As Nuzest’s first-ever sales rep in 2012, Jonathan Edwards loved the New Zealand–based brand, and he was so impressed by the public response that he asked the company’s founder, Trevor Bolland, if he could bring its products to the U.S.
Since then, being in the plant-based industry has transformed him into a vegan on a mission—namely, to create a planet thriving on vegan nutrition.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [00:00] Intro
- [00:50] Quick background of Nuzest
- [01:30] Jonathan joining Nuzest
- [04:28] DIY culture brings success
- [05:17] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
- [05:52] Nuzest’s brand and distribution model
- [07:03] Breaking in the US market
- [08:53] Nuzest USA’s wholesale side
- [09:33] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
- [11:02] How Nuzest USA got started
- [12:17] Don’t risk testing grey and white hats
- [13:02] PIllar #1 - Influencers
- [14:21] PIllar #2 - Email list
- [15:27] The case about free giveaways
- [16:47] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
- [17:57] Start with simple principles
- [18:50] Genuinely giving value to people
- [19:31] PIllar #3 - Content marketing
- [20:28] Content strategy is a constant conversation
- [24:12] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
- [24:31] Sponsor: Avalara avalara.com/honest
- [25:26] The best tips for startups
- [26:28] Strategy for writing articles
- [27:32] Produce content just for the sake of it
- [28:07] It’s okay that you don’t know
- [28:38] Passion to overcome “the grind”
- [29:22] Don’t question yourself too much
- [30:39] The 111 Strategy
- [31:42] Keep it simple and get started
- Visit nuzest.us/honest to shop great tasting plant-based nutrition products and use promo code HONEST 25% off of regular-priced products
- Connect with Jonathan linkedin.com/in/jonathan-edwards-28a41526/
- Listen to the 111 Strategy businessownersradio.com/episodes/2018/5/13/111-strategy-how-a-lean-strategy-can-help-you-run-a-more-profitable-business-wjason-burt
- Scale your business with electriceye.io
- Level up your customer support gorgias.grsm.io/honest
- Get a free trial at klaviyo.com/honest
- Find out how your business can be sales tax ready at avalara.com/honest
- Get 1 month of automated Shopify backups for free at rewind.io/honest
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Our first way of attracting new people now is through content and providing value.
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.
G'day. I'm great. Thank you, Chase.
Awesome. Awesome. So for those uninitiated, can you just give them a quick idea of what Nuzest is as a company? What kind of products do you guys bring to market?
Sure. We are a plant-based nutrition brand originally out of New Zealand, Australia. But we're now all around the world. And so I don't get in trouble, I'm the CEO of the USA brachial league or territory of the brand.
Yeah, but we are basically all about this planet of ours thriving and people thriving through plant-based nutrition and having the most efficacious, science-based, clean product available and possible for people.
Awesome. Absolutely. And we'll get into the differentiation of... There's the US portion of the business, and obviously the Australian and New Zealand portion of the business.
So let's just dive right in and take me back to before you joined the team and help them expand over to America. It has something to do with skateboarding?
(laughs) That's right. I tell you, life is funny, I never imagined I would be running a plant- based nutrition company, which is mostly an Ecommerce company in terms of where our sales come from in the United States.
But it all started when I used to run a skateboard and clothing brand and other brands with my dad who... That's a whole other story. But he was legendary in a good lot of New Zealand.
He was one of the people who essentially brought skateboarding to New Zealand. And then he was the first of 2 brands back in the late 70's when skateboarding was just exploding. I took over the business from him when he semi-retired up north.
And the person who worked for us, her name is Claire, she ended up being one of my best friends.
And when I finally sold my business because I was moving to the States, I'd married an American woman, and I was moving to the States, I needed something to do for a year. I'd sold my business. I had nothing to do.
And she said, "Listen, come help us launch this nutrition brand."
And I was like, "What is it?"
"It's amazing, blah, blah, blah".
I was like, "Okay. Whatever."
She's like, "Listen, trust me."
"Okay, I'll give you 3 days a week."
