Alright. Hey! What's up, everyone? Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers Podcast. I'm your host, Nick Shucet. Today we have Elizabeth on the show. She is the founder of Baloo Living. Elizabeth, what's up? How are you doing today?
Hey Nick, I'm super good. Thanks for having me here.
Awesome. And where are you located? It looks like a great, great place you have back there. Is that your office?
I'm in San Antonio. I've got two homes right now; one's here in San Antonio. This is like my living room. And then I have another one in Tulum, Mexico. So I just got back to Texas on Sunday night, so I'm really happy to be here.
Nice, nice. I'm really digging the ceilings there. It's got… It's like a wood floor, but it's on your ceiling. I don't know if I've seen that before.
Yeah. No, this is like an old, old home, and I was… they were like, "It's an old home, are you ready for that?" And I said, yes. So it's got some character.
Nice, looks beautiful. Yeah, I like it. All right. So for some of the people who are listening that don't really know you very well, why don't you just introduce yourself a little bit and give us a background?
Sure. So I'm originally here from Texas. I spent the last, I'd say like, 13, 14 years of my adult life living in New York. My background has always been in marketing. I went to the University of Texas in Austin, got a marketing degree, and tried out a bunch of different careers, jobs, et cetera. And in 2017, I took a sabbatical to Bali, which was where my e-commerce journey began.
I took an online course there, launched an Amazon brand, and have been really fortunate to be able to grow that brand off of Amazon. So now we have a true direct-to-consumer bedding home goods company.
Nice. That's awesome. So why Bali?
Bali, it's such a special place. So I knew this was going to be the big shot chance trip of a lifetime, so I really gave it a lot of thought about where I would go. And there is something about Bali that kept popping up. Everywhere I would go, I kept hearing about it. There's, of course, the book: ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ There's a TED talk I'd seen about how Bali can really inspire creativity, and I was looking for creativity.
I was looking for a reset and a new creative approach to living—really wanted to recreate myself. So that's how I ended up choosing Bali. And I'd say second to that is, there's a great cost of living there, and there's a nice community of digital nomads. So kind of those three things put together.
Awesome. It sounds like there's a good story behind that inspiration for change. Bali has always been of interest to me as a surfer. I think my first introduction to it was … I think I wanna say ‘The endless summer.’ The second movie, I think, I don't know if it was in the first one. But yeah, I find a lot of creative juices come to me when I visit... When I take these surf trips I end up in these places where there's not a whole lot else going on.
And then you're really just kind of like in nature, and you get to connect with the people and unplug a little bit. That's so cool that you put all that effort into it; you planned it out, and like you started your company there. I mean, and that's the company you're running now, right?
Yeah, exactly. Like I didn't go with the intention of starting a business. I just knew I needed to make a change. And I think you just keep going one foot in front of the other… if you're following your heart or your intuition or whatever that guidance is telling you. Follow the path or the breadcrumbs, and that's all I did. I just kept saying, "Where is this gonna take me? Where is this taking me?".
I just kept saying yes, accepting risk and not knowing what was going to be next, and kind of going into the fear of the unknown, I guess. Because I came from such a corporate traditional background starting an eCommerce business, to me, felt kind of random. I'd only… I'd always kind of sold stuff on eBay, like hawked stuff here and there to make extra cash.
It was easy and convenient, but starting an Amazon business to me was way outside of my preconceived notion of what was a career path.
Yeah. Yeah. And what did your parents think of this journey? What did your friends think? You go to this faraway place, and you go, "Oh, I'm gonna start an e-commerce company."
I'd say that my mom has been a solid supporter of me this entire time. She didn't need to understand it, but she knew where my heart was coming from and what was leading me. I'd say, after the initial sabbatical when I said, "Oh, I'm sticking around longer and I'm doing this thing" that a lot of friends and family were really questioning me like, "What are you doing? When are you coming back?".
So there was a lot of doubt, and I had my own doubt, of course, 'cause I also didn't know what I was doing.
But even my dad, who was like, "What is the thing you're doing?" was the one that gave me my initial seed money to buy my first round of inventory. So it was really his sort of faith in me, not so much understanding what I was doing but wanting to support me—that made it all possible.
Nice, man. That's such a great story. That's super cool of your parents to be supportive of all that, and just to see what you've done with it is just so great.
I'm sure they feel so proud and just happy.
They're so proud. My mom does customer service for us now. So she's in the fold. And my dad, Dad definitely loves the story.
Very cool. So like did you get started on Amazon right away? Let's dig into that e-commerce journey a little bit. Like, what did that look like, getting your business started? And how did you do that?
Yeah, so I just took a course on starting an Amazon private label. All this information, as we all know, is readily available. But I knew for myself if I tried to do a YouTube route, I would never come out of the hole. So I wanted a beginning-middle-and-end of sort of digesting the information.
And I used Jungle Scout just to do search volume, keyword volume searches, backend on Amazon and discovered the category of weighted blankets at the perfect time. It was 2017, right when that niche was starting to take off. It's become a really high-growth niche over the past few years. I think there've been a few like Amazon course case studies on weighted blankets.
