Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Hass, Founders of Earth and Star
From Blueprint Cleanse to Medicinal Mushroom Beverage company, Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Hass created yet another wellness business, using their know how to look at the white space industry and go for it. They started the juice cleanse craze and ultimately sold The Blueprint Cleanse. Both Zoe and Erica are continuously learning and consider themselves wellness gurus, and they once again saw white space in the medicinal mushroom industry. They jumped at the opportunity and started a company, Earth and Star, that uses the immune-supporting adaptogenic mushrooms in the consumer’s daily routines through ready-to-drink lattes, coffees, and chocolate. With Earth and Star, the two entrepreneurs successfully launched a product to make functional mushrooms as accessible and delicious as possible to the masses, emphasizing the benefits of supporting immunity, energy, and focus when integrated into a daily routine.
Please tune in to hear how they make starting two consumer product companies look easy, how they compete with the big guys, how they grew their company without outside investments, and why trial and error is part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Find Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss and The Earth and Star
- The Wellness Business Called
- Pioneering in Juicing To Make It Accessible
- Achieving National Distribution in 5 Years
- Continuing To Learn and Adapt
- Figuring Out Optimal Business Partnering
- Functional Mushrooms as Wellness Solution
- Finding the White Space
- Naming Some Challenges
- Words of Advice
- Different Gender Approaches to The Wellness Business
Mimi: Hi, welcome back to The Badass CEO. This is Mimi. Today, we have Erica Hass and Zoe Sakoutis, who are the co-founders of Earth and Star, a functional mushroom company that brings the immune supporting benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms into the daily routines of the consumer through ready-to-drink lattes, coffees, and chocolate. As the founders of BluePrint Cleanse, the duo has a proven track record of success in the wellness space, successful scaling, and taking it from infancy to sale in just five years without any outside investment.
Mimi: With Earth and Star, the two entrepreneurs successfully conceptualized a way to make functional mushrooms accessible and delicious as possible to the masses, emphasizing the benefits of supporting immunity, energy, and focus when integrated into a daily routine. You can find Earth and Star either online or in various grocery stores around the country. Erewhon is one of them in Los Angeles.
The Wellness Business Called
Erica and Zoe, thank you so much for coming on. I’m so excited, because you guys are true entrepreneurs. You guys have started companies together, and I’m excited to talk about your latest venture. First, let’s just dive into where did you guys first meet?
Zoe: We met the old fashioned way, in a bar in New York City, about a billion years ago. I think maybe 20 now. I don’t know, something like that.
Erica: Actually 20.
Zoe: We were both in the, you know, slinging drinks at a very trendy spot.
Mimi: Then you guys decided that night to go into business together, or how did you decide to do your cleanse company?
Zoe: We looked at each other from across the room. It’s like, “Do you like juice?” No. Erica, I’ll let you tell it.
Erica: It was a longer journey than that. We were both working in bars and night life for a couple of years, trying to kind of also figure out our individual directions and where we were wanting to actually go next. I myself actually ended up falling a little bit in love with the hospitality industry and wanted to kind of learn the ins and outs of it. Whether it was bar and restaurant management, I worked all different positions. I worked in food TV. I worked in and ended up a few years into that journey, working actually in food PR.
Zoe and I were friends throughout that course, and she was actually finishing college and pursuing a communications path, and writing and editing and all of that world. At the same time, simultaneously also just as a lifestyle decision was a raw foodist. Really kind of diving deep into understanding the whole world of healing through food. She had done a course at the Ann Wigmore Institute to really kind of develop her whole understanding of nutritional healing.
Erica: I think I would say that was the light bulb moment, was like, “This is actually something that everybody should benefit from.” You shouldn’t have to kind of take a time out in your whole life just to heal yourself or optimize your health through better nutritional choices. The idea for this cleanse program kind of took shape, I suppose. The blueprint was created during that time.
We were in touch and hanging out and kind of talking about this idea and what she was doing. Actually, it was in Darien, Connecticut that she had kind of done a little bit of the initial testing with some women who were … You might have been one of them, or you might have been friends with one of them.
