Commerce Club Recap

How Blume Grew to 7-Figures In One Year: Commerce Club Transcript

Tina Donati   | 
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Blume, a period and self-care brand, successfully grew to a 7-figure business in just one year. We wanted to find out what steps they took to achieve their success, so we invited Taran Ghatrora, CEO and Co-Founder of Blume, to join us for a Commerce Club show on Clubhouse. We have the full transcript from this event below. 

 

Event Title: How Blume Grew to 7-Figures and Got On TODAY 

Guests:

Hosts:

 

In a rush? Here’s the tl;dr: 

  • Blume got started by Taran and her sister back when she was studying in Wales. The idea came to her when she realized girls in developing countries were missing school because of their period. 
  • When Blume started, they didn't just want to ship organic period products to people's door — they wanted to make the experience of getting your period something that is talked about and treat as sacred, rather than just have it be so taboo and stigmatized.
  • Blume started as a bootstrapped company, and then the founders took it to Dragons' Den where they were eventually offered a deal. 
  • Blume surveyed their community to understand more about their customers and used their responses to create the company's mission. 
  • According to Taran, when thinking about fundraising you really need to think about the goal of your business. you don't want to raise too much if it doesn't make sense for you. Some businesses need to be heavily capitalized and others don't. 

 

FYI: this is a transcription from a live Commerce Club event on Clubhouse from an episode about how Blume grew to a 7-figure business. We used an AI software to transcribe this episode, but the AI isn't perfect and there may be a few typos. Sorry!

P.S. If you want to get regular updates about upcoming shows, show notes and more, make sure you subscribe to Commerce Club at joincommerclub.com. 

 

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Episode Transcript: 

Matt Schlicht: Let's go get started. So, hello, everybody. Welcome, this is The Fire Show, so first let me give a quick intro. So, I'm Matt, I am CEO of Octane AI, and Octane AI basically gives Shopify brands a way to offer conversational commerce right on their website. And so, we help you replicate the experience of an in-store consultation that leads to a personalized product recommendation right on the website, and then you can sync it with channels like Facebook Messenger, SMS, you can even sync it to things like PlayView and Facebook Ads. We work with thousands of fast growing Shopify brands.

So, with that, welcome to The Fire Show. I think this is like our fifth episode of The Fire Show, this is a regular show on Commerce Club. So if you're interested in commerce, direct to consumer, retail, anything in between, be sure to follow the club by tapping Commerce Club at the top of your screen, and then hit the follow button. And then, if you wanna stay in the loop on upcoming shows, or if you missed any of our shows, or you're not taking notes today, we actually send out a weekly newsletter every Wednesday that has a recap of the most interesting insights from any of the shows. And so, if you wanna sign up for that,  we have one coming out in two days from now, so go to joincommerceclub.com.

So, joincommerceclub.com, I put the link to it in my bio. And, if you go to my Clubhouse profile and you scroll down and go to my Twitter, in my Twitter bio you can actually click it. So, joincommerceclub.com, make sure to sign up there.

So, The Fire Show is a deep dive into the journey of one super, super successful brand. How they got started, what problems they ran into, how they found their customers, how they discovered product market fit, how they scaled, the tools they used, basically, any amount of insights that we can find out from the people who are actually on the ground, in the weeds, building these really fast growing brands. The goal here is to share that with all of you because you're probably working on your own brand or thinking about it.

Today, we have some amazing guest hosts they're joining us, so Alli Burg from Shopify, whoo! Welcome, Alli. And then, Ben Parr, my co-founder at Octane AI, and also-

Ben Parr: Whoo!

Matt Schlicht:  ... author of Captivology. Whoo!

And then, for everybody in the audience here, we're gonna ask a bunch of questions, and we're gonna do our best to get the best insights and answers for you. However, if we fail you and you feel like there's a question that we didn't ask, and you wanna come up on stage and you wanna ask it yourself don't worry, we're gonna bring you up about halfway through. So if you have a question, keep it in your head, and then, also hit that little hand emoji on the bottom right and we'll bring you up later, and it will basically, The Fire Show will turn into your show. And we're very excited to support you in that.

So, Ben, I'm gonna pass it over to you. What amazing show do we have today? And who is this amazing person we have who's going to share all of their insights with us?

Ben Parr: So, everybody, we have the esteemed honor of having the CEO of Blume Taran, I'm hoping I pronouncing your name correctly, but I will let you talk a little bit about your company, you but I will kind of just do some roll in, because, you know, you are one of the fastest growing brands in the Shopify ecosystem, you went from zero to seven figures in a year, you've been featured in TODAY and in Forbes, and you have a really, really powerful mission to help young women. So would love to hear just a little bit straight from you about Blume and who you are.

