hero image

Ask Your Competitors for Advice with Will Nitze - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 173

Will Nitze is the Founder & CEO of IQBAR, a Boston-based brain and body nutrition company. 

After studying psychology as an undergrad at Harvard, Will became fascinated with the human brain and how it functions. 

Then, in his mid-20’s he experienced chronic failings with his own brain – including daily headaches – that he traced back to his high-carb diet. 

By eliminating staples like bread and pasta from his regimen, he staged an astounding cognitive recovery!

In 2017, after failing to identify ready-to-eat products that matched his new regimen, Will began tinkering in his apartment kitchen on a protein bar optimized for brain and body nutrition. 

After countless iterations, he launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and incorporated IQBAR. 

While the product line has evolved over the years, Will’s mission of empowering “doers” through better nutrition has never wavered. 

IQBARs are now sold in 7,000 US locations and on all major Ecommerce platforms. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:09] What are IQBAR products
  • [01:52] Will’s realization about food
  • [05:02] Before formulation and product development
  • [07:21] Get valuable info from competing founders
  • [09:47] What initially worked won’t always work
  • [11:14] Other benefits to talking to competitors
  • [12:51] The challenges in moving to the next step
  • [16:09] Persevere because bad things will happen
  • [17:45] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [18:05] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [18:49] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [20:16] Sponsor: BeProfit beprofit.co
  • [21:47] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [22:34] IQBAR’s go-to-market strategy
  • [25:57] From crowdfunding to D2C
  • [26:29] Doing things that don’t scale
  • [28:43] The insane benefits of Amazon
  • [30:31] Selling on Amazon is super contextual
  • [31:21] When to consider D2C-first/D2C only model
  • [32:42] Luxury products vs commodity products on Amazon
  • [33:16] Providing a specific shopping experience
  • [34:58] All platforms have risk, you just need to choose
  • [36:39] The true importance of your product
  • [37:34] Product quality is a multiplier
  • [38:19] Scaling with an MVP is a recipe for disaster
  • [38:49] Where to find Will


If you’re enjoying the show, we’d love it if you left Honest Ecommerce a review on Apple Podcasts. It makes a huge impact on the success of the podcast, and we love reading every one of your reviews!


Chase Clymer  

Before we get started, if you're enjoying this content, you can do us a favor by subscribing to our YouTube channel and ringing the bell.

That will let the algorithm know that you like this content and it will help us produce more.

Will Nitze  

You just have to evaluate what the platform risk is relative to the opportunity that that platform offers you.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating  real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show

Chase Clymer  

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today, I'm welcoming to the show, the founder and CEO of IQBAR, a leading brain and body nutrition company based in Boston, Massachusetts. William Nitze, how are you doing today, bud?

Will Nitze  

I'm doing well. Thanks for having me. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. So let's just dive in. 

Obviously... Well, I guess maybe quickly, let's talk about the product itself so people can understand where we're going to end up. 

So just give me a quick crash course for the uninitiated of what IQBAR is and the products that you're selling.

Will Nitze  

Sure, yeah. So we're a brain and body nutrition company. We started out purely as a protein bar company, but we're now... We have a hydration stick product as well. 

So we're more of a platform today than when we started. We're a brain and body nutrition company, centering on science-based brain nutrients, as well as body nutrients. 

So everything we make is good for the brain and body.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And you had some personal experience with this back in your 20s. So I guess let's just start the story there. 

Will Nitze  

Yeah, so I didn't. So out of college, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. And I was selling and marketing software. I didn't have entrepreneurial ambitions until a few years into that. 

But I started feeling bad, physically, at my job. I was working long hours and just felt lethargic. I had headaches. Just a host of low grade cognitive issues that made my quality of life not great. 

And what I learned was, obviously, it doesn't help to work insanely long hours, and sleep and exercise play a role. 

But what I learned was my diet was really the centerpiece of what was the main culprit. And more specifically, eating a bunch of carbs, and not enough healthy fats, and not enough fiber and things like that were really causing the vast majority of those downstream impacts. 

And so I got really into nutrition at that point. And I started reading voraciously on nutrition. And even specifically on brain nutrition. 

For example, a book called Grain Brain was what really kicked things off for me, which I found just endlessly fascinating and terrifying at the same time. 

Basically, the premise being that the things you eat, have an impact on your brain, not just your body. We think about "If I eat a pizza, what does it do to my gut or my waistline?" And the equally good question, maybe the better question is, "What is it to your brain?" 

