Hey, thanks for tuning in to another Partner Interview at EcomBalance. At EcomBalance, we’re all about creating win-win partnerships where we are able to grow with other companies in the ecommerce space.
In this exclusive interview, we have a conversation with Khierstyn Ross from Launch and Scale.
Connor: Hey Khierstyn, thanks for taking the time to chat with us here. We love getting to know our partners better so that our community can benefit from what our partners are offering and doing in the industry. To get started, can you give us a high level overview of Launch and Scale and how it got started?
Khierstyn: Launch and Scale is a full-service marketing agency and consultancy that helps existing brands or new sellers launch and scale their brand. So what’s different with us is that we focus on building audiences’ traction, and setting brands up to properly validate new products to launch their product successfully using Shopify or Kickstarter for crowdfunding, and how to set them up for success. So we are really good with that early stage, quick get-to-market growth for new products and setting them up to have a successful sustainable brand.
In terms of how we got started with this, back in 2015, I met the founder of my first crowdfunding campaign, where at a networking event he mentioned bringing this really cool weight loss product to market, planning to go to Kickstarter for it. And at the time, I had kind of heard of Kickstarter, but I knew nothing about crowdfunding, absolutely nothing. But at the time, I did have a bit of experience in the online marketing space, because I had launched my podcast and was doing a couple of things.
So a friendship grew, and we decided to partner up and launch the product where I was heading the marketing efforts, and he was the product guy. We ended up spending two or three months getting ready for this product launch. We had two full-time assistants.
I don’t know what we were working on, to be honest, but we ended up taking this product to Indiegogo, which is another crowdfunding platform. And at the time in 2015, we made all the mistakes in the book and this first product launch ended up failing at that first time, we raised only 17,000 out of a $50,000 goal. Needless to say, it was embarrassing, and it was heartbreaking too because we had higher expectations for this product.
After that launch had failed, we were at the point where we just thought that the market didn’t want the product, which I couldn’t understand, because how can a weight loss product, that’s a multibillion dollar industry, fail?
We then ended up taking a practical look at the product and what happened with that first launch, and thought one of two things happened: either people don’t want the product, and we should just kind of quit and move on or because of our inexperience with Kickstarter, Indiegogo, maybe the strategy was off.
So we ended up digging into our customer group a little bit and re-strategizing. And we understood what went wrong with that, with a lack of an audience going into it and lack of proper message. Essentially, we didn’t have a big enough audience that we needed to go into that Kickstarter, Indiegogo launch. But we also did not really dig into understand who our customer was — meaning how we were conveying our message on this crowdfunding campaign just didn’t resonate with the customer at all. so when people landed on the page to buy the product they’re like “This isn’t for me.” “I don’t know what this is.”
So, all the mistakes in the book, we ended up coming back and re-launching that product after three months on Indiegogo again. And what happened that second time was different. After we reapplied and re strategized and committed to the product, we, in this second launch, raised $600,000 with close to 5000 backers, which was a night-and-day difference.
And because of that transformation within such a short timeframe in Toronto, I was asked to speak at a few local entrepreneur events about how we took a product from a $17,000 failure to one that raised over 600,000, and one speaking engagement got me another company that we’re doing another launch for. So, I launched a hardware product a few months later, and it was a launch that did about 400,000 and then we ended up taking on another launch that did 350, and it just kind of snowballed from there.
And between 2015 and 2018, I really just focused in on crowdfunding. But how we got to where we are today is that I saw to learning ecommerce and brand building and with my past experience coaching entrepreneurs, I saw that launching a product is not launching a product, it’s actually building a brand.
And we need to take a more long-term focus with that. So in the last few years, we’ve been really honing our services and how we work with people and our content into building audiences around building a successful brand through a product launch.
That’s really where the conversation is. And that’s why our company is called Launch and Scale because that is ultimately what we do.
Connor: That’s awesome! Can you dive a bit more into web design and e-learning services that you offer? I’m sure our audience would love to know exactly what problems you could solve for them.
Khierstyn: The biggest reasons that people come to work with us, whether they end up partnering with us on the agency side, or taking one of our mentorship programs like the Product Launchpad, is that they want help and guidance, either launching a product on Kickstarter, launching their brand on Shopify
This is gonna be really big if you’re either a new seller that wants to launch on your own website, or it’s going to be huge if you’re an existing Amazon seller that wants to launch a brand or your products on Shopify. We end up working with people to market test and validate new products. And then within those, we help them scale their brand.
Once they have some traction after launch, we help scale them up to 10, 20, 30, 40k over the months to take them to that seven-figure level. We are early stage. And those are really the main reasons that people come to us are to get a specific outcome.
So again, validating products, launching products on Shopify, or Kickstarter, and getting early stage traction and getting that fire going with that new brand traction through scale.
In terms of the services within that, how we actually perform that is we do that with a combination of organic and paid marketing methods. That will include a combination of Meta advertising, TikTok, Google, social media, PR influencers, and we end up building a marketing strategy around the goals of the brand that we’re working with. Because there really is so much you can do. We are full service, but we focus more on the outcome or the stage that they’re looking to get success in whether that is validate, launch, or scale.
