Startup To Scale

97. Success on Amazon and TikTok with Wellious

March 08, 2023 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 97
97. Success on Amazon and TikTok with Wellious
Startup To Scale
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Startup To Scale
97. Success on Amazon and TikTok with Wellious
Mar 08, 2023 Season 1 Episode 97

 Sean Hall is the founder of Wellious, a line of almond protein powders. I was impressed at the scappy DIY nature that Sean built the brand and became an Amazon Best Seller for his category. Join me as I talk with Sean to uncover how he’s building a successful brand on Amazon with incredibly high repeat rates, and how he leverages TikTok to drive traffic to his e-commerce store. 

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

 Sean Hall is the founder of Wellious, a line of almond protein powders. I was impressed at the scappy DIY nature that Sean built the brand and became an Amazon Best Seller for his category. Join me as I talk with Sean to uncover how he’s building a successful brand on Amazon with incredibly high repeat rates, and how he leverages TikTok to drive traffic to his e-commerce store. 

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Sean Hall

[00:00:00] Hey everyone. On today's episode, I have the pleasure of interviewing Sean Hall, who is the founder of Wellious, which is a line of almond protein powders. I reached out cause I was really impressed at the scrappy DIY nature that Sean built the brand and everything that he's accomplished within the first year of his business.

And for today, I wanna dive into, Some of the behind the scenes of how he was able to do that, what it looked like, and his vision for the future. So, Sean, welcome on. Awesome. Thanks for having me, Jordan. I love the podcast. So excited to be here. Well, tell me first about what is Wellious and why you create this product.

Yeah, so Wellious was actually born out of some personal health struggles in 2021. I was dealing with some stuff, just made me more wellness focused than ever before. I was really starting to pay attention to everything I was consuming, kind of in an extreme level, cutting out a lot of, you know, the bad ingredients from processed food on, on stuff that I was.

you know, regularly consuming. And that happened to coincide with running [00:01:00] outta protein powder, which is this health product that I had used for a long time. And when I went to buy more, I turned it over to make sure there weren't any of those ingredients I was trying to avoid. And I realized all of those ingredients were right there.

And somehow, you know, in the. 12 years of using this product and the eight years of being in better for You food and Bev. You know, I just didn't even realize that this product was plagued with the same, you know, horrible ingredients that we're trying to eliminate from junk food and snack food and dessert foods.

And so that seemed like a really big issue and the deeper I got in the kind of worse I realized it was. And as I started developing this product and getting sent all these different ingredients you know, it just got sketchier and sketchier. And so that mission to create something that was truly clean w seemed really, really important to me.

So, Made hundred hundreds of iterations in my home kitchen myself, learned everything I could, spent thousands of hours on it and ultimately developed Wellious. It's a super clean four ingredient, plant-based protein powder only real food ingredients. I think it truly is , the cleanest product on the market.

[00:02:00] But, you know, I knew it had to taste great. So it taste in texture is amazing, especially for a vegan protein powder, which does usually require some sacrifice. And it also has a bunch of other natural health benefits just from that main source of protein, almond protein. It is filled with all these vitamins and minerals and has this great amino acid profile that just lead to a lot of other kind of overall wellness benefits too.

Yeah, I love that. And I can relate to your story because I launched my previous brand. T-Square is with a lot of the same reasons. I actually was drinking a ton of coffee and had some issues with gut health and can no longer do it. Like basically the city to coffee was like tearing up my stomach lining.

So I started to create a product that could help me stay focused and energized, but without those negative problems, which is why I launched T-Square. So and similarly it kind of like built office, tons of iterations on my own and in my own kitchen. And so we can definitely relate to that story. I really love.

You've been able to kind of prove out product market fit as well. When did you launch the business? So IOP launched late [00:03:00] 2021. So it's really been kind of one full year of running it. But when I launched, honestly, I developed this product. I felt like I had something great, built this brand that felt really authentic to me around it.

