Apple and Bears: The Journey to 100% Genuine Ingredients

In this episode of the eCommerce Insights Podcast by Reach Realm, Dean Butt, the founder of Apple and Bears, shares the story of how his family-run business came to be. After being approached by a company outside of the UK to sell cosmetic products, Dean quickly realized that the products were not as they were labeled, and this was a wake-up call. Determined to do better, Dean set out to create a range of luxury organic cosmetics made entirely in the UK, sourcing ingredients locally and even manufacturing the bottles locally. Throughout the episode, Dean emphasizes the importance of perseverance, optimism, and protecting your brand.

Show Transcript

Zan: [00:00:00] Welcome to the eCommerce Insights Podcast by Reach Realm. Today I have with me Dean Butt from Apple and Bears. Apple and Bears is a family operated company producing a range of organic cosmetics that are very luxury and manufactured in their entirety in the UK.

Welcome Dean. 

Dean: Thank you very much Zan nice to be with you and looking forward to making this work. 

Zan: So just to get us started would you start by telling us a bit about yourself, your story, and how did that lead to founding the business, which I believe is coming up to a very special anniversary in just a few weeks.

Dean: Yes. Hi, I’m Dean Butt from Apple and Bears, and it’s a family run business. We manufacture organic cosmetics made in the [00:01:00] UK. And the reason we started Apple and Bears was in fact a challenge. And I’m sure a lot of people out there have a similar story to tell. My actual introduction in the cosmetic business was by default. We started because I was approached by a company outside of the UK to sell cosmetic products here, which I’d never done, but it was a challenge and I thought, Okay, let me try and market their products,

and see if we could grow another business. Unfortunately, when I received the products, the response was, what was written on the label was not what was actually in, in the product itself. People were telling me, Well, it’s saying organic, it’s saying natural, but really it’s all synthetic and the fragrance is synthetic,

and some of the [00:02:00] items are banned. So that really was a wake up call for me because you think on a product where you read the label, it’s all meant to be correct and true. But unfortunately it was a rude awakening and I went back to my prospective partners and said: “Well, the feedback is that the product is not saying what it says, you know, on the label.

It, it’s a lot of ingredients are actually banned.” So, so that was a wake up call for me, but not being dissuaded, I thought, well, let’s try and do something that actually works. Something that says the ingredients that are in the container is actually what you put on your skin and it was more of a challenge to me, and I’m sure a lot of people in the cosmetic business who started off probably had the same experience or similar. That they think: [00:03:00] “Well, we can do better, or, Why don’t we put what’s in the bottle or container genuine?” And then you think to yourself: You start off with a challenge, but then you’ve gotta make the challenge into a reality.”

And that’s where now you know, you think to yourself, How do I start? And you’re starting from a blank canvas. There’s nothing on the canvas, there’s no experience, there’s nothing. So then you’re saying to yourself, Well, you must be crazy to start. And most people will think to themselves. I can’t be bothered.

But I sat down and I said to, to my wife, Kay and the other shareholders or my children, I said, Well, this is a project that I think I’d like to try and give it her go. And everyone was behind, behind me on this. So the question was now to come up with a [00:04:00] logo, a name, and to actually approach people who actually

could formulate a product that was genuine. And when I say genuine, even the people that I approached said to me, Well, you know there’s nothing really a hundred percent organic? And that took me by surprise because thinking, well, what’s in the bottle? It has to have a shelf life of nearly three years. So it has to have some form of antibacterial, something that actually can protect the ingredients to keep it for a shelf life for that long.

It’s just common sense. If you put an apple or any fruit on the table for seven days, it’ll start deteriorating. And the same process goes with with anything that’s organic. So there’s gotta be an element or percentage in there that makes it [00:05:00] sustainable as a product. So it took me about a year fact finding, finding the right people who could actually formulate and to be honest, if you look back and you think to yourself as time goes by, you must have been crazy to start.

But the more, the longer it goes and the more challenges you face. You keep passing one hurdle after another and you get a buzz when it goes well and you get deflated when it doesn’t go well. But I think the most important thing is if you believe in what you’re doing,

your product and yourself and doubt comes in and out a lot of times, but perseverance, and you’ve gotta be optimistic. That’s what keeps us going with Apple and Bears. [00:06:00] So when we finally got the name, we registered it, we wanted to protect our trademark. So that was important. I think if you, if you got a brand, the first thing to do is protect the brand’s name and register it, so you’ve got cover there. The other thing was the formulation. We wanted it to be formulated in England and the product made in England.

 And we tried to source all of the local ingredients locally. Even the bottles were manufactured locally. The only component that comes out of the UK is the silver top because it’s not manufactured here, sadly, everything else is made in England. 

When it says made in England, it should be made in England, including the ingredients or the manufacturing process. And so we started off [00:07:00] getting our first products out into the market and the world was a different place 10 years ago. The market was a different place. There was confidence in the market and it was more brick and mortar.

So for us trying to get the products into the stores, which we had good success. The funny thing was we, found our growing market was more in Europe than it was in the UK. But for us, it didn’t matter because being a part of the bigger European family was important for us. It, gave us confidence because we could stretch out, and the German market loved the product and embraced us first.

 That was reassuring because you’ve got one of the biggest markets in Germany coming on board and the German appreciation of organic products was a [00:08:00] hate office in the UK. I think that was the reason why it took off first there then here. It was exciting for us to get calls and people wanting to have our products in the stores.

So we had a lot of buzz and the question was you’ve got to have a product, but then you’ve gotta reach an audience. And to reach an audience takes a lot of money and marketing. And as I said, the world 10 years ago was different from today. If you look back and you think to yourself, can I really carry on because I need X amount for a budget, I need production, I need everything that goes with it, packaging and, so forth.

Some people might get dissuaded. In fact for a startup that we were, I think we didn’t really look at all those in [00:09:00] things into account. If you did, then it would be very difficult to go forward. It was a question of more emotional more wanting and the drive to get this product out there more than the cost.

So I think for where we are, I think we, we did extremely well. But then moving on, we’ve had a lot of things the UK leaving Europe, right or wrong. We lost our biggest market 350 million people, including ourselves. So we lost a big chunk of our market almost immediately when we exited Europe.

And Covid was another factor that came into play. But then we were trying to get into the marketplace for brick and mortar, the whole game changed. Overnight, more or less [00:10:00] with Covid people then started to buy online because of the virus. And to be honest, that also opened new avenues for us as, a small business, because initially we started

trying to get stocks into the brick and mortar side of the business, right? Covid actually made the process faster by, people buying online, and I think the buying online market jumped maybe 10 years ahead from where it was in a slow pace that everybody now was actually pushed into one direction.

It was by online. And as you know, in England, maybe other places of the world, it drove the brick and mortar business down [00:11:00] because they were not getting traffic into the stores. And they also had to change. A lot of businesses closed down. The high streets were abandoned, in many cases, and this is the new way of doing things now.

So that gave us an opportunity to say, Well, online, you’ve got to now compete with everyone. 