But we don't really think about that all too often because there aren't nerve endings in your brain so you don't know when you hurt your "brain". 

And then 40 years later, you get some neurodegenerative disease. And you think, "Oh well that was... That was genetic!" But actually... Maybe it was, partially. 

But the fact that you ate pizza for 40 years, certainly played a role in that. So anyway, I got really interested in nutrition. 

And this was the rise of Paleo and Whole30 and CrossFit and all these other nutritionally relevant trends, and I got obsessed with this idea of brain food. 

So "brain food", what I mean by that is like a packaged, ready-to-eat food, not baking salmon or whatever. It didn't really exist and I didn't understand why it didn't exist yet. 

That same value proposition and functionality existed within the pill space, and powder space, and supplement space. It didn't really exist in ready-to-eat food.

So that was the spark and then kicked off this whole entrepreneurial journey.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. It says like... 

So back in 2017, you were ideating on building this protein bar, essentially, trying to try to figure out the formulation. 

How long did it take from you and your kitchen working on this thing until you had a product in hand that was ready to hit the market?

Will Nitze  

A solid year. I had no background in food or beverage or CPG. And I didn't know anyone who had a background in it. So I had to start at zero. So it didn't... 

The starting point wasn't really like "start tinkering". It was actually just... It was actually more so like "solicit information" and develop a mental model of how I'm going to go about this. 

And the first way I did that --the only way I knew how to do that-- was to find a bunch of people who knew more than I did, call them, and ask them a bunch of questions. 

So, other entrepreneurs, being the other people there. And so I did that and I got answered a bunch of questions that were…

[They] just gave me that baseline knowledge. How do you set up a supply chain? How do you manufacture something? What are the... 

Generally, what should my COGS be? What should my gross margin be? All of those baseline things that I think you just have to hammer out before you get prototyping. 

That was my first step. And then once I felt I had triangulated enough answers there, I started getting all these suppliers to ship in ingredients, and in tandem just was observing what's out there on the market. You can... 

The good and bad thing about food and beverages you can --to a degree-- reverse engineer things because there's not many industries where the product has the  secret on the back, i.e. the ingredient deck

And you know that anything on the shelf that's been there for a while hasn't gone through many iterations and they've solved a lot of problems so don't... Don't reinvent the wheel.  

So that but you know, there's a lot of work from that point onward, but it gives a good starting point. 

So you have your informational starting point and then you have your competitive landscape, product starting point and then it's just... 

From there, yeah, ordering a bunch of ingredients, tinkering in my kitchen... Just brute trial and error. But that period... it's all in the nuance. 

It's all in the last 5%. And that took a full year. And I was doing that at nights and on weekends, while I had my other job.

Chase Clymer  

Now, as you mentioned earlier, before you even invested in buying products and iterating on it and trying to build something on your own, you were asking other people questions. 

Is there any advice from back then of you speaking to people that are a few steps ahead of you that you wish to share with the audience?

Will Nitze  

In terms of asking good questions or reaching out to the right people or...

Chase Clymer  

Or both. Whether answers that you got from these mentors [that are] helpful that you'd want to share or just anything from that whole experience that you'd want to share.

Will Nitze  

Well, yeah. Look. I'm them now. I'm like, several years into this. So maybe I'll provide some color to the process of  that first process. How do you get data? How do you aggregate and solicit data? 

Which, by the way, I think that's the right move. I don't regret any of that. I don't know if I would do that any differently. 

But basically, the flow is like, find the closest analogue to what you're trying to do. If you're trying to make an ice cream company, find an ice cream company. 

Find a founder who lives near you who has an ice cream company. And you might think, "Well, why would they tell you anything? And they're a competitor and yada yada." 

I don't know if it's ironic or not, but that just seems not to be the case that people are super guarded. It's actually quite collegial in the food and bev space and CPG space. 

And even in cases where it isn't, there's always people you can find that are. because it's just like the pie is big enough. The market is so big for food and bev. It's literally everyone. 

You know, people over time just learn that they're not going to win or get ahead by being super guarded. So anyway... 

So just be shameless. Reach out to them. LinkedIn message them, email them, call them and be prepared to know the exact questions you want to ask that specific person. Because they're... 

Do your homework too on who that person is and their company as well. Maybe they're 2 years in but they haven't figured out like scale phases 5 and 6, but they've figured out like 1 and 2. 

