BiggerPockets Business Podcast

BiggerPockets Business Podcast 62: Building a Massively Profitable Business Around Your Passions With Alex French

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Are you looking to build a business around something you love and are passionate about? Do you want to ensure that the business you’re working on has massive profit potential? Are you concerned that you don’t know how to do both of these things simultaneously?

Today’s guest tells us how he was able to blend his passion with massive profits… and how we can, as well!

Alex French—co-founder of Bizzy Coffee, the most popular cold-brew coffee brand sold through Amazon and retailers—knows firsthand how important it is to do something you love while also ensuring that there is market demand for your business. On this episode, he teaches us how we can identify which of our passions can be scaled into a profitable enterprise and how to validate our ideas quickly and inexpensively using Google.

Alex also tells us how we can use influencers to get feedback on our business ideas and how they can spread the word to potential customers, too. Finally, he walks us through the basics of selling on Amazon, including how to use the platform to dominate in your product category.

Make sure you listen for Alex’s powerful tip—one that cost his investors over $1M to learn—on what to do when you find your business veering off-course.

Check him out, and subscribe to the BiggerPockets Business Podcast so you won’t miss our next show!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcast.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

J:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Business podcast, show number 62.

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Alex:
That’s one of the biggest things that we like to do here. We want to get to that dollar and that sale as fast as possible. Because the last thing I want to do, and we did this with a failed product previously, is invest a year of your time with something that just was never going to work.

Speaker 3:
Welcome to a real-world MBA from the school of hard knocks, where entrepreneurs reveal what it really takes to make it. Whether you’re already in business or you’re on your way there, this show is for you. This is BiggerPockets Business.

J:
How’s it going everybody? I am J Scott. I am your cohost for the BiggerPockets Business podcast, and I am here with the amazing, lovely, and talented Mrs. Carol Scott, my cohost. How you doing, Carol?

Carol:
Bit of déjà vu going on. Listeners, get this. You may remember we moved to Florida exactly one year ago, one year and four days ago, to be exact. And over the past week and a half, guess what’s transpired? Oh, yeah. We’re moving again. Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah. It took a whole year to move houses. We’re staying in Florida. We’re moving to another house in the neighborhood. We’ve kind of had this one in the works for about six or eight months, to be honest. And boom, when it happened, it happened. So, if you happen to be watching on video, that’s why our walls are blank because we’re in the middle of staging to list this one, and we are at it again. We just can’t sit still. So, thanks a lot, honey, really.

J:
Yep.

Carol:
Exactly what I need this week.

J:
I feel like I’ve … Last I counted, I’ve lived in 38 places in my life-

Carol:
That’s just not right. That is so not right.

J:
… which is crazy. I’m in my mid to late 40s, and so that’s-

Carol:
There’s no mid to late. Let’s not sugarcoat. You’re-

J:
Okay. I tried. I tried.

Carol:
Yeah, nice try.

J:
Okay, late 40s.

Carol:
Anyway, enough about us. Let’s talk about today’s amazing guest.

J:
Absolutely, yeah. We have an awesome show today. I love this show. Our guest, his name is Alex French. He is the cofounder of a company called Bizzy Coffee. They make what I'm told is the best cold-brew coffee in the world. They sell it on Amazon. They're the leading cold-brew coffee seller on Amazon. This is just an absolutely amazing interview. Alex, just tip after tip after tip, he starts by telling us how we can use Google search trends to find great product ideas. So, if you're out there looking for a great product idea, listen to Alex's tips on how you can use Google to validate your product idea, to basically do your market research to see if there's interest in the idea that you're considering.
Next, he talks about testing your ideas, and as we’ve talked about a bunch of times on this show, how to test your ideas very inexpensively and very quickly before going all in. He tells us how he was able to do that with a food product. Which is really difficult with a food product, but it’s really cool the things he did to test his idea really quickly, really inexpensively.
He then jumps into telling us how he got his product reviewed by some big influencers in the community and what he did to get his product in the hands of influencers, how he tailored the product for the specific influencers, and how he was able to use those influencers to really build the brand and gain market share. Finally, he goes on and tells us exactly what we need to sell on Amazon, the different ways to sell on Amazon and how you can really get your product to stand out as an Amazon product.
All throughout this show, Alex is just really real about the mistakes he’s made in his business, the ups and the downs. I mean, his coffee is huge these days, but it wasn’t always a simple path. So, he talks about his failures. He talks about how he had a product idea where they raised over a million dollars, and the product failed. So, listen for that awesome failure story because there’s always a ton to learn from failure.
Just great episode, tip after tip after tip. You’re absolutely going to love it. If you want to find out more about Alex or about Bizzy Coffee, more about anything we talk about in this show, check out our show notes at biggerpockets.com/bizshow62. Again, that’s biggerpockets.com/bizshow62. Okay. Without any further ado, let’s welcome Alex French to the show.

Carol:
Alex, thank you so much for being here with us today. We have so been looking forward to this interview. You’ve got a great story, and we’re so excited to chat with you and hear what you have to tell us.

Alex:
Yeah, thanks for having me. Likewise.

J:
Alex, let’s start with the backstory. These days, you’re cofounder of Bizzy Coffee, but I know you didn’t always come from the entrepreneurial world. You did stuff before then, so take us back a little bit. What did you do before you became a cofounder for Bizzy Coffee?

