Catherine Langman:

Well, hello there. It’s Catherine Langman here back with another episode of the Productpreneur Success Podcast. And today on the show, I welcome a guest, Cinzia Cozzolino from Smoothie Bombs. Smoothie Bombs is her business, it’s her brand that she founded about 10 or so years ago, and has really been able to grow into an international success. So she is primarily an e-commerce brand here in Australia, but she also exports globally and has been able to successfully distribute through some major retailers in big international locations. And it’s quite an incredible story.

But what I really love about our conversation today and what I think that you’re going to get out of it is really hearing the details of the ups and downs and the big decisions that had the biggest impact and resulted in moving the business forward over the years. Because 10 years is a long time to sustain successful, profitable growth in an e-commerce business. We’ve had a few guests on the show recently really trying to understand what does drive growth long-term and sustain the growth long-term in an e-commerce business.

So today’s story and today’s interview is really diving into another story along that vein. And Cinzia has been really, really generous in sharing some of the hardships and the difficulties that she’s had to overcome, and some of the really big decisions that she’s had to make. As well as what are the things that are going really amazingly now. I think being able to hear someone’s really honest journey and story like that can be very, very inspiring and motivating. And for any of you who are either at the starting point of your journey or experiencing a tough time in business right now, I hope that you will take confidence from hearing Cinzia’s story.

So we’re going to talk about things like what led her to start the business in the first place. For her, it definitely was not about, oh, I’m starting a business to make money. She came into this from a real pain point she was experiencing herself. She’s a nutritionist by training. And for her, building the business initially was very much around solving her own pain point, but also, something she was tremendously passionate in. And obviously, she’s been able to help a lot of other people who were sharing in those similar pain points. I guess at the end of the day, that’s really what business success is built on. If you can help other people solve their problems and meet their needs and desires, then you’re going to be able to sustain a long-term successful business. So without further ado, let’s welcome Cinzia onto the show.

Catherine Langman:

Welcome to the show, Cinzia. It’s so great to have you here.

Cinzia:

Thank you, I’m looking forward to it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, so good. We were just chatting and I was trying to work out when I met you, which is a few years ago, and I know your business has transformed in that time, but before we get to what’s happening now, why don’t you share the story of your background and really what led you to start Smoothie Bombs, because I think that probably that story’s going to resonate with a lot of people.

Cinzia:

Oh, absolutely. So I had just finished my nutrition degree and was I had a head full of incredible information about nutrition and good things. I had a teenage daughter, who was I think 13 at the time, that was just a really crap eater. She wouldn’t have breakfast, she’d go off to school. I’d make her great, beautiful lunches and then she’d come home and I looked in her bag and it was still there. She hadn’t eaten, she was just one of those kids. I know there’s lots of them out there, that just didn’t like real good food. She would eat crap easily. She would eat stuff that had no nutrition, but really didn’t eat good food. So it just drove me nuts.

So, I was already making smoothies myself at home with all the little packets that I had inside the cupboard. So I thought, “Maybe I can just sneak some good stuff in there,” that was going to get the nutrition in for her. Yeah, really by just trial and error, I came up with this ball thing with all these ingredients and I put it in a smoothie and she liked it and I thought, “That’s great.”

Catherine Langman:

Winner.

Cinzia:

At the time, it was the Raw Cacao that we’ve got out now. So it was that one. I made sure that it had things like iron in it and had good nutrients that were covering … To me, my concern was that I wanted her brain to work at school. I was thinking, “If she’s not putting anything in her stomach and going to school, how’s she possibly absorbing the stuff there.”

Catherine Langman:

Absolutely.

Cinzia:

So that’s what I was focusing on when I was developing the first bomb and at the time it was called … I ended up calling them Nutrition Bombs, so I was saying, “Hey, do you want a Nutrition Bomb in your smoothie?” She loved it because it was chocolate and was easy for her to have it. Really, it grew from there because she got into really loving it. I worked at a lot of hospitality places, so I was talking to them about this thing I was making and I had lots of friends in that area as well. They were like, “Hey, give me some, we’ll try them on our menu. They sound great.” So, really initially, solving the problem with my child, but I also had all these connections in cafes. So initially, I was supplying more like a wholesale to cafes when I initially got out there.

As it grew, friends of mine wanted them. I had different places ask for them. Then quite a few people started saying to me, “Why don’t you make this a retail product?” It really hadn’t occurred to me at all, I know, crazy. I was working at a clinic and I was selling them at a clinic to my clients who came to see me-

Catherine Langman:

Right, as a nutritionist.

Cinzia:

… as a nutritionist. So I was actually doing that, but I didn’t think that big picture. When I sat down and had a think about that, I thought, “This actually quite a good idea.” I had a bit of graphic design skills from a previous life. So I thought, “I’m going knock up some ideas, and it went from there. I came up with a tube and put … I thought five would be great to put as an initial thing. Look, when I think back, I don’t know what … It’s almost like I was possessed by something that came along because I don’t know how that skill came, but it all [crosstalk 00:04:13]-

Catherine Langman:

It was very organic by the sounds of things, the way it came about.