So I just basically checked this product in the back of my little car, a little Toyota something, and drove all the way around New Zealand, which you can do. It's pretty difficult to drive.
You can drive all the way around the United States, but just dedicate 5 million years to do it. But in New Zealand, you can do it really fast.
And I've just chucked this product in the back of the car, went round, and literally, would call ahead of the town going to, book an appointment with 5-6 store owners, go in and sell what was --at that time-- a plant-based protein and a greens product.
And the thing that happened for me was... I love selling and I've always loved selling so I was just like, "Whatever, that'll be great. I'll help people with this thing." It was so easy to sell because the product was so great. By the time I was done, I'd sold myself on how great the product was. I was like...
I went to the owner of the brand who was a New Zealander living in Sydney. And we just launched it. I was the first sales rep ever, worldwide, for the brand. And I said to him, "Can I bring this to the US? I don't have a job. I'm just going to the US. Can I bring it?"
And he said sure. So I arrived in the US without a job and just this product to sell. And we bought our first shipment in, I think, at the end of 2013 and started selling like our first tub of protein in December 2013. And then it's been awesome. The last 7 or whatever it is years. 7-8 years.
I love the skateboarding connection. I honestly feel that there's something about the DIY ethos of skateboarding and punk rock that you find in so many entrepreneurs that are successful.
They just come from that "Well, no one's gonna help us. We gotta do it ourselves." background. And then they just accidentally stumble into the world of business.
Yes, absolutely. And my dad was the consummate. He is the consummate businessman. In fact, he started up the skateboard company again after I sold it. He reclaimed it. tHe can't help himself.
And I love that business. Because everybody in it was like their own person and "screw the man" and all that stuff. And so it was a great place to get my entrepreneurial feet wet, so to speak.
Yeah. A lot of characters in those worlds.
It's very interesting.
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Alright. So 2013, you moved to America and now you have a new position with the company. Are you still just the sales guy?
No. So I moved to America. And the way we as a brand work is each territory is its own business? I have the rights to this brand for this territory, for North America. So I started my own business here and literally bought the product.
So I'm not... It's not partly owned by the US... Sorry. The Australian headquarters or anything like that. We're our own thing. We just have the rights to this territory.
Yeah, that's a very interesting model that I don't think we've talked about on the show before. I'm pretty familiar with it. It's not like a licensing deal per se, but like, so you're sourcing the product straight from them importing it yourself.
You could say I'm the master distributor. Nobody else... Everybody who buys it in this country has to buy it through me. Really, with your Whole Foods...
Like Whole Foods has stocked them in the Pacific Northwest, or from our site, or from anywhere you could buy it, it comes through us. And we're the ones who are selling it to anybody who's buying it here. Yeah.
Awesome. Awesome. So 2013, you come, you've got this connection to an amazing product that almost sells itself (laughs). That's how much you believe in it. How did you get started in breaking into the American market?
Yeah. And that's interesting, because like I said before, most of our sales are online, about 90 something percent of them now.
But I started by trying to do exactly what I did in New Zealand, I started by calling stores and getting products in the back of my car and driving to stores. And after a couple of years of doing that, we got into 100 or so stores or maybe more.
The business was off the ground. But it was such hard work and so slow going. The people love the product but this country is massive. And to get a meeting with someone...
In New Zealand, I would literally pick up the phone or be speaking to the owner. There's only like 2 chain stores in our natural health space and the whole country.
Here, almost everything is a chain store. And here, there are tons of independent mom and pop shops and all that. But I was just really struggling to get the traction and have the exponential growth that we had.
We launched in New Zealand within a year. We were the best selling plant-based protein in the whole country. It caught fire.
And to this day, most of their businesses... Most of the sales are business-to-business.
So that's how I got started by banging my head against a brick wall of trying to do the same thing I did in New Zealand and it's a very small economy and climate [compared to] here in the States, which led me to ecommerce. Probably, the awakening was 2016.
After just grinding for a couple years, you built up a wholesale portion of the business. Is that business still there, though? [Do] you still have the wholesale side of the business?
