Kent Yoshimura and Ryan Chen met in university and bonded over their shared busy and active lifestyle of balancing athletics with academia. Kent and Ryan wanted to create wellness products they could not find in the market and put their degrees in neuroscience, chemistry, and economics to use to launch Neuro. After their first Neuro gum product for energy and focus surpassed its crowdfunding goal in just three days, the duo went on to sell over 12 million pieces. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Kent and Ryan share how they used Reddit to crush their crowdfunding goals and how they are able to achieve a repeat purchase rate of more than 30%.
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From college side hustle to successful wellness business
Felix: What was the life situation that motivated you to start the company?
Kent: We've always been on the go people. In college, I was training pretty heavily in martial arts. Ryan used to be one of the fastest kids in California. He was captain of his cross country team, taking them to state and nationals. It made sense for us to create a product that fits into that lifestyle. During college, I was mixing supplements to assist with my school and my training, and essentially that ended up becoming the zero of what we see now as Neuro gum and Neuro mints. It just came out of who we were as individuals and what we were doing.
Felix: What made you realize that the options on the market just weren’t sufficient enough for your needs?
Ryan: Kent and I met in college. I was a freshman, Kent was a sophomore. I immediately gravitated toward Kent, just his energy, his vibe, and found out he was training super heavily in martial arts. He was doing neuroscience. I was doing chem and econ. We bonded over things–not just academic–outside of the classroom too, the extracurricular activities just wanting to do more. That was the time when Red Bull was being handed out on campus, coffee was a thing, but people are taking everything to get ahead in studies like Adderall and all this stuff. We're just like, “That's stuff that you shouldn't be putting in your body.” As a neuroscientist, Kent was looking into the best type of supplements to put in your body and he was heavily researching which ingredients were actually working.
I remember going into his dorm room and he had all these white powders, it was like a Scarface den. He was like, “This and this works perfectly. The caffeine is what's going to allow you not to crash, but give you a sustainable boost. You're always going to be deficient. Supplementing your body while training at that level is super key.” Those were the alternatives. We had the purest form and that came from Kent's research, Kent's little Scarface den.
Felix: How did you come to the conclusion that you were going to fix this problem yourselves?
Kent: In 2015, Ryan and I were on a scuba diving trip together and we were still taking these supplements in pill form that were in a Ziploc bag. That does not look good when you bust it out in front of a bunch of people on a small boat and be like, “Hey, it's for energy.” So Ryan and I looked at each other and we realized, “Oh, these are great, but how do we make it more approachable? How do we create a product that gives you the same benefits of what we were taking, but without the weird looks, with a shareable component, and with the same effectiveness?” The obvious choice, outside of drinks, which you can't keep in your pocket, and they taste terrible if they're not chilled. Coffee, definitely not, it stains your teeth, all those like different factors. It dawned on us that one of the most approachable form factors is just confectioneries–gum and mints–that are intrinsically shareable by nature. We got to craking.
Felix: Was it a difficult decision to try and pursue the product in a different form than what was originally envisioned?
Ryan: We knew that we could put the best ingredients that were in pill form, and then just change the medium into something that was more accessible and approachable. It would be just as accessible as when you're drinking things that are caffeinated, but instead, you have something where you're reducing the amount of liquid you're putting in your body, and you're taking out the sugar completely. We were like, “Well, eventually people are going to figure out this is the best way to consume energy.” When you're starting something you don't think about all the roadblocks you're going to have along the way, or you probably get discouraged and frustrated and not start it at all.
We were young enough and naive to where we're like, “This works for us, it has to work for other people.” When we were able to launch this campaign on Indiegogo, Kent and Tyler, who are still on our team, figured out a way to reach out to all these PR outlets. We ended up launching it on Indiegogo, hit our goal in three days, got picked up by Dr. Oz and Time magazine. We realized that people do want something like this, people are looking for something, they just didn't realize what they were looking for.
Felix: Did the idea for the business come from the realization of the form factor, or had you thought of it before?