Zoe: Are you familiar with the Ann Wigmore Institute?
Mimi: No, I’m familiar with the other one. What’s the guy? They had the two of them, they’re husband and wife. They were, and now he has an LA institute where he cooks raw food.
Erica: No, are you talking about Matthew Kenny?
Mimi: Yes. Great restaurant downtown. Pure, was it Pure?
Zoe: Yeah. They shut down. Didn’t end well. … the raw, that world, man. It got really wacky.
Mimi: It did. I know, there’s a whole backstory to that, but we can leave that for another podcast.
Zoe: That would be a fun. We would have a very small audience, but that would be a fun episode to do.
Mimi: Yes, because I actually know her ex. I don’t know, there was a whole backstory.
Zoe: So the Ann Wigmore Institute is this really fascinating place that’s been around forever. It’s Ann Wigmore, this woman who kind of pioneered this idea of raw food. Sort of wheat grass therapy, all this stuff. It’s really, really extreme, and she has this institute in Puerto Rico called the Ann Wigmore Institute. It is where mostly terminal people go, as a last ditch effort. It’s kind of remarkable to see what happens there. I mean, people truly arrive with cancer and leave without it.
Pioneering in Juicing To Make It Accessible
Erica: I mean, it’s amazing how the food is-
Mimi: It’s a medicine. It really is. That’s why, just to put perspective for people who are listening. When you guys started this BluePrint Cleanse, there was nothing like green drinks that there is today. People think of, “Oh, whatever.” It wasn’t. You guys were pioneers.
Mimi: At the time, I remember doing it in Darien, picking it up. Who was it? Who-
Zoe: Kim Walsh?
Mimi: Kim Walsh, okay. I remember buying it from her, and my friends were like, “What? You haven’t eaten in seven days?” They’re like, that just was not normal back then.
Erica: The thing is that, I mean, we said it at the time. We say it now because it actually pertains to our current business, which is, it did exist. It just didn’t exist in a way that actually made it accessible. Right? I mean, we didn’t invent green juice. You can go to any kind of juice bar, health food store.
Mimi: No one was doing that.
Erica: Back in the corner, where somebody has the juicer.
Mimi: Right, the co-op.
Erica: Yeah. Exactly, and stand there and wait 30 minutes for one container of juice to be pressed for you. The idea here was really just, how do we make this accessible? How do we make it a little sexier, because it’s definitely not something that should be excluded just for a vegetarian, vegan, raw community. This is something that can benefit everybody. It’s just that people don’t know about it, because it’s been sort of sidelined in this weird little health food store of the ’70s image.
Mimi: Right. How long did you guys do that for?
Zoe: In 2000, so, this is how early it was. In 2006 is when the sort of, I guess you would call it like, the pilot happened. Over that year, I snuck into a juice bar. Managed to take it over. Someone you definitely know. Tested on all these women, so that was a good, long summer of beta testing the cleanse program. Serving it up to this group of women in Darien, Connecticut. They kind of kept coming back for more.
Zoe: It was tweaked. By the end of that year, it was like, “Okay, we need a kitchen. Need a true staff.” We, I think, officially launched in, I would say early 2007 in our own kind of way. Another thing that people forget is that there was no Amazon in the way it exists now then. There was no social media then.
Erica: There wasn’t even a lot of shopping online.
Mimi: Direct to consumer was not a phrase that people used.
Zoe: No, so, we did a direct consumer locally in New York City. We were basically producing everything ourself in this commercial kitchen downtown. Literally hopping in zip cars and driving it around and delivering it to our early adopters at their door. Then, we scaled over the course of the next couple of years. We built out a bigger facility. We built out two kitchens. Long Island City. We expanded to direct consumer. We were shipping nationally.
Zoe: We really just kind of figured it out as we went, especially the build out piece of it. I mean, right now, if you wanted to start a juice company, you could outsource it very easily. There was no co-packer. They didn’t know what the hell we were doing. We were, again, kind of designing the blueprint. We were our own co-packer. We were doing everything. Almost soup to nuts.