Yeah. And it's growing. It's catching fire to a certain degree and that ecommerce success is certainly helping there. But yeah, definitely, that's a huge focus for us as well. But it's just very small compared to everything else at the moment.
But yeah. I always had the website and we started off on Amazon. I did virtually nothing with it. I put all my energy into the wholesale and then that completely switched around maybe the end of 2015 [to the] beginning [of] 2016
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Awesome. Let's talk about that. That's what everyone here is trying to do. At this point, Amazon is just part of any brand and you have to have your own strategy there.
But I am a very big proponent of [the perspective] you need to own your customer relationship. And you need to have your own store.
And that's what you kicked off in the beginning of 2016. How did you get started? What did that look like?
Yeah. So as I said, we had a website. We had a website. It was selling some products. We had Amazon. It was selling, but not much.
Soon into it, I had the same epiphany that you've clearly modeled your approach on, which was that you shouldn't have all your eggs in the Amazon basket.
So I was listening to a lot of the Amazon thought leaders at the time Scott... I can't remember. Vogel, I think. Scott, The Amazing Seller and Ryan Daniel Moran, all these guys brilliant guys, all the YouTube videos.
And so I was learning the Amazon thing. And it's just, it wasn't there. But I didn't want to be dependent on Amazon.
And so I very quickly realized I needed to educate myself in regular Ecommerce, not just trying to hack Amazon, and do all the grey and white hat stuff that you can do. But I also learned very quickly, don't do the grey hat stuff. Just do the white hat stuff. (laughs)
Soon enough, it will get you...
You will get tagged and...
...you don't want to do that.
Oh my gosh. I literally did a little bit of stuff with getting people to do reviews. And at that time, it wasn't against the terms of service anyway. It was fine.
But I pretty quickly learned, "You know what, I didn't want to go down this route." I just switched strategies to only everything that was 100%...
You don't want to risk it. It's not worth the risk.
No. 100%. So yeah, I just basically started to educate myself. And what I started to learn right at the beginning was the power of influencer marketing. And if I look at our Ecommerce [strategy], it's been built on 3 sorts of pillars. One is influencer marketing.
It was at that point where influencer marketing was everybody was beginning to get into it in the way it currently is now. But it was so hot. It was so like you felt like you were on the inside... You were in the inner circle if you knew about influencer marketing. At least that was my experience.
And I talked to people about it who were in Ecommerce back in New Zealand, they were like, "Oh yeah, that sounds great. And it made sense." But it wasn't like... Everybody now it's like, you have to have an influencer program, you have to have fit into that.
So influencer marketing was something I discovered pretty quickly. And we've had some really amazing partners who are all about getting...
Empowering people living healthy lives that over the time that we've been in business, we've just kept partnering up with more and more people who have a similar message to resonate in the way we do with that message.
And then so that was pillar number 1. Pillar number 2, I also really learned pretty quickly from listening to all of the different people out there, you got to build an email list.
I mean, I can't imagine anybody who's listening to your podcast or watching your YouTube video who hasn't heard that message 50 million times.
And the most recent version of it, the email list isn't dead. The list is still alive. (laughs)
We tell people all the time if email isn't responsible for 30% of your revenue, you're doing something wrong.
Right! It was a simple message. I'm a simple guy. I was like, "Yeah! Okay. I like simple targets. Build my influencer community. One. I could do that."
I can reach out to people and say, "Hey, can I send you a sample of our product? Would you like to try it? I think your... I love your feed or channel" Or whatever. "I love what you're doing. Would you like to try some products?"
Who doesn't want to try some free products? Everybody does. So that was easy. I could do that. It's just like sales.
And being authentic to what you're about. And then number 2, build the list. "Okay, what can we do to build the list? What can we do to attract people." And I started with giveaways. Product giveaways.
"Enter a competition. Sign up. Give us your email address and you get a chance to win."
And, actually, we've had phases of not doing that and doing that. But all the way through, we've always been doing giveaways, and it's been one of the most reliable ways to build our list.
