tv Your Business MSNBC August 5, 2018 4:30am-5:00am PDT
it's the ultimate wifi experience. xfinity xfi, simple, easy, awesome. good morning, coming up on msnbc's, "your business," how did the founders turn into a side hustle with a business of half a billion dollars in revenue without a dime of funding. a family beat out foreign competitors and got an invitation to the white house. will the creator of a bra company get the opportunity to present her company to thousands of influencers. we have your back. that's coming up next on "your business."
announcer: msnbc "your business" is sponsored by american express. don't do business without it. "your business" is sponsored by american express. don't do business without it. hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg. welcome to "your business," the show dedicated to helping your growing business. chances are you have an e-mail in your inbox that is powered by mail chip. the marketing tool brought in half a billion dollars in revenue this year and still completely owned by the two founders. we sat down with the ceo, ben chestnut and why they have chosen to do things differently than their silicon valley peers. ♪
>> a lean and scrappy start. >> occasional interns here and there. it was tough. i remember being in a 900 square foot office. >> a quirky mascot. >> in the early days, we had a fascination with monkeys. they make everyone laugh. >> and an attempt to solve a problem. >> they needed e-mail machting. >> in 2001, they launched e-mail marketing platform mail chimp. it was a side hustle. today, they are doing a half billion dollars in revenue and it's likely you have an e-mail powered by them. as you walk around their offices, it feels like a silicon valley tech company, cool art, modern architecture. where mail chimp differs from fast growing companies is the financing. you have taken how much money in
outside fund sng. >> zero. no funding. >> that's right. this company is 100% owned by the founders. in spite of the formidable competition, they used only the company's profits to grow. was there a time you thought, we are running a nice company, but if we want to grow quickly, we need an infusion of a lot of cash right now. >> i don't think we ever said, if we want to grow quickly. we wanted deep, strong roots. speed was never an issue. >> they believe their competitiveness was their small customer. they didn't need more money to know how to serve them. they never got angel venture funding. it felt isolating, like there was a club they didn't belong to. >> you have a chip on your folder, if you ever get mentioned in tech crunch, there's a typo in your name. we thought forget about
validation and coverage. focus on our customers. i think that set us free. >> the company's growth started relatively slow, until the decision they made to offer a free version of the product, one of the first companies to capitalize on the premium model. >> we were at 100,000 customers at the time, then a million and three million. >> today, they have 18 million customers, and, no surprise, the founders have gotten tantalizing offers, including one to buy the company for $1 billion, cash. and you said -- >> i said no thank you. >> they met to discuss the pr proposition. >> that lasted 15 minutes. i have enough money, how about you? >> yeah, i have enough. but, this would be more. but i don't need more, do you need more? no. something happens when employees
join and you get bigger and bigger. this is more than a business. this is their sense of purpose. this is where they get their life fulfillment from. that makes it hard. >> he has a confidence in his leadership that he didn't always have. there was a moment that was clear, as the company grew, the leader would as well. when they wanted to do an all hands meeting without taking into account the company went from 20 to almost 200 people in one year, things got complicated, fast. >> changing the location, venue and time. gossip started to spread we were going to lay everyone off. we didn't know it was spreading. we walked into this meeting with a bravato saying we have a great future and people raise their hands and say, what's the plan? what's the future? we say, we don't know. we have always winged it and we will again. there was fear in everyone's
eyes. i walked away feeling like a failure, a comedian who bombed on stage. i built a company and i didn't fit anymore. it felt like everything was broken because i didn't fit. that was tough. >> a feeling he took home with him without realizing it. >> it was embarrassing and shameful. i kept it quiet. i didn't realize it looked like animosity. i had a feeling my wife said would you like me and the kids to move out for a while? that shook me. i realized, i have to get help here. i got leadership training and coaching. >> it's that willingness to change, when needed, that helped ben as a person and his company to grow. >> we have a motto, listen hard, change fast. >> a motto they need to live by now, more than ever. while e-mail is still a strong marketing tool, with the growth of social media, in order to
survive, ben knows mail chimp has to be about more than just mail. >> we are going from act one to act two. we have done well in the e-mail world. the brand is helping small businesses build their brand and grow. i never thought of us as just an e-mail company. we are. we started that way. if e-mail did die, fall off a cliff or something, we would figure something else out. the white house recently hosted business owners from across the country for the made in america product showcase. ben clark of ann clark cookie cutters in vermont had the chance to meet vice president mike pence and talk about the company's success. all of the cookie cutters are made in the usa. when we met ben, he told us how he was doing everything in his power to win over more of the market from competitors who manufacture overseas.
