The Lucky Titan

How to Bounce Back from Failure and Build a Successful Business Around Your Passions With Alex French

March 08, 2021 Josh Tapp
The Lucky Titan
How to Bounce Back from Failure and Build a Successful Business Around Your Passions With Alex French
Chapters
The Lucky Titan
How to Bounce Back from Failure and Build a Successful Business Around Your Passions With Alex French
Mar 08, 2021
Josh Tapp

Alex is an innovative thought leader, early adopter, and disruptor in all things consumer brands. Where others see challenge and hardships, Alex sees an opportunity to innovate, disrupt, and accelerate new ideas. With passions and expertise in health and wellness, food and beverage, technology, and the millennial consumer, Alex has had the opportunity to consult, lead teams, and launch businesses within the food and beverage industries.

Alex currently acts as CEO of Get Bizzy Inc., a beverage company whose mission is to create the highest quality and most convenient beverages on the market. Bizzy Coffee is currently the #1 Best Seller in the Cold Brew/Iced Coffee category on Amazon, and its products can be found both online and on the shelves of big retailers like Walmart. 

Prior to starting Get Bizzy Inc. Alex worked as an Associate at 301 Inc. General Mills' Venture Capital division, as a Marketing Analyst for Cheerios, an M&A Analyst at Lazard Middle Market, Demand Forecast Analyst at Best Buy, and started Lifty, a consumer brand in the snow sports industry. Alex holds a BA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Website: https://www.bizzycoffee.com/ 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bizzycoffee/ 
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/get-bizzy-inc-/
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexjfrench/ 

Show Notes Transcript

Alex is an innovative thought leader, early adopter, and disruptor in all things consumer brands. Where others see challenge and hardships, Alex sees an opportunity to innovate, disrupt, and accelerate new ideas. With passions and expertise in health and wellness, food and beverage, technology, and the millennial consumer, Alex has had the opportunity to consult, lead teams, and launch businesses within the food and beverage industries.

Alex currently acts as CEO of Get Bizzy Inc., a beverage company whose mission is to create the highest quality and most convenient beverages on the market. Bizzy Coffee is currently the #1 Best Seller in the Cold Brew/Iced Coffee category on Amazon, and its products can be found both online and on the shelves of big retailers like Walmart. 

Prior to starting Get Bizzy Inc. Alex worked as an Associate at 301 Inc. General Mills' Venture Capital division, as a Marketing Analyst for Cheerios, an M&A Analyst at Lazard Middle Market, Demand Forecast Analyst at Best Buy, and started Lifty, a consumer brand in the snow sports industry. Alex holds a BA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Website: https://www.bizzycoffee.com/ 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bizzycoffee/ 
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/get-bizzy-inc-/
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexjfrench/ 

Josh: What is up everybody Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to the lucky Titan podcast. I'm super stoked to be here with Alex French and we're here today to really talk about scaling an e-commerce business and how Alex took his company get busy from basically losing a bunch of money to a very, very successful company today I mean, you can just look at the sign behind them. If you're watching this on video, you know, 1000, customer reviews at 4.6 stars. That's, that's pretty big, pretty big deal for most people. So I would hope that as you're listening to this, you'll think about, you know, those moments when you've been losing money, or if right now you're currently losing money, and especially when this is still going on during the pandemic, how you can listen to his story and his tactics and leverage those into really applying them into your company and you know, getting yourself from not just surviving in business, but to thriving. So, Alex, I'm stoked to have you here, man. Can you say what's up to everybody and then we'll hop in.

Alex: Yeah, I hope everyone's having a great day I certainly am, and I am excited to get kicked off here.

Josh: Let's do it. He's got the coffee in his system. Now, man, that caffeine is buzzing, Well. Okay, Alex. So my very first question for you is really about that big first failure, right? Where how you guys got to where you were losing money, and then we're able to come out of it.

