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Taking Naps and Marketing Campaigns to the Next Level with Joaquin Arce - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 151

Bearaby’s Chief Growth Officer, Joaquin Arce has charted rapid expansion and impact for the award-winning weighted blanket brand in three years time. 

Joaquin optimizes all components of the business that generate revenue working cross-functionally with sales, marketing, affiliate, SEO, and beyond to expedite key growth initiatives. 

From the early days of the start-up’s initial brand ideation, to the first sale of Bearaby’s (now fan-favorite) Cotton Napper, Joaquin has worked cross-functionally to achieve success on the digital front resulting in an engaged and organic community of thousands. 

Joaquin participated in the double degree program Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Economics at Universidad del Pacifico in Peru. 

Committed to advancing Latinx business leadership, in 2020 he took part in The Stanford Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative, a research and education collaboration between Stanford University and the Latino Business Action Network. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:20] The idea of Bearaby
  • [04:09] The similarities between founders
  • [05:02] Bearaby’s go-to-market strategy
  • [06:55] Considering traditional retail partnerships
  • [08:13] The site also benefits from the partnership
  • [09:08] Other benefits that you might not consider
  • [10:06] Mistakes Joaquin wants you to avoid
  • [11:03] CTA without discount codes
  • [11:50] Bearaby’s podcast placements
  • [13:20] Podcasts are lacking in metrics
  • [14:21] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [14:41] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [15:26] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest 
  • [16:52] Sponsor: Rewind rewind.io/honest
  • [17:25] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [18:12] The Black Friday/Mindfulness campaign
  • [21:13] Bearaby’s napping culture
  • [22:31] The April Fool’s/Hedgehog campaign


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Joaquin Arce  

If you want to form a premium brand, never go into discounts. I think it's a rabbit hole that you can never get out of.

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 I'm welcoming to the show, the Chief Growth Officer of an amazing brand that helps to create weighted blankets. 

Their mission is to create a calmer, more collected world one nap at a time. Joaquin Arce, how are you doing today?

Joaquin Arce  

I'm pretty good. Thank you very much for the intro, Chase.

Chase Clymer  

I'm excited to dive in. So you're the chief growth officer over there. But you've been with the brand since day one. 

So just take me back to the foundation, where the idea [came] from? Was it first pitched to you by your family? How did it work?

Joaquin Arce  

So I think we started Bearaby with one mission that was [to] create a calmer, more collected world one nap at a time. 

We launched our signature weighted blanket back in December 2018. The goal was to help many people that are struggling with sleep disorder or sleep better. 

And how it started was Kathrinn, the founder, was looking for natural solutions to help her sleep better. 

And through her research, she found weighted blankets. And she tried them, she tested them, and it worked wonders for her. It helped her sleep better. 

The problem that she had was the same problem that multiple people that used additional weighted blankets have: That the blanket is not breathable, that it's not sustainable that it is look with a bit of... At that point it was looked at with a bit of a stigma. 

So while weighted blankets started skyrocketing in popularity, the landscape of the products and the market didn't change until that point. 

And the products were the traditional weighted blankets, with shifty beads with synthetic materials. 

And our goal was to bring the benefits of weighted blankets to a wider audience. So we had 3 essential pillars. And I guess the first 2 are in design. 

The first one was make it more breathable and more sustainable. And with the construction of the product --the amazing design that Kathrinn did-- [she] made it knitted which made it naturally breathable. 

And it made it sustainable because it's different [way to] make the blankets. We use organic cotton and Tencel, which is the most sustainable fabric in the world. And besides that, we try to make it more common. 

And I think the look and feel of The Napper helped this purpose because people were proud and happy to have a weighted blanket in their home, on their sofa, to show it to their friends, which makes it more of a virality moment ... 

Something that they will share on Instagram with their friends. And I think it just to show a bit of how it was for us. I remember back in 2018 and December when we launched, we expected that the inventory that we called would last for 3 months. 

And 2 days after lunch we were sold out because it was just a totally different concept. So it was great. I think it was a great launch first.