People have got that drive enthusiasm to, build their own brands to get their own cosmetic products out there, whether it’s a soap bar or in any different field. But in the cosmetics it’s a growing business. Organic side of the business is really going big because in the last 10 years people have realized that I have to take care of my body cause this is the only thing

I’ve got, my own temple. And people are getting more aware of the [00:12:00] environment. It’s exciting because so many factors you have to look at now, packaging, is it good for the environment? The ingredients you use is sustainable?

So for us consciously, we thought, well, we’re putting our products in a recyclable bottle, but could we do more? And we teamed up with sponsoring a company called Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, and they do a tremendous job cleaning up the plastics on the beaches and in the ocean. So that gave us a bit of

relief in the sense that we’re doing something towards cleaning up the plastic as well. But then our products also carry an element where it’s organic, natural, which is plant based. But we wanted a consumer to also know that cruelty free to animals is very [00:13:00] important to us. And we teamed up with pet who does another tremendous job around promoting cruelty free animals.

And also with vegetarian society who understands the product saying, To the consumer, Yes, we vetted this company. What’s in the product is actually what it says. And, that gives us confidence that when we are in the market people can use our products with confidence. So that was coming back to where we originally started, where what was on the label was not what was in the bottle.

So we tried to address all these things that was concerned to us initially, and I think we have, and to be honest we find that new things will happen and [00:14:00] we will carry on sponsoring other causes that can make our products better. So that’s that’s how we started Apple and Bears. 

Zan: Perfect.

Amazing story. If we spend a bit more time talking about your products themselves, because 10 years ago, you were essentially pioneering the organic space. 

And you made quite a few decisions that not a lot of businesses have the courage to do. You went into this organic space very early on when it wasn’t as popular yet, and you’ve decided to stay in the UK with your manufacturing. Most brands would outsource their manufacturing to Asia and rely on whatever they can get from there when they’re getting started.

So if you would expand a bit more into what you’ve learned being a pioneer in the space and [00:15:00] sticking to your home market manufacturing in the UK before this was popular. What would be your advice for people that are weighing those options now. Do I go with Asia? Do I manufacture at home?

Dean: That’s a 

very good question. In fact, that was another thing that really led us. It wasn’t a question of only made in England that you could be made in the us you could be made in China, you could be made anywhere. But I think what was important to us, the carbon footprint.

So what we found 10 years ago, we could import our PT bottles from China at a much reduced price. We could manufacture somewhere else in Europe or elsewhere at a far reduced price.

But what was it costing to the planet why should I buy something [00:16:00] so far away on the other side of the planet and a ship has got a transport dead weight all the way here, and then sell it in my market here?

For me, it didn’t make sense at all. Yes, our cost for production is higher, but then our carbon footprinting is almost zero. Because we’re not importing from the other part of the world. We’re giving jobs to our local market, creating employment locally. So we’re trying to sustain employment locally, manufacturing locally.

So keeping the industry at as close as home going. And I think that because of Covid and the breakdown in supplies of good s coming from China and the components were not in time [00:17:00] to manufacture.

Everyone now was rushing into trying manufacture locally and set up, but all the industries locally were broken up. Because everyone was buying from China or a cheaper source and the local industry was breaking down and closing up and finding it was not worth staying in business and there was a loss.

It causes a lot of local employment. Your goods are cheaper coming from far away, but it’s not environmentally friendly to the environment. And in hindsight now, I think we did the right thing because now countries are finding that we’ve lost our industry and now we’re scrambling to try and get that industry back locally.

And it’s costing more. We’ve lost the technology, we’ve lost the expertise, and, and, [00:18:00] and all the expertise and technology has gone one way out of the country. So now you are looking for employment as well, and the most important is the environment. Now with global warming, you know, we’ve had the highest record of heat waves in England.

So I think it, it’s coming home to roo. So I think on those fronts, yes I can’t say that we’ve got a crystal ball and we’ve got everything right. But I think to me it was common sense or less, it was common sense a good product.

And the environmentally friendly product and what does it cost? It does cost more. Yes, the consumer does pay more, but I’m sure if the consumer works it out, at the end of the day, it’s actually not that much more then actually buying it from the other [00:19:00] side of the world. Cause you put all that cost together.

Right? And think of what impact has it cost to the planet? where has the bottle come from? Where is it being manufactured? Because they’re looking at the cost at the end of the day and saying, Wow, I’m paying this for this much when I can buy two of this for the same, the same product.

It’s cheaper buying it. I can buy an item form this store and get two for the price I’m paying for this one, but they’re not seeing all the elements that have gone into this product and of thought on all the issues that are brought up now. In fact, to be honest, it would really work it out. It works out that our product in the long run is probably better and cheaper.

And the shortsightedness of buying product at the end of the [00:20:00] world because that impact, which you cannot see, is probably tenfold.

Zan: Right. And when it comes to conveying that master to your audience, because you obviously over the last 10 years, you have been in touch with your consumer, you know your consumer.

How has your messaging changed over the last 10 years and how have you leveraged the fact that your product is cleaner, is having a lesser impact on the environment? How have you communicated that to the consumer? And more importantly, how does the consumer react

to that when they know the entire story? 

Dean: It’s very difficult in the scenario because you’ve got different parts of the world. Because now, everything is global. You can sell a product here and ship it to anywhere.[00:21:00] 

So it’s difficult to try and understand everybody’s psychic , but at the end of the day I think you have to convince yourself first that, am I buying something that’s good for me? Some customers may not want to even think that far, you know, they just see the price and they say, Well, it does what it says. I can use it. I can clean myself. I can put a lotion on my body, but at the end of the day, each one is different.

It’s what you put in the, in ingredients you put in, which actually make the product the quality it is. For marketing, it’s different because with marketing you can almost say anything and everything, and it’s not facts, it’s not factual at all. You know, because you are walking on a thin, gray [00:22:00] area where you can say

it does this, this, this, this as good as the other ones, which are twice the price. But in actual fact, there probably twice the price in our instance, because the ingredients we use are actually

quality ingredients that have been vetted and are sustainable and organic. And also there’s a difference between grades of the ingredients in there compared to the less priced brands is definitely it’s like you are putting Washing up, soap liquid on your body and or you are using a body wash that actually is good for your skin.

And that’s the difference. And trying to make people understand that is a hard sell because you find people who do [00:23:00] understand and some people. Feel that they all do the same thing. And why is this company charging so much more? it’s very difficult because you’re going out into, into the global market and each one has got their own taste, their own fragrance preference.

 And they look at the price and you think, Well, it’s not affordable.

Zan: It’s a very interesting discussion, especially when it comes to marketing, right? We always have the choice between buying premium or going cheap. At the end of the day, the consumer has to make their own decision. 

And with eCommerce, which is a relatively new area for you. Considering the age of your company , you have now access to a larger pool of people and becomes easier to target people that actually align with your values. And on that topic, almost a decade into your business. You have started transitioning from being a, primarily a brick and mortar business, [00:24:00] selling to retailers, to now going direct to consumer.

And I’m wondering what has the experience been for you as a project manager of the company , and your team? How have you faced the challenges of going direct to consumer? And where do you see that going for Apple and Bears? 

