Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner, Founders of Simple Green Smoothies
The Power of Community & Free Challenges with Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner of Simple Green Smoothies
The inspiring story behind Simple Green Smoothies started on a playground, with two mothers watching their kids play together.
At the time, Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner were both first-time mothers, and they shared a desire to get back into the workforce. But they decided they were going to do it on their own terms and by following their passions.
In 2007, they officially made the jump from being playdate partners to professional collaborators when they began working together on a parenting blog. Not long after they were working on more projects together, with Simple Green Smoothies being one of them.
What initially started off as a side-hustle turned into a full-fledged business, getting some serious traction after they discovered Instagram in 2012. Through a mixture of follower challenges, influencer marketing, and a whole ton of heart, they started building a multimillion-dollar business.
Their key tactic? Focusing on community, first and foremost.
“We listen to our community, we poll them all the time asking, ‘What do you want from us?’ ‘What do you need?’ ‘What’s your biggest struggle right now?’,” Hansard says.
“Find ways to really nurture that tribe and get to know them, just like you would in a real romantic relationship, so that you can serve them to the best of your ability,” Sellner says.
From being stay-at-home mothers working multiple jobs in order to keep their families afloat, to being the co-founders of a multimillion-dollar business with thousands of customers, the story of Simple Green Smoothies is a must-listen for any entrepreneur.
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- Why it’s all about building a community first
- How to reach out to influencers to help promote your product
- What social media platform you should use and how to figure out what works for you
- How to generate new leads by providing a free experience
- Why you need to focus on one core message when you’re just starting out
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner
Nathan: This week’s episode is proudly brought to you by The Private Label Market, an innovation house focused on helping companies design, develop, and manufacture food and beverage products so they can launch new brands online or into retail. Chat with them today at theprivatelabellab.com.
Hey, guys, welcome to another episode of “The Foundr Podcast.” My name is Nathan Chan, and I’m your host and also the CEO of “Foundr Magazine” coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. I hope you’re having a fantastic day. I just wanna say thank you so much for taking the time to share your e-bots with me. If you are enjoying this podcast, please do make sure you subscribe and also do share this with a friend if you can. I know you must have an entrepreneurial friend that would love this, too. And also, I just wanted to let you guys know if you haven’t started a business yet, if you wanna start a business, or you’re struggling to find an idea, we actually found out that 30% of our audience haven’t even launched yet. And for us, that’s a big problem. We wanna help so we’re working on an awesome product and solution to help solve this problem.
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All right, now, let’s talk about today’s guests. Guests, yeah. There’s two founders that joined me for this episode, Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner, and these two girls are the co-founders of Simple Green Smoothies. Now, what’s interesting is I did this interview a couple of months ago and Jadah has actually stepped down from Simple Green Smoothies and she’s doing some other projects now. Regardless though, she was the founder and she did work on this with Jen and they have done an incredible job with this business. And they detailed their story, they’re incredible at social media, they’re incredible at community-building, and they’re really, really good at refining their message and building a tribe around that message or belief.
And I actually heard Jadah speak at a conference that I spoke at this time last year, actually, and it was one of my favorite talks and I was just so amazed. I couldn’t stop taking notes. Her presentation was that good. And this will be the same case for you, guys. You’re gonna wanna take notes for this episode. There is so much gold shared and I know you’re gonna absolutely love it. These girls are absolute superstars when it comes to building an online business, building a tribe, building a community, and especially really just giving a damn about the people that they’re serving. And once you know that, once you care so much, you can build a very, very big business, and that’s what these guys have done.
All right, that’s it from me. As I said, if you are enjoying these episodes, please do take the time to leave us a review. And make sure you subscribe, helps more than you can imagine. Now, let’s jump to the show.
So the first question that I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job? But we’ll take it in turns because we’ve got two live. These guys, Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner, run an amazing company called Simple Green Smoothies. And, yeah, we’re doing a double interview at the same time. So who wants to go first?
Jen: I can go. This is Jen. So how did I get my job? I would say it started on a playground in 2007 with Jadah. And we had our babies on blankets, and that’s actually when we first met and made this connection that, years later, transformed into being the co-owners of Simple Green Smoothies. So it started at a very random moment when we were just being first-time mommies and loving that experience. And then at the same time, like, my backstory is I had actually just quit my full-time job as an art director in Santa Monica, where I worked for an ad agency, and I just realized that I didn’t wanna be away from my home all the time. Like, I wanted to be there for my kids and find a way for me to work at home and have them by my side. And so I went on this long journey of figuring out how I could do that with the skills I had. And I knew a lot of moms were doing, like, coupon clipping and doing, like, surveys to make extra money and they were so excited about it.
