Suzy Batiz, Founder, Poo-Pourri
The Sweet Smell of Success
Suzy Batiz’s journey from bankruptcy to founding Poo-Pourri, a $100 million business that’s become a household name.
For many consumers, the initial reaction to Suzy Batiz’s product is laughter.
I know it was for me. I remember back in 2008, my mother waving me over to the checkout register of our favorite boutique soap shop, giggling uncontrollably. I saw the tiny bottle and laughed out loud myself. Then handed one to the cashier.
After all, you just can’t walk away from a product called Poo-Pourri.
But it’s Batiz who has had the last laugh. A little over a decade since it launched, Poo-Pourri has become a household name and a $100 million business. The all-natural air freshening spray, once a boutique-only brand, is now sold by major retailers like Target, Costco, Walgreens, and more. Poo-Pourri has taken the world by sweet-smelling storm.
Given her success, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that Batiz had previously gone bankrupt (twice!) and once swore never to launch another company ever again. With a list of former businesses so long she can’t even name them all, Batiz had always come up short in pursuit of her big break.
It wasn’t until she failed hardest and stepped away from the world of entrepreneurship entirely that she had her life-changing epiphany.
The journey from broke to multi-millionaire wasn’t an easy one for Batiz. But her commitment to creativity, willingness to remain flexible, and her indomitable spirit helped her to shake the stink of failure and bring lovely aromas to bathrooms around the world.
For years, Batiz was the kind of person who always had a full-time job and a side hustle, with another side-hustle in mind should the current one fail.
“I had a lot of businesses, and nothing seemed to really work long term. Nothing stuck,” she says. “But I was desperately trying.”
She’d owned a clothing store, a beauty salon, and a tanning salon to name a few, and she grew accustomed to taking big risks in the process. She learned early on how to bounce back from failure.
For example, Batiz went bankrupt for the first time before she was even old enough to drink. At 19, she took on a bridal salon, and at 20, the salon had gone under. But that didn’t slow her down.
“I was in this frantic race,” she says. “I was doing everything that you’re supposed to do, you know, pushing through.”
She continued trying new business ideas until, in 1999, she experienced her second bankruptcy. This one hurt far more than the first.
Batiz had sunk much of her own money into building Greener Grass, a recruiting platform designed to match employees with the right company cultures. If views were dollars, she would have been swimming in cash, but when the stock market crashed in 2001, so did her fledgling business. Batiz lost everything.
“They took away the big house, the two cars, and I had to face myself,” she says.
Batiz realized that all her life, she’d been chasing success—which really meant an overflowing bank account—without taking the time to find out what she was actually interested in.
“What’s worse than losing everything is losing everything and realizing you didn’t even have fun to begin with,” she says.
So, Batiz called it quits on the business world and decided to take some time away from it all for herself. During those years of self-discovery, she found the world of essential oils.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Ordinarily, if dinner party conversation trended toward discussing bathroom odor, it would be bad news for everyone involved. But when Batiz’s brother-in-law began to wonder over dinner if that unpleasant smell could be trapped and eradicated, sparks fired in Batiz’s mind.
After the time she’d spent working with essential oils, she realized she might be able to create something that would do exactly that. Off she rushed to her kitchen to spend nine months concocting the perfect blend of oils that would one day become Poo-Pourri.
In January 2007, she sold her first bottle.
“I really wasn’t interested in owning another business,” Batiz says. “I had sworn off business, but the product was so good, I had to bring it to market.”
She started with a website, and before long the wholesale requests came flooding in. Within a year, she’d brought in a million dollars in revenue. And it all happened through word of mouth.
“When you have an idea that is great, people tell other people about it,” she says. “I see a lot of people in founder stages stop at a good idea. And if you just have a good idea, it’s like pushing a train uphill. But when you have a great idea, people will stand on the rooftops and tell other people about it.”
Boutiques everywhere began selling little spray bottles of the cleverly named product, and before long, larger chains followed suit.
Seven years after launching, Poo-Pourri was bringing in $8 million in revenue, Batiz spent 12 weeks a year in Maui, and she truly felt like she was living the dream. But she believed her product could truly breakthrough and become the premier bathroom air freshener if she just made a big enough splash.
So, she decided to partner with the Harmon Brothers, the well-known creators of viral advertising videos, to create one of her own. You may recognize the Harmon Brothers’ name from their hit ad for Squatty Potty (yes the one with the unicorn you-know-what), or the Purple Mattresses “egg test” video.
In September 2013, the now-iconic video of a sassy-yet-classy socialite in a turquoise dress proclaiming that “our business is to make it smell like your business never even happened,” burst onto the scene.
In just four days, Batiz’s entire inventory had sold out, with $4 million in backorders waiting their turn to be fulfilled.
With the explosion in sales, Batiz knew it was time to invest all of her attention in creating a stable structure for her business, while still maintaining her company culture.
Fear of Being Number Two
There are three words that define everything done at Poo-Pourri: defy, liberate, and transform.
“We don’t do things status quo, and we don’t ever want to,” Batiz says. “We’re over here shakin’ shit up.”
Batiz strongly believes in hiring employees who can become experts in their areas without micromanaging, and can make big decisions. Of course, with that freedom comes the responsibility of owning up when those decisions don’t pan out. But Batiz believes the best idea can come from anyone or anywhere, so she wants to make sure every employee feels comfortable taking initiative.