Kent: I don't think we were biz savvy, because neither of us came from backgrounds in business. It was more so just like, “Oh my God, this would be so great in gum and mint form. We should figure out how to make it.”In business in general, it's like, “How do you fit a need?” The need for us was more approachable energy that's not in a drink form that you could carry around in your pocket. Step by step, it turned into, “Oh wow, more people than us may want this same thing.” And here we are today.
Overcoming barriers through conviction and passion
Felix: Did you create the gum form from your kitchen? When did you start thinking about the mass production?
Ryan: It had to go straight into production. Gum and mints are actually very tricky to make. It's not like, maybe in a bar you can mix together the ingredients, you can smash it together, you might be able to bake it. With drinks, the same thing, you might be able to do small batches to test the flavor, but with gum and mints, it's tricky. We didn't start off with mints, we started with gum. We had to go directly to Google to find gum manufacturers. We got rejected a million times and then finally found one that was the perfect fit. It was going down, calling, emailing, reaching out to people who can, pick up the call, but also listen to what we were trying to do because it was so novel and new at the time.
Felix: It’s a challenge to get a manufacturer on board for an entirely new product. Were you ever told by manufacturers that it just wasn’t possible, or that you’d need to change your vision?
Kent: There was a lot of, “You guys are just two 20 something year old kids, we're not even going to entertain this.” From all the emails that we sent out there was probably a 5% response rate, if that. There's also another element where it's interesting how with a lot of these businesses that you don't really think about, larger corporations own the majority of it, or the majority of the manufacturing process. There's an interconnected web of gum and mint manufacturers that own under one entity. That was also another hurdle we had to get over. It's like a duopoly.
Felix: What did you learn from that interaction? Did you readjust your pitch?
Ryan: It was going in with enough conviction that we were big enough to make this happen and make this work. The manufacturer, they're a business too, so they want to see the opportunity there. You want to find the right entrepreneurial one, not one that's like big gum. They're just like, “Okay, well we already have all of our clients, we're happy. We don't want to rock the boat with some incoming small company.” With the right conviction in selling that story of why you want to do it, you find the right person or the right manufacturer and they're going to want to take on that challenge.
For us, it's been so long, but I remember we probably did change around the pitch a lot at that time, we wanted R and D samples. Is this possible? Can we do it? The answer that we were looking for was, “Yes.” Then let's figure out the next step of how to go to market and then how to advertise this thing.
Showcasing market potential as a selling point for manufacturers
Felix: What did you do to convince them that there was an opportunity here?
Kent: Pitching to VCs, or to anyone really, if you have the confidence and the drive to convince and deliver on something, then they will start believing in you. With us getting on the phone with them, talking about this project, talking about this idea and the roadmap of where we wanted to take this thing became the catalyst. Like you said earlier, was this a practice session for our pitches? This was absolutely a practice session. We got better and better at talking about the goals that we wanted to achieve. That ultimately led to making a very personal and amazing partnership with who we work with now.
Felix: What specifically did you focus on in your pitch do you credit to winning over the manufacturers?
Kent: This applies just to e-commerce in general, you know who your cohorts are and then you try target messaging them. In the same way that expands into the real world. In speaking with the manufacturers, the key points that they would've been interested in is how big is the potential market for us to be able to bring a product like this into the market. If Red Bull and Monster and all these energy drinks have seen this monumental growth in such a short period of time, why can't we take that same idea and place it into something that's even easier to get and even more portable.
Talking to our customers, it was more like, “Hey, this is just way cleaner for you, way more portable with way better ingredients and a scientific edge.” Touching on points that don’t necessarily attack the existing marketplace and products that are out there, but more so say, “Hey, where can we fit into your needs in the same way.” We want to be able to take this thing everywhere we go, and we don't want it to look like we're a bunch of “Al Pacino's” running around.
Felix: You didn’t have any customers when you won them over. How did you cultivate that business relationship?
Ryan: Yeah, we didn't even fly up to meet them. It was all via email and phone calls. At the time, I was working full-time at Hulu, the streaming company. Kent was working at a subsidiary like Sansui Music, he was producing music and creating art. We just kept going back and forth and we were getting these samples in tiny little Ziploc bags. We still get samples like that to this day when we're doing new R and D by the way. We have multivitamin gum and mints coming out soon. It comes out in these little Ziploc bags that look super sketchy. Basically, we were sampling around friends and coworkers at the time and saying, “Hey, what do you guys think about this?”