Mimi: Right. You did that for how many more years?
Achieving National Distribution in 5 Years
Erica: That was five years before we sold. We scaled it up over the course of five years into national distribution.
Erica: Entered retail with Whole Foods, who actually came to us and was like, “Whatever it is that you’re doing, we need to have it on the shelves, because we have all of these moms in Tribeca that are coming in and demanding why we don’t carry your stuff.” The end of year five was when we were acquired by Hain Celestial, and then we stayed on for another year and a half or so. All in, it was just about seven years for us.
Mimi: That’s great. That’s great you guys were sold. Did you at any point in time have to raise money? Or did you-
Mimi: … Finance it yourself?
Erica: We never did, which again, in retrospect, completely unprecedented. I think now, having these conversations, there were a lot of firsts that we were sort of vaguely aware of at the time. Probably a good thing that we didn’t necessarily spend time celebrating our own pioneering. No, we never took on any outside capital until we sold.
Mimi: That’s amazing.
Zoe: I mean, it’s kind of why there are so many competitors, right? It’s like, it’s a very, very easy, low barrier to entry model. Anybody can kind of jump in, if you have a little bit of equipment, a little startup, you know, whatever raw materials. It’s kind of like, we say it’s sort of drug dealer model. We get the money before we make the juice. It is very self starting in that way.
Mimi: It’s not like you have inventory coming from China that takes two months that you’re holding the-
Mimi: … The financial burden. That’s great. Okay, then you stopped. You guys give yourself a break, or did you guys then decide, “Okay, what are we doing next? Let’s start our next company.”
Zoe: We gave ourselves a little bit of a break. We took a couple of months away, and I guess longer than that. I had a couple of kids. We both sort of looked around. It just, I don’t know. We were kind of trying to figure out a way to stay involved, stay relevant. I ended up doing a couple of things independently. Erica did a few thing. We were kind of involved in dabbling in different areas, all in the sort of wellness space.
Zoe: No, I mean, I think we really enjoy working together. We’re very complimentary in so many ways. We had one business that was sort of a false start. We’re not afraid to talk about our failures. Not every idea-
Mimi: Which is good, because sometimes you interview people. Everyone makes it look so easy.
Continuing To Learn and Adapt
Mimi: Sometimes you got to bring back the curtain and be like, “No, no, no, no. There were a lot of failures, a lot of missed things. A lot of events I couldn’t go to for my kids,” or whatever.
Zoe: Yeah. For sure.
Mimi: Well, what was your failure? We’d love to hear the failure.
Zoe: Okay, yeah, sure.
Mimi: I’m just kidding.
Zoe: We, no. I think it’s all, it’s just learning.
Mimi: No, it is. It’s not a failure, right?
Zoe: Let’s see. I think I was pregnant with my first kid. We had this idea for a functional food. It was taking traditional multivitamin or prenatal vitamin and putting it in food form. I mean, it sounds very basic, but there was really nothing out there that existed beyond gummies or pills.
Erica: There was nothing that was a true substitute. It was like, you could have this vitamin infused product that was food oriented, but it wasn’t a full swap.
Zoe: Yeah. There wasn’t a complete vitamin in food form. We worked for a good, I don’t know, year and a half. Spent a lot of time and money and R and D and legal, and all the rest to figure out this magical formula that would allow us to get an adequate dose of vitamins in this food form, which was very complicated from a regulatory standpoint.
Mimi: I know, because I invested in another company. We did the same thing, and we pivoted.
Zoe: Yeah. Pivot is smart in this case. We created this beautiful brand. We started the investor conversations way too late. We invested too much of our own money. We tried to raise a bit of money, and everyone was just like, “It’s great. Great idea. Love the brand. Looks like some real white space. Let us know when you have some traction, and then we can talk.”
