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How One eCommerce Brand Grew to $10 Million by Giving Its Product Away (Episode 101)

Garret Akerson is the co-founder of Kindred Bravely, a maternity and breastfeeding apparel brand, that he co-owns with his wife, Deeanne.

In 2019, Kindred Bravely was named #20 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing, privately-held US companies and they also won the Shopify Build a Bigger Business Competition in 2017 as one of the eight fastest-growing online retailers on Shopify’s platform.

The company is staffed by a remote team of mostly work-from-home moms and brought in over $9.6 Million in 2018. Kindred Bravely is a case study in female entrepreneurship and innovation which is a testament to achieving three-year revenue growth of 8,544%.

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What you will learn

  • How to build team culture in a remote work company
  • The challenges of a geographically spread team and how to overcome them
  • The tools for collaborating that you need to know and use
  • Where the idea for Garret’s business came from
  • Whether you should start a side hustle or leave your job
  • How to build a community of loyal fans and customers and the two top platforms to do that
  • How Kindred Bravely grew to $10 million a year and 78 employees by first giving its product away

Transcript

Jeff Bullas

00:00:05 - 00:01:17

Hi everyone and welcome to the Jeff Bullas show. Today I have with me, Garrett Akerson. Now, Garrett is a native of ocean side on the west coast of the USA, which is just near San Diego. Garrett is also the co-founder of Kindred Bravely, a maternity and breastfeeding apparel brand, which Garrett co owns with his wife Deaanne. In 2019, Kindred Bravely was named #20 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing, privately-held US companies. They also won the Shopify Build a Bigger Business Competition in 2017 as one of the eight fastest growing online retailers on Shopify platform. That's quite an achievement because Shopify is big and you're fast growing, so that's pretty cool. Look forward to finding out more about that.

The company is staffed by a remote team of mostly work-from-home moms and bringing over $9.6 million in 2018. Kindred Bravely is a case study in female entrepreneurship and innovation which is a testament of achieving a three year revenue growth of over 8000%. On podcast, we're going to talk about a bunch of things and welcome to the show, Garrett. It is an absolute pleasure to have you.

Garret Akerson

00:01:17 - 00:01:20

Oh thank you, Jeff. Yeah, pleasure to be here.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:20 - 00:01:35

Now, I did a bit of stalking of Garrett before I got on the show and I discovered that he has a degree from Pacific Union College and I have a degree from Pacific Union College.

Garret Akerson

00:01:35 - 00:01:37

Such a small world.

Jeff Bullas

00:01:37 - 00:02:17

Yes. And we grew up with a very similar religious upbringing, and it's called Seventh-Day Adventist which we helped us suppose in our journeys when we started, but at the end of the day, it's really about making the best of life, and that's what Garrett has done and is still doing. And so Garrett, Kindred Bravely before Kindred Bravely has started with your wife Deanne, how did the interest in entrepreneurship start? Because I think you did a postgraduate degree in entrepreneurship as well. So what was your journey into being an entrepreneur?

Garret Akerson

00:02:17 - 00:04:05

Yeah. So yeah, I did a postgraduate Masters in Business with emphasis in Entrepreneurship and that was 2005 or 2006. I think, early on, you know, long before that I grew up helping my mom out. So my mom was a, was self employed at the time, you wouldn't call that an entrepreneur, but certainly very much self-made and helped her when, you know, as early as probably middle school, clean houses. So we grew up at or below the poverty line and I would routinely help my mom with cleaning houses. And I think that probably, looking back, I think it probably started it realizing my mom never worked for the traditional 9-5. I don't think she could at the time, she was raising three boys, pretty much on her own. And as a single mom, that was a tall task and she still wanted to be there. So she usually was there too, you know, pick us up after school, certainly through grade school through primary school.