Chase Clymer  

Oh, absolutely. That is something I noticed about the products as they are different from other products that I've seen on the market in that category. 

And what you said earlier, I see a lot of commonalities between founders in that starting the brand was a natural evolution of a founder just trying to solve the problem for themselves and then realizing there might be a gap in the market. 

And those that have that entrepreneurial bug were like, "Well, let's explore this and see what happens."

Joaquin Arce  

I think... Yes, I think... I totally agree with you because I also heard so many studies similar to it. And seeing Kathrinn on a personal light, as you said, trying to look for new solutions, and trying to see what they got was pretty inspiring. 

Pretty great to see it hands-on.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So, let's fast forward a little bit to you guys launching the brand. You have an amazing launch. 

So I feel there's a lot of listeners out there that are approaching that phase and one of the most difficult things that I believe as a startup in the Ecommerce space is finding that first initial kind of pocket of customers to sell to. 

So what was your guy's go-to-market strategy? How did you figure out... How did you get eyes on the product?

Joaquin Arce  

I think something that was very important for us is having a PR moment. When we started, we wanted to make sure that we had ads around it. I think the product and the innovation that Kathrinn had was newsworthy and worth sharing. 

So when we started, we started with a PR Agency that helped us boost the virality of the product. And we started as well on Facebook and Google. Sorry. 

We didn't start [with] Facebook and Google [until] before 6 months of our startup endeavor. And because of that, it just naturally took the boost of getting the press hits, trying to find a fit for serving the market.

Chase Clymer  

So you guys had a PR agency and they were getting you placements. 

And you were then using those placements and putting some paid dollars behind it to increase the reach and to increase the eyes on the product pre-launch?

Joaquin Arce  

No. [It was] at the launch moment... At pre-launch, there was a lot of work on how the branding and the establishing of the way of the brand was modeled than the making a viral moment before it.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And how soon after the launch --or was it in tandem with the launch?-- did you start to tackle traditional retail partnerships as well?

Joaquin Arce  

The additional retail partnerships actually started in October 2019. Our first partnership was with West Elm. And I think there were a few reasons why we did this. 

The first one was that I think we have multiple commonalities on home values with our brands like West Elm and the Williams Sonoma brand, because they are pretty focused on sustainability. 

And that's something that we could offer from day one. Having the Tree Napper and the Cotton Napper both based on very organic products. 

And the second point that we wanted to emphasize was trying to show to a market that the weighted blanket is more of a... It became more of a standalone product. 

Before, in the bedding sector, you only saw sheets, you only saw comforters. Now you could also see weighted blankets. And the weighted blankets that you'll see were Bearaby's. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely and I would feel that getting a placement like that in such an amazing legacy store helps add to the credibility of the startup. 

So did you see any sort of crossover to getting placement in West Elm stores to help increase sales on your native direct-to-consumer platform?

Joaquin Arce  

Absolutely. For us, it was a very proud moment. So at the personal side, I believe, was a very proud moment, being in a flagship store as West Elm is. 

And then many people started recognizing actually for being the weighted blanket that was at West Elm. And then that helped us boost our credibility. 

And as you said, something that was funny is when people started googling "weighted blankets West Elm" that is... That keyword has started rising. And we also see the benefits of it.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, obviously, it's not as strong as like... There's the whole concept of the "Shark Tank Effect". 

But I would say, something that's a step below that would obviously be like getting placements at traditional retail, where there's a lot of high foot traffic: Targets, West Elms, all that stuff. 

I see that that's another common thing that I hear from a lot of brands that are on here. They're like, "Yeah." 

There's like... Well, not only are you doing a big purchase order, the economy of scale is going up a little bit. It's just like.. There's also... The brand awareness is through the roof. That's stuff that you don't even consider. 

Joaquin Arce  

And at some point, actually something that I forgot to mention was --and I just remembered-- we were the brand that people were looking for more in the West Elm search bar. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, that's awesome.

