Jaime Schmidt co-founder of Schmidt Naturals
This week’s podcast is a deep dive with Schmidt Natural’s co-founder, author, and investor Jaime Schmidt. Building her brand from a side hobby to a 7-figure annual income didn’t happen overnight, but Schmidt refused to let fear hold her back.
Although Schmidt says she has had 22 previous jobs, Schmidt Naturals was her very first business. Living off $35k joint-income with a new baby, Schmidt first started creating her all-natural products at home, selling them at farmer’s markets. After years of dedication and very little capital, Schmidt reflects on her 9-figure exit, her journey into investing, and writing her first book Supermaker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms.
The perfect podcast for anyone who has a vision and a dream, Schmidt is an inspirational entrepreneur who continues to lift up others with her infectious positivity.
- Has had 22 jobs, her entrepreneurial journey was the highlight of her career. Today she is an investor and author
- Launched Schmidt Naturals as a hobby, as a creative outlet
- Was pregnant at the time and started creating her own all-natural shampoos, deodorants, and the next thing she knew she was selling them at the Farmer’s Market
- The biggest challenge was making these natural products stay together without synthetic binders. She didn’t have any pressure, no investors, so it was fun for her
- Best opportunity was getting feedback from customer sin the market
- Realizing the opportunity for natural deodorant within the market
- 35k per year joint income with a child, she was also working a few side jobs as seed money for the business
- Her first step selling wholesale, and how she developed the brand over the years through Omnichannel
- The biggest challenge of the business and funding her business
- Going all in, full-time, 3 years into the business
- Why easing into the business was the biggest asset for her
- Manufacturing in-house all the way up
- Partnering with Unilever
- Writing her book, Supermaker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms, and her journey in investing
- Mentoring on the upcoming TV show Going Public
- Why she thinks you need to block out the noise, focus on your own vision, and don’t be afraid to change
Full Transcript of Podcast with Jaime Schmidt
Nathan: First question I ask everyone that comes on is how’d you find yourself doing the work you’re doing today?
Jamie: Well, it took a lot to get here. I’ve held 22 jobs, according to me report from the IRS. Today’s job, gosh, I’d say my entrepreneurial journey really was the highlight of my career. And then today I’m an investor and an author. But getting to the point of starting a company, that was just a lot of exploration, getting my hands dirty and really just not settling, not allowing myself to be complacent in my work and just realising that I wanted to be happy with what I was doing. There’s a lot that got up to that point.
Nathan: Was Schmidt’s Naturals your first company?
Jamie: Yeah, it was. And when I started it, I did not anticipate it really becoming much of a company. It started more as a hobby, something I was doing for fun. I was living, still am, in Portland, Oregon. It’s the most creative city here in the U.S. And everybody here is an artist or a maker or creator of some sort and I wanted to fit in. So, I really was kind of stressing like, “How can I find my creative outlet?” So, I started trying all sorts of things. The timing was great though because I had moved here with the intention of really figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I had found myself working my way up the HR ladder kind of in a corporate job. Really good pay, decent benefits, but just not loving the work. So, when I came here, I thought it would be a nice opportunity for a fresh start. And Portland was the perfect place, so I got busy with a lot of different things.
Where I really found myself was with making personal care products. I was pregnant at the time too, so I was paying closer attention to the products I was using on my skin. So, I started making deodorant, shampoos, soaps, lotions, all of it. Next thing you know, I was selling it at the farmer’s market.
Nathan: Interesting. When was that? Was that 2012? 2011?
Jamie: ’10, yep.
Nathan: Got you. So, started hand making the products yourself. How did you work out what to put in them and how to produce them?
Jamie: Yeah, a lot of trial and error. I’m not a chemist, I get that question a lot. But I’m just a fan of natural products and clean ingredients and just did a lot of research on the functions of different natural things. My first formulas, it was just products or ingredients you can find in your kitchen shelf. So, baking soda, cocoa butter, things like that. Not the most advanced synthetic ingredients, but just very natural organic ingredients from the earth.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. And you would use like YouTube or something to learn how to produce a deodorant?
