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364 – Making The Pivot From A Consumer To Wholesale Customer Focus With Amy Trout Hughes
Episode 3642nd April 2022 • Gift Biz Unwrapped • Sue Monhait
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What does pivoting in business really mean? It's all about responding to market changes and what you want your business to be. Marshmallow MBA has taken its share of twists and turns. That’s something to remember as you’re starting out. You won’t “land it” right out of the gate. It takes experimentation and adjustments based on what your market shows you to get it right. For Amy, it was narrowing in on the ideal customer, adjusting products to fit their needs, and rebranding so it all aligns. Amy’s career path to the confectionery industry is as non-traditional as the handcrafted marshmallows coming out of the MarshmallowMBA kitchens. After a 20+ career as a government consultant, Amy founded MarshmallowMBA in 2016 (more about that in episode 80). MarshmallowMBA is a woman-owned small business handcrafting gourmet marshmallows in more than a hundred flavors for retail and wholesale customers. Its products are available in 28 states across the US and Canada through more than 150 independent retailers and its e-commerce shop. Amy continually seeks to push the boundaries of candy beyond its identity as a snack food. In July 2021, the Bee Kind marshmallow collection (a lifestyle confection based on locally sourced honey and natural herbs) earned MarshmallowMBA the Best Innovation Award from Retail Confectioners International.

Growth Insights From Pivoting In Business

  • Pay attention to what the market needs and adjust your product line as needed.
  • Focus on your strategy and the product.
  • Show up in different places or portals to test where your product will sell more.
  • Don't waste time or money on a trademark until you KNOW there’s a market for your product.
  • Sometimes less is more - reducing the number of flavors helped us sell more.
  • Your brand should reflect the quality of your product.
  • Be open to change, especially with rebranding.
  • Consider different packaging options (make sure it reflects your brand colors)
  • Who do you WANT your customers to be? Do what will attract those people.
  • Your logo should fit your future vision for your business.
  • If you decide to join a wholesale portal (such as Faire), understand the specifications for photos and information so you get the best results.
  • Adjust pricing if you list on an online wholesale portal so you don't take a loss. <-- IMPORTANT TIP - tune in to get all the details!
  • Consider offering seasonal product lines and offer pre-ordering to accommodate customers.
So many insights about growing and pivoting a business in this episode. Listen in to hear them all!

Resources Mentioned

Amy's Contact Links

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Linkedin

Join Our FREE Gift Biz Breeze Facebook Community

Become a Member of Gift Biz Breeze If you found value in this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you automatically get the next episode downloaded for your convenience. Click on your preferred platform below to get started. Also, if you'd like to do me a huge favor - please leave a review. It helps other creators like you find the show and build their businesses too. You can do so right here: Rate This Podcast Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Thank you so much! Sue Know someone who needs to hear this episode? Click a button below to share it!

Transcripts

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Gift biz unwrapped episode 364.

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We knew that the production schedule had to be built around

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wholesale orders,

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Attentive gifters bakers,

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crafters, and makers pursuing your dream can be fun.

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Whether you have an established business or looking to start one.

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Now you are in the right place.

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This is gift to biz unwrapped,

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helping you turn your skill into a flourishing business.

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Join us for an episode,

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packed full of invaluable guidance,

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resources, and the support you need to grow.

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Your gift biz.

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Here is your host gift biz gal Sue moon Heights.

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Hi there.

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It's Sue and thanks for joining me today.

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I am so excited to finally announce that I've started something

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new just for you.

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You may have already heard it from the podcast last week.

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It's called a gift biz bash.

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It's an opportunity for you to get a short session of

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free live training,

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and then a chance to shout out your company and any

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promotions you currently have going on.

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Or if you're interested in a collaboration,

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you can give us the details all about that and perhaps

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find your next gift.

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Biz bestie.

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These 45 minute bashes are happening over zoom twice a month

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at all different times.

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So if you can't make one,

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you'll definitely find another that will fit your schedule.

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The very first bash is happening April 4th.

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Yes, it's this Monday to see the schedule and sign up,

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go to gift biz on rapt.com

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forward slash bash.

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It's 100% free for you to pick up a growth tip

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and get eyeballs on your new products to gift biz unwrapped.com

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forward slash bash.

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Come join us Monday for the very first one today,

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I'm bringing back a guest we've had on the show before,

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but it's been a long time and her business has taken

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its share of twists and turns as any business naturally does.

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That's something to remember as you're starting out,

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you won't land it right out of the gate.

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It takes experimentation and adjustments based on what your market shows

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you to get it right for Amy,

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it was narrowing in on the ideal customer adjusting products to

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fit their needs and rebranding.

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So it all aligns.

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You'll hear the details on this and more including some resources

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you may not know about.

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I didn't Today.

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It is my pleasure to bring back on Amy trout Hughes

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of marshmallow MBA Amy's career to the confectionary industry is as

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non-traditional as the handcrafted marshmallows coming out of the marshmallow MBA

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kitchens after a more than 20 year career as a government

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consultant, Amy founded marshmallow MBA in 2016,

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and you can hear all about that way back in episode

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80, marshmallow MBA is a woman owned small business handcrafting gourmet

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marshmallows in more than a hundred flavors for retail and wholesale

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customers. Their products are available in 28 states across the U

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S and Canada,

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through more than 150 independent retailers and its e-commerce shop.

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Amy continually seeks to push the boundaries of candy beyond its

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identity as a food snack in July of 2021,

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the beak hind marshmallow collection,

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a lifestyle confection based on locally sourced,

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honey and natural herbs earned marshmallow MBA.

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The best innovation award from retail confectioners international.

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Wow. Is that exciting,

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Amy? Welcome to the gift biz on wrapped podcast.

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Thanks. So happy to be here.

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Well, I should say welcome back.

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I guess It's always a pleasure to be with you.

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I know,

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I can't believe that we haven't gotten an update before now

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because you and I have been at several shows together and

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we're friends now.

