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When a Business Turns into a Passion Project with Anja Skodda - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 199

HAPPYBOND’s founder, Anja, is a biotech scientist specializing in cartilage tissue engineering. 

What does that mean you say? Basically, she’s incredibly smart and, lucky for us, a super dog lover. 

She used her research in cartilage rebuilding to create the unique formula for HappyAgain that helps rebuild your dog’s collagen and prolong their youth and agility.

 All our HAPPYBOND products are innovated by Anja and dog experts, offering proven results for HappyDogs around the world.

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:09] Introducing Anja’s fellow guest
  • [01:28] Products that HAPPYBOND offers
  • [01:55] Where the idea of HAPPYBOND came from
  • [03:18] Transitioning from medical pharma to vet pharma
  • [04:45] HAPPYBOND’s go-to-market strategy
  • [06:18] Working with a prestigious influencer
  • [07:09] The worst that can happen is they say no
  • [07:26] Pros and cons of going omnichannel
  • [09:08] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [09:28] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [10:17] Sponsor: Loop loopreturns.com/honest
  • [11:10] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [11:58] Customer care and considering feedback
  • [13:38] Making the DTC UI/UX easier for customers
  • [14:40] Don’t change how users know how it usually works
  • [16:10] Look at the packaging and think about your dog.
  • [16:59] Where to find HAPPYBOND products

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.

Anja Skodda  

What I would say to every brand [is] try to keep as much in-house as much as you can and control the creative and the brand because people will see it and it's you that it reflects back on. 

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, we're welcoming to the show, Anja

Anya is the CEO and founder of HAPPYBOND. She's a biotech scientist that specializes in cartilage tissue engineering. Welcome to the show today. 

Anja Skodda  

Hi, I'm happy to be here.

Chase Clymer   

And also for those of you that are not watching but listening, she's got a guest with her as well. Can you introduce who's it with you? 

Anja Skodda  

He is actually part of our team. That is our chief tasting officer, Fernando. 

Chase Clymer   

Awesome. So I think the audience might be able to figure a little bit out about that. So Fernando is a beautiful dog. 

Tell our listeners and our watchers what are the products that HAPPYBOND is bringing to the market? 

Anja Skodda  

Well our newest product that's coming to market is a really unique [and] fresh dog food that's human-grade. [It’s] convenience being that it's shelf stable so you have it in your pantry without using preservatives 

It's a very unique technology that is patent pending and it is in a sustainable packaging: a glass

jar. So we'll be helping the environment with recycling that packaging 

Chase Clymer   

Well that's fantastic. So where does an idea like that come from? Can you take me back in time and tell me where you realized that you wanted to get into this and start tackling this?

Anja Skodda  

Yeah, sure. Well it all started very way back with my older dog, Tony, who was a skateboarding bulldog. A bulldog like him, a little heavier, and he loved to skateboard and got arthritis in his shoulder when he was around 8 years old. 

And I worked in cartilage tissue engineering specializing in research for rheumatoid arthritis at the time and figured that I needed to help him to get back on the skateboard.

So I created our first SKU which is now a patented joint supplement for dogs that was created for Tony. And he was back in a week running, better than ever. 

And we tested it on humans which is kind of our philosophy. We always test everything on humans first, that's all human-grade what we do, and it has the same effect.

Everyone felt better. [They] had no more backache. So that's when I decided that we have to make this commercially available for all dogs just to make them feel better and have a solution that is not the old, old story of glucosamine chondroitin juice.

This is a collagen-based, patented formula that is preventative from puppies aged 1 but

also helps seniors to run again.

So that's how the journey started to get into the pet industry which wasn't my

focus back on [my] research [days].

Chase Clymer   

Yeah that was going to be my next question. You started in a more traditional

medical field and not in the pet industry. 

How long was that transition between your old career and the new career and where had the idea for something maybe up until the time that you had a sample in hand?

Anja Skodda  

Yeah. I would say that my…

I always had horses and dogs and I was around animals and I always had a big focus on helping them somehow and bringing the science into the daily life of humans and pets.

And it was always far away from that process because in the research and pharmaceutical work, it takes years to even get from an idea to a product that is actually out on the market. 