I think it started then looking back, I didn't see it at the time. But then I actually graduated undergrad and started as a professor as a teacher, teaching, teaching high school grades mostly grade 10 and still in the summer pursued entrepreneurial pursuits and started out in, really in eBay way back in 2002 when the whole kind of drop shipping model was, was the hot thing.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:06 - 00:04:31

So yeah, my father was a plumber so he was self employed and my mom was a [inaudible] mom who did the books for dad, but having a mom that greets you when you come home from school, I think it's pretty special, picks you up and hats off to moms that balance both being the breadwinner as well as the mom and head of the house.

Garret Akerson

00:04:31 - 00:04:36

Agreed. Even if you are embarrassed by the station wagon, she picks you up in every day.

Jeff Bullas

00:04:40 - 00:04:42

Okay. Tell us about the station wagon.

Garret Akerson

00:04:43 - 00:05:18

Oh, I mean it was, you know, at, at, when I was a kid in primary school, I was, I dreaded the station wagon. You know, the old, it was probably a Buick or a Lincoln or something and I at the time it's, it's ironic or funny, I dreamed of her picking me up in a minivan like that's what the cool kids parents were, you know, picking, getting picked up in and then you know later on I swore I'd never have a minivan as a parent. Now I kind of think I'll stay full circle. I think station wagons are kind of cool.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:19 - 00:05:21

Yeah, well especially the older ones now.

Garret Akerson

00:05:21 - 00:05:31

Yeah, those Audi or Mercedes or BMW station wagons, those are hot items, we didn't have one of those but I don't know that it would have made a difference.

Jeff Bullas

00:05:32 - 00:06:01

Well. My dad owned a few Holden station wagons that we used to go around Australia in with no air conditioning, towing a caravan, exploring the great Barren Plains and mountains of the coast of Australia. And I remember being the standard question we had is when will we get there, dad? So we were, I was basically brought up in a station wagon. Maybe was even conceived in a station wagon, I’m not quite sure.

Garret Akerson

00:06:01 - 00:06:16

I have a memory of us in the middle of Arizona and our station wagon breaking down. It also had no air conditioning and Arizona is quite hot and then us being towed on the back of a flatbed truck, station wagon with us in it.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:16 - 00:06:21

That's like having good memories.

Garret Akerson

00:06:23 - 00:06:29

It was you could wave at everyone and make faces at everyone as you're traveling down there. The interstate.

Jeff Bullas

00:06:29 - 00:07:10

Okay cool. Yeah, so let's put station wagons to the side but it is a great topic and there is this term that goes if the wagons are shaking, don't come knocking. I think it's something isn't it really. So anyway I'd really stuff that one up but it's all right. Um

So alright, so your mom inspired you. You didn't have a silver spoon upbringing by the sounds of it and so what inspired you to go and do an entrepreneur postgraduate degree? Curiosity.

Garret Akerson

00:07:11 - 00:08:04

Yeah I think it was curiosity. I knew I wanted to pursue business more and I think at the time I was doing okay with the summer eBay drop shipping model, and really wanted to, you know, just delve more into business and thought getting a Masters in business makes sense, probably the next best step. And then I went to, my graduate degree was at San Diego State which at the time had one of the best entrepreneurship programs in the US. Still does have quite a good one. And so I was able to be involved in, you know the venture plan, venture capital team and then the business plan competition team and quite a different, quite a few different opportunities at the university. Extracurricular and as part of the curriculum.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:05 - 00:08:11

So that's quite a good exposure and it had that sort of like fundraising venture capital type exposure.

Garret Akerson

00:08:11 - 00:08:14

Yeah yeah definitely helped.

Jeff Bullas

00:08:14 - 00:08:22

So after the degree what were the next steps or opportunities that you pursued?