Connor: Jumping off of that…if there was one problem you’d say that Launch and Scale solves best for your clients, what would it be? Why?
Khierstyn: Okay, so one thing I think that we do really, really well in the industry is figure out how to get new products to work.
What this means is that when you first launch a new product and you don’t have any traction with it or you don’t have a past track record of your ads converting with it, or maybe you’ve never put money towards ads, we are really good at helping get the fire going for a brand.
Let me explain. When we first start advertising for a new brand, a new product, we have to figure out who the target audience is. Who is their their person that’s going to buy the product? What is the core message that’s going to resonate with that audience and get people to buy? And, what creatives actually work to convert the best?
Before you can get scale with your brand, you’ve got to figure out the core components of who your audience, your message. And your creatives are. And so that when you send people to your website off of social media or paid ads, they understand what your product is immediately, and they buy it, and your website converts. There is resonance with everything.
And so I like to use a metaphor of something like starting a fire. If you ever watched some of those survival shows, and you watch a guy taking two rocks and trying to start a fire without a lighter, you know it’s gonna take some time, he’s gotta have the right conditions, make sure the rocks aren’t wet (I’ve never tried to start a fire in my life but without a lighter). But you know, you watch them on survivor shows and they spend minutes and hours getting that first lick of smoke and flame started, and that’s what we are doing
We are the guys that are figuring out how to get that started. Because with your product, there is no one who has ever been able to market it profitably before because. It’s a new product in a new niche with with a new message. We need to figure out what those variables are that’s going to help work to scale your message.
I think we’re the best in the world at figuring out those early stage variables, getting things to work and starting to build you up for success because those building blocks and that ‘icky’, figuring-out stage is what every brand has to go through, but it’s also one of the biggest points of opportunity for an E commerce brand.
So that I think is what we are the best in the world of figuring out is like how to get new products to work at scale.
Connor: As the company continues to grow over the next year, what are your plans for expansion? Any new products, offerings, or enhancements to your current products?
Khierstyn: Right now we have two main ways to work with us.
We have our done-for-you marketing services where we come in as your marketing partners and market your brand. Essentially, you’ll pay us to pretend to be you and your product online by us doing your email marketing, paid ads, website optimization, etc., where we come in as a marketing team and help leverage you.
The other side is great for a done-with-you approach. Think of that more as consulting, or with our group mentorship, the Product Launchpad Accelerator. So this is going to be a really great starting point for brands that need the direction. They need the strategy, they want the roadmap, but they want to learn to do it themselves.
So we take that two-pronged approach with our done-with-you approach.
You could outsource it and get someone else to take care of your marketing. With that, you can focus on product development, and being a CEO and focusing on your strong points.
We have the other side where you, the entrepreneur, are more DIY. You understand the need to have a mentor, the strategy, the roadmap, but you want to learn how to implement yourself.
So those are the differences.
When I look at expansion and things we want to do, we double down on what we have. We continue to get better at telling our story from the marketing side. We continue to get better with innovation and results that we bring to our clients. So the improvements that we are focusing on is on getting better at our craft and staying ahead of market trends with creative strategy, with AI in addition to that, so that we can help our clients stay relevant.
In terms of other products that we have, we are actively scaling our Launchpad Accelerator. With that, it’s coming a ton of new trainings from TikTok ads to how to use AI to a bunch of other stuff. So I think like the we have a really bunch of cool content and things we’re doing internally, but it’s about helping us get better at delivering better results and serving our clients better.
Connor: And how specifically would you say that Launch and Scale and your team is different from other similar businesses in the industry?
Khierstyn: I did mention this in an earlier question, about how we are really good at figuring out how to get new products to work. But in terms of why people should work with us, it’s because we don’t have an eight-figure agency. And what I mean by that is that it is my goal to serve just a handful of clients that I can lead on the strategic end. We don’t want to work with more than 10-12 brands at a time so we can stay on a high touch point. I don’t want to pass you off to an account manager because, ultimately, people buy because of my experience and what my team can bring. We do not treat you like a cookie cutter agency.
So people who choose to work with us and brands that work with us like the personal approach. They like how available our team is. They like our attention to results. And we work in a collaborative approach instead of just you never hear from us. So I think that people just really enjoy working with us because we do have a small team.
On the agency side, we have only a small number of brands because ultimately that is my passion to be able to work with brands at that level. And because of that, I don’t want to scale that side of the business to be like the main part of the business.
How we are different is that we are super specialized in what we do. We focus on very specific stages of a product’s life, from validating, launching, and scaling early stage. And I think that the lucrative nature of what we do is a lot of agency owners and marketers do not like serving the early stage of trying to figure it out. Because it’s really easy to step into a business that’s generating seven or eight figures that already has the converting website and that already has the list of 40,000 people that already has tons of data. It’s really easy at that point to do ads and marketing strategy that’s gonna generate a bunch of sales.