And there are hundreds of listings for them now on Amazon, but my timing was just really fortunate. And I saw an opportunity as well for a product that wasn't really being offered yet.
'Cause there were a lot of synthetics and a lot of plastic, I wanted to do something that was really thoughtful, eco-conscious, and mindful for people like me who were really into self-care and willing to spend a little more for something that's a little higher quality. So as soon as I saw... after spending days and hours just pouring over the Excel data, you see that diamond in the rough, and you just know cause you've spent the time.
So when you know, you know. And I was so excited; I think I bought it on a Monday or something. I bought a ticket to China on Wednesday to go to this factory that I found at Alibaba. And they were like, “Well, why don't we meet you next week? We're gonna be at a trade show.” And I was like, "Oh cool, what trade show?" They're like, "Canton fair.'
I'm like, "Oh okay, I'll meet you there." So I went to Canton, I met them there, and ended up placing an initial order right away, which was a pretty small order, I think 200, 400 units. But for me, it was $20,000, which was obviously a huge amount of money to rent. And the philosophy or organizing principle, I'd say, sort of around the approach to the course that I took, was to find something that's a little bit out of reach price pointwise.
It's gonna take a higher initial investment, but it's gonna sort of get you some moat. Or a little bit of time to protect you against competitors from entering so easily. It's not like the garlic press; it's a higher-priced item and also to look for a product that people are gonna be investing time in. So they're not just searching for the top listing on Amazon.
They might go to page two, page three, looking for something visually that catches their eye. So I think that's still a great thing to keep in mind for anyone considering launching a product on Amazon.
Yeah. I think you touched on, there's a couple of important things that stick out to me with the way that you did it. And it's really cool 'cause you kind of like you took this big risk, you went to this country and started this business. But you were also… it sounds like you didn't just wing it. You were calculated and you did research and you've looked for that diamond in the rough and you didn't just go on Alibaba and trade a couple of messages.
You went to this factory and met with these people at a fair. You went the extra mile and obviously, it pays off when you do that. For a lot of reasons, a lot of us try to take shortcuts and do things the quick way. And sometimes that works out but more often than not, it doesn't And it's just super cool to see you early in your entrepreneurial journey.
Like you balanced all that so well with doing this great big cool thing—going to this country and starting your new business. But also being very calculated with your research and who you choose to go with. In addition to what you mentioned, being important things to look for, I think it's also important to really highlight that you did the research.
You met with these people. And that's the type of stuff that puts you ahead of all the other people flocking to the Amazon world. Because you did what most people wouldn't do and obviously it's paid off. So where did the inspiration… it sounds like it was more than just a diamond in the rough. It was also kind of like a passion of yours to bring something to market that could really have an impact on people's lives.
Where did that passion come from?
That came from when I first tried the weighted blanket. So I came back from Canton with a sample and didn't have such a quick trip. I didn't even have a chance to try one until I came back to Bali and I can remember the first time I put it on how amazing it felt and this sort of surprised but very moving feeling of relaxation that came over me.
And there was something about just how profound it was as an experience for me that I connected to the experience that I'd been having on my trip of traveling. So it represented to me sort of where I was in my life through a product.
And it was like; I'd been away disconnecting, spending time in nature, spending time with incredible heart-based people really having life-changing experiences, and putting this weighted blanket on just sort of felt like a representative of that in a small experience.
And so it became something that I wanted to share with people as a way to share, like this amazing thing that I got to do but in a much more accessible way. So most people can't take off and go to Southeast Asia or anywhere for any amount of time and have that experience I was getting to have.
But you can take 20 minutes for yourself, connect your mind and body with the deep pressure touch therapy of a weighted blanket, and maybe just calm yourself down, and feel more grounded, calm, cool, and collected.
So for me, it wasn't only about sleep; it was really about this mind-body connection experience that weighted blankets can deliver. And so many of us are in overdrive. Our nervous systems, and fight or flight; we have to perform and deliver, and there's so much going on around us. So it's really difficult to do that, to disconnect. And there's other…
There's a lot more I could say about that too because I think there's this whole self-care industry that's really become a massive industry. And it starts to feel like another thing that you have to do. You have to dry-brush, you have to oil. Like what are all the things that you have to do to do good self-care? And it just becomes even more of a burden.
So this is something that it's so basic and so simple, but so elegant that I loved it. So that's the brand for me. I felt it didn't come through me. It didn't come from my head. It came from sort of just wanting to express this bigger experience that I'd been having and share it with other people.
Right on. Yeah, that's great. Definitely a lot of passion behind the product, it sounds like, and I'm sure that's what keeps you staying above the competition. I know you mentioned you saw similar products like popups and recommendations. I used to get those lists. I forget who it was; I think Jungle Scout used to send them out too. I'm not sure, it's been a while since I signed up.
But yeah, it was always like, you kind of get that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you see one of your products on those lists. So what are some of the things that you continue to do from a product and marketing perspective to really stick out from the competition? And hold your place in the market?