Garret Akerson

00:08:22 - 00:11:28

Yeah. So I actually had a short stint working for government in which I quickly learned that I did not want to be in government. The antithesis of entrepreneurial and shortly after that joined a friend startup from, from MBA school, he had just started and we got to talking and joined that team. I think I was number five or six and it was a startup in the digital marketing space. This was 2005-2006. So Google was very much, you know, the topic at the time and SEO and searching, you know, beyond search engine optimization, paid advertising. So Google advertising was very nascent, but picking up, so I really got to cut my teeth on the marketing side and help grow that business, worked on a couple other startups and then ended up

kind of merging with another company called Motionstrand. I was doing marketing consulting by then on my own, This was about 2008 or 2009 and they were doing development. It was a drooping development shop mostly with some app development. Yeah, so I brought the marketing side, they brought the development side and I ended up becoming President of the combined organization and growing that for a few years. And really I got a little burned out working long hours, commuting to the office and I knew I wanted to start something in e-commerce.

At a certain point, at least for me, I got a little tired of working on other people's projects, not that it's bad, you learn a ton, I got to see a ton of businesses and realized that many of them are failing for reasons far outside of your control as a marketer, as an agency. And Deeanne was in the office one evening. I was looking at a number of different niches in e-commerce trying to decide what I wanted to pursue next. And my wife at the time was breastfeeding our youngest, she could not find any anything comfortable and it was on her Christmas list and then her birthday's in January and was on her Christmas list, then her birthday list in January, no fault of my own, she didn't get any comfortable breastfeeding and nursing pajamas and I said I'll take you shopping.

So we went shopping and she still couldn't find anything. So it was right, it was just perfect timing. She was in the office that January and said well what about starting a maternity and breastfeeding apparel company, I know exactly what I want and there's nothing out there. And so I started exploring that vertical and looking at numbers and we looked at it together and decided to start Kindred Bravely and it was our first project together at the time. Deeanne was out on maternity leave from, she was a math teacher by trade, that was, that was the impetus for Kindred Bravely.

Jeff Bullas

00:11:29 - 00:11:58

So, this story we hear quite often is that the entrepreneur and founders experience a problem and they go looking to try and find an answer to the problem and can't find it and then go and solve it themselves. And I think that's driven and so that's a really, I suppose very authentic reason to do, it's not just about making money, but it's about solving a problem first.

Garret Akerson

00:11:58 - 00:13:30

Yeah certainly, I think you have a distinct advantage if you're solving a problem that you yourself experienced, assuming there's demand in the marketplace so that we launched with one product that Davy Pajamas in Black, they were looking for sizes, ordered 500 units, totally bootstrapped and you know, it did okay, launching, put pajamas in the summer in hindsight, I didn't do that well, people don't buy pajamas in the summer, come to find out, you know, come November pajamas sales go through the roof but really quickly started looking at a demand. So we knew what we wanted or Deeanne knew what she wanted and couldn't find, but then looking at demand and there was, there's much more demand in bras, bras and underwear and so she quickly designed 2 bras because she also hated the, and again from personal needs. So I think you need to marry that to demand because you could have something you need or want, they're just not really that much demand. But in this case, you know, bras, the demands quite high. And then she couldn't find any that had no elastic in the under band because if you're pregnant, your rib cage changes quite a bit. So she was always getting red marks and it was constricting. And so that first the first two bras didn't have any elastic under band. And that seemed to resonate really well with the market in addition to just being extremely comfortable through other design elements and the material selection.

Jeff Bullas

00:13:30 - 00:13:53

So how did you guys learn how to become a fashion designer or a clothes designer? Like, so was it just lots of Googling? And then looking for specialists that made the products and then asked them to help them make them. Like how do you become specialists and experts in in maternity bras?