And I kind of brought it to market. You know, while there was still a lot of like production and fulfillment infrastructure to build out and sales channels to build out and start networking around it. So I kind of launched it knowing I still had a lot of that to do, but I wanted to iterate in real time and build in real time with people actually trying the product and being able to purchase it so I could make those good decisions.

But kind of what happened is people. Bought it a lot faster than I thought, and people re-bought it a lot faster than I thought, which are definitely good problems to have. But it's definitely been a lot of just keeping up , and playing catch up in the last year. You know, I think that's a very scary but important thing to do is actually launch products in market with customers to get real-time feedback.

You know, the, the benefits that you learn so much. The downside is that, you know, people will be honest and like, this tastes terrible. Or like , you know, the consistency is off. I'm not saying [00:04:00] I didn't read any of the comments for you probably, but like, you know, some of the early flaws can come out. And I think.

It's good though because once, if you're able to overcome those, then a lot of times those customers really care and they can become your lifetime customers. If you actually say, Hey, I listened to you. I solved this problem for you, and this is something that can really take off. And so I know, you know, another business, Damien from f and Good Snacks has done that with their protein cookies and like late night cookies, and I think they're on version three and heavily used customer feedback and they use like our food bevy product market fit calculator to really kind of dial in that customer relationship.

So I'm happy that you did that. And then, so after your first year in business, how did it. . Yeah, it went really well. We sold out multiple times you know, gained thousands of customers organically. it was a challenge to. Sell out a product, which starts to feel really good when you see that, you know, uptick in demand and you see the numbers rising.

But then it's kind of like an oh crap moment when you realize I'm gonna be outta product in three weeks and I have six-week lead [00:05:00] times. And those six-week lead times turn into nine-week lead times, and then that nine week production run gets messed up. And then it's. 13 week, you know, lead time. Everything always takes way longer than you expected to, doesn't it?

Yeah. So there was definitely those kind of low moments in the year where we were just completely sold out and there was clear, you know, demand for the product. But the good thing is we get back in stock and, you know, just sell it again very quickly. So yeah, but I think like, And a lot of cool stuff happened.

We got some crazy good press. We got to send product to celebrities. We had like huge influencers give us organic shout outs in some of that press. Like it was the editor's favorite product and just all that was like earned and organic. And so a lot of just real product affinity coming from sources that have, you know, big reaches and influence and kind of that stuff that you just kind of dream of when you, when you started a company.

So things were going really well. But definitely. The biggest win for me is the actual customer affection. Like our [00:06:00] reorder rates are so high and subscription growth is really high. Lifetime value is really high. You know, individual customers that have ordered 60 bags of this stuff that's wild.

And love reviews. People like, you know, we have great reviews on Amazon stuff, but people like reaching out via email or via text, or. DM and like saying, you know, I've tried a dozen protein powders and it's a product that I need cause I work out constantly. But they all wreck my stomach and this is the first one that doesn't.

And I also like taste the most. And just kind of like making that actual difference for people and have 'em created something that's like actually improving people's lives in some tiny capacity is definitely like what makes me most optimistic. . I think that's amazing. And one thing that really stands out to me is the simplicity of the problem that you are solving, right?

And so if you look at your product, you know exactly what it is, and a customer can decide if it's for me or not, right? And so in big leathers it says almond protein powder, right? Like you're looking for almond or plant-based protein powder. Or you're not. Right? And so the, [00:07:00] it is really easy for a customer to understand what it is.

And so talk to me about kinda where your business is growing. I know Amazon is a huge part of your success in your sales, and so talk to me about how some of the successes on Amazon and some of the challenges and how you really leverage that platform to grow. Yeah, so I think I'm a fan of Amazon as a sales channel.

I knew kind of intuitively that it's somewhere I wanted to be early. A lot of brands, you know, maybe it's in like the three year plan for them. But I knew I wanted to launch there and that was honestly, Just like I said, kind of out of intuition, not knowing exactly what, you know, capabilities the platform had or didn't have.

Just knowing that brands are happy once they do, and I wanted to learn it early, but I think with Amazon it's like, you know, A lot of sellers kind of reverse engineer it where you might be really familiar with the platform and so you look for opportunities, you know, white space on the platform, there's tons of demand for X product.