Jamie: It was more of learning about the functions of the different ingredients and then using my own I guess a lot of trial and error to bring them together to create a formula that felt good. And there was so many iterations to get the texture right, that was the hardest part, was you can choose the ingredients that are going to serve a purpose. For example, baking soda absorbs odour and then you can use Arrowroot powder to help keep the armpit dry. But the trick is in getting them to come together and stay together, without using synthetic binders. I don’t want to get too technical, but it truly was a major challenge. Especially without having like a chemistry degree or any sort of background in science, yeah, it was not easy.
But it was a lot of … It was fun. There wasn’t any obligation hanging over me. I didn’t have business partners, I didn’t have any investment capital, so no investors to answer to. It was more just fun for me. And then the business very slowly … I took a couple years kind of easing into it, perfecting the formula and getting feedback from customers at the market. That was a great opportunity for me to meet face to face with customers and get their feedback on what I was doing.
Nathan: How long did it take to get the first product and what was the first product for you, for comfortable to go to farmer’s markets?
Jamie: Yeah, I never was 100% comfortable when I went out. I kind of just realised it was time to just get out there and sell it. I loved it personally, and I shared with friends and family and they were raving about the product. So, I thought, “Well, let’s just see what other people think.” It was also just a great way to make a buck and spend a Saturday afternoon at the market in Portland. But then customers were loving it, coming back the next week giving me their feedback. It was also … Not everybody had 100% positive things to say, so it was just a great opportunity for me to take their criticisms too and apply them to perfecting the product. And customers just, they love to be heard. They love to feel like they’re part of your brand, especially in those earliest days. So, it was just a win-win for everybody.
Nathan: So, you would say you were selling at farmer’s markets for about two years. So, would you say maybe it took like three to six months to be able to create the first product to be able to take there?
Jamie: Yeah, that’d be an appropriate timeline. I was still refining things in the process and I’d also started with more products. I had a whole line of products. But then I realised the deodorant was the one thing that there was a real business potential behind. I was at the markets for one and a half to two years, but pretty early on I realised there was more. There was wholesale potential and a real opportunity on the shelves, especially in deodorant. There just weren’t a lot of natural deodorants. And the ones that were out there just, they needed a shakeup.
Nathan: During that two years period, was there any point in time where you were like, “I can go full time on this.”? Or was it just like a side hobby passion project for those few years and it just slowly grew? Yeah, I’d love to get a gauge.
Jamie: I wanted to go all in full time, my household income was very humble, my husband was a social worker. Our income was less than $35,000 between the two of us and we were new parents. So, I did have to take a couple of side jobs in the earliest days. I found a couple gigs locally that spent just a few hours a week, enough to just have a bit of a cushion. And then that money I really considered the seed money for the business.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. How did the brand evolve from farmer’s markets? Did you start going direct to consumer or did you start wholesale? How did the brand evolve?
Jamie: Wholesale came first. I some interest at the markets locally with retailers approaching me. And then I also just recognised, in Portland there was a lot of opportunity to sell at places like food coops, where natural enthusiasts would be shopping. So, I really took advantage of that. And then about a year into that, I really took on the D to C piece and built out the website. That’s when we really exploded. Omni-channel was really at the forefront of our strategy, or my strategy back then, from day one. And I recognised I wanted to be everywhere. A lot of brands, especially natural, will consider a niche market and want to stay within that market. But for me, I really saw opportunity to build beyond that.
I felt for one, there was major opportunity because natural brands hadn’t done it yet. And two, I just felt that it was the right thing to do. I wanted people to have access to healthy, natural products that worked. And people in middle America and just people that aren’t necessarily connected to some of these communities like Portland just didn’t have access, didn’t even know about some of these products. And for me, that was really important to give them access.
Nathan: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. I’m sorry if I’m asking too many details, but it’s just good to get context with people because I’m familiar with our community. And what you’ve done is so impressive, by the way.
Jamie: Thank you.
Nathan: Nine figures in annual revenue to then eventually exiting to Unilever and now … For your first business in the space of about eight years, that is very impressive.
Jamie: Thank you. I’ll clarify, the revenue was seven figures, but the acquisition was nine.
Nathan: Okay. All right, sorry.
Jamie: Actually no, sorry, eight figures.
Nathan: Yeah, eight figures annual revenue, nine figure exit.
Nathan: Extremely impressive. So, I just want to give context because I know these question … Because people will doubt themselves, right? And this is an incredible story. Farmer’s markets, obviously go to a few wholesale deals, how did you fund the, I guess the POs from those wholesale deals? Was there any cashflow crunches? Did you have to get outside capital to fund that or still bootstrapped?
