In 2005, @nadamoo seriously shook up the frozen dessert market with the first ever dairy-free coconut milk ice cream. 🥥🚫🐄
Not long after, CEO @nadamoodan joined the team – re-working his mechanical engineering skills to put their books in order and become a chief problem solver as the company expanded to the well-known CPG brand 🍦 it is today.
Let us break it down for you…
[0:55] Introducing Daniel Nicholson, CEO of NadaMoo![1:24] How’d Daniel link up with NadaMoo!? More background on the brand – the first-ever coconut-milk based ice cream on the market. From Madrid to Austin! [5:41] More why behind the transition from mechanical engineer to ice cream bookkeeper. Optimizing the problem-solving process.[9:29] Where has NadaMoo! sent you around the world?[11:16] Key tips for other brands wanting to stand out against the competition.[15:11] Key pain points associated with the frozen dessert industry. [20:23] Seasonal flavors – are they decided year-by-year? Is there a method to the madness of seasonal launches?[22:54] How does your team come up with new flavors? Is there a Chief Flavor Officer behind the scenes?? Touching on The Scoop Shop in Austin, Texas.[28:05] Back to operations! A lot of the brands that we work with only ship their product within the U.S. Tell us more about the process of expanding the NadaMoo! to include Canada. In a way, “starting the business all over again…”[33:20] How might a business inform + empower consumers to speak up about their brand and get more product on shelves across more retailers?[35:26] The impact of listening and interacting with your customers through an online community.[38:20] What advice would you like to share with new CPG owners? The reality of this type of business.[50:44] Finally, Daniel’s favorite flavor and if it’s changed throughout the years!
Mentions from this episode:
Stay in touch:
Join Umai’s Facebook Group: CORE 3
Alison:Hey, Hey, y’all. Alison here. I wanted to quickly thank you for listening to our podcast. I know you’re about to get a lot of valuable information from it, but I also wanted to hop in and share with you guys a free SOP, which stands for standard operating procedure. We use this SOP every single day in our agency to authentically grow and engage our audiences on social. It is 1000% free and I’d love for you to have it and use it in your business as well. So just go to my umaimarketing.com/engage to go download. All right, cheers.
Karin:Welcome to the Umai Social Circle, where we talk consumer goods, marketing tips to help business owners and marketers alike grow. I’m Karin, co-founder of Umai.
Alison:And I’m Alison, the other co-founder of Umai.
Karin:And we’re being joined by Daniel Nicholson, CEO of our favorite dairy-free ice cream, NadaMoo.
Daniel Nicholson:Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.
Karin:Thanks for being here. Well, I’d love to start out with, how on earth did you get started with this killer vegan ice cream brand?
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. It’s a great story and it’s a long story too, but I’ll definitely try to try my best to condense it down for those of the listeners that don’t know our brand. We’ve been around for 15 years. We were the very first coconut milk based ice cream product to market back in 2005. We just celebrated our 15th year anniversary in May. So I was not the founder. I got involved in the business in 2008 when the founder was about three years into it. For some brief background on me, I’ve studied mechanical engineering at the University of Texas. My first job out of school was in renewable energy, worked for a big wind power utility out in Spain. So working on another side of the sustainability problems, solutions or solutions to the sustainability problem.
Daniel Nicholson:But when I moved back to Austin after that stint in Madrid, was introduced to the founder of NadaMoo through a close family friend. I’ll never forget the first time I tried the product. Maple pecan was the very first flavor that I ever tried. And the second I put it in my mouth, I was just like, “Wow, this product is incredible. Tastes just like ice cream with much lower calories, much lower sugar, zero cholesterol.” As you all can imagine, the dairy free movement, this predated the plant-based movement. So I saw it from a much higher level of just like a better for you ice cream product. It’s lower calories, lower sugar as I said.
Daniel Nicholson:The founder at the time was looking for was looking for help. I mean, was already three years into the business, created an incredible product, which a lot of founders in the CPG space do, but really needed some help on the operation side and with a lot of the numbers, a lot of the day-to-day accounting. I loved the product so much and thought that NadaMoo, the brand, for one, too, I loved the brand name, NadaMoo. I grew up in South Texas from a family who speaks both Spanish and English. So for me, NadaMoo just spoke to me and resonated with me on, on that deeper level too.