Taran Ghatrora: Thank you so much for having me. That was such a sweet intro, I appreciate it. So, I'll keep my first intro short, because I know we're gonna dive into lots of stuff, but we launched Blume in June of 2018, and we really launched Blume to be the direct to consumer destination for Gen Z as they went through puberty and beyond. And we really wanted to address everything from sex ed to you know, product transparency, and ingredient transparency, and efficacy and all of our products are clean, vegan, and cruelty free.

We actually started the brand as students, and we bootstrapped for, I would say, the first, I mean, prior to launching, we had a bit of a different tampon subscription business [laughs] that I could tell you guys about, so we bootstrapped that for about two years. And then we raised 250K which got us off the ground to launching Blume to about a 2.5 million run rate. So yeah, that's kind of the intro story and origin story. But I can- I can dive more into that if that's something we wanna talk about, now or later.

 

How Blume got started

Matt Schlicht: Yeah, so I guess I have a question, so, okay, so you started as a tampon company specifically, right? And then, after that, you raised 200K, and then kind of expanded into supporting a lot more products. Is that right?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. So, I think our why has always been the same, but the what changed based on conversations with our customer, really staying close to our customer and like learning more of what they needed and additional ways to fulfill their needs.

Matt Schlicht: I guess like one thing that is always super interesting is kind of like going back to when you first started the company. How did you come up with the original idea? And then, what was that like transition from having the idea to actually like getting something started? Like, were you, like, how did you get the first product made? Like, how did you convince yourself to actually like take that jump? What happened like right after you, you know, started selling tampons? What was that like?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. Okay, so I'll go like way back to the beginning. So, when I first started the company, I was in law school, and I was actually in Wales, in the law library, when I like first kind of thought [laughs] of the idea, because I was doing like a a thesis at the time on learning about how girls in developing countries were missing school because of their period. And, like, I mean, I didn't actually know that that, you know, that that was a thing, and that like sanitation and lack of access to period products was causing people to drop out of school and miss 25% of their education.

And that, obviously, is like an enraging thing to find out, like super disappointing, but it also just really got me thinking, because like my family's from India, I felt like I could've easily grown up under those circumstances, and I felt really privileged to be getting an education, it really meant a lot to me. So I started to kind of deep dive into that further. And then from there, I- I just learned how much there was a lack of transparency around period products, even in North America.

And so, I would say, like, I just kind of followed my curiosity at that time, and was just reading more about it. And I called my sister with this idea, and we decided to just make organic period products more accessible in Canada, mostly just because we wanted them at the time, and we- we could only buy them at Whole Foods and we thought a subscription made sense. And this is before there was a lot of subscriptions in the personal care space.  I think there was like Dollar Shave Club.  I don't even think LOLA existed when we kind of first started like looking into this. And then, um-

Matt Schlicht: What year was this?

Taran Ghatrora: This is like 2015, 2016.

Matt Schlicht: Okay, got it. So, 2015, 2016, you've identified the situation, also a deep sense of kind of connection to it. And then, you call your sister, and you're like, "Okay, we're gonna go figure out how to do this."

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. Exactly. And at the time, we're both like full time students and have jobs as well, and don't know anything about the venture world at all, or D2C. [laughs]

 

Quote from Taran, co-founder of Blume

 

Making the first Blume product

Matt Schlicht: And then, I guess, what happened next? Like, how did you actually like make the first product? Like, what- did you make like one product? Did you make like-

Taran Ghatrora: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Matt Schlicht:  ... did you put it, like, a whole order in? Like, did you find a manufacturer? What was that process like?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah, great question. So, when we started we didn't just want to ship organic period products to people's door, we really wanted to like make the experience of your period something that was talked about, and something that you could look forward to and almost treat as like sacred, rather than just have it be like this, like, for us growing up, it was so taboo and stigmatized. So it kind of started there. And so, even though we were just like a very basic subscription company, we had this like messaging and this why that resonated with people.

So- so basically, we first found a supplier for organic tampons out of Italy. And then, we curated these boxes of like other kind of like natural self care products, almost like a Birch Box for self care. And then, what we found, I think when we first launched, we had like- we had no customers, and then we had 12, and then we had 50, and then every month it would just grow.  we didn't even know what the- what the word churn was at the time — obviously we had some of it, but at- but at the same time, we just had very sticky customers because we talked to all of them.