Dean: Interesting question because 10 years ago when we started, the thing was to get into a magazine and reach your audience through marketing with the popular magazines that were up there.

Vogue, Harpers Bizarre. And if you add your advert in there, you think, well, you are reaching the right target audience. And it was a source of pride getting your adverts in those magazines. And things have changed completely from where you are now in a [00:25:00] magazine to actually now getting your word out through e-marketing.

Getting your word out through the digital world and Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads. This is the new way forward and the new kid on the block, TikTok. So, it’s growing and it’s, and it’s changed completely. 

Now we get a lot of people asking us we’d like to do SEO.

We’d like you to, to come to our agency and market through us. And it’s now we don’t get so many of the magazines calling up and saying, Can you advertise with this? So it’s changed. And for, for us as a company, 10 years ago and now it’s all down to budget for marketing.[00:26:00] 

I think the most important thing is it’s money monetary that you’ve got to get the funding to do, whether it’s in a magazine or it’s getting your brand out there into the open market. And strategy. The world has changed. And everybody’s got their own idea or thoughts of how they should market and where should they put financial resources to get the best audience for your product.

And I think that was something that we had to look at as a small family business. Looking at the budget we had to get, and promote the brand. For us, e-marketing was a new challenge, but then we also found how do you identify the right company who we worked with was important because we get bombarded by so many companies.

You know, you can’t [00:27:00] go back to magazines, you’ve gotta go forward.

It’s an evolving world and e-marketing is the way forward now. So we, we are to now engage with e-marketing and also add, Facebook, Google. Because they, they’re comanding the market now. The marketplaces, if you want to advertise and get your message out there, those are the biggest platforms.

So as a company, we’ve diverted all our resources financially to towards those two platforms, e-marketing and digital ads. Now with Reach Realm, we found that e-marketing, in fact, to be honest it’s not a promotional video for you all. It’s just a factual video that I was impressed by because I could not [00:28:00] really see the depth of work that was being done by you all in the background when we first started.

And. When I was given a marketing manager, I thought, Okay, they’re pushing me off to someone else. But the fact was I was pleasantly surprised when I got the first report form on and really realizing how in depth, The behind work was actually being done by you all.

And you know I’m not, saying that other companies don’t do the same but for me personally, that was the first time I actually realized the amount of work that goes into the e-mail marketing side of it and reaching out to the consumer and where initially we started

as a family business, doing our MailChimp ourselves and get, because it’s all down for excitement in initially in the start. [00:29:00] And you’re keeping your cost as low as possible and you’re thinking to yourself, Well, I can do email marketing, I can do the posters, I can do the ads, I can do everything. And I’m my K used to tell me you’re a one man show.

And you realize that, yes, money is tight and I’ve gotta get the word out and I’ve gotta reach out, and it’s all down to money at the end of the day it’s a budget, and you’ve gotta put your money to production and to marketing and to packaging and everything that comes with it. And it’s just pay, pay, pay, pay until you get a return on sales.

And if you get a return on sales and you’ve gotta wait and be patient. And a lot of business go out because they don’t have the confidence. They go into an venture and then find because of the financial constraint and they’re not getting the sales or [00:30:00] the idea was fantastic in the start, but they, they burnt out and they close everything and say, Good riddance and are sick and tired of this and everything else.

We believed in our product, we believed in our brand. We have confidence even with all the problems that the world has faced in the last three to five years. and we are going forward. And the new way now is e-marketing. So when we came back to remarketing, we felt we had to spend a fortune of our budget,

our status resources and push it through someone who, who could actually do this professionally for us. And I think that was where it was, it came to a state where we’re now in a position that we need professional help to get the message out there. And coming [00:31:00] back to what I was initially saying, I was surprised.

And very pleasantly surprised, I’ll be honest. To learn that when I got the report, it was very detailed, which I wasn’t expecting, to be honest. And there was a strategy planned, right? You and your team and I could see now where we were going as a brand and, the world that we were heading to.

So where in that first month I felt there wasn’t much happening until I got that report. Then I realized how indepth the whole thing was, and it gave me a lot of confidence, I’ll be honest, because it was very professional. The advertising campaign on your side

met my expectation Plus. And K will tell [00:32:00] you I’m very hard to please. The other thing was on the other side, we engage with another company to take on the advertising. So pushing out the Facebook ads as well as Instagram but I think the two go hand in hand.

I think what you’ve gotta do is stick with someone, don’t chop and change. Give them a chance to develop as well as yourself because it’s, a partnership and you gotta go further, in my opinion. Because if you think to yourself, Well, I’ve done this,

and it’s not working and chop and change in, a short period. I don’t think you are going to go far. I think longevity, I think stick with it, let it carry on and build on it and let it [00:33:00] grow. I think that’s important. So I’m very, very happy and content with your side. And I think we’ve got more to do on the ad side, which we are working on.

So out of the tool, I’m happy at least one is being taken care of, in that side. The other side, I’ve gotta now concentrate more, but on the ad side, you’ve gotta try and get the message out, the visual message. And what you’re trying to promote to the consumer. And I think that is difficult as well because it’s down to funds

again. You don’t have enough funds to hire an agency that will charge you the earth to get your message out. And it might work and it may not work, but you’re paying [00:34:00] big money and you are waiting for a result. Or you pay nothing and you might get some result or no result, or you might get surprisingly better than what you thought, but I think you have to invest in both, and I think you’ve gotta start with a budget that you can afford.

And build on it. It’s a partnership that you build. The more you grow, the more you can reinvest. And if you’ve got the right partner, I think the world is your oyster. So now it’s down back to money again. So with us as a company that adds is now the crucial part. Getting the message out to your consumer.

And trying to convey what you are trying to do and [00:35:00] finding the right target audience that believes in you or in your product. And I think that’s the difficult part. The difficult part for everyone, not only us, everyone, except for the very, very big boys who’ve got the budget, who’ve got clientele.

Who’ve been in business for 50 years plus who’ve established themselves. For a new brand, and I consider us a new brand even though we approaching 10 years, and I know people say, Wow, 10 years, 10 years flies so fast, and you can’t believe it’s 10 years already that you are in business. So for us, the e-marketing side is crucial right now, and I think that’s the only way forward now for the foreseeable future until there’s another thing that comes out that takes over e-marketing.

But right now [00:36:00] I think we e-marketing.

Zan: Right. So it sounds like the silver lining of your success and what was one of the keys. Their success was from the first moment when you started designing the product all the way through the transition that covid and switch to directing consumer has always been finding the right partners, vetting the right partners, and working with them, and at the same time believing in your product and not giving up

even when hard times do come because that over time gives you more exposure to chances to grow. It sounds like that was as I said, one of the keys to your success so far.

How does the future look like? In other words, what’s your vision for, for Apple and Bears and for the next years?

Dean: Oh. 

When we first started Apple and Bears, and in the early days, we thought, Well, I would like to see this in every [00:37:00] store, our products in every store. I’d like to walk into a store and see our bottles on the, which we did initially get that buzz. What’s the future holding because of Brexit and Covid.