Daniel Nicholson:So, yeah, just in speaking with her around what she needed help with, how I could potentially help, it ended up landing me a job in the CPG industry. I started off as the … I hate even saying they gave me the beautiful title of controller. But I had no formal experience in accounting. I took an introductory course in undergrad, but really was flung into keeping the books for the company in 2008. My family made a small investment in the company that year and I was often running in my new CPG journey, which now I think I just celebrated 12 years, 12 years in CPG, which is a third of my life. I continue to just be blown away by the fact that a third of my life has been spent in an industry that I knew nothing about when I got started. But it’s been incredibly rewarding and it’s been a great ride so far.
Karin:So you’re saying that you went to school to be a mechanical engineer. That’s a lot of schooling. Are you saying you had one taste of NadaMoo and you just switched?
Daniel Nicholson:Done. Switched. I guess to expand upon that, what I did what I did learn after my stint at this very large renewable energy company in Spain was that I didn’t want to work for a big company. I just did not feel like my day-to-day work contributed to some really bigger impact and bigger mission that the company was obviously trying to achieve. So I knew I didn’t like that. I also, didn’t like just sitting at a computer, working on spreadsheets all day, every day. I’m fairly good with numbers, but it’s just not dynamic enough for what I wanted to do. So some of my initial thoughts were like, “I don’t think engineering is like the career path for me.” And straight out of school, it’s like, “Well, now that I’ve had that moment, it’s kind of too late now.”
Alison:Too late. Wow.
Daniel Nicholson:So as I moved back to Austin and I was interviewing for some positions that I really didn’t want just because my degree lend themselves well to it. And really, I’m glad that I met the founder when I did because it was an opportunity that got me just excited enough to be like, “Wow, this would be exciting and interesting. I can get on the ground floor of this potentially massive opportunity and see whether or not I can really add value.”
Karin:I mean, look what happened.
Daniel Nicholson:12 years later, it’s kind of crazy to think about.
Karin:So what have you applied from that background? Has that been helpful in the CPG space?
Daniel Nicholson:I think so. The fact that I chose engineering, I like to think that I’ve thought about it at least a little bit. Really, for one, I think engineering is probably one of the more difficult undergraduate degrees to obtain. We work really hard. We make jokes about the business school students within the engineering school, just saying like, “Man, these guys just get to party all the time.” We don’t get to party as much. There was a lot of studying involves … There was just a lot of really difficult concepts to wrap our minds around. But I think the value that it has really added to my life and what I’ve decided to do is just general problem solving like when you are presented with a problem, you need to go through a systematic process of, “Okay, how do I solve this and how do I create the best possible solution for the problem that has been put in front of me?”
Daniel Nicholson:So, yeah, it’s been reduced to just a very strong analytical background, problem solving background that I think really is important for any entrepreneur to begin to optimize their problem solving process.
Karin:I love how that’s a true Testament to you do not have to go to school to do anything you want to do outside of being a doctor or a lawyer, things like that. But it’s just like, if you have a passion for something, you’re going to perform so much better, because you like doing what you’re doing. I think that’s so powerful. I just remembered, you said you don’t like sitting behind a desk. I would love to hear more like how many trips … spoiler, you source from Thailand, right? The coconut milk?
Daniel Nicholson:Yes. Our coconut milk providers is based out of Thailand, which has been awesome. So first I’ll say, the ironic thing is I still do sit behind a desk because it’s [inaudible 00:09:53] way for me to receive information and share information through email, through calls like this, meetings and conference calls. So I do sit behind the desk quite a bit, especially now during COVID where there’s little to no travel that is happening in my life right now. But the position has allowed me some really cool opportunities to travel to really cool and far away places to conduct business, right? To create relationships with our suppliers, meet their families, go out to their farms, break bread, have dinner, and just really share in this life that they live in their home where we just happened to be connected by way of sourcing very important raw material for our ice cream product that we sell to the grocery stores.
Karin:That’s awesome. One of my biggest questions that I was excited to ask you is in a really heavily saturated market, you’re competing against big dairy dogs of the aisle, what are some key tips that you would want to give to a brand that’s wanting to stand out against a really strong competition?
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. That’s a great question. We’ve definitely picked a difficult category to try to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. The frozen dessert category is limited, right? There is limited shelf space in freezer sets across the country. Sometimes some stores have larger frozen sets, some have smaller, and it’s our job to try to gain shelf and as many of these sets as possible nationwide, at some point worldwide. I think it’s really important to not be overwhelmed by the reality of the category that you’re trying to break into. I think if you really feel strongly that you have some value proposition to bring to the category and you’re really passionate about the work that you’re doing, I’m really big on staying the course mostly because that’s what we’ve done.