Alex:
Well, if we go to the Wayback time machine, always been kind of like that hustler kid. I resonated in a show, Recess, there was a guy that was always selling stuff out of his trench coat. That was me, so I was selling Beanie Babies on eBay, was mowing lawns, shoveling, pretty much doing whatever I could to make a buck. I’d always had that entrepreneurial spirit, but no vast ambitions, if you will.
So, went to college. I had wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I was a kid. I had a picture of a Ferrari on my wall, probably 14 years old, and no entrepreneurs in my family. I asked my dad, “How do I get one of these?” “Well, son, you got to be a business owner,” and kind of looked into what that entailed. Thought it sounded fun. Went to school for entrepreneurship. But again, had no entrepreneurs in my family, so a very risk-averse upbringing, if you will.
So, went into college and got into finance, actually. Was generally good at math and liked the idea of money, so I had a finance background. Even though I was an entrepreneurship major, I never really had the idea that I thought could be big and exciting and something that I’d be willing to work on, so I ended up doing a little internship in mergers and acquisitions in investment banking. The category was called middle market, which seems insane that it’s middle market. But it was 50-to-500-million-dollar businesses that they were selling, and a lot of those are actually owned by founders or the families. A lot of it was manufacturing businesses.
I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m working a hundred hours a week at this finance job,” and it just reinforced that I think I someday wanted to be a business owner after working with them and seeing what they were doing. But again, I didn’t have that kind of magic spark for an idea, so I pretty much took the first job that I could get after college. I was working at Best Buy in this role called demand forecasting, and basically, I was doing supply chain.
I would work with our vendors. I was on the tablet team, so I was working with Apple and Google to figure out how many units we were going to sell. Pretty boring, but had a good understanding of retail and was living in spreadsheets all day, which I candidly did not like. I’ve always considered myself more of a kind of creative type.
I loved the job because it was not very taxing. I only worked 35 to 40 hours a week. That’s what I was looking for because I knew I wanted to start something, whatever that was, and I had started a little accessory business in the snow sports industry with my current business partner and best friend, Andrew. Although the business failed, I really fell in love with the marketing and the branding of the … More of the brand. The product was fun, but I just loved the idea of coming up with a name and a logo and what it stood for.
So, I wanted to do that professionally after the business had failed, and so was looking. Was kind of sick of being in the spreadsheets, so I was just job hunting. I found a role at General Mills as a marketing analyst, and this was the only job you could have in marketing without an MBA. It was a really great company. I was very fortunate that I was able to be surrounded by really, really smart people, and it certainly elevated my personal work ethic. But as I was there, I still knew I wanted to do some other start-up or something on the side.
I had gotten really into doing kind of fitness challenges. One of them was this 24-hour obstacle race, and just through that was really working hard. I started caring a lot about nutrition and diet. Because I was at a food company and an analyst, I had access to every piece of data you could really want, and I was a quantitative person. I was finance, and I worked in spreadsheets, and so I was just swimming in gold basically, having access to every piece of sales data.
So, in my free time, I would just look at every single category I possibly could, whether it was chewing gum or pretzels, literally anything. It was right around this time that we were working really hard. We were doing these 24-hour races, really not sleeping much. I had this terrible reputation of falling asleep at work, and started drinking copious amounts of coffee. I’ve never really loved hot beverages, but that was just kind of what you drink was hot coffee.
My roommate and business partner, Andrew, he has acid reflux, and so he would get this terrible gut rot, and hot coffee just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t like the flavor. It didn’t have enough caffeine. We stumbled upon cold-brew coffee, and we just started making it ourselves, really. It was truly just out of a personal need. We liked the taste of the product, and we were drinking a ton of it, and Andrew is a mechanical engineer by trade. He’s a very technical person, and he’s a tinkerer. So, whenever he gets into something, he wants to figure out how to make the best version of it the best way possible.
So, again, truly just out of a personal need because we wanted to make the best-tasting product for ourselves, we started testing every variable to see how we could make a great product. Because we’d go to these coffee shops, and the product would taste so good. But it would be five or six dollars for a cup of coffee, which felt totally absurd from a price standpoint. But when we would make it ourselves, we just couldn’t get it to taste like that, like a fresh cup of coffee from the coffee shop.
So, we started looking at every variable to see why is their product so much better than what we’re able to make? And through testing pretty much every variable, we had identified some of the reasons that we weren’t making a great product. But in doing all of this, we had so much cold brew at home because we were testing everything. So, in a week, we’d probably make, I don’t know, 10 gallons of coffee. We were drinking a lot, but that is a lot of coffee to drink for two people.
So, we would just bring it to our offices. I was at General Mills. He was at, I think, maybe St. Jude Medical or another medical manufacturing business, and we’d just be sharing with all of our colleagues and just getting feedback on which people liked most. As I mentioned, I had access to all this data. Not only did I have the quantitative data, but I had a lot of qualitative as well. I actually sat next to a woman who was on this desk called Consumer Insights, which is really interesting because it just talks to consumers about why they consume the things that they do.
I was looking at all these macro trends. What we saw in the industry was that people were going for lower sugar, fewer ingredients, craft, personalized, and really cold-brew coffee hit on just every single one of those trends. So, we said, “All right. We think there’s actually kind of a business here.” We saw that it was growing from just the sales volume in stores, but what got us most excited is we had at this time read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and we just became obsessed with this idea of the side hustle and having passive income.
So, we’re saying to ourselves, “Okay, we love cold-brew coffee. We think it’s going to be this booming industry.” We just went into Google Trends and just searched cold-brew coffee, and we saw that over the last three previous summers, the search volume had tripled every single year. We dug a layer deeper, and we saw people were searching for things like how to make cold-brew coffee, cold-brew coffee recipe, perfect cold-brew course-ground beans, those types of things. So, we’re like, “Holy cow, there is a ton of search volume. Let’s just build a site, and let’s just monetize this traffic.”

Carol:
Alex, Alex.

Alex:
Yeah?

Carol:
Let me cut you off, super quick. I have a super-quick question.

Alex:
Yeah.

Carol:
I love that you’re talking all about following these trends, following this data, looking and seeing what these searches were about. Can you tell me just so I know from a technical perspective, and maybe other audience listeners too, what specifically technically is cold-brew coffee rather than just letting hot coffee get cold and pour it over some ice? What is the difference technically?

Alex:
Yeah, great question. Cold brewing is actually a process, so very similar to espresso, but is the exact opposite. With espresso, you essentially use powdered coffee, and you run steam through it very quickly. Cold brew is the opposite. So, you take warm water, maybe room temperature, and you brew it with in coarse-ground coffee for up to 24 hours. We like 18 hours. So, it’s actually a process where you essentially replace temperature with time, and it creates a coffee product that’s higher in caffeine and lower in acid.

J:
Okay. That makes sense.

Carol:
Very cool.

J:
I guess the lower in acid … Okay, so that explains because my question was going to be you had mentioned that your partner had …

Carol:
Acid reflux, right?

J:
… acid reflux. Thank you.

Alex:
Yeah.

J:
I know that’s a problem that I have. I love coffee. So, are you saying that cold-brew coffee is actually a reasonable alternative for those of us that have acid reflux instead of regular coffee?

Alex:
Yeah. In fact, the reason that cold brew was originally developed was, I think it was in the ’50s, and because people had acid reflux. They couldn’t drink it. That is the original reason why the product exists is because when you use a room-temperature water, it doesn’t extract the tannic acids. So, it actually has a lower, or is it higher pH? I’m not the scientist, but there’s less acid in the beverage, so it’s much easier on the stomach. So, like Andrew and myself, you can drink a gallon a day, and you’re not going to have that gut rot that you get from that hot drip coffee.

J:
I think I’m now going to be your biggest customer.

Alex:
I love it.

Carol:
A gallon a day, coming right up. I can see it.

J:
Well, that’s awesome. Okay. I’m sorry to interrupt, but yeah, I was wondering also the difference between cold brew and regular coffee. Yeah, please continue your story.

Alex:
Yeah. We were looking for passive income, and we were trying to monetize this traffic. The original thesis was let’s just take search traffic. Let’s build a website that’s … I think the website was coldbrewcoffeerecipe.com using our keyword research. Then, we were just going to drive people for affiliate revenue to, like, Amazon or other platforms.
Now, I’m from Minnesota, and this was in 2013 or ’14. At the time, we could not generate affiliate revenue in this state from Amazon. I’m in Minnesota, and Target and Best Buy are both headquartered here. I don’t know this as a fact, but my gut is telling me that the reason that we are one of the only states that didn’t have affiliate revenue was because Target and Best Buy lobbied against it because they hate Amazon, as we could all imagine.
So, that was our original plan. We did not do that research. We just assumed we could do it. When the time came to start generating revenue, we couldn't. So, we basically had to put that whole passive income on hold and said, "Okay. Well, we can't just leverage the search traffic to make a quick buck. But we still believe that this category is going to be a huge and a long-term trend because it's replacing sodas and energy drinks, and the next generation of consumers, they're just going straight to cold coffee."
So, we said, “Okay, we can’t do the easy route, which sounded lovely. Let’s go start making the product and try and sell it.” At that point, we kind of took the next step to say, “Okay. How do we even make a product? How do we sell a product?” Fortunately, because I was at General Mills, I was able to, frankly, go and talk to all of my colleagues and say, “Hey, what do you think about this? How do I get a product into a store? How do I make a sell sheet? How do I talk to a contract manufacturer?” I was fortunate to be able to leverage all of those, the network that I had, to start building up that case study to kind of take us to launching a product.