But what a lot of people don’t like doing which is what we specialize in, is figuring out how to get a brand to that level, the hard work before they scale and climb that mountain. Okay. So that is truly what’s unique. But also we walk the talk.
So in terms of what we do, we do a ton of content marketing for the brand itself. So you can just check out our podcast, our YouTube channel, people who choose to work with us really like the energy that we bring in our content. And they like working with someone who is actually kind of leading by example, on the kind of marketing and branding that we want to see our brands do.
Connor: Love it! Talking more about the eCommerce industry, where do you see it going in the next 1-2 years? Any unique predictions that you could share?
Khierstyn: Yeah, there’s a couple that we’re seeing.
Number one, there is a shift happening right now where if you are familiar with the Amazon space as like FBA and selling on Amazon, where a few years ago, you were easily able to launch a new product by white labeling it as unlike going to manufacture and taking a product that already exists, but putting your name on it, which created a bunch of me-too products, where if you then go to Amazon, you’re gonna see dozens of the same product. And there’s no differentiation on Amazon.
And now where sellers have been moving into the next couple years, we’re going to see even more of a differentiation here. In order to be successful on Amazon you need to be focusing on an Amazon brand. So having an Amazon brand is about creating an innovative product. It’s about improving on an existing solution and having something truly unique that you are selling.
Taking that a step further, we see a lot of Amazon sellers that want to diversify by going omni channel by building a truly innovative and unique product, or by improving on an existing solution, we’re gonna see a lot of Amazon sellers that are actively starting to grow their brands over Shopify. So right off of Amazon, on Shopify, or their own website where they can really start to have a higher touch point with their customer, their audience to be going more relationship-focused.
The shift into having a brand has already started. And I think we’re just going to see like us continuing down that path, but going a lot stronger into it.
Another thing that I see is that we right now are seeing how AI and ChatGPT is making such a huge impact on software and workflows. And while there is a lot of fear of making a lot of things redundant with software, employees, and stuff like that, I think that we’re going to see the use of ChatGPT and AI help us with smarter workflows to leverage our time better internally.
I don’t see it necessarily replacing people because as of right now, how ChatGPT is, I see that there will be problems if you don’t have a human actually monitoring the responses that come out of it.
For example, if you are using ChatGPT to build a product listing for your Amazon store, you do need to have someone that acts as a filter to make sure it doesn’t sound too robotic or too washed out. That’s what we’re finding with some of the responses that we have on ChatGPT right now as we’re using it for writing emails or website copy. It’s just losing the element of humanity.
So while people right now are going crazy for AI, I think it definitely has a permanent fixture on how we operate business. But I think we’re not going to lose as much of the human element to it as we think. So I hope that makes sense.
Connor: Giving you an open mic for a minute, what is something you’d want the EcomBalance audience to hear?
Khierstyn: If you aren’t getting the traction that you want to see with your product, it might be that you have a diluted marketing message. You might want to get more clear on who your customer is. That’s number one.
Number two, I know that we’re on the other end of a supply chain crisis right now. And things are hopefully, sort of starting to normalize. If you’ve had products that have been in development for years, and you’ve been losing motivation, don’t give up. Everyone’s in the same position as you. Keep going. We just launched a product that was like three years in the making. And they’re doing really well. So just keep your eye on the prize. Take a long term vision, especially if you feel like you’re in the weeds and you’re struggling right now.
Connor: Changing gears a little bit…When it comes to bookkeeping and accounting, what do you think the biggest pain points for business owners are? Feel free to speak from personal experience as well.
Khierstyn: Oh, boy. Yeah, so number one. Business owners don’t have an easy, clear way to see their profit month over month. Okay.
Number two, they, especially in the beginning, get lost when it comes to sales tax especially when you’re selling in the US. How do you get set up and set sales tax between states? How do you deal with tariffs, the financial side of things?
So I think truly understanding where they’re at and being able to make informed financial decisions, especially when it comes to cash flow management with an ecommerce brand is really difficult to navigate. Because accounting for an ecommerce brand is not just about knowing sales coming in every month and what your expenses are every month, there’s a certain level of cash flow management that you need when you’re putting aside money for large-order volumes if you’re bootstrapping. So understanding that cash flow cycle and how it plays into the bottom lines are the biggest pain points that we see ecommerce brand owners facing.
Connor: As we close this out, I just have one more question. Where is the best place to find and follow you and the company online? Also, if you have one, is there any special offer that you’ll be offering to the community today?
Khierstyn: So the first part of this question is that the best place to find me online is going to be one or two places. If you go to our YouTube page, that’s really where we live online. We have hundreds of videos to help you validate launch and scale your E commerce brand. The other side is going to be our website. We have a ton of resources, freebies, trainings, etc. You can find between those two platforms.
Any special offer? Yes, if you are if you send us an email because you’re inquiring about services or you want to grab one of our programs, send an email to [email protected] with the subject line EcomBalance and we will be honoring a 10% discount off of all services and programs.