But above all, Batiz believes the thing that sets Poo-Pourri above the big air freshener companies is their ability to shift direction at a moment’s notice. She calls that agility their “superpower.”
So when the time came to build structure into the business, she knew it couldn’t come with the rigidity some organizations hold to.
“We are this young, rebel kind of company,” Batiz says, “and how do you put some procedures in place, yet keep this rebel nature?”
She tried bringing in a string of leaders, but with each attempt to establish a more defined system, the company’s culture died a little. So, Batiz had to find a way to balance shift-on-a-dime agility with much-needed stability.
She realized that much of her stability could come from within her supply line. By keeping six months worth of sprayers (a part of the product that can take up to 16 weeks to arrive) in stock, she’d be ready for the next boom when it came.
While the company’s edginess has provided a competitive advantage, that need to be the fastest or the hippest has also been a liability at times.
As a rule, Batiz tries not to worry about the competition, but she once became aware that a product similar to hers was going to hit the market, using an automatic dispenser. In a fit of competitive panic, her company tried to release its own version, pushing through timelines and moving far quicker than they should have to keep up.
As a result, they sold 500,000 faulty units to major retailers and had to take them all back, losing millions of dollars and three-quarters of a year in creative energy.
“It was a really good lesson for us to keep our blinders on and stop worrying about what other people are doing,” Batiz says. “Sometimes the best lessons cost us a lot of money or time or energy. The key is to learn.”
The Future Smells Sweet
As Batiz heads into the future, she’s not that focused on expanding the Poo-Pourri line, although they have branched out here and there, including a shoe freshener line, and some clever bathroom art.
“I’m not worried about the dollars as much as remaining king of the hill of what I’ve created,” she says.
The focus on the core product is clear, as Poo-Pourri somehow manages to create a bathroom air freshener that is irreverent but not crass, all while avoiding the grandma’s house aesthetic of most bathroom products. The smells are creative, the names are funny, the packaging sharp and sometimes even beautiful. Some could even be mistaken for luxury items. There’s an obvious level of care here placed on something we may not like to think about, but we all have to deal with.
Batiz hopes to achieve and maintain the level of awareness brands like Kleenex and Band-Aid have, becoming totally synonymous with the product they sell.
“What I want is when you have a “before you go” spray—knowing other people will enter the market—that they go, ‘Oh, do you have a Poo-Pourri,’” she says. “We are that iconic brand.”
To achieve such iconic status without a cent from investors is nothing to sniff at. Batiz says that when times get tough, she sees many entrepreneurs race to investors for help. She, on the other hand, prefers to keep total control of her business and figure things out on her own.
“If you have a problem with the problems, that’s a problem!” she says, laughing. “As an entrepreneur, all you do every day is solve problems, and they’re only going to get bigger.”
But despite the big problems she’s faced both in her current role and past businesses, Batiz has emerged triumphant. This year, Poo-Pourri is on track to bring in $100 million in revenue.
The boutique essential oil concoction with a cheeky name now sits on bathroom counters around the globe. And she’s hoping the scent will continue to spread.
Interview by Nathan Chan, feature article reprinted from Foundr Magazine, by Erica Comitalo
- The many side hustles of Batiz, and the lessons in failure they taught her
- How Batiz went bankrupt in her teens
- The frantic race to find success
- How a second bankruptcy forced Batiz to take a step back and self reflect
- The question that sparked the idea for Poo-Pourri
- The power of word-of-mouth, and how it brought in $1 million in revenue in the first year
- How a partnership with the Harmon Brothers took Poo-Pourri to the next level
- Lessons learned on balancing structure with innovative company culture
- Why Batiz believes it’s important to not worry about the competition
- How Poo-Pourri got on track to $100 million in revenue this year
- A peek into Supernatural, Batiz’s newest company that sells home-cleaning products
Full Transcript of Podcast with Suzy Batiz
Nathan: The first question that I ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Suzy: I got my job by default. I invented Poo-Pourri and it was such a great product. I really wasn’t interested in owning another business. I had sworn off business, but the product was so good I had to bring it to market.
Nathan: I see. So can you take us back? Maybe to your first business or I know you’ve experienced a lot of adversity from reading about you.
Suzy: Yeah I’ve been in a lot of businesses. I actually don’t have a list of those. That’s on my list to do is to come up with a list, but I was always the type that had a job and then I would have a side hustle. I have been in the clothed, I had a clothing store. I built a clothing factory from the ground up. I had a beauty salon, tanning salon. My first bankruptcy was a bridal salon I bought when I was 19 and I was bankrupt by 20. That didn’t last very long. I often say that it’s like those rodeo riders, have you ever seen them when the gate opens and they get on the bull and then they just fall straight off?
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Suzy: Yeah. Yeah that was me. Yeah so I had a lot of businesses and nothing seemed to really work long term. Nothing stuck, but I was desperately trying a lot. It’s just always something I did. I always just thought oh, you know this place doesn’t have a clothing store. Let’s open a clothing store. It wasn’t born out of passion or an alive ideas I call it, it was just it kind of made sense. So I was always trying to try different things. I think that’s the reason they didn’t work is because it wasn’t a passion of mine. I was just trying to make money so I could be somebody someday or something.
Nathan: What happened with Poo-Pourri? Take me back. Where were you at that point in time?
