP) using Google autocomplete, the “People Also Ask” section of Google, and the aforementioned KW lists
Reaching out to niche sites that were ranking for KWs I wanted our products to rank for to inquire about guest posts and links
You can never get away from playing by Google’s rules, so I’m sure we’ll continue finding ways to get creative here.
3.10 Giving Back
We’ve been fortunate at biöm to have success in the last year, so we were already brainstorming ways to give back to our communities.
We tried donating to women’s shelters and community food pantries, but they didn’t have any need for toothpaste (or a high enough volume to make sense - we couldn’t be sending 5 jars to 500 places).
Enter the fires in Lahaina.
Gator and I started reaching out to our contacts that were involved in relief efforts and eventually, we got in touch with Austen Allard.
Through his efforts, we coordinated getting 2,500 jars of NOBS Toothpaste Tablets out to Hawaii.
After all, what’s the point of success if you can’t use it for good?
3.11 Leveraging Trust & Authority
You know who normal people trust with their oral care?
Hint: it’s not a cartoon alligator.
Well, they trust their dentist, and it turns out that a ton of dentists trust us!
In a collaborative effort, we connected with the dentists that already approved of NOBS and created a page highlighting NO BS Dentists.
As we grow our traffic to the site, those dentists will get more patients, and we get to expand our connections in the dental community.
Talk about a win-win!
3.12 Asset Development
If you want to promote your products, you need great assets.
High quality images
. . . and anything else you can think of that will help sell the brand.
Here’s what we did:
Wrote out talking points for our brand and all of our products, highlighting their key features, ingredients, stand-outs, etc. and turned them into usable copy
Decided what we wanted our brand image to be by looking through portfolios on Behance and our favorite brands’ websites
Hired an agency to take high-quality photos of NOBS
Hired a freelancer to develop 3D renders of our newest products ahead of their launch
Developed infographics based on those high-quality images in Canva and Photoshop
Here are some examples:
Having these assets built out allows me to easily update the website, post on socials, coordinate marketing efforts, etc.
3.13 Future State
biöm is less than a year old, but I know retail is waiting out there for us.
I can hear it calling to me in my dreams.
“Wallllllgreeeeeeensssssss, Fawn! Walgreens!”
Given that our product offerings have expanded substantially over the last month, we can now shift gears from heavy product development to focus on expanding brand awareness.
In fact, I’m procrastinating building our very first pitch deck by writing this post.
We’re also interested in expanding in the beauty space - I am the skincare person after all.
But I’m not emotionally invested in it.
Let’s say I formulate one skincare product and our audience doesn’t love it the way they did NOBS?
We struggle to move units and, despite our best efforts, get stuck holding the bag?
Say less, no need to beat a dead horse.
I’m more interested in developing biöm into your household-name, one-stop shop for the pinnacle of personal care.
That’s our future state.
Part 4: Get Busy Living
It’s crazy that Gator only joined the Jungle a little over a year ago.
Imagine if we had never had that one conversation over Discord last summer:
“Y’know Gator, everyone talks about e-commerce on Twitter. You’re a dentist. I’m the skincare person. We should start something . . . let’s make toothpaste together.”
“Actually, Fawn . . . I’m gonna email you something. It’s called the Toothpaste Bible. I wrote it back in 2018, and it’s just been sitting on my computer.”
Imagine if I never even tried to build something.
I’d be hopeless.
You know what the funniest thing is?
Back then, I wouldn’t even open email attachments from Gator.
I used to make him include everything in the body of the email because I didn’t trust him not to ~hack~ me or something.
Fast forward, and we’re now running a 7-figure business.
A year from now, you could be saying the same thing if you start today.
For now, we’re both still working full-time jobs and running multiple businesses.
But every single day we get a little closer, and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I can’t wait to go full-time on biöm.
Yup, it’s “when”, not “if” anymore.
In the middle of rising rates and a clear ugly recession the jungle continues to grow and leave NPCs on the sidelines. Suggest you do the same.
Disclaimer: None of this is to be deemed legal or financial advice of any kind. These are *opinions* written by an anonymous group of Ex-Wall Street Tech Bankers and software engineers who moved into affiliate marketing and e-commerce. We’re an advisor for Synapse Protocol 2022-2024E.
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