J:
That’s awesome. Okay. I want to get to the product, and I want to get to the Bizzy Coffee story. But before we go there, I’m really interested in or excited is the word I’m looking for. Wow, having a tough time with words today.

Carol:
Enthusiastically curious.

J:
I’m enthusiastically curious. Thank you, Carol-

Carol:
My pleasure.

J:
… about the process that you took. A lot of people would expect, hey, we’re talking to Alex French. He’s cofounder of Bizzy Coffee. They sell cold-brew coffee. I assume he got started because he loved cold-brew coffee, and he wanted to sell cold-brew coffee. That’s not the case. You got started because you were monitoring Google traffic. You were monitoring Google Trends, and you saw that this thing that you happened to have an interest in was really popular. You didn’t start out thinking, “I’m going to create a cold-brew coffee product and sell the product.” You were looking to just do affiliate marketing.
For those who aren’t familiar, affiliate marketing is basically where you intercept traffic through search engines. You pass them off to a product or to a seller, and you capture some small amount of revenue every time you introduce a searcher to a product. Right?

Alex:
Yep. That’s exactly right.

J:
Okay. So, you weren’t excited about creating a coffee product. You were excited because you found this trend that had been untapped, and you were looking for a way to tap it, which is kind of different than a lot of people. You weren’t pursuing necessarily your passion. You were pursuing the opportunity because you saw the opportunity. Can you talk to us a little bit about, for those of us that want to go out and use Google Trends and use search traffic results to figure out what’s popular these days, what’s trending these days, what is the methodology there that our audience listeners can use for that?

Alex:
Yeah. Great question, and one that I love answering. As I kind of mentioned, we had our failed snowboarding accessory, and we knew we wanted to start a business. The goal was to make it passively, so we knew that, based on some of the books we read, that the easiest way is to leverage search to capture organic traffic to then, as you mentioned, monetize it by giving it to a seller.
So, what we had done is we did kind of an internal kind of soul search to say just, “What are the things that we love in life?” Many, many, many, many, many things. We’re like, “Okay, we like drinking beer. We like coffee. We chew gum. We wear shoes. We like exercising.” We just built this massive list of things that we just really enjoyed, and then we just plugged them into the Keyword Planner tool on Google, and you can just set up a fake Google AdWords account and basically plug in any type of keyword you want.
Then, from there, it tells you how much search traffic is in that word. Then, that helps you kind of prioritize what the biggest opportunities are. But unfortunately, that’s only kind of half of the prize because typically, if something has massive search volume, it’s probably very competitive. We would look at, okay, it was kind of a two-by-two matrix of which words or businesses or opportunities have the most search volume, and then which ones are the least competitive? You start with your search volume, and then we also wanted to make sure that it was something that was growing and not shrinking or flat. So, we kind of had a couple of dimensions to it.
But as we started looking at all of those opportunities, we found that cold-brew coffee was the one that was at the top of the list, and the other one, frankly, was craft beer. We loved both cold-brew coffee and craft beer equally, and we said to ourselves, “All right. Which one could we consume all day and still function?” So, went into the cold-brew coffee market, knowing that we could drink cold-brew coffee all day and still run a business, where if we were drinking beer all day, that might not be the same.

Carol:
This is awesome. This is gold. Alex, I’m so curious. How did you know the whole Keyword Planner tool on Google? Was it a result, your job that you were doing at General Mills? You in the beginning said you’re more of the creative type. You found yourself landing in this data-driven spreadsheet world. How was this even part of your brain space?

Alex:
Honestly, it was from listening to podcasts just like this, so I listened … As I mentioned, I was at Best Buy beforehand, and I always thought of my corporate career as getting paid to learn. So, it’s really funny. We have our sales director here at Bizzy. I actually worked with him at Best Buy when he was a buyer. He says all the time that I just sat there with my headphones on full-time, and I wouldn’t talk to anyone. That’s because all I was doing was listening to podcasts.
So, I listened to a ton of one. This was again back in like 2011, 2012, and it was Pat Flynn’s The Smart Passive Income, Entrepreneur On Fire. I would just listen to those every single day and take notes, and that was some things that they had mentioned doing. We just executed on them and kind of followed the advice of the guests, and it worked.

J:
I love that. So, basically, your market research for the most part consisted of figuring out what people were interested in by looking at Search Trends with Google, which I know we talk a lot on this show about ways to do market research, ways to validate your product idea, ways to ensure that there’s actually a customer demographic for what you want to sell. You did it in a way that not only was free, but for a product that you’re going to sell nationwide was actually just an amazing resource. I mean, there are literally billions of searches through Google every day, and really it gives you an idea of what people are thinking about, what people aren’t thinking about. So, this pretty obvious and free way to do market research is also ultra powerful.

Alex:
Yeah. It was great because we were able to then take that market research to essentially validate the next step of putting in any level of work because you can do that for free. Honestly, it takes a couple of minutes, so we’re able to just rifle through dozens of ideas, figure out which ones we wanted to put some level of effort into. Because, of course, time’s your most valuable asset, especially when you’re doing 24-hour races and not sleeping. So, that gave us kind of the go-ahead to say, “All right. Now, let’s test it the next way.”
I’ve tested a million ideas, and they’ve all failed. So, I’ve always with all my failures said to myself, “Well, people vote with their dollars.” So, the next step that we took was, “Let’s see if people are willing to pay for this product.” We were as cheap as you possibly could. We went to our local beer store. We got, I think, a dozen bottles that were amber bottles. They probably cost two, $3 a piece, which at scale, you couldn’t run a business like that. But we wanted to keep our startup costs as low as possible.
We went to a friend to design a label, and then took pictures with our cameras, launched an Indiegogo campaign, and sent some product that we had made literally in our kitchen in our apartment, technically not okay from the food safety perspective, but we didn’t want to pay the licenses. We sent it to influencers. They posted about it. We generated a couple thousand dollars, and that gave us enough confidence to then actually invest real money to launch the business as kind of a real enterprise.