Yeah, I think it's really… It's about doing a lot of things. It's kind of like Whack 'em All, right? Like you're just always trying to do everything and do it well. Or do it incrementally better. And you're never done.
There's always more to do, but for us, it's the product first. So we are the only quilted weighted blanket that's made with 100% pure cotton of all the hundreds of other brands on the market. They're using polyester inside, so that makes us the only biodegradable option. We are really big on our partnerships; our givebacks were carbon-neutral.
We changed our partner from carbonfund.org, which is a great organization, to another one I discovered called 'SeaTrees.' And I think you'll like this because they are surfers first, partnered with scientists that are doing work on… is it called blue ocean projects? They discovered that by reforestation at the water's edge kelp and mangrove forests, they can sequester five times more carbon from the environment than the rainforest.
It's pretty amazing, like the technology that they're using. So we partner with them, we've taken all the plastic out of our packaging. So it's, and we've got the best customer service. I mean, I mentioned my mom answers phones, but like truly we're here to serve the customer. First, we're not here to make a sale, we're here to offer something.
If people want... if our brand calls to them, then that's wonderful. If not, that's great too. And I think that by having clarity about what our brand is and what it stands for. And then having that in every cell of our DNA, everything we touch and do, there are people that resonate with that. And they may not be able to tell you why, but they're there to be your customer.
So, it's just maintaining that connection to our brand and every level.
Yeah. I really like the marketing stuff you're mentioning here. It sounds like your education in marketing has really served you well, which is something a lot of Amazon entrepreneurs don't really know marketing that well, 'cause they don't really have to. I mean, nowadays, it's getting to the point where you do, but back in the day, you didn't have to know the top of the funnel, middle funnel, or bottom funnel.
You didn't have to know your niche or your avatar; you didn't have to do any of that stuff to stick out. You just needed to know, "What are these people searching for?" and "Where do I put it in my listing?"; and that's about it. And you could experience some success on Amazon. But yeah, you're right. And this is something I've learned recently, just the consumer psychology, I guess people call it.
Where they're seeing things on their screen or in front of them and they're connecting on it, connecting to it on a level that they're not even aware of and it's just so powerful. Like when... I did it backward, I started these businesses, and then I got to the point, I was like, “Man, it's not really working out the way I want it to”. And I met with someone who had a marketing background, and they were like, "Well, who's your audience?" "What's your mission?"
And I'm like, "Ah, I don't know, just kinda winging it." But it sounds like you really… I mean, did you have that stuff kinda lined up early on in your journey because of your educational background?
Yeah, I think that I had a lot of exposure to marketing that I didn't appreciate at the time, and it was all there for me when I needed it. But I've also… I think it's really interesting the point that you're making, 'cause there's a really big difference between tactics, which is how you execute your messaging, and then what that message is, and they're two different things.
I think one of the most powerful things that we can do as marketers is create and share a story with people. Because what we connect to on an emotional level is a story. And that's what we remember and what we are gonna tell our friends and family about. It's not gonna be like, "Oh, I got this great thing pop up in my feed" I mean, yeah, sometimes we say that too, but the two I think are equally important.
So we have, I would say, our strong… If we had to pick between the two, I'm stronger on story and brand, weaker on tactics and execution for sure cause I didn't have a technical marketing background. I worked at… I was usually an assistant, to be honest. So I got a lot of exposure, but I was kind of in the room but not the one executing. So I learned a lot from osmosis.
So how long before you started your DTC journey by launching your own website and doing your own thing outside of Amazon?
It was a stroke of luck which is, you know, what's luck but timing, it was all there worked out well for us. So I had a website from day one because we have a product that takes people to our website to enter their email addresses to get a free gift. Which is a downloadable track of singing booth sounds that go on brand, with relaxation, with the blankets.
So that website was always there. We'd get a sailor twice a week, and I'd always wonder, like where did this person come from? How did they even find us until… so we launched in April 2018 in November. I did hire a PR agency early on. So I think that was probably one of the best strategic moves that I'd made and I knew that because I had worked for the CEO of a tequila company, Casa Tequila, which is a gorgeous brand, super high-end luxury product.
And they were a startup. I came on their team in year two and I think I just was in the Cancun airport. I saw them, they had a huge wall in the customs duty-free shop. So that brand is doing an amazing job of growing. But I'm going a bit off on a tangent. But by working with Casa Tragon, I was really able to see how the CEO started that brand from zero and scaled it beautifully.
And she had two PR agencies. One was specializing in the restaurant chef space—so partnerships with chefs, and high-end restaurants. The other totally different was focusing on high-end fashion in the art world. So she had a partnership with Gabriella Rosco, like these super-targeted niches where they were focusing a lot of resources on PR and brand building.
So I hired a PR agency. Not that level, but I knew that PR was really important and that it also takes a lot of work. And I was realistic with myself with everything there is to do starting a new company. I knew I was never gonna put the time in to do my own PR, so I outsourced it. So this agency brought me a partnership with New York magazine, The Strategist, and we ended up getting published in their gift guide as the best-weighted blanket to gift in 2018.