They would range from the 20-milligram caffeine up to the 80 milligram caffeine. We were playing around with different ingredients, flavors, and sweeteners to make it taste good, different types of gum bases to have some of the harder chew or softer chew. We were basically just getting all of our friends and coworkers to be guinea pigs to give us feedback. That process was a lot, but we knew that if we didn't launch, it just wouldn't happen. There was no way we were going to perfect it on the first go. After a couple R and D runs, we had the Indiegogo run in tandem from the time that they were manufacturing it. By the time the Indiegogo campaign ended, the supporters shortly after that got the product. From that experience, people are like, “Oh wow, these guys deliver it,” because sometimes you do Indiegogo Kickstarter campaigns and it's a year plus before you get the product that you backed and supported. We did it at a pretty quick turnaround.
Felix: What did the research and development process look like?
Ryan: By the time we got it and had it on Indiegogo to sell, it was nearly a year.
Felix: How did you maintain your motivation throughout the process when it seemed like things weren’t moving as quickly as you wanted them to?
Kent: It's excruciatingly slow, but with business there's everything else that you can do. For us, it was the preparation of our launch plan and our website. We focused on Biz Dev and meeting the right people to be able to make sure this was a success when we launched. There's always an infinite number of things, and once you launch, you need to scale out, there’s always things you can do in terms of preparation. As long as you lay out the right roadmap and fill in the gaps that you feel are necessary to fill in for what would presumably be a successful launch, you should be okay. To be purely dependent on a product succeeding is a one in a billion chance. It does happen, but it's everything else, the lifestyle, the dream you're selling, the people that are around you, the operations, all those things are what typically make a product successful alongside the product being great.
Maintaining faith in your products after significant time and financial investment
Felix: So the R&D process took about a year. Were there many iterations that you guys had to go through?
Ryan: It was five different iterations. We did the first two bags and another three bags. They were all varying degrees of active ingredients and different types of sweeteners. I remember some of the feedback, my old manager who chewed it was like, “Man, it definitely works. I was up till 3:00 AM. But you guys can work on the flavor.” We knew that it wasn't going to be perfect, but we could improve that. At that point, Kent and I realized it was already an excruciatingly slow process doing R and D, especially with physical goods, and things that you're consuming. With hardware tech, that already takes a long time, but something consumable, there's a lot of regulation that you have to be careful of too. There's other active ingredients that we're thinking about putting, but they're going through clinical studies with the FDA, but not quite fully approved. There are certain ingredients that we decided not to use.
Felix: With these sample iterations, you at least got the efficacy down to make sure that it worked functionally.
Ryan: We knew it worked. At that point, Kent and I were fueling this with our savings. We were working full-time jobs and had enough conviction to pay for the R and D samples at the time, but they were three to five grand per batch. Total maybe about 10K. Then the first manufacturing minimum run was maybe 25 or 30K. It was a lot. That's when we realized, “Let's try Indiegogo to raise money to finish this out.” At the time we had no relationship with the manufacturer, they weren't getting any net terms. We had to put 50% down and then 50% on shipping. Timing wise, as soon as we were getting some initial interest and some money into that Indiegogo, it allowed us to pay off the remaining balance. From there we started to get people who were interested in being repeat buyers. To this day, I'm pretty confident we have one of the highest repeat purchase rates for e-commerce.
Felix: You had a pretty big initial upfront investment. Did you ever doubt whether you should keep trying to push through?
Kent: We overcame it by eating McDonald's. This loophole in the McDonald's app to get $2 burgers every single day.
Ryan: It was actually the premium burger, Kent, if you remember. It was this weird loophole on the McDonald's app where you can get a premium burger or sandwich.