Suzy: Yeah so my second bankruptcy I was a recruiter. I’d been in the recruiting business and I decided, this was in 1999, that really a person’s culture to a company’s culture was the best match. So I was building a recruiting platform called Greener Grass and I had psychologists onboard and personality experts and I had this amazing board. I was in the final stages of getting five million dollars in funding. I had leveraged all of our personal money into the business and it’s back when you thought that views equaled money. I don’t know if you remember that, but basically there were a bunch of companies that were built on sand. I was about to build one that was on sand as well, but that’s what everybody thought right? We really thought it was true and then the stock market crashed in 2001 and I never got the funding thank god. I would’ve felt horrible.
I lost everything. They took away the big house, the two cars, and I had to face myself. Now what I really had to face Nathan was how I was making money, that I was in frantic race. I was doing everything that you’re supposed to do. Pushing through, just go for it, if something doesn’t work, just push harder. I did all of that and then when I had my second bankruptcy I was like I never want to be in business again because you can lose everything. I often say what’s worse than losing everything is losing everything and realising you didn’t even had fun to begin with, right? So I lost everything, went to a really deep depressed state and went on a spiritual sabbatical, found happiness within myself, didn’t want to be in business, and then all of a sudden I was at a dinner party and my brother-in-law and I were talking about bathroom odour and he asked if it could be trapped and my hobby was essential oils. I swear Nathan, it’s like a zing went through me and I looked at him and I go I can do that with oils.
Like I can create something that will float on water and will trap odour. I just knew it. Everything in me knew it. I still wasn’t thinking of a business and he was like oh you think so? I was like, no yeah I do. So I created a product. It took me nine months. Created a formula and then it was so good I literally just started giving it to people and they wanted more and I started making it out of my kitchen.
Nathan: Yeah wow and when was that?
Suzy: That was in, I sold my first bottle in 2004.
Nathan: Okay so 15 years ago?
Suzy: Yeah, yeah. It was yeah 14 years ago. Oh I’m sorry 2007. I lied, 2007. Those dates get crazy. Yeah it’s April of 2007 was the first bottle. So I was like hold on, it hasn’t been that long. Next year will be our 13th year in business. What’s amazing about it is the difference in the past and this is what I want every young startup to know is that when you have an idea that is great, people tell other people about it. I see a lot of people in founder stages. They stop at a good idea, right? If you just have a good idea, it’s like pushing a train uphill, but when you have a great idea people will stand on the rooftops and tell other people about it. It goes back to the old saying that word of mouth is your best form of advertising.
So I didn’t want to be in business yet. I had invented this incredible product. Started a website and just put Poo-Pourri. My friend said you sell wholesale. I was like what’s that? I didn’t even know what wholesale was. So I doubled my prices so I could half them to sell them to a retailer right? Sold my first case, 12 bottles. I was super excited. The next day I get a call from another store. The next day from another store and then literally my first year I did a million dollars din revenue. It was all by word of mouth. Yeah.
Nathan: Wow that’s crazy. So before-
Suzy: This was a million dollars in 2007. Which is different than a million dollars now.
Nathan: Yeah that’s true. So I’m curious fast forward to now, can you give everybody an insight on where the business is at? I know you’ve done some crazy stuff like with Harmon Brothers right?
Suzy: Yeah. So about eight years in I started feeling this impulse within me that was like, uh oh I got to get my skates on. Now before that we were doing about eight million dollars a year. I was profiting a couple million, I had a really profitable company. I was spending 12 weeks a year in Maui. I had a really sweet life and then I felt this urge like uh oh, I’ve been coasting along here. I got to get going. I collaborated with the Harmons. They collaborated with our internal team and created the girls don’t poop video and within four days, I’d sold all my inventory and was four million dollars in back orders. So we grew sales by 50% within a week.
Suzy: Yeah isn’t that crazy. Our yearly sales within a week. So yeah then I got to tell you it took us a couple of years to really restabilize because people are like oh that’s so incredible. It is, and you want to talk about blowing a company up right? When you’re a sweet little company, you don’t have a lot of procedures, policies in place to grow like that without that structure is really hard and it’s taken us really up until now to get enough structure in place. We’re a creative company so I don’t want too much structure, but enough structure in place where we have a 99.9% of our shipments are going out on time. Those sort of things that really matter. Yeah so this year we’ll do a little over 100 million dollars. The wonderful thing about that is that I’m debt free and never had a loan and never had an investor. So I really built the company, like mega boot strap.
Nathan: Yeah mega boot strap indeed.
Suzy: Mega boot strap yeah.
Nathan: So that’s pretty impressive growth over that last year. Was it four to six years with the Harmon brothers. So you’ve basically ten x’ed. I’d love to hear because you said it took a while for you guys to stabilise, can you unpack that a little more? I’d love to hear you said you learned about blowing a company up and adding structure. What kinds of things and can we really go deep on that for people?
Suzy: Yeah so one of the greatest challenges I think whenever you’re selling a product and really even a service is your supply chain, right? It’s like how can I not sit on too much inventory yet have enough inventory to where I can ship quickly because that’s the thing. Right now with Amazon, you have to ship immediately. That was always a big challenge. So you have to think about it, we didn’t expect a viral video. We were only one of I think five ever consumer product goods that had a viral video at that time. It just wasn’t something we expected so we didn’t plan for it, which how can you plan for that sort of amazing thing?
So you think about our sprayer has a 16 week turnaround and what people don’t understand about supply chain is you have to take your longest lead time, right? So if you’re making a product and if you’re buying our sprayers made in the U.S., but some parts are coming from Germany, so there’s 16 week lead time, that’s four months. So if you have to make new product, you’ve got to wait four months on just a sprayer right?