So I had those ideas playing around in my mind [for] a long time. But then when it actually happened and I saw the results, we quickly decided to do a sample production.

And I was lucky enough to have really good contacts in manufacturing and supplements, so it was a very seamless and short process of about 6 months.

We had our first production in hand and then decided to really do this. And then I moved very quickly full time into this which might have been, for many people, crazy because I went from a

really good job to start not [having]a paid job. 

But it was really for the love of these guys that I wanted to make a change in the industry and have really clean products that actually do what they say they will do. 

Chase Clymer   

Awesome. So when you had these products, you're jumping in full time, what was that go-to-market strategy

I know a lot of listeners and entrepreneurs… 

Getting that first round of customers is honestly some of the hardest work that needs to be done in building a business. 

Anja Skodda  

That's true, yeah. To get out there and be seen that people know about [your brand], I think that's still the hardest part for any business because you always think you reached a lot but there's so many more people out there.

I think the first step for us that was planned is that we met with the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan back then and his dog had issues [walking]. And he… 

I got him to try the supplement and 2 weeks later, he could run again. And I supported him for the last 3 years of his life so he was very thankful and supportive of us to make a buzz and talk about our company and our products, which really accelerated the reach of our products out there.

But then definitely you know building the right website, plugging in with the right DTC store and then really diving into the Ecommerce, which for me at the time seemed to be the the natural idea of selling a product and not dealing with all the retail and costs and and sales people

and in-between charges.

The DTC channel was always the most attractive I thought, so that was the first start: Get out there, build your social media following, and start on the ad spend. Facebook, Google… And we all know what everyone is doing.

Chase Clymer   

Absolutely. So uh how did you find that relationship with such a prestigious influencer?

Anja Skodda  

I would say well I have a very good friend that is also an advisor to the company that I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the management and some other influencers that we're now working with.

But that being said, I think you just have to dare to go out there and and take that

contact and just write [to] them. 

We're talking about dogs and pets, and many of those influencers have a big passion and love for those animals. It's like family [to them] so it moves from business to a passion project.

So I feel like we have a little bit of an advantage due to that product and that we're helping dogs to get a response. 

But I would just say, you can only get a no. try to reach out and the worst thing that can happen is that they say “no, thank you.” And maybe you're lucky they take the meeting and you can convince them.

Chase Clymer   

Yeah. The worst thing that can happen is you're in the same exact place where you started.

Anja Skodda  

Exactly. 

Chase Clymer   

Alright. So you guys are launching, you have your own website… I know that you guys are also doing Amazon

Are you also doing a retail play as well? And could you talk a bit about the omnichannel approach and maybe some of the pros and cons of…

Anja Skodda  

Mm-hmm.

Chase Clymer   

…going that direction?

Anja Skodda  

Well actually, that started during the pandemic. We pivoted quite a lot because we weren't big enough right at the start of the pandemic to move enough money into the DTC channels because it got very competitive at the time. 

And we decided to approach a little bit more of the retailers, especially the ones that have the

budget to do Ecommerce through their channels. And we figured that that was a really good approach for our products. 

And now our business is more 50 - 50. So the Omni Channel really kicked in at that time and then made us realize [that] we have a big chance to reach more customers through those retailers that educate our customers as well. 

And then they come back directly to us so I thought it was a really good in-between play. And we are on Amazon. We had some not so good experience with resellers and now building our own brand store to keep everything in-house.

And I think that's what I would say to every brand: Try to keep as much in-house as you can and control the creative and the brand because people will see it and it's you that reflects back on. So I feel that's one thing that I learned along the way.

In the beginning we jumped on every sales channel there is and now we're more selective what what fits to the brand, what fits to other voice that we have, and that we want our

customers to know about our brand.

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Chase Clymer   

Speaking of some learnings from along the path, is there anything that stands out to you as something that was either a lot harder than you thought it would be or maybe a mistake that you guys made that you're allowed to talk about here? 

Anja Skodda  

Well they’re many (laughs) but I'm keeping it short. I would say customer care. 

I wasn't prepared for the UI/UX experience for… You really have to be prepared for [that] and I think that's a big plus if a company focuses on that.

