Phoebe Yu is the founder and CEO of Ettitude, a sustainable bedding brand that’s helping customers get a better night’s sleep.
Phoebe has a background in home textiles for over 15 years, but when she moved to Australia she was re-educated on sustainability and climate change, and she started to realize the old products she was sourcing were not sustainable. She decided to start her own brand where all of the products are healthy, highly functional, and also sustainable.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
- [1:40] What led to Phoebe starting her brand
- [3:53] Developing a unique product
- [4:50] What it’s like launching a new brand
- [6:02] The ecommerce platforms available
- [7:41] Running a business in two different markets
- [11:34] The benefits of direct-to-consumer and ecommerce
- [12:43] Hurdles to overcome in direct-to-consumer at each stage
- [15:40] Bamboo sheets
- [16:29] Using sustainable technologies creatively
- Learn more at: https://www.ettitude.com
- Use coupon code “electriceye” for 15% off your order!
- Start a Simplr free trial: simplr.ai/honest
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We really use the highest standards. All those little things in our products. Our team and myself, we all use our products. We want the best for ourselves, we want the best for our consumers, too.
Welcome to Honest Ecommerce where we are dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners.
I'm your host, Chase Clymer
And I'm your host, Annette Grant.
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And let's get on with the show.
All right everybody, welcome to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm Chase Clymer. And today we're welcoming to the show, Phoebe Yu the founder and CEO of Ettitude.
Ettitude is a sustainable bedding brand that is helping customers get a better night's sleep. Welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
Awesome. So, Ettitude is doing amazing stuff but I want to take it back to a little bit before that when you were testing the product and building the product and making your fabric. Will you talk about that back in 2014, the history of what led to this brand?
Yeah, sure. So, I have a background in home textile for over 15 years before I moved to Australia.
When I was back in China, my first business was more (about) helping big international chain stores, sourcing textiles, and home workers in China. Then I moved to Australia.
I got a real education on sustainability and climate change, these issues. So, I started to think. The old products I helped sourcing are not really very sustainable.
So (after that, I said to myself) I think I want to start my own brand. So, all the products (of Ettitude) are super healthy, highly functional, and also sustainable. So that's where the name Ettitude is coming from. So basically, it's "Eco attitude", putting an E on instead of an A.
Then I start to test and also partner with a few suppliers that have this new technology of turning organic bamboo into a very fine fiber using a very clean production process, which would recycle water and also recycle all the solutions within it so there are no harmful chemicals in the process and also nothing harmful will leak into the environment or the waterways.
(We) Pretty much fix the old technology that still uses a lot of harmful chemicals. So our technology is the latest technology, which is just way cleaner.
So, I took a few years to test an error to refine the products. I did a lot of prototyping, small runs, then finally got the best balance of the softness and also the durability.
We got quite good traction in Australia and then we saw a lot of demand come from the USA. People would pay $30 - $40 to buy our products from Australia and shipping to the USA. We think our time is right that we need to get into the US market.
Consumers here also want this product. So then I moved from Australia to Los Angeles last year to also lead the growth of our USA market.
Awesome. Awesome. So, how long were you working on building that first product?
Oh. That took quite a few years. So it's hard to get the combination right. So there's a lot of trial and error and failures. In the beginning, it's softer but it's too fragile. It's not strong enough. So we used a different type of weaving technology.
The existing product is soft and silky but it's very low maintenance. You can wash it like cotton. It's also super breathable. So, yeah. That took time to refine. Also, we gathered feedback from consumers, so they will tell you what they want.
The beauty of a direct-to-consumer brand is that the feedback loop is very short and we constantly fine-tune our products depending on what the consumer tells us. (We're) pretty much just building what they want.
So how was... Once you have established the product, you've gone through those trials and errors and you've got your first line ready to go, how was launching the new brand? Tell us about that.
So it's also quite organic at the beginning. So, back in Australia, we have a small team and the original team is still working in Melbourne. So it's just a four person team. So we did a lot of... Social media definitely helped.
Using Facebook and Instagram to constantly have an open communication channel with your customers. And also word-of-mouth is also very critical in our early growth because the product works so people will tell their family and friends. Many are like daughters.