And it put such a damp on the planet, not only in the UK market, I think in the world market, you think to yourself, well, a lot of business sadly went under and we know a lot of company that went under in this period that couldn’t sustain very good brands. Brands that have been in the marketplace for longer than 10 years.

And followed.

And you think to yourself, Well, do you hold back? Do you stop? You go forward because every day is a challenge. Today’s [00:38:00] market is the pound has dropped to the dollar. As of yesterday, it was $1. $1 to 1.07 pounds to a dollar. So you think to yourself, Well, for me, I thought to myself, Well, let’s go for export.

Because that means now from where we were looking at Brexit as losing a big marketing on one side, we have to look for new opportunities. If you don’t open new opportunities, then you are holding your growth. So our next market is America, and with the price of the pound and dollar, it’s more attractive now to export to America, although we don’t have a trade deal with America that we were promised, and we don’t know if there is one coming, but we’ve gotta look forward.[00:39:00] 

So, Where are we going as a company now we’ve now started evaluating our new range, which is already coming into production in the next couple of months. So we’re coming out with new products. We’re engaging with the American market more aggressively than we have ever done because with Brexit, Anything that goes now into Europe

from our side, sadly, the consumer has to pay duty and sales tax, which is really stopped most of the business going to Europe. And we are now diverting from Europe into America, and hopefully we can go back into the European market. Sooner, the better for us as a company that we can start engaging with closest biggest market next to us instead of [00:40:00] looking or a market that’s further away.

But in one way, Brexit was brought at opportunity, right where we were lazy Brexit has pushed us now to, to venture out. But I would have preferred to have stayed in the European market and pushed to America and the world on our own pace. But this is actually made it now a faster process.

And we’re now looking at the far east selling goods to the far east. But having said that, people might say to ourselves, Well, it’s fine to say you are bringing, you are now shipping goods back out for the carbon footprint to the furthest part of the world, and you are contradicting yourself.

Well, [00:41:00] yes, what we are doing, our initial stages and growth plan is we’re actually manufacturing Apple and Bears in the UK and the reason was our biggest market was Europe and we were, and still are a part of Europe, so our manufacturing base in Europe, which England is a part of Europe was reaching out to our nearest neighbors, our plan is now that we actually manufacture Apple and Bears in the American market for the American market are manufactured in America.

So Apple and Bears will be Apple and Bears made in the US for actually the U US consumer, because we still believe in our carbon footprint. It doesn’t mean that we’re losing jobs in the uk. It means we are now keeping work [00:42:00] in England and also creating job opportunities in where we manufacture. And the same would be in the far East.

So our growth plan is wherever we actually try and sell into that market, we actually manufacture in that market or in a region around it. So it might mean that we manufacture in South Korea for the highest market. America, for North America and, England for Europe. So that’s our growth plan strategy.

So we’re engaging with partners in America, and I think if all goes to plan in the next two to three years, Apple and bears will be manufactured in the US for American market.

Zan: Awesome. So staying optimistic and [00:43:00] sticking with your strategy of always being adaptable is what’s in store for you, expanding into new markets or re-expanding into new markets is what the mission is for Apple and Bears. And I think we can leave it here. I think this was a perfect conclusion to the story as well.

Wish you a lot of luck expanding into these new markets and hopefully we continue working together as we have been for the last couple months as. Thank you, Dean. 


Revolutionizing Shipping for Houseplants: The Success Story of Verdant Life

In this episode of the eCom Insights Podcast, host Zan chats with Ayelet Fairman, COO of Verdant Life, a rapidly growing eCommerce brand that specializes in house plants. They discuss the challenges and differences of the eCommerce market in the plant industry compared to other markets, with a focus on the unique challenges of shipping live plants. Ayelet also highlights the inclusivity of the plant community and how growers help each other to combat universal problems in the industry. They also touch on the topic of butterfly gardening, which is the reason why Ayelet started her business.

Show Transcript

Zan: [00:00:00] All right. Welcome to another episode of the e-com insights. This time I have the pleasure to be chatting with Ayelet Fairman, formerly in house council for Offer Cosmetics and now COO of a quickly growing eCommerce brand called Verdant Life that specializes in house plants.

And she also handles legal matters relevant to social media and influencers through her legal practice. So Ayelet thank you for being here.

Ayelet: Thank you for having me I’m excited to be on this podcast, I’ve watched e-commerce grow over the years. I’m glad we were able to connect. Zan has been a good part of helping me grow my email strategy and now my SMS strategy through his company, Reach Realm, so it’s, it’s been a good partnership and hopefully we’ll only grow in our space and so our plants will grow, which is always, you know, our fun pun here at Vernon Life, [00:01:00] we sell house plants, we ship them all over the United States for now, not worldwide.

So I haven’t been able to get you some, over there, but you know, maybe one day we’ll get that licensing done.

Zan: Yeah, it’s about I get some here as well. Got me into the Planned Parenthood 


Ayelet: Yeah, well, once it starts it’s like a bug. You, you can’t, you don’t stop Every time you see plants, you wanna bring ’em home with you. I was traveling recently and I always wanna like bring plants as I travel, you can bring plants within the US from different parts of the US with you on, on planes for the most part, depending on the states.

So it’s always something that, it’s fun, it’s a reminder. And then I always like gifting plants to people. So that’s kind of what started Verdant life was just the love of what we do and then I’ve been doing, I did e-commerce before, as you mentioned, in cosmetic, saw how powerful it was in the cosmetic space, which is still, you know, kind of [00:02:00] one of those super saturated markets.

There’s always new brands coming in. And I wanted to put it, you know, my knowledge there into something that I loved doing and like selling or of being around and, and have plants came to it. It’s also the challenge of shipping a plant is a different kind of challenge. So It was fun for us to kind of figure out how to do that.

And every brand I’ve seen does it differently and everyone seems to make it work the way they want. It’s also a very nice community. It’s very different than growers have to help each other in order to combat, you know, like universal problems in the plant space. So it’s a much more I don’t know if it’s inclusive is the right word, but it’s a welcoming industry.

So I really like that, that people are open to teaching you and helping you figure things out. If you get a plant that has something on it and you don’t know what it is, is it a disease? Is it fungus? Is it something, should I quarantine it? Should I throw it out? [00:03:00] There are people in the space who are willing to help you who’ve been in, you know, professionals who’ve done it for their whole life.

So they’re very open to that. Previously in the cosmetics, it’s, it’s much more, I guess, competitive, secretive about problems and things like that. But anyway, happy to be here and talk, talk plants, talk e-commerce and whatever else Zan would like.

Zan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we were just talking before we started recording, right? That our conversations always turn out to be very interesting. So, I’m sure that whoever listens to this will find this exciting as well. And to segue into one topic that you brought up, when we look at the, the e-commerce market and you’ve obviously experienced these two completely different markets and how they work between the companies that they’re in, those in those markets.

But with those also come different challenges, right? When you enter a new market, different challenges [00:04:00] arise. And one that I find very fascinating and the plant space is what you already mentioned, shipping, right? It’s very unique compared to the majority of other direct to consumer markets where shipping is technically not that big of an issue.