J:
That’s awesome. We often talk on this show about validating an idea with as little money as possible because, obviously, once you throw a lot of money in, you’re kind of stuck with the idea whether it works or not. So, I love the fact that you were able to do that. I also just want to go back to the fact that I love the idea … We often talk about the fact that you should be doing something you love, but you shouldn’t be doing something just because you love it. It also has to be a great business idea, and you kind of found that perfect mechanism for where’s the overlap between something you love and what’s the great idea?
You took all the things you love, and you kind of plugged them into that Google machine, and you said, “Okay. Of all these things that I love, which one’s the best business idea?” Then, at the end of the day, you walk away with both pieces of that puzzle, something that you’re passionate about that you can enjoy going into the office and doing every day for the next 20 years if you have to, but also something that’s going to make you money. So, it’s great material.

Alex:
Yeah, and it was a big deal. Because, as I mentioned, we were working our corporate jobs. We were training for this crazy race, and so we really didn’t have a lot of time. So, to have the confidence that, A, we think this is going to work because complete strangers are willing to pay for it. Then, I remember being in a commercial kitchen, brewing coffee at 2:00 in the morning when I had to be at my desk at 8:00. And if you don’t love the product and also believe that there’s some level of commercial viability with it, it’s really difficult to do that. You’re sacrificing sleep and friendship for some opportunity.
To be able to get to that validation as quickly as possible, that’s one of the biggest things that we like to do here now that we’re launching new products. We want to get to that dollar and that sale as fast as possible. Because the last thing I want to do, and we did this with a failed product previously, is invest a year of your time with something that just was never going to work. Where if you can just get to that answer as fast as possible, you’re going to save a lot of time and a lot of money.

Carol:
Excellent. I want to talk about how Bizzy started. But before we do that, I have a very specific question for all these people that are in this whole realm of there’s a product I’ve been thinking about, and I want to validate it, like you did, as quickly as possible with the least amount of money possible. I’m curious. You talked about brewing this in your kitchen with your business partner, sending it to influencers. My question is twofold. Number one, how’d you find the influencers, and secondly, what did that overall package look like. Right? I mean, you were talking about your amber bottles. What is the magic thing that you sent to these influencers? Did it have a personalized note? What was that deliverable? What did these people … What arrived at their doorstep that made them say, “Boom, we want to do this”?

Alex:
Yeah. Awesome question and one that no one’s asked, and I love the answer. Because we tried really hard, honestly, but it was very inexpensive. As I mentioned, I was listening to all of these podcasts. I have mentioned some of them already, and the original brand was called Cause Coffee, and we were focused on entrepreneurship. One of the things that I had learned at General Mills is that having a brand champion, someone that’s very specific, makes it much easier to market to that person. So, we said to ourselves, “Okay, coffee’s a big category. I’m an entrepreneur/I want to be an entrepreneur. And as someone that’s in this community, I know there’s like tens of thousands of these people that are just like me listening to these podcasts every single day.”
So, we said, “Okay. We’re going to go after the people that literally have the microphone in front of them.” We created a custom wood box, again, leveraging all of our friends and networks. One of my friends had a woodshop. We went to a lumberyard, bought the cheapest wood that we could, and we physically made wood boxes ourselves. We had another friend that had a laser-engraving business, and so we got the logos of each one of the influencers, so again, Entrepreneur on Fire, Pat Flynn, perfect examples. We downloaded their logos. We engraved them into the wood box. We went and bought custom pint glasses. They were like five bucks a unit, but it was low total-dollar because we only sent, I think, maybe 15 kits.
Then, we had one bottle of coffee, a custom note, and a custom box that was specific with their logo on it, and then shipped it to them. We said, “Hey, we’re super fans. Here is my favorite episode. I listened to it. I’ve been a listener forever. I got this thing going, and we are focused exactly on your community. You helped me get here, so I just want to send you this gift of gratitude. If you could share it with your audience, that would be awesome. We’re doing an Indiegogo to see if this thing’s going to work. I got this idea from listening to your podcast on how to test things really quickly and cheaply, and I think this would be awesome for your listeners to know that I listened, and I took action, and here’s what can happen.” And I think all of them posted.

Carol:
How could they not? That was literally going to be my next question. Out of those 15, I would suspect that every last one of those 15 was happy to promote you like crazy. Because it sounds like, I mean, you just went over and above and beyond pulling out every resource you possibly could to make it all about them and make sure that they knew they were appreciated. That, I think, is just such a great tip for our listeners just really to find who your influences are and make sure you custom tailor the messaging, the product, the packaging, all of it so that it really hits a really good note with them, and then they’re going to be your biggest supporters. That’s really cool. Thank you for sharing that story. I really appreciate that.

Alex:
Yeah, of course.

J:
Okay. Let’s get into the Bizzy story now. Okay. You’ve decided that the affiliate marketing’s not going to work. I don’t know if you were still thinking you’re looking for a four-hour-work-week type idea, but you decided, okay, we’re going to consider actually creating the product ourselves. Take us from there. What was the evolution of the brand and the product from there?

Alex:
Yep. As I mentioned, we were Cause Coffee. We went for the trademark and instantly got a cease-and-desist letter from MyCause Water and, okay, this isn’t going to work. So, we decided we needed a new name. Through this additional exercise of how do we come up with a cool brand name, we decided on Bizzy because it takes 18 hours to make, and we have this fun story that we were just far too busy to make cold-brew coffee.
So, what we did is we kind of … You kind of follow the path. And in our industry, it’s we were making it ourselves, and the next logical step is you sell it at a farmers market. So, you call up the farmers market, and you say, “Hey, I make a product, and I want to sell it to your people.” They’re like, “Okay, great. Show me your food safety license,” and you’re like, “What? What the hell’s a food safety license?”
Then, you google food safety license, and you figure out that you got to make that in a commercial kitchen. You cannot make it in your apartment kitchen. That does not cut it. Then, you google commercial kitchen. You get in that commercial kitchen, and you bring in your food inspector, and they give you your food safety license.
Then, you go to the next phase, and you start selling your product. Then, everyone’s like, “Oh, this is so awesome. You got to sell it into local grocery store XYZ.” You go walk into your local grocery store XYZ, and they say, “Okay, this is awesome. Do you have insurance? Let me see your certificate of insurance.” You’re like, “What the hell would I need insurance for?” Then, you go google food insurance, and then you just follow that path until you have a finished product, and it’s in a store.
That’s kind of the process of making the product. The journey that we went on was a very interesting one because you had mentioned the goal originally was passive income, and I was doing marketing. I was actually working on the Cheerios brand. It was a very fantastic career there, but I was just so entrepreneurial that being in the biggest brand at the company, I was not a good fit. I ruffled some feathers, and so it was time for me to move on to a new team. We’ll just put it lightly.
It was actually this new team, this kind of skunkworks team called 301 Inc., and it was a venture capital division within General Mills. I was fortunate enough to get the job there, and I realized that these really large CPG, consumer packaged goods businesses, like General Mills or Kraft Heinz as an example, they don’t really launch new brands anymore. They just buy them. In order to buy them, you typically have to raise oodles of money. I was in that division that was investing oodles of money into food start-ups, and I realized that, okay, cold-brew coffee and all of the research that I had done to create a passive-income business was the exact same research that I needed to go attempt to raise millions of dollars for a large-scale food, beverage company.
So, we had developed the product, we had the brand name, and then it was … I had ran out of money, along with my business partner. As I mentioned, our goal was to invest as little money and generate as much revenue as possible, probably as everyone in the world. Through that process, launching a physical product specifically with a perishable good is very expensive. Over the next year after the local food market, we invested about $50,000 between the two of us, so a ton of money. But again, we had been validated by strangers buying the product, so we knew that it was a good one. So, we had the confidence to do it.
But at this point, we are out of money. I mean, we are flat broke, and we had both pretty good careers at this point, and we had attempted to raise money from local Angels, think kind of Shark Tank folks, within our local market. I’m in Minnesota. We have some of the largest food companies in the world based here, and I couldn’t raise a penny. I even had a really good background working at General Mills in venture capital. So, we had pitched everyone, and no one was willing to invest.
We somehow were like, “Okay. Let’s just look up this thing called an accelerator. I know tech companies do it. We’ll see if there’s something that we can do in the food space. We had applied to, I think, five of them. Then, one of them gave us an interview, and we had somehow convinced them to accept us into the program. This was in September of 2015, but the catch was that we had to quit our jobs and be in New York seven days later. But they were going to-