(They) bought our sheets and loved it, and bought them as a gift for their mom. Or the moms know our brand. (They) Loved the sheets and they bought it for their children. There are many new customers (that) acquired us through those types of their organic, word-of-mouth in the early days.
Absolutely. I think that the direct line of communication you can have between your customers and your business through Social (Media) is amazing.
It's so much different than it was before. So when you first started out, were you guys on Shopify right when you started? Were you on a different platform? How were the technologies and the stuff you were using to get the business off the ground?
In the beginning, we are using BigCommerce. So at that time, when I was looking for the platform to use or whatever --like a list of the features that I must have or good to have-- at that time, BigCommerce ticked all the boxes.
So, we started with BigCommerce. It was fine. But after a few years, we start to think "We might need a better platform that's more customizable and there are more apps."
And at that time Shopify's growing really quick and also I looked at and found that --especially the Shopify Plus-- that's when...
At that time their salesperson tried to convince me and I thought that there are a lot of features that are really suitable for when a brand starts to grow, especially when you want to grow internationally.
With Shopify Plus, you can have up to 9 stores under 1 account, if you (want to) operate globally. So I just thought moving to Shopify can open the opportunities to keep growing the online store.
Absolutely. I think Plus is an amazing investment if it makes sense financially for the brands.
Yeah, especially if you would run like two stores, like the .com and .com.au is 2 stores under one account. So that's one subscription fee.
Let's talk about that because actually, you're the first guest that's been on the show that is successfully running a business in two different markets and using two different domains and two different stores do that. So what are the differences between the stores in each market?
Yeah, great. So interestingly, the bedding sizes in different countries also differ.
That's the reason why we have to have two stores. And at the beginning we also debated, do we use just .com/au or we keep two separate stores?
But after weighing (considering) the customer/UX (User Experience) part, we think it's better to have two separate stores. So Australia, New Zealand, UK, or Hong Kong, Singapore mostly are one size. But in the USA, Canada, North America, the bedding is a different size.
But luckily, the biggest selling --Queen sheets-- is the same size. But then here in (the) US, you have California King or Eastern King and Australia has their own King size which is different. And Australia also has a Super King (size).
So then that's also for different product titles and keywords, all those considerations, that's why we run two separate stores. They can also provide a better user experience for the customer in that market.
Absolutely. I think speaking your customers’ language, especially even though Australian and American, we all speak English per se.
Speaking their language in the sense of describing the product in the way that they are used to hearing that product described.
I'm sure that once you started doubling down on splitting up those markets and the messages and I'm sure that you're splitting up the retargeting and the marketing messages on the back end as well.
Yes. Yes. Definitely.
When you guys approach a new product launch or a new marketing campaign, are you building out 2 different funnels almost?
(We are) analyzing separately and also run different campaigns. And also to see seasons are the opposite. Here we are in summer now but in the US, it's winter.
So, when we promote some summer content or summer ways they do that but in Australia, it's the other the opposite season. But social wise it's more (of a) united brand image. We don't separate that much.
But of course, we will talk about different (things) like we just had July the fourth. Of course, we'll talk about July 4 since it is a public holiday there and Australia has its own public holiday. We will talk (about) both on social media because you only have one account, you don't separate that.
Well, the performance part we did, so we can really be very efficient in those markets.
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So, what are some of the other advantages that you found? Obviously, before Ettitude, you had found some more traditional sourcing and manufacturing businesses. What appeals to you about direct to consumer and Ecommerce?
Well, I love it. I think that's the beauty of it. You can quickly connect to your customers and get those feedback, either good or bad. But luckily most are good. One of my favorite activities is reading customer reviews.
So that also gives us... Also the team loves it during our weekly all-hands (meeting). The first is to pick a review of the week and the whole team will just read the review of the week to see what our customers are happy about our products in which gives us a lot of motivation.
It's more than money, more than fame. But the customers love your products thinking your products just help them have a better sleep, which has been better for their health. It's a really good feeling.
Absolutely. So the opposite of that. Growing a direct-to-consumer business, there are a lot of hurdles that people run into as they're growing. Are there any that stick out to you? Problems or just issues that you guys had to overcome there? Building this connection with your customers or just building the brand in general.