We sold everything out in two days. So that was the turning point that put us on the map. And at that point, we had their editorial approval, we started to get a lot more press. We're still with this same agency and we're getting press on a weekly basis, at least. It doesn't really stop. So that's been incredible for us. That press is so valuable in terms of making sales with customers who are doing their research.
But also SEO, brand validation, and social proof for your ads. Plus, just wholesale accounts, too, cause everyone's seeing you everywhere. It's kinda like branding; you need the touchpoints, right? You need basically seven touchpoints before a person can buy. So that's just something we continue to do.
Nice. And I have this hunch that I don't know much about PR; I honestly hardly know. I don't even think I know what PR stands for. Public relations, is that what it is? But I have this hunch that it's something that Amazon sellers really need to start looking at to leverage; the hot topic right now is external traffic.
And of course, we have all these people who come up with all these nifty tricks and tips and stuff to try and fabricate external traffic, which is great. I'm into that stuff, but we all know it can go away overnight. PR seems like something that is truly a long-term asset that can serve you over, over, and over and over.
What type of advice would you give to someone like me who has this feeling, this hunch, and wants to look into a PR agency? I mean, it sounds like prices can vary a lot service can vary a lot. Like how do we step into that world and start to mess with it a little bit?
So I think the mistake a lot of people make is that they think that PR equals a sales channel and it doesn't; it's really a long-term investment in building your brand's reputation. So it's hard to measure directly even if I sometimes will go look at our retainer fee and try to say, is this really worth it? Is it converting into sales? And you won't be able to directly track it. So that's the first thing to know.
There are different types of PR too. So you could hire an agency that's gonna get you listed on affiliate channels by that, I mean your websites that are taking a commission to refer the traffic over to Amazon. Those are trackable, and you'll see a direct ROI on that, and that's great. But with our PR agency, it's an interesting conversation.
I also think it's important not to engage an agency until you're really ready. So you have to have that brand story or the photography and imagery really ready for them to magnify. They will not do the branding for you. They won't; they won't. Do you know what we were just talking about a minute ago about marketing storytelling and all of that?
A PR agency is only there to amplify the message you've already created, and the easier you make the job for them, the more success they'll have. But if you're just like another commodity product, it's gonna be very hard for them to get an editor interested in talking about you. Okay. So I think it's a good idea to have at least two or three different angles.
Whatever they might be, some kind of story or different, product differentiator cause everyone's so busy, they have to be able to say it in like five words. So "Hey Editor cover this scrunchy company because they give back to the elephants" or whatever the thing is, has to be really short and digestible.
That was kind of my first lesson in marketing. The lady I worked with, she'd be like, “Why are you always explaining yourself?” I'd have a good title or something, but then I would go into this deep explanation. I'm like, "Well, people need to know and blah, blah, blah." And she's like, they don't care. Like they don't… nobody wants to read that until they do like you and they're your audience, and they actually care about what you say, and it all kind of started to click for me.
It's been an interesting journey getting my own brands developed. I've learned a lot. I think we have one product that might be good for a PR agency. We've got the story; we're in a unique niche. I gotta check it out. I need to pull the trigger on that.
Yeah. When you were asking about how do you find a good agency? I would say just definitely talk to other client referrals. Definitely, 'cause there are so many people out there offering PR and you just it's like SEO. It's like one of those you could get, you could get misled.
Yeah. I think I saw somebody, I could pay him 79 bucks and be like as featured on NBC. Like some subnet of NBC or something like that for 79 bucks. So yeah, there's all types of stuff out there. But I think your point, the one thing that really hits home for me is just making sure you have a good product that's worth amplifying. Cause if you have something that's not, then you just get… it's like bad press, right?
Like who knows, maybe a PR agency will take your money knowing that your product and your story suck.
Oh, they will be more than happy "Okay we tried, sorry"
Cool. So yeah. Thanks for throwing some advice out there on that. I think that'll be really helpful for people. From an operational standpoint, what are some things you guys use in the business? A lot of MDS, people are running traction, do you do anything like that? What's your project management look like?
We just had our first day of traction last week. Super excited to implement it. Up till now. It's been a lot of hard work and emails, and I don't have anything to share on that. Yeah.
You guys have... you have a team of people, you have some virtual assistants. What's your team look like? Yeah.
As much as I hear people talking about outsourcing VAs and really scaling these low-overhead businesses, which sounds amazing, I've never been able to do that really well. So our team is myself, I've got my sister, who's our director of operations, which is awesome, plus we have a team of six total, actually. We're all US-based.
Marketing Coordinator, there's a CMO, there's a customer service lead who is really stepping in to support more of the operations function, and a brand new hired customer service rep.
Yeah, the virtual assistant, sounds great, low overhead, good work, but what you don't hear is how many people did you have to fire this year? How many people have screwed up a flat file 'cause they didn't really understand the language difference and what you told them to do and not to do? I've had so many...I've had a lot of VAs.