ben clark doesn't mince words. >> i want to win. i want to own the market. i want to be the player. that's what's driving me. >> his fight is personal. backing down is not an option. >> i have everything wrapped up into this. this is not a hobby. i moved my family here and said yes, we can make the business. >> the owner of ann clark limited, the largest mother and fatherer of cookie cutters in the u.s., runs the vermont company knowing for his brand to success, someone else has to falter. >> somebody has to lose. every business that is successful, some other business had to fail. >> it is why he has his sights set on the competition. he wants to steal their customers. we can say it 87 different ways. ultimately, when we are winning, somebody is losing. for us to grow the market, we are going after chinese competitors. we are trying to get their business. that's become our strategy.
>> ben's mother, ann, who founded the company in 1989 says her son brought a new dynamic to the business. >> i'm not a real competitive person, he is really competitive. >> for them, it was a fun game, neat, sexy. i was like, no, we need to grow this. >> staff took notice, too. most didn't know cookie cutters were so cut throat. >> think of it as a fun, family oriented product. there's a reason we are where we are. ben is competitive. >> the number of people buying cookie cutters doesn't change. it explains why ben just wants a bigger piece of the pie. >> we assume the number of cookie cutters sold in america is constant. how do we control the market? >> a pitch is ann clark's steel cookie cutters are made here in the usa. their main competitor
manufactures in china. >> a store, a business is supposed to be carrying a product their customers are looking for. are they asking for chinese product? of course not. why is that what you are selling? we have an option here. >> the business reimagined their work flow. production needs to be on par with competition. ben doesn't want pricing to turn off customers. >> they were buying from whoever had it and at the best price at the moment. we thought, the hardest thing to do is get our cost manufacturing equal to what it cost to import a cookie cutter from china. we are there. we can match their price. >> using newer technology, they fulfill retail and wholesale orders quickly. because production sped up, the company can offer more designs therein ever before. >> we launch a new shape every week. we are constantly looking for what's new, what's the market
want. we can launch the shapes. we can do it in a week. china is three or four months. >> when ben realized ann clark wasn't reaching the entire crowd it wanted, he turned online. a channel he originally ignored. >> we stayed away from e-commerce. we didn't think you can sell a cookie cutter online. that was a mistake. we look at those numbers all day, every day. when i walk in, there's a report, how did amazon do, our website, how many people came to the site? >> and an influencers. >> we have done blogger outreach and social media. >> they are helping us develop our brand. >> ben keeps an eye on competition. he knows his company is being watched, too. >> we have seen them launch product, a direct copy of product we have launched. they are paying attention. when somebody does something on the web, the other does.
>> they have had tense moments. at one point, the two businesses went head-to-head and ann clark took legal action. >> when we entered the kitchen world, we were competing with the chinese competitor. they stopped labeling made in china. we sued them. now it's a playing field. >> we look at our competitors. ours has made in usa all over it. the chinese competitor doesn't have to say anything. the customer just sees the picture. >> sales make up 40% of the market, locking deals is still a challenge. >> it's an even playing field, you can buy from china or a cookie cutter made in vermont. we thought it was a no brainer. it's not. >> he's continuing to build his brand and tell the story. for now, they are celebrating
the little victories in hopes of toppling the competition. >> mostly, one store at a time. our sales people come in and say, hey, sally's kitchen store in wherever converted from china to a ann clark limited. it's literally one cookie cutter at a time. i'm here in chicago at the internet retail center and exhibition. you cannot talk about internet retail or any retail without talking about amazon. i have jeff cohen, the cmo to come shat with us. good to see you. >> good to see you. thanks for having me. >> you were an expert on selling on amazon. it is a bohemith. if you are a brand, i manufacture something, i sell something, how do i get it so my amazon sales do not cannibalize
my own sales? >> a lot of people struggle with do i want to promote traffic to my site or sell on amazon? your shoppers are shopping on both. you have to be on both. unfortunately, if you don't put your product on amazon, there's a good chance somebody else will. you want to control that channel or cycle to know what your shopper is going to see when they are on amazon and your site. you own the brand, the voice, the message. >> how do you decide whether to send them to amazon or your site? for most people, it's easier to buy on amazon, but you make less money. >> when trying to decide to send shoppers to amazon or your site, think about what is the bigger sales opportunity? amazon has a lot of shoppers looking for products like yours and your competitors. if you can use a little bit of your traffic to send them to amazon, you can take advantage
of amazon's larger ecosystem. there's a company called vermont teddy bear. maybe you are familiar with them. >> i am. >> it's a great example of sending traffic to amazon and to their own website. within their catalog, they have amazon exclusive products you can only buy on amazon and they use their website. february 12th, two days before valentines they knew shoppers needed it overnight. they sent shoppers to amazon. if you want this product and you have prime, go to amazon and buy it. >> interesting. once you are on amazon, it's important to get reviews. i know i always look at the reviews. sure, you can get all your friends and families to go on and review, but how do you get thousands of reviews? >> start with what you can and cannot do on amazon. do not ask friends and family to come and give reviews for you.
