Hi, Alli. So, I know you and your husband, Matt, started Sweet Logic together. How did you guys come up with your idea of Sweet Logic’s keto mug cakes?
Allie Owen: My husband and I both started doing keto in 2016 for different health reasons. When we started the diet, we discovered that it was really difficult to stay on the diet. It was really restrictive. So, we tried to find ways to satisfy our sweet tooth and still have a permissible indulgence at the end of the day. We began baking these mug cakes that we found recipes online for. But it was a hassle to make. It took 15 to 20 minutes to find the right ingredients and measure them out correctly. We thought there had to be a better way. What if packaged the pouch? What if we started selling that to the consumer? That was how the idea was born. It took us two years to develop and finally launch the product at the end of 2018.
I know that you had been working as engineers prior to this endeavor. Could you talk about this turning point in your lives and why you decided on starting a business?
Allie Owen: The traditional 9-5 made us feel restricted in terms of lifestyle and potential income. So, we started brainstorming ways that we could potentially accelerate our timeline to retirement. We wanted a lifestyle that was more flexible for us, where we could create our own hours and work on products that we can pick, enjoy and that we’re passionate about. It was twofold – it was the lifestyle element and income potential element that drove us into this.
I’ve read that you and Matt had saved up for ‘early retirement’ and that you travelled across the country. What was that like?
Allie Owen: That was really fun. It was a great time to take a break from traditional work and figure out what we value, who we wanted to be, the kind of company we wanted to create and the ifestyle we wanted to build. Travelling definitely helped us figure out what we wanted out of life.
Where would you say you are now, as CEOs and in terms of Sweet Logic’s journey?
Allie Owen: It’s definitely a slower process than we anticipated. I say we’ve finally gotten to the point that I feel very free in my lifestyle. We’re about to have a baby! I feel comfortable with the lifestyle that we’ve created that we’re ready to introduce a child into it, because it is flexible. In terms of the income potential, I would say we haven’t seen huge profits yet. We’re still pretty young and we have quite some ways to go until we get there.
Is it just you and your husband right now running Sweet Logic?
Allie Owen: It’s just me. My husband has a full-time job, and he only works part-time on the business. We just hired Lois from Staff Street, who’s been great so far. She’s handling a lot of social media, some invoicing and some reporting, and a bunch of random projects that I’ve assigned her.
How did you decide on the functions that you needed to outsource? And do you have any criteria when it comes to choosing the right people that you take onboard?
Allie Owen: So, I decided that the first time full-time help I needed was going to come from a virtual assistant. Someone who can wear a ton of different hats, who can take some of the monotonous or repetitive tasks off of my plate, so that I can be freed up to do more strategic tasks.
In terms of what I looked for in a virtual assistant, I wanted someone who is a clear and precise communicator. Someone who is able to handle a bunch of ongoing projects and manage deadlines and priorities. Coming into my business, I have a lot of things to teach them. I wanted someone who is not only a quick learner but also a self-starter. I looked for someone who would be able to take my guidance and get competent quickly.
In addition to your internal team, are there partners or people that you work with that you believe really impacted your growth as a company?
Alli Owen: We have a designer that works for us, an Amazon agency that helps us for our Amazon business, and a legal team that helps us. We’ve also hired some consultants over the years to help us clarify our messaging and our packaging. Going into retail, we’ve had a number of advisors who helped us make good choices. So, even though it still comes down to me and Matt for the day-to-day grind, we’ve definitely had a lot of help getting to where we are.
You’ve done a lot of bootstrapping to get Sweet Logic going. You’re quite financially structured, as an individual and as the CEO of your own business. Do you find that your financial rules helped you become more creative when it comes to finding solutions for any of the problems that you’ve encountered?
Alli Owen: Definitely. Comparing us to other CPG companies, it’s pretty rare to find a company who is as far along as we are that is completely bootstrapped. Because of our set-up, we’ve had to get creative with what we do. We’ve had to be strategic about where we invest our money, simply because we don’t have money to throw into the problem. So, we’ve had to do a lot of groundwork. We produced the product in-house for two years before we went to a co-packer. I’m proud to say, we’ve done a lot of the nitty-gritty work to put us in this financial situation.
Is there a specific creative solution that you’re particularly proud of?
Alli Owen: I’m proud of the branding and the design work that we’ve created. We just won an award a couple of months ago for our branding and design, and a lot of other companies have reached out to me. They wanted to know, Who did your design? Who did your branding? Because it looks like it was made by an agency that costs 50,000 USD. It looks super professional. So, I’m really proud that I laid a lot of the groundwork for understanding the brand and the messaging, and that our designer was able to implement that at a really affordable price, comparatively. People are always talking about the packaging design, how beautiful it is and how it really stands out.