But I knew that wasn’t what was lighting me up inside. Like, I wanted to make money, but I also really, really believed in following my passion. And I know Jadah and I are both big believers in following your passion. And so what came out of that for me was starting my own online design agency where I worked with a bunch of nonprofits and just a very, like, a variety of awesome companies. I did branding and advertising, and I created just an online presence for them back in 2007 to 2011. And it was during that time that Jadah reached out to me from Facebook because I was sharing what I was working on on Facebook, and asked if I could do some work for her. And I would love for anyone out there that is just starting out and not even like confident in what you’re doing, but still trying to make something out of nothing, like, don’t be scared to share what you’re doing early on, and that’s what I did. And because of that, Jadah and I made that huge connection, we circle back around from days that are, like, mommies on the playground to working together in a parenting blog. And then eventually, it turned into Simple Green Smoothies. And I’m sure Jadah could share more about that so we don’t have to double up. So I’ll let her take over from here.
Jadah: Yeah, so the same journey for me happened when my daughter was born in 2007. I had to start creating jobs. And my husband and I had a brick and mortar business in Hawaii because the economy crashed, and no one was hiring. My husband is like a rock musician and actor and he got a real estate license and then no one was hiring, so we made our first job in a brick and mortar business. We shut that down, and that was in 2011. And that’s when Jen and I really came together to collaborate on our parenting blog. So again, creating work out of nothing, creating the job that I’m basically hiring myself. And that same year, I started drinking green smoothies. My aunt had made me a green smoothie. I started interning with her. So she was actually in the online marketing world, kind of, you know, the 2008 online marketing. And so I learned a lot about email list and websites, and I just, you know, I had this passion for green smoothies, but that wasn’t the plan.
It wasn’t for that to be a business, it was just something that started to fuel me and give me energy. I lost 27 pounds in three months with green smoothies being the kickstart to that health transformation. And over the year of Jen and I collaborating on the parenting blog called “Family Sponge,” which is still alive and well today, our ignored little baby. But a friend of mine who has over a million followers on Instagram today really encouraged us to start sharing our green smoothie recipes on Instagram. And for all of those people, I think, we are so resistant to starting a new social media platform. And so Jen and I were both very hesitant of like, “Well, we’re already on Facebook, and Pinterest, and Twitter,” and we just couldn’t imagine adding another platform. But I did push past the resistant, and even Jen, right? You were kinda just like, “I don’t know about Instagram. You can, like, post this recipe if you want.”
Jen: Oh, yeah. I was burned out. I was so burned out on what we were doing where, like, “I couldn’t add anything else.” And I just thought it was so incredible that you would get up super early in the morning and, like, take photos of your smoothie and post pictures and comments, and it was just incredible, like, how much you went out of your way of our main business to start doing this, and it wasn’t even for our business. Like, what we were doing was simple green smoothies at that time was actually just more of like a marketing channel for us to bring back to our parenting blog “Family Sponge.”
Jadah: Yeah, and so the Instagram, I mean, we had zero followers. And then my friend who had, you know, maybe she had like 10,000, 30,000 followers at that time gave us a shout out and we had 800 followers. I’m like, “This is amazing.” And then we got another influencer to give us the shout out and we jumped to, like, 3,000 followers and I was like, “We’re onto something now.”
Jen: That was more followers than we had at “Family Sponge,” a year of like busting our butts on that business. And then in a matter of, like, three months, we had more in our community around Green Smoothies than we did in “Family Sponge.”
Jadah: Yeah, and so that’s really where we created our job, was Jen started hustling and designing this Simple Green Smoothies website. And her hand and her imprint is all over the branding and the aesthetics of Simple Green Smoothies, and that was really the jumpstart of what would, in just a few months, turn into a business that would start generating revenue for us.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Awesome. That’s really interesting because me and you met early in March, Jadah, and you told a really interesting story about how Simple Green Smoothies started and your background and where you came from. And I’m curious, you guys noticed that you’re getting traction on Instagram in terms of people joining your community and getting around the message and the brand. I’m curious, when did you guys decide that you’re going to make a switch and focus? Because at the time, for both of you guys, was this your only job, or when did you guys, like, say, “Yup, this is something I wanna go do? This is what we’re…like, how did you know to focus on this?
Jen: During that whole time, Jadah and I were both working different jobs. Like, I was still running my online design studio and she was working for her aunt and then also in a yoga studio as an assistant. And so we were balancing a lot on our plate. And we’re still doing “Family Sponge.” But then once Instagram started taking off and then I put my time into the website, I remember when Jadah and I, it was around November when we were talking about doing maybe a 30-day challenge for January as a way to really like rally our community from “Family Sponge” and also the Simple Green Smoothies community on Instagram, and have them all come together for a 30-day Green Smoothie challenge. And that, we knew would take a lot of work from us to do and so we kind of put our “Family Sponge” on the back burner then and, like, focus on this 30-day challenge. And at that point, we always thought “Family Sponge” would still happen. We were just pausing it to work on this challenge and see how that went. But that’s really when we didn’t look back after that because it just took off.
Jadah: Yeah, and that was 2012, and I would say that we were following the momentum. So, you know, you have these little tiny wins in your business and you kind of allow that to be like just little crumbs, bread crumbs of clues of like, “Okay, let’s go in this direction now.” And so we were really just going, “Where is the momentum happening, where were the tiny small wins?” And so we saw the momentum, the Instagram growth, you know, from zero followers, July of 2012, to 30,000 followers by the end of December 2012. We knew that that’s where we had to put our time and energy. And then in 2013, I remember asking Jen, like, “Well, how much money would you need to make from this business to stop doing design work?” And she was like, “Two thousand dollars a month.” And I, like, Jen said, I was working jobs where I was making 15…two part-time jobs making $15 an hour. And I just slowly, I let go of one part-time job in December and then the other one in May of 2013. So we definitely, you know, we peeled the Band-Aid off slowly of seeing, like, is this really something? Is this a validated business model?