Suzy: So yeah you have other components that go in. So really just trying to get our supply chain right with our growth. How to not expect that eight times growth immediately. Do we continue at this scale? Are we going to continue at this or are things going to die off? One of the real challenges that we had Nathan is people go, oh my god that’s so great you had a viral video, and we did. We didn’t have any distribution. Our distribution up to that date was only gift shops. I was selling in about 10,000 gift shops. So I wasn’t at Target. I wasn’t at CVS. I wasn’t at Walgreens. So while we had hundreds of millions of views, people couldn’t find the product. We had people driving two hours away. So I think one of the biggest challenges is when your company starts to blow up as I say that if you start to scale really fast, is how can you really keep enough inventory in stock?
So I have a rule where we go through our forecasting in trends and we know what we projected to do, but we keep for example my longest lead time, I’ll keep six months of that sprayer in stock to make sure that I’ve got enough buffer if something blows up. I’ve got six months of inventory that I can pull forward.
Nathan: When you say six months, that’s an average of the year? Average month of the year in terms of stock moved?
Suzy: Yeah, yeah. So I have millions of sprayers on hand right now. Just to make sure if anything happens, I’m prepared. That’s my longest lead time. So what you do is you prepare for your longest lead time, you have constant supply coming in, but you also are sitting on a back stock in case that happens again. Then you can always have stock rotating in and then your shortest lead time, for example label, a shrink label, is maybe two to four weeks. We can probably get them in two weeks. We don’t keep a lot on hand because you can get it in two weeks, right? So that’s some basics of supply chain. People always ask me how do you handle supply chain? One of my friends is a leading chain expert in the world. He’s in the biggest companies in the world. They can’t figure it out, you’re never going to figure out your supply chain. You’re either going to have too much inventory or not enough, but that’s one of the trickiest things I think that we had is to get enough structure in place so that we had ordering, our planning.
It just gets really technical, but how do you plan for things and then you’re sitting on too much inventory. So then you have to move it. What do you do? It’s a back and forth game.
Nathan: Yeah. I see. As a boot strap business sometimes you don’t always have the luxury to hold six months worth of inventory because you’re getting your margins dialled in. It sounds like it depends also if you’re selling wholesale, B to B, versus B to C. Sometimes yeah even on the wholesale side a lot of retailers they’re quite difficult to work with. Thoughts? Anything that you could share from experience there? Especially if you’re boot strap, like to cash flow that. That can be difficult right?
Suzy: Yeah it’s really difficult. So what I did, let me tell you what I did. So my first year in business I called a friend. I started in April. I said I don’t know how I’m going to get through Christmas. I don’t have enough money for inventory. I started my company with $25,000 that I borrowed from my brother-in-law that I paid him back. I said, I don’t know how I’m going to get through Christmas. I think I need an investor and he said, you don’t need an investor. He said just figure it out. So I called my manufacturer and I partnered with my vendors and I said listen I’m new. There’s a lot of demand for my product. They actually held inventory for me for a couple of months before they even charged me for it and then gave me another 30 or 60 days.
So I really partnered with my manufacturer which I’m still with today, 14 years later. It was very important to me. I’m very loyal to them because they helped me out when I was young, but there’s a lot of businesses come to me and they’re like we don’t have enough money. What do we need to do? I will teach them how to partner with vendors and just ask. I’ve got 30 day terms now. Can I get 120 just for this season, right? Just for the holiday season or if you have a peak season, if you sell mostly in summer. Or if you’re in the wedding business. It’s like ask them. I need to get through this next 90 days, how can you help me? You’d be amazed at how much people are willing to help you.
Nathan: Yeah that’s a great piece of advice. I’m curious can you define partner though? What does that equal usually?
Suzy: Yeah. So there’s no partner. Partner meant more creative collaboration. I don’t have any partners in my business. So when I partner for example, when I called my manufacturer said, we’re going to do better than giving you because I said hey, can I get like 60 or 90 days because I have this holiday season? They said, well we’ll do something better. You get the raw materials here. So your raw materials area very portion of your cost and they said we’ll keep them on hand and we won’t charge you until we actually ship them to you which then they gave me 60 days. So you think about that, I probably had a 150 day window going there.
Suzy: Yeah that’s pretty bizarre. That’s what I tell, I think missing Nathan, a lot of creativity. I was on an interview yesterday and the girl was whining about being an entrepreneur and there’s so many problems. I said, if you have a problem with the problems, that’s a problem. Okay because as an entrepreneur all you do everyday is solve problems, okay? So they’re only going to get bigger. You’re going to develop a figure outer mess, so your outer mess will get stronger, but the point is is that’s all you’re doing every single day is figuring out problems. So my toss is look at it creatively. Get everybody in a room and say hey we have this issue, do we really need money? What resources do we have? Can we partner? Can we ask our vendors to help us? What can you do right now? I don’t think people do that. They automatically think oh my god, we got to get money and then they give up a portion of their company and I got to tell you I’ve never met a single person that’s had an investor that’s happy. Never.
Suzy: No. Have you?
Nathan: Yeah I have.
Suzy: Well that’s good. I want to talk to him.
Nathan: I speak to a lot of people. I know you do too. Yeah look I’ve met friends that say it’s not as bad as everyone says. It just depends on the terms and yeah how you structure it with the investors.