Carol:
Whoa.

Alex:
But they were going to be able to finance our first production run because again we had no money. We were either going to quit the business because we had none left, or we were going to go into this program. We basically did some soul searching to see if we were going to regret it more if we did it or didn’t do it. We ended up going to the program and moved to New York, and the rest is another story.

Carol:
That’s huge. Was that a hard decision? I mean, you had this amazing corporate career. No, it wasn’t necessarily where your passion was at, like you said. You saw that as training for your next part of your journey. But going down this road into the accelerator, you had to be just 100% all in. Was that a struggle for you and your partner to make that decision? Or was it crystal clear?

Alex:
It was extremely difficult. For myself, I was a finance and entrepreneurship major, and I was working in finance with entrepreneurs in the food industry. It was a dream job, candidly. Then, my business partner had just gotten a new job and a really large promotion. I think he was in his desk for, like, two months, and he also loved his job as well. It was a very difficult decision, and again, we just decided what are we going to regret more? Not doing it, or doing it and failing? Spent a lot of time, and had a couple beers, and decided that we had to do it.

J:
So, for those of our listeners who aren't familiar with how incubators typically work, you're moving to New York. I presume they're putting in a certain fixed amount of money. In return, they're getting some amount of equity or rights to acquire equity through a convertible note at some point in the future. But at the same time, they now have … Say, maybe they have a board seat or an advisory seat. They now have some say into how you operate. So, are you now accountable to the people at the incubator for making decisions into the future, or are you still fully autonomous at this point, and you can kind of set your own future and make your own decisions?

Alex:
Yeah. That was in September of 2015. The structures vary by accelerator or incubator, but in this specific situation, they gave us … I think it was like a million-dollar valuation or something like that. But not an entrepreneur. I was blown away. I was like, “All right. We got to do it. This is an insane valuation.” All I have is this Indiegogo where I think we made, like, $5,000 or something. The structure was such that they got shares of common stock, but there was no voting rights. There was no anything other than they had what’s called an opportunity to invest at pro rata. So, if we were to do additional fundraising down the road, they could maintain their ownership up to that same level.
The other thing that they do get is what’s called information rights. So, they can ask me for any information regarding our financials, and I legally have to provide that to them. But we are fully autonomous, or at that time were because that investment was relatively small.

J:
Got it. Okay. What was the plan? You’re going to create the product. Million ways to distribute a product. I mean, you can literally go into your local grocery stores and sell it there. You can sell it to Amazon. You can try and sell it into other retailers and have retailers, coffee shops use your brand. What was your plan for distribution and actually making money for the product?

Alex:
Yeah. The plan was because I was at Best Buy and then was in General Mills, I knew retail well. So, big stores, I thought I knew everything. So, I was like, “All right. We’re going to finish this 13-week program. We’re going to raise a bajillion dollars, and then we’re going to be in every grocery store, every Costco, every Sam’s Club in the world.” Right? That was the plan.

Carol:
How’d that work out for you?

Alex:
It didn’t work out at all, and so we did the only thing that we could think of to make sure that we didn’t instantly fail, which was … There’s a high failure rate out of those accelerator programs. We launched on Amazon because literally, we just couldn’t get into any stores. No one would accept us. We were fortunate that we did because that was in 2016 that we launched. So, we’ve been on Amazon for over four years at this point, but the launch of getting into stores was far harder than I had ever expected. Because when I was on the Cheerios team, I think they had … It was over a $100 million marketing budget, and they had, what, a hundred sales people? But every time we launched a product, it got into 20,000 stores, so I just kind of figured that’s how it worked.

Carol:
Sure.

Alex:
Then, when you go in with this zero-dollar marketing budget and zero sales people, they look at you a little differently.

Carol:
Very humbling, but, right, it forced you to be innovative and creative and figure something else out. Right? So, you went a different avenue, and it sounds like Amazon was that avenue. So, kudos to you.

Alex:
Yeah, thank you.

J:
Take us through the whole how you sell on Amazon because I know there are a lot of people in our audience who have thought about selling on Amazon, being an Amazon retailer. I know there are different ways. Can you just walk us through in general what your relationship is with Amazon, with your customers, how you do fulfillment, or how they do fulfillment and what percentage they take, that sort of thing just in general terms?

Alex:
Yeah, certainly. I love Amazon, first and foremost. They’re tough to work with. But at the end of the day, it is a search engine, and they are there to buy. So, if you’re selling something that has high search traffic, which we covered earlier, cold-brew coffee has a lot of search volume, there is a lot of opportunity there, and it’s very low cost to acquire those customers.
There’s really two ways that you can sell to Amazon. There’s what’s called 1P, or first-party, where you sell your product at a wholesale cost to Amazon. They own the inventory, and then they manage the price. You get limited data, and typically that’s reserved for larger vendors, let’s say Cheerios, if you will.
There’s another option called 3P, or third-party, using a platform called Seller Central. You own the inventory, and then you own the price. Depending on which category you’re in and what your pricing is, the fee structure may change. I’m in the grocery category, and if my product is less than $15, Amazon takes an 8% commission. If it is $15 or over, they take a 15% commission.
But that’s only half the story because you also have to pay for fulfillment. So, depending on the dimensions and the weight of your product, that can be the difference between making money and losing money. So, when we’re thinking about products that we’re launching on Amazon, we now have a calculator we’ve built that shows what our margin will be based on the pack size, the weight, is it flexible packaging, or is it an odd shape, and then what that price is so that we know before we even launch a product how much money we’re going to make per unit.

J:
Then, I assume there’s that other than … First you produce the product, but then the other cost is actually getting the product to the Amazon warehouses.

Alex:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

J:
So, you have to pay to produce the product. Then, you have to pay to ship the product or maybe whoever you’re producing through is doing this. But then, you have to pay to get the product to the Amazon warehouse. Then, you have to pay for the fulfillment from Amazon to the customer, and then you pay them a commission, 8 or 15% of the total retail value. So, you’re kind of getting chipped away everywhere in this model.