In the beginning, we just built a website and it was user friendly and then we thought probably way too much about the process so it got complicated.

I really believe in keeping it simple, making the choices very simple, and using a process that the customer is already used to. 

And not reinventing and starting a new process that is hard for them to learn, and they don't reflect and see it. Maybe they don't have the confidence of “Is this real? Can we trust that brand?” 

I would say that and the customer care of being there for our clients for the questions so and we

actually put all that in-house after a bad experience of outsourcing customer service.

Now having a vet on staff, I'm talking to our clients… Whenever there's a question, we're there. And I think that's a lot of learning for the brand too, because you get that direct feedback of “Hey, maybe you should change your product.” 

In a way, when you get the feedback too many times, you might change

packaging, you might change product flavors, or whatever it is.

I think that's one big thing we did wrong in the beginning and [we] had to learn that. 

Chase Clymer   

Now, when you were mentioning UI/UX and not confusing customers and going with patterns that they know, were you specifically talking about the direct-to-consumer website and making it just easier to use, I guess? 

Anja Skodda  

Yeah. I think especially the checkout like I built a really complicated checkout in the beginning, 

where they picked the age, the amount, when they're gonna get it, it just got very complicated.

And adapting it more to common Ecommerce stores and checkout like the big players, it made it just easy because people know how it looks. There's no confusion anymore. 

So I'm talking about conversion rate. If you want to optimize all those numbers, you might as well have a process that's simple and that is not the pain point for your business. There are other…

There are so many factors that move into the conversion, and the CAC, and all those

numbers that I think you should minimize anything you can control,

Chase Clymer   

Oh that's fantastic. I want to lift this snippet out for conversations that I have with prospects coming into the agency because it is…

One of the number one things that I see with some brands is an over-designed website and I get where they're coming from. They want to be unique and that is something that helps tell the

brand's story.

But the further you get away from those known patterns of “That’s how the internet works and how shopping works.” It can be detrimental. 

Anja Skodda  

Definitely. It took me about a year to recover from being on the wrong platform that didn’t plug in to anything because I want it to be different [and] custom-built.

I can just tell anyone “Just don't do it. It's so much work. [It] costs a lot of money.” 

Our website is still complex. I'm not saying that we are the masters of that. I'm still working on

making it more simple. But we put a lot in the educational part more in the back-end so the shopping is actually a seamless and easy process

But there's still a lot of content and educational pieces that we put in so it is a pretty complex website. But for the owner and the customer that we want to attract, the pet parents

that care, they do the research and they want to have content to read about.

So I feel that it's like this opt-in: “If you want to know more, there it is. You don't have to. You can just check out, too.”

Chase Clymer   

Absolutely. Now, is there anything that I didn't ask you about today that you think might resonate with our audience?

Anja Skodda  

Well, we're speaking to pet parents, responsible pet parents. I just like to say just about in the dog space or in the pet market…

But I've always been struggling with and what was a big reason why I started this company is that the big brands and a lot of other brands are a free to market

whatever they want and whatever they say. We have no regulations here. 

So really look at the ingredients. Take a second look at what is said on the package and what is actually in the package. 

And think [that] your dog only lives around 12 - 13 years on average. That time, he should have the best he can to live the best life. 

So I'm encouraging every dog owner to really look twice and maybe find the best solution for their pet and prevent that pet illness

Chase Clymer   

Absolutely. You talked so much about the passion and care that's gone into your products that you guys are bringing to market over there at HAPPYBOND.

If I'm a dog owner, where should I go to check out the products? What should I do next?

Anja Skodda  

Visit us on happybond.com. But you [can] probably find us on a lot of ecommerce retailers as well. But that's where you find the story, the background, and a lot more about the ingredients. 

We have a policy to be extremely transparent so you will find every ingredient explained into detail while we use it and that's not taking out any ingredients. 

It doesn't mean we only talk about the active stuff. It's really clean, transparent, and educational. So if you want to learn more, go straight to our website um but you're welcome to shop with any bigger retail platform as well 

Chase Clymer   

Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your story. 

Anja Skodda  

Thank you for having me. And Fernando unfortunately had left already.

Chase Clymer   

It seems like he had better things to do.

Anja Skodda  

(laughs)

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.