Joaquin Arce  

Yes. That was awesome, for a while.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. That definitely helps you keep that partnership going. It's like, I think people like the product.

Joaquin Arce  

Yeah. I could say that people do.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So starting a brand is always difficult. And is there anything that comes to mind that you wish that you maybe didn't do? 

Or if you could go back in time, you're like "Hey Joaquin, don't do this." so you could try to help any of the listeners avoid a learning curve that something that you've been taking on.

Joaquin Arce  

I can think of something that I wouldn't do again. If you want to form a premium brand, never go into discounts. I think it's a rabbit hole that you can never get out of. And...

Chase Clymer  


Joaquin Arce  

...something that we have done eventually, it's never started getting into discount placements because then people have in mind as well, "That is a discounted brand. You will always get a discount." 

And I think that's not healthy for the growth of the brand, especially if you want to grow bootstrapped.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Actually, before we press record, you mentioned how you guys  circumvented having call to actions without offering discount codes. 

Could you elaborate on some of the things that you've tested there? 

Joaquin Arce  

Yes, we have done a couple of strategies. We have 2... 3 shipping service options, one that is free and one that has a cost. 

And how we try to incentivize it, instead of discounting the product, is just getting access to this higher level of shipping option. 

So we have offered multiple codes that are free or faster shipping, either to collect leads or to identify the sales that we have gone through a podcast.

Chase Clymer  

That's another thing. You guys have been testing the water with podcast placements. And I know that's a little too soon to tell whether or not it's working, but are there any initial wins that have come out of testing that market? 

I know that's... I think podcast placements are extremely new for direct-to-consumer brands. And I'm sure a lot of listeners are curious how it plays out.

Joaquin Arce  

I can tell you on a personal side, we think it has been very positive, because we have seen many direct sales from them or many people using the code that we have given them..

Chase Clymer  


Joaquin Arce  

...which I have to assume makes sense. But I think it's a market that is totally worth exploring. 

But it wouldn't be the first market that I would go to. I think there is a lot of brand work that you need to do before... Start on Facebook. 

Do your fundamentals on Facebook, in Google, in the traditional markets before you move to podcasts.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I would definitely say that as well. I think podcasts are... Well, as a podcast host, I can tell you right now that the analytics that you get from your syndication is garbage. 

And so there are a lot of customer interviews... It's pretty crazy man. It's interesting to me that podcasts are such a huge medium now. 

And it's built on toothpicks and gum. It's so weird. You don't get  actual subscribers from any of the services. The metric that everybody gets is downloads, and then it'll tell you where those downloads are, and that's about it.

Joaquin Arce  

That's it. And I guess how... A question for you. How do you decide whether your topic has work? Or is it just because of the downloads?

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. The downloads are pretty much the main metric that you can look at. And then you can do some cross referencing. 

Obviously, for us... For example, we have a newsletter that goes in tandem with Honest Ecommerce. 

So I try to email the list every once in a while and try to interview them to get a little bit more information about the types of people that are subscribing and a little bit more demographic data to use. But we exist in a very, very specific niche. 

So all the sponsors that you guys hear on the show, they're like "I want to be..." They know for a fact the audience that listens to this show is the exact audience they want to get in front of. So it makes my job a little bit easier. 

Joaquin Arce  

Yeah, that's great. I think that is also a lot of research. We did a lot of research on the infographics of each podcast that we wanted to launch before going in.

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Chase Clymer  

So I know you guys have a unique approach when it comes to marketing. And I know that you had an anti Black Friday campaign last year. Can you give me some details about that? 

Joaquin Arce  

Yes, I can. Thank you, Chase. Yes, it was a bit of a different approach, I would call it. We had a campaign with the slogan "Sleep on it." that was... 

Instead of helping the customers by giving them discounts [or] by offering any sort of promotion, we made it a bit more difficult to purchase. 

So when they added to cart, we started a pop up that said "Are you sure that you want to buy?" And then after they click "Yes." when they go to checkout again, we ask them. "How do you feel at this moment?" 