Garret Akerson

00:13:54 - 00:15:22

it's a great time to be alive. My covid accepting. It's a great time to be alive just because you can access so much information online and anyone. So I think two things there, we're fortunate enough to be fairly close to LA which the garment district in LA is, you know, that's kind of the fashion or garment center of the United States. And so, you know, we had access to a number of pattern makers and designers within two hours of us. So we would you know initially quite a few trips up to LA and back meeting with pattern makers and working Deanne working through what she wanted different elements bringing those together and then Google. I remember some of our initial conversations with factories in China. So our first factory we've literally found on Alibaba, we sent samples. So we worked with pattern makers in LA. Sent three samples to three factories on Alibaba. One never got back to us, one the sample came back and it was just total junk and the other one came back and it was pretty close. But I remember literally, you know, having a chat open on Alibaba and then a Google window open, you know, googling things like GSM. You know, they were asking like what GSM do you want? Having no clue what that meant.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:25 - 00:15:40

Yeah. So you have the advantage of being close to LA, the fashion capital of the USA. So your first, your first bulk order was that done through China, through Alibaba?

Garret Akerson

00:15:40 - 00:15:45

It was. 500 units through Alibaba of pajamas.

Jeff Bullas

00:15:46 - 00:15:55

So what was sort of like, obviously, there's a big pricing difference between made in the USA and made in China was a significant difference in terms of

Garret Akerson

00:15:55 - 00:17:47

Yeah we actually explored manufacturing in LA. There are sewing factories in LA and we continue to this day exploring manufacturing in the US. We still have not found a way to make it work. It's a significant price gap and quality gap. So the ironic part was, you know, we met with manufacturers in LA and toured sewing factories there and the owner and manager, a really neat gentleman in his late 70's, 80's, had been working every day of his life. He was a Chinese native, Chinese national that had moved to the US years and years ago. And he point blank told us he was like you should get a manufacturer in China. The quality is better than that I can give you here because you know seamstresses are a career in china and finding quality sewers, quality seamstresses in the US is quite difficult. And so I was like you're paying for a lower quality and you're paying you 2, 3 probably 3 X what you would pay in China. And that's including landed costs. Unfortunately it just doesn't make sense. I don't think manufacturing will come back to the US in any significant way until we bridge the gap to automation and robotics and AI, I think yeah eventually maybe gets back. But we've since moved manufacturing to, you know, to India, some Sri Lanka, some Vietnam some so it's not all in China but it's still that, you know, Southeast Asia blocks still dominates.

Jeff Bullas

00:17:48 - 00:18:22

Yeah I think you're right. I don't think any of the Western countries developed countries are going to be able to compete until we've actually put manufacturing in a box with AI and robotics done with minimal human. I was talking to a friend of mine recently and he said that he went into a glass factory in Australia, huge glass factory as big as a football field. And he said it's about four people in it and you know, so automated. But when you get into, I suppose clothing, it's a little, it's a little different because there's a lot more details. It's a bit messier. I suppose.

Garret Akerson

00:18:22 - 00:18:50

It’s surprising and not surprising to me that it hasn't been done. There are some doing it on t-shirt blanks where you can do cut and sew for a standardized process like t-shirt blanks, but outside of that, no one's really doing it. Yeah and given the current labor market in the US right now, I mean people, it's hard enough finding labor, you know, there's less and less people willing to do jobs that they just don't want to do.

Jeff Bullas

00:18:50 - 00:19:30

That's the thing is that's why immigrants come in who are really, really motivated to make a better life and they'll do anything. Whereas quite often the natives of a country, whether it's Australia or the USA, they got, no, I'll live at home and live simply with my parents until I'm 35 and I'll party till then. Whereas you've got someone like some of our richest people, entrepreneurs in Australia are Hungarian migrants. So they turn up here hungry and motivated and that's hard to compete with, isn't it?

Garret Akerson

00:19:30 - 00:19:44

Near impossible. I mean, even, you know, as a kid, I would have never thought of staying home like 18 and you're out, that was, well, you know, that was, my mom was like, you're 18, you're on your own, get out of here, go to university.

Jeff Bullas

00:19:44 - 00:20:19

Yeah, well, I left home at 17 to go to university on the other side of Australia and I couldn't wait to leave. My dad was a hard taskmaster and want to run the show when I was 18 and seeking independence. So, I didn't have to be asked to leave.

So all right, so let's get on the next part of it. You sort of worked out that pajamas, you need to get onto like maternity bras and things. So you're working out the product and the problem about it. So how did you grow the business?