Daniel Nicholson:We knew what we were up against day one. We knew we were going to be pushing up against the very strong and powerful dairy industry. But it didn’t stop our approach. We’re just like, “Look, we are literally a fly on the radar of these massive entities. They won’t even know that we exist until we begin to get to a certain size and scale that maybe they start seeing us on that radar.” So I think it’s don’t overwhelm yourself with the daunting task of taking on some really massive partners. You just have to take it on a day at a time and really work at making your brand or your product significant enough to the point that you start becoming a bigger target to others.
Daniel Nicholson:And by the time you reach that point, yes, you have some even more challenging obstacles and opportunities ahead of you. At that point, you’ve done something right. And then it’s up to you to, again, wake up each and every day and continue to execute upon the plan that you’ve put in front of you yourself. I think that’s been a big part of what we do. We don’t get overwhelmed by the noise of new products launching into our space. Haagen-Dazs is coming in and Ben & Jerry’s is coming in. We’ve been through this for a really long time. We’ve seen a lot of brands come and go. We’ve seen a lot of brands come into the space and not have success.
Daniel Nicholson:And at the end of the day, all you can really focus on is you and your mission and your vision. Yeah. I think that’s really what we’ve stayed focused on here and so far so good. We’ll see if that continues to be the right plan and strategy, but for now I can say it has absolutely gotten us to this point and we just want to keep pushing forward with that same mentality.
Karin:Definitely. I think it’s so easy for people of all sorts of different brands and goods to get bogged down with what other people are doing. I really like that advice to just do what you know how to do best, execute the best way you can, and keep delivering really great product. It’s awesome. Cool. Well, what have been some key pain points in the business? Yeah, it’s ice cream and like online orders. And I want to hear a little bit more about those kinds of pain points.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. The biggest pain point for an ice cream product is we have to keep it frozen, right? It has to be handled, everything has to be handled in such a delicate manner. I mean, a shelf stable product, or a brand with shelf stable products does not have to think about cold chain, does not have to think about storage, does not have to think about the temperature that the truck needs to be set at in order to transit your products safely so that it’s not melting and refreezing and then the consumer ends up having a less than stellar experience. Not because you didn’t make it well, but because the handlers of the product as you were moving the product around to different places, they were not disciplined about the way that they handled it.
Daniel Nicholson:The part that I really enjoy most about the business is probably the part that most founders or most CPG entrepreneurs hate. I like the unsexy stuff. I like operations. I like the finance. I liked the accounting. I like all the systems and processes that are put in place to ensure that we have systems in place that are fail-proof. You have to have a system and a process for everything. And as long as you hold to that, then you can create a lot of extra room for yourself to be creative. As you scale, then it gets a lot more important to begin to focus on the sales and marketing aspects of the business.
Daniel Nicholson:But we have always felt like until we have the backend taken care of, there’s really not a lot of need for us to press forward, trying to light the world on fire sales-wise and marketing-wise, because the backend is not prepared to handle it. We’re going to create bigger issues for ourselves than we’re ready for. I think that’s been a big part of … maybe that’s why it’s taken us 15 years to get to this point where we were really focused on the backend and optimizing every single piece of the operation to being prepared, to have more fun on the sales and marketing side.
Karin:Hey, it’s proven to be a good call because I feel like that is something that I’ll see with founders. It’s all sales and marketing upfront, and the rest is falling by the wayside. So focusing on that to make sure that you’re delivering the most premium, premium product makes a lot of sense.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. I think like a big part of the food business in CPG, the health of a business is directly related to scale. You have to scale, you have to create those operational efficiencies in order to make any kind of money in this industry. I think it’s very easy to get carried away with sales and marketing and product development. Oh, what’s the [inaudible 00:18:52] we’re going to bring to the market. And those things are all fun and they’re exciting. The market wants that. They want you to do those things, but they don’t want you to do that if you’re not ready for that, because that’s going to put you at a massive predicament where you don’t have full control or you don’t have the full vision in place yet of how you’re going to bring all this added value to the market before you’re really ready to handle it.
Daniel Nicholson:It’s tough. Most of the advice I give is rooted in what I’ve been through. There are thousands of different ways to have success here in CPG. I’m much more operationally focused as I do believe that scale and efficiency will ultimately give you the opportunity to build the healthiest company possible. I think any entrepreneur, that should be the goal. You want to build something of scale, build something that is sustainable, that can stand on its own two feet so that you don’t necessarily have to depend on other capital partners and on others to continue to drive your vision. I think that has driven our approach since the day we got started.