Cinzia:

Yeah and I do get really focused on stuff. I do go, “This is what I’m going to do.” I have this innate feeling that it’s going to be fine. I don’t doubt it. I just go, “I’m going to give this a go.”

Catherine Langman:

Give it a crack.

Cinzia:

You know?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah.

Cinzia:

It’s that feeling of just, it feels right. I’m just going to go. Go for it and take that chance.

Catherine Langman:

So good.

Cinzia:

It worked, you know?

Catherine Langman:

Yes. Well, it doesn’t sound like you let doubt into the picture a whole lot there.

Cinzia:

No. I don’t often let doubt in. I just think you got to give things a crack, you do, and be prepared for what comes. If it doesn’t work, then just move on, just try something else, the way you have to approach an entrepreneurial life, I think.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, yeah, I agree. That is hard for the perfectionists in the crowd-

Cinzia:

Yes, it is.

Catherine Langman:

… to take those expectations off your shoulders, and it is something that you can learn because I would have been that sort of type A myself originally.

Cinzia:

Yes. Look, my daughter who is in the business with me is definitely like that. She’s more about the detail. I’m a real big picture. I look at it and I’m a real tester. I look at things, throw things in and see how they work.

Catherine Langman:

See how it goes, yep. That’s brilliant.

Cinzia:

Those little details aren’t so big with me. I am your typical entrepreneur, though. I do just go, risk everything and see how it goes and then move, you know?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah.

Cinzia:

And move quickly but I have got that stable side. My daughter’s that stable one that looks at things and goes, “That’s not balanced Mom, I need that fixed up, and you can’t do that.” So it’s good. She’s good in that way.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, that’s so good. I mean, obviously you were developing this product and it sounds like it was something that you were super passionate about at the time for multiple reasons, but you’re still working as a nutritionist. So at what point did you think you were really onto something and you I guess realized it could be big enough that you could move into it full time?

Cinzia:

Yeah. Well, that’s a good point because having been a single mom, I was used to being … they coined the term hustler recently, but I was doing that way before, prior to that, I was always doing … had my fingers in a few pies because I needed to … I had two young kids, single mom, I needed to make sure that bills were being paid. So I was always looking at things to grow in whatever way I could. I think with Smoothie Bombs, every time I spoke to anyone about it, I could see their face brighten up and go, “That’s a brilliant idea.” I got that response so many times that I was like, “I really think this is something, I really think … ” because I don’t get anyone that goes, “Oh, that’s a bit dumb.” Or, “Oh yeah?” No one gave me half mast approach. Everyone said, “That’s great. What a great idea.”

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, especially if it tastes good.

Cinzia:

So that egged me on. Yeah, that really did egg me on and then really, it happened organically again. It was like, I think at one point I had 30 cafes in Melbourne that were using them as, you know, food service.

Catherine Langman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cinzia:

And I had friends saying they were, and I was packing them in bags and selling them to friends. Then I did the first round of the tubes and got them out. Really the flavors came from the cafes going, “Okay, this is great, but can we have some more.”

Catherine Langman:

Right, that’s not enough.

Cinzia:

Like, “One flavor’s not enough. Can we have a few more? Because we can put a few flavors on our menu.” So I thought, “Okay,” and we tried a few more, and then I found a really good warehouse that we can work from and I found … Look, initially we were doing them by hand, right?

Catherine Langman:

That’s crazy.

Cinzia:

So, we could only do so much we did it. We actually did a lot by hand, we did a lot, but once I found a manufacturer and we got a good contract going there and we got a proper offer, then I allowed myself go, “I can reach out big now because I’ve got a backup. I’m not doing them by hand. I can look at getting a big contract, I can grow.” That’s when it took off, I think. That’s the turning point.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, I think that’s such a relevant point for people in all different sorts of product niche too, because I see a lot of startups and I guess most of us pretty much hustle and wear all the hats in the business when we first get started. But there’s that need to transition from operating in that way to being able to scale. You can’t scale if you’re doing everything yourself.

Cinzia:

No, no you can’t and you also, I think you innately stop yourself from scaling.

Catherine Langman:

You do, yeah you bottle-neck it.

Cinzia:

You actually don’t go looking for it because it means you’re going to spend a whole … This amount of time making it.

Catherine Langman:

That’s right.

Cinzia:

We got a huge job at the time in the Middle East and it was literally at the time, I think it was like 4,000 tubes [crosstalk 00:10:05]-

Catherine Langman:

Oh my goodness.

Cinzia:

… I got everyone in, we did it all by hand.

Catherine Langman:

20,000 bottles, oh my goodness.

Cinzia:

Oh, it was insane. It was insane. That was the point where I was, “No, this is not going to work. I’m not going to be able to do this.” I shopped around to lots of … I went to lots of them and lots of them just looked at me and went, “No, we can’t do it.”

Catherine Langman:

“You’re crazy.” Yep.

Cinzia:

“Can’t do it.” Then I just found one that was really good, who I’m still with today.

Catherine Langman:

Great.

Cinzia:

Who just went, “I love your idea. I love your passion. This is going to be too small a job for us, but we’re going to actually jump in and do it with you. We think you’re onto something too.”