So ask questions relevant to their context. And then I guess another just thing I would add is just a huge caveat of just they... 

Just because they did the things they did to get to where they are doesn't mean those are the right things. I would actually... 

I wrote a Linked post on this the other day, which is like, "You shouldn't use advice or anecdote as if it's gospel or fact. It's just another data point." 

So you need to stress test that data point. And there's a couple of ways to stress test that. You can research and aggregate data. The internet's a beautiful thing for that. 

But you can also talk to 3 other people and ask them the same question. And if 5 people... Out of 5 people, 4 of them say one thing and the fifth says another thing, well, probably, the 4 are more likely to be right, than the fifth. 

But if you had just talked to the fifth, you could be going off on a wild goose chase. So just aggregate as much data as you can, both anecdotal and research-based data, and question all of it. That should all just give you a starting point, not an ending point. 

So once you start, you're gonna start aggregating your own data, and then just follow the data, honestly. There is a threshold where you can start just following the data and entirely jettison anecdote.

Chase Clymer  

You just shared so much awesome information, I really want to talk about the whole concept of just reaching out to your competitors and talking to them. 

I brought this up a few times on the podcast, and it is probably more rare that you'll run into somebody that won't talk to you, than that will. It's just wild. And you're right. 

It's like, there's more than enough business out there. And most real entrepreneurs recognize it. 

And they are, they want to help you not make the same mistakes that they made, because those things still annoy them to this day. So they want to help anyone else out there that they can. 

Will Nitze  

And also, you build good karma, you build an advocate in that person. That's the thing. It's like... It's not like you "lose something." But the thing you lose is so de minimis. It's so tiny. Let's say I give a competitor an insight. 

Okay, they could technically go use that insight and it could technically steal 0.01% of my market share from customers that otherwise would about me, and yada yada. It's not unequivocally awesome. 

But the benefit is just so much bigger than that. You get an advocate, you have a quid pro quo, they then want to help you, and they mention that you help them, and then there are free evangelists for you and... 

So it just seems to be way over-weighted and towards the positive.

Chase Clymer  

Oh absolutely. Now, within your entrepreneurial journey, are there any other situations that you came across that might have been more difficult and challenging to get to that next step?

Will Nitze  

Yeah. Endless. It's sort of like... I could give you a laundry list. But I can give you a laundry list, even within like segments of the business. 

There's the obvious ones, the ones that are like the most nightmarish and disastrous are our manufacturing and supply chain related ones. 

You literally can't make the product when you need to or  in making the product, some terrible thing happens. 

So a classic example that I share fairly often is one time --this was super early on-- we had a PO from our first major customer in the drug channel. And we had never gotten a massive order like that. It was like, over a million.... Actually not... I think it was like... 

Yeah, it was like roughly a million bars. And we had never made 100,000 bars. And so we got all our ducks in a row. 

But we were admittedly pretty rushed and trying to get everything out. And the whole team piles in the car and drives to the co-packer, the manufacturer. 

And we start at an insanely early time. It was like, like 4:45 AM or 5 AM. And stuff kicks off super early at these co-packers. And the product mixes well and slabs well... 

The slab machine is the machine you create bars on. And then everything's going swimmingly until the bars get wrapped. And we looked at the bar and it looked great and we're high fiving. 

And then the guy comes over and he's like, "Yeah, the wrappers aren't sealing properly." 

And I was like "What? Well if the wrapper isn't sealing properly, the air can get in the wrapper. It's gonna kill the shelf life. This is a non starter. This is a huge problem." 

And I didn't even know that was  a possibility. It's like the wrapper company didn't put the proper amount of glue on the wrapper. "How does that even happen?" But it did happen. 

And we were creating the order for a million bar order for this first customer. And so it's like... 

That's the one that just really sticks in your head of just like, "Holy crap. What do I do?" And of course, your whole team's there. And your smile just turns into a stoic face. And it was brutal. 

But we called 10 wrapper companies and found one who could turn a wrapper. Said the wrapper is around in 5 days. 

We get the wrappers, we rerun it, and we get the order out the door. 

It cost money, costs tens of thousands of dollars, cost a lot of heartache and all that. But those are like the ones that are super relatable. They're the most tangible. But other than that, there's…

I could go on endless challenges to scaling. A lot of them are internal or building the best possible team. To some degree, everything is a derivative of that.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. What I want to point out there is that was probably at that moment, the biggest gut shot to the business at the time and you guys have persevered through it. You're still here. And that's something that I really want to point out. 