Karin:That’s awesome. I know that you’re talking about the flash and pizzazz of new products and stuff, but seasonal flavors. Is it year by year? Does it change? Do you guys get excited about the same ones year over year, or any hot tips for creating seasonal products?
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. I’m not sure if you knew, we barely launched first seasonal last year, 2019, 14 years into the business. To the points you’re making, it takes just as much work and effort to create a seasonal product that’s going to be on the shelf for two months or three months than you do for a product that’s going to be on the shelf for an entire year. So for right now, as we dipped our toe in the water last year, launched that first seasonal product, 2020 is a year where we want to do it again. We’re not even worried about creating a new seasonal product. We’d love to, but we didn’t think we were ready yet. We want to achieve greater sales and distribution with the seasonal product this year around, this time around.
Daniel Nicholson:And then we’re very iterative about everything we do. We do something, we learn from it. The next year we come back, maybe we do exactly the same thing, but we do it better because we’ve learned some things. And then from there, once that really works successfully, then we can have even more fun on the product development side developing new seasonal flavors for the consumer to enjoy. So for 2020, it’ll be the same products. We already have a new seasonal on tap that we were wanting to launch in 2020. It didn’t pan out for some of the supply chain issues that needed to be hashed out first, but we effectively have two seasonals prepared for 2021. Some of that could include a new flavor that isn’t one of the originals that we launched with.
Daniel Nicholson:So I think people get so impatient, to some of that earlier points I’m making, they get so impatient, want to do too much too soon before really understanding that there are really good lessons to learn in doing something, kind of taking that feedback, doing it better the next year, and then maybe starting to have more fun with it based off of all those insights that you’ve gained as you were kind of testing that.
Alison:So question on when you do launch new products, how do you guys come up with the flavors? Do you get customer input? Do you have a chief flavor officer that creates it and you guys just say, “This is good”? How does that work?
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah, it’s been an evolving process for us too, but I think what I like to touch on is a big part of the reason why we opened up a scoop shop here in Austin was to speed up that formulation process, testing new flavors, getting real time feedback from the consumer, seeing how they sell relative to the other products that we’re selling. So it’s all, I mean, those insights. We opened our shop in the summer of 2018. It’s only two years old. But as we’d wanted to continue to improve around the speed that we’re able to achieve new flavors and new products, this group shot became the perfect format for us to do that. Before having the scoop shop, it was really just our internal team members, maybe some friends and family, and we’re just sending some samples around, “Hey, what do you think of these new flavors?”
Daniel Nicholson:Maybe we would look at some data. Maybe if we have our hands on spins reports, or other data sources, we could begin to understand what is selling well out there in the market already that maybe we haven’t tapped into. So we’re looking at competitors’ products, not only from the dairy free category, but we look at the dairy ice cream category too, because we believe that our consumer is an ice cream lover. People who eat NadaMoo, they love ice cream. Some of them might not be 100% dairy-free or 100% plant-based, they dabble in both sides. We’ve learned a lot about that. So we’ve gained insights from the ice cream industry at large by looking at data, looking at what is selling well, and that’s what kind of drives our innovative process.
Daniel Nicholson:And now that coupled with the scoop shop, we have access to even more data. We have access to even more people who enjoy our brand and products. So hopefully, we’ll continue to get better and better at launching new things that are just perfect for the market that will do really, really well sales-wise when they hit the shelves. That’s ultimately what you’re trying to achieve, is putting things on the shelf that sell well like. That it’s not that difficult. It is difficult, but you can always simplify any difficult problem into a very simple snippet. Yeah. I think ultimately when we think of product development, we’re thinking about creating products that as soon as they’re on shelf are going to sell them.
Alison:I love that y’all are using that scoop shop as a little testing incubator and getting feedback right from there. That’s awesome.
Karin:Bless that scoop shop.
Daniel Nicholson:As you all can imagine, it’s been a massive undertaking for us. It’s one thing to be a CPG company. It’s a whole other thing to also operate this like brick and mortar type of operation, two very different worlds. But again, for us, it’s about taking a problem, creating a solution, and beginning to learn from that and continue to get better and continue to be able to use it as value for the bigger operation that we’re running. That’s what the scoop shop is for us. It’s marketing. It’s increase brand visibility in our hometown of Austin where we were founded in 2005. It’s about that direct consumer experience. It’s about speeding up our product development process. And every single decision you make as a company has to bring value to the table because you’re putting money in, you’re making an investment in people, and in space, and equipment and you have to make sure that you can tie any of those investments back to some form of value to the overall operation.