Catherine Langman:

Yep, so they could scale with you.

Cinzia:

So they were great. They helped help me go along. You need things like that along the way as well, you need to find people that you can work with, that you like, or at least have a good business relationship with, that believe in your idea as well.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yeah, I remember going through a similar situation with one of my businesses where I realized after a while that I actually was not marketing a product because I didn’t have time to pack and send it. So this is a while ago now, but I was like, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I’m a marketer, what am I doing?”

Cinzia:

Yeah. Well, you’re frightened of the amount of time you’re going to have to give if you went bigger and that’s not good.

Catherine Langman:

No,. So yeah, fixed that one, got somebody else to do the fulfillment and away we went, happy days.

Cinzia:

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. You need all that. Look, I remember back when we first started, it seems like an enormous step. There’s a lot of steps along the way to get here. If someone had told me at the beginning, “Oh, this is what you’ve got to do.” You’d just be going, “What? That’s too much.” But in actual fact, it does grow with you.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, it’s over time.

Cinzia:

The new stage, it grows with you. And then when you’re at that stage, you go, “I’m ready for this.” Then all these other doors open up and new things, new challenges that you’ve got to learn about. So I’ve got an incredible amount of knowledge. Sometimes I think, “How did I get it all?” But really it is just going through all the processes.

Catherine Langman:

Step by step, yeah.

Cinzia:

And things going wrong sometimes and so you learn that for the next time. There are lots of challenges along the way, definitely.

Catherine Langman:

Let’s talk about some of those because, I think knowing that there will be challenges, but not knowing what they’ll be, is probably one of the points of fear for new businesses. So do you want to share some of that dirty laundry please?

Cinzia:

Look, there are, there are lots of challenges and they never stop. Like I still now, 10 years in, I still have things that come up. Look, there are some specific to my particular industry, like food. Food is very, very, very complicated because-

Catherine Langman:

Food safety and standards and [crosstalk 00:13:11].

Cinzia:

Yeah and use by dates. So, you’ve got to really look at all those things and there’s things … Yeah, food is a lot of food safety. We’re also a certified organic. So, we have to buy our ingredients from specific places. So you haven’t got a huge range, so you got to make sure you have really good connections to the people that are importing some of the organic ingredients you need. Sometimes there could be low stock of those things.

Catherine Langman:

That’s what I was thinking, the last year I think there would have been bit of that.

Cinzia:

Exactly, you had to jump in and make sure you got your ingredients put aside so that you had them ready. There’s a lot of logistic things that happen through the growth that you’ve got to know about, challenges. You take risks. Like when I first got the first lot of tubes, we get our tubes in China, because it’s just a much easier way to go about it and when I first put in my … I went on to Alibaba and put my first order in, this was back in 2013 or 2012, I had no idea where all that stuff was. You send off a whole lot of money and you’re thinking, “I really hope that that-“

Catherine Langman:

Hope it turns up.

Cinzia:

I hope it turns up. I actually did a Google search on the address of the factory to make sure it was actually really a factory that I was sending money to.

Catherine Langman:

Oh wow.

Cinzia:

Like a Google Earth search to see if it actually exists you know?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah.

Cinzia:

Because you do, you send off stuff and you think, “Who knows?”

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, it’s a leap of faith sometimes.

Cinzia:

Yeah, so in terms of challenges, there are things like … Yeah, the manufacturing can always … because it’s food, you never know what can happen. You always have to be open to that stuff. We had a batch very early on that had … You know how chocolate goes, it goes white when it gets hot and then it melts and it-

Catherine Langman:

Sort of splits a little bit.

Cinzia:

… it gets that white coating. So we got that on one of our … because we use coconut oil in some of the bombs and it got a white coat on it. I was like, “Oh my God. Oh my God.” It was actually nothing, it was just like … They call it blooming that it happens on food. I didn’t know so I was like, “Oh my God, this is bad. We’ve got to throw it away.” It was actually totally fine. But again, it’s stuff you learn. When you’re dealing with food, you don’t know this stuff until you go through it and then you realize that. Look, when I think about challenges, there are so many along the way, but they are fantastic sources of growth, the way you become … I’m who I am now, because of all those different things that happened along the way. So they’re important. They’re important to have.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, definitely and I guess being able to learn the skill of reframing those difficult times as something a little bit positive, because you’ve learned something useful and it’s going to help you next time.

Cinzia:

Absolutely. For example, this is one that I’m thinking about that’s recent because, depending on what stage in your business you’re at, but you’re going to get to the point where you have to hire staff and staff is a big challenge, a very big one, because if you get the wrong staff, it can really set your business back. So, you need to know what to do. How many skillsets am I suppose to have?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, that’s right.

Cinzia:

Do you know what I mean? Employing staff is a complete … I’ve never done it and I have no idea. I love people, which is good and bad because I can just go, “Yeah, yeah come in.” Then I haven’t looked at really what skill set that they’ve got, because I think, “Oh, they’re great.” This is what I’ve done a few times. Now, I know. Now I’ve totally learned.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, you need a process.