I've only had two that have been with me more than a couple of years so it's tough but yeah, it is nice when it works out the way we want it to. So do you guys have plans to keep growing the company? Or do you think you're kind of at a point where these six will be able to support you for a while?
I think we've kind of reached the maximum headcount we can sustain at the moment think we can get. We did 5 million last year, we see a little bit of growth coming for this year. I think this team can get us to 10, and then we'll have to go from there.
Awesome. And you guys plan on adding some verticals, and offering some more products in the business to make that 10 million happen?
So my biggest… the way I see it, my biggest responsibility besides recruiting and team building is new product development. And that was my major goal for 2020. , I'm working on a new product, but it's the one in my stomach. So I'm having a baby. That I would say has really kind of slowed me down this year in that sense. So I'm hoping that in 20… I'm sorry I said the year wrong that was my 2021 project.
2022 is gotta be all about new product development for sure.
Yeah, I foresee a baby-weighted blanket in the future.
Oh, it's gonna open my eyes to a whole new world of product opportunities.
My wife… we have a brand that falls into that niche, like for young children, but we have stuff for moms as well. Some great companies like this Kite Baby and Kite Club, have a cultish following, but they make really cool products out of a lot of bamboo stuff and, it's comfortable, man. Like I've put on one of their shirts before, my wife got I forget what they call the… It's like a blanket, it zips up, and it is a little bit weighted.
It does have some weight to it, and the kids absolutely sleep better with it. We get pretty fanatical about our sleep. We got the blackout, the shades with the blackout curtains. We do the white noise for the kids at night, and they have their blankets as well, so yeah, we take that stuff pretty seriously. But yeah, I think that would fit well with what you've got going on.
I don't know how you feel about that, but.
I love it. So we did launch kids' weighted blankets earlier this year, but they're only recommended for going down to like 50 pounds. We were just hesitant to get into that baby territory because I don't know what kind of safety measures we need to have in place, but kids with weighted blankets are like, .it's a gorgeous thing. They're so sensitive, and they're so responsive to them. They really want.
I could see that presenting some issues with really young kids. I think I remember my wife mentioning one of the doctors was like she said, no, don't get a weighted blanket for the baby, he was like six months old or something like that.
Yeah. They just need to be able to move it off themselves, strong enough, old enough for that.
Okay. Okay. But yeah, I think that niche is blowing up the self-care, the kid children's health. It is like taking off; you have people wanting to get vitamins for their kids and stuff and really just taking that to the next level, which is amazing to see. When I got into health, you couldn't go into 7-Eleven and buy anything organic. Like people laughed at you, you are a weirdo, so like, "Oh my God, you actually care about what you eat.
Like what's wrong with you?" I feel bad for my parents' generation though, where they just weren't taught that stuff. They were taught, "Oh, beat yourself into the ground, eat whatever's available, and go to work the next day." And they just didn't really have the information that we do now.
So it's great for me, who's someone who's personally very passionate about that stuff to see it turn that corner and to see people like you creating these businesses that help people live a better, healthier life. So yeah, I'm excited to see the products that come out in the future, especially after you have had the baby. It's gonna be cool to see that journey unfold.
Yeah. I'm excited. And I was speaking...I think Kailey Graham as well. She was saying having some time away from the business was giving her some clarity and a good way. I think that stepping away sometimes can be really helpful for work too. So I'm optimistic about that.
Yeah. Yeah. It absolutely helps me think through things. It's like the work... the part that I really enjoy keeps happening—the thinking, the creative problem-solving, the visualization. And it just gets better when I'm able to step away from that day-to-day stuff that's going on. Did you see that message that Kailey fell and broke her elbow?Did you see that?
I did. We'll have to tag you in the show notes. I feel sad for her.
That is such a bummer. I mean, to even hardly be able to hold your kid after it just being born and just...she's already healing from the pregnancy. And now she has to deal with that. We're sending some positive vibes your way Kailey that's for sure. Other than what you're going through right now, what's on the horizon for the business? Any big plans?
Yeah. I'm really excited about a new channel we're developing right now, which is in the spa industry. So I've been in conversations with several high-end spas about; they're reopening, they're coming back from COVID, there's a ton of pent-up demand for spas. It's part of self-care and wellness, same for hotels as well. And they're looking for ways to differentiate and offer their clientele something really special as they reopen.
And so there's a lot of interest in adding weighted blankets to their services. And we're in the process of closing a couple of deals with some really special properties. And if that can happen, they are a small volume, but it's gonna be an amazing opportunity for us for people to experience our products in a really gorgeous setting and be part of coming back into the post-COVID self-care and I love spas in general.
So, I'm really excited about this one as a new sales channel.
Nice. Yeah. That sounds exciting. Getting into hotels I imagine would be just great for the business. That they put in some pretty big orders, I imagine and it's always… the companies that I always see in a hotel; It always sticks with me even if I've never heard of 'em before. And if I don't see 'em again I always kind of remember the shampoo at that hotel I stay at for some reason.