Matt Schlicht: And then where- and then where did you get like the first 12 or 50? Was that like just reaching to friends? Was it like putting content out on- on something like Instagram?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. It was actually all of that. So, Instagram, we were doing educational posts, and we actually did farmers markets, so we signed up for a-

Matt Schlicht: Nice.

Taran Ghatrora: ... local farmers markets, we had like a tent and a sign. We actually had a little box where people filled out survey questions and they put their email in the box, and that was, like, our mailing list today, is like in the hundreds of thousands, but like our original mailing list was like all emails we've typed out from the farmers market. [laughs]

Matt Schlicht: That's awesome.

Taran Ghatrora: And, yeah, we knew- we knew all these people by their first name. And then yeah. So we started there, and we got- we also sent our box out to like a couple subscription box review websites, and I remember getting our first like, I wanna say influx of customers, but it was really just like six customers and it was just like the best feeling ever, because we were really getting data points at the, like, we were getting real data points of what was working and what wasn't.

 

The $200,000 milestone: how Blume raised funding 

Matt Schlicht:  Wow. That's awesome. And then, I guess, like, you go from- you start the- you had the idea, you start the company, you're, you know, like, probably packing up your car with products, and you're- you're going to the, you know, you're going to the farmers market, you're like actually talking face-to-face with people, you're getting them to like write their emails down with like pen and paper. You start to send things out to these subscription box review websites, and now you're- maybe you're in like the dozens of customers. Wh- what was like the big turning point between that and maybe like your next large milestone? Maybe to- to- to the funding, like, what was the big thing that happened between that and then raising the $200,000?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. These are great questions, I don't think anyone's ever asked me about the beginning in like this much depth. Uh-

Matt Schlicht:  I think it's just su- it's- it's just like- I feel like most people never talk about it either, and I think it's, like, it- but you probably- you spent so crazy amount of time, like, on those things, and- and probably every step of the way, if you'd just like gotten tired, or like overwhelmed or something, like the whole- whole thing wouldn't have happened. So, I think it's like super interesting, what- what those steps were. Like, how many people would think that you actually started at a farmers market? Like, that's probably most people would never realize that you actually had to like go do that. I think it's like fascinating.

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. [laughs] You know, it's funny, those, when I look back, those times are also, as hard as they were and as uncertain as they were, those times are so like dear to my heart because they were so fun. And it's just like I remember my sister and I just like maxing our credit cards out at Costco for like random supplies and printing our own labels, and dropping stuff at the post office, and I just remember people giving us like dirty looks for holding up the line at the post office. [laughs]  Because we did all of our own shipments. But yeah. So then, after, we- we built that subscription box company slowly. We bootstrapped it. And then at some point along the way, we went on the TV show Dragons' Den, which is like the Canadian version of Shark Tank. And we like got declined by most of the dragons, but one of them gave us the deal, and then, that di- that never happened, so it was just for TV. And then, after that, we, because we continued to grow, we kind of started to meet local entrepreneurs, like, this was like, you know, the very beginning, like I said, still students, I think I was like 23 or 25 years old or something. Never can remember.

But we- we started to network with some local entrepreneurs, and then one of them introduced us to an accelerator that was in town, and it was 500 Startups, for anyone that's heard of them. And they interviewed us on the spot, we hadn't actually applied, but they happened to be like there, and then they were just so impressed that we had bootstrapped this business, and also, just that like the data we were pulling from our customers, because although we were scrappy, we were keeping these Excel spreadsheets of like the patterns of what people liked, which personal care products they wanted, which ones they didn't, did they like scented, did they want like, you know acne treatments that were made of natural products, and we had all these like data points that we were collecting from this like customer sample size of like 1500 subscribers, really small, but also really meaningful data, because they were so engaged.

And so, we- we joined 500 Startups, so we moved to Mountain View, California. And actually, this is like a fun fact, our office was like Elon Musk's first office for Zip2 on, like, Castro Street, and so we [laughs] were just super- super stoked to be immersed in that like environment, because we were Canadian, and we ne- we never like really had- knew much about the tech world, and then we just were sponges for like for- for five months, we were just complete sponges. We talked to like everybody that would talk to us, and just had- had such a like great time, I- I would say, like it was so much fun, we really grew the business, and then, through that, we just learned so, so much about our consumer.

And we grew quite a lot, and then we made the decision that with the data that we had, we realized it made sense to actually shut down our existing subscription business and launch a new business with a line of products that we knew people needed. And so that's the version of Blume you see today.