And so, you [00:08:00] know, and there's not a lot of great products there. Let's go create something, they kind of almost white label a product and sell it. Obviously this was very different. Born out of a true like problem, you know, type of situation and created a product that I believed in and I was gonna sell, you know, regardless.

And then just decided Amazon was a channel. So getting on there, I think it's like, You know, you make your listing, you do your best practices. That's level one. Then level two is you gotta drive demand there. There's arm platform stuff you can do with ads and you know, just optimizing your listing.

And then there's off platform stuff just. General demand for your product, and they'll go search it on Amazon, or they'll search, search on Google and click over. And then at that point, once there's enough eyeballs on your product, you start seeing if there's product market fit there. And, but really you see if there's product market fit from like a purchasing capacity you know, so really there's market there.

And then, you know, best practices, good images, you know, are you clearly [00:09:00] identifying what your value prop is you know, et cetera, and then you convert. But for me it's like you don't really see that product market fit till you know, you see if that customer likes. Likes the, the product. And so for us, you know, like I, those stats I mentioned with the crazy high reorder rates and subscription growth and the lifetime value.

And when I kind of manually click in and just see people that have ordered, you know, 10, 20 bags or you know, the person that ordered three months ago and then ordered, you know, five weeks later, then four weeks later, then two weeks later you know, I think that's when , you start getting that real product market fit there.

For us, you know, some big wins were we got invited to the Amazon launchpad program. And not that it's anything crazy, it's not gonna change your business. And when we got in it, it was actually like they took an extra percentage of your sales and they've kind of done away with that. And so at the time I was kind of weighing the pros and cons of that.

But. You know, now they did away with that. So it's really only pros, but that starts giving you placements. And I think we were lucky to [00:10:00] get like a lot of placements in like Mother's Day gift guides and fall fitness gift guides. And in January they made us the cover photo of the wellness section for their whole January product guide.

Which was kind of a crazy thing to see. And again, those things don't have the massive needle moving, you know, demand that you would think maybe they do. But all of that stuff kind of adds up and gives us, you know, awareness. But I think most of our, you know, we're doing some ad stuff on there and it's worked.

But it's honestly more the off platform. You know, when the influencers shout you out and you get some press and the word of mouth that's happening you know, that really has driven more sale. Cuz most of our sales are organic on there. No, I think that's amazing. So let's talk about some of those off platform marketing activities.

I know you do a lot on TikTok and working kind of with influencers organically finding you. What does your marketing stack kind of look like and where are you investing your time and energy? Yeah, so for me, it's funny because, so my previous company was a media company portfolio of publications around food and wellness.

That, you know, you [00:11:00] pretty much just live and breathe organic marketing when you do that kind of stuff and really learn about content distribution and. So there's a lot I wanna do within this company from that kind of skillset. And because I'm, you know, wearing all the hats right now and doing every facet of the business, I feel like I've only done, you know, 1% of the marketing I'd like to be doing.

So it's been little by little, but yeah, we've really focused on you know, I've seeded a lot of product that's been the influencer strategy. I'm not, you know, I'm sure we'll do some more like paid capacity type partnerships or you know, different stuff like that. But at this point it was really like I wanted to get it to the product to interesting people.

And they either love it or they don't. And when someone really loves your product, you know, they post about it organically and that's, also performs the best. It creates a network effect. It leads to, you know relationships between you and them, which is really. So I wanna ask about that real quick.

Yeah. Because I know there's a lot of talk about like what the value of working in influencers are, and I think a lot of founders approach it where they're looking for a direct o roi. They say, Hey, I'm working with this [00:12:00] influencer. I, maybe I pay them and they're gonna give me x amount of sales from their followers.

Do you think it's valid that way, or do you take it with a different. . I think you almost have to take a different approach, especially for an early stage company. I don't think the straightforward r o i isn't there in the terms of like $5 in $20 out. It can be, but. There's definitely different forms of roi.

