Honest Ecommerce

225 | Build Your Business Out of Love | with Michael Kuech

Episode Summary

On this podcast, we talk about how Michael’s personal solution turned into a business, the importance of human connection in your products, why you almost always need to simplify, and so much more!

Episode Notes

Michael Kuech Michael is half of the powerhouse team behind Your Super, one of the biggest superfood brands in the U.S. and Europe. 

In just over 8 years, Your Super transformed from zero to hero, with a whopping $200 million in revenue and a successful exit in October 2022. But this wasn't an ordinary business venture. 

This was personal. Michael's cancer diagnosis at age 24 inspired him to consider the power of food as medicine. 

After his recovery, he started experimenting with superfood mixes to boost his immunity and, with the help of his partner and now wife, Kristel de Groot, they created Your Super. 

From humble beginnings in Amsterdam, Michael led the company as CEO to quickly spread across six continents, 60+ countries and was named the fastest-growing Food & Beverage company in 2021 by Inc. Magazine. 

With headquarters in the U.S., Your Super has helped millions of people to change their lifestyles and feel better with the power of plants. Formerly employed by big names like Accenture and Deutsche Bank, Michael is today a sought-after industry leader, CEO, speaker, author, and e-commerce expert and is regularly featured in Forbes, TED, Inc., Cheddar TV, Good Day L.A., and The Doctors. 

Kristel and Michael recently published their newest book Your Super Life, and you can keep up with them on the top-ranking Your Super Life Podcast, their site kristelandmichael.com, and on social @kristelandmichael.

In This Conversation We Discuss: 


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Episode Transcription

Michael Kuech  

I'm always asking "Have you tried this in the markets? Have you already got feedback from customers?" Because just because you think it's perfect, doesn't mean the market thinks it's perfect.

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. 

Today I'm bringing to the show an amazing guest, Michael Kuech. He is one of the founders of Your Super

Welcome to the show. 

Michael Kuech  

Hey Chase, thanks for having me.

Chase Clymer  

I'm excited to chat. So for those that may not be as familiar as I am, can you just quickly walk me through the types of products you are selling over there? 

What are you trying to do these days?

Michael Kuech  

Yeah. Your Super is a superfood company. And we're on a mission to inspire people to eat more plants and use more plants and their daily diet.

So we have different superfood blends, protein blends, greens... 

You see. So different types of products, there are really different functions, all geared towards making it easier for you to eat your veggies and your fruits in your daily diet.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. That's fantastic. So without further ado, let's go back in time. Tell me where did this idea come from? 

I know you've got a very personal story that aligns with how the business became the business that it is.

Michael Kuech  

Yeah, it's very personal. And it became a personal mission, this business. It's now 10 years ago, almost to this day now, where I was diagnosed with cancer. I was just 24 years old. And that was a major shock because growing up in Germany, I was always an athlete. 

Although I was a very meat eating person in German culture, I was still an athlete all my life, and I was shocked. 

I was 24. I didn't know that I could get cancer to be honest. And when I went through this from surgery to chemo --I had testicular cancer by the way-- I realized why... 

I asked myself the question, "Why are people getting sick?  Why am I getting sick? Why [did] I got sick? Why are people in general getting sick?" 

And when I started researching, after getting through this, I didn't have to look for it. I just googled it and the World Health Organization popped up right there. 

And what I found completely shocked me: Over 50% of cancers are due to risk factors that we can control. One of those risk factors is diet. 

And I was like "This is crazy. I can't control everything in my life, but I can control what I put in my body." So that put me on my health journey. And I never wanted to get sick again. 

And I say "Hey, I need to eat healthier." And my co-founder back then and now wife, --back then girlfriend-- she was the health nut actually in our relationship. 

So often, the women are the health nuts. They're trying all these things out. 

So she put me in my first detox, she gave me all the super foods, and I was like, "What are these superfoods? What is wheatgrass, barley grass?.." 