Alex:
Yeah, that’s exactly right. But the nice thing about it is you can calculate all of those. When you go through Seller Central, you have a fantastic amount of data that you can collect. I’m obviously a data-driven individual, but you can look at everything from how many units you’re selling to where they’re getting shipped to. You can download all these reports and get some really interesting insights.
Now they even let you know who’s buying the product, so they look at age and if they’re married, what their income levels are, which can then help you in your marketing efforts. Because generally speaking, when you’re selling a product, unless you’re selling it direct to the consumer through your own website, you have no idea who’s buying it, which makes it very difficult to market and advertise that product. Where when you’re in that kind of Seller Central, third-party environment, you do get some really good insights to help you drive additional sales and revenue through that channel.

Carol:
Excellent. Can you take a little bit of a step back? Originally, we talked about how you were hoping, you were very optimistic that it would be in Sam’s Club, in Costco and everything, just boom, right off the bat. That didn’t work, so you pivoted and took it to Amazon. Did that work right off the bat, or did you … Remind me please what your business partner’s name is.

Alex:
Andrew.

Carol:
Andrew, great. Did you and/or Andrew really have a solid idea of how to make everything work on Amazon right off the bat? Or was that a lot of trial and error to get that exactly how you needed to to get to the next step in production?

Alex:
Yeah. We really had no idea what we were doing.

Carol:
Okay.

Alex:
Again, fortunately, my background kind of allowed me to succeed there where because I was at Best Buy … Amazon was poaching a ton of people from Best Buy and Target, and so I had a really good friend who left Best Buy to go to Amazon. He was there for maybe two years, and then he left to work at an Amazon agency or a brokerage firm, you may call it. But basically, they specialize in getting products on Amazon and selling successfully on Amazon.
I told him, “We got into this program.” I was kind of vocal on social media about it. He was following my journey, and he kind of persuaded us to say, “Hey, get on Amazon, and I’ll help you guys out.” Of course, we paid him, but he helped us get set up for the first, we’ll say, six months. Well, we’ve screwed everything up. He helped us with the demand planning and the check-ins. There’s a thing called a parent child or a parent ASIN and a child ASIN, so basically having a category with products underneath it as opposed to just having a bunch of separate products. So, little things like that, which make a big difference long-term where we learned that through trial and error.
But we definitely did not succeed at all right away. Just for some context, we left that program in New York broke, did not raise money, which is what you’re supposed to do at an accelerator, and both ended up moving back in with our parents respectively, and then didn’t take a salary for two years. So, it was by no means an easy kind of path. But at the same time, there wasn’t as many resources on how to be successful on Amazon as there are today, where if I were to launch, there’s podcasts specifically driven for that. There are courses you could learn specifically for being successful and those channels, where now I would’ve just gone down that path. But at the time, those weren’t there, so it certainly was a learning process for us.

J:
Very cool. I’m curious about the whole production process. At some point, you actually had to create a product, and you can be the best at Amazon. You can be the best at SEO. You can be the best at Google marketing. You can have the best website. But if you don’t have a great product, you’re not going to get repeat business. So, clearly, your product is great. Talk to us about how you actually developed the product, how you got it produced or maybe how you’re still getting it produced, I don’t know if that production has changed, what your supply chain looks like at a high level. Just how did you get from we have this idea for creating Bizzy Coffee to actually having a great product?

Alex:
Yeah, and I’m very fortunate where that’s where my business partner Andrew’s expertise really comes into play. As I mentioned earlier on is we were on a mission to create the best product that we possibly could, and so we had a really good understanding of what the inputs needed to be. That was the origins of the coffee, the roast profiles, the grind sizes, the spec of the actual raw ingredient, and then how long to brew it and how to process it.
Andrew, he was a mechanical engineer. He worked in fluid systems, and then he actually worked at what's called a contract manufacturer in the medical device industry. He worked for a company that would take in projects from St. Jude Medical, Medtronic, and actually produce the products for them. So, he understood the manufacturing world extremely well. And because he was at the manufacturer, he really knew what negotiation points you could go after, how the supply agreements worked, and kind of knew how to roll over the vendors, if you will.
So, what we did is we said, “Okay, we know that we need someone to make a cold-brew coffee,” and at the time, there were no cold-brew coffee manufacturers really out there. This was early on in the category, and so we said, “Okay, we know how to make it ourselves. Let’s go find a commercial brewery that’s willing to make this product for us on kind of a contract basis.” So, we basically went and emailed a bajillion breweries and saw who would make the product for us. Found someone, and then the next step was the coffee supply chain.
Because we had the brewer, which was very specific, there was fewer of those that were willing to take on the project. We then tried to find roasters that were near that brewery. Because as you called out, the freight and the shipping from one place to another has a real cost to it, so we wanted to minimize that freight expense.
We had originally started out using a contract manufacturer. We actually tried that a couple of times. Some of them were okay relationships. Some of them were terrible. Today, you had mentioned has our supply chain changed? It’s changed dramatically. We now produce all the products in-house because we had had such difficulty with working with the companies. One of them extorted us. Another one didn’t adhere to our quality standards. So, after losing quite a bit of money through that experience, again, because it was a new, innovative, novel process, it was difficult to find someone to do it that met our standards.
We ended up bringing it in-house, but a lot of it really is figuring out where that end result is going to come from, and finding that manufacturer. Again, Google is your best friend, so we just looked for … We knew the equipment that it would take, googled manufacturers, and then once we had that person, really tried to connect the dots on the rest of the supply chain. And you’d be surprised. People are actually very helpful. If you’re looking for something that’s similar to an existing product, and you go to a manufacturer, they’re going to help you kind of close the gap on those suppliers because their goal is for you to make a successful product long-term and make a gajillion units. They’re incentivized to help you as long as you come in buttoned up and professional, and we certainly were.

Carol:
Love this. Throughout all of these steps of this journey working with these different contract manufacturers, these different suppliers, everything, was it you and Andrew? Or were there other people on your team that were involved? Or has it been just the two of you since the beginning?

Alex:
It’s really been the two of us since the beginning. But as I kind of highlighted earlier, we have always used mentors and advisors. Because I was in the food industry, I would work primarily on the marketing, branding, sales side of things. And because Andrew was in manufacturing, he knew a ton of people that had worked with different co-packers. So, we would go find a manufacturer. They would try and shove a contract down our throat. We would then take that to our mentors and advisors that have done this many, many, many times over and say, “Hey, is this a normal term, or is this aggressive?” Or, “How should we do this?”
We’ve always had a group of advisors, some of them which we had compensated through stock options. Because we had gone down that accelerator route, they really push you into raising a ton of money, giving equity to advisors and employees, so we had had these stock options created for us. Then, we would just compensate individuals through that kind of future equity in the company.

J:
Got it.

Carol:
That’s great, and it sounds like they were more than happy to help. Go ahead, J.