So actually, when we raised the 250K, it was after 500 Startups, and we basically convinced a group of investors that we had these insights to launch this new company. And so we had revenue, but we didn't have revenue for what they were investing in, does that make sense?

Matt Schlicht: Yep.

Taran Ghatrora: So that was- that was obviously challenging, and like, I'm so grateful for those early investors but we had, you know, the interesting thing is we did have proof points, and we did have revenue. And we also had a plan. And I think because that- that was well thought out, and we were quite confident we were able to raise that money. And then, we launched Blume in June of 2018. So, this 500 Startups period was in 2017.

Matt Schlicht: Got it. So it was actually a different brand name before you were- before you came out of 500 Startups. Is that right?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. Mm-hmm 

Matt Schlicht: Got it. Okay. So you completely, like, started over. Like, you went in with one name, and then like one business, which was more focused on the tampon, specifically, but you also had a lot of data. And then, I guess, for- for everybody who's in the audience, I'm very familiar with 500 Startups, and accelerators I was- I was a part of Y Combinator at one point. But for everyone in the audience who maybe isn't familiar with like how 500 Startups works as an accelerator, do you wanna give like a 10 second just like overview for- for everyone?

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. I mean, I think the best way to put it is they are an invested- an investment group that takes a chunk of your company, Y C and 500 both, I think, take something around 5%, they invest the same check size in every company, which is generally like, I think it was around $150,000 of seed money. But the most important part is actually the help that you get. Uh, I think some founders, like especially second time founders, they don't really maybe need this if they're pretty plugged in, but for someone like us, coming from a Canadian ecosystem that- that weren't immersed in the startup world, we were not only given capital, but also meetings with growth experts. We were introduced to founders, we were introduced to investors, we were given like basically like boot camp for s- for startups.

We were taught how to like test learn iterates. They- some things we were already doing, but we were able to just like learn way more. And I think the biggest benefit, actually, was like being in the company of 30 other startups, and getting to see them solve problems and work with one another, and just like really becoming friends with all the amazing people that were there.

Matt Schlicht: Yeah. It's really- it's really wild to just like every day or every week be around a bunch of other, like, that many other companies who are at your stage, and they're all going through the same thing at the same- at the same time. It really pushes you to, like, you know, how- how can we be better this week? How can we have better numbers than we had last week? It's- it's- it's like a crazy pressure situation for everybody who-

Taran Ghatrora: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Matt Schlicht: has an- has an experience that, yeah. But it's very, very powerful. Okay, and then when did you, and then I'll let Ben and Alli jump in in a second, but when did you when was that? When was the 500 Startups demo day? What year was that?

Taran Ghatrora: Uh, Batch 21, the one where 500 Startups exploded, I don't know if you heard about that, [laughs] but our demo day almost got canceled. But yeah, it was the 2017 in the summertime.

Matt Schlicht: Got it.

Ben Parr: I think I was supposed to go to that one.

 

Quote from Taran, co-founder of Blume

 

Blume’s strategy for building a solid customer base

Matt Schlicht: Okay. And then, I guess, what, like, you launched there, you have this new brand, new products maybe, you know, nervous is it gonna pick up, is this gonna work? What happened after that? Like, how, like, what did the machine look like to get new customers? Like, how were you getting new customers every- every month? Was it primarily focused on ads? Was it focused on influencers? Was it focused on, like, native content? What was kind of like the growth strategy, and how did you, you know, connect with these customers? And I'll let Ben and Alli jump in after that.

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. That's a great question. So, I think the period of running the previous company leading to launching this one, was probably one of the hardest times because we were essentially running one company, still serving those customers, but building another company in the background, as well as like creating products. Like we had never been in like, you know, the- the product creation industry, or game, right? So, we were like creating products from scratch, and like refining them, and a whole new supply chain.

So that period of time was really interesting, but I think what's most important and what actually led to our success post launch was the fact that we learned so much about our community at that time. And we involved them every single step of the way. So those like four products that we launched with were- they were community tested, community created, like, truly we worked with- with our co- our previous subscribers of the tampon company to launch those products.

And even the messaging, we- we had done a survey of our community, and 60% of women told us that they could pinpoint that their self esteem plummeted as they went through puberty. And so tha- the mission of Blume became to change that stat because we knew that between the ages of 9 and 12 is when most girls drop out of STEM fields, and like, we just- we just felt that the mission of the company was that that needed to change and we needed to create a personal care company that could raise girls' self esteem as they grew up.