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Awesome. You know, I think that’s the way to go. That’s what I did with Foundr, you know, no secrets that’s…for the first year, I had a full-time job and I treated this as like a passion project and kinda just chipped a way to building it up. So I’m curious, can you guys talk to me about the business model?
Jadah: Really, how we built the foundation of our business model is through the three 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge. And so that’s really our lead generation strategy of how we bring new people, we like to call them rock stars, into our world. That has helped us build our email list to 385,000 subscribers. So that’s the, like, core, how people learn about Simple Green Smoothies. And, Jen, do you wanna go more into like the products side?
Jen: Yeah, and I just wanna say one last thing about the whole, like, the free way that we bring people in. And we really believe in leading with our hearts and giving fully upfront, and we found that to work really well for us. And so we make sure that our paid products are better than other people’s free products, and that’s something Jadah said over, and over again. Because that’s really how we built up our 30-day challenge. And so people come for free and just feel so much value that they actually were asking us, like, after our first challenge, “Do you have anything I can buy from you? Like, I would love to support what you girls are doing.” And at that point, we didn’t have anything, but we followed that little curve and, like, what they said, and we’re like, “You know what? It’s time to create something.”
And so our first product was actually packaging in that same January 30-day challenge. We packaged it into a PDF and sold it to the exact same community that had just done the free version of it, but we made it a PDF where they could take it with them, use it again and again. Instead of having it sent through email, they had it on their phone, on their computer. And we sold that for $5, and we made over $8,500. I think it was $8,500 in the first week on that product. And so from there, we realized that we could create products that people would buy. And it got us over that fear of like, “Will they ever buy from us?” And we realized then that they would. And so we kept on going. And the next thing that we did was actually, we signed up for Marie Forleo‘s B-School.
And a lot of how we run our business is based on what she’s taught us. And like giving back, and it’s not just about, like, our own community and serving them, but like taking it bigger than that, and Jadah and I have done some non-profit work outside of STS 2 just to, like, keep giving, and giving in as many ways as we can. But through B-School, we went through the formula and did everything that Marie could teach us about our avatar to really get clear on who we were connecting with, who was our community. Because in the beginning, Jadah and I didn’t quite know who that person was and so we would talk to everyone. I like remember, like, our emails used to say, like, “Hey y’all, how’s it going? Like, ready to rock with us.”
And we realized through B-School that, like, no, you need to talk to that one person. Like, there’s one person out there that really needs you right now, and it’s important to, like, reach out to them and, like, every email we send out is to that one person. And our avatar, her name is Dani, and we created her so real that like she almost feels like a friend to us at this point. And so when we log in to send emails, we’re always writing to Dani, for launching a product, that’s to Dani. And because of that, we were able to create B-product that Dani really needed, and that was a 21-Day Cleanse. And so in July of 2013, we finished up our next 30-day challenge and went into promoting our 21-Day Cleanse, which we brought in a holistic nutritionist to support us with. Because the truth is Jadah and I are not nutritionist. We don’t have any background in that. We just really know how to make a mean green smoothie that tastes really good and makes you feel good, but people need more than that. And so we bring in help when we need it, and it’s okay to always ask for help and surround yourself with people that know more than you, so that they can bring you up, bring others up, and also just impact your community even deeper than we could alone.
And so we created the 21-Day Cleanse and launched it in August, and within 10 days, we made $86,000 on that launch. And, yes, I mean, we were like crying over it because until that point, Jadah and I, we were struggling. Like, we were working all these jobs just to get by. Like, our husbands were also in like hard situations. Like, my family, we were actually unemployed. We had just moved across the country to start a curch and it fell apart in a very sad way, but it’s worked out for the best. But we’re on unemployment and we had…actually, it was called WIC, and it’s government food stamps. It’s a program, like, that work gives us groceries for our kids, and that’s what we were using to like get us by each month. And so when this launch happened and we actually, like, had money coming in, like real money, like, it just meant so much to us because it was for months and months of Jadah and I hustling and hustling because we believed that what we were doing could not only change lives but could also, like, change our life. And at that point, we really felt it.
Jadah: I think it’s also important to remember, like, we did the 30-day Greens Smoothie Challenge three times before we did that really big launch. Because I think it’s really important for people to hear, you know, that you have to focus on building and nurturing a relationship with your tribe and your people before you just start asking for them to buy things from you. And, yes, you can definitely, you know, sell things right away if you want, but I just think it’s so important to like see that. Like, we did a challenge in January, we did a challenge in April, and then we did a challenge in July, and that’s when we had a really big ask for them to invest in their health and make an energetic exchange between their money and us giving them a step-by-step program to follow, and that we were already nurturing them for an entire year through Instagram, and Facebook, and sharing free valuable content. And I just think it’s the longing that happens from that place.