It's really hard to bankrupt your business on one decision. And I mean, it wasn't a decision, it was a failure that was completely outside of your control, too. 

So what I want to say here is what being an entrepreneur is like... Things like that are going to happen and you just have to roll with the punches and say, "Okay, how are we going to solve this?"

Will Nitze  

Yeah. Not only are they going to happen. They're going to happen weekly, for years. And it is true that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It wears you down. 

But it really is the case that like 90% of the battle is just showing up the next day. There's always a path out. There's always a path out. And you know, you want to get to the point where ideally, your problems are more strategic and less tactical. 

And they're less about a wrapper not sealing and they're more about “How do we grow 30% rather than 15% month over month?” or whatever it is. So you're never gonna get... 

My favorite quote of all time is... It's from Greg LeMond. It's a famous cyclist quote, where he says "“It never gets easier, you just go faster.”" So your degree of difficulty is actually constant. You just go faster to compensate for that.

Sponsor: Electric Eye

If you're struggling with scaling your sales, maybe Electric Eye can help. 

Our team has helped our clients generate millions of dollars in additional revenue through our unique brand scaling framework. You can learn more about our agency at electriceye.io. That's E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C-E-Y-E.io. 

Sponsor: Mesa

Mesa is the Shopify expansion pack to level up your brand. 

By turning all your internet connected apps into your business epicenter, Mesa can lighten your workload and tame the day-to-day chaos of running your store. 

Join the other successful brands that have learned how to balance clever workflows with a solid infrastructure to get more done without additional overhead. 

Whether you need to order data in Google Sheets, add products on Etsy, or get customers added to HubSpot, Mesa has you covered. 

Peace of mind is right around the corner when all your apps are working seamlessly together. 

To put it quite simply, mesa is a better way to work. 

Search Mesa --that's M-E-S-A-- in the Shopify App Store and download it today. 

Sponsor: Gorgias

Is your store holiday ready? Now is the time to make sure you and your team are prepared for the busy season ahead. 

Gorgias, an omnichannel help desk built for Ecommerce has machine learning functionality that takes the pressure off small support teams and gives them the tools to manage a large number of inquiries at scale, especially during the holiday season. 

Gorgias combines all your different communication channels like email, SMS, social media, live chat, and even phone into 1 platform and gives you an organized view of all of your customer inquiries. 

Their powerful functionality can save your support team hours per day and makes managing customer orders a breeze. 

They have allowed online merchants to close tickets faster than ever with the help of pre-written responses integrated with customer data to increase the overall efficiency of customer support.

Their built-in automations also free up time for support agents to give better answers to complex product-related questions, providing next level support, which helps increase sales, brand loyalty, and recognition. 

Eric Bandholz, the founder of Beardbrand says "We're a 7-figure business and we have, essentially, 1 person on customer support and experience. It's impossible to do it without tools like Gorgias to help us innovate." 

Learn how to level up your customer support by speaking to their team here. Visit gorgias.grsm.io/honest. That's G-O-R-G-I-A-S.G-R-S-M.I-O/H-O-N-E-S-T

Sponsor: BeProfit

Today’s show is sponsored by the BeProfit app for Ecom sellers.

If you’re looking to get a crystal clear picture of your online shop’s profitability, the best way to do that is with BeProfit Profit Tracker.

Your online business probably has a ton of different expenses that often shift and change. What if you could keep accurate track of things like ad spend & production costs, and get accurate profit margin calculations without the headache of spreadsheets or half-baked apps?

That’s where BeProfit comes in.

BeProfit lets you analyze all of your store’s data quickly and accurately so you can stay on track to optimizing your profits.

Like many of our listeners, I used to keep track of my profits & expenses with a spreadsheet.

That would work for a while, but as your store started scaling up, that simply wasn’t a viable method of accurately measuring my profitability anymore.

BeProfit can change all of that for you.

Available on Shopify and other top Ecommerce platforms, the app offers advanced analytic tools to turn mountains of data into intuitive charts & graphs in the blink of an eye.

Customize your dashboard, discover valuable insights, and zoom in on the metrics that matter most to you.

Take it a step further and gain full control over your data by creating & exporting custom reports.

You can even find out which are your most valuable products, top-performing ads, best customer cohorts, and so much more - with BeProfit Profit Tracker.

Visit beprofit.co today to start your free 7-day trial.