When we were that age, we weren’t even thinking about failure. There were definitely moments where it was like, “Oh God, what's going to happen?” But we had so many people, an amazing friend group that has always supported us. We have an amazing community, in general, that seemed to be backing this project. Even if it did fail, every single step we were taking to make it a success was so exciting that there was almost no way that it wouldn't have succeeded in our minds. The learning experiences from setting up a business, learning what the word cohort means, learning every aspect of how to sell a product, was valuable in its own right.
Using a positive mindset to discredit any fears of failure
Felix: So you weren’t even thinking about failure. A lot of entrepreneurs can get in their own way by self sabotaging with that kind of mindset. Do you think your mindset was a crucial contributor to success?
Ryan: One way to look at it is there's no failure, but just a lot of lessons learned. There's so many things that don't work out, that are just lessons. Kent and I's MBA was doing this business. The first year to two years, everything was light speed. You learn so much so quickly. You learn to adapt, you learn how to build that business relationship with the manufacturers, your partners, your distributors, your account managers. Whatever had happened, you came away with this book and treasure cove of knowledge. We've been able to apply all of that to other things. Whether that's us making investments into our friends' brands or different startups that we can see that same type of conviction that we had, Kent has his hands in so many different things and a lot of the stuff that we learned, he's been able to apply, and same for me.
Felix: The stakes are higher now, with a lot of people invested in the business. How do you maintain this mindset?
Kent: We always say that resilience is one of the most important qualities that an entrepreneur needs to have. When the executive team or the managers maintain that mentality while also remaining conscious of who the people are that are working for you, it trickles down. Our entire team does feel like a family. We all are very open with each other in communication. Even when times are tough, whether supply chain or marketing elements are not working, there's always this resilience and conviction that trickles down from the top to everyone on the team to make sure that it succeeds. That comes from the way we are, but also the type of customers that we've been able to cultivate. It's an extension of just how you have to be in business in general.
How to successfully launch a crowdfunding campaign on Reddit
Felix: What was your launch plan for the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign?
Kent: I was pretty active in the Reddit Nootropics community. It was like a web one forum. It was the early days of Reddit, a lot of people migrated there from Dig and it was great because the community felt so tight-knit. Pitching into that community was one of the biggest reasons that the crowdfunding on Indiegogo was a success. Secondly, we were manually launching these PR campaigns. Now there's tools that allow you to use merge tags and send mass customized emails, but back then, we didn't know about any of these tools. Like Ryan was saying earlier, Tyler and I just buckled down and we sent 500 emails to 500 different publications that talked about supplements or Nootropics.
If you get a one or 2% response rate, then that's a percentage of publications that you could use to show credibility and show validity. The combination of those two things were some of the biggest factors in the initial launch being a success, and us being oversubscribed in less than three days.
Felix: You used Reddit to launch the campaign. What's your recommendation on how to approach Reddit when you are essentially promoting a business?
Ryan: Be as authentic as possible. Another part is, I'm that guy that’s always on Reddit when I have free time. It’s probably one of my worst habits, but I have thousands and thousands and thousands of karma points, and I've also done AMAs where we are super honest and transparent about all the tools and marketing tactics we use. People appreciate that. Especially back in the day, it was a shared ecosystem of knowledge. If you are willing to share much as the other anonymous stranger that's also willing to share, it feeds into itself. There's an infamous Woody Harrelson incident where he went in and had no idea what kind of community Reddit was. He used it as a platform to pitch his new movie, Rampart, and everyone should look this up. The Reddit community isn't there to be advertised to, they're there to get excited about something and to create discussion around it. That’s how we approached the launch. Just like, “Hey, we launched this product, we've been in R and D for a year and we would love your thoughts on it.” It was authentic at the end of the day.
“The Reddit community isn't there to be advertised to, they're there to get excited about something and to create discussion around it.”
Felix: Was it more of a numbers game–reaching out to as many people as possible–or did you also work on key ways to refine the pitch. What worked best for you?