Alex: Yeah, so it was kind of a crazy story, we've it's probably important to note that we have raised venture capital has been our financing source. You know, we make products, physical products, they're very expensive and require a lot of upfront fixed costs. So we were going out raising money had a challenge, we started with a shelf stable coffee concentrate, it was in a 16 ounce bottle. Basically, no one wanted to invest in a one product, you hear it on Shark Tank, this is a product, not a company that was us. We were running out of money, because we were burning cash and needed cash injection. So, we ended up coming up with this idea, because I had learned over time, you know, early-stage investors, they invest on emotion, and opportunity and we were still what's called a team in a dream phase. So, we had developed this two-ounce coffee shot. So think five hour energy made from coffee, and five hour energy does a billion dollars in sales and of course, we all can objectively say the ingredients in it are probably not great for you so coffee exploding category cold brew, exploding growth, we said, hey, let's go raise a million dollars to launch a coffee shot we were actually very successful raising that money because again, everyone could say, Wow, this could be a billion dollar business and emotionally, everyone was like, Oh, we all know five, our energy ingredients are bad so this is a healthier version makes perfect sense I had been working in the food industry beforehand at General Mills as a marketer, so I had some level of credibility so we raised this million dollars, we launched the coffee shot product and it basically instantly failed no one had any interest in it, because what we learned is that the consumer that's having a five hour energy, for the most case, is a trucker that buys it at a convenience store and they don't care what's in the product, they don't look for a healthier product, they just wanted a five hour energy shot coffee is only two hours of energy, if you were to describe it that way so basically, it instantly failed and we were in a situation where we couldn't raise any more money because the investors that we had gone after wanted to, to launch shots, they didn't want really anything else so our back was up against the wall and what we did is we had initially launched that concentrate before we raised a million dollars on Amazon and so we had learned the power of search and people searching for products on Amazon and honestly what we did is we just downloaded a report to say what's selling within the coffee space because we had our supply chain built out and we found that people were buying bags of coffee to make their own cold brew at home and the market was just startup starting so this background says 1000 reviews that was in March, we're now over 5800 reviews in six months and this product launched in 18 so it was just getting started. There were just some players that had 100, 200 reviews and we already had the supply chain in place and so we said let's go put this product out into the market. We didn't change the name, it was still busy cold brew. It just went from a shot to a bag of coffee and was instantly successful and that business has basically carried all of our all of the losses of our retail business on its back and so we basically just pulled the report looked at what the competitors were doing what was their size, what was their price, how big was the market and we didn't realize how large it was and no one was going after it, there was actually quite little competition, despite coffee being a bloodbath of a category and then we just said, hey, let's launch this thing, as launched at a slightly lower price right out of the gates, let's flood Amazon with ads so if you search cold brew coffee, or, you know, cold brew coffee bag, or ground coffee, for cold brew, you were gonna see us and we were a lower price and all that competitors, we then started to get the flywheel going on the reviews and then once we had a good review, base, and good five stars is the goal, of course, then we just jacked our price up as high as we could and then we essentially created a moat where we're the premium price, if you enter into the category of making cold brew coffee yourselves, you almost always buy from us and so the real tactic was just going looking at the data. The thing about Amazon is, it's a search engine and people are there to buy products so if you can have a simple search phrase or search word or niche, you can figure out how big that market opportunity is, how competitive is it and then just bid on those things and if your product is visible on that first page, I think there's something like you're 90% more likely to get purchased some sort of crazy statistic and so that was that was kind of how we saved it.

Josh: And I love that because really, I mean, your story is, is the story of the bloody ocean, right? We hear about markets, just being cutthroat and so busy there's so many competitors. I mean, any sort of beverage space at all is pretty well being attacked, right? And people would say, Okay, well, that's saturated, how could you build a successful company within that, but then there's companies like yours that come in, and they become very successful by pulling from that bloody ocean and creating their own completely blue ocean? Like you said, like the cold brew space? Like, it was barely untouched? Why not? Yeah, I mean, go that direction. so awesome.

Alex: Yeah. And it's, you know, as they say, and we hear in all the podcasts, right, the riches are in the niches and we just found this great thing where, you know, everyone was focused on k cups, or, you know, medium roast, ground coffee, or single origin but there was just this exploding diehard consumer of people that love to make cold brew, and everyone was looking over here and we just said, we're gonna just do this I mean, we don't sell hot coffee. You can use it for hot coffee. Sure, but like, all we do is cold brew and we have a diehard community and now we're just expanding in that community for different product formats but really focusing on that niche very clearly has been huge for us.