Jamie: That was the trickiest part of building the business was the financing piece. And to be honest, when I first started, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought into, “How am I going to fund this thing?” It really just grew so naturally and so organically that next thing you know my business expenses were attached to my personal bank account. It’s not something I necessarily recommend, but it just kind of happened that way. We were strapped for cash constantly, but somehow we made it work. And I think it was just … I grew up with a very frugal mentality and upbringing. And I really just looking back, I think that really played into it. But at the same time, you have to of course cut corners and be cheap. But you also have to be willing to spend money when you’re building a business. So, the trick is in just knowing where. Where to be frugal and where to be willing to spend.
Apparently I was pretty good at that. I think what really helped too was once we kicked the D to C into action, then we had that immediate income that we could then use to fund other operations in the business. The wholesale piece was certainly probably the hardest to manage because you’re dealing with payment terms and also your margins, you’re not making as much money on that product. But that D to C piece, if you can maintain strong sales there, then that can be super helpful in funding the business.
Nathan: Yeah. Got you. When did you go full time all in on the business? After the markets, a few POs, you’re probably about two, three years in. When did you go full time all in?
Jamie: Yeah, yeah, it was about I’d say three years in. It was a big kind of leap of faith, but I realised all my time was really needed to be spent on the business if I wanted to take it to the next level. And once I made that decision, that’s when we really just exploded, starting picking up some bigger retail accounts, some chains cross country. And actually, our global accounts came pretty early too. That’s not typical sometimes for a consumer product, just to get that interest from overseas so soon. But I really embraced that. And I think a lot of people are intimidated by that. And I think that’s one piece of advice I would give to new founders is pursue that international business because there’s a lot of opportunity there. In doing that, it opened up a lot of revenue streams for us too.
Nathan: Interesting. It sounds like some of the game changers was starting small, thinking of it as a project, not as a big business, and getting … You got your feedback loop from the farmer’s markets, which sounds like a game changer to perfect the product. And to really understand the customer avatar and how to speak to that market.
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely. But as the company got bigger, that became a bit more sophisticated. We couldn’t just rely on my intuition and the local customers, we had to start implementing practises where we were getting true consumer insights and paying for surveys and things like that. But in the earliest days yeah, that was just a blessing for me. I really do think just easing into the business like I did was an asset. It also enabled me to just really build up a community of followers and brand fanatics that are still with us today.
Nathan: Yeah, amazing. When it comes to D to C, you said you turned that on. What did that look like? You obviously started on Shopify, did you start doing PPC, did you work with an agency to do PPC or did you start working with influencers? What did that whole play look like? Because that sounds like that was a bit of a step change in growth as well.
Jamie: Yeah. Well, we started to get influencers kind of before that. There was a lot of interest through YouTubers back then, like 2012 was the time of the YouTuber. And we had a lot of interest there. But around that same time, my husband Chris joined up, he came in around 2013, ’14 and built out a website. He fortunately has that skill, so we didn’t have to pay for somebody outside to do that. And then just really kicked in the ads too, the ad strategy around social media and Google. And back then, ads were cheaper across Facebook and really effective too. People weren’t using them as much. And things look a little different today, but that was really effective for us.
Nathan: Yeah, it is … Look, there still are tonnes of opportunities in the market for PPC or influencers. But it is astronomically more competitive.
Jamie: Right. And expensive, yeah.
Nathan: Yep, I agree. Then what happened next? Did you start building a head office in Oregon? Did you start using 3PLs? At what point in time did you hand over the manufacturing of the products? How did that all work?
Jamie: Yeah. I kept manufacturing in house throughout the growth of the business up until the acquisition by Unilever.
Nathan: Wow, are you serious?
Jamie: That was pretty crazy. It’s nuts. Because you think about all the stresses that you have as a startup in general and then you add this whole piece of in house manufacturing on top of it and it’s just so many more layers of responsibility. But I just couldn’t see it any other way. I had built the product by hand in my kitchen, scaled that as long as I could. And then within four years, we had moved three times to different manufacturing spaces and I was doing all the research I could to learn about different machines and how to build out a production line. It was just so much that I had to just learn on the fly. I’m glad I did it that way, I don’t think everybody’s equipped to do it and I don’t think every product is built to be managed that way. But a lot of challenges and major setbacks and expenses that come along with it.