Cinzia:

Now it’s like, you have to have … because I recently employed a friend, which was not a good idea because I’d worked with her before. She was fantastic in that capacity and I thought, “She’s fantastic. She’ll work in all capacities.” No, no. It doesn’t work that way. So again, that was a big lesson for me. I learned something and it was hard because I had to learn to how to be-

Catherine Langman:

Well, it costs time and money to recover from these things, yeah.

Cinzia:

Cost me a lot of time and money. It’s something now, I’ve gone, “I know now, I’m not taking … ” It’s just like, “You have to tick all these boxes before I’m going to employ you and I’m definitely going to have this period of trial. I’m definitely going to have these contracts in place.” I didn’t know all that because I’d excelled in one area of growth, but that area I hadn’t done much with. So, it’s never ending, it really is.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, I remember a few years ago saying to someone, “I think, starting and growing a business is like doing an MBA in practice.”

Cinzia:

Yes, yeah, there’s so much-

Catherine Langman:

It feels like it. It’s a big stretch, isn’t it?

Cinzia:

It is. It is, it’s exciting and there are times where it’s just like, “Oh my God, what am I doing?” Even now, I’m learning stuff all the time.

Catherine Langman:

That’s what keeps it interesting.

Cinzia:

You know, really, that’s why I’m it. That’s why I’m in it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah.

Cinzia:

I was never going to be a person that could go to a job and do the same thing for 20, 30 years. That was never going to be me.

Catherine Langman:

No, no.

Cinzia:

So this is the lifestyle I chose and it’s for that type of person that is ready to go, I’ll take what comes and I’m going to grow from it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, that’s so cool. So one of the people that you work with, not a staff person really, is your daughter.

Cinzia:

Yes. So she’s my fussy-eating daughter, no less. She’s the one that really was the reason behind me making it, which is … it’s great. I think it’s great that we’re doing it together and we are yin and yang and yet we’re really similar in some ways, we’re really similar. She’s someone that I really respect and she respects me, which is important. Even considering that we’re mother, daughter, because there’s always things there, but I think we both have this sense of we keep in our lanes, we know what our skill sets are.

Catherine Langman:

And they’re not the same thing, so you’re not stepping on each other’s toes.

Cinzia:

They’re not the same. Yeah, no, they’re not the same. We have two different areas that we cross and I know her skill set, so I always pushed that sort of work towards her and she knows mine and she puts that towards me. Look, and she’s great. I would not have got this far without her because she’s got a young brain. She’s 22, I’m in my 50s, there’s things that she brings to the table that are not … It’s amazing because all the social media, she gets instantly, not that I don’t because I love the social media side. I take all the photos-

Catherine Langman:

It so much easier for the young guys though, isn’t it? These kids are born with a computer chip in their head.

Cinzia:

So much easier. Absolutely and that’s a really great asset to have, that she’s got … The business is virtually hers as well as mine. So she has a passion towards that and she understands all that social side. So, we’re doing reels now. I don’t know if you’ve seen our crazy reels. We’re doing these funny little dance moves, me and her. You’ve got to go see them because they are hilarious. Just fantastic because I’ve just gone, “Hey, we need to do reels.” She goes, “Yep.” Then she works it out and we’re in there.

Catherine Langman:

That’s so cool.

Cinzia:

So whatever new sort of thing we need to learn, I can learn. It’s not like I’m not … I can sit there and do it, but it would take me two, three hours and it takes her five minutes.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, yep, absolutely.

Cinzia:

So it’s like, “Yep, that’s your thing. Learn that, let’s do a few of those.” Then that side is fantastic to work with her and don’t get me wrong. We do fight, we do fight occasionally, but we try to be … Recently, actually a few days ago, we were grumpy at each other and then we got on the phone. We came home, we had to … and then we got on the phone to my other daughter who’s in Sydney and we actually all laughed about the mood we’d been in that day. We can really let go of at once we’re-

Catherine Langman:

Oh, that’s good.

Cinzia:

You have to, you work together all the time. We have to know how to just chill late and go, “It’s okay.”

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, leave it work.

Cinzia:

It’s stressful. Business is stressful. So I can see her when she’s under stress and so she might sort of say things or do things that are related to something and I know she doesn’t mean it, you know?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah.

Cinzia:

It’s something that, it’s just the way it is. It’s the stress of the business.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah. Well, that’s good. Well, not the stress of business, of course.

Cinzia:

No.

Catherine Langman:

That’s not fun, but that you guys can have that relationship.

Cinzia:

Yeah. I do love work working with her. We’re a good team. We’re definitely a good team.

Catherine Langman:

We will talk in just a second about what Smoothie Bombs looks like now, but what would you say, other than getting that manufacturing in place, which would have been a key factor for scaling, what would be some other big decisions that really resulted in moving the business forward over the years?

Cinzia:

Oh, there’s been a few. There’s been a few along the way. Look initially, when we went out, we were very excited to be in retail, in stores. It was something that we thought … When you start out, you can’t believe it that you’re on the shelves in stores, it’s so exciting. You walk in-

Catherine Langman:

Yeah and seeing people you don’t know enjoying your product is pretty cool.