So it’s like not just launch the challenge and then sell something right away, but find ways to really nurture that tribe and get to know them just like you would in a real romantic relationship. That you go on a few dates and excursions of adventures together and get to know them more so that you can serve them to the best of your ability. Because our product that we sold in January was nothing compared to the product that was sold in July because we really asked the questions. I was like, “What are you struggling with the most, what would be a dream solution for you to have,” and then creating a product or service from that place.
Nathan: That’s gold. Thank you for sharing that, Jadah. I’ve always been really impressed with your guys’ marketing, and I said this to you, Jadah, when I saw you in March. Like, you guys know your stuff. I’ve really, really been impressed that my girlfriend, when I told her that I met you, she’s like, “Oh, and that’s so cool. I’ve done one of their challenges, too.” So you guys. I’m curious, what happened next?
Jadah: We actually, like, with it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it, so we actually lived on this business model from 2013 through 2015 until our book baby came out last November. So we really just rinsed and repeated the model that we knew with the 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge. No matter if people bought from us or not, they were experiencing transformation in their lives and they were telling their friends, and their family members, and school, and coworkers about it. And then we would do the 30-day Green Smoothie Challenge for free and then we would invite them to join us for our 21-Day Cleanse. And that was, like, our quarterly, like, the business model that we would just repeat every quarter. Right, Jen?
Jen: Yeah. And then in between those launches, we sent out leafy love notes, and that’s really, really just focused on getting them connected with us and sharing where we were in our health journey, and just being really real, and making it to where we became friends with them. And they just wanted to keep reading our emails and, like, be on this journey with us. So then as they got closer to each 30-day challenge, they were like, “Yes, I’m in. We are doing this together.” And they would go through it with us and then they would want to know what’s next, and that’s Fresh Start 21 was the perfect thing for them. So it was a really great model of nurturing, like, connecting, and then selling them something that had transformation.
Nathan: Gotcha. And what did you mean by leafy love notes?
Jen: So that’s a word that Jadah coined for us and our community happiness team where we send out a weekly newsletter no matter what. Because it’s really important to stay engaged with your community and so we are consistent on every single week. No matter what, you will get an email from Jen and Jadah at Simple Green Smoothies. And that’s our love note to them. And so we make sure to always be, like, encouraging and just loving up on them so that they can look forward to logging into their email and amid all of the junk, and it’s like sale emails and stuff going on, they know there’s like a leafy love note from us to, like, make them smile.
Nathan: Awesome. I love that. And also, I’m curious around Dani, can you tell me more about her and how you guys…what was the process that you guys went through to come up with this avatar and how important that is? Because that’s something, actually, that we’re just learning at Foundrs as well how important this is. And it’s something that a lot of people skip, I think.
Jen: Yeah, I mean, we skipped it for a while, but once we put the time into figuring it out, it helped not only our community, but it helped us make decisions around what kind of products to create and how to talk to Dani. And so one of the first things we did was Jadah and I created a Google Doc, and pretty much anything we do is in a Google Doc. Like, it’s just the best thing ever for co-founders to be able to collaborate together in that document. And so we went in there and just kind of brainstormed who our avatar was, like, where did she live? What did she look like? What was she struggling with? Did she have kids? Was she married? What was her dream vacation? What’s like her go-to magazine when she’s checking out at the grocery store? What kind of gum does she buy? Like, all of these very specific questions to create a real person out of nothing.
And for us, it was really like this mixture of a Jadah and Jen is really who Dani was, which helped us a lot because we knew the struggles of Dani because they were our own struggles. And so we were able to, like, flush those out and figure out what was…like, deep within us, like, there’s always a superficial struggle of like, “Oh, I wanna lose weight.” But it’s really like, why do you want to lose weight? So that when I see those jeans in the back of my closet that have been sitting in there for four years and I keep saying they’re gonna fit me one day, but like it’s because one day, I want them to and I’m willing to, like, get there, I’m ready. So it’s those struggles and sharing them is what helped us a lot, like, figure out who Dani is.
Jadah: And one thing that we also did, which I think is a really fun, it wasn’t part of the avatar exercise that we were doing, but we actually, both Jen and I, went on Pinterest on our own and found pictures that we felt, like, were, embodied who Dani was. And so, I think, we went down to like three and we just voted on who would be, like, the winning Dani. And she has like a camera hanging around her neck. And so I think that process made it really fun, was just adding that visual element. And then the crazy thing is, like, as soon as we did that exercise of getting really clear on who we were talking to, we did a blender giveaway and had people upload YouTube videos, you know, saying what they struggle with the most with their health and for a chance to win, I think, it was a Vitamix blender. And one of the people that entered was Dani, like D-A-N-I, the same way that we spelled our Dani, like, we were being super unique.
And it’s like we’ve taken screenshots of it, where she had like a video, she was a blogger, creative. She was a mom. Yeah, she had kids, something like that. And so it was just like such a celebration of how, you know, the same that you would do when you, like, you buy a car and then you see your car everywhere. It’s like, all of a sudden, we, like, created who Dani was and then we were actually really seeing the real Dani in real life.