I had no idea what I was consuming. But I realized I felt so much better. I had so much more energy, all of a sudden my immune system got back up. I felt stronger, clearer, less bloated. 

And I was like "Wow, these plants are amazing? Is this anything new?" And again, my German mind was like, "Hhey, I need to research this." 

And when I started researching, I found out that superfoods haven't been anything new. They have been around for hundreds of thousands of years and have always been used as food as medicine as well around the world. 

So "We're like this is great, we can make it easy for people to eat healthier, to get more fruits and vegetables in, to get more vitamins and minerals in." 

And that was the kickstart of Your Super: How we combined the best superfoods we could find around the world into different mixes, different functions. 

And yeah 10 years later, we're still doing it.

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. That's amazing. 

Now, talk to me about how you went from "The idea of these superfoods are great and they make me feel good." to "Hey, this should or could be a business."

Michael Kuech  

Yeah, so there were a couple of moments.One was Kristel was dragging me to Whole Foods in London and told me "Okay, you need to buy wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina, chlorella, acai..." 

And I was like, "First of all, I don't understand how to use them. Then you asked me to buy them or lose the expensive or lose... There needs to be an easier way and a better way." So Kristel made a mix for myself. 

And after a few weeks, people were starting to ask, "Hey, this seems easy. Just one scoop a day in your smoothie, or yogurt or anything. This seems so easy. We want to try this too." 

So more and more people ask for it. And we're like, "Hey, maybe we have something here." And then we just started. To be honest, we just tried it and started. 

We put on a Shopify page in two weeks back then and we tried it. 

We said, "Hey, maybe we can just get some pre-sales and pre-orders. And if it works, we'll do it. And if not, then we'll try something else."

Chase Clymer  

I love that. Trial by fire. Let's just see if it works.

Michael Kuech  

That's usually our mantra, too. It's like, "Let's just do it." And we... 

So often, we think about step 100 versus step one and we'll get discouraged by problem hundred versus the problem one. 

We're like, “Hey, we're just doing it.” Let's see.

Chase Clymer  

Michael, I know there's someone out there listening right now that is scared to just get started. What do you have to say to them?

Michael Kuech  

Just start it. Don't try to figure every eventuality out. You don't know... we didn't know anything about business. And we always say "If we could have done it, everybody can do it." 

We didn't know anything about business, how to start a business, how to source, how to do any of the things we're doing now. But we all learn them by doing. 

And we started small. We started small, we didn't invest a ton. 

We invested a few hundred bucks to get the Shopify page up and running and see what the feedback was. And from there, we iterated. 

So for somebody who wants to try something, try something. Don't get discouraged by maybe a problem down the future or what happens if. Just see. 

And usually when you get to this point, the problems are gonna be different.

Chase Clymer  

Exactly. Alright, so let's talk about what happened after you built this Shopify store and you started to get some feedback. How were you getting customers?

Michael Kuech  

In the beginning, we sent a ton of products out to influencers and micro-influencers. And back then it was still an easier and cheaper way. Because now, everybody wants to have money. That was in 2014 -2015. 

Instagram was just up and coming so we shared it with a lot of people [and] sent our product. 

So that was our budget, basically, or the cost of products...

Chase Clymer  


Michael Kuech  

...because we didn't have a budget. We were bootstrapped for the first one and a half years and didn't have a lot of money. So we did that. 

And then we went to a lot of farmers markets, food expos, conventions, almost every weekend. We were somewhere to get feedback. 

So we prepared the products, we got feedback, we sold products there, and iterated from there. People loved it or people said, "Hey, this is not great." And we iterated for the next one. 

So we very slowly got through the digital piece plus through word of mouth going to his conventions. We got more customers on our site. 

And then we started a little bit obviously with social/paid [ads] at one point and and rode that wave.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So Michael, you mentioned that you were --almost every weekend-- putting in the work to go to these farmers markets and these conventions and get feedback and you just glazed over that piece. But I want to really talk about that real quick for the listeners and why that was important and invaluable to the growth of your brand.