Daniel Nicholson:That’s what our investors, that’s what they expect from us and we have to deliver. When we have a good idea, it can’t just be a good idea. There has to be some real value there. And it’s really motivated us to work really hard in making the scoop shop a success and making sure that it creates value for the bigger company and for the bigger mission and vision.
Karin:Cool. Well, going back to operations and your operations brain, I know a lot of the CPG consumer goods brands that we work with now are only based in the US, so how was it when you expanded to Canada? What was that like? I mean, that’s just like another world to me.
Daniel Nicholson:And it is. It absolutely is. We have aspirations to grow everywhere. But again, Rome wasn’t built in a night. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes beginning to understand new markets that are not America, or very different consumer, very different purchasing process for that consumer. I’ll say we jumped into Canada. This is our second go round at Canada. Much earlier in the history of the company, we went into Canada thinking, “Oh, new distribution expansion opportunity.” And we got a distributor and we’re just going to make this happen. We weren’t ready for it. We didn’t understand how drastically different the distribution systems are and the margins that distributors work off of that are different than the US. I mean, all sorts of things.
Daniel Nicholson:We opened Pandora’s box of when we thought we were ready for Canada the first time. Since relaunching into Canada, we definitely understand it a lot better, but we’re starting slow. We know that we can obtain greater distribution right now if we wanted do. We’d have to spend a significant amount of money. And sometimes those business decisions don’t make financial sense. So we’re trying to build a brand organically there right now and we know that there are other larger retailers we can align ourselves with, but we have to go prove success in a more organic format first.
Daniel Nicholson:But yeah, I think the main takeaway is, it’s absolutely a different world and you have to have a really serious plan in place and you’d have to be open to understanding that it’s like starting a business all over again and in a new market. Cool. You’re making it here in America and you have all this scale. But launching into a new market is like building a business from scratch. So you have to have the bandwidth and the capacity to manage the healthier part of your business. It’s a little more mature than the new projects that you’ve taken on at the same time that you’re beginning to understand these new business ventures that you’ve kind of flung yourself into. So I think that’s a big part of what you have to understand at least enough to be prepared to approaching it in a healthy manner that’s possible. If you go in there with unrealistic expectations, the market will hold you up and spit you out pretty quickly.
Karin:Yeah. I feel like consumers have no idea how difficult it is. They’re coming from all over the world and they’re like, “Why can’t you just ship to me here?” I’m just like, “It is a lot [crosstalk 00:31:37].”-
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. They are just like, “We can’t find your product on our shelf.” Like “Why? Request it.” I mean, I don’t know. It’s not like we get to pick where we get to place our product. The consumer has to demand it. I think we see it every day. It’s very easy to begin to understand why we feel so powerless as consumers and as people, but at the end of the day, what we demand is ultimately what will find its way on your shelf. So if there are products out there that, that you want to have the opportunity to buy, then work on your store level staff. Work on the manager, work on writing emails to the corporate office. We don’t get to buy our way onto all of these shelves.
Daniel Nicholson:And, yeah, I think the consumer needs to understand and the entrepreneur needs to understand that we need to inform the consumer in this manner and educate them on how this even begins to work, because they always just want things to magically appear in front of them at a very convenient price for point. It’s not that simple. If we want to continue to do the good work that we want to do, we have to have a relationship with our customers and we have to help them understand what we need them to do so that we can do what we want to do and continue to build our businesses and then create greater impact in the consumer packaged goods space.
Alison:Can you tell us how you get your consumer to do those things? What are some ways that other CPG brands can ask their consumer to go ask for the product?
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. We answer to any of them and all of them, whether they communicate with us via email through our website. We kind of have a general inquiries area on our website where if people have a question, shoot us an email. We’ll read it. We will think about how to respond to it. There has to be some thoughtful communication. That happens on social media too. If you build a social media following, those are the people that for now are the lifeblood of your organization. And if they DM you, read it, respond, have dialogue, have that conversation. It is tedious. It is absolutely tedious. It takes time. It takes energy. But if you’re not spending your time and energy engaging with your consumer, you’re losing. You’re not listening to them, you’re not talking to them, and you are neglecting that connection.