Right. Yeah. If they chose it as a thoughtfully chosen brand and they put that in the room, that kind of means something.
Yeah. So, yeah. That's cool. That's very exciting. Yeah. Well, before we wrap up, I've got some quick questions for you. I'm gonna pull from my bank of questions over here and okay we'll chat about these a little bit. All right. So question number one: When did you decide going the traditional route in life was not okay with you?
That was gonna be definitely 2017 when I felt like everything I tried was not bringing me any closer to satisfaction or happiness and I bought my one-way ticket to Bali.
Nice. And so what was it that you were looking for? What did satisfaction mean to you at that point?
I'd been looking for satisfaction and fulfillment through work and kept being disappointed. And I think the fallacy in that is that no work or career, something external to you, can ever provide validation. You have to find that from within yourself. And I didn't know that, but that's kind of what I ended up discovering.
Yeah. It's kind of like about… it kind of reminds me of just like the journey being the best part, not really the destination.
Yeah. Yeah. I took that book with me, ‘The Heroes Journey,’ on my trip and was reading that. I felt like such a weirdo. I was like, "How come I'm so discontent, everyone around me seems satisfied. What is wrong with me?" I was like, I don't know, but I have to continue looking for as long as I feel this way, I'll keep looking until either I die or I find the answer one or the other, and it was just the journey itself.
Yeah. I can totally relate to that. I was super unsatisfied with the path I was going down with work and school and just not happy with it. I rebelled pretty hard; somehow I ended up an entrepreneur, thank God. And it kind of all worked out in the end, but yeah, I can totally relate. All right. Question number two: What is the best business advice you've received?
Ooooh… That's a really good question. There's a lot of things that are coming to mind. I think that they're not... I mean, I hear them a lot and I think they're very, very true. The 'hire slow, fire fast' one is what's coming to me as the most impactful in your business. And when I made my first hire, everyone said, "Oh well, it's not gonna work out."
That "it's your first hire" what are you talking about? I'm so excited.
"Have you heard about my first eCommerce business?" That's what you should have said.
And I just… I was like; there's no way this is perfect. This is a match made in heaven, we're gonna go on forever, and in a year, definitely that didn't work out. But I learned so much through that experience about hiring what to look for, and what's really important to me. And just how important it is to find the right person for a role that was an "extremely worth it' experience.
Yeah. I think that's such an important one that people need to hear over and over and over again. Because unless you've learned that lesson the really hard way and I'm not talking about "Oh yeah, I had someone, they were kind of bad. If you're that… I'm that type of person, I believe in people, I want it to work out, I give them extra chances.
I almost always end up screwing myself over in the end, but I still have that little voice inside of me "give them a chance, come on man". And someone in your organization… maybe you're struggling and you really need help, so you hire quickly because you have that kind of...you've made the decision. And man having that B and C player, those B players are even worse cause like "Oh, well they're kind of good enough" and you don't want to hire someone else.
So you kind of just keep dealing with it, but you really don't experience that growth that you could if you had that A+ plus player on your team.
Right. Yeah. I've heard that recently. I think it was in Puerto Vallarta; someone was saying that the B players are the most dangerous hires because you'll keep him around forever. But that's why, I mean, I think that 'fire fast' is as equally important as 'hire slow'. I mean, you're doing your whole team a favor and yourself and that person, really.
I think that's a huge point. You're spot on. You're not doing anybody a favor by dealing with that situation. Even the other person.
It's miserable to show up to work knowing you're not doing a great job.
Yeah. Yeah. You know it's affecting that person somehow, some way. Man, it just reminds me, I actually… I did this; I made this mistake again. I tried to hire someone, they actually… but see, they interned with me for a little bit, and I thought things were gonna get better. And it was actually a good friend of mine, someone I've known for 20 years and like two weeks in. I was like, "Bro, this is not working out, you gotta go."
And like I've got three kids now, I've got other employees depending on me. I've learned that lesson the hard way. So yeah, about two weeks in I was like, "Man, it's not gonna work out."
And I think that's awesome that you were really straightforward about it. I think it's important, to be honest, not mean, but honest. because a learning opportunity for that person too, to take with them in their career. So I think of it as doing them a fav… not a favor, but a constructive… like they can leave that job better than when they came with that feedback if they're the kind of person that takes it in.
Yeah. I agree with you. Absolutely. Alright. Next up. Let's see here: What is one habit you are working on right now?
Hmmm…. There's so many, to be honest. The biggest habit I'm working on right now is cleaning up my diet. So taking out processed foods, replacing them with whole vegetables and fruits, and seeing what a difference that makes in my wellbeing and my energy. And I had to just because of the pregnancy and some stuff that I was noticing and it's very simple.
And I always thought I had a good diet, but when you really get called to it, you realize "Oh, I didn't have that great of a diet." So just the inputs… improving the quality of the inputs. Besides that, I'm really excited about implementing traction and holding myself accountable. It's easy sometimes when you're the boss to… there's no one to hold you to account.