Nathan: Yeah. Wow, that’s so cool. And did you let her win the competition?
Jadah: Yeah. We had no choice. Like, we wrote email for her. It was her Vitamix in the first place, so we had to give it to her.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s funny. That’s awesome. Okay, awesome. So I think, yeah, you guys have really, really narrowed your positioning to speaking to your audience. And one thing that you guys do really, really well is community management, which Jadah talked about, Tropical Think Tank. Can you tell me more about your community management and how you guys go above and beyond to create this amazing brand and connection and relationship with your community and audience?
Jadah: Yeah. So we’ve built a team of community happiness specialists, and really, what we’ve gotten them to do is become a voice, an extension of the Simple Green Smoothie’s voice of representation of what Jen and I stand for. So I think this is one thing that’s really important, is if you want to build, like, a rock star community management team, that the founders have an opportunity to get to know the community and interact with them, because that was us. Like, we were responding to Instagram comments, Facebook comments. Jen’s husband was even helping us when our growth was just growing so fast. But we had an opportunity to really get to know our community so then I could then really communicate with the people that we hire. This is how we treat our community. And so what our community happiness specialists do, they’re kind of manning different stations, so Facebook, Instagram, website comments, and emails.
And one of the things that we really implemented in our business is no comment left behind. So really interacting, acknowledging people when they comment, when they, you know, are like, “This is an awesome recipe.” You know, just keeping the conversation going, like, “Oh, I’m so glad you like the recipe. If you make it, post a photo and when you make it.” So just taking that conversation a little bit deeper, and it was something that I saw was missing in the online world, was I would see all these busy big influencers who, and all of their fans would be asking them questions and they would just be ignored. And I remember seeing this one person saying, “Oh, so and so never responds to comments so don’t even ask.” And I was like. “Oh, my goodness, that’s so sad.” And so I don’t want that to be our business. I don’t want that to be the story that people are saying about us. I want our community to really feel loved and that’s something that Jen and I have been so committed to, is that people feel loved and taken care of by us, whether they never buy anything from us. That’s really important to both of us.
Nathan: Yeah, no, I think that’s such a great way to look at it and just to care and give a damn because attention is so difficult to get. And we’re the same. Like, I think if someone’s taking the time out of their day to actually leave a comment or, you know, add some value to your content and we’re asked a question, you wanna respond to that. You wanna respect that person’s attention that they’re giving.
Jadah: Yeah, I love that, respecting the person’s attention. And I think it’s also important to create systems in place. So one thing that we have is a shared Google Doc of the FAQs because, you know, one of the things, especially for founders, is we get burnt out, like, answering the same questions over and over again. So it really is important that you have someone that’s handling those more repetitive questions over and over again, but you create the system first. So again, like Jen said, we love Google Docs. And so as questions are coming in, we add the question, we add our response, and then our team is able…they have a resource to go to. So no matter who comes in, the voice is still the same and really represents our values and our beliefs. And they just know how to navigate that whole place.
Nathan: Hey, guys. Just want to take a quick 30 seconds to let you know about the sponsor of today’s podcast, The Private Label Market. They’re an innovation house focused on helping companies design, develop, and manufacture food and beverage products so that they can launch new brands online or into retail. For this month only, The Private Label Lab, in conjunction with “Foundr Magazine,” will open its doors with an offer traditionally reserved for major retailers and global brands that allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to introduce a new product to market and show buyers. Starting from $30,000, the entrepreneurs pack will help you create a product prototype, including conceptual and packaging design, custom formulations, nutritional panels, and legal compliance. You can chat with them today at theprivatelabellab.com Remember, guys, when you support our sponsors, you’re supporting the show. Okay, now, let’s jump back in.
Can you tell me about the size of your team and how you’ve worked out who to hire along the way and where you guys are at now with that?
Jen: Yeah, we started, I mean, it was just Jadah and me, and occasionally, my husband would fill in when we would host our 30-day challenges and just need extra support around Facebook commenting or answering questions through email. But within three months of, like, actually having some money coming in, the first thing we did was hire someone to help us with emails and commenting because that was the place that was draining both of us. And so we realized that where we were feeling drained and stuck was the first place to, like, put a plug in so that we could continue to, like, grow the business and do the things that excited us so that our community could feel that, too.
So the first hiring was Dan who actually happens to be a really good friend of mine, and he was a pastor and working part-time at Barnes and Noble. So I had to woo him over to Simple Green Smoothies, which was not even a company. I think we just became an LLC the, like, week before and tell him, like, “Okay, we just started out, it’s brand new. We really think this is gonna work. Like, our following’s growing. Can we, like, pay you just a little bit more than Barnes and Noble to get you started and, like, have you help us?” And he ended up saying yes and he has been with us since then, and that was in April of 2013. So he’s three and a half years with us and, I mean, he’s worked his way up. So as the business has grown, we’ve hired more support teams. So right now, there is actually three community happiness specialists working with us, and one is kind of managing them.