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Like I didn't really know you when I interviewed you way

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back when,

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and now we're great friends.

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I think that's where the friendship started.

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I think so.

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And so I know a lot about what's been going on

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with your development,

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but we haven't filled in everybody.

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Who's been listening here.

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So I'm excited to get into your story.

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And I want to use it as an example of how

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a business evolves and grows and encounters new opportunities and maybe

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shifts paths a little bit,

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all of that,

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to really settle into what your audience needs and what the

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market needs Settling in.

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Wouldn't that be a nice plan?

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Well, I go back to that statement that I refer to

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a lot,

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man plans.

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God laughs.

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And I think God's been laughing a lot,

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certainly the last two years.

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Yeah, But he is a willing player in you.

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A very willing partner.

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Yes. Yeah.

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All right.

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So the last we were sharing what you were doing,

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unless people are running into us at shows together and already

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know you had started marshmallow MBA,

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unbelievably fun creation story,

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mind you.

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So anyone who's listening,

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I would love you to go back and listen to episode

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80. Remember back then we were talking about your marshmallows and

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people getting them who were like at Comicon and places like

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that. Mostly retail shows.

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Yep. That was like the first dipping a toe out into

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the real world.

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The e-commerce store has been there from the beginning and that's

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just@marshmallowmba.com. But with the shows,

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we were sure that we didn't want a candy store.

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Both my business partner,

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Sondra and I had worked in retail.

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We knew we did not want to be full-time retail.

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We were gap girls in the eighties.

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I'll leave it at.

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Yeah, you've had your share of it and then close the

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door on that situation.

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We had both bartended.

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So we had had that customer facing experience.

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So knowing that we didn't want to be full-time retail was

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really, you know,

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one of the legs of the business.

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One of the things that we stood on,

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Which is a good point because in the beginning you already

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know what is off the table,

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just because of your life,

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what you like and what you enjoy retail shop off the

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table. And I think that's something that you're only going to

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know. It's like you learn more from a bad manager or

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a bad employer,

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at least me than you ever did from a good one

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because it sort of,

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then you're like,

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oh, this isn't going to happen and that's not going to

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happen, but I can do X,

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Y, and Z.

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If a,

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B and C are not things that fill me with passion.

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Yeah. And there are so many opportunities now than in years,

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past, so much potential for doing things your way,

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adjusting to different things,

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selling in different platforms or different environments,

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all of that.

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But let's go just to ground ourselves and start from somewhere.

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Let's go back from that first show that I met you

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at, maybe the second show after that,

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cause then we were friends.

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Then I was coming,

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hanging around your booth,

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ground us in what your product offering was then and who

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your customer was then,

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and then we'll start the journey of what's happened since.

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Sure. So that second show,

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I guess,

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where you and I met then that was when we met

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in person because we had only met virtually prior to that.

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Right. Because I had met Sandra first,

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Correct. Actually I didn't even meet her Barb who was working,

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our booth,

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met her and then she said to me,

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oh my gosh,

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what a cool product you need to interview them for the

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podcast. And the podcast was yet still new to episode 80,

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Right? Yeah.

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I think everything was new.

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We were all new and fresh.

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Yes. And we had no idea what a wonderful relationship and

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friendship we'd have.

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All right.

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So let's go back.

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What's the product and who was your ideal customer?

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I'm just going to call it.

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Sure. So we've always been in marshmallows.

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We're not doing other candies,

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so let's ground us there.

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So we're very niche.

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And then we're niche because we're doing gourmet marshmallows.

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So we're doing flavors and we're not dipping in flavor.

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We're actually putting the flavor in the marshmallow.

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Our first two years was primarily retail direct to consumer online,

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a lot of word of mouth marketing through our personal networks,

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professional networks.

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And then we kind of expanded out.

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We did pop-up shows,

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but again,

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retail events.

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So we moved into,

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oh, I dunno,

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wine shows wine and spirits.

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Some the Comicons that you referred to before.

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But then it was probably year two that we made the

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jump into wholesale,

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which is where we would have met you and changed our

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customer target.

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That was the first time we changed the customer target and

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actually did a trade show where we were writing orders,

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large orders.

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But we were writing them for retailers who were going to

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sell our products in their shops.

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Yeah. I remember that time Amy,

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because you and I had a conversation.

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I don't know if you remember it,

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but I was at your booth and I can even envision

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right now,

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still like the booth location,

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all of it.

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But you came up to me on the side and you're

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like, this is blowing me away.

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We've got all of these beautiful finished creations and you know

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what selling,

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I don't know if you call them the flat sheets or

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whatever of the cut marshmallows.

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Yep. Bulk for Chocolate shops to use for dipping.

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Like you were just selling,

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like, I'm going to just call it like the insides.

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Exactly. And I remembered you.

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You're like,

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I can't even believe this is what's so popular right now.

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So it was so exciting to watch that like enlightenment come

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out. So that would have been the first Philly candy show

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that we did,

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where we were selling all of that bulk product.

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And then we still do,

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in fact,

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we're selling a lot of it this year because one of

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our competitors is not doing some marshmallow products and people are

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scrambling to replace it for Easter.

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Interesting. And probably very challenging for you.

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Production-wise Production.

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Yes. Super challenging for production.

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Yeah. So let's get back to the products.

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Okay. So we may swing back to that production,

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but there's so much I want to talk with you about,

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and I don't want to make this be four hours long

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because I don't know if everyone Elisabet long,

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but anyway,

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so let's talk about the product evolution then.

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So you went from direct to consumer with obviously finished products.

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And then you found at the Philly show that these bulk

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orders were really,

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really popular.

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What did you do with that realization?

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So, because our wholesale orders are larger,

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you know,

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even two years in,

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we knew that the calendar had to be built around wholesale

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customers. The production schedule had to be built around wholesale orders.

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If that meant,

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we reduced the number of retail products that were available online,

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we would do that.

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If that meant that we needed to change shipping timelines,

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we would have to do that.