Suzy: Yeah. I’m sure that is. Generally speaking most people aren’t happy they give up a big percentage of their company.
Nathan: Yeah I agree.
Suzy: I’m open. Yeah most of them, what happens is also then you’re making decisions not for yourself. You’re making decisions for the investor and the board, right?
Nathan: Yeah that’s right. Well look they want a return.
Nathan: They want at least 10x return on what they’ve put in and you’ve got a timeline then. You can’t be working on your company for 10 years, there’s that window that you have a moral, you have an obligation to get them a return because that’s their cold hard money earned spent on you. It’s an investment. So they want a return. We’re 100% boot strap too founded, but yeah to me that’s a new added weight of pressure, perceived pressure.
Suzy: Oh yeah. I do think there’s sometimes when investors make sense. So I’m anti-investor just because and I’m still open, I still every single year go well am I going to need somebody to come in next year? I still just seem to be able to figure it out which is amazing. Yeah I don’t know. I can’t tell you I’m going to be able to keep doing this for 10 years. I may be calling you next week going hey, who are those people that are happy? I need some help.
Nathan: Yeah there we go. Interesting. So not looking for investment to scale further. I’m curious around do things get easier as your company scales? You know how you said, I think it was four, six years ago you guys were doing about eight million. You were doing a two mill profit and you were travelling. You had a great lifestyle during the past four, six years as you’ve scaled up to north of 100 million. Have things been easier as you’ve scaled because you’ve got team in place and a leadership team or has things got harder?
Suzy: Well I think it depends. I don’t think anything is ever easier because the decisions are bigger, right? It’s you have to trust people more. I just think that my figure outter muscle, my tolerance for risk, the way I look at problems are different. Somebody can walk in tomorrow and be like, oh my god. Well last year I had this thing and we lost a few million dollars. My world didn’t go upside down because I’ve had so many issues that I’ve overcome, it’s like okay well okay our goal is here to win more than we lose. So it’s not that we can’t lose. It’s like we’re going to lose. I know that. I think the challenge as I got bigger, the biggest challenge for me is how do I keep our culture in place because we are this young rebel kind of company and how do you put some procedures in place yet keep this rebel nature, right? This always doing things out of the box.
That’s been the biggest challenge and I’ve brought in leaders over the past few years that I thought, okay I need more structure and they come in and they kill our culture and I’m like, oh no and then I bring it back. So I think it’s just part of the ride, right? When you’re on the back of the bull sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you fall off.
Nathan: Yeah I see. So tell me you said you lost a few million dollars last year, can you share that story? What exactly happened?
Suzy: Yeah I tried to not worry about competition or get scared about what anyone else does. When people would ask me about competition, I would say I can’t focus on driving when I’m looking in the rearview mirror, right? So I just never worried about competition and we knew somebody had tried to sell us this automatic unit that sat on a toilet and I didn’t like their unit because it was really not sustainable. It was really horrible and I knew they were going to launch on the market. This whole competitor story. We freaked out. I had a person in at the time that was helping run the company and everybody’s freaking out. We’re like oh my god, big fat competition’s going to take you down. So we pushed through some timelines that we really shouldn’t have.
We ended up getting these auto units in and I think we got 500,000 units and they were bad. We sold them into Bed Bath & Beyond. We sold them to people and we had to take them all back and it was millions of dollars that we lost and not just the millions of dollars we lost, we lost about three quarters of a year in our creative energy. It cost us a lot. So it was a really good lesson for us to really keep our blinders on and stop worrying about what other people are doing. Sometimes the best lessons cost us a lot of money, right? Or time or energy.
Suzy: The key is to learn.
Nathan: Yeah the key is to learn from them, right?
Nathan: Yeah okay. So you’ve mentioned in our conversation about some big retailers. So you guys predominantly retail focused or you more B to C?
Suzy: No, no, no. We’re very little B to C. Probably 8% of our business is directly to consumers. Mostly we are B to B, we’re selling to retailers. We’re in Target, CVS, Walgreens, most of the big grocery chains, Costco now is a big chunk of our business. So yeah we’re trucking along. We have mass distribution. That was a different animal for us. We were always sold in boutiques and specialty shops which was way different than all of, talk about structure. You get penalised if your shipment’s not on time and if you don’t have your sticker to the right side of the carton at a certain angle and every time you take on a new retailer, it was like you literally get an encyclopedia typed book of things you have to do. So we just had to learn how to do all of that. We didn’t know.
Nathan: I’d love to hear about that because a lot of the founders that we interview, your Dollar Shave Clubs, your Warby Parkers, they’re very heavy B to C. A lot of founders, E-com founders who we interview are B to C. So I’d love to hear if anybody’s listening to this now they want to capitalise on the distribution networks of big retailers and also it can be insanely powerful for scale because these companies order big volumes if you pass their tests, right? So let’s talk about that. I’d love to hear.
Suzy: Yeah. So I have a really good story because one of our largest retailers we failed two tests with them. It takes a long time. You finally beg them to take your product, right? Or they call you and you still are like okay, sure we can do it. We had an ASN number wrong which just somebody entered a number wrong. The first time it was our mistake. We sold all the product, but this company I was going to say who they were, this company was like yeah we don’t have any record of it. I’m like, okay well s end our product back. Well we don’t have it. Well then we must’ve sold it. Yeah, but we don’t have record of it. So it’s like oh my god, okay so there went a year and a half, right? Finally we begged them to do another test. On their side they get a number wrong. Same story over again. They wouldn’t speak to us for like two years. So I finally told my team. I go here’s the deal because in their records we failed two tests. Their records aren’t we actually sold out of product, right?