And then in the final years right before the acquisition, I actually had partnered up with a contract manufacturer just as a backup and kind of a peace of mind if anything were to go terribly wrong. And in doing that, I learned a lot actually by just observing their processes and how they were manufacturing. They were makers of some of the bigger deodorant brands. So, it was just a nice way for me to get a peek inside what a real factory looks like and then bring that back home and implement it in my factory.
Nathan: At what point in time did you personally get sick of making the product?
Jamie: Never really. In fact, that was probably my favourite part of the business.
Jamie: I mean, I had other things I had to put my energy on, obviously because as a founder you become the CEO and you’re leading this company. But making was so fun for me. But definitely became a distraction at some point, so I had to hire out a team pretty early. That was actually my first hire was somebody to help make the deodorant. And then I hired someone right after to start shipping. But whenever we created new scents or new formulas, that was still led by me. And I was doing that in my home kitchen, despite the fact that we had our manufacturing facility. I would just go home and just really focus and create in my kitchen. And then we would introduce the new scents. That was pretty cool to keep it in the founder’s hands and our customers appreciated that and it was fun for me.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s interesting you say that. I reckon there’s some magic to that. I know you’re kind of just like, “Yeah, it was fun.” But I reckon there’s some magic to that, that basically you had your hand in product development and actually doing it, understanding the processes all the way to then exiting the business. I’m curious, when it came to I guess finding that first employee, did they just work from your kitchen or you just had to get a facility at that point in time and invest capital into equipment? Because that would’ve been quite cost intensive. Did you ever take outside funding or was only when you partnered with Unilever to begin with? How did you … Because that sounds very capital intensive.
Jamie: Right, right. Well, to answer your first question, my first employee that I hired, we happen to have a mother-in-law house, I don’t know if you know that term. Basically kind of a separate little house or dwelling behind your house, that just had the perfect setup for somebody to make deodorants. It had a tiny little bathroom, it had a small space that they could use. So, I hired a friend and he came over and he set his own hours and he’d be out there making deodorant. But the funny thing is, I was cooling the product in my refrigerator at the time. So, he be trompsing into the house with this whole platter full of deodorant and we’d have to make room in the refrigerator. It definitely was not ideal.
But then I found a space really close by in my neighbourhood, which was a really interesting set up. There was a man who had leased out some separate spaces within this bigger building. There was a pet shop in there, there was a paper shredder, and then there was a space for me. And then I was able to build it just to my liking and my needs, which was so perfect for the very first manufacturing space. Because he was really flexible with terms, it was a month to month setup. He cut me a really good deal on our rent, we kind of became buddies. It just worked out nicely and I feel really fortunate to have had that opportunity. And I think the best thing about it was that I was able to finally schedule pickups because UPS and USPS. Because I used to go to the post office every day with my bags and my boxes and it became a big, huge thing. I think that’s not always the case, right? But if there’s opportunity for founders to find that setup, that was beautiful for me.
Nathan: Hey guys, I hope you’re enjoying this episode and learning a tonne. As you know, in this series we interview some of the greatest founders of our generation to find out how they did it. However, if you’re thinking of starting your own business and you want to hear from some incredible stories from everyday people like you or I, who are actually in the trenches, only been building their business for many one year or two years, that are building right now and that are really in the early stages, but they’re getting success, you should come and check out our new podcast, From Zero to Founder. Hosted by our community manager Molly Flynn, these are in the trenches stories from our very own successful students that have gone through some of our programmes. People just like you who are deep within the process of building their very own successful business. These are the founders of tomorrow. You can find the From Zero to Foundr Podcast on all platforms. And remember, it’s Founder without the E. All right? Now let’s jump into the show.
It was in 2017 that you partnered with Unilever, how did that come about? Did they find you? Or yeah, how did that come about?
Jamie: Well, we were at a point where the business definitely needed money. We had gotten to this point by really just being stretched thin the entire time. But in 2017, we launched in Costco, Target, Walmart. So, all our money was tied up on shelves. It just was not available to us. So, it became pretty necessary to start fundraising. So, we looked at a few different options there. We talked to some VCs, started talking to private equity firms, and then took on a broker, Goldman Sachs, to start just sort of having these conversations for us. And through that process, Unilever and then a couple other strategics entered the picture. It was not in my thinking at all ever throughout the growth of the business. In fact, even when we started fundraising I just wasn’t thinking about an exit at the time. But then once they started expressing interest and then we started doing diligence and opening up our data room and things, then the reality became clear. And I thought, “This is actually a really, really smart step for the business.”