And so, I think because we had such a clear mission, there were a lot of things that were extremely challenging along the way, even just messaging that to our audience, you know, just- just the messaging can hard. But we just learned the importance of like repetition, and like how to clearly convey these pillars. And we still struggle with that all the time, I think it's such a noisy, crowded space, [laughs] the D2C world but because we had that messaging really clear, that allowed us to get a lot of press at launch. We got- I think we landed on the home page of Fast Co the day we launched. And so, we were just very clear on who we were and why we existed.

 

Quote from Taran, co-founder of Blume

 

Blume’s decision to raise a larger round of funding 

Ben Parr: I'm- so, you have, you know, you've gone through this journey going from farmers markets to 500 Startups and during its crazy times. And then, you know, more recently, you raised like a larger round, like a three and a half million-ish kind of round. I think I- actually, we share a mutual investor, FJ Labs. You raised from a bunch of really great investors. So I guess I'm curious just a little bit because there's definitely a lot of people who think about fundraising here or maybe they have D2C company, they want to know a little bit. You know, why did you decide to raise that larger round, which I believe like a year or two ago? And then, you know how was the process of like getting that done? Because that's a much larger amount than a quarter million and- or even a half a million?

Matt Schlicht:  Ooh, and what would you do differently if you could- if you could do the fund raise all over again?

Taran Ghatrora: Ooh. Oh, [laughs] those are great questions. So, our story, when we went out to fundraise, was actually just a really strong growth story, which I'm super grateful for, and I think we just- so we launched June of 2018, summer was like almost, you know, we thought we were gonna explode when we launched, we just- you just have all these high expectations for launch, right? And it was als- it was more like crickets when we first launched, like I said, we were on the s- first like home page of Fast Co, and we thought our site was gonna crash, but it didn't.

And then, [laughs] it was more of a slow burn, but by the time Christmas of 2018 rolled around, we were exploding, and we actually had to do... we took the [inaudible 00:22:34] together and aimed around of $100,000 for inventory for that holiday season, because we just grew way faster than we expected. And then, we made our first hire in, I think, December or January. I think she's actually in the room. Hey, D. [laughs]

And so sh- so Deanna joined us, and then it was myself, my co-founder, and Deanna. And we we just kind of started to gear up for this round. So, the round that we did was in February. So, I think that the- the reason we were able to raise a round so quickly, we raised the 3.3 million in one month, is because we took the time to set up the fundraise, so we really spent all of December that year, during that growth period, building like spreadsheets of like who we wanted to talk to, why they should invest, why like our company actually like fit with that investor.

We mapped out like all the different data points for them, in our- in our deck, obviously, and then we just had this like great, great growth trajectory, because we were on a 2.5 million run rate after only raising 250K. So, at that point the story was like pretty clear, and then we just really had to you know, what we did was we- we patched the meeting into a tight period of time. So, I did like 45-ish meetings a week for the month of February, and at the time, I mean, this is what I would do differently then, is like we just did too much.

So, in the month of February, we moved out of shipping, we were fulfilling orders at our house, we moved into a warehouse, which was challenging because it was our first into 3PL. We did a pop up in New York City. We were going on the Today show. And we were raising our round. So all of that, it was in February, and I honestly don't know how we survived it. I think the three of us were like totally exhausted after that, but it was also so much fun. So that was all in February.

And so yeah, I can get more into the specifics of raising the round, but that was like the high level. And what I would do differently, I mean, honestly, I don't think I would do it differently, just because it was so much fun, but it was prob- it would probably be smarter not to do all those things at once.

 

The TODAY show: Blume’s experience on live TV 

Matt Schlicht: Did you- did you know the Today show was happening before you started fundraising, or did that happen while you were fundraising?

Taran Ghatrora:  Uh, they reached out to us some point during [laughs] fundraise, so it was actually great because we were able to like use that as a- like another like, you know, hype point.

Matt Schlicht: You're like, "Oh, I would love to schedule a meeting with you right now, but I'm- we're just so busy, we have to go on the Today show."

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah, they're like, "Why do you need money?" It's like, "I need inventory for the Today show." So it worked out pretty great.

Matt Schlicht: Uh, okay. Well, I ha- I have some more questions about fundraising, but I guess for the Today show we cannot skip over that, because that is just like an insane experience. What was that like, the night before, like the day of, like when you were on? Like, were you- you nervous? Were you like, "Oh my god, like, what if I like blank on TV?" Or- or was it just so much was happening, it just like didn't matter, and it just kind of like happened, and it was awesome?