And even though I know some people are not hot on giveaways, because they might say,"Well, the leads aren't too qualified. They're just people who want to win free stuff."
What I think is if they want to win your free stuff...The only thing we have a giveaway is our product. We don't give away iPads or iPhones.
If they are happy to give their email address in order to possibly win a tub of protein, then that's somebody who wants protein. I don't know. What else are they planning to do with it? Sell it on eBay? I don't know.
But I think most of them probably want what they were entering the giveaway to win.
Yeah, I would say it's still great. If you're giving away your own product, that's a great model. I would say if you wanted to drill down a bit more, maybe segment those people off and do their own specific welcome campaign, right.
That'd be more educational, because they probably are less, you know, it's probably it probably right, it's probably a little lower quality. But all that means is you have to work a little bit harder to educate them.
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Well, I haven't seen a lot. One of the things along the way. See, my main principles to building are super simple. And then if you start with really super simple principles, you can get into more detail and nuance.
So for every new lead, we have a nurture sequence for that lead. [If] somebody who's just meeting us for the first time we're out to give them value.
So our Klaviyo sequence is all about giving value to that person who hasn't purchased yet. They might get 30 emails over 30 days, or 10 emails for 30 days or whatever. It changes.
But it's this recipe, it's this tip on sleeping, it's how can we help you achieve your optimum health? Even if you never give us your credit card and buy a product, we want you to have a great experience from coming in contact with our brand.
And so that's our... And I learned that from George Bryant who is one of my favorite people. He was behind Vital... A lot of brands like Vital Proteins and help them grow and stuff like that. You can find him on YouTube.
But yeah, he taught me to always give value regardless of when they give you the credit card. And our love, our care is actually connected to the fact that you own business to make a difference in people.
You're not just in the business to make money. And so good, you have this opportunity to make a difference over and over and over again with every new person who comes into contact with your brand.
So that's our approach with new leads that come through our into our funnel, so to speak.
A giveaway. But then, Chase, in terms of building that list of what has far supplanted and surpassed giveaways has been content marketing. And that's now where the real quality relationships are being built.
We are out to produce great content for people: Articles, solve their problems, find out what they're struggling with, how can we help.
So whether it's a video that helps solve that problem, whether it's the Facebook post, an article that's been turned into a Facebook post, whether it's an article on our website that's been posted somehow on our Instagram or through Facebook or an ad or whatever, our first way of attracting new people now is through content and providing value.
Which is again, if you don't know this, if you've been listening to Ecommerce podcasts and you haven't heard these 3 things, I'm not saying anything new. I think the point to take away from it is they work (laughs).
Yeah. You said something... You kind of alluded to something there that you build pillar content and then recycle it everywhere, which is... It's not really a way to cheat. It's just a way to work smart.
Exactly. That's exactly right. And in terms of pillar content, yeah, we would pick a... For example, we have a blog post Everything You Need to Know About Pea Protein, because protein is made from peas. European golden peas grown in France.
And this thing is like 2000 maybe 3000 word posts. And links to tons and tons of other little posts. So every section has a small section that then branches off. So it's a content tree. And exactly, as you said, so we've got 2 kinds of pillars.
We've got a pillar page, which is sort of like the mother that then branches off into a whole bunch of content. And then you're right. Yeah, we'll take that post, and it'll maybe become a video and then we'll go on to YouTube.
Or we'll do a Q&A session on it and it goes into our Facebook group. Or it will be a Facebook ad. It'll be on Instagram. So you write the same content, it can be used in multiple different locations but the other... You triggered me with the word "pillar".
There's also recognizing that there is core content that then can become like a big tree with a lot of branches.
And this is the other thing that we've discovered along the way, it's that finding ways to... Because you could do content about everything. We had to work out what we were going to do to focus on ourselves.
And that's one of the ways we did it. We'd pick a one core topic and then we'd start to grow out branches, and it's one of our content growth strategies.
Yeah, I think that for smaller brands, just coming up with how to build the content strategy is just such a struggle because again, every brand is unique, every product is unique, every customer is unique.