Nathan: That makes sense. Would you be able to share kind of what, at that point in time when it was starting to get quite capital intensive around just POs and cashflow, what was annual revenue? How many staff? How many people did you have … Order volume, what kind of movement are we talking?
Jamie: Yeah. We were around I think $25 million in revenue at the time of the acquisition. We had 150 employees working across two shifts, that included manufacturing. And then retailers we had about 30,000 retailers across 30 different countries.
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Jamie: We were big.
Nathan: Yeah. And you were also doing international too you said as well, not just U.S.
Jamie: Right. Yep.
Nathan: Okay, interesting. Okay. Now what are you excited about now? Because I know you released a book and I know that you’re doing investing as well. So, what’s exciting for you now?
Jamie: Yeah. All sorts of things. I think at the top of my priority list is really just being a resource for other aspiring entrepreneurs. I really want to democratise entrepreneurship and let other people know that they’re equipped to be an entrepreneur. I think sometimes we need stories like the Schmidt’s story to just give us that push to take the leap. And I think my story’s just a perfect example of somebody who started from nothing, just had a belief in a product and recognised an opportunity and just went for it. With that, I’ve done a couple things, I’ve launched my book, like you said. It’s called Super Maker, Crafting Business on Your Own Terms. I released it in September of last year. That’s been really well received, the feedback I’m getting is that people are … Exactly what I was hoping is that they’re like, “Wow, I see myself in your story and this is really inspiring.”
I also started an investment fund with my husband and business partner, Chris Cantino. It’s called Colour. And we invest, we say in the things people buy and the way they buy them. So, we’re real passionate about the consumer space. Not just products, but the tech that supports products and brands. There’s more in the works too. We had a grant programme when COVID started that helped keep the entrepreneurial dream alive by funding businesses and building a grant network … excuse me, a mentor network. I have a TV opportunity coming up, it’s called Going Public, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that. But it’s a new series, it’ll be streamed on Entrepreneur Media where we follow five entrepreneurs who are raising capital or looking to go public. And then investors at home can invest through regulation A plus. So, I’ll be a mentor on that show.
Nathan: Wow, that’s cool.
Nathan: That’s exciting.
Jamie: Yeah, it is cool. I’m excited.
Nathan: Wow, interesting. I’m curious around your investment fund, tell me about some of the companies that you’ve invested in thus far and what is interesting happening right now? Because post-COVID, there’s a lot of deal flow. Well, not post, but during this time period, right? Obviously COVID hit and then it’s crazy some of the things that are happening right now and what people are working on. There’s a shift happening around all sorts of things, so there’s a lot of deal flow, lot of interesting businesses out there. I’d love to hear your take.
Jamie: Yeah, for sure. There’s definitely a lot of D to C brands that have come out of COVID, which we’re excited about. But what we really are interested in, is brands that recognise the opportunity with omni-channel. That’s how Schmidt’s was built and I really think a lot of brands are missing out when they go D to C only. So, we always try to encourage people to think beyond that. And I think not just expanding into retail, but expanding into channels that maybe your competition’s not thinking about. For example, I mentioned earlier with Schmidt’s, I wanted to make our product available to the masses and not just for that niche natural user. I looked at channels that the competition wanted nothing to do with, like Walmart for example. People would frown on that and say, “I don’t want my products in Walmart.” But I did and I wanted … I thought there was just a beautiful opportunity there to reach customers that we otherwise wouldn’t and that the competition was missing out on. So, we look for brands that are kind of thinking that way.
Nathan: Interesting. Just for those listening that are not familiar with omni-channel, what does that mean?
Jamie: Yeah, it just means distributing your products across different distribution outlets. For example, not just D to C or your website, but going into retailers and selling in a variety of eComm sites or marketplaces. Yeah.
Nathan: Yep, got you. Yeah, everywhere. That idea of being everywhere, yeah.
Jamie: Yeah, yep.
Nathan: Yep, okay. Yeah, I’d love to hear, are you able to share some of the companies or any interesting ones? Because you said you also support the tech behind some of these companies as well, so that could be perhaps like a Shopify tool? You probably don’t go as niche as Shopify plugins, do you?