Daniel Nicholson:Those are the people who are going to be your brand champion over time. And you have to, whatever the opportunity, if it’s in a demo. Of course, we’re not doing demos in COVID right now, but if you were. If you’re doing a demo, engage with that consumer, listen to them, take feedback to heart. If you’re at a large scale tasting event, same thing like you’re engaging with your customer or a potential customer. Talk to them, listen to them, hear what they like, hear what they don’t like about your product. And same thing through email channel, through social media. It’s really about taking the time and energy to understand how important your customer is and learning from them by engaging with them.
Karin:And the advocates of your brand, there’s so many, there’s so many. I remember we’d be at those conventions, we’d be like at the Natural Foods Convention, you guys always had a way of attracting these big name influencers that are just singing your praises. I think it’s a true testament to how good the product is, but also how well you built community. And the campaign you just did for the anniversary where you guys got a bunch of video input and someone did like a stop motion. It was incredible.
Daniel Nicholson:People spend time and energy on doing it. I think that’s the kind of harmony that we’ve always tried to create with our customer. I tell the team all the time like, “This is still a relationship driven business. Let’s go out into the world and get to know these people.” It’s not transactional. Sure, sometimes we do. The influencers, they have to make a living too. And they created this project for themselves to do that. Yes, sometimes we have to pay them because that is a part of the transaction, but it’s so much more to us than that. We want to know these people. We want to know what they like. We want to know when their birthdays are. We want to engage with their families.
Daniel Nicholson:As the team continues to grow and expand, if everybody is of that same mentality, you get to multiply and everybody becomes a steward of the brand. I think when people are around us and when they understand what we’re talking about, and how we’re trying to go about this, I think it resonates. People want that sense of community and want to take part in that human connection process. That’s really we’ve approached it. It’s not about throwing marketing dollars around. There are some tactical things around that too, around putting your money to work in good ways strategically on the marketing side. But more than that, if you really want to create that loyal fan base, those champions of your brand, you have to desire to know them as the people that they are and it’s way more than influencing. We’re all people trying to do things in the world and you have to understand people at that foundational level.
Karin:Definitely. I feel like a lot of people will get stuck in influencer partnerships. They’re just like sliding into their DMS right off the bat, asking them for things. It’s like, you got to slow down. You got to build the relationship first and I think you guys do such a beautiful job of that. Well, if you had three pieces of advice or a couple of pieces of advice for a new CPG owner navigating this space, what would you share with them?
Daniel Nicholson:Be passionate for sure. Make sure that you were getting into this for all the right reasons. If money is a motivator, fine, that’s okay, but it won’t be enough. It won’t be enough to sustain a lasting success in this industry. It just won’t. So be passionate. Second, I’d say to some of my earlier points, stay the course. Stay the course on why you did it, why that product, what value are you bringing to the category? Because staying that course is going to be the thing that naturally continues to differentiate you from everybody else. If you get bogged down with all the noise, you’re going to start trying to copy and follow what others are doing, and now you’re off track. Now you have no path. Now you’re following someone else’s. So be very methodical about what that path is, how you’re going to stay on it, how you’re going to stay focused on it. So, yeah, stay the course.
Daniel Nicholson:I guess the third, the word grit comes to mind. Be tenacious, be persistent. Definitely have that virtue of grit to lean on when things get really, really difficult. This is a very hard business. I like to tell CPG entrepreneurs all the time, I can tell they’re just getting started. I can tell what I’m about to tell them is going to overwhelm them or make them have second thoughts around what it is they’re doing or why they’re doing it. But if you cannot grasp the reality of how difficult this business is and even more so how difficult it will be to be successful at it, I want to tell them as early as possible, it is tough.
Daniel Nicholson:You have to be … tenacity, grit, all the toughness words. You’re going to have to be persistent in the pursuit of your passion and your dreams. I think those are the three super general, but I think really that’s what it comes back to. All the other work, all the other strategy and planning, those things are things that you have to do to even set yourself up for that opportunity. But when the hard times really, really come, it’s all about going back to the basics and being very introspective around how you started on the journey to begin with.
Karin:Yeah. I think that’s good for all sorts of company owners.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. It’s not just CPG, it’s very, very general, but I think these are things we hear all the time growing up, right? You’ve heard of these little one offs, people are throwing a little hint of wisdom at you, and you’re not ready to hear it for what it is. It’s not until you hit some of those roadblocks and then begin to experience those obstacles that you’re like, “Oh, okay. That made sense. I wasn’t ready to really listen to that for how powerful it was.” So I always go back to the most simple thoughts. I think there’s power in simplicity and we need to continue to engage in those thoughts to get better and better results out of ourselves.