Yeah, there's always different stages. You probably will have different problems (than everyone else). I think in the early days, it's always... You want to do more marketing but then you're also restrained by how much fund you have, how much you know the money you have.
So there's also trying to use a lot of growth hacking ways because you are restrained by the budget you have. When we branched into the USA, we grew super quick. And we have another problem.
The "out of stock problem" because we sell so so our supply chain has also to catch up. That also took a couple of months. They're caught up now so we solved that problem.
Most things that are bad just stopped. But that is a good problem to solve. And then the next problem is when you start to run two teams across the continent.
How to make them work seamlessly and conquer the timezone, use tools to help --there are a lot of tools to help to make that-- and also keep growing a team then, as I said, how to make the team work.
Work close together while growing the team and that will be the next type of problem. And also how to keep making the paid channel efficient. Keep standing in but result in CPA growth. So that's also what... Right now we work very hard and keep close eyes (sight) on (costs per acquisition).
I think that those are fantastic answers. Just because... I don't think that some people have it register that once you get the sales, and once you get the brand off the ground, and it's doing its thing, it's not easy after that. There are just new problems.
Yeah. There (will be) new problems and but different problems. So as I say each stage, you will have different problems.
Absolutely. I think that it's funny though. The hiring, and keeping, and scaling the team, we're experiencing that. But as an agency, it's different. So it's just funny to draw parallels between where people are in growing their businesses.
Yeah. People are super important.
I think they're the most important part of the team. But the most important piece of the puzzle is making sure that everyone on the team is the right fit for the team and the right culture for the team.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Awesome. So I do want to give you a moment to talk about the product because I am a huge fan of bamboo sheets. Actually, we were talking about that before the show.
But yeah, just give a little background on the product themselves. I think we kind of skipped over that a bit. And I apologize for that.
No. I think I did talk about it a little bit when I talked about how I started. So, yeah. Well personally, I'm a fan of bamboo. It's my Chinese heritage.
We had been using bamboo for all sorts of stuff for thousands of years. It's pretty much the most sustainable plant in the world. There is an organization called Project Drawdown.
So it did a lot of research and listed 100 things that you can do to tackle climate change and also how (you deal with) carbon emission to stop.
That's why it's called Drawdown to draw down carbon emissions. So, bamboo was listed on number 35.
If you plant more bamboo, it will also help store the carbon from the air back to the soil. So, as I also mentioned before, our process to make the bamboo into a fiber --able to make (bamboo) into textile-- is also super clean and sustainable.
So, we recycle water and we recycle the solution with it. There are no harmful things (that could) leak out of it. (In fact), we have a patent on that. That's the latest technology. The old technology, there are bamboo rayon viscose out there.
The processing is not as clean as ours. We are quite happy about that part. From the name of a brand everything we do we try to do our best with the existing technology available. And also not just our fabric.
Even with all the accessories we use including packaging, we're also very mindful. We use color fabric as our packaging so it also saves waste and also actually cuts costs.
So there are ways (for) you to design your product smartly. It does not necessarily (mean that) being sustainable/eco-friendly, you have to pay more.
So, just the rules in our brand where we design or develop products is always, "Can we upcycle? Can we recycle? Can we reuse it? Or if people can reuse our packaging as their gym bag or just restore their sheets?"
Even with all the buttons and threads we use, we also try to find more and more sustainable options. And they all have OEKO(-TEX) certification (which means) that there's no harmful dyes on it.
We really use the highest standards, over those little things in our products because our team and myself, we already use our products. We want the best for ourselves. We want the best for our consumers, too.
That's amazing. So yeah. During the show notes, actually Phoebe is sharing with all the listeners a fantastic deal. If you use the code ELECTRICEYE, you can get 15% off your order at Ettitude.com or for any Australian listeners, it'd be Ettitude.com.au. I’ll make sure that's in the show notes as well. And that's... Thank you so much for that. That's amazing.
Yeah. If anyone tries our product and loves it, be welcome to leave us some feedback, too.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you for having me.
We can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes. If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you'd like to apply to your business, please reach out at electriceye.io/connect.