Josh: I love that you brought up that that topic of community, because that seems to be the way that you've, you've grown is by, by actually leveraging the people instead of just the platforms, right? Because Amazon's been a great place for you to, to promote your products but so for you guys, what have been kind of the key factors that have helped you build a community around a product. The reason I asked that, and just to preface the question is a lot of the people that follow us, right, they're building personal brands so it's really easy to get people to love you but how have you gotten people to really love the product, and the brand enough to become a community around it?

Alex: You know, that's honestly been the toughest part for us, because so many people drink coffee for so many different reasons. We just recently launched a thing called busy nation so basically, you buy we have this kind of rotating blend of coffee, you then like rate it, you scan it, you go to a site, if anyone's a craft beer drinker, or a wine drinker, there's an app called untapped rebase see, like, rate the beer, and you look at other people's ratings, and then we spit the data back out to you so I spend a huge portion of it and then there's also sub there's a subreddit of cold brew and so we'll go in there and we'll comment and provide advice and feedback to help be kind of the authority figure in the category but you know, outside of that, because it's a do it yourself community that loves to it's very similar to their craft beer drinker, they want to try an espresso blend, the medium roast and a light roast, they want to try all sorts of different blends to taste different products so it's been really difficult for us to really retain someone with a singular product so we've been focusing on expanding our blends and roast profiles to try and keep that consumer but that actually hasn't been one of a more challenging thing for us, honestly.

Josh: Yes, is getting that community well what I love about the new movement, you know, with the busy nation is the fact that you're taking it and saying you should become the critic right like to your customer, like become the critic and what's so cool about that. I mean, you think about the Mountain Dew story right? You know how Mountain Dew is become so famous was it was a new drink it was basically a knockoff of sprite from same company. You know, they, they took That that flavor but then what they did is they started launching these, these different flavors and getting feedback on them but instead of saying okay, the most liked ones, they actually didn't launch them all year round they become these like once a year thing where you can only buy in and their sales just shut up because they focused heavily on what do people want most. Let's give it some little urgency scarcity to buy it and it took off so

Alex: you know, just like the old McDonald's McRib sandwich, kind of the same limited edition, get get it, it's scarce sort of a deal.

Josh: And it's funny, you bring that up, because that's like the thing right now, like where this is being recorded it's coming back and they're marketing it like crazy with the McRib and every time it comes back, people are like, I love that sandwich. I have never had a McRib, I'll be completely honest, you know, here, I'm not a big McDonald's fan, but, but the big ribs like this big, ridiculous thing so for you guys. Have you been able to leverage that type of marketing for your own company as well? Or do you find that it's better to be more consistent with your customers?

Alex: You know, we've been so heavily focused on Amazon, and just trying to capture as much market share as we can, that we hadn't historically done that but we have a retail product line, these kind of big bottles for people that don't want to make it themselves and this year in 2021, we are launching seasonal skews is what the industry would call it in grocery so they're in and out so it's that exact same concept Seasonal Limited Edition but that's going to be through retail with a different product format, then online, as we get our website, really humming that's been a big focus for us is learning that and kind of Q4 last year, and this year, building that community on our site, those are definitely major strategic focuses for us, but we haven't really done them historically.

Josh: That's awesome. Now I it's, it's cool to see you guys like making those, those different strategic moves. One of the things that I don't know whether you're intentionally doing this or not, but that I've been seeing in your story as you're going along, is instead of like trying to create a market, you guys are literally just going where the market is, and then presenting your product to them right? You're saying I mean, you're already buying coffee, you're already interested in this. You're already a trucker, right? Like, here's these different opportunities for you. So, I mean, what has been for you guys like the easiest way to actually tap in and find those new markets?