Taran Ghatrora: We both wanted to puke. Like, my sister and she's my co-founder. Yeah, because we- we were at this pop up in New York, I remember buying my outfit at like 7:00 PM the night before because we had been so busy. And like right before the mall closed. [laughs] And then Deanna got up super early to, like, on East Coast time, so she could answer customer service inquiries because there was only three of us, and we like knew that we were [laughs] gonna get an influx of- of customer inquiries.

And so, yeah, I think the actual like going on the Today show was like I blacked out, I don't even remember. Because I was so nervous. But it was a really cool experience because I think for press, sometimes you- you genuinely don't spe- see a spike in sales, but for the Today show, on that particular day, we did see a pretty large spike. And yeah, it was a, I mean, it was a cool experience overall. Like, Ben Affleck was there in like the green room-

Matt Schlicht: Wow.

Taran Ghatrora: with somebody else, I don't watch a lot of TV, so I'm not good with like celebrities. Charlie something was there. 

Ben Parr: Charlie something. I love Charlie something in that one thing.

Matt Schlicht: [00:26:48] [laughs]

Taran Ghatrora:  I forgot. I'm the worst. But there was also like these really cool super dogs that were on the show right after us, like we were like enamored by them. So yeah, it was just super cool, and we got like lots of great customers, even today we have peop- like we sometimes have customers that tell us they found us from the Today show. So that was fantastic. And just like overall a great experience.

Matt Schlicht:  How- how many times do you think you would have to go on the Today show till where you wouldn't feel like you were gonna throw up?

Taran Ghatrora: I don't think I'd ever get to that point. Like, we, [laughs] both of us, when we first started the company, we were like, "We're never gonna tell anyone that we're the founders." Like, we thought that we were going to just like be... like people would never know. But I think we're in this world now, where like everyone wants to know who the founders are, and we're- we're more comfortable with it now, and it's definitely really fun like doing stuff like this, but I mean, I love like the audio c- part of Clubhouse, because the video stuff, it just like makes me really nervous.

Matt Schlicht: Yeah, it's like it it's like it's so good because you can, you know, you don't have to get that ready, like, you can't really see that there's people in here, so you don't really notice, so it's- it's- it's- I think it's like a- a- pretty- pretty pretty nice to be on Clubhouse. Uh, you- you don't have all those lights and cameras in your face, so it makes it a lot easier.

I have one more question now, maybe someone else can jump in, but when do you think is the right time for a D2C company to consider fundraising?

Taran Ghatrora: I think it's changing even from when we fundraised. I think that you really need to think about what your goal is with the business because I think the size of exits are changing, right? So you really need to think about the goal of your business. You don't wanna raise too much money, and there's so many reasons for that as well, that like we can get into. If it doesn't make sense for you to, right? Certain business need- businesses need to be heavily capitalized and others don't.

I will say I don't know, for us, if we could've got the business off the ground the way we did without raising, because in the D2C world, it does take capital for awareness, but again, it just depends on like your goal and do you want to prioritize speed, or are you really trying to, you know, bus- great businesses take time to build. So I think you've got to think about what your goal is.

If you are creating a new category, in my opinion, then it maybe makes more sense to raise versus entering an existing category with a slightly differentiated product, because like, I don't know if you guys know the company, Inkbox, for example-

Matt Schlich: Yep.

Taran Ghatrora: They are creating a consumer behavior that like doesn't really exist, right? Like, tattoos as fashion. And so, to do something like that where you're creating a new category, you really need a lot of capital for that awareness to be made. Versus, there's companies that you can do a great job of bootstrapping. I think you guys are having my friend Salima, from SAMARA Bags on here, and she's bootstrapped her business the entire way, and she has a fantastic business with great margins, and she's growing quickly.

So, I think- I think it's very much a case by case scenario, and I think a lot of the times we all think we need to raise large amounts of money and it's not always the case.

Matt Schlicht: Everybody out there, be careful when fundraising, and then probably reach out to somebody who you know who's fundraised before before you start doing it, because worst case scenario, they'll tell you you're not ready, or best case scenario, they'll tell you either that you don't need to raise because you have an amazing trajectory already, and you don't need to give away a piece of the company, or it will make sense for you to raise, and then, because they've raised before, they can help you with some tips on fundraising, and they- if they get excited, they might even have an investor that they can make an introduction to, and that could become- that could become your first investor.