And Dan has moved up to project manager because he knows the ins and outs of the business. Because he has grown it with us, and so he can really figure out where the need is, what project needs to happen, and how to get it moving. And so he does that piece for us. And then Jesse is the one who is our team leader over at the community happiness side, and she helps Tess and Amanda with questions that they have that they don’t know how to answer through the Google Doc or just brainstorm ways that we can surprise and delight our community. Because every month, we give them permission to do that with a couple people in our community, and surprise them with, like, a $20 Target gift card if they love Target, or send them a signed copy of our book. Just something that, like, they’re not expecting and that we can bring delight to their life.
And then we have a programmer because we definitely need support around the tax side of things. It used to be where…I mean, every entrepreneur starts where you do everything. And so, like, my background was in design, but I had to learn programming for SGS and how to do WordPress and all of that. But as soon as we could hire a programmer, that was like my first need, and so we did it that. And now, we have a designer who works with me and…who am I forgetting? Oh, our photographer. Lindsey is incredible. So she’s the one who really upped the Simple Green Smoothies brand visually for our photos and she’s just incredible, and I am so thankful to have her on our team.
Jadah: Yeah, and she helps us also come up with recipes. And so I think it’s really important to…like, we started with just sharing photos from my iPhone 3 and then I begged my husband for an iPhone 4, so that’s like where, like, the Instagram photo started and then Jen bought, you know, a Canon, was it a Rebel…
Jen: Yeah, it was like one of the first SLR cameras, but I knew that was how, like, you could get legit photos. So I took the plunge and went from the, like, pointing to to that and started doing our…like, staging our photos and just make it higher end. And really, I got that idea from…like, we were just starting the website and I was looking at all of the other Green Smoothie websites out there and realized that when Jadah and I were trying to find recipes, we were getting interested in Green Smoothies. Most of the websites didn’t even have photos of what they looked like or what was in it, and so we wanted to make sure that every recipe we shared had a visual to go with it just so it made it really easy and also a lot less intimidating when you can see that, “Oh, this green smoothie actually has like peaches in it, or a banana, and I like those. I may not like kale, but I like peaches and bananas so I will give this a shot.”
Nathan: That’s awesome. Okay, so you guys actually have a full-time photographer that’s creating content now for you guys?
Jen: Full-time, yup.
Nathan: Wow, that’s intense.
Jen: I mean, she’s still like, yeah, but she’s…like, we have her work on all of our product creation. And, like, whenever we do cross promotions with someone else, she’ll take the photos for it and she runs Pinterest for us. And the great thing is she still…because it’s full-time to us, but in the real world, that’s not full-time. She’s just the most, like, full-time of our contractors. She also runs her own online blog called Cafe Johnsonia and that’s where she started her recipes and photography, too. And she is hired out for cookbooks all the time now. So she’s growing and, like, expanding what she does beyond just Simple Green Smoothies.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. That’s awesome. So let’s talk about the challenges because I know you guys get a lot of questions that I have to ask you because that’s been a really big traction piece for you, guys. Do you think all businesses can do challenges? If so, why? And do they get taxing doing them time and time again? I’m really curious around that piece as well.
Jadah: My belief is that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a challenge, but I do believe that every business should have some type of free experience that creates this live community engagement, live and real time. It’s one of the biggest conversations in corporate is client and customer management. And I think that that’s just going to expand even more as, you know, online business has been around for a while and you feel like there’s so much automation, and outsourcing, and all of these pieces that people are so hungry for connection. They’re so hungry for community, and they’re also hungry for, like, impact and changing their own lives. And so I believe whether it’s a challenge or something similar to it because if someone was, you know, maybe starting a blog where they’re serving people who have kids on the autism spectrum, I might not use the word challenge, I might use the word like project or experimenter. So the word is just like one piece. It’s one thing to like get people to commit to a start date and an end date, and do it live and in real time together. I think that people are going to stand out in the marketplace when they really create that community engagement with their tribe. And then, Jen, do you wanna talk a little bit about, like, the energy and resources of hosting it over and over again?
Jen: Sure. And for us, that is like a concern because we do put a lot of our resources into our 30-day challenges. Like, we look at a full year and we spend four months hosting these challenges and then another month or probably three weeks each quarter preparing for it and updating our recipes and our PDFs and the copy to make sure that it’s like real time, like, they can relate with it with what’s going on right now in the world. So it takes a lot from us, but we also know that the impact from it has been so huge in so many people’s lives that we can’t not do it because it works and, like, I mean, we get emails all the time from people just saying, like, “I cannot thank you enough for your 30-day challenge. My husband’s…he completed it and he’s gone off his blood sugar medication or blood pressure medication.” And like big changes are happening to people because of this. And so we just were aware that it takes a lot from us, and so once the challenge is over, we’re really intentional with the next launch that it brings in money so that we can cover these challenges.