Garret Akerson

00:20:21 - 00:21:44

Yeah, so we launched on amazon.com, the market, their marketplace and Shopify at the same time, our own site. And we, that first order was 500 units. We probably gave away half those units, Jeff. So really, initially it was all word of mouth. So it was mom groups. Deeanne, my spouse, was in a lot of mom groups. She gave a ton of product away. There were other mom groups we found, gave it away, really seeking reviews and initially we just pushed sales on Amazon and we, we pushed reviews in particular for those sales on Amazon. So those, all those units we gave away, hey, leave us a review on Amazon, let everyone know what you think. That was all the initial marketing was giving away a lot of products, just getting it out there in the hands of consumers. If you know, it's a great product, yeah, it works at least that worked for us at the time. Having come from SEO in 2002, I also had an intimate understanding of a nine Amazon's algorithm, how it worked. And when we launched in 2015, it was a fairly open book that was easy to optimize rankings on, and there was just nobody in the apparel space doing that. So, it made gaining traction on Amazon quickly. Very easy.

Jeff Bullas

00:21:44 - 00:21:59

I think I'd be interested in what your experiences today vs 2015. My experience with SEO is that it's a lot tougher today than it was six, seven years ago. Is that what you're experiencing now?

Garret Akerson

00:22:00 - 00:22:30

Yeah, I think for your listeners probably experiencing the same thing, it's totally changed. And Amazon is maturing much like Google did, and, and we're seeing on Amazon in particular, paid placement, just continuing to push organic results down and down. We knew it was coming, Adwords and Google has done it, you know, the same thing, you see organic search results getting pushed down on the page, you know, you look at Amazon's financials, how much money they're making off advertising now. It's insane.

Jeff Bullas

00:22:30 - 00:22:35

Yeah, I think it's in the tens of billions of dollars now, I think.

Garret Akerson

00:22:35 - 00:22:43

Yeah, and the algorithm has just changed a lot on how products rank and what you're able to do to get them to rank,

Jeff Bullas

00:22:44 - 00:23:05

So before we get into how you've grown it since that early days. But what I loved the story was that your wife, Deeanne, being in mother's groups decided well realized getting in the trenches and getting those reviews and actually getting the product in people's hands so we can create word of mouth, it's sort of really is in the trenches type marketing, isn't it?

Garret Akerson

00:23:06 - 00:23:36

Yeah, I think it's easy to, I don't know about easy, it feels easy to forget to me like, oh, let's just, you know, we'll put up a product, will put up an e-commerce page and you know, we'll get sales, but I think in the beginning you gotta be out there, you know, for lack of a better word, dialing for dollars, you need to be out there spreading the word, getting in people's hands and you don't need to do scalable things, you need to do unsalable things in the beginning.

Jeff Bullas

00:23:36 - 00:24:35

Yeah, I've heard a lot of e-commerce, starting by just getting in the trenches at local markets, travel like bumped into some people selling gym the other day at a market in Bondi here in Sydney and they traveled up for a weekend from Melbourne. So basically in the trenches, almost hand to hand combat in terms of the marketplace. And I love that quote by, what's his name? One of the boxes, um, is it Mohammed Ali? Or it might be the other one, but he said that everyone's got a plan until they get hit in the face.

So, fast forward to today, the last couple of years, what's you've been doing the trench warfare, getting the market product in people's hands so you can get reviews. What's your growth strategy today?