Karin:Definitely. I think it’s so important to not overcomplicate things, which, I mean, I tend to do a lot, you know?
Alison:We all do.
Daniel Nicholson:It’s super easy to do and in a business that is so complex, like this is really what, to the points you were making earlier about the consumer not understanding how hard it is that we’re doing. It’s not our job to really let them know how hard it is. We need to make it as easy and seamless for them as possible. But if we did want to start getting them to understand what it was, I mean, we are literally importing products like raw materials from all over the world. We’re getting them all to a certain place at a certain time so that they can be on a truck to get to our co-packing facilities so that we can make finished good product so that it can be on the shelf without ever having any out of stocks over and over again for every single day of every year. We do not break. Yes, we, we take some vacations here and there, but the consumer never stop seeding. So we have to continue to make our product all the time.
Daniel Nicholson:And as you scale the problem is bigger, and the coordinating is bigger, and the communication of every single thing has to be so buttoned up and tight. Because if not, the consumer sees no product on the shelf and they think you’re a failure. And you kind of are, like you’re [inaudible 00:44:11] them, you’re failing them because it’s up to us to solve through all of the many challenges that we face to get our product on the shelf. You have to be up to that task. The consumer deserves to have that opportunity to, in a very frictionless manner, purchase the product that they’ve already chosen, they want to support. So we lean on each other so much and we have a lot of work to do in order to continue to deliver on that and build a sustainable business.
Daniel Nicholson:I think this I think this CBD coffee I’m drinking is … I think it has me pretty chatty.
Karin:No, it’s introspective.
Alison:[crosstalk 00:45:02] focused thoughts. Yeah
Karin:I love it. Yeah. I mean, and especially I think this is completely where your fulfillment operations brain comes in handy because time and time again, I just get my mind boggled by the operations teams at consumer goods brands, because they’re always the first there, they’re always the last to leave, they’re grinding because it is so hard. It’s so much easier said than done when you go to the grocery store and you pick a product off the shelf, and you’re like, “Oh, this is great. This was easy to get here.” It’s just so complicated.
Alison:It’s such a delight being a consumer. I was laughing when you were saying that you had to tell people how hard it is because, they’re just getting into the CPG space. They’re probably used to being a consumer and just being delighted all the time. And it’s basically like telling them Santa Claus isn’t real and it’s going to be a grind, but yeah.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah, it is. It’s pretty [inaudible 00:46:04]. And then as I’ve gotten more and more comfortable in my role as the leader of the company as I touched on, I started doing accounting. That’s literally where I started. Now I’m running a company. I’m running a team of 22 individuals and four different departments as we’re touching on, sales and marketing is one thing and ops and accounting and CPG is a totally different world, but one of the major challenges is getting everybody to see each other’s perspective. Can we put ourselves in that other person’s shoes? Can we even begin to understand what it is that they’re doing every day? And only then can we work in harmony and really understand how we can help each other be better at our jobs because everybody has a different piece of information.
Daniel Nicholson:We have to share it in an efficient and effective manner as often as possible or people are lost or people begin to fail to see the bigger picture that they operate within and why all of our team members are counting on each and every one of our other team members to show up to work every day and just put their best work forward possible every day, every single day. So, yeah, I think our team members still think, “Man, he’s so intense. Does he ever … ” When I rest, I rest. It’s such an important part, but when I’m on and when I’m working I’m intense about it because there’s a lot of moving parts and I want to make sure that everybody at this organization is set up for success.
Daniel Nicholson:I don’t want anybody to feel like they’re being left out or they’re not a part of the whole, because then if that begins to happen, then it goes right back to what I felt like when I worked at this renewable energy company. I was doing some job function, but nobody was really helping me see the bigger picture. I feel like when we are more engaged in that bigger picture, we’re going to do much better work because we understand why our job every day is so important from top to bottom. I would argue, we run a pretty flat organization, but you have to create some structure and hierarchy to an organization. Whether you are the c-suite executive level person or the entry level position, I don’t care. I want everybody to know how important their work is and how it contributes to us being able to provide a product to our customer when they want it. It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of creating harmony between a lot of different people to make it all work.
Karin:And that’s the passion and grit, right? You got to have it and you have it. I think that’s incredible. Then teamwork, of course, it’s like teamwork makes the dream work. It’s so true.