Jamie: Well, the one we recently announced our investment in is called Alloy and they do a lot to support D to C brands. There’ll be tools on there that will help just support that buying experience and beyond. That one we’re really excited about. One of the brands, Ugly, it’s a drink, sparkling waters, that at face value you would think, “Okay, that’s a competitive market.” Who wants to invest in sparkling waters because there’s so many brands? But that’s a great example of what I was just talking about, about being open to distribution channels that some of the competition isn’t. That one we’re really excited about.
And we’ve also invested in another beverage company called House, who really, that one comes to my mind because they executed so beautifully during COVID, where they created this restaurant project they called it, where they partnered up with local restaurants to create specific flavours. And then any money that was made in selling those flavours, went to the restaurants to help keep them open during COVID, which is pretty crazy to think about a startup being so generous. But it just brought so much attention to their brand and just was a really good look for them. Our whole portfolio is at Colour.Capital, we have about 15 investments to date. Generally spanning, obviously food and beverage, but also we enjoy fashion and personal care, and then the tech piece.
Nathan: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. But yeah, purely focus on eComm. Yeah, that’s awesome. Because yeah, eComm is massive, there’s so much opportunity out there. I’d love to delve a little deeper on the idea that you’re really focused on companies that are open to omni-channel. Why do you think some brands are just focused purely on straight D to C? Yeah, you look at a brand like Glossier. They’re pure direct to consumer, there’s quite a few. Right? Yeah.
Jamie: I think there’s definitely some exceptions where that makes sense, to stay D to C. Glossier’s a perfect example, or a brand with a product like Peleton. You don’t want to … Finding them in stores wouldn’t make sense. But if your product is a consumable and it’s a price point that you can make it at a high volume, I think you’re missing out if you don’t. And I think a lot of brands are intimidated by it. One, because the price point, it’s harder, the margins. We just don’t make as much money that way. And then two, it’s just kind of scary. I think some people are really intimidated by retail. There’s much to learn, there’s a lot of fees involved and just extra work. But I encourage people that are feeling that way to get out there and just try it. Because it’s not as scary as you might think. It takes some work to get the buyers’ attention sometimes. But once that happens, then if you prove yourself, it can be a beautiful opportunity to expand your brand.
And also too, I want to add, I think having channel exclusive products sometimes is the right answer for some brands. It’s okay to have certain products that you’re just keeping on your website and then maybe having a specific product that you sell to a certain type of retailer. That is a strategy that you should be thinking about too if you are considering omni-channel.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s a really good point. This brings me to my next question where I actually resonate. It can be scary and we speak to a lot of people in our community where it’s easy to set up a Shopify store, send products to influencers, develop the brand, have your email marketing strategy going, get your Facebook ads. And you can build a significant business just rinse, repeating that formula, right?
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely.
Nathan: But the retail space, you’ve got longer, I guess it’s longer lead times, it’s a lot of knocking down doors, it’s a lot of nos, it is scary. And it can be intimidating working with these big brands, the margins can be much different to D to C. I’m curious, for those listening right now that have a brand, they’re not in retail, what advice would you give? How would you say someone should get started?
Jamie: I would say when you’re approaching the retailers, really show how you’re going to add value to the category as a whole and expand it. It’s less effective to come in and talk about why your product’s better than what’s on the shelves currently. It’s more about how are you growing that category as a whole? I learned that through the conversations I was having with buyers and I just think that’s just a smart thing to think about, that might not seem obvious in the beginning when you’re just getting started.
Nathan: What about even getting in the door? Getting those meetings? Because that’s-
Jamie: Yeah, that’s-
Nathan: Yeah, any tips, tricks?
Jamie: That’s the hard part.
Nathan: Yeah. Anything there?
Jamie: Well, I have some good stories in my book where I just had really just persistence and probably annoyance with some of these retailers. And I followed up a lot, I really believed that my product belonged on their shelves and I always made a case for why. But I’d build out cases I could present. For example, if you are just selling D to C, show your growth. Show how much you’ve grown from when you started to now, and month over month. And then if you’re in other retailers, you can make a case for why you deserve to be in the next level up of retailers. I remember, and this is less relevant now with COVID, but trade shows are really just a great way to connect with retailers. When there’s opportunity there, I would highly encourage that. I made a lot of connections that way.
