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Securing a Big Deal During the Supply Chain Crisis with Shai Eisenman - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 185

Shai Eisenman is the founder and CEO of Bubble Skincare. As the first skincare brand created for young skin, Bubble sets a new skincare standard while truly listening to what its customers want and need. 

Today, the Bubble line consists of seven products that work together to create a complete routine from face cleansers to face masks. It’s available on hellobubble.com, in 3,800 Walmart stores nationwide and on Walmart.com. 

Prior to starting Bubble in 2018, Eisenman started her B.A. at 15, and began her career in business at 16 years old. 

While in university, she worked for an up-and-coming high-tech security start-up, Bullet Plate, where she was responsible for new business development. 

Eisenman then wanted to take her experience to the tech world, where she managed compliance and Business Development for Babylon.com, a company in the AdTech world. 

Then, at 21, She then moved to Playtech, the world’s largest online gaming software supplier traded on the London Stock Exchange’s Main Market where she was the CEO of a B2C subsidiary of over ~90 employees. 

Shai is currently 29 years old, resides in New York, and has a five year old daughter. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:19] Where Shai came up with the idea of Bubble
  • [02:58] From idea to business
  • [03:39] Finding people to test out your product
  • [05:02] Bubble’s all-out launch strategy
  • [07:06] Do non-scalable things at the start
  • [07:30] Focus groups don’t give 100% accurate info
  • [09:12] Sponsor: Electric Eye https://electriceye.io/
  • [09:11] Sponsor: Mesa https://apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [10:55] Sponsor: Loop https://loopreturns.com/honest
  • [11:25] Sponsor: Klaviyo https://klaviyo.com/honest
  • [12:01] Understanding the market deeply
  • [14:09] Data gave Bubbles the leverage
  • [15:28] Contacting CEOs for raw materials
  • [17:15] Research and try to understand the consumer
  • [17:50] Where to find Bubble

Resources:

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  Transcript:

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.

Shai Eisenman  

Eventually, a lot of brands launch into retailers and don't understand that they can't even invest in marketing because so much of the margins goes into additional things that they didn't forecast initially.

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.

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. 

And today, welcoming to the show, an amazing entrepreneur. The founder and CEO of Bubble Skincare. That's the first skincare brand created for young skin. Bubbles sets a new standard, while truly listening to what it is that customers want and need. 

Shai Eisenman, how are you doing today?

Shai Eisenman  

Great. Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. We had to reschedule a few times. Schedules didn't really work out. But now we're here, we're doing it for the people. Awesome. 

So the first question for you is, this is definitely a unique subset of targeting for your product and what you're going after. So where did you come up with this idea? What was going on in your life?

Shai Eisenman  

So this is actually my second startup. And after the first one, I got introduced to one of the former CEOs of an industry of one of the largest companies in the industry, and completely fell in love with the space and really wanted to find something unique and innovative that hasn't been done yet. 

So I just decided to spend some time just researching. And [I] researched for weeks and weeks of just trying to understand what's still missing in a very, very saturated industry. 

My passion was always around creating brands that consumers can emotionally connect with. So I really wanted to find a space that wasn't really touched yet. So I was really excited to learn that even though young... 

And I was shocked to learn that even though young consumers today are the most advanced generation that ever existed. When it comes to skincare, they're still stuck with Neutrogena, and Cetaphil, and Clean and Clear, and CeraVe

And all these brands that I used as a teen, and that my mom used as a teen, and some of them my grandmother used as a teen. 

So I really wanted to create something that 1, they can emotionally connect with and 2, that it's going to be so much better for them, and so much more advanced from formulation perspective [and] from a product perspective. 

So we [actually worked] with over 6000 teens --By now it's over 10,000-- on creating the products and really the brand and the experience and everything. So the brand was really led by our community.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And do you remember what year was the ideation and the first start of the business versus when it was actually like a business with products to sell? How long was that?

Shai Eisenman  

So we started working on Bubble and around the end of 2018. And we launched the brand at the end of 2020.

So it was over 2 years before we actually launched from creating and conducting the initial focus groups with 200 consumers to actually going and launching the brand and the product. 

We researched with over 6000 teens during these 2 years from inception to launch.

Chase Clymer  

That's fascinating. That's a great way to do it is to get feedback from your target customer. 

For another entrepreneur that is out there trying to validate their idea, do you have any advice on how to find people to test your product, or to do these focus groups, and all the other tactics that you did in that research phase?