They’re all by the books and numbers and they had no record of our success. We know we sold it, but we don’t have any record of your success. It’s like oh my gosh, you want to beat your head against a wall. So what I did, I got my marketing team together. I’m like how can we get this big retailer’s attention? So I said how about we put billboards outside their headquarters? So we plastered four billboards around their headquarters. We took over, we bought direct to consumer advertising five miles around their headquarters, every time they went online they saw our product. We went in and did, this is like guerrilla marketing right?
Suzy: We went in and we knew where all the buyers hung out. So we took over the bar where all the buyers hung out and put Poo-Pourri in all the bathrooms, had people set samples, and finally they call us and they’re like okay, uncle. We’re like thank you. So now we’re in and they’re one of our largest accounts, but the point is is because we didn’t have our shit together right? So we had messed up two tests and when you mess up two tests at a big retailer, there’s a problem. Now one word of advice I would give is that. If you’re direct to consumer you know how to target people, get in there target the buyer. Figure out who they are, let them be aware of who you are. Another thing is to hire a company like here one that we hire is called RMS, but there’s different agencies. Just because you ship the product to a big retailer doesn’t mean it’s going to go on the shelf. You think it does right? You’re like, I shipped it, but you have to hire a company that will go in. So you’re not going to make any money on that retailer for probably your first year.
Every shipment you have to ensure it gets on the shelf. You have to hire one of the companies that can go out and physically put it on the shelf.
Nathan: Oh really?
Suzy: Oh yeah, oh yeah. If you wait for them to do it. I had a thing at one of the big drug chains. Less than 50% of our product actually got onto the floor.
Nathan: So where was it?
Suzy: In the backroom. It was a holiday programme and we had a company go in and look and less than 50% of the product was actually out on the floor. So that’s the thing. That’s an assumption. You assume because you shipped it to them, they’re organised enough to get it on the floor and they don’t.
Nathan: What about the shelf space that they, aren’t they strategic on the shelf space and they test you and they look at the numbers and the yield of how many products sell per day and if it’s selling really fast, then you get better real estate on the shelf? Doesn’t all that happen?
Suzy: Yeah it does, but you got to first get it on the shelf. Just because it gets shipped to the store doesn’t mean it’s going on the shelf. I’m telling you. You think it does. It will eventually get on the shelf, but if you have an eight week test. I’m not joking, like we just did a test into another section of one of the biggest retailers because we were in one department and this was a test in another department and four weeks after our product was there we went in and less than 40% of the stores actually had it on the shelf.
Nathan: Wow. That’s crazy.
Suzy: Here’s the deal. They’re not going to say, oh well 40% of the stores had it on the shelf so we’re not going to count the first four weeks. That’s not how it works. How it works is they go oh, we’re doing the eight week test this is what you sold.
Nathan: Yeah wow.
Suzy: So you have to be proactive in making sure that actually gets out onto the floor.
Nathan: Yeah that’s a good one.
Suzy: It’s a great one.
Nathan: There you go.
Suzy: Never assume.
Nathan: Yeah never assume.
Suzy: Learned that in college, right?
Nathan: Yeah never assume.
Suzy: Never assume.
Nathan: Yeah okay. So for anyone listening, it’s usually one or the other I’ve found. You’re either really strong on B to B and going to the wholesale, retail part with your product or it’s direct to consumer B to C. Have you found that to be true? It’s heavily skewed on one usually, you can’t do 50/50. It’s just a nightmare right or?
Suzy: I think you should be. I don’t think you can be 50/50. Here’s the deal. I don’t know how direct to consumer companies can afford to advertise because let’s say your conversion rate is crazy and it’s 10%, right? 90 which is unheard of, but lets’ say it is. So 90% of that money you’ve spent are going to people’s eyes that will probably never buy your product. Now the way to make up for those 90% that see your product is to actually have it in retail distribution as well, right? So then they go oh, hold on I saw an ad about that. We know that we’re not going to get them online, but you can get them at retail. So I believe you have to do both. I don’t see how you do one. We don’t make any money on our direct to consumer. So this eight to 10% of our business is really not a profitable channel for us, but we use it in what’s called a reverse funnel conversion marketing, right?
So we are literally considering it as a TV ad. We go okay you may not buy it here, but you will buy it probably once you see it at a retail store after you’ve seen our ad ten times.
Nathan: Yeah I see. So you’re basically not doing any of your paid advertising is not direct.
Suzy: It is.
Nathan: You’d be going for a direct response, but the offset of it is the impressions that you get.
Nathan: So you’ve got your budget. This is how much I’m prepared to spend. If you break even, that’s amazing. That’s a win. Yeah okay, that’s interesting.
Suzy: Yeah and that’s usually what we do is we usually I think right now it cost us maybe $26 to get a new customer on D to C and we’re talking about a $5 product, right? So our basket isn’t that big. So we usually even lose money on that first customer. Now when they come back or when they pick up in retail, we’ll get it back, but we’re using it more as an advertising model than actually we are making profit from this channel.
Nathan: Yeah you’re going for omnipresence.
Nathan: That’s really smart. So talk me around you’ve got your flagship product, the one you did with the Harmon brothers where it went viral, have you added other product lines to raise lifetime value? Just to further grow the business.