Kent: There's follow-up tactics with emails now that are known to be fairly effective. Then personalization, so to our benefits, sending every single email out and personalizing it to be like, “Hey, I noticed you wrote this article. This is us. This is a picture of us and the product we're making.” Personalization and being authentic has always worked for us. Even now, Ryan and I constantly have put ourselves as the face of the product alongside everyone on the team. It breaks down that barrier of what existed previously, which was, “Oh, these big companies are creating 90% of the things you consume.” We're approaching this from the most genuine way possible to make sure we deliver the best product. That was the same approach we used on Reddit, the same approach we used with reaching out to PR, and the same approach that we still use now for any of our marketing. It has always been the most effective tool for us.
Felix: Did the campaign get immediate traction, or was it more of a slow burn?
Kent: We met our goal. It was crazy. I remember my phone was going off nonstop. We met our initial goal in less than a day. Then we hit double our goal in 72 hours. Once we got onto the front, onc we got that initial spark, that was a catalyst to get us to the front page of Indiegogo, which then in turn became a catalyst for more people that weren't necessarily part of the Reddit group to come in and check us out.
Felix: So this early momentum is super important for crowdfunding campaigns?
Kent: Early momentum in general is important for anything. Obviously there's ways of building something into a successful company without having that initial success. But for us, we rode that wave into an appearance on Dr. Oz about a month later. And continued to build into a legitimate brand. It was also a fire show though, because we were like, “Wow, this is our first business. And we have no idea how to handle the influx of customers.”
Why community is your greatest asset when transitioning into a full-time business
Felix: Were there any mistakes made in those early days that you’d recommend other founders look out for?
Ryan: While most people might have fulfillment centers or shipping centers, all the products got shipped to Kent's place. We had 4,500 pounds of gum from that first MOQ that got dropped off without a loading dock. At Kent's place, we went box by box over with a dolly to drop it off. Those were the type of memories that you look back on, and they're really fun. It makes you appreciate all the other elements of business as you start to scale. Moving from an apartment to fulfillment center, moving away from Kent's phone as a customer service line to an actual proper customer service line with a customer service email. All those little things and tidbits that you learn along the way. Going to the mailbox or the post office to drop product off, all of those things are part of that experience.
It wasn't just overnight we quit our jobs and we were doing this. It was about a year and a half we were still doing our full-time gigs so we could pay out rents, while managing this.
Felix: Was it hard to balance the year and a half between these basically two full-time jobs?
Ryan: It was two full-time jobs. My teammate who also was really encouraging, was like, “Hey, it seems like this is something that you're really passionate about. Why don't you go and pursue it?” I still remember my manager was awesome, he was like, “If it doesn't work out–which it will–but if it doesn't, you have a job you can come back to.”
It was a really supportive environment. I urge people who are at full-time jobs now that are looking for a different career change, or are on the fence about taking that leap of faith, to find a community that's going to be supportive. Whether that's a partner, a parent, a sibling, sometimes you just need to talk to them and see what you can do. Oftentimes you want to test it out and if it doesn't work out, there's different avenues, it's not the end of the world. That's just a tidbit of information. For us, it was getting to be too much. Then we saw that momentum. We left about a year and a half in and we went full time to Neuro. That's really where you start to see a lot of that growth.
Felix: Tell us about those early lessons surrounding trusting your gut with investors and advisors.
Kent: At the end of the day, we got very lucky with this too. The people that invested in us or the community that invested into us in the Indiegogo days, there was just, like Ryan said, immense support and trust in what we were doing, knowing that we were first time entrepreneurs. It never became this environment of, “You have to do this and you need to hit these numbers, you need to hit these goals.” Despite the initial success, we weren't growing at any tremendous pace, primarily because we didn't have a top of funnel tactic set up. We didn't have a retention tactic set up. We didn't even have anything beyond the basics of MailChimp set up.
The customer service line was literally my phone. In this process, people were so encouraging and allowing us to validate so many of our ideas is what kept us going without burning out. When we've seen other entrepreneurs fail, they completely burn out. Burnout is one of the biggest reasons that most businesses seem to fail. We were fortunate enough to not experience that.
Felix: I’m sure a lot of people had a lot of opinions about the direction of the company. How did you make sure to first hear them out, but ultimately stick with your gut and vision.