Garret Akerson

00:24:36 - 00:26:43

Yeah. As any brand matures has changed quite a bit and grown as a company. So now we're at about 85 employees across the US, Canada, the Philippines and you know, we're on, we're still primarily found through Amazon and our own store sales, although we are on Faire now. So we are in some boutiques. So actually in store and a few other platforms, marketing strategy now is much, it's just matured a lot. So we do a lot on, on paid social. We still even post IOS 14.5 a lot on Instagram and Facebook. That's where a lot of new mothers are and hang out. It's a little harder to find them now. So we have leaned more into influencers. And you know, just either through our affiliate program or through influencers. We've been experimenting with TikTok, I can't say it's been highly successful, but we've seen, you know, starting to maybe see some traction there. And I still, the nice thing now on that word of mouth front is word of mouth now is more powerful than ever. So we've really developed this huge community of moms that support each other and continue to, you know, talk about the product and now six years in, we're seeing, you know, moms come back with their second or third child. So that's really need to see as well. And so I do think a lot of Kindred Bravelys sales are coming from that, that word of mouth, but simple moms talking about it in their communities and being part of the community. We do a lot of content marketing. So if you've, if you've, any of your listeners have followed our social media, it's not a lot of, you know, product promotion. It's a lot of help. A lot of resources for, for moms and such. So that's been a big difference.

Jeff Bullas

00:26:44 - 00:27:06

So, there's a saying that goes in marketing especially subscription basis. People turn up for the content, but stay because of the community. So how do you guys basically nourish the community? And do you do Facebook lives? Do you have a Facebook group? How do you nourish the community of moms?

Garret Akerson

00:27:08 - 00:27:29

We haven't done Facebook lives as frequently as we did previously. So we did quite a few Facebook lives I would say probably 2019 is when we would have peaked there. I think we've shifted more to reels now, Instagram stories. Yeah, insta reels.

Jeff Bullas

00:27:29 - 00:27:32

Which is a TikTok ripoff, isn't it? Is that correct?

Garret Akerson

00:27:32 - 00:28:27

Yeah, it's totally Instagram trying to compete with TikTok. Yeah, I think it's very, very true. We, and so we made a conscious decision in late 2017 to focus on building out content and brand because prior to that, most of our sales were on Amazon. So we, at the time it would have been April of 2017, we hired an Instagram channel manager, Facebook channel Manager, a Pinterest channel manager and email marketing manager and just started creating tons of content and then layered on paid social on top of that. And that I don't think you can't do paid social without content. I think that's too often brands in their wheels because they just don't have the team building the content.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:28 - 00:28:32

Yeah. And the content is very, very important. You just got to work out how you do it.

Garret Akerson

00:28:32 - 00:28:55

And yeah, I think now, you know, with post-14.5 we were thinking more and more like a lot of ecommerce trends, you know, how can we, where can we get first party data as it becomes more and more important and we haven't quite, we haven't figured that one out but we've experimented there.

Jeff Bullas

00:28:55 - 00:29:06

So basically what you're saying post-14.5, you're really talking about the Apple stopping data being scraped by Facebook, is that correct?

Garret Akerson

00:29:07 - 00:30:06

Correct. Yeah. So most consumers opt out of data sharing within their apps on their IOS device and were, oh we might be close to 80% of our users on our IOS or on Apple devices and most are on their mobile phone. Right? If you're a mom, you're probably on your phone. And so it's harder now, you know, posts that would have been April of 2021, just to identify customers. I think it was, it was a terrible change for certainly for small businesses, fortunately were larger, so it didn't impact us as much, I think. You know, sub $5 million brands, that entire war between Facebook and Apple has not been beneficial to small businesses, arguably maybe the consumers, but I kind of would, I'm in the camp, maybe it's because I'm a marketer, I'd rather targeted ads than untargeted ads.

Jeff Bullas

00:30:06 - 00:30:38

Yeah, exactly. In other words, you're getting something, something served up to you that's relevant and appropriate, you know, so one last stop we'd like to cover before we wrap this up is remote work. It's a top topic for us over the last couple of years. How do you, how do you see remote reports of remote work and how do you manage your team and create the right team culture and company culture with remote work?