J:
Yeah. I was just going to say, so it sounds like right now in terms of full-time employees, is it just you and your partner, or a small team, or …

Alex:
We’re a little bit larger now. We have 21 employees, and it’s about split half on the manufacturing side and half kind of front office. We are a distributed workforce, so we have someone in the Philippines. Someone’s in London. Someone’s in Idaho. Then, we have a group here in Minnesota that does some of the half front of house, half back of house. Then, we have the actual manufacturing team here as well.

J:
That’s great.

Carol:
Very cool. So, how have you grown over the past several years? I’m so curious. What are your numbers looking like? What’s your volume looking like? Where are you in the category? You mentioned that you were one of the first to market on Amazon, so how has your growth been? Can you tell us about that?

Alex:
Yeah. We had launched on Amazon in 2016, and we had been selling a cold-brew coffee concentrate. Because in the early days, the recipes online were you make a cold-brew concentrate, so that’s what we were selling. We had actually taken a terrible misstep. We didn’t trust the data and launched a product. We found out that people were taking shots of our coffee concentrate because they were too busy to even make a cup. So, they’d pull the product right out of the bottle, and then go typically work out. They’re very busy.
So, we just said, “All right. Let’s go launch a shot product. People are doing this,” but there was no data to support this at all. We just said … Actually, we couldn’t raise any money for the concentrate, and so we’re like, “Let’s swing for the fences.” At this point, I’m now just a salesman, and I can go sell to an investor that we’re going to be the next 5-hour Energy. So, we had no data, but we were able to raise money because investors are greedy, and they like to look at things that are logical. So, we raised money for that, and it failed. We raised over a million dollars, and it totally failed.
We hadn’t taken salaries. We’re several years in. The business was really not doing great, candidly. The shot business had failed, and so we went back to our roots of delicious, cold-brew coffee, and we focused specifically on the at-home user because that’s what people were searching for on Amazon. We just doubled down on that. We changed our price, again, looking at the data. What price to people want? What size to people want? Relaunched that, and then it started working again.
Then, we launched some additional products. Behind me, we have our ground coffees for people that like to make cold-brew coffee themselves. Once we launched that product, things really took off. That was about two years ago exactly, and we’ve been the number-one best seller on Amazon since then. We’re now available in about 850 retail stores, and so it is now working. We also have a new line of larger-format ready-to-drink products, and so we’ve certainly pivoted and tried different things. But since we really went back to the original thesis and root of the business and followed the data, it has been going well. Now we’re doing millions in revenue, which is very humbling after being in New York and sleeping on the floor in the office in 2015.

Carol:
I love this. Love this. Would you say that your success on Amazon is what propelled you into these retailers this time around, so very differently from when you very first started and just went in with an idea and a product, and they’re like, “Yeah, no. Not so much”? Has your Amazon success and your product development and everything that you’ve done in the meantime … Is that what changed this whole situation for you?

Alex:
This is really our third time going back into retail. We did the first product. They wouldn’t take it. We did the shots. We failed. We brought this new product line in, and originally, we were like, “Hey, we’re doing really well on Amazon.” They would say, “Well, if you’re on Amazon, you’re against us,” and they wouldn’t let us.
But over the last, we’ll say, 18 months, there’s been a huge shift in the grocery industry where grocers now say, “Well, if you’re successful on Amazon, I have to carry your products. Otherwise, I’m going to lose that customer to the internet.” And especially with what we’re going through right now, we’re in a situation, as unfortunate as it is for our other coffee colleagues that have coffee shops, because of their shutdown, we’ve seen a massive increase in demand. We’re able to go into our retail partners and say, “Hey, look at what’s happening online with our brand. We would love to be in your stores, but if not, we’re still going to sell this product on Amazon,” and that has certainly helped a lot.

J:
There are so many great lessons here, but I just want to highlight a couple because … You called them out, but I think they’re worth highlighting. One, I talk to so many entrepreneurs and want-to-be entrepreneurs who they understand that creating a business, creating a product, being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster. But they have this idea that the roller coaster goes up and down and up and down, and then you kind of hit your stride, and from there, it’s all up, kind of like the whole hockey stick. Once things start selling, it just takes off.
But the truth is that the roller coaster never stops, and you can be successful with a product. You can be successful with a business, but that doesn’t mean that what you try and do next, what you try and do tomorrow, even the same thing that you’re trying to do is going to keep working. So, it’s just a great reminder that that roller coaster … If you want to be an entrepreneur, that roller coaster’s never going to stop. And no matter how strong your product is, no matter how strong your business is, you’re probably going to run into road blocks, and you’re probably going to get knocked down along the way.
The other thing is that to kind of circumvent that … Or not circumvent that, but kind of overcome that roller coaster, the realization that you just had to go back to the data. You had to go back to what was working. Too many of us, and I know I’m guilty of this as well, we get a little cocky. We do something, and something works. We do something else, and something works. Suddenly, we think anything we touch is going to turn to gold, and we fail to recognize that the reason things worked is because we did them the right way.
When you start to get cocky, you stop doing things the right way. You stop paying attention to the data. You stop following the process. So, I love the fact that, you said it yourself several times, that you just had to go back to the data. You had to go back to what was working. As soon as you did that, things kind of hit their stride again. So, it’s just a great reminder. Thank you for that.

Alex:
Yeah. Just to reiterate that point, I mean, I had talked so much about testing small and early and getting to profit or revenue as quickly as possible. When we had that shot product, we were successful at raising a million dollars and hadn’t validated a single dollar of that product line. We spent a year developing it and prepping for the launch. Then, we put it out into the market, and no one wanted it because there was nothing to support that there was a need for that product line. There was no data. We were just thinking, “Oh, investors believe in it, so it must be true.” That’s not the case. So, just going back to if you can test quickly as fast as possible and as cheap as possible in getting to that first dollar, then you’re onto something.

Carol:
That’s an excellent actionable tip that can be used by each and every one of us, so thanks for the reminder.

Alex:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Carol:
So, what is next for Bizzy Coffee? What’s in your future? What’s coming down the pipeline?

Alex:
Yeah. We have some new products launching. Because of so many failures, we have a very clear path now, and so we love to sell dry coffee on the internet. Our mission is to create the best cold-brew coffee in the world, and so we’re going to be launching products for that at-home, do-it-yourself consumer. One thing called the Bizzy Nation, which we’re super excited about and building up, this awesome consumer group of people that just love making cold-brew coffee at home.
Then, we’re going to be able to test products with that consumer group, again, just going back to listening to the people, getting data. So, we’re going to be testing all these products from our core consumers, the people that are just like me that just love cold-brew coffee. Then, we’re going to take those products, brew them, package them, and put those into retail stores.
We have some new products that are launching, actually, in July. Right now, our portfolio is a light roast, a medium roast, and a dark roast. We’re going to be launching an espresso as well as a breakfast blend, which we’re very excited about. Then, we have a couple of new packaging formats for our coffee online as well.

Carol:
I just absolutely love everything about this. You mentioned it a few minutes ago. Even though with everything that we’re all going through what we’re going through right now, for companies like yours, like Bizzy Coffee, this is your time to shine. Right? You’ve always had all of that data, and always being focused on that at-home, do-it-yourself consumer. And if now is not the time to really leverage those opportunities, I don’t know what would be. It just sounds like you’ve got a really, really exciting path ahead, so have fun with whatever is coming in addition to all your new product lines. It’s very cool. Good time for you.