Don’t forget to use code HONEST15, that’s H-O-N-E-S-T-1-5, to get an exclusive 15% off any plan for the lifetime of your plan. That’s beprofit.co, discount code HONEST15.

Sponsor: Klaviyo

Getting an online business off the ground isn't easy. 

So if you find yourself working late, tackling the to-do list that's a mile long with your 5th cup of coffee by your side, remember, great email doesn't have to be complicated. That's what Klaviyo is for. 

It's the email and SMS platform built to help Ecommerce brands earn more money by creating genuine customer relationships. 

Once you set up a free Klaviyo account, you can start sending beautiful branded messages in minutes thanks to drag and drop design templates and built-in guidance. 

And with Ecommerce specific recommendations and insights, you can keep growing your business as you go. 

Get started with a free account at klaviyo.com/honest. that's K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.COM/HONEST.

Chase Clymer  

Now we talked a lot about the mindset of entrepreneurship and stuff like that. But can we talk a little bit more about the brass tacks of getting a brand off the ground? So you've got... 

Obviously you've got the product and you did that big massive order. But before that, as you're trying to break into the market, what was your approach to getting those first set of customers, what was the go-to-market strategy

Will Nitze  

CPG is weird because it's very much not tech, as much as some people would like to dress it up as such. So you're not going to get a good valuation out the gate. You have to... Everything you do has to be proving it. You need.... 

I.e. sales. Everything works backwards from sales. And so you can't just create a PowerPoint deck and now you have a $5 million company and someone's gonna give you a million bucks worth as an investment. So that was always the challenge. 

It's like the chicken or egg problem. You need sales to justify a valuation. But you need a decent valuation to justify the money to raise to then put to work to go get those sales.

So we did crowdfunding as a way to solve that chicken or egg problem, which... This was back in late 2017, early 2018. 

I have no idea what the state of Kickstarter and Indiegogo are now, but at least at the time, it was still a pretty good way to do it. 

It was not like a story where I made some bars in my kitchen and I sold them to my neighbors and then I sold them to the local bodega and then I just grew that concentric circle wider and wider. 

It was zero to 100. At least that was the goal. Like "We have zero sales now. How do we get $50,000 of sales immediately?" 

And so again, Kickstarter is a great way to do that. It's insanely hard, of course, because you have to push people to your page. No one's just like... Well, actually, that's not entirely true. 

There are a bunch of organic backers who just like to be first adopters. But in order to get them on board, you need to first develop momentum, which is only going to happen if you push a lot of people to your page and get backers. And so that's a whole... 

I could do a whole podcast in and of itself of the wild world of running a Kickstarter. But we broke a lot of rules, entered a lot of gray areas, and just figured it out. 

And so yeah, we saw… Between Indiegogo and Kickstarter, we sold about $90,000 worth of product. And then we had sort of proven the concepts. 

Of course, we had sold a phantom product. It's thin air until you actually sell it to the people or send it to the people.

But enough that we could justify, like, "Okay, we're this value." And it's really not so much. I think people characterize Kickstarter wrong a lot of the time. It's really not a way to get the money to start your business. 

That's not doing much for you, the way to prove your concept to then go raise some money ideally, from angels, friends and family to truly start your business, because now you've proved that the concept is legit.

Chase Clymer  


Will Nitze  

So that was how we started. 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Yeah. And then we've had a few brands on the show that have started that way in various verticals. And getting traffic to the Kickstarter page is always an interesting challenge.

And then after that, producing that first big round of product and transitioning the brand from a Kickstarter page to an actual brand with an actual website and building that funnel out for the direct-to-consumer model always seems to be the next big hurdle. 

Did you guys experience the same thing?

Will Nitze  

Yes. Hopefully, you fulfill your Kickstarter and then you get some subset of those people who like it and want to want to buy it again. And then so certainly have a website and have the ability to sell, follow on orders to those folks, and do everything... 

There's like the classic saying. I forgot who said this, but it was from some Y Combinator online course or something like that, which is "Do things that don't scale..." Might have been Brian Chesky from Airbnb, but just reach out to...

Chase Clymer  

I listened to that podcast. Everyone go listen to it. Y Combinator has the whole recordings of it. You can find it on whatever podcasting you're listening to. And it is a fantastic series of lectures.

Will Nitze  

Yeah, it's like how to start a startup or something like that. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. It was so good. 

Will Nitze  

Yeah. So good. Every single one is incredible. But one of the ones that really resonated with us is to do things that don't scale. 