So you, you found a really unique way of bridging the problem at, at Verdant Life. How did you, how did you go about that?

Ayelet: So I, I mean, before I, I started selling plants. I, I ordered plants online. I’ve always liked plants. I would order seeds for the most part. Throughout the years I would grow vegetables. And then when the pandemic hit, I really started my garden. And doing, so I do butterfly gardening at home. I like in my, you know, thank God I live in Florida.

We have a nice piece of land. I can be outside. I know not everyone is blessed to be there. I know people, there’s an influx of people moving to Florida, moving to places where you can get more [00:05:00] space. After like lockdowns in big cities kind of pointed out that disparity, so, I do butterfly gardening at home, so I’ve always bought different butterfly friendly plants.

So it’s the, i, it’s really to attract butterflies to my yard that are native to the area. If it’s something you’re interested in doing, you should hook up with local groups because I won’t know necessarily what’s good in your area. So I was doing a lot of like plant trades or getting stuff online getting cuttings of plants and getting seeds or flowers.

So that I could do that in my garden. I also don’t like to use pesticides, so when you butterfly garden, you don’t use any sprays or pesticides. We use some natural things on our house plants here, but I, I really try to keep it in a kind of natural way. We, we actually use ladybugs as one of our pesticides methods is releasing live ladybugs because they will eat the harmful pests to the plants, but they won’t eat [00:06:00] the plant itself.

So, By getting plants, I saw how others were packaging it. It’s kind of like if you’re packaging one of a kind art piece and shipping it, how would you package that? Because you really don’t want it to break or damage. Each leaf on the plant we consider, you know, very important, especially to the customer cuz they wanna get it with all the leaves in intact.

They don’t want something That’s got it gone kind of all over the place. And also there’s soil. So as it moves, the box is gonna go upside down. You don’t want the soil getting everywhere. You don’t want the customer to receive basically a box with dead leaves and soil. So the customer experience is probably the most important in directing us how we ship.

You know, you see, I don’t know if you get Amazon over there, and if they do it the same way here you know, in Europe, as in the US. But they’ll ship a tiny little item in a huge box with like one piece of bubble that thing’s flying all over the place in the box [00:07:00] and shipping it doesn’t really matter,

cause for the most part, it’s either like a battery pack of wire, you know, whatever it is. It’s not gonna be significantly impacted by the travel. Our items will be. So we actually try to pack things very tight in the box so that they’re not moving arround. We have five different types of fillers, depending on the plants that we use.

And then depending on the type of plant, we have different packaging methods. So we try to kind of seal the soil in in the pot and the roots from the base of the stem as a plant. And I mean, I could, I could show you, but it’s, it’s a little hard to visualize it because every plant’s different. Even from the same plant family.

Sometimes, you know, my, team I have a really great fulfillment team, so we do all our own fulfillment in house and we’re really more of a fulfillment center than we are a nursery or grow house. We hold the plants, we source the plants locally. Because we’re in Florida it’s easier for us to do that.

And then we [00:08:00] hold some, we do grow some from seeds or cuttings, but every plant’s unique. So sometimes when I’m teaching someone new on our fulfillment team, I really have to be with them for almost every plant that they pack to make sure that they’re doing it right or having one, one of my other team members over there looking at what they’re doing.

Because every plant’s unique, but it after about two, three months of doing it and you’ve done enough plants, you, you get a feel for. Some of the plants we ship are carnivorous plants, so they eat pests and bugs. So like the Venus Fly Trap, probably the most famous, but we have others. And those require a bit more like humidity for shipping cuz they’re a high, you know, they’re a swamp loving, humid, loving plant.

So shipping something in a cardboard box that likes humidity. It’s also a challenge. So unfortunately we have to add some plastics to things. That’s one of my goals. Long term, reducing the amount of plastic we use, finding suitable alternatives that are cost [00:09:00] affordable. Eventually I wanna at least offer it if customers wanna pay extra, just because it is so expensive.

Some customers are willing to pay for it. Some customers don’t really want to cushion that. . But between all of the materials and looking at packaging, really thinking creatively about packaging, because I was in cosmetics, I’m very familiar with, you know, like the shrink wrapping ceilings all the way that you would package a cosmetic.

It’s also something that you don’t really want it to break. You know, a lot of the press powders can break if they’re flying around in a box or, or glass bottles. So, you know, I took some of that knowledge into how we ship and package our plants. And so far we have amazing customer reviews.

Everyone’s very happy when they get our plants in the winter. Also, shipping a plant is another obstacle. I have a friend who owns a chocolate factory and he has trouble in the summer shipping his chocolates because they will melt. And I have problems in the winter shipping my plants because they [00:10:00] will freeze.

So it’s, you know, it’s interesting to talk to him about how he, he gets a lot of cold packs. I get heat packs to ship in the winter, so my northern customers are located in some of the more freezing states. We have an option for them to add a heat pack or we will add a heat pack if we see that it’s cold or there’s a cold front, and then we will add

some of the, like we have these reusable freezer bags that you use like in the grocery store. So we have those available and we’ll put the plants in there. And we also try to limit the days it spends in transit. So we’re very particular about the days of the week that we ship. So we, you know, really try to inform the customer like, yes, your order might not get shipped the day after you place it, but that’s because we don’t want to sit and transit for a,

or Sundays, cuz UPS is still closed on Sundays and we ship primarily with UPS. FedEx is now open on Sundays and I know UPS has a long term goal [00:11:00] to be open on Sundays or delivering once they start that I could probably ship Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Right now we just ship Mondays and Tuesdays primarily, but if it’s a Florida order I can ship it even Thursday. So it definitely is an interesting challenge for sure for me to figure out what we’re doing if there’s a cold storm or a hurricane affected area. Recently we had Hurricane Ian over by us. We had some orders that were going over Fort Myers, St. Petersburg, other parts of the state. And I was just like, we’re gonna hold them.

I don’t wanna ship it and have it get stuck on a truck, or, you know, you don’t know what’s happening. So we rather hold the plants, notify the customers. We’re holding your order, we’re waiting to see how the weather pans out. And for the most part, people really appreciate us looking out for that. So, that’s really how we’ve kind of gone about it is, is how I would want it done for.

And [00:12:00] then how I would want it, you know, for my customer to experience opening it. And I remember getting one review that a customer said, you know, I think she ordered like six or seven plants. She’s like, it’s like Christmas morning when I open your packages. We use really nice tissue paper. We try to wrap everything really nicely.

So it is like you’re opening a gift that is to you, whether you’re buying it for yourself or for someone else. We do gifting too. And we get great results, from that too, where people really appreciate that we put the care in cuz they can’t figure out how to get the plant to their brand that they wanna get, you know, halfway across the country.

So, it’s definitely help me build a lot of connections with people and I think I’m still learning and figuring stuff out if anyone has suggestions or, or interesting new material. Corn starch is the big thing now is, is making stuff from corn instead of plastic. So

Zan: [00:13:00] And wheat is doing really well right now as well, right? Wheat is becoming very popular.