By the way anybody in the audience who wants to come up on stage and ask a question raise your hand, hit the little hand emoji on the bottom right, and we'll start pulling up people pretty soon.

 

Blume’s number 1 tip for founders starting to fundraise

Alli Burg: Taran, thanks so much for sharing your story, really appreciate it and love hearing it. I think when it comes to fundraising, just one more followup question for you what would be the number one tip you would give founders on kind of that fundraising journey? And then, I'd love to hear the number one tip you would have from being a female founder.

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah, great question. I think momentum is really, really important in fundraising. And I think what I, like, the mistake I made early on, like, maybe when I was doing that like 250K angel round, it just dragged on forever because I wasn't I wasn't aware of the fact that investors make decisions like really a lot of the time based on FOMO, like they need to feel the pressure that your round is closing and that you're going to build this company no mater what. And if you truly are, like for us, like, I truly was going to build this company whether people invested or not, and they just need to know that.

And they also need to know that there's demand for your round, and that there's like a very clear closing date, and that... I think a lot of founders like bluff their closing date, and it's like, "Oh, we are like definitely closing March 15th," and then like March 15th passes, and they're like, "Hey, are you in or are you out? We're still not..." You know, you just need to be very definitive and strategic about lining things up.

So how I created momentum was I made all of my outreach emails go out at the same time, so I scheduled them all to go out for the same day, essentially, or the same couple of days. And then, after you set your meetings, you want to make sure that you tightly pack each stage of your sales funnel meetings at the same time. So if you're having intro chats, have all your intro chats in week one. And then, have your second meetings where you're diving into data in week two. And then, your closing meetings in week three, and wire your paperwork in week four.

You don't want different investors in different stages because one, you're just gonna be creating extra work for yourself, and two, you're gonna lose control of your fundraising process because you won't have momentum, and people will start dropping out. And once people drop out, the the way I think like we used to look at it, is like if this really smart investor that they respect is like dropped out, they're like, "Oh, well, if he's out, he must know something I don't know, so I'm out."

I don't know if that's like exactly how it works, but [laughs] this is the kind of like the things I learned. So what you wanna do is [inaudible 00:33:15] that excitement up for everybody during that same period of time. And also, just be smart about your own time, because as a founder, the more time you're spending fundraising, the more time you are then spending away from your business that you need to be building.

 

Quote from Taran, co-founder of Blume

 

Building a family-owned business

Ben Parr:  All right, I have a personal question for you. Uh, because we've been talking a lot about the fundraising, and the growth, and all that, but like this has a personal element for you, which is like you started this with your sister, and I have a sister, and I know if I started a business with my sister we might have murdered each other by this point. I'm curious, like, how is that dynamic? Has it been easy? Has it been hard? Are you closer? Are you farther? Like, what's the reality of a sibling team up?

Alli Burg: Amazing question, I wanted to know that, too. [laughs]

Taran Ghatrora: Yeah. It's a great question. I think those kind of questions are hard to answer when you don't know anything else, if that makes sense? Like, we've been working on this for so many years that- and I've never built a business with someone that's not my sister, so I don't have a reference point. But I will say for us, it worked really well, and I think it works really well for a number of reasons.

One is, oh, sorry. Let me know if I'm cutting out, by the way, because I- I'm getting a poor connection notification.

Matt Schlicht: You're good, you're good.

Taran Ghatrora: Okay.

Ben Parr: It's just Clubhouse being buggy.

Taran Ghatrora: Okay. Yeah. She's really good at a lot of the things that I'm really bad at, so like my sister went to school for accounting, so she does well, we have a financial controller now, but in the early days, she did our financials, and then she does her operations as well. And I focus on all the other parts of the business that she doesn't, for the most part, so we- we obviously have a lot of crossover as well, but like in the early days, like, I would do like our marketing, fundraising I think we like more so split the hiring now, but I still do most of it and then she'll do like a lot of the logistical stuff.

And you know, like I said, there's crossover, but we do have like pretty clearly defined roles. And I think that helps, as well, because maybe if you were working with a sibling and you have the same roles, that could make things harder. But I actually know a lot of sibling run startups, but there's like even a bunch in Vancouver, I think like FabFitFun, there's a lot more than you would think, which is interesting. And I think maybe it's just because like you know each other so well, it makes communication really easy. Yeah, I think it works great for us.

Matt Schlicht: By the way, your website is just ridiculous. It is so good looking, I—

Alli Burg: It's beautiful.