amazon has a policy that states anyone with a financial stake in your business should not leave a review. >> how do you get customers to give reviews? >> one, you have to build a great product. if you don't have a good product. >> of course. everyone needs to build a good product. how do you get them to do it? >> build a brand experience on amazon. a lot of fans miss it from the listing to your photos to your product description to an hansed brand content and product packaging. tell your own story. when you come to them, send them an e-mail and ask for a review. they have a connection to you and your brand and story. therefore, they are willing to do something for you. >> all right. jeff, thank you so much. these reviews, amazon, it's all such an important part of retail. how i appreciate you giving your
insight. >> thank you, appreciate it. >> thank you. getting the word out about your product and service is hard. it's really hard. for this pitch series, we wanted to do something different. we wanted our pitchers to show to influencers, people to help them spread the word. we are in the office of she knows media and reaches 75 million people a month. they have a conference this summer called blog her. if our pitcher gets the heart emoji, they will get to go to blog her and present their product or service in front of 3,000 people who can write about them. that could totally change the trajectory of our business. let's see how our pitcher does. hi. >> hi. so nice to see you. >> welcome, syst. >> thank you.
we make better fitting bras for small chested women. >> how big is marketing? >> huge. we launched a kick starter. part of the success is because we got press mentions. this helps spread the word and get people excited and get people to try our brand out. >> are you good? are you good at going to an influencer and getting them to write about you? >> yes. this is an opportunity. i'm so good. it would be a huge opportunity to get in front of a bunch of them. >> congratulations, first of all. i know you are doing this as you are a full-time student, too. you are walking to katie, an influencer, she has a blog, instagram, the kind of person you want writing about you because people care what she thinks. the second is sam, the president of she knows who. good luck. let's see how you do. >> thank you.
>> hi, i'm leah, the co-founder of pepper. pancakes are delicious and everyone loves them. if i compared your body to a pancake, it wouldn't feel that good. people with small boobs grow up hearing, you are flat as a pancake. average bras are a 36c cup then they shrink them down. you are going to get fit issues, falling straps, digging underwires and a gab between your skin and the cup. we created pepper to close the gap for small chested women by creating garments that fit them. a bra with unique molded demi cups with less stuff to fill them. we launched this on kick starter with a retail price of $49 and raised over $47,00 from 950 backers. since then, we continue to grow month over month.
our brand is about helping women feel confident in their own skin. we are solving a big problem for small boobs. >> nice. >> good job. >> i'm stepping through. i'm going to hug you through the bra. >> wow. that's fascinating. >> you did a good job. any questions before you confer whether she goes to blog her? >> you might think i might not be interested in this product -- >> why? >> she's a comedian. i actually, coming from the space where it's an underserved market and retailers are not hitting the market, i appreciate this. do you have plans to expand your sizes up because small chested plus size women are very underserved market. >> exactly. totally agree. small boob doesn't mean skinny.
we go up to 38. we started at 32. we just launched two months ago. the idea is expand band size but keep the cup size small to be targeted and stand for the audience having small boobs, but not discriminate against band size. >> what about teens or girls who are developing and development seems underserved as well. i have seen innovation in that area. i have a 13-year-old, i'm sure she's scared i'm talking about her boobs on tv. >> our customers are women who graduated college. we want to be the brand where they graduate from that phase. we want to be modern and simple and give them products for the modern women. however, we don't exclude them from our brand. they can wear it. >> teens can find it. >> of course. >> all right.