Suzy: We don’t have a lot and I’ll tell you why. We have Shoe-Pourri, I’ve developed Pet-Pourri, Poo-Pourri Junior, Little Stinker, I’ve got all kinds of products that I don’t promote or sell and the reason is is because I’m not as interested in that basket size as I am in building a brand. You have to think about this. When we are self-funded, I only have so much bandwidth and when I looked back a few years ago I’m like sure, I can be pre-company. I can have Home-Pourri, Pet-Pourri, I can have Poo-Pourri as one of the channels, I can have Baby-Pourri. I said do I want to do that or do I want to become the Band-Aid or the Red Bull of the category that I created? So I literally cut every other product and I had been laser focused on you all know about Poo-Pourri and we will remain the category leader of the category I created.
Nathan: Yeah that’s interesting.
Suzy: So I’m not worried about the dollars as much as remaining king of the hill of what I created. Does that make sense?
Suzy: Yeah because my energies would be spent marketing other products and trying to get my basket size up when I would just rather more people know about Poo-Pourri. You can always add on products.
Nathan: Yeah I see. So you did launch these products, but then you’ve cut them all?
Suzy: I launched them in a small way. It was back in the gift business and it wasn’t a huge launch, but yeah we just realised if we only had so much bandwidth, where do you want to spend our focus and I knew it wasn’t on that.
Nathan: Okay. Interesting. So we have to work towards wrapping up Suzy, but what’s next for you? I know you launched a book called Supernatural, can you tell, us about that?
Suzy: Oh no, not a book. That’s actually a new company. So look at Supernatural.com. Yeah it’s a line of home cleaning products that have the lowest carbon footprint. They’re all essential oil based. They’re 100% natural and they’re all concentrate. It’s beautiful. It’s the most sexiest cleaning brand you’ll ever see in your life. So my new little love child I call her. It’s really beautiful. Sold out on Goop in two hours.
Suzy: Yeah so many magazines. It’s really, really a stunning brand. I have that and then we’re still just looking at what’s next with Poo-Pourri. We are really making some big tracks around the world. We’re expanding globally. Again, we have lots of other products that we could create and we’re just not doing it. We are determined that Poo-Pourri becomes the Band-Aid or the Red Bull. Red Bull didn’t have anything but Red Bull for many years, right? Band-Aid was Band-Aid. So what we want, what I want is when you have it before you go spray and knowing other people will enter the market, that they go oh, do you have a Poo-Pourri. That we are that iconic brand. So that’s what we’re doing.
Nathan: Yeah I see. Yeah sorry, I had it written down. I don’t know why I said that, my apologies. The world of poo.
Suzy: Oh yeah that was a little book that was written not even by me. It was written by our marketing team and it’s just a sweet little book just telling a little bit about little wacky company culture that we have. We’re actually going into our most creative season with Poo-Pourri because we launching, I don’t know when this will air, but in October we’re launching this amazing event space that we had built and we’re launching it all across the United States. We are partnering with celebrities for our first time on some videos. We only worked with the Harmon brothers once. I just want to let people know that. That was a true collaboration. We do everything in house now. I often say that we are a creative agency that happens to represent an amazing product.
So even when you look at financial things and operations, to us it’s all creative problems. Yeah.
Nathan: Yeah I see. So it’s interesting thing that you said, you guys see yourself as a creative agency because that’s how I think of our company founder. We’re building a legit agency with a designer, media buyer, writers, copywriters, producers, videographers, video editors, but we have only one client which is us.
Suzy: Yes that’s what we do.
Suzy: We do the same thing. We do everything in house.
Nathan: Yeah. I think that’s the way to do. From my personal experience thus far.
Suzy: It is. Well we’ve tried to work with agencies. The problem that we’ve had is when you have such a strong brand and a brand story that has a brand voice, it’s so hard to educate people first of all on who that is, right? That takes a tremendous amount of time and we’ve also found that the best creative that we have, come from us. It doesn’t come from outside. So it’s like the Dorothy and Wizard of Oz. She finds out she had it all along. We used to have that printed on our door. We went out to an agency and found out that it all comes from us anyway.
Nathan: Yeah and I’m going to assume that all of you guys are in the same room? I think that’s very, very powerful as well, right?
Suzy: Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah we’re all here. It’s super powerful. That’s the best. Also there’s no ego. Nobody’s worried about telling me my idea’s bad. We are interested as a company in the best idea. It doesn’t always come from me. I always tell people I get voted off the island all the time. So we are truly interested in the most ethic, creative idea possible and I just love having that culture. There’s no ego here.
Nathan: Yeah I’d love to just quickly get a little bit more of an insight to your culture. Can you describe it to me? Or tell me about your values.
Suzy: Yeah so we had three words and it’s defy, liberate, and transform. That is the genesis of the brand. We’ve defied odds, right? Just even where we are from a financial aspect. We defied the way we used things before. We liberate people from toxic products, from embarrassing problems, and we transform actually shit into flowers right? We really are. So part of our culture is that, I don’t like doing employee reviews, but somehow people love that right? So what we do is we ask anytime you have a project we have three, we have a Poo-Pourri litmus test and is it transformational, did it transform? Is it innovative and does it break a pattern? You know you have a winner when we can do all three.