Ayelet: yeah, I thought it was impacted, unfortunately by the war in Ukraine, but, cause I thought a lot of wheat comes from that region, but it’s a lot of these newer technologies are just not widespread enough to. Break things down. Like I, I would love to use recycled water bottles as our planter pots because for the most part, people are probably re repotting their plants, or as the plant gets bigger, you don’t need to have like a really beautiful or branded planter pot.

If we could figure out a way to get those plastics down. There are some companies doing it. It’s just so cost prohibitive right now. But I’m always looking at it and I’m always, you know, I’m in the industry, so I get ads all over Facebook. There’s a new kind of, of like, pellet that you can use as like an additive or a topper.

Like instead of using rocks, you can use this [00:14:00] pellet that’s from recycled materials. So we’ve looked at adding that instead of having rocks for people to have, because the toppers of the plants help reduce bugs and. Issues people have for drain, improved drainage in the pot, pot itself. So yeah. I could talk hours about all of I know if you, any questions, comments, or your experience if you’ve had and in shipping any of Interestings,

Zan: Yeah, ship shipping is an interesting part of it. I think that especially now when things are becoming more local, right? People are starting to realize that hey, maybe ordering something from, you know, halfway across the globe is not the best idea. People are kind of getting used to paying for shipping again, which is very interesting.

And they’re willing to pay for shipping if the experience is better, and it seems like, working with you, for example, we’ve noticed that that’s also the feedback that people are now willing to [00:15:00] go, okay, Amazon gives me free two day shipping, but I’d rather pay for shipping if my experience is gonna be better if I get my product

the way that I want it. I wonder how has that shown, you know, from a business perspective, we can talk about the, you know, the general objection, objectives we have with things like that, but how does that reflect on you as a business when you invest in this much effort and making sure that the product arrives in as perfect as possible condition?

Ayelet: So we, I mean, we tell our, our clients when they ask us like, oh, why do I have to pay for shipping? Your plants are more expensive than Home Depot or somewhere else. And I’m like, you know, we, we have a live arrival guaranteed. So every plant will arrive to you in like a live good condition, or we will ship it or refund you and handle it.

And I think our customer service in the space, from the feedback I’ve gotten, is one of the [00:16:00] best because we actually respond to the customers. I know before I purchased, before we started Verdant Lyfe, I tried contacting some sorry, I’m just going to drink here,

I tried contacting some companies that, like the plant died within two days of arriving to me. Or the planter broke and I never got responses. You know, I kind of get it and I allow for that because they’re, for the most part, like literally farmers, so they’re not as well versed in like customer service or e-commerce or how to give the care that I think a customer expects, especially from the cosmetic space.

So when, you know, being in the cosmetic space, that’s really like if you didn’t offer good customer service, you had no chance, of surviving, but really giving our customers the attention, the care. They would send us pictures, we would resend them plants. I have a customer who, you know, [00:17:00] it was just too hot, I guess, in her area,

she wanted us to wait till the fall to reship her order. Things arrived really like, wilted. So we said, sure. And now we just reshipped it to her, you know, we told her, let us know when you’re ready and we’ll reship it. And we just reshipped it, and it’s been like two or three months since, you know, we, it was June probably, it’s been a while.

But they always tell us like, you, you just have the best customer service. So having, being able to respond about the experience they can expect by paying for shipping. And it’s also been like a point of contention, you know, between me, I started this with my mom, Oprah. Between us she always wants us to charge shipping, and then there’s always the, we’ll build it into the price of the plant and offer free shipping.

So I’ve seen brands try both methods. I think our customers do like seeing that they’re paying for the shipping at this point. I didn’t always agree with her, and I think at this [00:18:00] point they like to know what they’re paying for. They like to know the breakdown of the costs. Still, for the most part, it’s still not as much as we pay on our end for shipping.

So we do subsidize it, you know, a bit into the cost of the plant, but not they still see the charge. And I don’t think that deters them one way or another. I seen our free shipping promos haven’t always been successful as our free plant promos. So, Seeing our customers, you know, appreciate that experience, review it positively makes us encouraged to keep doing it and keep offering and keep working on improving it.

So that’s, you know, how we managed it and, and really just educating them. And that’s part of, I guess, where your team comes in is making sure like they understand that through their emails and stuff, what they’re getting Yeah, I’d say that’s it. It would be nice if I could just throw my products into Amazon and have Amazon fulfill it and not have to worry about it [00:19:00] and work from anywhere in the world and just let Amazon fulfill and settlers fulfill my stuff.

But I think that’s what makes us unique and that’s what makes our brand, is that we do it ourselves. And we give, you know, the experience, especially when customers wanna see a picture of the plant they’re gonna be receiving beforehand. We also offer that, that we can send them a picture. Cause we’re here, the plants that we have in stock are here.

And they’re in the same location as you ship it. I know some other businesses work with multiple nurseries around the country, depending on the location. And they will, you know, they don’t know what plant is going. I mean, it’s gonna be that plant, you know, but it might not be the exact one that they wanna see.

So those things help us differentiate our space and our customers understand that, you know, when they’re paying for the shipping, they’re, that is what they get, they get the good materials. We get quality packing materials they can reuse. If they wish. Some things are compost, you know, compostable.[00:20:00] 

So I just, you know, we use plastic wrap and plastic bags sometimes, and that, that’s where I’m like, I just don’t wanna be shipping plastic all over the us. But for the most part we’re we keep them aware and informed what’s happening and what’s happening with their plant, cause I feel like our customers like, Pets are the new children and plants are the new pets.

They really care about their plants and they appreciate a good experience and people who care about their plants too before they get them.

Zan: Right, yeah people do are shifting their priorities, right? They are caring much more about different things that even before the pandemic, it feels like the pandemic changed things drastically in the D 2 C market. And now people value things like having a, you know, a well equipped home having plans at home.

And it seems like that’s gonna keep going. Especially now during the holiday season, and [00:21:00] we’ve been working together a lot on prepping for the holiday season. And I think that’s another big shift that’s happening right now. Black Friday this year seems completely different in the way that it’s being executed than any time before.

How do you see this? What’s happening now in the market?

Ayelet: So, I’m a big target shopper here in the US so I look at a lot of target stuff and I think about maybe two weeks ago they have started having like almost daily deals for Black Friday that are the Black Friday deals. And I was just shocked. I have never seen it come up this early in middle of October, and I think part of it is supply chain issues.