There's definitely just like getting that content from the creator and being able to leverage that content in different ways and create buzz around your brand. That relationship. If the creators, you know, has friends and is interesting and has their own interesting network of people you know, infiltrating that can be beneficial.

You know, it's all like across the board. Brands that are really winning and creating a lot of demand. Like it's a lot of stuff stacked on top of each other. There's not too many just levers to pull these days where it's $5 and $20 out. And so that stuff all adds up. You know, seeing it from an influencer and then, you know, getting the ad for it and then having a [00:13:00] great landing page and your friend have talked, like it all kind of works together.

And so you gotta, you almost have to be kind of omnichannel unless you can really crush it in one space, in particular. But that's, I also think that like pay the paid partnerships, like the paid Instagram story, that's like clearly hashtag ad Hey, I, you know, I think people have been so inundated with that for so many years that it's like at a point that actually worked and that drove real sales.

And even from good influencers who have huge followings. It might drive a few sales, it might drive no sales. So it's kind of a risky game if you're fronting, you know, $1,500 as a self-funded company, that might be your three month marketing spend. So I like the approach of like, Seeding product. It feels natural.

It's kind of crazy how many people, you know, up to a-list. Celebrities will say yes to your product if you have something interesting. Let a lot of people try it and kind of see what comes from that. And also if something does that authentic sharing [00:14:00] definitely pays off much higher. And then that the influencer partnerships that I see working and stuff, we'll probably do more in the future.

Are like a lot more collaborative. They're these longer term kind of shared interest partnerships where, you know, you're making custom flavor, you're creating content together or you're letting them really run with something. And obviously there's some kind of backend incentive for them. But it comes off a lot more natural and it's a little more long term.

And I think that's how you like actually make an impression on their audience. Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that just in general, founders are always looking for a quick fix to grow sales. And I think you're right. A lot of those don't really, they're harder to come about. And so instead of looking at like an individual influencers like measure ROI from promo link or something, think about it as the ent, like look at the entire platform during the entire portfolio.

Maybe you're working with 10 or 15 influencers and look. How your awareness is growing, how your business is growing, kind of from those partnerships. Because you're right, a lot of it's about creating this saturation of [00:15:00] awareness where they're saying, Hey, I've seen this like across five or six different people who are all, you know, all people that I follow.

Maybe I should give this a shot versus seeing an individual one. I think that's a approach that founders can really benefit from and see success from over the long term. It might take months, right? It might take a couple months or you might get something random. It's hard to really predict on social, these.

Yeah. So with that as well, I know you do some work with TikTok. What's your approach to TikTok and content creation and any success stories from there? Yeah, so I mean, TikTok for me it's like, it's too good of an opportunity to not try to take advantage of you know, I think we all take for granted some of these organic.

Opportunities, like whether there's direct r o roi, whether it's, you know, time consuming or you think your exact audience is on there, et cetera. Like. 300,000 people seeing your product for free and for, you know, 15 minute allocation of your time is kind of insane when you think of what that [00:16:00] can cost from, you know, whether it's a, a billboard or a commercial or you know, print or any of this stuff where traditional advertising dollars would go.

And those moments seem to be fleeting. You know, Facebook had this time and it went away and Instagram had this time and it went away. And so, you know, eventually the supply of content out outweighs the demand and or the platform changes and those moments go away. So I think, you know, if you're observing from a marketing standpoint today, you kind of have.

Try to jump in those and see. I also take a very experimental approach because my other company's like marketing, you know, situated. And I'm just like, you know, I'm on a long, long journey here. I'll probably build businesses for a very long time. I love just trying stuff and seeing how it works. So if nothing else like that'll be a motivator for me.

So on TikTok. . I think like, you know, I've been at it for a little while. There's been times where I'm more serious about it, where I'm like, oh, I'm gonna post, I'm kind of in that period right now, like next two weeks I'm gonna try to post a lot. [00:17:00] But like for, you know, last, like May or whatever, I was like I want to post consistently and see if we can get a video to perform well, to see like how that affects stuff.