Zoe: It’s sort of like, “No, well, this model is very, it’s a heavy lift.” There was a lot of inventory. The opposite of BluePrint, right? We were just like, we had a full chain order from Target. I mean, it wasn’t like people weren’t responding well. It just, at the end of the day when we got to a certain point, it was just a risk level that we weren’t comfortable with financially. We weren’t comfortable continuing to invest our own money, because again, this is very inventory heavy.
Mimi: Yeah. Cash intensive.
Zoe: So we just said, “You know what? Let’s just time out here. Let’s put the brakes on this. Let’s put this beautiful little brand on the shelf. Maybe there will be an opportunity down the road to have a conversation with a much larger, like Kellogg or Danone or something, that can take this and just sort of drop it into their huge network, in which case it would make sense.” It wasn’t sort of a startup, boot strappy kind of model. It just wasn’t going to work that way.
Zoe: We were, thank god, wise enough to stop the bleeding when we did. We moved on.
Figuring Out Optimal Business Partnering
Mimi: I have a question to ask you guys, just because I think having partners and partner issues is a big … That’s one of the number one reasons why companies don’t succeed, is because there’s a lot of partner conflict, or things turn out not the way people think. I guess my question for you guys is, was there ever a conflict? If so, if you guys, like for example, if one of you wants to continue and one doesn’t, who ultimately gets the decision? How did you guys decide? Did you decide early on, “I get the override,” or you kind of just, you guys both work with each other until you both come to the same conclusion?
Zoe: I think, I mean, I won’t speak for you, E. I feel like we, I don’t know. I think we kind of pride ourselves on being A, reasonable, and B, just not sort of tripping over our own egos. I think that there’s oftentimes, it does get in the way. I think we’ve done a good job communicating around that, identifying it. I don’t know. It’s not like we had some really hard language in our operating agreement that said … We may have had some kind of very vague arbiter, a third party would come in. We named the type of person that would be, and maybe we had a list of who those people might be.
Zoe: It was pretty loose, and I have to say, we’ve never butted heads to …
Erica: I mean, I think more specifically even, in the scenario that you just outlined, Mimi, because it’s actually interesting. It’s never gotten to that point where we had to A, even lay down the framework that says, “If we get to X point, then this person gets to kind of make the last call.” I think partly because, to what Zoe was saying, we’re very in tune with each other anyway. We’ve been friends … Longer than we’ve been working together. We definitely know how to read each other. I can get a text message from Zoe and just be able to tell by the punctuation what’s going on with her day.
Erica: I think that that serves us, because it’s like, it’s never going to get to that point where we’re in completely different places with how we’re looking at something, because we’re kind of in check all the way through. When she’s feeling uneasy about something, either I am also, or if I’m not, I can kind of check in with that and say, “Okay, let’s work this out.” Then, the same goes in the reverse.
Erica: I think we’ve been lucky in that a lot of times … I was actually just having this conversation. The challenges that we still are riding out today, oftentimes one of us is taking it hard while the other one is a little bit more grounded. Then, vice versa.
Mimi: It’s like being married.
Erica: Yeah. It is, it is a marriage. I mean, this is the longest relationship I’ve ever had.
Erica: The only days that are really hard are the days that we’re both kind of feeling real crap about something.
Erica: Everybody has those days, too.
Deciding who’s in charge
Mimi: You guys early on said, “Okay,” you delineated whose responsibility for what. You kind of know? I mean, I assume one of you is like, “Hey, I’m in charge of social media,” or “I’m in charge of finance.”
Erica: Again, it’s never really been that deliberate and specific. We definitely have our areas that we gravitate to, but then we also have a lot of areas where we overlap. We work very well together. We used to get that question all the time. Like, “Well, who’s in charge of what?” It’s like, “Well, I’m in charge of myself, and Zoe’s in charge of herself.” There’s some places that it’s actually beneficial to have two heads, and then other places that we just kind of naturally have that propensity.
Mimi: That’s great, because I think most people don’t have that flow to be able to do that. I mean, obviously it’s worked with you guys.
Functional Mushrooms as Wellness Solution
When did you guys decide to start the medicinal mushroom company?