If you're always working hard, you're not being lazy or slacking off. But who's gonna come back and say "Did you do that thing that you promised you would do?" That's really important. So I'm excited to put these structures in place in the business.
Nice. That's exciting. Yeah. Those are two things I'm always constantly working on. Diet is so tough, man. There are just so many factors that go into our decision-making with diet and so many things we don't even realize or are happening when you're driving down the road, and you see that billboard with something tasty on it, and your brain catches it, and now you've gotta fight this temptation, and if you're already having a bad day, then you might just say "Hey, f*** it.
I'm gonna go get that burger" or whatever it is, and then you have to deal with the guilt afterward. It's just like that cycle, yeah. Yeah. It's not easy. And I think the similar… I think what's going on in your brain with the diet, and the work thing is the same. It's like, you'll jump to tasks that you enjoy doing and not go too deep.
Totally. Yeah, you get the dopamine rush. You're like, "Oh, I did that, I did that, I did that," but they're not things that matter.
Yep. Not the stuff that you need to be getting done. Yeah. I think that's where traction really shines because they don't necessarily say "Hey, you need to be doing that stuff". They'll say "Hey, is this within your scope of responsibility? Is this your area of expertise?" and "No. Okay. Then you need to find someone else to do this stuff who enjoys doing that".
Harder said than done but it is possible. It just takes a little bit of leg work and it's great when you put someone in a seat that can fulfill a role you've been kinda doing just okay at, and they can come in and really knock it outta the park.
It's so funny when I look back because when I started this company, I didn't wanna hire a single employee because I felt so strongly that I didn't enjoy being an employee. And I was so happy to finally be an entrepreneur. And I was like, I'm only going to hire freelancers or independent, also entrepreneurs that see a path for themselves within my business.
And we can run side by side together. And now that I have a few people working with me who are employed and they're committed to the organization, it's like the best thing that I ever could have done. And I wish I'd done it from day one. It's amazing. It's life-changing. It's the best.
Yeah. It really is. And it's tough to put into words how great it is. I've had some experiences like that. And I've also had a pretty good experience at this coworking place that I've been in. The other day when I had to let go of an employee, I got up, I walked like four doors down, and I talked to a guy who… he hires people. And I was like, "Carlos, I need somebody ASAP."
And just the feeling of getting up outta my chair, walking over there, and just having someone there. And I know they're good at what they do because you're not really gonna afford a place in here if you're just kind of… if you're new and struggling.
So he's gonna kinda search for you for a new Hire.
Yeah. I could go one of two ways; I can just pay an hourly rate to him, and then he manages everything like it's his employee who's working for me, or I could just buy him out for a larger amount upfront. But I just think it's a cool way to work when you're hiring someone because it's easier to just say, "Yeah, I'll, I'll pay you." And, you know, if it works out, then it makes sense to buy him out and, and bring him on to my organization.
But yeah, and he's got people on it, he's checking in with me, and you know, it's been great. It's been a cool experience. So it's great to be able to surround yourself with people who kind of feel like they're on your team a little bit.
Yeah. That's great. We're working with our first recruiter as well right now to fill a role for the supply chain. It's been really nice, super good. Cause yeah, posting ads, filtering candidates. It's a lot of work.
Yeah. Yeah. When I first started out, I wanted to do everything on my own too, but it's because I, like, I honestly thought I could do it. I honestly thought I could do everything.
You could if there were like 45 of you.
I saw a commercial the other day. It was a lady in an executive office at a big executive table. And it was just a bunch of different versions of herself at the table. I was like, that feels like my life for the past four years.
And you can do it for a minute, but you start to burn out, right? And then you're like, "Oh, not worth it."
Yeah. Yeah. And you know, if you've got kids and family responsibilities, it just adds up and just weighs you down, and then you become an irritable person 'cause you're just trying to do too much. I've been through that before, and then it is just not good for anyone. So yeah, I'm glad I got over that feeling of trying to do everything myself, even though I still catch myself occasionally.
I don't think that'll ever go away, but at least I'm aware of it now, Thankfully. Yeah. Alright, final question here: "What are some of your hobbies?"
Travel is my biggest hobby. I went down to Mexico in September of 20… What year is it now? 2020, last year, so sort of like at the end of the COVID quarantine exhaustion. So yeah, I've got a passport that I need to get renewed cause I'm almost out of pages. And so that's a big one. Yoga, I love yoga. I'm a little bit of a lapsed Yoga… Yogi at this point. I've been out of practice.
Yeah. I love trying new restaurants. I love eating out. That would… I think those are some of my hobbies. Yeah.
Nice. Yeah. I can definitely relate to a lot of that. I don't do yoga as much as I used to. I don't do it too often anymore, but I used to go to a yoga studio a few years ago. Gosh, I guess that was like nine years ago or something. It was great, like I loved... And I think that's what really led me into meditation was yoga, just the feeling of being so calm but energized at the same time.