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And so that's what we did.

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We lay out the calendar six months at a time.

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Most of our wholesale customers order three months out,

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not all of them,

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The ones you love because you can plan.

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You know,

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I have a couple that I love,

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but notoriously,

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I have to call them three weeks out and say,

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chef, I know you're going to want fun.

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It's now or never commit now,

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or it's not happening.

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Exactly. And there's only two or three that are like that,

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but we do love them.

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So they have become friends as well.

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Question for you here.

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Did you have to change the number of flavors then that

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you were offering?

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Because I'm thinking that on the wholesale side,

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they would really target into more of a finite number of

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flavors. So because we're preparing to order,

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we're adjusting time inventory control system.

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Think of it like Dell computers,

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we get the order and then we prepared a manufacturer.

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It's not like we're keeping a hundred flavors on the shelf

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at all times.

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I have five,

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maybe eight flavors that we always have going.

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But other than that,

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it didn't change too much.

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One thing I realized is it's hard for people to make

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decisions if they have a hundred flavors in front of them.

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So we have changed on our wholesale listings,

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the catalog listings have changed.

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And so we'll list seasonal flavors.

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We'll list it in flavor groupings rather than just a list.

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So now we're grouping the flavors.

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So if you're looking for spring flavors,

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here's the seasonal five that we do.

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If you're looking for fruit flavors,

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here's like 10 that we do letting folks know we can

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always do custom flavors.

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It's one of the things about being a small batch operation.

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We can produce a custom flavor for you,

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whereas a larger manufacturer might not be able to do that.

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All right.

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And did you see that the ease in ordering and making

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selections happened because of the groupings that you then offered?

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I didn't quite frankly.

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And this is just one of those things that it all

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depends on your customer.

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One thing that we started doing because a real shift happened

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in 2020 at our very last trade show.

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So 2020,

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we were all set to expand into wholesale.

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We had had exponential growth to 2019,

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over 2018.

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Again, primarily with wholesale we're wholesale makes up 85% of our

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sales at this point.

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So back then you were looking at just really enhancing and

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focusing specifically on wholesale.

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Yeah. So with not even so much a total switch,

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but chasing a different customer segment that we had not focused

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on had not targeted prior.

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And you saw potential in,

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obviously, Right?

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Okay. So we are at the New York restaurant show.

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It's the New York international restaurant show and the target customer

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there, and the folks walking the floor,

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there are restaurant chefs,

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hospitality folks.

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So whether they're private chefs,

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whether they're bartenders,

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caterers, also schools and industrial kitchens,

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even before cloud kitchens.

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So maybe it's a university kitchen,

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that type of thing.

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So totally restaurant and bar focused hospitality industry focused shows at

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the Javits center are not cheap.

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I don't have to tell anyone who's done a trade show.

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What shows at the Javits center cost it's in Midtown Manhattan?

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What do you want?

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Normally, 35,000

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people walk this show.

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The show was scheduled for March 8th,

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through 10th of 2020.

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Oh gosh.

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Right at the start.

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If 12,000

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people walk that floor over three days,

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I would be shocked.

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I have photos from times square.

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The night before the show ended,

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there were 11 people in times square,

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six of them were vendors.

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Wow. Because we were just completely just probably the lowest,

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one of the lowest points I've ever had.

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So Amy,

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I'm trying to think of the rollout of all the information.

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Were you in a situation where you had to decide whether

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you were going to go to the show or not,

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or was the information just now coming out to everybody,

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where did all that come about in relation to this show?

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We had already shipped all of our samples and all of

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the booth materials the week prior.

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And so everything is happening in tandem.

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There was never a question that we weren't going to do

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the show.

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It was a $10,000.

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Yeah. I know I've done Javits before.

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I'm not going to give you my opinion of the place.

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You've got it.

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But I'm in agreement with you.

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Convenience wise.

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Wonderful. But let's just go with that.

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But, And we were on the lower level of the convention

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center. There was another expo on the top floor,

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Which could be great.

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Cause that would be more traffic.

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Well, it was a beauty expo.

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So lots of cosmetologists,

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lots of hairdressers.

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My hair looked fantastic the day before the show,

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but they canceled that expo 12 hours before it was starting.

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Oh wow.

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They couldn't get their seminar and workshop instructors in from Europe,

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the show.

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But folks were already set up.

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The floor was totally set up.

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People had already been there three or four days.

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Yeah. But gosh,

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but you got to think of the people who were at

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your show,

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you know,

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in the restaurant industry,

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what are they hearing?

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You're going to have to close your doors,

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which we thought at that time,

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maybe two weeks a month,

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Maybe it's two weeks a month.

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Yeah. And I think it spoke to why we didn't.

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A lot of things spoke to why there wasn't traffic on

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the floor.

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But certainly that was one of them.

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All right.

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So without diving,

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going down this path too far,

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you were focused on the restaurant industry.

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Clearly that was not going to be a play given what

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was going on.

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So how did you adjust from there?

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Bad show,

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terrible. Maybe some tears.

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I don't know.

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Oh, a lot.

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Cause that big,

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huge investment,

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probably very little return at all.

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Then what happens?

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What do you do?

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Five days of grieving,

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quite frankly.

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And then,

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well, what can we do?

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We dealt with like everyone,

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like every small business out there and not even small businesses,

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large businesses as well,

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mixed messaging in terms of rules,

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mixed messaging in terms of how you could move forward,

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what you could do,

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what you couldn't do.

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We're based in Pennsylvania,

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the candy industry is part of the manufacturing sector.

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We're not grouped in with retail.

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We could continue operating.

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We could continue production.

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I was on a call with a group of confectioners and

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everyone's like,

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well, I'm going to bring groceries in and I'm going to

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bring this in and I'm going to bring dairy in.

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And then there's this pause.

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And I said,

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you guys are making candy.

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You're considered manufacturers read the governor's order.

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And then it became,

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I can't sell online.

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It's called Shopify.