Cinzia:

Yeah, and that initial thing was such an amazing thing for us and we got into lots of stores. We got a whole lot of distributors around Australia to get them in stores. We even landed a really big contract with Chemist Warehouse and we were like, “This is fantastic, this is great.” But once we were in it for a few years, I thought … Actually, it was much harder than I thought. The decision, the kind of things that we did there, were different. For example, monetary-wise, for ego it’s great, but monetary-wise it’s very different being in places like Chemist Warehouse and things like that. But also what we found out was that having a product that is innovative and different to what’s out there and we were definitely very different when we got on those shelves back, I think 2000.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, you broke ground, I reckon. It was very new.

Cinzia:

Yeah, yeah. And because we were, it needed a lot of education. So retailers, the health food shops, I always thought the health food shops were my place to be. But in actual fact, there was so much stuff in there and our stuff got lost. So the staff never saw it, no one … It’s not hard to get products in stores. It’s hard to sell it. That’s the difference, right?

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cinzia:

So we found that that, yes, it was great to be in all these stores and it felt good for our ego. But the big decision that I made really was to do e-commerce because I thought … We could see time and time again, we were getting emails and people saying, “We’ve bought this, we don’t know what to do with it. It’s not working, it’s not working.” I just thought, “Oh my God, this is … ” Even though we’ve got the instructions on the packet, nothing is clear. What seems clear to us doesn’t mean it’s clear to everyone else. One of the biggest decisions was to go, “You know what? We have to really take e-commerce seriously and start doing videos, start getting on social and showing how it’s done. We need to show the process because we’re not just selling a carton of milk or a loaf of bread.” People don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know and we’ve had so many different … You would laugh at some of the things people have done to make the bombs work.

Catherine Langman:

Oh, I can quite imagine. It was a bit of a similar thing with the modern cloth nappies and the sort of questions you’d get with the laundry side of things. And you’re just like, “You just throw it in, you put some detergent in and you press go.”

Cinzia:

That’s right. I mean, people have sieved them with hot water. I’m like, “No. The idea of Smoothie Bombs is to make smoothies simpler for you.”

Catherine Langman:

That’s hilarious.

Cinzia:

That doesn’t seem simple. Just put it in the blender. Stuff like that. I think our whole business changed when we went-

Catherine Langman:

You made that decision.

Cinzia:

... we took e-commerce seriously. It really, really changed the way we moved forward because we suddenly had the capacity to talk to our customers directly.

Catherine Langman:

Well, that’s what I was just thinking. It’s like really owning that direct relationship with your customers rather than having some sort of an intermediary that keeps you separated from them.

Cinzia:

Yes. So I got rid of all our distributors who were really-

Catherine Langman:

Oh wow.

Cinzia:

… they were not doing a great job and we had good ones all around Australia and I don’t think initially it was their fault. I think they did the right thing to get them in store and they just expected us to be able to move them from there, to sell them. But our product wasn’t right for that. Maybe other products were but because of the nature of what we had, it just wasn’t right. I was lucky that I saw that and just thought, “Okay. All right. We need to take this another step and we need to really talk to our customer directly and talk to them on every platform we can possibly get and get them in.” And it worked.

Catherine Langman:

Yes, yes. Well, it certainly sounds like it has, because you now are selling Smoothie Bombs globally, right?

Cinzia:

Yes, we are. We’re in many countries and that also … To give you that side of things as well, that happened organically as well, because we concentrated on socials and really made the brand about showing how it’s done, we got contacted by all … I actually, to this day, I have not reached out to any company in these countries, they’ve all contacted me.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, wow.

Cinzia:

It’s never been me going, “Oh, I’m going to try and get into the US.” The US contacted me.

Catherine Langman:

That is insane. That’s so cool.

Cinzia:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we initially had the really fantastic store in the US called Anthropologie contact us.

Catherine Langman:

Oh, I love that store, yeah.

Cinzia:

I love that store too. I couldn’t believe it when they emailed me, it was so excited because I love them.

Catherine Langman:

Did you have a minor heart attack?

Cinzia:

Yeah. Actually the email came through … I’m a chronic insomniac, or I have been, and it came through at like two o’clock in the morning and I saw it and I ran in and woke Lana and said, “Oh my God, Anthropologie have just … They want to stock our stuff.” So, that was exciting. From then, we’ve been in Macy’s as a pop-up that they set up. We’re in some great stores in the US still now. We’re in a great online store. We’re on Amazon in the US. Not even through us, someone else’s is deploying it. It’s something we have thought about maybe setting that up ourselves, but we’ve been bogged down with the Australia stuff, that we’ve just let this other company just do it and it’s been fine, it’s easy. They do it all, but I think in the long run, one day, I will take that on and do it myself. But it’s a lot of stuff you’ve got to do to get that market and the American market is-

Catherine Langman:

It’s massive.

Cinzia:

… it’s mammoth. So look, we get a lot of revenue from there already, and we’ve only just put our little toes in considering what we’re capable of. We even-

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, so it sounds like … Oh, sorry to cut you off but it sounds like-

Cinzia:

No, no, we … Yeah, you go, go, go.