So like Airbnb, their example is they would actually go or... Either they would go or they would pay photographers to go take really good photos --high-production quality photos of the apartments-- and that kickstarted trust and your early adopters of the product and... 

So for you, reach out to every one of those customers and ask them why they... 

Develop emotional connection, build early evangelists, respond to every email... And by the way, you're probably doing this all by yourself probably.

Chase Clymer  


Will Nitze  

And you build up a little bit of a base. Of course, that's not... You need to grow that base. So then comes the same stuff we still do today. Facebook advertising and Instagram advertising and Google AdWords advertising... 

To the degree we can and have the bandwidth for it, organic content creation. And you know, that's honestly something we... 

That's a big focus for us this year and we're 4 years into it. And so yeah, so we rolled that into a website and did all of those things. 

Of course, having a good website with a good conversion rate, hygiene, and all of that is a good thing. But we rolled that into a website and then we rolled that website into Amazon. And Amazon is just such a wild phenomenon, honestly, as a brand. Just to find... 

You could list something on Amazon with a decent title, decent pictures, and a decent description and just start selling it. That's how wild Amazon is. 

I think it's maybe an unpopular opinion. A lot of people complain about  Amazon fees and things like that, but they don't really talk about how insanely beneficial it is to plug into the network of Amazon consumers just out the gate.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. The velocity is just insane there.

Will Nitze  

And you can play the game right. You can just get pretty darn big pretty quickly. And so yeah. So that was the second thing we did. 

And then in tandem we started poking around the brick-and-mortar world and... So now today it's... I think [we're] still slightly majority Ecommerce revenue but but almost half is brick-and-mortar at this this point. 

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. Yeah, the Amazon versus your own channel --be it a Shopify store, whatever-- it is a conversation that you just have to have with yourself. I can see the arguments on both sides. 

But when it comes down to it, I think that the velocity that Amazon can impact your sales and allow you to get to a higher economy of scale on your cost per good, I think is worth it in the end, especially if... 

People are mad about the cut that Amazon takes. But then if you think about it, it's like, well, you're gonna spend almost that amount of money to acquire a customer through a different channel anyway.

Will Nitze  

100% and you make up for it in the fulfillment, on the back end. They're gonna fulfill it cheaper than you would have. 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. So there's, there's pros and cons to it. And obviously, you can think what you want about them. 

But I think that it is definitely something to consider within your business and make it work for you. Because, again, the customers are there.

Will Nitze  

I think it's super contextual on what you're selling. Super contextual. 

Chase Clymer  


Will Nitze  

So if you're like Allbirds, you're the only company that makes these like wool shoes. Well, you can sell on your website. There's nowhere else to get wool shoes of that kind. 

Maybe now there is, with knockoffs or whatever. But you know, they've invented the shoe to a degree. And so great, you can have a D2C only focus and build a moat around that, right?

Chase Clymer  


Will Nitze  

And there's a zillion other examples. Generally speaking, the more "innovative" the thing, the more you can skew D2C only or at least D2C first before you...

Chase Clymer  


Will Nitze  

...go on Amazon or if you ever go on Amazon. Maybe you don't need to. I guess another piece there is if you just have an epically big brand like Nike famously left Amazon because candidly, they're not that innovative, from a structural standpoint of their shoes anymore, but their brand is so massive. 

And if you want Nikes, you're gonna get Nikes, and you're gonna go... You're happy to go to the Nike store. 

So those 2 variables, I think, allow you to really have that D2C first focus. But if you're like... If you're us... We like to think we're doing things innovatively within our categories. You also can't kid yourself that there are no substitutes.

And so if there are feasible substitutes, then not being on Amazon just is going to lose sales for you. It just is. 

And maybe you're okay with that strategically and maybe you're not but someone can buy something else instead of you and they're not going to be really upset about it. 

Well, now, you have to think a lot longer and harder about not going on Amazon.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. I think, in my head, there's this scale of like a more commoditized product for something that's more luxury. 

And then when you get to the more luxury side of things, it's definitely a more heavily branded experience. 

And in a business like that, it's 100%, capable of probably just living on their own on their own .com and being perfectly well. 

But if you get now more towards like a commodity, especially with lower average order values, where it's almost an impulse buy, you're absolutely missing out if you're not getting those customers off Amazon.