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There's so many plugins that you can use.

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We were really lucky in that situation.

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Cause we were already set up to sell retail.

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Easter of 2020 was huge for us retail,

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not wholesale,

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but retail was fantastic for us.

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And I'm so grateful to our customers,

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our longterm customers who remembered us and came back to find

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us, No.

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What did you do to get the word out?

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Then you knew you could stay in business because you were

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manufacturing production and you had started in a different direction,

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going wholesale and specifically looking at the category of restaurants.

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And now 2020 happens.

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You have to pivot.

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How do you go back and communicate with the people who

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had been purchasing from you,

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which you knew could be at least the start of saving

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the year.

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Social media,

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Social. Okay.

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Not my favorite social was the way we went.

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I started doing a Facebook live every week.

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That was marshmallow Monday.

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Oh, that's how that started.

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Yeah. So we could let people know,

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Hey, we're still alive.

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We're still here.

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You're not going to be able to get those horrible marshal

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things that you usually get at the grocery store,

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but you can get stuff from us.

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So we did a lot of that.

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We used Instagram to show people what the products look like.

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It was the first time though,

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too, that we realized we could sell product without sampling it

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because sampling people want to try it before they buy it.

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Yeah, not right now.

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Well still,

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but what we realized was our customers who knew the product,

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we're also spreading the word.

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And so they could say,

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oh yeah,

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I've tried it.

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My kids love it or oh yeah,

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I've tried it.

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My office loves it.

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That helped a lot.

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Just that word of mouth marketing.

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Were you doing any emailing at that point?

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A little,

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our emails tend to really get lost.

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I still struggle with that.

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I'm doing a little better,

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but certainly in 2020 we struggled with that partially because we

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weren't managing our mailing lists that well that's changed.

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Okay. So you saw an opportunity with your past existing customers

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and they were spreading the word.

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And I remember back at that time too,

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like we couldn't get together for birthday parties or any type

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of celebration.

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And certainly for Easter,

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we couldn't be with a family.

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So your product solved such a big need for people of,

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yeah, we can't be together,

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but here's something that's going to be really special.

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So it's not just Easter egg thing that you can can

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or cannot get at your local store.

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You didn't know.

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I don't know that we were out of everything yet,

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but things weren't being produced.

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The stores were closed in our area.

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The stores were closed.

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Okay. So that created a challenge.

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It felt for me very much three steps forward,

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two steps back.

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But what I really needed to focus on and you and

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I have talked about this in other conversations,

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making sure that you celebrate the small wins,

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which I'm not good at.

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And I certainly wasn't good at it at the height of

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the pandemic.

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It wasn't until I took a step back probably a year,

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maybe 15 months in and could see,

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I didn't think we were going to survive going on his

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life. Well,

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everything was so unknown.

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Just the numbers were scary business.

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You were so restricted.

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It was like kind of being in a straight jacket,

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no matter what type of business And I couldn't travel state

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to state.

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So remembering that I don't live in Pennsylvania,

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even though we manufacture in Pennsylvania and then I had to

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get this letter just in case I was stopped by the

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police. And anyway,

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I remember being on a couple of your lives when you

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were saying yes tomorrow,

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I'm going,

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let's see if I can get there.

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And if I can get back Very like smokey and the

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bandit. Yeah.

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All right.

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So I want to get out of the pandemic issue really,

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but it's important because it impacted the growth of how you

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would move your product and where you would transition your product

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and all of that.

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So let's keep going,

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understanding that there were serious challenges with what you were going

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to be able to do for a little bit of time.

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You resorted back and direct to consumer your past customers,

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where your saviors and really important point And then Easter,

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and then mother's day hit.

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And everything falls off the cliff after mother's day because apparently

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dads don't like sweets.

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So what we realized based on our own supply needs,

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how many wholesale portals had popped up.

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And so we knew there weren't going to be any trade

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shows. So we started investigating wholesale portals.

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And the best way I can explain it is think of

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it like Amazon for wholesalers.

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If you're not familiar with what a wholesale portal is,

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it's basically an online 24 by seven trade show.

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Okay? Like a virtual show,

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A virtual show,

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but they're up 365 days a year.

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We had two companies reach out to us about our products

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and adding the product to the portal.

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When you say portal,

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we do call fear a portal,

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Fair Mabel,

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indie me.

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Those are our top three.

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Okay. There are a couple that I have pulled our products

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off of just because of how they were managed.

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But we didn't know that.

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Then it's like,

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we're going to put it out everywhere and see what happens

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when you say we're going to list our products on a

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wholesale portal.

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You don't.

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I had no idea what was going to happen.

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I'm like,

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well, if people can't try the products,

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they're not going to buy anything.

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So then it's a matter of how are we selling these

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products? I knew we had text descriptions.

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I can write content all day long.

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What we didn't have were good photos.

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And so we had to clean up the photos.

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That's an ongoing challenge,

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not so much the photo itself,

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but before you put yourself on more than one wholesale portal,

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if you're thinking of going that route,

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make sure you see what the,

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the image sizing and image quality and all of that is

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every single one of them is different here.

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I'm thinking,

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well, I got photos.

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Here you go.

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Yeah, wrong,

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Wrong. Oh.

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And we need to be on a black background.

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We needed to be on a white background.

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This one can't have a logo on it.

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This one has to have a logo that was some backend

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work. Certainly.

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We also had to adjust pricing because now 80% of the

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portals take a commission.

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I mean,

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they gotta make money.

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Right. So adjusting pricing.

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So it was not out of line,

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but still making allowances for that loss of that percentage loss.

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Right. Really big point here.

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Yeah. And I don't love accounting.

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You and I have talked about that before I went to

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business school and learned,

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I shouldn't be an accountant.

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I learned I should outsource my accounting,

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but pricing is different.

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Another decision point that I had to make was should we

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hire someone to do sales?

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Should we partner with a distributor or are these online portals

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the right way to go and doing the numbers six ways

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to Sunday,

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it worked out.