Catherine Langman:

Well, because you know you were saying before, that in the early days, it didn’t sell so well through the wholesale route because people didn’t know what it was, but it sounds like all of the efforts that you did in taking things to the e-commerce side and really creating the content to educate customers has paid off in dividends because now your international distributors can sell them like hotcakes. That’s brilliant.

Cinzia:

Yes, absolutely, absolutely. We actually even, were in conversations with Walmart, before COVID and they wanted to put us in all the stores in-

Catherine Langman:

Holy cow.

Cinzia:

Yeah, that was massive. But I had that initial fear and actually we’re still communicating with them, but COVID just put a big stop on it all. But my fear with that was is it going to be all right just to put them on shelves in a big department store? Again, I know from my experience here, that was wrought with lots of problems. So I’m like, “Is this going to be the right move?” I get it, it’s Walmart but at the same time, I know how the Smoothie Bombs sell. I know what you’ve got to do to sell them and America’s a new market. Is the education there? Are they going be able to provide that when it’s on a shelf in a big store? I’m not sure. There is always that challenge there, that you think you want to go in there and do well, so you want to make sure that all those things are in place.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, what a huge coup if you do it.

Cinzia:

Yes, yeah and again, they contacted me, they reached out to me. We’ve had lots of talks, there is a lot still there that’s in progress, it’s just … Yeah, there’s a lot and we also, we’re in Singapore, we’re in the Middle East, we’re in New Zealand. We’ve been of spreading our wings, but it’s really through people contacting us and us going, “Oh yeah, I can do it.” There are lots of challenges. The US has lots of challenges because there is-

Catherine Langman:

With food specifically?

Cinzia:

Food, FDA have got lots of requirements. Every time I send stuff to the US, I’ve got a whole lot of paperwork that I’ve got to fill out. There’s things like prior notice that you’ve got to do, they’ve got to know … Customs need to know it’s coming in so they can … it’s all the information, you need to put it through the computer, best before dates, all that, batch numbers. It’s really a process, which again, is something I learnt along the way, I went-

Catherine Langman:

Yes, you have to fiddle and figure it out.

Cinzia:

You look it up, you find it out, you do it, and then you move forward. So yes, food has got those requirements. I’m sure other industries have different requirements as well-

Catherine Langman:

Oh absolutely, yeah, exactly.

Cinzia:

… that you need to find out about.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, definitely. So bringing it back to the e-commerce side of things, seeing as that’s been your focus here in Australia at least, you know, 10 years is a long time in e-commerce.

Cinzia:

Yeah, yeah.

Catherine Langman:

So how have you navigated the changes in e-commerce and marketing and that sort of thing over the years, and I guess the last year in particular?

Cinzia:

Oh look, it’s been crazy. So again, I think because I have my 22-year-old daughter that I’ve just gone, “We have to learn this stuff.” I listen to lots of podcasts. I’ve got my eyes on everything that’s moving fast and I learn stuff quickly but then the in-depth background of what that stuff means, I pass it onto her. So I’ll just say to her, “Hey, like I said before, you need to learn how to do reels.2 I know that that’s what you’ve got to do and then I pass it on to her. So a lot of the navigating has come from me just staying on top of what is new and happening and then trying to incorporate it in the way we do e-commerce. Lana does all our Facebook ads and Google ads and things like that, she has grown to learn it along the way.

So, sometimes it’s just so much going on. Last year during COVID, we were really lucky because we were already in our stride with e-commerce. We were already doing Facebook ads. We were already there, everything was set up, all the backend was set up. So as soon as lockdown happened nationally, we were ready. We had great ads set up. We had all our segments done. So it took off, it was great for us, because we were set up there, we knew where we were-

Catherine Langman:

And your competitors weren’t probably?

Cinzia:

… they weren’t, no.

Catherine Langman:

No.

Cinzia:

So, we had some good ground and we had some great results with all that stuff, the marketing. I think really over the 10 years you learn, you make big mistakes, sometimes very pricey mistakes, costly mistakes, because you have to always … E-commerce, you’ve just got to always keep an eye on it. You got to always look at it. You got to always provide. Things are changing all the time, all the time. So you need to stay a step ahead. For example, this is something that I was talking to Lana about recently, no one cares about 10% off anymore.

Catherine Langman:

No.

Cinzia:

You’ve got to offer something else. You have to offer different things and you have to provide a different angle to what everyone is doing because that could have been great a year ago, but now it’s saturated and so you got to do something else.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, to stand out. I remember when I first got started, I was able to get away with a $5 gift voucher, I don’t know, $150 average order value was not much and it worked a treat then, yeah.

Cinzia:

It worked. That’s what I mean, all that stuff What you can learn, what worked for you worked for you six months ago may not work now. So you really have to stay on top of it. You can’t just do it and forget and let it go. You have to literally look what’s going on. If it stops working, then you’ve got to flip it and do something else.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, it’s definitely not like printing a book, or a brochure, or a poster, or something where you have to get it right the first time and then it stays like that forever.

Cinzia:

You just forget about it. No, you have to constantly look at what’s happening and change it and provide different things. Right now, we know that people are more interested in gift with purchase, or free shipping much more than a 10% or 15% off.

Catherine Langman:

Yes, yes I would concur.