Michael Kuech  

A couple of things. One, we heard all the objections people had. So people said "Oh I can't do... I can't be healthy because of X." 

"This doesn't taste good." 

"It seems complicated." 

So we got all... 

We actually got all the feedback from our customers in terms of "How can we sell to them?" because we learn their stories, right? We learned their concerns, we learned their benefits, they may be gaining the products we didn't think about. 

So that equipped us actually with a narrative, with a story, with the assets, basically, that we can use them again, online, because obviously people are similar. 

And that helped us tremendously obviously on our story and the marketing piece, but also on the product itself. We got so much feedback on "Oh this tastes great." "This doesn't taste great." "This I can't do." "It's the way I want to." 

And then we iterated a product as well, the formulation of the products, until we found something that most people liked. You can't have a product that everybody likes. 

But 2 major pieces: The product itself plus how you sell the products and are you actually saying the right things to your consumer that the consumer wants to hear?

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And you're not the first person to tell me that that's something that was a game changer for their business, and their brand, and their product. And it's definitely one of those things when I think about it like... 

At the beginning you got to do the things that don't scale. And that's  one of my number one recommendations: Going out and getting feedback in person.

Michael Kuech  

Yeah. And I'm talking to founders or people who want to start a business all the time and usually they overthink the formulation and product development, or they want to make it so perfect. 

And I'm always asking, "Have you tried this in the markets? Have you already got feedback from customers?" Because just because you think it's perfect, right doesn't mean the market thinks it is perfect. 

And so it's so important to get early feedback all the time, build this community where you can actually have that open conversation, open feedback for any product success, in my opinion.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. All right. So let's talk about now where you start to get into paid [ads]. Was there a moment in time when you're like, "I think we're really onto something here?"

Michael Kuech  

Yeah, that was a few years in which we figured out that people buy products from people and people want to hear stories behind the founder. It's like "Why did somebody start?" 

So the emotional connection to the brand is so important. We didn't learn it in the beginning as much because we were very focused on functionalities. 

Maybe because I'm German, I always talk about functionalities. But in the marketplace, especially in the US, when we talk to a lot of people, it is the emotional connection with the brand. My story... 

People shared their story, their health journeys, their health concerns, because I shared my story. And for the first few years, I didn't share my story and that I had cancer as much. 

And we realized we can help so [many] more people if we tell that story. More authentic, right? 

Chase Clymer  


Michael Kuech  

More authentic to who we are. And that was a game changer because with video and with social [media], we could tell a really authentic founding story. And that really propelled the business. 

And we thought early on with a couple of our early videos on Facebook and an Instagram that they really worked well. 

People really resonated with it. And we're like "Oh, we can scale with this." And from there, it was just a rocketship and exciting to see.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Yeah, you guys did some crazy numbers: Over 20 million in revenue. You had a very successful exit back in October of 2022. 

Is there anything during those scaling years that you want to share with our audience?

Michael Kuech  

Yeah. So we [always had]... The mantra was, "If we're good at something, let's focus on something." So we never tried... 

For years and years, we didn't, we didn't have new products. We didn't have a lot of different marketing channels because we figured out one channel and wanted to really be successful in that one channel with a few products. 

So we try to keep it very simple for a long time. And then it comes to this point where you feel like you need to do everything. But now looking back, there were a ton of mistakes. Obviously you may too. It's still something [that] we're like, "We could have just kept it even more simple." 

Because at one point, you always feel you need to be on every channel advertising everywhere. You need to do brand stuff and you need to [have] a million different products. 

And for the longest time, we tried to keep it very, very simple. And it was a team you are hiring across the entire business. 

That would be my advice: Even in scaling, it is "Can you keep it very simple, very lean?" And go from there.