And if they have the goods, they wanna sell it. Someone shared in one of my groups that there’s already Hanukkah stuff. So Hanukkah this year is in December. But you know, they, the fact that they even have it now in October, it seems to me so bizarre. And I think it’s cuz maybe last year they missed it

because [00:22:00] of the supply chain stuff. So it seems like they’re just putting stuff out on the floor as soon as they get it. It’s almost like a just in time production that’s happening. And that’s when they’re running sales. I’m curious to see behind the scenes how the big retailers are handling that because they’re very much like big planners that I don’t think they’ve really planned as much as they would’ve liked, but they had stuff like, as soon as this comes in, we’ll roll it into the so it, it definitely kind of has taken me by surprise, especially cuz I thought I was starting things early with Verdant Lyfe by starting on November 6th, our Black Friday sales, because I don’t wanna be in the crunch of shipping that I am anticipating to come the week of Black Friday, which now I’m kind of like, maybe there won’t be as much of a crunch as previous years because everyone’s starting so early and I think consumers are also

now expecting that earlier, and they’re holding off until they see something that’s [00:23:00] good enough. I feel like a lot of my customers are waiting for good sales to buy because some of my latest, you know, promotions, emails, text messages that weren’t necessarily a good sale or a good deal have not done as well as they did two months ago or three months ago.

And I think that’s because now the customer’s like, oh, well Target has a Black Friday and this one has a Black Friday deal going on. I’m gonna wait for Verdant Lyfe to have a Black Friday deal, or, or that’s where it’s coming. So it’s also weird cuz it’s a change of season. So every change of season I see my plant sales differ.

It’s because it’s a. It’s a very seasonal thing, so a lot of people are bringing in their winter, you know, their summer plants and realizing how many more plants they have for the winter. Like people will take them out to their patios for the summer, bring them in for the winter. And when you’re doing that, you suddenly, like if you acquired plants over the summer, you suddenly have so many plants and you’re like, well, if I have to get another one and you figure out where to put it, they’re not as ready to buy,

[00:24:00] so I’m not sure if it’s the Black Friday or if it’s the season change that’s affecting customers with a couple of our latest, you know, messages and campaigns. But I it’s definitely make me think how to structure things for next year already for this timeframe because that’s what, you know, we build up from June, start thinking, you know, even from February you start thinking about Black Friday promos.

And then also with Amazon kind of splitting up prime day. Also like customers since Prime Day, I think was July, or they moved it this year to August, I can’t recall, but

they had, they pushed it. It wasn’t, it’s normally on. I think something like July 11th where like both the numbers are prime or something like that was the whole origin, origin story of Prime Day was that the dates were prime and it was like a low sale time, and so that’s why they were like, this is our worst time of the year.

We’re gonna make it a holiday. [00:25:00] So, but I think this year I think they had supply chain stuff going on, so they moved it and then they split it. There was just recently another prime day and I was like, what? Why am I getting more prime emails? Like I thought this was done. But I think the consumer’s learning to kind of wait for a good deal to make it worthwhile or well in our market.

Or a plant or something gets featured or has some significance to them, and that’s why they shop. So it’s really like thinking how’s the consumer buying right now is very different. And they, they do definitely want quality goods over quick fixes is my, you know, my take on things. But I think every industry, every business experiences things differently.

So that’s just how we’ve really prepared for the holidays. We’re gonna start all our Black Friday stuff on November 5th. Now I’m kind of like, I wanna start it today, but this was, you know, we planned for it. It’s also in line [00:26:00] with daylight savings time changing here in the us which is still happening this year, but supposedly next year there will not be a daylight savings change based on

legislation I’ve seen go through Congress. I don’t know if that would be happening, but that’s my legal side right. I like to keep up with what’s going on with legislation. I don’t always believe it, but when daylight savings time changes, it’s a, it’s like a seasonal plant situation where your plants are gonna be receiving less light.

It’s as soon as the days start getting shorter. So if your plants are getting less light, that’s when they’re not gonna be growing as much. That’s when maybe a customer will start to want an extra plan or two to like kind of satisfy that, like, oh, I’m not getting new leaves, I’m not getting, you know, that satisfaction.

It’s not blooming, it’s not growing as much. So I’ll, I’ll add to the collection. So that’s, that’s what I’m hoping to see be a good success as we go, and then from there, we have a number of sales lined up through [00:27:00] Black Friday. And we’re also gonna be mindful of shipping again during that timeframe because here we have Thanksgiving’s a holiday, and then the extra

lift of orders, I think that UPS is carrying. I’m curious to see the reports on how much more and if, how it compares to previous years cuz it is a different feeling. Also, people are traveling again, so a lot of their budgets I think are shifted now a little bit away from goods. I don’t know.

There was a report about Target that they got, they had too many home goods cause they didn’t anticipate people to start traveling as quickly as they. And moving around and everything. So they had over, I guess, forecast in the home, homewares home care stuff. So they’re running major.

They’ve been since august running major sales and different home stuff, which is, you know, great for me. I buy some plant stands, I get some [00:28:00] different, you know, outdoor patio furniture in Florida’s like really cheap right now. But we have patio weather for the rest of the year will be amazing for us.

So it’s just a month ago it was terrible. Or two months ago.

Zan: You guys have it very good during the and during the winter.

Ayelet: Yes. So that’s, that’s why you live in Florida. I mean that’s why we have snowbirds come down from Canada. My neighbor her dad’s Canadian and he’s down here all winter. And my kids will play with his ki with her kids and they’ll, he’ll watch them all cuz he’s just so happy to be outside in Florida coming from Canada that it’s just such a nice change.

And that’s when, that’s what Florida is the best for. I, I don’t tell people don’t come June, July. , you’ll, I mean, it’s, I think it’s still beautiful, but I think if you’re not in it year round, it’s hard to be used to the heat the way that it is here in summers.

Zan: Right. Yeah, definitely. I’ll go to location for someone that spent most of his life in an [00:29:00] alpine region of Europe where snow is a norm. Snow and mountains, that’s what we have.

Ayelet: It’s I don’t understand. I go to cold places. I’m just such a Floridian. I’ve been so conditioned to be in the warmer climate that I don’t, I can’t enjoy it. Even here, we had a cold spell and I was like, oh my gosh it’s like freezing, like I almost wanna turn on the heat, but it was probably like fifties, which is ridiculous.


Zan: And talking about heat, that actually brings us to driving up prices across the globe. And I think that that is gonna be an interesting debate for us, eCommerce owners and us in the eCommerce space. How do we adapt to that, right? How do we adapt to the inflation that this brings and how do we react increasing prices adapting to. What are thoughts on that? How do you see that? You know, just as an example, a lot of brands are now running these campaigns where, hey, we’re raising our prices due the inflation buy now, before, [00:30:00] before we have to do so what’s, let’s say on the.

Ayelet: I mean, I think it’s a good, I think the customer should be informed that prices are going up. I generally appreciate it, but I think it’ll force people to go more local. So that’s kind of, you know, for December. And cuz of shipping stuff, we’re gonna plan a few events locally for our local community just to make, bring awareness.

We’re here if they need last minute gifts. We’re gonna be open the 24th, 25th so people can come and get what they need. And it’s gonna drive people. You know, even Amazon now, they’ll almost, they’ll pay you in digital credits not to get your orders delivered next day. Cause it’s just so expensive.

I don’t know how they can keep up. I mean, it’s because it’s just the, they have the volume. But I went to a fulfillment center. I mean the, in OPCA, Florida, I went for a tour, pre pandemic. I went to a tour of the [00:31:00] Amazon Performance Center. I mean, everything there is electronic, unless those centers are starting to run on some alternatives.