Alex: Yeah, I mean, I'm so just some context, I was an analyst that was really my kind of, at heart, I analyzed categories and information to try and make decisions we're very data driven here, especially after the failed coffee shop where we tried to innovate, we learned that innovation and a new products are just so difficult and it requires so much money to educate someone, where I think that it's actually quite easy to steal, share, especially in a niche market with an authentic product and founders story and so what we do is honestly, I just look at, I just pull reports, and it's very expensive to get data for retail but on Amazon, you can spend 20 30 bucks and get unlimited access to pull any type of category, say you want to look at flowers or bar carts, you can pull that report and see exactly how big the opportunity is and then because we've been in the market for so long, we have a next level, we'll say, Okay, this market opportunity is great and then we look for categories that are sub optimized and what we mean by that is, the packaging formats, the size, the weight, or the price aren't ideal, because in low priced items on Amazon, there can be a 20% margin swing, if you have an 11 and a half ounce bag of coffee versus a 12 ounce bag of coffee so we'll just look so we basically look at how big is a category and then we'll look at what the top selling items are to see if we can find some additional margin where we can either be lower priced, or at the same price but make more money and then we'll use that additional margin savings to promote the product because again, I look at everything as an opportunity cost, especially in marketing, we can either pay to educate on what the innovation is, which is expensive, which doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to buy, or I can do a price promotion to lower my price or and or do a paid ad to get that person onto my site and I'm more likely to acquire that customer and I already know that there's demand for it and I already know they're spending money so that's just kind of how we think about it and a lot of this because we didn't do that in the past, but at least had the thought process to analyze why it wasn't successful. Now we kind of use that framework as we move forward into new products.

Josh: Yeah, and that's I think that's really the only way you can do it, I mean, and I hope those of you who are listening to this will look at the way they've, they've done that to enter new markets because, especially if you're going to scale a company, I mean, if you're, you know, not analyzing the actual data, you're just for lack of a better word like craps shooting, right? You're just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks what you're saying is, there's a strategic position here, we know our margins, we know what's going to happen. We even know basically how much we're going to sell in it and then you introduce it to the market, it becomes way more strategic instead of just praying, you know, hope is not a marketing strategy.

Alex: Yep, yep, exactly and one of my favorite ways, I mean, I was I was on a call with our head of sales right before this and we were looking at, okay, do we want to launch a French roast or an Italian roast? Well, I don't have access to the retail data to give me that, but you can very easily just do a gut check so I went to Google Trends, and typed in those two keywords and it's like, okay, which one's getting more search volume and I, as a gut reaction, know that if someone's searching for this, and the search volume is growing, that's going to give me the gut instinct to say, let's go this direction versus this direction and that may not be totally quantifiable I can't say for certain 90 million people are searching but I know that it's more than French roast, and it's growing at a higher rate so I try and use all these different tools, especially when I'm thinking of new ideas I'll start with Google Trends, Google Keyword Tool to see what sort of search volume and is it growing and then I'll take that initial like gut reaction, and then try and get to the next level and start looking at categorical data to say how big is the opportunity? And then if it's good, then go further and start saying, okay, where is their margin? Or how can we optimize a certain product?

Josh: Yeah, I love that. Well, let me ask you this, we want to let's, let's change directions here a little bit because I hope people will take that analysts, really, he just gave you the steps to do market research so, so look at that, and apply that but I want to ask you this, you know, starting a company in the e-commerce space, is really one of the aspirations of a lot of the people who listen to the show, right? They've built a personal brand, and they're saying, okay, I want to build an e commerce brand now, as well. What are some of the major pitfalls that you can help them avoid?

Alex: Yeah, I think, you know, we got the bit our business is successful because of Amazon, and because of people searching for things so I think the biggest risk that people don't understand is, and I don't have a personal brand so this may be slightly different for me, but getting people on to a site, and to get that traffic to sell a product is actually very difficult and it's very expensive to not just get them onto the site, but then you got to like, convert them and push them down the funnel to acquire so I've always tried to use the credibility as a as a secondary piece, but on the search side of it, and so like we're looking at entering in some new categories, and, and let's say I have no experience in it, well, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go focus on the category that's got search, because I believe Amazon is just like the best because people are there to purchase a product and then I use the credibility, credibility on the page to say, okay, you're already looking for this product, I may only have five reviews, or zero or 25, or whatever. But here's my personal story with a ton of credibility and if you have a strong personal brand, I would even like make the second or third photo on the product be like, here's who I am, here's who I am, I got look at my Instagram handle, here's how many followers I have because as consumers, even if you only have one or two reviews, but if you put your personal brand out there and you show credibility, we're as consumers, you're gonna say, Wow, even though this person may not have a lot of reviews, I know that like this person isn't going to put themselves out there so publicly if they didn't believe the product was awesome and so I think just a pitfall of getting people onto the site, converting them is so much more expensive and difficult than people really think because they may go to your site to learn about you, but they might not be interested in buying the product at all, where you can get people that are interested in buying the product, and then use your credibility to get them to buy.