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Chase Clymer  

You are one of my favorite guests that I've had recently, Michael. There's gonna be so many pull quotes from this that I refer back to in conversations with brands. 

But the one thing that I really want to highlight there is like, "Keep it simple and keep it focused." And you talked about how you guys were staying with one channel and a low product line. I feel like that's the first thing brands do when they get a little bit of success.

They're like, "Okay, well, if Facebook's working let me go over here and try to do paid on TikTok.”

But what they don't realize is that they haven't even maxed out the returns that they can get from the channel they've already figured out.

Michael Kuech  

Exactly. And that was always how we always somehow felt "Okay, let's try to max out Facebook and be really good in  what we're doing there in our messaging, etc." 

Because everything else obviously costs a lot of resources right. And [in] hindsight right now, obviously, the landscape has changed completely. 

So we couldn't [be] just doing Facebook right now because we all know it's really hard and the iOS update impacted a lot of us in Ecommerce. 

But back then, we thought it was very focused. And still now ,I feel like there are channels you can be very focused on, very simple. Somehow there is this... 

Especially in the startup world, I feel like this pride or something or you feel like you need to do everything all of a sudden, hire a million people, and the bigger your team, the greater your company is. 

And we're trapped into some of these mistakes for sure with Your Super. And so [for] anybody's listening, don't do it. 

Be super lean, be super focused, and keep all the structure simple and easy.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That's amazing. Can you remember back when you guys were like a seven-figure brand. I'd say that's a lot of our listeners now. 

Michael Kuech  


Chase Clymer  

What were you guys... Were you guys still kind of just focused on one main channel for prospecting, one main channel for remarketing? Do you remember how that worked out?

Michael Kuech  

Yeah, it was super focused on one channel. Back then it was Facebook. 

We never really did influencers which I think right now the channel would be shifting to, in my personal opinion, will be more influencer stuff and micro-influencers and really figure out how you can get people talking about the brand. 

We're early on very focused, especially when we're in a smaller brand. And besides one channel, we're also building this community. 

So we had a Facebook group early on that we really try to engage with and grow. Now it's like 50,000 - 60,000 people who are hardcore fans. 

And I think if I were to start now or a new company, or somebody who is smaller, make sure you keep the customers you have, make sure you build a community around them. Word of mouth is so powerful, obviously. 

And then supplement that with a lot of good, right micro-influencers, affiliates, people that love the brand and want to work with you. It doesn't have to be expensive. And building this community of people can be very, very powerful.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now Michael, I know that you have a book coming out. Do you want to talk a bit about that?

Michael Kuech  

Yes, we... Just about everything we learned in terms of health and how you eat healthy and peak performance basically. I always felt... Actually because I was an athlete and [for] anybody's listening who has his own company, I always felt like being a founder is being an athlete. 

And the book is for anybody who wants to bring their health to the next level, be more sharp, more focused, better performance. So it's called Your Super Life

It came out last April 18. And came out. You can find it everywhere you buy books. And it has 100 super easy recipes to do plant-based meals from breakfast, lunch, dinner. 

The top 25 superfoods are in there. Which superfood should you eat? For what benefits? Where can you find them? So that is in there. Meal plans are in there. 

Our stories are in there, how we feel like you can improve your health with the power of plants. 

So check it out. I'm really excited about it. 

Chase Clymer  

Oh, that's fantastic. We'll make sure to link to that down in the show notes. Is there anything I didn't ask you about today that you think would resonate with our audience?

Michael Kuech  

Do what you love to do. I think if you start a business for just purely making money and you're not into it, it's hard to succeed, I think, because this journey of starting businesses is not an easy one. It requires a lot of perseverance and patience and grit. 

And if you love what you do, you are not going to feel like it. It's just gonna feel like fun. So I would highly recommend finding your passion and building a business around that.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Michael, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Michael Kuech  

Hey Chase, thanks so much for having me.

Chase Clymer  

We 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. 

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