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It was a better situation for us to go with the

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online portals than it was to hire someone specifically for sales.

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And what about any adjustments to your product line when you

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went on these portals?

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We'll hear what Amy has to say about that right after

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a quick break to hear from our sponsor.

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go to the ribbon print company.com.

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So we do not your point about the flavors and how

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many flavors we have on the portals.

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We list the best sellers within the products,

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the s'mores on forks.

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Those we list the full product list because those tend to,

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you know,

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people do those in collections,

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but we're doing individually wrapped marshmallows.

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Well, those are 10 flavors.

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If you want to do them in another flavor,

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then it's a custom order kind of thing,

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small boxes.

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I think we list those and all the flavors too,

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because we had already edited those down to what was selling.

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The wands are already the best sellers.

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The two that weren't working,

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we actually do.

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It's not that they weren't working.

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It's just,

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they don't sell year round.

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So we now have them available seasonally.

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Our customers can.

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Pre-order that's one thing that we really liked with the online

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portals. There are some people who are ordering their Memorial day

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products in February.

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I love them.

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So that was something it made it better than the order

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writing shows for us because oftentimes with the order writing shows,

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for example,

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one that we had done is in September.

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And if everyone's ordering for Thanksgiving and Christmas,

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that's can be harder to set the timing up,

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but you also have people that want stuff for Halloween.

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And so for whatever reason,

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it doesn't sound like it should make a difference,

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but it does.

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Yeah. All right.

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But it's a good thing to talk about because the way

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the orders were coming in and the timing changed when you

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went on these portals.

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So you needed to make a little adjustment about how you

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would manage through all of that.

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Right. And it actually makes it easier.

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Quite frankly,

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we set up a window.

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When we,

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for example,

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for fare our order window on there,

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the turnaround is 11 to 14 days.

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That's the soonest you're going to get product is 11 days.

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We probably do most of them in 10,

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but you have to allow for shipping and that sort of

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thing. But we can also adjust that.

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For example,

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November of last year,

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orders came in late for the holidays.

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They really started hitting in October and then people still wanted

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product right up against the holiday,

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which was something new for us.

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Normally we ship our last wholesale orders,

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the 15th that's the absolute last day they go,

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but people were willing to come pick up right up until,

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so we did have to shift the timeline out a bit

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and we can do that.

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It does allow you some flexibility.

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So rather than me having to call someone and saying,

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Hey, your order is going to be delayed.

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By 10 days,

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we just shifted our shipping window and made it 14 to

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20 days with the caveat that normally we get things out

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earlier, but understand because of demand.

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Yeah. And let's face it.

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It's the holidays.

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Everyone understands things take longer.

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Plus we have the overlay of the delivery issues,

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the delay in delivery holiday always,

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and then supply chain issues and people actually being running the

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trucks and all that.

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Like we had everything,

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everything you wanted was thrown at us in December.

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For sure.

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So you would think that on a personal level,

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people hear that on a personal level,

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people understand that on a small business level,

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I would say a good 5% of our customers did not.

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I Believe that 5% is 50%.

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Okay. I just wanted to make reference to everybody.

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So you heard a little bit ago that Amy was referencing

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small works.

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This is a signature product of marshmallow MBA.

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And I think we talked about it back in episode 80,

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but you can also go right onto their website,

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marshmallow mba.com

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and see what they are signature product.

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If you are in any type of consumable business,

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definitely consider a signature product.

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That's all I'm going to say about that,

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because guess what,

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Amy, the two things that I really,

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really wanted to talk to you about,

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we haven't even started yet.

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So we're going to just jump right into those right now.

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You should know that smokes are now trademark pending.

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Oh, cool.

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Cool, cool.

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So that's just a matter of time until it's happens.

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Correct. The paperwork's in Very exciting and I'm glad you're doing

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that. Covering your bases.

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When you know,

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you have a hit,

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like that's the thing.

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And I guess we will talk about this for just a

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half a second,

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just because you make a product doesn't mean you should trademark

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it right away.

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You need to make sure that people are going to buy

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it because why are you going to spend all that money,

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protecting something that no one is even interested in.

Speaker:

And when Hershey's walks past your booth at a trade show

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and starts picking up the product,

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start the paperwork.

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Oh my gosh.

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Yes. I bet that left.

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You sleepless for a few nights.

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We had known we wanted to do the trademark.

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It was more,

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how fast can I get it registered?

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Right. Yeah.

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And some of that is timing too.

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Correct? You have to be in the market for a while

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before you can get that little beautiful our symbol.

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Yes. This has been really interesting in terms of marshmallow MBA,

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growth progress,

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things that you encountered,

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hopefully many people who start now won't encounter some of these

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crazy world things that you have.

Speaker:

Oh, let's hope.

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Yeah. So now I want to talk about the fact that

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you decided you needed to do some rebranding,

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Correct? Let's start with why,

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like when did you decide that that was something you needed

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to do and why?

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So four years in and will be six years old in

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March? I don't know if we talked about that.

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So about four years in when the original logo concept was

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Sandra's and it filled a niche that we needed to fill

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because we didn't have a logo And Hey,

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many people will start that way to just get some identity

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up and they'll create it themselves.

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That's very standard for people to do.

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And she was very,

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very wedded to the idea of having marshmallows in the logo

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design. And to be brutally honest,

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I was and continue to be so focused on the strategy

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and the product I'm like,

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yeah, whatever,

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go ahead.

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You know,

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sometimes you have to just give it up to God and

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let go.

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Part of being in a partnership too,

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I'll say,

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Right. It was not something I had any having come up

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with the name,

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you know,

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with Keith and I haven't come up with a name I'm

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like, yeah,

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whatever go have at it.

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So we had the little marshmallow mob of guys,

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which was perfectly fine,

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but as our customer demographic was changing,

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we didn't move into a premium product.

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We were recognized as a premium product,

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a luxury product,

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if you will,

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because it's gourmet marshmallows,

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a luxury price point.