Nathan: Yeah. What about in terms of prospecting who are the right decision makers? Do you use LinkedIn? How do you work out who’s the right decision makers?
Jamie: To work with me in the team?
Jamie: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t use LinkedIn a tonne. I like it for networking and connecting with industry friends, but I found most of my employees, and I don’t recommend this always, but my first couple came through referrals. And referrals I think are good, but I think it gets a little bit weird if you’re starting to hire friends and family. I did that in the beginning and that became harder to manage later. But I do think referrals and networking and going to be important, maybe through Twitter for example. I think that’s a great place to build community and to really show what you’re doing. There’s this whole idea of building in public now, where you’re very transparent about every step of the business. And I think doing that allows you to get people excited about what you’re building and get people wanting to work for you.
Nathan: Yeah. It’s interesting you said, there is this big movement around just building in public, ultimate transparency. You look at companies like Buffer, they even make all their metrics public. And yeah, people like to follow the journey, that hero’s journey, there’s something special about that. You look at Gymshark and what Ben Francis has done. Are you familiar with his story and how he’s documented it along the way over these past 10 years?
Jamie: Yeah, I’ve seen a bit of that. I think I saw it recently, in an example of brands are effectively building in public. I think that’s just the trend now. But I also want to say, I challenge it a little. But I think there’s some beautiful examples, but I also think that to do that, you have to have an established audience. And we don’t all have that right away when we’re hit with a business idea or inspiration, we don’t necessarily have our audience built. And to try to do that before we launch can be stressful and really time consuming. When I started my business, I was nobody. No one knew who Jaime Schmidt was. But I was able to build it successfully. Now, people know of me. But back then, they didn’t. So, I just would encourage people not to stress on that point too much. If it makes sense for your company and you can do it and you already have that audience, that’s great. But if you don’t, don’t let that stop you.
Nathan: Yeah. Because there’s always an opportunity cost. You could be creating content or you could be out there hustling to get into Target.
Jamie: Right, yeah, exactly.
Nathan: And taking meetings. It’s just yeah, it is tricky to know. Yeah, I’m curious around decision making. Because you obviously have been right 70%, 80% of the time, to get to the outcome that you got to. How do you make decisions, and key ones, at that? What does that process look like for you?
Jamie: I’d say it’s no magic formula, but it’s a mix of my intuition. And on that, real quick I want to say, some people might scoff at that or think it’s kind of silly. But really, your intuition is the culmination of every experience that’s gotten you to this point. So, don’t be afraid to trust it. That, plus research and learning what I can and maybe trusting in some other people’s opinions, and then ultimately just having confidence and taking that risk.
Nathan: Yeah. Love it.
Nathan: Awesome. Well look, we will work towards wrapping up. Couple of last questions. Is there anything that you wanted me to ask you, that I haven’t yet? Or anything that you wanted to share with our audience of early stage startup founders?
Jamie: I mean, this is my favourite audience. If I had to leave you with a piece of advice, I’d probably say block out the noise as you’re building. I think especially now, I mean, everyone’s trying to create something. Whether it’s a business or just a name for themselves. And it’s intimidating and overwhelming and we find ourselves trying to compare ourselves to each other or our competition. I think you just have to go inwards and just focus on the vision that you have for what you’re building and stay focused there. But also, don’t be afraid to shift. I think that becomes hard for some people. Because they think they have it figured out, but then things start to look a little different or they might need to change something, but they’re so stubborn about it. So, try to keep an open mind there and think, “You know what? I’m shifting this because it makes sense for my business.” So, always being flexible and willing to take your time with things.
Nathan: Yeah, no, that’s great advice. Thank you. Last question is where can people find out more about yourself, your work, Super Maker your new book, and also your fund?
Jamie: Yeah. Probably the best place would be through my social media, so Twitter or Instagram. It’s just JaimeSchmidt, Jaime spelt J-A-I-M-E. And then I have a website, JaimeSchmidt.info. My fund again, is called Colour. Pretty easy to get ahold of me too, I love DMs and I try to help as many people as I can if I hear from you.
Nathan: Amazing. Well look, thank you so much for your time. This was an incredible interview, really, really appreciate how open and honest you are and how giving you are with your experiences. Congratulations on all of your success thus far.
Jamie: Thank you so much, I really enjoyed it.