So the strategy behind how to build out the content is always a strategy first. You got to think about it. There's not really like... Because with some of the tactics and strategies, it's just like, "We'll just do this, this works." With content. There's no one-size-fits-all approach.
Oh my gosh. And it's a constant conversation. Ooh. It stopped focusing on my face.
It's a constant conversation in our company. We're always talking about who our target audiences are. What are they dealing with and struggling with? How can we help them? Should we focus on this person right now and this problem? Or should we focus on that?
So even though we're like 6 years into producing content, content, content every month all the time, we're still always (laughs) crazy about what we should do next? Where should we put our focus? So I don't think that changes.
I imagine there's some entrepreneur out there who's just zen about it, who just wakes up in the morning and sees the light and goes, "Yeah, I know exactly the content I want to create." And they just know it's right. But that ain't me. (laughs)
No. I love that you're being honest and being like, “We don't have our shit together still...
(laughs) “...we're still working it out.”
Oh my gosh. So my marketing manager, Krysta, who I just love, --she's so great-- she basically runs the show and I just bother her with whatever's on my mind.
And her and I are always dealing with "Oh, my god, there's so much [we can] do. What the heck are we going to focus on?" We try to do too much.
The day you stopped having problems is a bad day because you're no longer above ground maybe or your business has gone under. What it is to be in business is to be bridging that next gap between where you are and where you want to be.
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I think what you just said actually leads me to something which is to embrace that struggle. I think if I had any advice to someone starting out, rather than getting completely wound up about what's the right way to go, embrace that creative struggle of not knowing what's the right way to go.
And do something. Do get started. Because that struggle, that feeling of "Am I doing the right thing?" isn't going to go away.
And even when you think you're doing the right thing, then reality comes along and kicks you in the button that says, "Ah, sorry, that's no longer working. You need to completely reinvent yourself." (laughs)
I think the paralysis of choice, just ignore that. Just make a choice and you'll learn quickly whether or not it was the right one. And then you can... Then you can fix it if it was wrong. You can pivot.
But not making a choice is where a lot of people are. They get scared about it. It's not going to ruin your business. There's literally no choice out there that you can't recover from usually.
Totally. Oh yeah. Exactly. There are obviously exceptions to that.
But yeah, that's right. And particularly just starting out, writing an article that nobody reads ain't going to kill you.
And that's the other thing, as well. With writing articles and doing content, we always feel like, "Oh. But who's searching for this from an SEO perspective? Is anyone searching for this?"
And then we realize, "Alright." Well, sometimes we're gonna write articles that we really have an intention that people who are searching on Google find this article and it helps them solve the problem that way. What’s the Difference Between Pea and Rice Protein?
We have one of our articles ranked, at least at one point, it was ranking page one. That's great. We're helping people work that out. But most of our articles, we're just shooting...
We're just firing shots in the dark, "Okay, people who take our protein are trying to go plant-based. So let's do an article on The Value of a Plant-Based Diet. And let's just put some Facebook money behind it." And we'll just see.
And if it attracts people and people engage with it great. We'll put more Facebook money behind it. And if they don't, then let's write another article because that one didn't really interest anybody.
I think that just creating content for the sake of creating content is something that you just need to get in the mindset of. Because regardless of the SEO ramifications, good or bad, or whatever content you just produced, you can still use that. The podcast, we turn this into a... We transcribe it. We made a blog post about it.
And then I email everyone every week, the podcast, and I get people to the website from that newsletter. I don't care about the SEO stuff right out the gate. That comes later on.
So just making the content and giving it to your audience that already exists or to your existing customers or subscribers, doing that is worth it in itself.
Yes. Yeah. Again, I'll make a kind of tangent of what do I do? It's funny, when I listen to people on podcasts, they all sound like they've got it together. And they know. Oh, and they're so clear.
But I mean, literally, as I'm speaking to you, I sound like someone who's clear. But straight after this, I'm going to go back to "Oh, gosh, what should we do next? I have no idea. Oh no. Let me just go have a coffee and put off thinking about it." You know what I mean? That tension is there.