Shai Eisenman  

So definitely never assume you know anything because you're [customer] usually isn't... You don't represent 100% of consumers, so always speak to as many consumers as possible and find them in every possible way you can. 

And always look at it from a qualitative perspective and a quantitative perspective. So do really research.

Understanding percentages of what people are using, what they're looking for, where do they find things? But then also qualitative, deep research of actually sitting and speaking to consumers?

And I started with just calling every parent of teen I know and be like, "Can I borrow your child and a few other friends for 2 hours?" 

Like, "Can we just sit and just talk for a little bit?" And that's how I met 200 teens initially. 

And then I used a lot of different platforms and research companies, from Perksy to other companies to really create and conduct quantitative research that allowed me to really understand the markets, have a quantitative perspective and not just the qualitative perspective.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That's fantastic advice. So you do all this research, and you have your initial product line, and you're launching. What was that go-to-market strategy? How were you acquiring your first customers?

Shai Eisenman  

So when we launched, we launched the brand and we worked on it for two years. So we had a very elaborate launch plan. 

We worked with around 9 celebrities, hundreds of influencers, and we had 4000 brand ambassadors. 

So it was like this multi layered launch of everything together. And launching it across social, and YouTube and just every possible platform to really bring the brand out there. And we also did a lot of PR outreach and managed to secure a lot of really great placements. 

So it was a combination of a lot of different things. We've definitely been very focused on the brand awareness side, which was on like the influencers, PR, and social side.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And with that launch plan happening at the end of 2020, obviously, finding influencers in the landscape is highly competitive these days.

Do you have any advice on building out influencer programs and finding the right people to use to build awareness on your product? 

Shai Eisenman  

So definitely, there's a lot of great platforms from Grin to Tribe Dynamics to other really, really great platforms that can be used for finding influencers. 

We in the beginning really worked in the old-fashioned way of just searching on Instagram and looking for relevant people. 

And it was just a lot of manual work like going, and searching, and finding, and creating Excel spreadsheets and reaching out, and writing the status and just managing the full kind of influencer CRM through Excel. 

But it was really, really great because we've really learned how to search for them, and what we're looking for, and what is working, and what's not. So I always recommend doing a lot of that legwork initially. 

And then once you can start automating things and automate whatever you can, once you really understand the full picture.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah I have heard that from a lot of entrepreneurs that you got to do stuff at the beginning, that doesn't scale because you need to get real-time feedback. And once you start automating some of it, you won't really be able to learn and grow from that. 

Shai Eisenman  

Yes, for sure. Definitely. 

We've done everything very manually in the beginning. And the more we scale, the more we are able to bring in more tools and bring in more automation into the process.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Is there anything that you remember from those early days getting off the ground, mistakes, possibly, that you made that you'd want to tell other entrepreneurs to to avoid?

Shai Eisenman  

Definitely. So we came into this doing a lot of research but we also had some assumptions as I think every entrepreneur has when they're launching a brand for the first time. 

And one of the assumptions that we had is that whatever our consumers tell us in focus groups is 100% correct. 

And what we didn't take under consideration is the fact that sometimes they're with their friends, they want to impress them, they want to say certain things that are not necessarily 100% what is the behavior. 

And one of the things that we were shocked to learn when we launched is that consumers actually didn't buy online as much as we thought they did. 

This specific consumer because of problems with credit cards, like they needed to use their parents' credit card, because of the fact they didn't have a lot of disposable income, that they prefer to shop in stores. So all of this together was a pretty big surprise. 

And this was something that... We did an estimate to what extent it was big. But actually the really interesting thing that happened at the same time was the fact that we've been approached by pretty much every retailer in the country. 

So it's been like this whole weird [situation] like, "Oh my god, this is actually not scaling to the D2C level that we assumed it's going to scale." But then like every retailer in the country wants to put us on their shelves. 

So it was like that  massive on the understanding and learning process, which started with a pretty big heartbreak outside because like I come from performance marketing

So my immediate thought is like, "We're gonna scale this up performance marketing. And this is going to be a DTC brand." And then learn very quickly on that, like "This is not going to be the right approach."

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Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And you already shared what my next question was going to be. You guys are in over 3800 Walmart stores nationwide and a few other great retailers. What advice would you have for people that are looking to kind of break into traditional retail with their product?

Shai Eisenman  

So I think for us what really worked is the fact that we understood our consumers in the market at a really, really deep level, which really allowed us to be able to show in the market what whitespace we're filling. And then it was just... 