Garret Akerson

00:30:39 - 00:33:45

Yeah, So we've been remote from day one. I knew I did not want to go back into the office. We had, you know, two young boys and part of me resigning there, I was just, I didn't want to spend long days at the office. Having been remote first, the transition to, you know, a covid and post covid world was was quite easy, quite smooth other than a lot of team members now had, you know, little children at home, whereas prior they may have been in daycare or school so that I think was certainly a challenge for employees. I think first off is really just defining that culture and those expectations. So I think the difference between in person and remote cultures is remote cultures are much more reliant on a written culture.

There's a lot of writing, whereas in office it's a verbal culture, you might drop by somebody's, you know, cubicle or desk and say, oh, you know, Jeff, what do you think about, you know, this, this and this. I do think in-person has the advantage in creative situations where you need to collaborate creatively, but in an execution setting where you just need to get a lot of work done, remote is much better. You can just, you can get done a lot more work. One of our strengths has been, we've been remote day one and most of our team members conflicts their schedules and many of them are part time. So anywhere from part to full time, which means moms can, you know, be there for drop off and pick up, you know, you and I mentioned that earlier our mom's picking us up from, from school and I think you're much more efficient to, I think someone that works 26 to 30 hours, you're probably getting as much efficiency out of that employee than you are 40hours in, in an office setting. But we have clear parameters and like, you know, setting your schedule when you're on and when you're off, expectations around parenting and work, which is key for us, expectations really around performance. So we run by quarterly sprints. So we borrowed a little bit from my prior experience in development and instead of, you know, weekly sprints in the development world, we do quarterly ones that are divided weekly. So every, every team member has something that is public that everyone knows they're working on their kind of bigger project. We have, you know, we have a weekly team, all team meeting and you know, you'll have departmental meetings and you know, kind of pods where you're, you're working with different team members. And then first and foremost is just trust, like we trust our employees. I think I often certainly pre Covid got that question. Well I don't know if I could trust my employees. My response to that is always like, well you know, you should probably change your hiring practices if you can't trust your employees in office or remote. Like that doesn't speak highly of your employees.

Jeff Bullas

00:33:46 - 00:35:01

How do you manage? Because the old saying used to be management by walking around, in other words, the senior executive CEO walked around and make sure everyone wasn't doing Facebook or doing knitting or something or as the reality now is you do have to trust them. And what I've found is that they will surprise you by the work, the ideas. So it's a very, it's not command and dictate anymore, isn't it? It's more okay, we're in this together, let's, I was recommended to me just recent ly. It's a book called Dream Manager. In other words, if you can help your employees achieve their dreams and they'll be much more motivated because you're helping them achieve their dreams. I haven't read it yet, but I'm going to read.

Now that the other challenge I think with remote work, especially because you've mentioned a whole range of people around the world as well and I have the same is that you add Europe, Australia and the USA into the mix. It's almost impossible to actually get them all on the same call. How do you manage that sort of 24/7 world from a team? Do you record?

Garret Akerson

00:35:01 - 00:35:36

We do record. I think that is probably, and we have that challenge even within the US t ime zones, just because of part time. So many team members are part time. So you know that remote asynchronous communication. So we use a lot of written communication mostly in Slack. We record team meetings. We do have the expectation that everyone that can be, does attend. There's certainly some team members that don't, just based on schedule. And then we just try to set it at a time. That's reasonable for most.

Jeff Bullas

00:35:37 - 00:36:09

Yeah. The asynchronous is certainly a big term in virtual work. Look, I've even interviewed people recorded it and shared it with the team. So I don't waste their time on the call with me to interview someone but recording it so people can watch at their own time if they can't make the call. The other question I have, which always intrigues me is what tools do you use to manage the team and collaborate as a virtual company? What sort of tools do you use? You mentioned one, Slack? What else do you use in terms of collaboration?

Garret Akerson

00:36:10 - 00:36:44

Yeah, Slack is the backbone of our daily communication, much more so than email. So it's longer, it would go into email and then we use Asana, Asana is the big one where all our projects go into Asana and then we use GetGuru for our like company database for information and we used Google Suite products for a collaboration and storage of files. So that seems to be a pretty solid tech stack and works pretty well for us.