Matt Schlicht: can't get over it. Plus, the attention to detail on the the mouse, when you mouse over things, and it has like the custom design on it, that's, ah, so good.

Taran Ghatrora: Oh, thank you. That means the world.

Matt Schlicht: I have my own Shopify store that I started recently, so I was actually at the post office today, well, for the past couple days, with my wife, dropping off like boxes and our website is just like so horrible looking compared to yours, and I was like, "Oh, one day, we will make enough money where we can go get this agency to help us make something like 10% as good as this, and it will just be the most amazing thing ever.

Taran Ghatrora:  Oh my gosh, you're so kind. But we, like, I feel like our team, we stare at the website all day, so we like slowly start to hate it. [laughs] Like, I still love our website, but there's so many things I wanna change.

 

Solutions Blume is looking for on their Shopify store

Matt Schlicht: It's good. it's definitely very good. I look at a lot of ecommerce websites every single day, and I'm sure, I know Ben does and Alli does, this is very, very good. But it's also that's the curse, you're always gonna think everything you made is not good and that's what's gonna force you to be better, so I don't think we probably can't fix that for you.

Taran, I have a question. Is there something that, and you don't have to answer this if this is like private information, so you could just say, "Skip it." Uh, or if nothing comes to mind. But is there, for any like developers who are in the audience, maybe they're working on like Shopify apps or something like that or I know, you know, Ben and I are always trying to figure out with the Octane team, how we can do things better. Is there anything that you're trying to figure out how to do on your Shopify store, or you've always wished you could have an easy way to do it on your Shopify store, but nothing kind of exists to help make that happen? Are you running into anything like that?

Taran Ghatrora: So many things. Uh, the first thing that comes to mind is the currency issues with like having a Canadian and [laughs] a USA. And like, that is a big thing. I think we're trying to build a custom check out, which has been a blocker. The Zipify upsells, or like some kind of post purchase upsell, we run into some blockers there. Because of the Canadian-US currency issues with the different sites, sometimes the free shipping threshold causes us issues. There's probably people on my team that have like so many more things, but yeah, I mean, we're constantly looking for like the right apps, or like, you know, we're talking to recharge team for things that we feel like we need. There's so much, there's like a never ending list.

Matt Schlicht: By the way, for everybody who's listening this is The Fire Show and this is a show on Commerce Club, it's a regular show, we're trying to do it as often as possible and to get you as many insights from really fast growing online brands. We send out a newsletter every Wednesday, and so we have another one coming up this week, and in the newsletter, we send out the most important insights that we learn from the different shows that we've done.

And Ben and I have actually done more than one show a day on average for all of February, and we are working to do even more next month and in the future, because this is just super fun, and I can't believe that we're allowed to just be on here and talk to amazing people like Taran, and learn from- from them. Because they're- the work that they've put into this, the years they put into this, is just incredible.

And I feel like some of these insights you just can't find in an article or in a podcast so it's amazing that we kind of get to hear them live. So if you wanna know how, you know, Blume actually started as a company that wasn't called Blume, which Taran and her sister started when they were in school, and then grew, and then changed into Blume using a bunch of data that was collected both online and on pieces of physical paper at farmers markets, and then how they took that to grow into a seven figure business, and also get on the Today show, and raise a funding round and basically build the business they wanna work on for the rest of their lives, make sure to go to joincommerceclub.com and sign up for the newsletter, where we'll be sending out all the little details and insights related to the things I just mentioned.

But, Taran, thank you so much for being here. I know that you have so many things going on, you gotta prepare for all the other, you know, Today show appearances that you gotta make, so thank you for taking the hour to come talk to us and share your insights. And Alli, Ben, thank you for thank you for helping on this interview. And I hope you all have an amazing- an amazing Monday. Thanks, everybody!

Alli Burg: Thanks so much, everyone. Thanks, Taran. Thanks, Ben and Matt.

Taran Ghatrora: Thank you! Bye!

Ben Parr: Thank you so much.

About Commerce Club: 

Commerce Club was co-founded by Matt Schlicht and Ben Parr. Both Matt and Ben are the Co-Founders of Octane AI, a company that gives Shopify brands the ability to offer conversational commerce to customers on their sites; an experience replicating an in-store consultation and leading to curated product recommendations. 

Commerce Club shows are hosted on Clubhouse. There are a variety of weekly shows that dive into successful brands, ecommerce strategies and more. If you're interested in learning about upcoming shows and getting show notes, articles and transcripts. Head to joincommerceclub.com to sign up for the newsletter.

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