Jadah: Yeah. And there’s definitely ways to, like, we’ve definitely created a way to make it more evergreen. We still like to have that, like, “live and in real time” stamp on it, but we’ve the same recipes get repeated each year. So the following January, the recipes in the shopping lists will be the same, the same for April. April each year will be the same recipes and ingredients on the shopping list. So we’ve found ways to kind of create the template even though, you know, as founders and creatives, we’re always tweaking it even though there’s one in place. And Jen and I, like, our top strengths are our maximizers, so we’re always trying to figure out, like, “How can we make this even better than…it’s already the best. How can we make it even better than the best?” So…
Jen: We compete against ourselves, that’s…
Jadah: Yeah. And then also, one thing, we found a creative way for us to, like, help bring in revenue during the challenge, too. And that was by, when someone signs up for the 30-day challenge, it’s a live thing and so we send a weekly email with the recipes and the shopping list. But there’s people out there that really just want everything up front and then they’ll do it with us still, but they wanna be prepared and, like, plan ahead. And so for $5, they can download a PDF with all of their recipes, every week shopping list and be ready to go on day one with us. And a lot of people do that and so that helps us recover some of our expenses, too, during the challenge.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. That’s really smart. So tell me, guys, I also…just touching on what you said, Jadah, I think that’s really on point around this free experience. I think it’s so extremely key because I think now, sometimes, you can get a really good, I guess, way to differentiate yourself in the marketplace if you take offline experiences online. And that’s something that we’re constantly thinking about, like, if someone just one of our products, you know, let’s call them up and thank them and just make sure they’re okay. Let’s send them a handwritten thank-you card. Let’s just wow them however we can by taking, you know, general offline practices online. I think that’s really, really smart. And I love the idea around doing challenges, and you guys got so much traction, like, the size of your email database and community is insane, just in a short period of time. So talk to me, guys, and we’ll work towards wrapping up. What’s next for the business? What’s next for you, guys?
Jadah: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many opportunities out there right now, and one that is getting close, it’s not for sure yet. Are we even allowed to…I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but there is talk about book number two coming out for Simple Green Smoothies. So we’re really excited about that and the possibility of just reaching more people out in the physical world. Because when you’re an online company, a lot of times, you do, like, you get in this bubble of being online, and we love having a book out there. It was a physical book. It was in Target. It’s in Barnes and Noble. And people that wouldn’t know about us online are able to find us through that book. And so that’s something new coming up is possible book number two. We’re also creating another version of Fresh Start 21 because we’ve listened to our community. We poll them all the time asking, like, what do you want from us? Like, what do you need? What’s, like, your biggest struggle right now? And one of them is that they loved Fresh Start 21 and the transformation they get from it, but they need another version of it for springtime because it’s a seasonal cleanse, but we only have the fall version. And so we’ve been working behind the scenes with a holistic nutritionist and with Lindsey to create a whole spring version of Fresh Start 21, and we’ll be getting ready to launch that in the spring.
Nathan: Okay. So, look, we work towards wrapping up, guys. A couple of questions around starting, and also, I have for you a couple questions around if you knew what you knew now, what would you do differently? So the first one is for people that wanna start a business, but don’t know where to start, what would each of your recommendations be? And we’ll start with Jadah.
Jadah: Yeah, so I would definitely test a message or an idea. And the way that you do that, you know, is, like, just pick one thing that, like, “Hey, if I talk about this for the next three years, I would be excited about it.” I think that’s a really good, just a feeler of committing to a message or an idea, and then actually testing it. So picking one social media platform that you can then start really broadcasting that messaging to an audience, interacting in that ecosystem of that platform and seeing if people actually resonate and respond back to the messaging that you’re sharing. Because I say, if you can’t get 10 people or 100 people to like and engage and interact with your movement, with your message, with your idea, you’re not going to be able to get a 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 people to resonate. So starting really small, kind of like micro-testing your ideas and putting consistent messaging around one topic, one idea, which is what we did with Green Smoothies, is that we went from all over the place with “Family Sponge” talking about, you know, arts and crafts, and unplugging as a family, and healthy meals, to, like, all we talk about is Green Smoothies. And I just believe that when you hyper-focus on one core message or idea, that that can build traction a lot quicker, and then you can expand the messaging from there. So I would pick one social media platform and play with one core message.
Nathan: Awesome. Jen?
Jen: I would say to first make a list of things that really light you up and that excite you, and they can be totally random crazy things, but just make that list. Like, do a massive brain dump. And this is for those of you that, like, aren’t sure what’s that, like, big idea that you actually wanna take a step forward with. So if you’re not even sure of your business idea, yeah, like, brain-dump this list of things that light you up. And then what I would do next is I would go through that list and start asking yourself, like, “If I had to go to work every day and talk about this thing, would I enjoy it?” What I’ve learned is that it’s easier to say no to things than it is to say yes when you’re presented with questions like that. So then begin crossing off that list, it’s like, “Heck no, I would not be interested in talking about hairbrushes all day long.” And so go through, cross off the list and then when you come to the last few, just pick one. Because the truth is there is no right one. Like, you just have to go with one and it’s gonna change anyway. No matter what you choose, it’s not what you’re going to end up in business within the end according to, like, the journeys of most entrepreneurs out there. So just go with one of them and then begin talking about it out loud instead of keeping it in your head. Like, make this real and be open about it, and get ready for feedback and, like, be prepared for it and ask for it. And so let people know what your idea is and what you’re thinking of doing, and see how they’re responding to it. And I think that’s a great way to get started.