It was shocking to us like the fact that everybody reached out to us in the first 2 weeks because that was validated like "Okay, the market gap is so big." And we've been really approached by so many different retailers which was also a big understanding because every retailer operates differently. So I think a big thing is about understanding where you want to be? 

"Is it a specialty? Is it a big box? Is it drugstores? Is it a food chain?" What are you... "Where's the right place for you to be?" 

And then also really understanding the business model of every retailer because every retailer is very different. They work in a very different way. They have... From different margin structures to different things that come into play, the P&L, different promotional strategy, different... 

Like some of them need third party execution, some don't... It's very... It's a whole big world. So like, unlike... 

Actually, like DTC, which has its own world and metrics and things to take into account, every retailer is its own world. And it's not like oh, this is retail, everything is retail. 

So really dive in deep into understanding like, "Okay, what is the partnership that I'm looking for? Who's the right partner for that? How do I want to appear on the shelf?" And then also, "What is the right approach to really be able to launch this successfully?" 

Because eventually, a lot of brands launch into retailers and don't understand that they can't even invest in marketing because so much of the margins goes into additional things that they didn't forecast initially. 

Chase Clymer  

You said something there at the beginning that I want to kind of highlight on is that... 

When you were speaking with buyers at these retailers, you were sharing all those consumer insights and all that research that you had done in the product research phase with them to help secure those placements?

Shai Eisenman  

Yeah, it was... Again, we had, I think, a very rare situation where they all approached us and we're trying to pitch to us, which I think is different. And we were obviously very grateful and shocked to be in this situation. 

But the more we spoke to them and the more we explained to them, like what we're seeing and our perspective of things, the more it was clear to them that they don't have anything like that in their store. 

And this is why they were super excited about partnering with us, which made our situation obviously significantly more desirable than the other way around where we would have been chasing after retailers. 

But the fact It's like we had so much data, and we were able to back our positioning in such a big way was really, really meaningful because a lot of retailers don't have a lot of direct access to consumers the way that a D2C brand has. 

The ability to communicate and understand consumers in a really, really deep way, unlike, in a very specific way. It's very different from the ability of a retailer to understand consumer behavior within that retailer.

Chase Clymer  

Oh absolutely. So you guys, I don't know. The lightning in a bottle, I guess, has struck. You had a really great idea at the right time and you took off. 

And as things scale rapidly as you did, things often break. Is there anything that you remember in the last couple of years of stuff just going sideways that you'd like to share with the audience? 

Shai Eisenman  

Yeah, so it's... We've been around for 16 months. So we're still a very, very, very young brand and there's still so much that we're learning and so much that we're experiencing, because... I like to call it... We're in the toddler phase right now. We're still not even a kid, we're toddlers so there's still so much. 

But before we launched in Walmart, we had about 4 months to deliver 3000 end caps, which was in the worst time of the supply chain. So we... 

I had to reach out to every raw ingredient manufacturer and like to be able to source the raw ingredients in time. And it was like sleepless nights of literally calling and asking and begging and trying to reach out to the CEOs of the large raw ingredients manufacturers. 

And it was really scary at times, because we were like, "Okay, we have all this oldest faith and  trust from Walmart to have this beautiful launch. Are we actually going to be able to make and get these products on time? Because it doesn't look like it." 

So it was really, really, really crazy and scary at times, but we managed, thankfully to our incredible team. 

We managed to pull through in a really, really big way. It took a lot of sleepless nights and probably about 10 years of my life in that process.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's why I'm going grey. Being an entrepreneur takes its toll at times. Awesome. Is there anything that I forgot to ask you about that you think would resonate with our audience today?

Shai Eisenman  

Um, I think like... What I like... My approach is to constantly research, research, research. I think like, what I've done differently in previous companies that I've run is like, I've never went so deep into researching the consumer and understanding the consumer. 

And that's like the biggest learning I think I've had in the last couple of years of truly trying to understand your consumer in the deepest way possible and never act you know everything because I think I had this whole notion of like before, like "I definitely know what they think." And the other honest truth is that I had no idea.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's a part of becoming an expert is the second you realize you don't know anything. You're actually probably ahead of the game. 

Shai Eisenman  

Exactly. Exactly. 100% 

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Shai, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show today. You shared so much great information with us. 

If someone is curious about the products that you've been talking about, where should they go?

Shai Eisenman  

Hellobubble.com or Bubble on Instagram and Tiktok.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. We'll make sure to link to all that stuff in the show notes. Thank you so much.

Shai Eisenman  

Thank you for having me. Really appreciate being here. Thank you. 

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.