Cinzia:

Yeah, they get that everywhere so it doesn’t mean anything anymore. So you have to give something that’s going to make you stand out because it is a very, very noisy place at the moment. Especially since COVID, where a lot more brands have got online, there’s a lot of stuff going on with Facebook ads right now because they don’t even know what they’re doing, I think.

Catherine Langman:

I know, I know.

Cinzia:

So you have to just be … We’re looking at our backend every day now, every day we’re looking, tweaking, trying different ads, trying different things because it’s up in the air, no one knows so you have to keep going. That’s a big challenge, but it’s fun too. As long as you don’t lose too much money.

Catherine Langman:

Well, that’s the thing. I think probably the biggest challenge about that is not letting the constant change make you feel like you’re not doing a good job because that’s not how it is at all.

Cinzia:

Yep and you do have to be prepared to, I suppose, lose a bit of money as you’re doing it. You kind of have to, you know?

Catherine Langman:

You test, yeah, it’s a testing mindset, isn’t it?

Cinzia:

It’s a testing … you have to do it. You got to be smart about it and not go too far, but you do have to take some risks. I know that my daughter, who’s not very … doesn’t like risk at all. She gets really stressed about it and this is where we’re good as yin and yang. I’m the one that just goes, “Hey, if you don’t give things a go, you’re never going to know. You have to do it.”

Catherine Langman:

No, yeah.

Cinzia:

All the behemoth entrepreneurs that did well, they all risked … They all lost a bit. They all gained a lot. You’ve just got to do it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, that’s it.

Cinzia:

It’s part of what you do in business. You have to take a chance. At the moment, it’s really challenging.

Catherine Langman:

It is challenging, yeah.

Cinzia:

So you have to just keep going.

Catherine Langman:

So long as you’re watching the numbers, it is kind of a numbers game when you’re testing all of this stuff in digital marketing. But as long as you’re watching the numbers, you’ll be okay.

Cinzia:

Yep, exactly. It is, it’s really important to … and if you don’t understand the numbers, find someone that does because that’s the important thing. You do need to find … You cannot be in business and not be in e-commerce.

Catherine Langman:

Not any more.

Cinzia:

You just can’t do it. I don’t know, I mean I feel really sorry for a lot of the old school bricks and mortar, mom and dad business, because if they don’t get up to scratch with what’s going on, then they’re going to be taken right out because you have to have a foot in e-commerce, there’s no way around it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, that’s very true. Actually, I heard somebody saying recently that they are predicting a big swathe of those businesses going on the market as the baby boomer generation want to retire and they don’t want to tackle things like e-commerce and that sort of thing. So it could get interesting.

Cinzia:

Well, I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but in Melbourne, you drive around, there’s a lot of empty shops everywhere, so many. It’s sad. I mean, that’s got to do with COVID as well, but it’s just that a lot of them, they weren’t-

Catherine Langman:

They haven’t navigated this change, have they?

Cinzia:

They haven’t and it’s become hard. So, yeah, it’s definitely a challenge for a lot of startups that are just going through, but of course, I mean, anyone starting now would know that e-commerce has got to be at the forefront of their planning, it’s just got to be.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I think new businesses probably have worked that bit out so far.

Cinzia:

Yeah, no exactly.

Catherine Langman:

So other than that, what kind of advice would you share to a product-based business, well, perhaps when they’re facing that sort of a challenging time? Because obviously you’ve been through several challenging times yourself and ups and downs, particularly the last year.

Cinzia:

Yep, yep, for sure. I would say look, it is what it is. The business world is going to be always like that and to just strap yourself in and when things are bad, just get lean, get lean with everything. I know we’ve done that before, plenty of times where we’ve gone. “Okay, we’re just not going to have staff, we’re going to do a little bit more ourselves and just really manage our time,” and lean in to that smaller … just don’t panic and just lean in. Then when you’re ready to open up again, do it again, but just … We’re really lucky because we can manage pretty much a lot of it ourselves. We don’t want to, so when things are great, we get lots of staff in. But if things do turn for a while, then we can just pull right in and make it really efficient.

That’s how we get through the hard times and we try not to take it too seriously, you have to try not to be … Of course, some circumstances, if your money runs and you were in trouble, then sometimes you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do, but if you can ride through a storm and keep your spending down as much as you can and get through it, then you’re going to learn a lot about what your business is made of and keep going. I mean, in the 10 years that we’ve been in business, there’s been many, many times where we’ve just gone, “Wow. How are we going to even get through another day?” Then just round the corner, some big company comes in and goes, “Hey, we love what you’re doing and here’s-“

Catherine Langman:

“We want to stock you.”

Cinzia:

” … a whole lot of money for it.” We go, “Wow, we’re back in, it’s fine.”

Catherine Langman:

That’s cool, yeah.

Cinzia:

You know what I mean?

Catherine Langman:

I guess, reading between the lines of what you’re saying there, it sounds like you’ve mastered the skill of not pinning your personal confidence or sense of ability and being good at something to those external factors of the ups and downs of business.