Will Nitze  

Yeah, you actually raise a good point there. There are also some things that you just want a lot of specs and you want different viewpoints and things to buy. It's more of like a "consultative sale", although it's not a human consulting, but it's like... 

Yeah, that was the whole idea behind Zappos. It's like people shop for shoes in a very specific way. They want a 360 degree view. And it's just a different.. 

Amazon is great, but it also has a totally templatized, commoditized user interface. So they're not going to change the whole interface just for one category of shoes [and] people like to look at things in a different way. But Zappos can because all they're selling are shoes. 

So I guess that'd be a third way that that... Our third reason why D2C only and not Amazon could work is like "Is the way people shop for your thing fundamentally different and you can create an interface that makes shopping for that thing better that Amazon literally cannot duplicate?"

Chase Clymer  

I mean, I would say that you couldn't create a better user experience on your own website better than Amazon always because you sell... 

Because your customer journey, and the points that you need to get across, and how your customer wants to interact with that buying of that product, You can always make it better than what Amazon does, because it just makes everybody fit into this mold. 

But it's something that you just said a second ago. And it's like, it's not Amazon or a Shopify store for example. The world doesn't have the black and white. 

You can build a business where there's... You use both and you have specific tactics for each.

Will Nitze  

Totally. Or you cannot. It all comes down to your strategy. I don't sort of claim to have all the answers. I just... 

There are other brands sort of similar to us that went D2C only and they crushed it. It's just a choice. And of course, there's always the platform risk. 

Zynga [were] building games just on Facebook. Facebook changes their algorithm, Zynga's new users plummet. There's that platform risk that comes with Amazon. 

And there's also the data element. You're not getting all the data of your customers on Amazon. [They're] holding that in their walled garden, so to speak. 

That being said, I think different platforms have radically different platform risk. And the classic example is Google. "They have all your data, why wouldn't they blackmail you?" Well, they wouldn't blackmail you. 

Because if they blackmail one person or reveal their search history, their entire user base loses trust and it's a gigantic net negative for them. 

So for Amazon, they are incentivized for you to sell more products. And if they make it harder for you to sell products, they make it harder for a zillion people to sell products, and they make less money. 

So you just have to evaluate what the platform risk is relative to the opportunity that that platform offers you. And for us, it's a net positive, for sure. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Will, is there anything I forgot to ask you about today that you think would resonate with our audience?

Will Nitze  

No, I mean, I can go on, on on any topic. All of this stuff is fascinating to me.  I guess, the only thing I would add is... This may sound obvious, or cliched or whatever. 

But the one thing I just failed to truly appreciate is how important your product is. Again, it's obvious. But as one person, you can only work on so many things. And I think people tend to make a product... 

There's this whole concept of getting MVP going to minimum viable product out in the market and get feedback and testing. And that's all good and well. But if you don't have a path to get that to a world-class product... 

Be careful about scaling too quickly until you have a world-class product. Because it's way harder to iterate and make it world-class after you have a zillion adopters. 

And also, the second piece on that is your product quality is this gigantic multiplier. In other words, it makes everything better. 

It makes it easier to hire people, makes it easier to retain people, it makes your advertising cost of sales better on Amazon, it makes your customer acquisition costs lower, it makes your customer retention costs rate higher. 

It helps everything. All these metrics. "Hmm. How do we get a lower CAC? And how do we get this and that?" 

That's like, "Well, we could bid on these keywords..." And sometimes people forget. If you made the product 10% Better, all of it would get better. That's just something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And you're so right with... Getting an MVP out there is strictly to get feedback from your ideal customers and get market feedback and try to figure out what product-market fit. But scaling with an MVP is a recipe for disaster.

Will Nitze  

Yeah, It can ruin you. It can bankrupt you. I mean, it's like... 

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, if someone's first experience with your product or brand is lackluster... First impressions are a real thing. 

Will Nitze  

Yeah, they absolutely are. 

Chase Clymer  

So for those that are interested in the product and they want to check something out, where should they go? 

Will Nitze  

Yeah. So eatiqbar.com. EatIQBAR.com is the website. @eatiqbar are our social handles. I've been more verbose on LinkedIn lately, just sharing business lessons. So you can follow me. 

Again, my name is Will Nitze, N-I-T-Z-E. And yeah, that's pretty much it. Check out our website, though. we go on to everything, including the research and science behind all the things that we do.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on. And I'm sure I'll invite you back in a couple of months And we'll dive into one of these things that we talked about for next time. 

Will Nitze  

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have.

Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.