So if somebody brings me something, we’re looking for does it transform the person? So when you see our event space, it’s a transformational experience inside of it. It’s innovative. Nobody’s done it. It’s breaking patterns from the norm. So that’s what we look at even on a retail aisle. Even when we’re looking at the way we ship. Is there a way that we can transform this? Can we break a pattern that everybody’s into now? Can we innovate it? So that’s just a part of our culture. That’s the way we think. We don’t do things status quo and we don’t ever want to. It’s an amazing environment if you’re on board, it’s a horrendous environment if you like the same thing. So that’s why there’s these big department store chains that are probably hiring, go over there because we’re over here shaking shit up.
Nathan: I love it. So would you say there’s many rules?
Nathan: You said that it’s been a tricky one to still set boundaries, but not really have heavy enforced militant rules.
Suzy: No there’s no militant rules. The only militant rule we have is you have to be an integrity. You can’t be out of integrity in our company or represent our company. You can’t lie, steal, or cheat. We just don’t do that, right? So that’s a rule that we have. You have to be a good human. You can’t do it internally nor externally, but really we have I would say more, I was using the word intrapreneur years ago before people were using it. We have people that really take ownership. We hire people and we’re like you’re the expert here. We’re not going to tell you what to do. You need to tell us. With that there’s a lot of yummyness that comes out of it. The other part of it is sometimes I’ll hear why didn’t we do that? Someone will go, it costs too much. I’m like well who made that decision, right?
So you got to take the good with the bad. You have to be highly accountable. So you have to be in integrity and highly accountable and you have to be flexible and willing to really shift on a dime because what we know, our advantage against the big guys, let’s say the big air freshener companies are our genius is our flexibility and our creativity. If we do not keep this organisation flexible and creative, then we are no better than they are. So that is our priority is how can we create a system that’s flexible enough to change? So while we do have a little bit of structure, the structure has to be able to change on a dime because we know that’s our superpower.
Nathan: Yeah you’re not a startup anymore, but you still need that agility that’s how you compete against big corporates. It’s the speed.
Suzy: It’s the speed, that’s it. We have to keep speed. So it’s been really interesting having operations create systems where we can get out 100% of our orders on time and still have a flexible system where we can change on a dime. So it’s an art.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah I agree. One last question just now you’ve got Supernatural as well a Poo-Pourri. Is that hard for focus?
Suzy: No not really. I have amazing people and teams. It’s like whenever you have one child and then you have another one, you don’t know how you’re going to do it and then you just do. I don’t know if you have children, but you’re like how are we going to do it? Then you’re like, okay let’s have another one. Let’s have a third. You just figure it out. Again, the same. I’ve empowered people more. So I’ve let go of Poo-Pourri more as I’m raising Supernatural a little bit, but yeah we’re all under the same roof. So Poo-Pourri really treats Supernatural as its sibling. So it can borrow a lot. Poo-Pourri does all of the operations for Supernatural. It has a separate creative team.
Nathan: Got it. Got shared resources and you probably bolted on a lot of your existing retail wholesale contacts to tap into that right?
Suzy: Yeah well, right now I actually we think we will continue having Supernatural. Supernatural is only direct to consumer and we think we will keep it as direct to consumer.
Suzy: Well I’m redoing that whole company. I believe that we need to evolve the way we distribute. I think that we’re really struggling. I think that only dong digital ads online are dying. I think working with influencers are dying and I think a new system wants to be born. I’m innovating that system with a couple of people and it will be some hybrid models. I can’t really tell you because it’s super top secret.
Nathan: Okay that’s all right. No worries.
Suzy: Yeah but I would love to talk to you about it in a few months and let you know because the people that I have told, like four or five people, are like oh my god this needs to be a harboured business case review. Just because I just believe we’re at a place where something new wants to be born. You’re not going to be either D to C or B to B. There’s a middle ground that’s happening. Then you look at peer to peer. You get influencers and peer to peer. How do all those marry and have a baby and to create a new system?
Nathan: Yeah okay, interesting. Yeah look one thing I have noticed with a lot of the big brands is they do direct to consumer, then they start to create physical outlet stores. I think Apple was obviously one of the most iconic ones, but you look at the Gossiers or the Warby Parkers and many big direct to consumer brands. Eventually they create these flagship pop up kind of stores. It’s interesting.
Suzy: Yes. Yes.
Nathan: Yeah. Okay.
Suzy: That’s not what we’re doing.
Nathan: Yeah no I didn’t think so.
Suzy: Yes I really appreciate. So everyone is trying to find what’s next, right?
Suzy: I love the experimentation and that’s what we’re doing with Supernatural. So I’m not ready to jump into retailers. I’m not sure that’s the future.
Nathan: Okay. Interesting. Well look mindful of your time, so look last question is where’s the best place that people can find out more about yourself and your work?
Suzy: Yeah SuzyBatiz.com. I’m Suzy Batiz on Instagram. Poo-Pourri.com and Supernatural.com. All of those places will lead you to find out anything. Yeah and I do my own Instagram so if you ask me a question, it’s me answering. So ask me a question.
Nathan: Amazing, well look thank you so much for your time Suzy. I really enjoyed our conversation. You shared a tonne of experience and gold and lessons learnt along your journey and yeah thank you so much.
Suzy: Yeah thank you so much Nathan. I love what you’re doing.
Nathan: Thank you.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Suzy Batiz
- Visit the Poo-Pourri website
- Visit the Supernatural website
- See more of Batiz’s work here
- Follow Batiz on Instagram