What about this year? Were there particular issues that really stretched your imagination?
Alli Owen: We planned to get into retail this year. Once COVID hit, we were completely overwhelmed by a situation where people’s shopping patterns were changing dramatically. In addition, a lot of buyers had stopped taking on new brands.
So, when it looked like we weren’t going to be able to even present to large retail chains this year, we started reaching out to smaller groceries. We started signing up for some marketplaces that connected buyers from retail stores to brands. As a result, we’ve been able to grow our retail doors from 0 to 60 just on our own. We had to be creative with our original plan after COVID hit. The plan to go straight to retail chains was put on pause. So, we put a lot of effort into our Amazon business – we grew 600%. Who we hired was strategic to help grow that side of the business.
Do you have particular strategies when it comes to reaching out to your target consumers?
Alli Owen: The biggest key is testing and surveying your current customers to understand why they’re buying the product and what it is about us that’s important to them. We also run tests on cold audiences. Recently, we ran a Google survey, sending tests to a couple hundred random people who have never heard of us, or never bought our product. We asked them a series of strategic questions about what they think of when they see the packaging in order for us to understand what is important not only to our consumers, but also to the wider, broader base of people. As we go into more grocery stores, and more people see us, we want to know if our messaging resonates with them, too. Knowing what is important to them and how our products relate our current consumers lays the foundation for our strategies.
When it comes to engaging your customers online, and you’ve done these surveys, do you have specific strategies when it comes to talking to your customers on social media, keeping them engaged and interested in the product over time?
Alli Owen: For us, we’ve noticed that when we humanize the brand, show more of the behind the scenes, and show our faces as founders, that really connects with people more than just posting pretty pictures or running a nice Instagram feed. Our customers like to see who’s behind the brand. It works when we share why we care, why we created Sweet Logic. Those are the things that have been helpful in engaging the audience.
What’s something about your business that you intend to improve in 2021?
Alli Owen: We want to grow our e-commerce sales and our direct-to-consumer. Our Amazon sales grew this year, but we really want to own more information about our customers, so we can understand what’s resonating with people more, as well as grow our retail footprint for next year. And the only way to do that is through our own website.
Where do you want to see yourselves in a year’s time?
Alli Owen: We hope to be in a thousand retail stores. I hope that we have two thousand subscribers on our website that receive the product every month.
If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently? What would that be?
Alli Owen: I don’t think so. I think the journey was necessary to get me to this point and there’s no shortcut to it. I kinda had to walk through the mud to figure it out. So, I don’t think I would change anything.
“The journey is necessary” – would you pass that wisdom on?
Alli Owen: Yes. I believe the journey is the reward. One, we get to provide a product that solves people’s problems. It’s an honor and privilege that people share their money with us. Two, it’s a personal growth journey. As someone who came into this with no experience – just being able to grow and learn so much, and really step into places that are uncomfortable to me is a challenge and definitely keeps me going.
What advice would you give people who feel like this could be a path that they want to take in building their business?
Alli Owen: Things take a lot longer than you think it’s going to. Patience and resilience are the two things that will determine your success. Optimize everyday for not quitting. So, you know, it’s a day at a time. Some days might feel like I might want to quit and throw it all away. Remember that it’s just that day, and there’s another day the next day. So, really understanding that the only way to fail is to give up. If you’re really committed to the journey and the process, if you learn to understand your consumer, they can tell you what they need. All you have to do is just listen. That’s love advice (laugh) but it works.
Personally, what things did you have to double down on to compensate for the fact that you were doing much of the financing yourself? Did you do any training, reach out to advisors, or focus on a strategic part of your business first?
Alli Owen: I would say that it’s hard to believe something is possible if you don’t see other people who are doing it, or you don’t surround yourself with people who are doing it. If someone wants to start a business, or change a habit, or do anything in their lives, surrounding yourself with people who have done it before or are doing it, helps you to succeed. It doesn’t have to be people in your physical proximity. It can be people from a podcast. You can read books. You can reach out to other entrepreneurs.
As I’ve discovered in my time, almost anyone will say yes to a 30-minute phone conversation with a young entrepreneur who wants to learn from them. And, oftentimes, you only need the person who is one step ahead of you. I don’t need to be having a phone call with the CEO of General Mills or anything. I just need to get to the next step. And usually, the person who is a step ahead of you is happy to help.
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