Ryan: We were really fortunate to have a lot of investors that were entrepreneurs of grand companies. They could understand the roadblocks you go through, whether it's supply chain issues, production delays, different types of marketing strategies, mistakes that you're going to make, and lessons you're going to learn along the way. We had people who were really patient, and we were able to attract a pretty awesome team of angel investors to do that. Shout out to a lot of the backers early on that helped us get to where we are.
Felix: Was there ever a moment where you were able to take a step back and build out and refine those missing elements?
Kent: With the advice we got from these other entrepreneurial people, we started implementing all of these things. That advice and direction was absolutely valuable in our success. Indispensable pieces of advice were constantly given to us. There are these very authoritarian investors that we've heard horror stories about, and we were fortunate enough to never run into any of those, or we subconsciously just blocked them out of our ecosystem. In regards to these terms that we know like the back of our hand now, the top of funnel retention, like conversion rate, CPA, CPM, that naturally started coming to us as we began diving into numbers, as we began exploring how our product can reach broader audiences. It was a natural transition over the course of several years into entrepreneurship. We're still learning, and that's the best part of the business–it's a never-ending journey.
This brand's sustained success can be attributed to customer education and retention
Felix: Tell us about your customer retention strategy.
Ryan: We've had six years of data and looking back on any given month or timeframe, about a third of our customers are repeat buyers. The biggest challenge for us is educating somebody that a product like ours exists. People go in to buy confectionery, mints, gum, just for the taste, to freshen their breath. They don't realize that there's added benefits or a brand that does that. Once we introduce that product to somebody, the repeat purchase rate can be up to about 40, 45%. Our challenge is getting people to try the product. Sampling is a really big opportunity for us.
That's what we figured, people just need to try it. People are going to love it, hate it, they're going to be indifferent, but the people who love it just absolutely love it. We've grown such a loyal group of customers that they give us feedback all the time. It's built a community which has been inspiring for us and has given us the motivation to keep going. Six years in and we see this being a brand that's going to keep on going.
Felix: It sounds like the biggest hurdle was just getting them to try the product in the first place. Tell us about how you could encourage customers to give the product a chance.
Ryan: We were trying everything, all the communities. One community that embraced us was the CrossFit community. Being able to go to CrossFit events and have athletes try it, feel the effects, become ambassadors for the product. We were sampling at music festivals, at Whole Foods nationwide, we're at CBS. We would do sampling at Jet Blue airlines, which has been an incredible partner. We're in all of their amenity kits. We see people try it and we get feedback on surveys of where they heard about us. You focus on these different cohorts of groups and people, and they become ambassadors for you. You either double down on it and try to look for other ones in the meantime. That's been super key for us, is really just getting the product in people's hands and getting them to try it.
Felix: Between the surveys and the sampling, which has helped the most?
Ryan: It's expensive to sample, but with rising CPA costs on digital, whether that's Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, it's getting more and more expensive to win over a customer online. If you back into what your product costs are, it might actually be cheaper for you to sample in real life. Maybe out of 10 samples you give, five people love it and then one or two become customers, one becomes a lifetime customer. If you do the math, it's probably going to work out better to do the sampling in real life. Then again, every brand is different, you can't give out a free Theragun, but you might be able to give out a free Theragun massage session at an event.
For us, luckily we can sample it, people can try it and feel it pretty quickly. We have two pack sachets and the nine pack gum, 12 pack mints. People can have enough trials to share it and experience it for themselves. Any entrepreneur, any product, brand, if you can look at a way of doing sampling, you might not give away a $300 product, but you can give them an experience. Our friend's brand, which is BrainCo, it's like a brain activity monitoring app. You can give people experiences in events and they can experience it for themselves. There are different ways to do sampling in real life. That's a great alternative to just relying on digital.
Felix: What are the main marketing points you’re trying to get across in those first brief touch points to encourage conversions?
Kent: Doing podcasts like this have always been really helpful, or any of the PR events. We also have a pretty great influencer program that allowed people that liked our product to be able to share and be incentivized to do so. At the end of the day, it's exactly what we thought would work for us, which was creating an approachable, portable product that enhances your life in some way. We don't BS any of that. We're transparent about our ingredients, we're transparent about how meticulous we are with our R&D process and our ingredients. That's just a brand mantra that will continue through with any of the future products that we do launch.