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So we needed the brand to reflect that.

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So really we were probably three and a half,

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four years in and Sandra and I had talked about it

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back and forth.

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What did we want in the new brand?

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We did not hire someone to do the branding.

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We did not bring in a consultant for $12,000.

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It was brainstorming.

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And then it was a weekend,

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totally out of the kitchen where we worked through multiple designs

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and then crowdsourced them.

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We took it to people.

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We trusted,

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including you to vet the designs,

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to vet the options.

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After we had narrowed down and could not make a decision

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ourselves, it was too much back and forth.

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And then it was going to be me just throwing something

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at the wall and hoping it stuck.

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So we wanted to get other opinions on it.

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So we did.

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And so in July of 21 launched the new branding,

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which is what you see on the website,

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which is what you see on the labels.

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Now we stuck with corporate colors rather than a graphic image,

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which does go against trend.

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I'm not going to lie.

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We had folks who were like,

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no, there needs to be a picture.

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There needs to be a graphical representation,

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a graphic representation of the marshmallow.

Speaker:

And we just didn't want to do that again.

Speaker:

And so sticking with just a text based logo worked well

Speaker:

for us for right now,

Speaker:

you know,

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will it change again?

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Sure. Of course.

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Things all about,

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yeah. I expect that it might,

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especially with the way the company's evolving.

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Well, I have to say the colors you selected.

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I absolutely love,

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Oh, thank you.

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The black background,

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I'll be honest.

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I wasn't wedded to that,

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but it really pops against the product and that signature blue.

Speaker:

I love,

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we've also changed out some of our packaging to pick up

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colors in the logo.

Speaker:

Now we have a plan to use different color background,

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flipping the color of the text and the background on some

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limited edition products.

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That'll be how we use that.

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So it gives us flexibility.

Speaker:

We didn't have with the previous logo and it really is

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being well-received,

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it's definitely upscaled the packaging and how people perceive the products.

Speaker:

So we're happy with it.

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We're very happy with it.

Speaker:

Wonderful. And just to summarize what you had said,

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I mean,

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the real reason you felt you wanted to change was your

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customer changed.

Speaker:

You were no longer direct to consumer,

Speaker:

which your other logo worked wonderfully.

Speaker:

It was very playful and fun,

Speaker:

but it was definitely more retail,

Speaker:

consumer oriented,

Speaker:

I guess I would say.

Speaker:

And family-friendly focused.

Speaker:

Yeah. Well we do still have family friendly products.

Speaker:

A lot of our growth has been in some of the

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premium, happy hour flavors.

Speaker:

It is more of an adult product than it is a

Speaker:

kid product.

Speaker:

You did it for all the right reasons,

Speaker:

obviously. Well,

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I love that you included other opinions for everyone else.

Speaker:

If you're looking at changing a logo or you're just starting

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run it by some people.

Speaker:

And see,

Speaker:

I actually did that with my podcast logo.

Speaker:

When I changed it this past summer,

Speaker:

I went into gift biz breeze and asked everyone for their

Speaker:

opinion. I had like three or four different ones knowing I

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would like any of the ones they chose,

Speaker:

because how terrible would that be?

Speaker:

If someone like everyone was one and you're like,

Speaker:

yeah, I don't like that one.

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I'm not going to do it.

Speaker:

Well then why ask my opinion?

Speaker:

We don't like any of them.

Speaker:

Yeah. Oh,

Speaker:

well that would even be worse,

Speaker:

but it is good because you're getting other eyes sometimes you're

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just too close to things.

Speaker:

And that's exactly what happened after six hours of staring at

Speaker:

the same thing and just a tweak to the font or

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just a tweak.

Speaker:

It became untenable.

Speaker:

So, okay.

Speaker:

We have colleagues that we trust And we did a focus

Speaker:

group. We got on a zoom call and you presented,

Speaker:

I think you actually had a slide deck to,

Speaker:

you talked about the reasoning and what was happening.

Speaker:

I Was a consultant for how long?

Speaker:

Of course I had a slide deck.

Speaker:

Of Course you did.

Speaker:

Alright. So interesting on the branding,

Speaker:

I'm kind of squeezing in these last two topics because we

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talked so much about business development.

Speaker:

Anything else that you think we all need to know about

Speaker:

your experience with rebranding before we move on?

Speaker:

It's a challenge,

Speaker:

but you know,

Speaker:

it's an opportunity to use a different side of your brain.

Speaker:

So even if you think you don't want to be creative

Speaker:

that way,

Speaker:

and then you don't have the time to do it,

Speaker:

it actually allowed us to look at more than just the

Speaker:

branding. It allowed us to consider packaging options.

Speaker:

It allowed us to consider our customers and going forward,

Speaker:

who we want our customers to be.

Speaker:

All of these things influence the branding.

Speaker:

So your whole strategy behind where you were taking the business,

Speaker:

you were forward-thinking with that because you wanted the new logo

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to fit in with what your future vision is.

Speaker:

Correct. All right.

Speaker:

Wonderful. And the idea of the fact that you could open

Speaker:

your mind to new packaging and all that is great as

Speaker:

well. So new branding to me is kind of like when

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you move into a new house,

Speaker:

you get to decide where everything is going to sit and

Speaker:

fit and what cupboards and all of that.

Speaker:

It's kind of like that when you're rebranding to what products

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still fit with the brand,

Speaker:

where are we going in the future?

Speaker:

Who is our customer?

Speaker:

Like who do we invite over to our house?

Speaker:

You know,

Speaker:

that kind of thing just gives you an open platform to

Speaker:

re-look at everything.

Speaker:

I think if everybody's on the same page,

Speaker:

there's an opportunity for that.

Speaker:

I think I'll leave it there.

Speaker:

Okay. Well,

Speaker:

I think the more people you have in the business who

Speaker:

have the ability to speak and guide the vision,

Speaker:

it's always more challenging when it's not just you.