Erica: That was, it started to kind of, I guess, bubble up at the end of 2018, and 2019 was really when we started getting really serious about it. We were both using functional mushrooms just as our own wellness solution for different reasons. Really finding that it wasn’t so much that we were sitting around like, “Hm, what are we going to invent next?” It was really a product of, again, kind of identifying some white space, which is functional mushrooms are already out in the market. It’s not something that we just discovered, or that no one knows about.
Mimi: You were using another brand, or were you making your own, okay.
Erica: We were using other brands, and primarily, it was a powder. It was like an instant drink mix packet. Something that required a little bit of work, that was a little bit annoying. Then, the end result was not super delicious. The only other alternative was another pill, and I think everybody understands supplement fatigue. People who are in the wellness business more than anybody, because we try everything.
Erica: It was like, “Okay, let’s kind of break this down. What’s missing here is an actually enjoyable product that is delicious to consume but also has all of that benefit.” That’S where we kind of said, “Okay, we’re just going to start with beverage, because that’s what we know.” It doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to beverage. It’s just a good place to start.
Zoe: There was no beverage. Obviously, there was nothing like ready-to-drink or convenient, so it also felt conveniently like something we’re familiar with. Plus, there was actual white space.
Mimi: Because I didn’t really ever knew that there was a mushroom drink before you guys.
Zoe: No. There’s nothing that’s … I think what we are trying to do with this platform is, this isn’t a beverage company. It’s a mushroom company. I mean, we want to find the everyday products and elevate them with functional mushrooms. Literally, we’re starting with a line of beverages, but we have a line of chocolate bars coming out. We keep going. Yeah.
Mimi: That’s awesome. Now, when you decided to start that, was finding the supply chain, where you find mushrooms and the best quality, did you guys already know how to do all that? Or you had the suppliers? Was that just research?
Zoe: That’s just research, definitely. Yeah. I think like anything, once you get into this world of co-manufacturing, it’s really hard to … I mean, everybody is very, very protective of their information.
Finding the White Space
Mimi: Yes, that’s where I get … It’s kind of like the tennis lessons out in LA. You can’t find whoever a tennis coach is, because it’s so proprietary.
Zoe: How selfish, guys.
Mimi: Oh my gosh, it’s crazy.
Zoe: So, I was about to start talking about tennis because you could have a show on that, too.so, it’s very proprietary, right? I mean, I think it’s just like, you take every advantage you can, because as soon as you’re onto a good idea and there’s actually some white space and it feels truly innovative, you have to assume that you’ve got a six-month runway before someone-
Mimi: Somebody else is, yeah.
Zoe: Exact same thing. I’m sure we’re going to have plenty of neighbors on the shelf by tomorrow.
Mimi: What do you do? You make this brand, and you’re like, “Hey, Whole Foods, we’re back,”?
Zoe: Whole Foods isn’t even Whole Foods anymore. It’s Amazon.
Erica: I wish it was that easy.
Mimi: You can’t even call.
Zoe: It’s a very different world now. We would love to think that we’ve got this leverage and connections and network and all of these old distributors and all these strong relationships that we can tap. Honestly, it is such a different world.
Mimi: Where are you distributing now? Is it direct to consumer, or are you trying to get into grocery stores?
Erica: We started direct to consumer last summer, and then really just the early part of this year, we started a retail rollout. We’re at Erewhon. We’re in a handful of stores in Southern California. We’re in about 100 plus stores in the New York area. We are in all of the Foxtrot stores throughout Chicago, and they’ve expanded into Texas and D.C. We’ve got another couple locations in Texas, so we’re kind of, it’s pretty targeted and very specific because we understand that this is … A product that really needs to be amplified by its early adopters first. Then, kind of spread to the masses.
Erica: The goal in our mind is, this is a mass product. This is something that … The fascinating and exciting thing about mushrooms is that there are so many of them. There are so many benefits associated with each one that there really is something for everybody. The tricky thing is like, you can’t actually be everything to everybody, but when you do have a product that can benefit so many different use cases, there’s kind of unlimited opportunity there.