Daniel Nicholson:It is. It’s important to you. Yes, it’s so big on team. I could care less. Most days, I probably neglect myself more than anything, but that’s fine. I’m okay with that. That’s the position that I’ve chosen, that’s the path that I’ve chosen. I care more about our team at this point than anything that I could ever do for myself. It becomes a very selfless of selfless role. Leadership, I do believe if done right, leadership is selfless and it’s not about me. It’s about the work that our team is doing day in and day out, year in and year out that is allowing us to compete at new levels.
Karin:Hey, you’re bringing in the dairy free heat or the opposite of heat.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah. Dairy free frozen stuff.
Daniel Nicholson:The dairy free freeze.
Alison:Can we go through your favorite flavor and has it changed throughout the years?
Daniel Nicholson:Man, that’s such a hard question. So my favorite flavor is maple pecan by far, has never changed. It was the first flavor that I ever tried.
Alison:12 years strong.
Daniel Nicholson:It’s the reason I’m here today, so there’s a lot more past flavor. There’s sentimental value in maple pecan. Sad news coming soon about maple pecan, but sometimes you have to make business decisions too, right? If I could impart some additional lessons on entrepreneurs, yeah, sometimes sentimental value is great and real, but if the data is showing that you could be making something else that is going to sell better and is going to do better for your customers, better for your retail partners, you have to do it. But yeah, I will probably keep a very private stash of that product. We’ll probably make one last run and I’ll keep it in my own personal [inaudible 00:51:48].
Alison:You could do seasonal Daniel’s flavor.
Karin:Yeah. Just completely rebrand and [inaudible 00:51:55] maple pecan.
Daniel Nicholson:But yeah, maples my favorite. It’ll never change even if we never make it again. But at the end of the day, when I try all our different flavors … I don’t eat ice cream all the time as it is work, but when I do eat our products, I’ll take a random flavor that I haven’t had in a while. I’ll take it off the shelf, I’ll scoop myself some scoops. And I’m constantly amazed at how incredible our flavors are. It blows my mind. So maple pecan, but they are all our children [inaudible 00:52:37] the same. I think ice cream, it’s so consumer driven. Everybody has their all time favorite ice cream flavor. Mine is maple pecan because pecan prairie kind of … the butter pecan stuff was kind of in my wheelhouse as I grew up, so maple pecan kinda has filled that void for me as I’ve begun to shed my life off dairy intake.
Alison:It’s a great flavor.
Daniel Nicholson:What about you all. Do y’all have a-
Alison:I am mint chocolate chip.
Daniel Nicholson:Me too.
Alison:That was also the first one I tasted too.
Alison:Maybe there’s a thing with that. The first one you taste is just-
Daniel Nicholson:The first one you taste just holds you.
Alison:Just sticks with you. Yeah.
Karin:Yeah. The Rocky Road … forgive me for forgetting the clever name you guys came up with. That is my favorite.
Daniel Nicholson:We did things in a very not dialed there. It’s Rocky Road. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel, but we called it The Rockiest Road.
Alison:The Rockiest Road.
Karin:I love that.
Daniel Nicholson:The Rockiest Road. And of course, it’s a play on words. We really feel like as we’ve built this brand, we’ve chosen the rockiest road path. So that’s kind of why we decided to play with a very traditional Rocky Road flavor name. Yeah, I mean, ours is rockier because we’ve done it the long and the hard way.
Karin:So it’s rocking. Well, Daniel, it was so nice to have you on. Thank you so much for sharing some wisdom from start to finish on your journey and what people can take from this to do better, and be better, and create a better product.
Daniel Nicholson:Awesome. No, I thank you all for creating the opportunity for me to share. Thank you all so much.
Karin:Thanks. And then one last thing, if you’d like to leave the audience with a link, or a call to action, or a reminder of the seasonal product, here’s what you’re missing.
Daniel Nicholson:Yeah, I think, again, my big leave behind, it’s really eat more plants, eat more NadaMoo. It’s all plant-based. And if you haven’t tried our product before, we welcome you to try it for the first time. If you love ice cream, and you’ve never had NadaMoo before, whether you’re dairy free or not, it is a great ice cream product that you can consume and enjoy with minimal damage to your own personal health and even more than that, to the planet that we all want to sustain life on. So, yeah, we appreciate those who have already supported us and we look forward to those of you who will give our product the first try here in the near future.
Alison:Umai Social Circle is a CPG agency driven podcast based out of Austin, Texas. We’re excited to share more behind the scenes insights, chats with industry leaders, or whatever else we learn along the way. Follow us on Instagram @umaimarketing, or check out our website, umaimarketing.com. Catch you back here soon.