Speaker:

Yes. And so you have to just figure and work through

Speaker:

that. And it takes more time when you have multiple opinions,

Speaker:

it's always more challenging pros and cons to partnerships other eyes.

Speaker:

And as you get bigger,

Speaker:

bigger departments in your business,

Speaker:

More to come on that front.

Speaker:

Yeah. Your job kind of changes too,

Speaker:

but let's not go there.

Speaker:

The other thing I really want to talk with you about

Speaker:

Amy, that I don't know anything about.

Speaker:

So I am going to be learning this with everybody else

Speaker:

is the Amazon smiles program.

Speaker:

What it's about what you saw as the benefit to integrating

Speaker:

it in for marshmallow MBA.

Speaker:

So take it away.

Speaker:

Tell us about that.

Speaker:

Sure. So the background on it is corporate social responsibility has

Speaker:

been part of our business from day one.

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That was what I hung my hat on in business school

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when I got my MBA.

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And I think it is so,

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so critical.

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And that means to me being a good partner in your

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community locally,

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regionally, nationally,

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our business reflects who we are,

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small businesses reflect their owners.

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And so it was important to me to be a good

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steward of resources and be giving back to the community.

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However we can,

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we do it in a few ways.

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One of those ways is the Amazon smile program,

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which allows you.

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When you make a purchase on Amazon,

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you use,

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instead of just going to amazon.com,

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you go to smile.amazon.com

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and the smile program donates a percentage.

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Now to be fair,

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it is less than 1% for some of the donations,

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but it donates a percentage of your spending back to a

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nonprofit that you choose.

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We try and source locally as much as we can,

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but you know,

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I'm not to lie.

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Sometimes Amazon's the way to go.

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If I know I can get it in a day and

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I've been a member of Amazon prime for 20 years.

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So it's not like this is something new.

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The smile program is at least 10 years old and it

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covers thousands of non-profits.

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Whether you're talking about a local church,

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whether you are looking at planned parenthood,

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you can donate either to nationally or you can donate to

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your local facility.

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You can donate to animal rescue organizations,

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child welfare organizations.

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If you go to smile.amazon.com

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there's information on there,

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how you register for that,

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and really you register one time and that's it.

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You're done.

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You make your purchases the same as you'd normally make them

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Amazon takes care of the donation.

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Okay. So if I were just to go to amazon.com

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and search for marshmallows,

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would marshmallow MBA come up or only if I go to

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the smiles program?

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So neither one.

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So this has nothing to do with our brand.

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This has to do with our purchasing on Amazon,

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with what we purchase for business or personal use to full

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transparency. We are not selling on Amazon.

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Okay. I thought this was a portion of the proceeds of

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a sale,

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but this is where you're going and purchasing inventory product.

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Maybe it's equipment that you're using in your production facility,

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shoot paper,

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towels, Any of that.

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So given that we all should be purchasing things like that

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from Amazon,

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you know,

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if it can go back to a charity,

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If it can go back to a charity,

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if you're going to go to another retailer and buy it,

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if you're going to go to a big box store and

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buy it,

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you might look at Amazon first.

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Yeah. I'm not saying take away from small business purchase it.

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No. And neither yet neither would.

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This is an easy way.

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When I stopped having a weekly paycheck,

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I stopped having automatic withdrawals.

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When I was a consultant.

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You know,

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my paycheck comes in.

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I was donating to the combined federal campaign.

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I was donating to nonprofits directly.

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My paycheck came in and there was an automatic withdrawal that

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would go to a nonprofit,

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depending on who it was at the time I was donating

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to probably seven to 10 different charities annually.

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I've cut back on that a little.

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I'm not going to lie,

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but we make in kind donations of product to different nonprofits.

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We probably get six or eight requests a month for product.

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And we help where we can.

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We make at least one a month.

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We try to do up to four a quarter.

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So we're doing up to 16 in any given year of

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in kind donations.

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And they can be silent auction donations,

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that type of thing.

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But with Amazon,

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when we're making purchases of products that we need and gift

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bags, a pop-up event,

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or we have something we're going to make a bunch of

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sales calls.

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And I happened to not keep track of inventory and I

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need 25 bags.

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I'm going to do it on Amazon.

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Yeah. Because you've already set up how that's going to work.

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So it's connected with your account.

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And so anything that you're purchasing then,

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and you still go to smile.amazon.com

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right. To make the purchase.

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Right. Correct.

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And it'll ask you,

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so say you are on Google and there's something on there.

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I don't know.

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We'll stick with paper towels and it's paper towels on Amazon.

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When, if you would just click on that main link on

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your search page.

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When you go to Amazon,

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if you are registered with the smile program,

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it will prompt you.

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Do you want to go to this product on the smile.amazon.com

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page? Okay.

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And is the product then more expensive when you buy it?

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It is the same price.

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So the money is not coming off of you.

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It's coming off of something.

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Well, margin,

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like, I don't know what I think it is coming off

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of. Amazon's proceeds.

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So even though the donation is made in your name,

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cause at the end of the year,

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you get a little statement,

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you know,

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your purchases have resulted in X,

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hundreds, thousands of millions of dollars back to the charity of

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your choice.

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Okay. So I'm going to say this.

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I'm thinking this all through.

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Okay. So no,

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we do not want to take business from other small businesses

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and purchase on Amazon.

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What we can purchase from a neighboring business who needs our

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orders to keep running.

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So that's not the point.

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I want to say that right from the start.

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But if there are things that you have to buy,

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like bags Amy are talking about,

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or like I'm thinking like skewer sticks,

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Which are actually more expensive on Amazon than they are from

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my local retailer.

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Okay. All right.

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Well Labels So bad,

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Like bags,

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tape, even things that you just need for shipping.

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But let me follow through with all of this too.

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And this is one of the things I talk about with

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people when we're talking about costing your product and what the

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cost of goods are,

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cost of goods also includes the cost of shipping the product

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to you or you jumping in the car having to drive.

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So that's a little bit of gas and that's clearly time.