Mimi: Because there’s white space, was it difficult when you were calling Erewhon or any of these other retailers that you talked to? Or were they excited to try something new? Was it easier, or did you have … Sales people that did it for you?
Zoe: We definitely don’t have sales people.
Mimi: You guys were making the phone calls to Erewhon.
Zoe: We’re a very skeleton staff.so, the nice thing about this space is that, unlike BluePrint in 2006, people are familiar. There are brands out there that are selling functional mushrooms. There’s a lot of awareness, at least in these circles, but we didn’t have to do the sort of insane amount of educating around what it is that we’re doing. We’re like, “Oh, we took that and that, and put it in a can. It’s super delicious and convenient.”
Zoe: It was like, there already had awareness of certain things that were in the market and were doing well. Basically, all we had to say was, “You know that thing that’s doing, we made it better and more convenient.” It’s good. It’s not been that difficult, I have to say. For the retailers that actually get it, like Erewhons. It’s so obvious.
Erica: The bigger hurdle is convincing the average consumer that it’s actually as delicious as we promise it is, because that’s the one thing that, you know, you can’t taste it through the internet. You have to find it in store if you want to try one can, or you have to kind of take a leap and order a case of it from our website. I mean, we have 100% hit rate in terms of the response once you actually try it. Because it’s daunting: Mushrooms, the word is a bit triggering. It’s polarizing for people, because they don’t understand that functional mushrooms have nothing to do with portobello mushrooms. If you think you don’t like them, then you’re kind of weirded out by whatever we’re telling you is in this can. The reality is, it’s an extract. You know what I mean? They have nothing to do with each other.
Erica: We pride ourselves on having exceptionally high standards when it comes to flavor profile. It was the same reason that BluePrint was as well received as it was, because we made something that people were kind of weirded out by taste really good. It was actually craveable, and so that was the same standard that we set when we were doing the R and D with this product, which ended up taking a really long time because of our exacting standards.
Naming Some Challenges
Mimi: That’s good. Over the past 20 years of your entrepreneurial journey in the wellness business, what would you say has been the most difficult or challenging thing for you guys?
Zoe: Over the past 20 years?
Mimi: You know, because you’ve started now three companies.
Zoe: You know what? I’m going to, it’s a very easy answer for me.
Mimi: What is that?
Zoe: It’s only happened recently. Fundraising. That’s it. I mean, we had a business that pioneered an entire category. Created a huge category, not even just with cold pressed juice but the sort of indirect categories that were created, not like we had a hand, but I guess I’m just trying to sort of paint the picture of the scope of it. You know, like HPP, co-manufacturers. It really created a giant lane. We bootstrapped it, and we sold it. We did well and all the rest.
Zoe: Once we did go out and start our fundraising efforts quite recently, every single person, and a lot of them we knew from BluePrint because they were potentially going, at the very end … To partner with us, but we went the acquisition route. We had this sort of network, so we thought, “Okay, well, we’ve got a successful business under our belts. We’ve got this sort of network. This is going to be so easy.”
Zoe: This space that we’re entering now is already proven. We’re just improving upon it. We’re checking all these boxes. We’re ahead of the curve on all this.
Mimi: Right, yeah.
Challenge of pitching to male investors
Zoe: Literally, every investor has been like, “Oh, let us know. With your track record, you guys aren’t going to have any problem raising money. Check in in about six months to a year.” I mean, it’s insane.
Erica: Once you have some traction, once, you know, it’s always this kind of destination bias. We’ve, from day one, to Zoe’s point, we check all the boxes that we’ll be asked to check as a startup.I mean, I agree. It’s been the biggest challenge. It’s been an enormous time suck. I think it’s been the biggest test of our fortitude and our just … I mean, it’s an ego shattering experience. It’s all of those things.
Mimi: Well, you know what they say. For every hundred pitches, you’ll be lucky to even get one response.
Erica: We’re at about a hundred.