Alex:
Yeah, it is. Thank you.

J:
And if you can’t tell, Carol drinks about 30 cups of coffee a day.

Carol:
It’s not-

Alex:
Oh, that’s great.

Carol:
Yeah, kind of obsessive.

Alex:
Well, we’ll get you some more for you.

J:
Awesome.

Carol:
Awesome. Never going to complain about that.

J:
Awesome. Okay. I think we’re at the point in the show where … I think I’m ready. Carol, if you’re ready, and Alex, if you’re ready, we can jump into the final segment that we call Four More. That’s where we ask you the same four questions that we ask all of our guests, and then we give you the opportunity to tell our listeners more about you, your business, and where they can find and connect. Sound good?

Alex:
Great.

J:
Awesome. I think I will take the first question, if that’s okay, Carol.

Carol:
Go for it.

J:
Okay. Alex, what was your very first or your very worst job, and what lessons did you take from it that you’re still using today?

Alex:
The first job was I was working at Culver’s, which is a fast-food chain. I worked at the cash register and actually worked with a gentleman who told me that if you smile, you will get a tip. I just really realized that when you look at someone in the eyes, and you smile, they will almost smile, and you just got to make people happy. So, that was one of the best learning lessons I’ve ever had.

Carol:
That’s an awesome learning lesson. That makes my heart so happy. You are so right. It’s really hard not to get a smile back when you look someone in the eyes and smile right at them. Love it. Okay. My question is what is the best piece of advice you have for small-business owners that you haven’t yet mentioned today?

Alex:
Yeah. I think the first step, and the most important one, especially for people that are aspiring, is you got to write it down. Once you write it down, it becomes tangible. Everyone has an idea, but the second that you write it on a piece of paper, it’s a thing, and it’s real. Then, that’s just the first step. From there, it’s just taking the next step.

J:
Awesome. Question number three, you mentioned The 4-Hour Workweek, which, one of my favorite books. It changes your mindset. It really gets you thinking about how you can kind of separate income from effort and how you can really make other things in life a priority. Fantastic book. What’s another book that you would recommend that we as entrepreneurs should be reading that maybe we haven’t read or haven’t thought about reading?

Alex:
Yeah. I think a lot of it comes down to the mindset. As I mentioned, I was not in an entrepreneurial family, so getting into that entrepreneurial mindset was just really important to me. One of the greatest books that I read actually when I was in high school is Think and Grow Rich, and it really helps frame the mind to make sure that you’re thinking positively. I love the idea of believe it, and then achieve it, and that book helped me get there.

J:
Awesome.

Carol:
Awesome.

J:
Napoleon Hill for anybody out there that wants to pick up Think and Grow Rich.

Carol:
Cool. Okay. The fourth and my favorite question, what is something, Alex, along the way that you have splurged on in your personal or professional life that was totally worth it?

Alex:
For me, I am a adrenalin junkie, and so I bought a motorcycle because waking up and being stuck in traffic is brutal. But if you can smile your whole way into the office, it totally changes your day, and so that was one that … I ride it every day, and it just makes me happy every time I turn it on.

Carol:
Super fun.

J:
Awesome. What’d you get?

Alex:
I have a Triumph Speed Triple.

J:
Interesting. No idea what that is.

Alex:
It’s kind of like a cruiser meets a crotch rocket, so it’s a comfy sport bike.

J:
Awesome. Very, very cool. Cool. Okay. That brings us to the very final part of our show, which is the more part of the Four More. Tell our listeners where they can connect with you, where they can find out more about you, where they can find out more about Bizzy Coffee. And most importantly, for those of us that want to buy some Bizzy Coffee, where can we get it?

Alex:
Yeah. Certainly check out bizzycoffee.com. We actually just launched our best-selling blends on our website, and we have a great deal for a variety pack if you like to try some different flavors. You can find me. I’m happy to help anyone wherever I can. I love entrepreneurship and helping folks, so I’m [email protected] Find me on LinkedIn, and certainly give us a follow on Instagram @bizzycoffee.

J:
That’s awesome. Sharing your email address, that’s bold.

Alex:
Love it.

Carol:
It is.

J:
That’s bold.

Carol:
It is, big time.

J:
Well, thank you. Alex, this has been absolutely fantastic. I mean, literally just an hour’s worth of tip after tip after tip. I think no matter where our listeners are in their stage of entrepreneurship, they’re going to get a ton out of this. I am so excited to try Bizzy Coffee. I will admit, I’ve never had cold-brew coffee. Now I’m really excited to try it, so I’m going to go out and get some Bizzy Coffee as soon as this is over. So, really excited about that, and thank you so much for sharing your story. We look forward to having you back in a year or two and hearing what’s transpired since now.

Alex:
Oh, it sounds fun. I’m looking forward to it as well. Thanks so much for having me, guys.

J:
Absolutely.

Carol:
Thanks, Alex.

J:
Thanks, Alex.

Carol:
See you soon. Oh, my goodness. Seriously, J, how awesome is Alex? It was just tip after tip after tip. He just dropped so much great information into … Listeners, truly, you’ve got to realize after something like this, if you’ve got a product idea, he just laid out a really solid plan on how you can just do the research and launch to really make that happen. No excuses. It was just awesome. He just laid it right out and gave so much great information.

J:
Yep. My favorite part was just how he kept going back to the idea of data, data, data, data, data. Not everybody is data-driven. Not everybody is quantitative personality. But even if you’re not, the data is still super important, and you always have to be looking at the data and validating your ideas before you jump in. If you can’t do that yourself, find somebody that’s really good with the data, that’s really good at market research.
Because, I mean, Alex talked about the fact that he has had ups and downs. He’s had failures in his business. And every time he had a major failure, it’s because he wasn’t paying attention to the data. So, just a good, good reinforcement that data is so important for any entrepreneur out there. Creativity is important, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to know your data.
Anyway, this was an awesome episode. Everybody, thank you so much for tuning in. We really appreciate you. I hope you’re having a wonderful beginning to your summer, and stay happy and healthy. She’s Carol. I’m J.

Carol:
Now get learning, get testing, get launching today. Take care everybody.

J:
Ooh.

Carol:
I know, right? They get better and better. One of these days, I’ll really nail it.

J:
Everybody, thank you so much.

Carol:
Thank you all so much for tuning in. See you next week.

J:
Bye.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How he used Google Trends to find a great product idea
  • How he does market research
  • What led to choosing cold brew coffee
  • How he tests his ideas very inexpensively and very quickly
  • How he got big influencers to promote his brand new product
  • Develop their product step by step
  • How a rejection led him to selling on Amazon
  • Learn about where they are now and what’s next for their company
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show:

Connect with Alex

What does it take to start, scale, and sell your own business? Every Tuesday, J and Carol Scott ask this question to entrepreneurs of all stripes and delve into stories that go beyond the launch. F...
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