Josh: See, I didn't even consider that I mean, leveraging that personal brand could be one of the fastest ways to to get that because I mean, I even know with a lot of local businesses, they're their number one problem is like, Oh, I'm another real estate agents I'm another one of these right? And you're just putting yourself as another number but if you can say, you know, hey, as a real estate agent, for example, just to carry out that example, it's like, you know, I, I was in the financial realm, I owned this much in real estate, I know what houses are the best, right? Or the best investment properties I'm an investment property real estate agent who does XYZ and it just I mean, that credibility aspect, even the e commerce space never even occurred to me so for you guys. How have you been able to leverage that credit like you said, You You haven't built a personal brand or anything, but how have you been able to leverage that to grow? The reviews as well? I mean, getting reviews is 90% of the problem with products, how are you getting those reviews?

Alex: So we, you know, as you see behind me 1000 reviews, that was March of this year, I'd mentioned we launched in 2018, basically, March, so it took us two years to get to 1000 reviews and then it took us six months to go from 1000 to 5000 so the flywheel effect is very real and so what we do is when, when you start, you got to get the ball rolling, and you got to do it unfortunately, in organically, right, they say don't do it, but everyone does it, get your friends and family to buy the product, as many people use your personal equity because as many people as you possibly can to buy the product, take pictures with it, leave a five star review, you just have to do that because as consumers, you know, I always try to put my consumer hat on, if you're selling a product, and it doesn't have at least 25 reviews, we're just not gonna buy like as consumers, we're just like, no chance, I'm not going to take a risk on this No, nobody product. So that's how you got to get started and then we have a formal email review series where you get the product, we ship it to you and then we have this kind of beautiful email that talks about who we are and it's like, Hey, we love the product, please leave a five star review link if you don't like the product, get in touch with us, please, we want to make it right and that's basically our strategy and so we just do that with every single order that comes through and we hit him with multiple emails to get that review.

Josh: See, I love that because I mean, like you talked about that that's like an organic strategy. People, people discount that in a lot of ways. You know, people tell you not like the sites, the platforms tell you not to do that but it also is a research period for you. You get real honest feedback from people say, hey, if you can leave me a review, but then also tell me what things would you want change? You know, is the packaging bad? Is that does it taste awful that you know, like, there's all these different things that you could ask them five questions, and you could resolve like 90% of your problems with your product, I know where to target and if you have a personal brand, I mean, like you've been talking about, you could literally go to your audience and say, Hey, I'm launching this new product, it's a physical product, never really done it before and for all of you, I'll give it to you at a discounted price or something, and put you in a sweepstakes and you know, if you'll leave me a review and give away some free money or something right I don't know if that's even illegal or not, but, but getting people excited about using the product up front and then you've already got your core base of people that you can leverage their feedback that's good stuff man. I appreciate you sharing that. So you're we're coming up to the end of the interview here, Alex so I want to ask you this. What, first off where can people get in communication with you guys? Test your products out and everything? I mean, obviously Amazon seems to be the place but where else can they get in communication with you?

Alex: Yeah, definitely check us out at bizzycoffee.com that's bizzy we'd love some feedback we just launched a new product it's called a pitcher pack basically, it's like a giant tea bag, cold brew bag would love any feedback on that, start a new innovation which we're pretty excited about so definitely check us out there and of course, we're on all those social platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @bizzycoffee. 

Josh: love that. So make sure you go check those guys out. We'll add all the links in the description as well and ask you one final question, Alex. If you could leave one final parting piece of guidance with our audience saying like if they could just get one thing out of this interview? What would that be?

Alex: I think it would be to leverage search you know, it totally changed our business, and you know, you can do market research you can sell products it's just people are actively typing into Google and Amazon, things that they want to buy, whether that's a guide on how to do something, it's a course it's a product, it's a service, but people are actively searching for things that they want to spend money on and if you're not there, you're, you're missing the sale.