Mimi: And that’s usually what it’s about. No, it’s like a hundred to one or something. Definitely less than 10%. Way less than 10%.
Mimi: Unfortunately, that’s just the way I think it is. You know? It’s interesting, because I feel like it’s probably mostly men that you’re pitching to, I would assume. They don’t tend to … I think it’s less than 10%, even less than that. I think it’s 2% of women that … They invest in, but the funny thing is, we double their investment. For every women invested, they get a double return. I don’t know why they don’t see the correlation.
Zoe: I don’t get it. I don’t get it.
Mimi: They probably aren’t the ones that are super healthy, drinking medicinal mushrooms.
Erica: No, but their wives often are.
Erica: It’s every conversation is like, “Oh, my wife is really into this product.”
Mimi: But they don’t connect the dots.
Mimi: I don’t know why. Right?
Zoe: Well, that’s also just, yeah, it’s somewhat insulting, too. It’s like, “Oh, this is cute. Let me see if my wife likes it.” It’s just like, “Oh, what are we talking about? I’m sorry.”
Mimi: Like you should do it. That’s the one thing with my husband. He has been great. I went to IIN in, I don’t know, 12 years ago, 15 years ago. He was a total steak guy, whatever. He is healthier than I am now. He’s like, “You really shouldn’t be eating that.” I’m like, “Back off.” He is literally the healthier one. Takes his vitamins. He’ll like your drink, so I’m like, “Okay, I got to get him this,” because he is all about the kombucha and everything.
Zoe: Is IIN still going?
Mimi: Yes. It’s all online, though.
Zoe: Oh, yeah.
Mimi: I was the last in person class. I think that was in 2008, maybe, or something. Anyway, so what advice would you give, just so we can wrap this up, for anybody who is thinking about going into … You guys are in a very difficult space, too. It’s very crowded. Not what your specific thing is, but in general [crosstalk 00:29:32] consumer product, yeah.
Erica: Beverage is just crazy.
Words of Advice
Mimi: Just getting on a shelf in a grocery store. What advice would you give somebody?
Erica: I mean, it’s not necessarily what we didn’t know so much as what we learned just by trial, which is going back to the earlier point that we made about keeping the ego in check. That’s not necessarily something that you can opt to do, if you have an ego problem in the first place. I think we’re fortunate that that’s not an issue here, but it’s really, surround yourself with people who know more than you. Don’t be afraid to actually admit that they do, because … You will be handsomely rewarded when you actually get that knowledge from people, if you’re willing to accept it. Not being afraid to ask for help.
Erica: I mean, it sounds so cliché, but it’s so, so true and so valuable.
Mimi: I love that.
Zoe: I’ve been gravitating towards this one a lot lately, which is, not every idea is a good idea. I think if you’re an entrepreneur, you tend to have a lot of ideas. I mean, it’s fun. It’s fun to come up with ideas. It’s fun to try and think about what people need or what’s lacking, but not every idea should be pursued.
Zoe: I think that there’s a lot of value in that. You shouldn’t just assume that this is absolutely something you should throw all your time, money, and energy into. I think it’s important to get, if you have something and you think it’s good, do a little bit of testing with friends and family. It can be very small.
Erica: Don’t do the mom test, because she’s just going to tell you she loves it and it’s a great idea.
Zoe: Don’t ask the people who are going to tell you what you want to hear. No. Ask very high demanding, critical women in Darien, Connecticut. Very high standards. Constantly giving you feedback. I mean, I have to say, that was the most valuable experience I’ve ever had. Thank you.
Mimi: Yeah. We used to pick up the bag. I was trying to think, how did I pay you? Did I pay you by check? I mean, back then, there was no-
Erica: Oh, no. I took your credit card number over the phone with a yellow pad and a pen.
Mimi: Yeah. I was like, back then there was no Venmo. There was no electronic.
Zoe: There was none of it. No. It was very bare bone. Yeah.