It's interesting because talking to you, I get excited about this stuff. And I feel like that's the best space to be in. And it's so cliche to say, "Follow your passion. And just go out there to try and help people."
But I feel like it's really a good way to start because at least then you'll be enjoying making mistakes, because you're gonna make mistakes anyway, so you may well have fun doing it.
Oh yeah. If you're not passionate about the product that you are bringing to the market, you can't have... You won't be having fun making the content around it.
You won't have fun just doing your job. And then you'll... You won't be able to overcome the grind. Sometimes you gotta grind.
Yes. Yeah. Absolutely.
If you could go back in time. Let's say 3 or 4 years ago, and then stop yourself from doing something, [are] there any mistakes that come to mind that you want to help anyone not do?
That's such a good question. Questioning myself. It's silly, because... But one of the things that I would sometimes do is go through periods of listening to this, reading that, and like you said, paralysis by analysis and thinking about too much.
And I just keep straying from the path of what was already working, which still had so much... And to this day has so much juice in it both personally, emotionally and fulfillment-wise, but also in terms of sales.
I say now our 3 pillars for growing the business have been influencer partnerships/affiliate partnerships, building that list, and content marketing. Man, the times I would stray off in this direction or that direction and get distracted, I would say "Don't worry about that any of that stuff." That bucket is so deep.
Just fall in love and go even deeper on that bucket and you will do better. That's probably what I would say.
Absolutely. There's a good concept out there called the 111 Strategy, which I'm like forcing a buddy of mine. He's not starting an Ecommerce business. He's starting a service business.
But it has one product, one offer... No, sorry. One marketing channel, one offer and one market. And just focus on that. And until that works, don't even worry about adding a second thing to anything. You obviously are a little bit further along.
You've got 3 marketing strategies. You've got 2 or 3 different markets now with wholesale and direct-to-consumer. And you've got a few more products in the product line that comes in time.
Until you get that first core part of the business working, ignore everything else.
Absolutely. Yeah. Now you can spend your whole life listening to this, that, and the other strategy and there's no short... Now there's just so much information out there, it's almost [like] you've got to shut it off and you've got to just get into it.
Absolutely. Alright, so is there anything I forgot to ask you that you think would be useful to share with the audience?
I think what you just said was perfect. You get into all of the other stuff as you get along. Once you've got an audience, once you've got an email list, and you're sending them to the site, oh, then you get into conversion rate optimization, and building landing pages, and all of the upsells and cross-sells and dadada.
You hear more stuff about that as well. But, I think... I don't think there's anything else. I think asking me anything else would probably be a more complicated thing. We're,
The gem of today's podcast or interview is keeping it simple. (laughs)
Honestly, you just got to get started and get out there and start selling the thing. Selling is the hard part.
And people like to ignore it by putting busy work in front of them like, "Well, I need CRO", or "I need my website to look better." It's like, "No. If you have a product, go sell it."
Totally. 100% Yeah. Sell it. That's right. And there's lots of great people out there to help you get started, like your podcast. And there's so much about how to just get started. And then there's enough...
That's the other thing, there's enough to do just to do one thing. Just to learn Facebook ads, and or just to learn how to get that content [or] article you just wrote in front of people.
Unless you got to like a ton of money, startup capital, you're gonna have to learn all that stuff yourself. And you could spend a lifetime just learning social media, paid traffic advertising.
So just get the cool stuff going and learn what you need to learn and get expert at that. And then the next thing will just show itself and reveal itself to you.
Yeah. Once you kind of get some traction, you're clearly going to know where the pain point is in your business and what needs to be solved next.
So just get started and get things off the ground.
Awesome. Jonathan, thank you so much for coming on today. If people are curious about Nuzest, where should they go to pick up some protein?
Go to nuzest-usa.com or just Google "Nuzest". We'll be at the top. That's where you go.
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on today.
No. Really great. Thanks for having me.
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.
And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.