Jeff Bullas

00:36:45 - 00:37:36

Yeah, we use Trello here, which is an Atlassian product now and it's changed my life, I've told the team and I was dragged quietly kicking and screaming into the shed to actually play with it. It's actually really easy to use but sometimes change is painful because we're used to doing it the old way and especially when we started losing, you know, crucial information in an email thread that just got lost in the noise. So that's interesting. Great to hear those tools.

So Garrett, just any sort of to wannabe e-commerce entrepreneurs that want to start, whether it's a side hustle or what. What would be some of the top tips that you'd recommend in terms of what they should be doing?

Garret Akerson

00:37:38 - 00:39:07

Yeah, I think my first tip would be, don't start anything you're not willing to commit the next five years of your life too. I think too often it's easy to start multiple things, which means you're not going to succeed at any of them, you know, that kind of serial entrepreneur, that doesn't get very far and then really setting goals. So I mean this Kinder Bravely, when we started it, I was still working full time running another company and this was just a project that Deeanne and I worked on nights and evenings. So the first 12 months I was, you know, working 8PM to 12AM midnight all nearly every day and then, you know, plenty of weekends. But I certainly had a goal, you know, I said to myself when it gets to this revenue number, I'm going to quit my day job. So I think just starting with that in mind in the beginning and then being willing to, you know, see it through for say my number is five years. If you can commit five years to it, then you should, you should do it.

And then really, once you start to grow it's all about team, right? You have to have an amazing product I think. So yes, do something you believe in, hopefully you're solving a problem for yourself, that there's market demand for and then really, the next phase is all about teams because you know, in the end it's teams competing against other teams and if you have a better team, you're going to come out on top.

Jeff Bullas

00:39:08 - 00:39:25

That's great to hear and especially, as you grow, the other thing that I've discovered is important is you got to fall in love with the process, not just the product of what you're doing and because process sounds damn boring, but it's actually will free you.

Garret Akerson

00:39:25 - 00:41:01

Yeah, and so for us, we have an internal phrase that is fall in love with your customer, not your product. And we got that from Jeff Hoffman years ago. In fact, also the, that's the other thing I think, never, never be shy of spending money on learning. So, you know, years ago we attended a conference and met Jeff Hoffman, CEO of Priceline, I think originally. And he had, he said which stuck in our minds: win a gold medal at one thing, it would be really great at one thing and don't start anything you're not willing to spend five years on, that was another one directly from him, and then fall in love with your customer, not your product, I think was him as well.

Because if you're in love with your customer, they're gonna tell you what they want. Products come and go. But I think certainly that's made all the difference for us. And I think that's even more of a little bit now to where before we put your customer first. But for now we've kind of morphed that into put your team first and your employees first because they're gonna make your customers happy, they're going to put your customers first. So I think as a team, put your customer first, but as a leader put your team first and that kind of goes back to your earlier comment about building teams in this remote environment.

I think if you, if you have a cause that everyone is behind and a vision of what that looks like and you're serving a customer and making a difference in people's lives. The rest kind of figures itself out.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:02 - 00:41:27

I love it. Look after your team and then the team will look after the customer. Yeah, I love it. Garrett has been an absolute pleasure, mate, to actually have a fireside chat from one side of the world to the other and I look forward to maybe bumping into the middle of the year because I'm going to be in your hood for a wedding. It's La Jolla, is that right?

Garret Akerson

00:41:27 - 00:41:30

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we should grab coffee. That's right here.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:30 - 00:41:48

Because I've got a great friend, Alexandra Watkins, who's My Name Is Awesome book writer. She lives in San Diego and we're going to spend some time with her, right in the heart of San Diego. So, let's pencil that in, keep in touch because that would be great to catch up.

Garret Akerson

00:41:49 - 00:41:51

Yeah, sounds good. Thanks Jeff.

Jeff Bullas

00:41:51 - 00:41:52

Thank you very much. It's been great.