Different Gender Approaches to The Wellness Business
Mimi: No. So funny. Well, you guys are women after my own heart, between being entrepreneurs and the whole health space. I love it. There’s just so much still to be done in that space, too, right? Because it’s getting there, but it’s not where it even should be. You know?
Erica: Well, it is interesting that the wellness community on its face is so feminine, but most of the CPG wellness brands are led by men.
Mimi: I know.
Zoe: Can I just add one last thing, because I think it’s very important. We’ve been talking about this a lot, too. It was the fact that men, right, all the venture funds tend … Are led by men, and then they just continue to make money because they’re investing in these female, you know, whatever consumer brands.
Zoe: Women who have a lot of money are not starting up their own venture fund. They’re donating to charities and sitting on the board of whatever not-for-profit organization and getting their rosy halo effect from it. That’s that. They could take that same money and start a venture fund and invest in the brands that they believe in, that are women-owned, operated, near and dear to their heart. It’s just a very, very … It’s such a striking contrast. Why do men feel very comfortable going into that area, and women just go this completely other route? I mean, it’s very shocking to me.
Mimi: Well, it’s funny, because I, and we could talk about this next time we speak, but I’m writing a book. It’s kind of about that, where it’s like, 10 reasons why I think women are not reaching the top. Why are they not reaching … Only what, 1.7% of women even make a million dollars in sales, if they start a company. Only 5% are CEOs or in the C suite. What you just also mentioned, only 2% of women are getting funding. Why is that?
Mimi: I think dissecting that whole thing, and you can’T just blame it on men, too. It’s like what you’re saying. I’ve had friends where I’ve said, “Stop volunteering. Why do you keep volunteering?” I hate saying that, but you don’t need to be the PTA peasant every year. Go start a company. Go work, because then they get upset that they don’t have their own thing. I’m like, go do something. You can still volunteer, but go do something for yourself, that you’re making your own money or you’re starting your own company.
Erica: Or start a company where you then have a kickback on all of your proceeds, and then you get the best of both.
Mimi: And then yeah, put the money what you’re making back into the charity. I just don’t … I think we’ve been trained as women just to kind of volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, which is great, but at some point it’s like, what you’re doing for that job that you could be making six figures for the amount of volunteering that you’re doing. That’s an expensive role that you’re playing every year. It’s to the point where you need to go do something else. Don’t be the, I don’t want to say the word, but …
Zoe: I love the PTA peasant. I’m going to have to use that.
Mimi: I know. The PTA president. No, not peasant. President. The PTA president, not peasant.
Zoe: I was like, what?
Mimi: No, president. Sorry if I didn’t communicate or articulate it very … No, president. PTA president. I have friends that every year are the PTA president. Oh my gosh, I’m not offending anybody. No, we all have to volunteer. I get it. We got to check the box, but you know what we’re talking about. That friend that just over every year, they have in charge of everything. You’re like, “Wait, what are you doing? You’re running around like a crazy person, and you’re not making any money. You’re burnt out.”
Zoe: Yes, no. I’M not down with that. I have two kids in school, and I’m just like, I see all the parents around me just sort of doing all the things. It’s always the women. I’m like, “No.”
Mimi: I mean, I’ll volunteer because I have to, right? They peg you at some point, but I just, at some point you just, I think you have to do something for yourself and create something or make your own money.
Zoe: Amen to that.
Mimi: Anyway, well, thank you guys so much. This has been amazing. For anybody who’s listening and wants to check out, it’s Earthandstar.com is your website where they would go and buy and check out your products? I can’t wait for the chocolate, because that’s two of my favorite products right there in one bag.
Zoe: So good.
Mimi: That’s awesome. Thank you guys so much.
Zoe: Thank you.
Erica: Thank you so much.
Mimi: Ladies, I should say, not guys. Sorry. Ladies.
Erica: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Mimi: Thank you for joining us on The Badass CEO. To get your copy of the top 10 tips every entrepreneur should know. Also, please leave a review, as it helps others find us. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would love to hear them, so email me at Mimi at The Badass CEO.
Where To Find Zoe and Erica and More About Her Businesses