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And the time value of money needs to be factored into

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your price,

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Right? So if you are an Amazon prime customer,

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you get free shipping and you go to the smile program

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and byproducts again,

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not taking away from smaller businesses,

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but these bigger bulk products that you need.

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Right. Correct.

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That is where you're getting the value because it's getting shipped

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to you.

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You're not having to take the time.

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And you're also giving to a cause of your own choice.

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We have found that some of our suppliers,

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I wouldn't put them in the small business category.

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I would definitely put them in the medium sized business category,

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but we have found that they are selling on Amazon and

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we're normally I would pay for shipping on their website.

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I can get it through Amazon free shipping and get it

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in a day because where we are,

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most of our orders are there the next day.

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And price is,

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if it is usually we use a buck 50 to two

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50 as the benchmark for us,

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maybe we say,

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so say three to 5% kind of thing.

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But when you factor in your gas and your time,

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and it's been the time factor,

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that's been the more critical thing,

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honestly, for us,

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if we were going to drive for something or if it

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was going to take five days to get to us,

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you're going to sometimes that one to $5 and knowing that

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I'm giving back,

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that makes a huge difference For sure.

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Are they promoting this program very much?

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It doesn't sound like it.

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So they were for a while and now I will occasionally

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get a teaser email about it,

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but I haven't seen one in a long time.

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Usually it's the nonprofits themselves that are promoting it.

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Okay. Makes sense.

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Well, this is interesting.

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I didn't know about the program at all.

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And Mike,

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everybody, I used to not be an Amazon shopper very much.

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And now,

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you know,

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again, when it's bulk things,

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I'm using it all the time.

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Look, you know what our you line,

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where we buy all of our boxes for the ribbon print

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company, right?

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Like now you can't even pick up anymore.

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And shipping literally hundreds and hundreds of boxes is a disaster.

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If you go to my Instagram account,

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which is marshmallow MBA,

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cause I'm so creative,

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there are videos of us throwing our you line catalog off

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the back porch of the offices.

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I can't tell you the number of times I have called,

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I have emailed.

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I have texted.

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I have messaged do not include a catalog in our shipment,

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but really do not send me a separate catalog because I

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don't need five catalogs.

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Not every person who works for the company needs their own

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copy of the catalog every two months.

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Right? And I don't need to be paying $65 in shipping

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when five pounds of it is that catalog,

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Right? That was my tangent.

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Well, I agree with You.

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We're trying to start a viral movement.

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We'd love to start a viral movement of people flinging their

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Ulan, catalogs out their front door,

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off the mailbox.

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I mean,

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as much as I have loved you line.

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And I think the quality of their products is best.

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The catalogs have to go.

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They could save so much money on those catalogs,

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not only printing but shipping And those are expensive,

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that glossy full color,

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heavy paper Point taken.

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Well, this has been so interesting and we did get all

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of our topics covered.

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I wanted to talk about the progress of the business,

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which I'm more proud of you than I can even say,

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like having seen you in the beginning and where you come

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being part of some of the conversations that include struggles.

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Cause that's part of growing a business.

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We all know.

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And then your rebranding and understanding about the Amazon smile program,

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all of that.

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It's exactly what I wanted to talk about today.

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So Amy,

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thank you so,

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so much for coming on,

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being honest,

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giving us your little sideline commentary that really gives us a

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peek into what's going on and all of the wisdom.

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I appreciate it.

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And I appreciate you being a champion for as long as

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you have been.

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I love having our friendship.

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So that's also one of the good things that's come out

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of marshmallow MBA,

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more to come,

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certainly this year,

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lots of things happening,

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and I'll be excited to share those with you going forward.

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Oh, I can't wait.

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Well, wonderful Amy,

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thank you again so much.

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I continue to be inspired and impressed by Amy's strategic savvy,

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the changes she's made to marshmallow MBA,

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position it for even more explosive growth in the years ahead.

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How does this apply to you?

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Use her as an example,

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observe the responses you're getting online and it shows and think

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through as emotionless as possible,

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what it means and what you should do next to get

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the results you're after.

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Sometimes it's just a tweaker too.

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That can change everything before you move on to your next

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activity today.

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Make sure to get your name on the list for this.

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Monday is a gift biz bash.

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You can also see all the dates for April and may

Speaker:

and get signed up@giftbizonwrapped.com

Speaker:

forward slash bash up next Saturday.

Speaker:

It's all about Pinterest.

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Again, call this Pinterest 2.0

Speaker:

where we go past account set up and pinning and into

Speaker:

some of the really cool things that you can do here.

Speaker:

I become more and more impressed with Pinterest.

Speaker:

The more I learn if you're enjoying this show and would

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like to show support,

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you can visit my merch shop for a wide variety of

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inspirational items.

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There are mugs t-shirts water bottles and more featuring logos images

Speaker:

and quotes to inspire you throughout your day makes a great

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gift to,

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and we've just added some brand new products to the shop.

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I've found turnaround to be quick.

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And the product is top-notch take a look at all the

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options over at gift biz,

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unwrapped.com forward slash shop all proceeds.

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When you purchase any of these items,

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booze to help offset the cost of me producing this show

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and now be safe and well.

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And I'll see you again.

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Next time for the gift biz unwrapped podcast.

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I want to make sure you're familiar with my free Facebook

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group called gift is breeze.

Speaker:

It's a place where we all gather and our community to

Speaker:

support each other.

Speaker:

Got a really fun post in there.

Speaker:

That's my favorite of the week.

Speaker:

I have to say where I invite all of you to

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share what you're doing to show pictures of your product,

Speaker:

to show what you're working on for the week to get

Speaker:

reaction from other people and just for fun,

Speaker:

because we all get to see the wonderful products that everybody

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in the community is making my favorite post every single week,

Speaker:

without doubt.

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Wait, what aren't you part of the group already,

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if not make sure to jump over to Facebook and search

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for the group gift biz breeze don't delay.