Nathan: Awesome. Thank you so much, guys. So wrapping up, two more questions for each of you. If you knew what you knew now, what would you both do differently? And then the best place people can find both of you.
Jadah: So for me, I think, it’s really listening to your intuition, like, your inner wisdom. I think as we get deeper, deeper into entrepreneurship, you know, you’re always going to be solving problems, solving problems for other people and also solving problems for yourself inside the business internally. And so often, we, and me, too, I’m super guilty of this, is externally reaching for answers like, “Oh, this course, or this person, or this coach, or, you know, has all the answers for me.” And I think if you remember that those are all just, they’re filters, they’re of, like, how you can do something, but they’re not the only way. And it might not be the right way for you, so not looking at any piece of information, or coach, or guy as like the end-all-to-be-all solution for what’s right for you and your business. I think it’s so important to listen to your own intuition, your own inner knowing of, like, what’s right for your community, what’s right for you and the way that you show up in your business. Because ultimately, that coach, that course, that teacher is not in your business, and they don’t know the ins and outs the way that you do and they also can’t really know how you feel in the day-to-day. So ultimately, really coming…learning to be a more powerful decision-maker on, like, what’s right for you in the moment.
Jen: And where can they find you, Jadah?
Nathan: Thanks, Jen. Yeah, Jadah, yup, where’s the best place people can find you?
Jadah: You can find me at simplegreensmoothies.com or I also have jadahsellner.com for those people that wanna make more intuitive decisions in their business and great things that they’re guided by, that is like a right thing for you in the moment.
Jen: Okay, and then…I don’t even remember the question now. Jadah, would you like to ask it to me this time and give me a start?
Jadah: Yeah, so knowing what you know now, what would you do differently or…is that correct, Nathan?
Nathan: Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. Let’s draw from your guys’ experience as entrepreneurs.
Jen: For me, it’s I wish that I would have slowed down and checked in with myself daily. This is something that I didn’t do for a long, long time, and I really just focused on building up this business and getting the work done, and crossing off my to-do list and making sure other people’s needs were met in our community or on our team. And then the reality was, like, it was draining me, where, like, I was drained, and exhausted, and stressed, and not sleeping well, and just not taking care of myself. And so I realized through that, like, sacrificing myself or my business just is not cool. And I didn’t create a business to do that. And so I just really started, like, daily-checking in with myself to see how I’m doing and make sure that, like, I’m in alignment with the life I want, and I’m leading the way I want, and just really coming from a place that is empowering for me instead of like stressful and sad. And so one way I, like, actually do this is Jonathan Fields just released a new book, and I was reading it, and he calls them awareness triggers. And that’s where you can set, like, your cell phone and use it, like, for random times of the day where it’s gonna go off. And it does that for me. So my phone goes off and then I stop for a minute, I pause, I’ll take a deep breath. Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk in the backyard and go pet my chickens.
But it’s like this time where I’m taking a break from all of the craziness and the life of entrepreneurs and figuring out how I’m doing, and what my needs are, and am I actually meeting those needs? And if I’m not, then I slow down and, like, make a priority of it. And that’s pretty much it, but I did wanna say, I would love to invite all of you guys over to Simple Green Smoothies and try a Green Smoothie recipe. They are so delicious, and we didn’t get to tell you how great they are, but if you head on over, go check out Beginner’s Luck. It’s the recipe that Jadah and I got hooked on. It was love at first sip. And we also have a free 30-day Green Smoothie challenge that you can join with us and rock out, and we would just love to have you there. So head on over to simplegreensmoothies.com.
Nathan: Awesome. Thank you so much. And I’ve been getting into the smoothies as well. Emily likes to make some for me every morning, and it’s just, like, you actually get like a real boost of energy. They’re seriously awesome.
Jen: Yeah. Well, I was such a caffeine addict before, like, I was hooked on coffee, like, multiple times a day. And with green smoothies, like, I don’t need it like that. Like, now, I just enjoy a cup, but I really like crave the green smoothie and the energy you get from that more than coffee.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, no, I’ve never been a coffee drinker, but I’m curious, so to make them green, you guys always have to put like certain things like spinach, or pears and apples, and stuff like that. You guys have other color smoothies, too?
Jadah: We do. We have some purple ones and some pink ones…
Jen: And brown ones.
Jadah: Yeah, and brown. If you want pink, you can use raspberries or beets which will make them really bright pink, but we always include leafy greens, so kale, or spinach, or chard. That’s just something we’ve been really committed to with Simple Green Smoothies because getting those leafy green is one of the hardest things for people to get in their daily diet. Especially Jen and I, we were never, like, salad eaters, so this was like our first gateway into eating more veggies than just like potato and corn, at least for me. Like, those were the vegetables for me. It was like the kale and corn.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look, thank you so much for taking the time, guys, and I hope you have a fantastic day and I hope everything is okay on your end, Jen. You said you got a hurricane coming or something. So thank you so much for taking the time. And, you know, it was great to finally connect again, guys.
Jadah: Yes, awesome.
Jen: Thank you. It was fun.
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