And you know, if you prioritize it in that capacity. And kind of learn like, okay, this format works, this is what this is. You know, you get better at it. And it's definitely a platform that seems like if somebody's consistent for a decent amount of time and you put enough effort, like you'll have some videos pop off.

And so you know, we've had a few videos that have reached 250,000 people, 450,000 people. The cool thing too is, Those vertical format videos. Now you have Facebook reels, Instagram gram reels, you can use 'em on Pinterest, et cetera. And they can do well those places too. YouTube shorts you know, I'll repurpose that same content.

And we had one, I just started posting Facebook reels and that same video from that performed well on TikTok, got like 200,000 views there. So it's, you can also think of it in that capacity that there's a lot of ways to utilize it. But all that being said as [00:18:00] many views as we've had on TikTok, it doesn't necessarily translate to a ton of sales and.

I've heard it has for people, some people have these breakout 5 million, you know, videos and it'll be their biggest sales day ever or sell them out. But I've also heard of people that get, you know, 500,000 views and get zero sales. We're more in the middle where it's like, definitely if we've had a video do well, I see an uptick across Amazon and D to see.

But nothing insane. But again, I think it's like we were just talking about, it's one of those layer. that's in there. Like, it's definitely awareness. It definitely stacks up with other stuff. It's definitely important. And so I think it's, it's just too good of a free opportunity to not give it a try in my opinion, if you, you know, obviously have the resources, time and whatever to do it.

Yeah. And then the other cool thing I think is you get , like being successful on there leads to other stuff too. You can kind of talk about that buzz a lot. It's a hot topic. People like you're asking about it now. A lot of people ask about it, a lot of new, you know, articles are like, viral [00:19:00] TikTok Company does X, Y, Z, you know, LinkedIn posts about it.

So it's kind of like, , there's other buzz to be created around the fact it's just like a buzzworthy thing that you're on there and succeeding. And so you gotta kind of think about it from that way as well. I love that you take an approach of experimentation and you've gotten to a point now where you've had a couple of businesses, you have seen success from Wellious, and you're at a point where you're trying to figure out what's next going into the future.

How are you thinking about growth from here? That's a great question. I'm thinking about it a lot, but yeah, I, so I'm super bullish on Amazon, like from a channel perspective. You know, there's companies doing nine figures of revenue in our space on Amazon alone. So if you have a model that makes sense, if you have a product where the margins make sense, and after your cogs and your acquisition costs and the fees to Amazon, There's profitability and you can scale it on that channel.

You know enough people are shopping just there. And some of the biggest acquisitions in C P G were, you know, in the last few years have been Amazon native [00:20:00] brands. So there's more than enough opportunity there. Now, I'm very, like, I also deeply believe in like a multi-channel approach and not being completely dependent.

Definitely growing through our website which is, you know, an area where we can also build a lot of community. And then you know, obviously there's a lot of retail opportunity trying to be really thoughtful and strategic as we enter that and not be overwhelmed by, you know, just what seems like a huge opportunity but could actually, you know, crush us if not done right.

So expanding in all those. We also have a food service route you know, smoothie shops and stuff like that. That could be interesting. . But, and then from a marketing perspective, you know, I think it's all the bricks that we're doing really works, but those are one by one. And so figuring out how to scale that and just do an uptick and output and execution on all this stuff that's hard and scrappy, but it works and it waterfalls over time.

When you have a product like ours that there's so much affinity for and you're having such high reorder rates you know, earning those customers is worth it and the word of mouth is worth it. And then probably. kind of coupling in the you know, my media background [00:21:00] and building wellies as kind of a wellness media platform as well.

Doing a lot of interesting stuff with content and trying to grow a really large owned audience of wellness consumers. That gives us a lot of leverage and lets us have, you know, conversations at scale with that community. And so that we can, you know, optimize our product for them, create new products for them and have, you know, that's almost a product in itself when you have this kind of giant owned audience.

I absolutely love that and I think there's a ton to kind of break down there for future episodes as well. So I appreciate this pro. I'm excited to follow your journey and to stay in touch and we we're Wellious we'll grow in the future. Thanks so much for being on today, Sean. Thanks a lot, Jordan.