The tech stack every entrepreneur needs on their Shopify site
Felix: Tell us a little bit about the design and creation of the website.
Kent: At the end of the day, it's really being able to tap into what the messaging is to which consumer to imbue trust into them. With the people that we already were able to get, the original subset of chewers, they trusted the approachability, the functionality process. We're getting into this stage in our business where the trust factor is there, that's why we have such a high retention rate even with the growth cut we've been seeing, how do we make ourselves more lifestyle oriented? How do we make ourselves give more than what the product has to offer? Through the website, as we begin entering into this next stage of redesign and branding for it, we’re mostly going to focus on that. Right now, the clean minimalist look, the information we share is all for showing that we are a product that you can ingest that a trust to ingest.
Felix: Are there any specific apps you use that have been helpful or made a significant impact on the business?
Kent: We've been on Shopify forever. Initially, when we were talking about going on this podcast, we're using Recharge as a subscription platform, but there's so many more that are coming out that are solving all of Recharge's problems. We're going through the migration process of using Smarter, which allows for more personalized tactics for subscription customers. We're big fans of Printful, which is a website slash application that allows you to drop ship merch. That's a special page that we have that we're not going to share to the public, but right now it’s just for our most loyal customers. Things like smile.io for validity through reviews has been incredible for us. Klaviyo and the robustness of their email marketing platform has been incredible too. Those are some of the ones that come to mind that have been indispensable apps.
Ryan: Shout out on the finance side, Ampla, which was previously known as Gourmet Growth has been great for us. Anthony, who's the founder, and the team there has been really supportive in cash flow, especially with a brand like ours, where you might not necessarily have to raise equity capital, but if it's really about just getting inventory to service the demand and it's just about you getting the supply, they're a great tool for cash flow and getting cash in for all the day to day operations.
Kent: I'm going to throw two more apps in there because now I'm thinking about how good they're. So as a person that still probably has some PTSD from handling so many customer service calls, Gorgias as a customer service app is incredible, the way they could set up macros. It has made the customer service journey way more fluid than when we started out.
Ryan: We tried so many customer service apps too. I can't even remember four or five other ones, but Gorgias has been great.
Kent: Emotive. Shout out to Emotive and their CEO, Zach, who's a good friend. There were so many SMS apps that came out at the same time and they're continuing to push the bounds of what's possible there. Those two have been pretty indispensable as well.
Ryan: Another really good platform is CRSTL, the founder of DidGee and their team are incredible builders. They’re basically creating this master command center for all businesses so it links together all your bank accounts, credit cards, but more importantly, all the records and orders from Shopify, Amazon, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, all these big retailers that we're in, it puts all of it into one system. It allows you to see when you're going to get paid from certain retailers, what bills are due by importing your bills from QuickBooks and all these other accounting software. It gives you a really good understanding from an operations and finance point of view for brands to know like, where is my money and when am I going to get paid?
That's an incredible app. They're in stealth right now, but a lot of brands are going to go for it. I wish we had this six years ago. It would've been super helpful. They're solving a problem that no one has solved in the last six years that we've been in business. Really excited for them. For sampling too, GYFTING, the founders are awesome. They do these gifting experiences for really cool brands. They support a lot of minority founders, female founders. It's awesome. They'll team up with Live Nation or TikTok, all these big companies where they give them these cool gifting unboxing experiences. They're definitely a cool company to check out too if you're an awesome brand and you want to get in front of really cool people.
Felix: What is the most important area of focus moving into the new year?
Kent: These last two years have been crazy for everyone, that flexibility has been one of the key things that has kept us going. Thankfully our business has continued to grow despite everything, but there is a major shift that we had to do from a company-wide level to trim the fat and focus on what's important. Don't be afraid to try new things, but also don't be afraid to take a step back from everything that you have done. Go back and build out the structure and plan on what will be the most effective things to pursue success and start anew, which is what we had to do in several departments. Thankfully that flexibility and that structure has allowed us to continue to succeed.