ready? i'm going to give you a heart and sad face. confer and let us know if she gets to go through. >> i thought that pitch was so good. i'm not making decisions, these ladies are. to you two laughing in the corner, bring the sign over. and the moment of truth, which is -- does leah get to go to blog her and pitch in front of 3,000 influencers to write about her and buy the product. >> okay. >> the answer is -- >> i'm probably deliberate that i am the one saying yes. >> exciting. >> great job. >> thank you. >> serving up pancakes to 3,000 women. >> thank you. >> i thank you. we are not in the same situation. i might be a user. i'm not saying anything. there might be gaps and you might be serving them. >> thank you so much. >> you did a great, great job. i'm sure you are going to be great. i'll be wearing it on the blog
her stage. i'll be your test model. when we come back, effective strategies to reach specific demographics on social media and how you can get more comfortable in uncomfortable situations. the line between work and life hasn't just blurred. it's gone. that's why you need someone behind you. not just a card. an entire support system. whether visiting the airport lounge to catch up on what's really important. or even using those hard-earned points to squeeze in a little family time. no one has your back like american express. so no matter where you're going... we're right there with you. the powerful backing of american express. don't do business without it. don't live life without it.
we use social media to acquire our clients, moms and we really need help with how do we breakthrough and reach moms in their facebook streams where there's so many things that, you know, are trying to grab their attention. >> the best thing you can do is create really engaging content for your potential customers to engage with. we suggest all parts of facebook available to you including pages, groups and other things. those that are most successful are those that really engage. when you host a party, you are introducing them to each other, responding to them and creating content they can interaction with. we have the top two tips you need to know to grow your business. let's introduce our panel.
brian heller and zach. so good to see both of you guys. both of you started your businesses and grew them. how old is your business? >> 23 years old. >> yeah, you have some staying power. yours is? >> 6 1/2-7. >> and fast growing. i'm happy to pick your brain. what is something you have learned. >> you have to get comfortable in challenging business circumstances. make sure you have a very, very strong comfort in confronting issues. say you have a performance issue on your team or taking vendors and negotiating prices down. those challenging situations, we find most entrepreneurs don't address those things head on. how do we talk to this person about their performance issue? it helps when you talk about it. >> it's a thing that falls on your to-do list.
i'll do this tomorrow. how did you get comfortable? >> practice. pick out a friend, spouse, significant other or someone else. it's never as bad. >> you practice? you get a friend and say let's do this? >> it's awesome. it's not as bad when you practice. >> interesting. you are up. 23 years of doing this. >> well, we are going talk about patenting. >> about what? >> patenting, getting your idea patented. >> okay. >> i had four patents and i had to start in research and development. it was spawned from me being a cai chiropractor. when it comes to relating your idea to a patent attorney, like any conversation, what i think occurred, does what you think
occur and what actually occurred. when you tell your attorney about something that never existed in the world, that description has to be very precise, so an inventor needs to be a master editor, then finally, when you look at what is written there and give it back to your patent attorney, that is what is going to be submitted and literally what you came up with. >> basically, do not depend on their first interpretation. this is ongoing and you are going back and forth, back and forth until they get what is in your head. >> it's applicable to all relationships. >> it is. i found, my vision was not translating. i thought i was being clear with what the vision is and people come back and say i have never heard of this. we get to the, okay, repeat what i just said so i know that we are all on the same page here. yeah, it's the same point. thanks, both of you.
congratulations on the success of your companies, it's impressive. good to see you. this week's your biz selfie comes from stephanie who owns barre' letixx. thank you so much for send thag in. why don't you, out there, pick up your cell phone, take a selfie of you and your business and send it to us. we love seeing your pictures and featuring them on the show. don't forget your name, the name of your business and the location. thank you so much for joining us today. we really love hearing from you. if you have questions or comments about the show, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. we put up everything from
today's show and more for you. don't forget to connect with us. one last thing, remember to check out our podcast. been there, built that. it's got really interesting conversations with founders and ceos, you can download it. we look forward to seeing you next time. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg, remember, we make "your business," our business. it's pretty amazing out there. the world is full of more possibilities than ever before. and american express has your back every step of the way- whether it's the comfort of knowing help is just a call away with global assist. or getting financing to fund your business.
no one has your back like american express. so where ever you go. we're right there with you. the powerful backing of american express. don't do business without it. don't live life without it. welcome to politics nation. coming to you, today, from houston, texas. later today, i'm leading a rally in florida, against the state's outrageous stand your ground law. more on that in a moment. first, there are continued moves by the president to insight his base, again. at a rally last night in