I don't know if that's the best way to explain it, but you know, to me, that's how it felt. I felt calm and focused, but like "Wow," I could get up and go do anything. And I chased that feeling for a while, and that led me to meditation and some other things, but yeah, I love doing that type of stuff. It feels so good.
What is your meditation practice like right now?
Right now, I just do… my bare minimum is 10 minutes a day, and I've just been going with Headspace cause it keeps it really simple for me like; with everything going on, I know I can just turn on Headspace and take 10 minutes to do it. And I've been doing that for a while. I've got like I think I've logged like over 3000 minutes or something on Headspace, and I got to the point where they bring you to the expert one, and it's literally just nothing like...
Like No audio?
No audio, no guidance, like just nothing. And I'm like, "Well, I don't know like I don't need head space for this one anymore." But you know what I've gotten into, and oh my God, it's been mind-blowing is the binaural beats? The music.
Oh, yes. I listen to those sometimes on my computer when I'm working on YouTube.
Yes. It works almost immediately. I've always noticed that. I think a lot of people are like this but like… and I think a lot of… if there's some men that are parents, if fathers listening to this story relate, but like Disney movies that would make me tear up or something like that, like I hardly cry about anything. My wife thinks I'm heartless sometimes, but these are like Moana when they start beating on the drums and they're out on the ocean.
I already have this weird connection with the ocean and like the music, and I start tearing up, and my wife will be like, "Why are you crying? Is it about the kids?" And I'm like, "No, the ocean. I love the ocean so much". But just these… but all the movie, like even the kids' stuff as well, like it's always something with the music involved, and I feel it, man; I feel it quick.
And I'm noticing the same thing with this music; I did it on Spotify. They have some playlists now. I'm using Brain.fm because that's like their thing. Music for productivity, music for focus, music for sleep, that's what I'm doing now. And I am blown away at the results; it's like that instant focus mode. Like I really do feel it; it's pretty crazy.
Cool, I'll check that out.
Yeah, yeah. Check it out. Do you have any big travel plans coming up?
No, I'm pretty much just between Texas and Mexico at this point, so no big plans. I've missed New York incredibly, especially since they're opening back up again now, but maybe like in the year, I'll get to go back and visit my old homies and my...
I love Mexico. My first time in Mexico was in Puerto Escondido and down in Oaxaca for a surf trip. Have you made it down to Puerto Escondido?
I have been there. It was in 2000… Oh, I don't know what year it was. Maybe ten years ago. I took a trip… 2008, so I got laid off, and I decided to travel, and I did fundraising. So my cousin and I went down to Honduras to do this women's aid project. Then they had a coup, and then we had to leave after like two weeks. And I was like, “But I wanna travel and learn Spanish.”
So I went to Puerto Escondido, which I thought was like a sleepy, hidden town. It turned out they were having the MTV surf competitions that weekend. This is not a sleepy town, so that was my one time down there.
Was it at Zicatela? The competition by Zicatela where the...
Sounds familiar. Yeah. Like huge waves.
Huge waves. Yeah. Yeah. It can get, it can get like 20, 30 feet there. It gets really big.
That's cool. So there's a segue into an e-commerce store. So there, Oaxaca… you're just mentioning Oaxaca, right? Yeah. There's like the spot for gorgeous crafts, weaving rugs, textiles, everything coming outta Mexico's Oaxaca. So I really do wanna get down there, but I'm furnishing this apartment in Tulum. And I couldn't find good stuff there.
So I found a Weaver online in Oaxaca, and she shipped me some rugs. I'm like, I love these rugs, they're so beautiful. I took orders from my friends. Now I'm like the rug lady, I'm bringing 'em back to the States. Anyway, like a week later, I discovered that one of my favorite e-commerce stores, which is The Citizenry... I've been obsessed with them since I first had the idea to be in e-commerce, a long time ago… is selling the same rugs from the same weaving shop for like four times the price.
I'm like, aha opportunity.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
But you just… I mean, I don't know how people have more than one or two… more than one business. Honestly, it's like all I can manage. You see all these opportunities, and you're like, "I wanna do this and do that", but for now, I'll just have to focus on my true love, which is weighted blankets.
Yeah. Keep focusing, because I've done the mul… I'm doing the multiple business thing and it's… you've got a kid on the way too. Like just keep focusing, and things will just keep getting better, in my opinion, instead of trying to do a bunch of different things. Well, awesome. Elizabeth, this has been great. I've really enjoyed chatting with you.
Where can people learn more about your blankets or reach out to you if they want to chat with you a little bit or get a blanket?
Yes. Our website is Balooliving.com. It's spelled B like boy, a-l-o-o living. That's our Instagram as well. And probably the best way to find me is just by contacting our customer service email@example.com. We're such a small team, that I'll always get the message or on LinkedIn. Elizabeth Grojean is my name. And we're also in Canada and the UK. I forgot to mention so... international shipping as well.
All right. Well, thanks for coming on, Elizabeth. It's been great chatting with you.
Thank You, Nick. My pleasure.