Cinzia:

Yeah, so look, we know that we’ve got a good, a good product. I know a lot of people out there know that their product, it’s something that people want and can use. So if you know that about the product that you’ve got, then you’ve just got to get in there and get it out there. It does take a lot of stuff. It does take a lot of challenges. Things will come up all the time, but hopefully the good just slightly outweighs the bad when things are hard and you can get through it.

Catherine Langman:

Yeah, so good. So where to next for Smoothie Bombs?

Cinzia:

Well, this is stuff that happened during COVID last year, I thought, “We’ve got a good audience. What do we do?” So I started doing some protein powders on my own range, because I’d gone out there and tried a lot of protein and I didn’t like the flavors.

Catherine Langman:

No, they’re horrible a lot of them.

Cinzia:

Oh, they’re horrible. So I’ve made one that’s beautiful. It really is beautiful, it doesn’t have that stevia taste, it’s got a really natural taste, it tastes beautiful in smoothies. So during COVID, I did a whole range of protein powders that I love and they’ve been a hit, they’ve been fantastic. Our customers loved them. I actually, this is a little side note, what has been really fantastic for us is our Facebook group, because we use them as our little marketing testers. So we ask them-

Catherine Langman:

So good.

Cinzia:

“What do you want? I see you’re all using proteins, which is your favorite proteins.” So they gave me a list of all their favorites. I went out and tried them all and thought, “I can do better than that.” So I came back and said, “Guess what guys? I’ve done a range. This is the first one, try them out.” To my really, really good customers, I sent them samples, this was before I launched and said, “What do you think? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?” I probably got about 60 that are really die hard fans, and sent them to all of them, I got great feedback. I adjusted them and then I sent out a range. So I launched a range of protein powders last year and just a week ago, I just launched a new range that I’m going to start to do, which the first one is a hot chocolate sleep blend. So it’s a hot drink.

Catherine Langman:

Yes, I love it.

Cinzia:

Right? So now I’m going, “Yes, I’m great at doing the smoothie thing, but I need to really build this brand so I’ve got a number of things there.” I’ve got a great audience. I know who my audience are. I speak to them all the time. So I know their pain points, I’ve got them too. So this is how I grow, I give them what they want. So I’ve been a chronic non-sleeper all my life. So I worked on trying to find a way to fix that for me.

Catherine Langman:

Oh I love it.

Cinzia:

So I’ve created this beautiful hot chocolate blend.

Catherine Langman:

I think I might need to get some.

Cinzia:

Well, we launched it on Sunday. We launched it last Sunday. It has gone gangbusters. We’ve literally sold out.

Catherine Langman:

No.

Cinzia:

It’s been fantastic.

Catherine Langman:

That’s so good.

Cinzia:

So to me, again, I spoke to my customers. I could talk to them through my Facebook group because they’re there and they tell me. So that’s been fantastic, that’s been great.

Catherine Langman:

That’s brilliant.

Cinzia:

So, that’s where we’re going. I’m looking at making the brand much more solid and bigger and bringing in different products so I have a something that lasts. I thought a hot drink would be great because some people in summer, they love the smoothies but then they don’t drink them so much in winter. I mean, I do, I’d drink them all the way through, but not everyone does. So I thought, “What can I give my customers that they will continue to be loyal with me all the way through winter?”

Catherine Langman:

Or, I imagine there would be people who have the smoothie in the morning and the hot chocolate in the evening.

Cinzia:

Absolutely, absolutely. The hot chocolate too, to me, that’s one of the range. I’m going to be doing a series of hot drinks as well, so some can be good for the daytime and I’m going to look at things that are pain points, like what sort of things do people need? Stress, stress is a big one, a good thing that could work on helping people with that. So, there’s a lot of scope of how I can grow from here. So it’s very exciting.

Catherine Langman:

Oh, I love it. It is very exciting. Well, it’s been very exciting for me to sit here and chat with you today. I know that the listeners will absolutely love it as well because you’ve shared some absolute gold with us. So, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Just to round us off, share your … Where can people find Smoothie Bombs? Where do they need to go to find you?

Cinzia:

Well, we have a website which is http://www.smoothiebombs.com. You can find us there in terms of our website, but we’re also on all social media. We’re on Instagram, we’re on TikTok, we’re on Facebook. We do have a Facebook group called the Smoothie Bombs Squad-

Catherine Langman:

Oh cool.

Cinzia:

… which is fantastic. Every month, I do a 14 day smoothie challenge, which is free. So it’s like a booklet that you have 14 recipes and tips and tricks. We have a huge community in there that come into these challenges. We do live videos, making the smoothie for those 14 days. That’s actually been a fantastic thing for the brand because-

Catherine Langman:

Love it.

Cinzia:

… it’s again, teaching people how to use it. So yeah, we’re on every platform. You just look up Smoothie Bombs and you’ll find us.

Catherine Langman:

Fantastic.

Cinzia:

We’re there and we’re happy to chat to everyone.

Catherine Langman:

So good. We’ll share the links on the podcast show notes as well, so it’ll make it easy for people-

Cinzia:

Fantastic.

Catherine Langman:

… to come and find you. Awesome. Thanks for joining us today, Cinzia.

Cinzia:

I love it, thank you.