It is not the most traditional way to tackle Black Friday, I have to say but the results were just great for us, at least.

Chase Clymer  

It's very tongue-in-cheek. It's very funny. 

Joaquin Arce  

Yeah, it was a bit difficult for people to buy. One day before we launched a campaign that said "Tomorrow we're launching a product in Black Friday." And for the product... And we just gave... 

We started talking about "Impulse buying. That is something that you shouldn't do." So we kind of gave a hint of where this was going. And our goal was to... 

We partnered with Duke University, because we want to incorporate mindfulness into Ecom, into [the] Ecommerce experience from start to finish. 

And as I mentioned, this included "Are you sure that you want to buy?" And then [they chose] an emotional frame of mind when purchasing. And I think the results that we got... 

And what impressed me the most was that the people that were targeted with this product and receipts that were there... Most of them have a calmer state of mind or a happy state of mind when buying the product. 

And the return rate was almost zero for the product. Especially in these days when everyone gives external returns, getting almost zero returns on this product was amazing. 

Because that means that people actually connected with the values of the brand and they really thought about buying it before buying. 

Let me tell you. Honestly, Black Friday was still our biggest day of the year, and it was great. 

Chase Clymer  

And you did that without discounting. 

Joaquin Arce  

Yeah. Without discounting and by making it difficult. 

And I think it also built our community stronger because it told our consumers, "We are not just here to make you buy. We are here as a part of the journey of the consumption, of the utilization process." which I think is key.

Chase Clymer  

So Joaquin, tell me more about Bearaby's views on napping and sleep, especially as it relates to your staff and their work schedules. I found this pretty interesting.

Joaquin Arce  

Oh yeah. Thank you, Chase. Our brand prioritizes physical, mental and emotional well- being a lot. 

I think, is one of our core values for our workers. And part of this is offering flexible hours. Our typical run hours are from 10 AM to 2 PM and each team member has the flexibility to have their schedule in the way they like. 

I personally daily take a nap, like for 30 - 40 minutes. And for me, it makes 2 pockets of great productivity, one in the morning and the one after the nap. 

And it just makes your work more efficient. And you are happy that you're working. And then you not only see that result for me, but also from the team. 

I think the whole team loves the idea and the culture that we have been throughout. It's more of a napping culture.

Chase Clymer  

That's an amazing culture there. I think we'll look into adopting that here at our agency. Is there anything that I forgot to ask you today that you think would resonate with our audience?

Joaquin Arce  

There is one more campaign that I would like to talk about similar to the Black Friday (campaign).

Chase Clymer  


Joaquin Arce  

I wanted to tell our marketers to be a bit more bold with their campaigns. And for example, we wanted to incorporate humor to one of our days and it was April Fool's Day. 

So what we did, it was also another launch. We did a full PR story... A lot of Insta Stories, a lot of campaigns in our Instagram post that we were launching the smallest weighted blanket in the world. 

Chase Clymer  


Joaquin Arce  

It was a blanket for hedgehogs. So we got a few hedgehog influencers. I don't know if you have ever seen them online. It was a great campaign.

Chase Clymer  

I didn't know that there was such a thing as hedgehog influencers.

Joaquin Arce  

Yeah. It's crazy they have like 400k to a million followers. And they were... We will have pictures with them with the smallest Napper in the world. 

And then everyone was crazy about it. Everybody engaged a lot. And that's the day that we launched The Hugger that was actually our biggest Napper in the world. 

That was the queen-sized weighted blanket. But everyone was so engaged that the launch was such a success. 

And there are still... People that are still asking about weighted blankets for hedgehogs.

Chase Clymer  

That's hilarious. I definitely have to look that one up. I feel like I remember seeing that come out back then. But I'm definitely gonna look into it more now just because I'm more curious about this hedgehog content.

Joaquin Arce  

(laughs) Thank you. I think it was great from a personal note.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Well Joaquin, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show and sharing your insights. I know that this one's gonna be fantastic. Thanks again.

Joaquin Arce  

Thank you very much, Chase. Thank you very much 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.