The cost, I know fpl, which is our Florida Power and light local energy. It’s going up. Everything in our area is going up. So it’s going to make them have to like find ways to be creative about cutting costs. And I think they’ve, I mean, Amazon’s been at the front of like, we’ll pay you $3 in digital credits to delay your order an extra week and get it with like your other order, your subscribe and save, but whatever it is.

So you’ll see brands start to try to incentivize you to either come pick it up at their warehouse or pick it up locally at different centers that they have stuff kind of going to anyway. I’ve also seen a lot of stuff where stuff gets delayed and the consumer getting used to stuff getting delayed is something that [00:32:00] 2, 3, 4 years ago was not, you know, Amazon, if they said it’s two days, it’s two days.

Now it’s not really always two days you, it’s gonna be five days you might, stuff gets lost. Like I, they’ve, I think had to adapt things so much and they’re gonna have to keep adapting it as energy costs go up. I don’t think alternative fuels and energy producers are quite at the level of where we are with some others and the Green New Deal or all these political campaigns around it aren’t, they’re not, they’re gonna hurt industry, I think more than help

if they start to tax any of it, at least right now. I definitely think they should continue to invest in that, in, in the technology and the infrastructure building things. I mean, I think Elon Musk did an amazing job getting his supercharging stations all over the US the way he did and getting just proving that it’s possible [00:33:00] with the right kind of management.

So I think they need to figure out a way to harness those technologies and advancements to make things more affordable, but it’s not gonna be for, now that stuff’s like for five, 10 years when my kids are big not for when in the next year, it’s just gonna be pricey, it’s gonna be people kind of counting what’s happening.

In Florida right now, I think we’re still, we have a month of like no state tax on gasoline. So it’s basically, so our gas prices have actually gone down in Florida as the rest of the country’s gone up. So I haven’t felt it personally as much yet, so I, I hear about it, and then I got notifications. I mean, ups, USPS, everyone’s raising the shipping prices.

So again, it’s like shipping’s just gonna be cost prohibitive for some items and some things you’re gonna just get it locally. I mean, already, like I think toilet paper, paper towels, things like that, that are big and bulky, but light, [00:34:00] it’s not worth shipping it I think, and that’s where I’m like, I wonder, if some of these local pickup your order businesses could really take advantage of that that you’ll get it faster and sooner.

I used to use shift to deliver my groceries. There’s some of the other like, what’s it called? Instacart, some of these other methods of getting stuff to you. If Amazon or some of these other ones will do it the right way, they’ll be able to get you stuff. And I’ve seen even just, right, I said I’m big target shopper.

The target pickup was something I used to do before the pandemic. I did all of this stuff pre pandemic cuz I have young kids, so my son was six months old at the time when it started. So for the first six months of his life, I would pick up stuff. I don’t wanna go into the grocery store, go anywhere with my baby because it’s just a headache and I have two other little kids, so it’s like

you don’t wanna go in. So I would do it, and I would feel like I’m such a [00:35:00] brat almost for doing pickup orders, like making this poor person come out and give me stuff. And now I’ve just seen how Target, at least in my area, has expanded their pickup location. It used to be only four parking spots for pickup, and now I think it’s something like 12 or 14 spots.

And then as the holiday season company have even more and just more staff on those kind of things that like the same convenience of shipping that you get, you just have to drive or go pick it up. So it’s not as, as much of a headache. You don’t have to go into the store. Cause I think that’s where people like don’t wanna go into the store.

They know what they want, they want it brought to them. That’s where Amazon just became so convenient and I’ve actually tried to stop buying from Amazon as much because I feel like the quality has gone down because that’s where they’re cutting the costs, the quality, the customer service, like the goods themselves sometimes are very misleading about the sizes of things.

So I, I try to shop more [00:36:00] local stores, get my gifts locally and things like that over the season. But it’s hard.

Zan: It is. It’s changing the dynamic right? I feel we’ve seen at the start of the pandemic everyone was just ordering delivery. Everything was delivery at home. And then all of a sudden in the second path, part of the pandemic, now across the board, everyone just started doing pickup. And I think that that is, I was just reading the Shopify is actually expanding the technology for pickup so they can support it.

Which is a, is interesting that, and also looking at the both markets, right? Looking at the US and Europe. In Europe, because a lot of the delivery is done with bikes instead of cars. That hasn’t been such a quick shift then I’m seeing it on the US market. 

Ayelet: Yeah it’s good that it’s bikes. And even in New York, I mean, I remember, you know, traveling to New York and getting Uber deliveries and the Uber drive, Uber [00:37:00] drivers or bikes on bikes and you know, the bigger cities, the more congested, I mean, a lot of Europe wasn’t designed for the size of cars that we have nowadays.

So it’s one of those things where it’s like you, you gotta adapt your place. But it’s interesting you talk about the pickup with Shopify. We actually turned our pickup off a few months ago because we had a lot of customers selecting pickup as their checkout method and they weren’t located in Florida. And we would message them and be like, so it gotta the point where we were spending so much time on customer service with our pickup option of like having them bill them for the shipping and then they would just cancel their orders.

We were like, okay, we’re gonna take, because we didn’t get that many pickups. We had maybe like just a few, a handful every week. Where like it’s, we prefer to just not have it, but we have delivery available and then we tell people, you can come here. So, maybe for the holidays we’ll turn it back [00:38:00] on. And if they’re expanding their technology, I mean they, there’s an option at checkout and it’s like a, it’s a separate fulfillment queue for the pickup orders.

And same with, we use the delivery right now. Because that way it goes by the address. So it’s the range of the address from us, so it’s not an issue. But the pickup, I didn’t want it to show to people who are, weren’t in Florida, and maybe they’re allowing that. Now, if your delivery or your billing address isn’t in Florida, I don’t want pickup to show for you because I don’t think you’re gonna actually come to pick up and then, you know, it’ll be a bit of a headache for me.

So to deal with the customer service. But maybe we can turn that feature back on during the holiday season because people did like it. And when they would come to pick up chances are they would end up buying something else, cause they would have to come in the building. I mean, if people were scared of the pandemic, I told ’em to just call me and I’d bring it to their car, put it in the trunk.

But we’re not, you know, it’s not quite the same. Target has the [00:39:00] option. I’m assuming you’ve never done a pickup, at target yet, but you know, you notify them when you’re heading out Target and then you notify them when you arrived at the parking lot and your space number, and then it like lets you know that it’s on the way and it gives you a code to give the person.

And I’ve just seen them change that over the year since I started in, you know, 2019 or whenever they started pickups available in my area, I was like, oh, this is great with the little kids. It was amazing. So I My husband laughs that almost every time we drive by a target, I have a pickup order. I’m like, oh, can we just like, we have to go there.

I just have an order to pick up. Like I almost always have a target pickup order waiting with one or two things for the house or whatever we need detergent and it’s just the convenience has outweighed using Amazon and the two day shipping and feeling like I’m getting a truck that drives into my neighbourhood.

I don’t need it, but I also do art and a lot of my art supplies I can’t find anywhere locally, so that’s been [00:40:00] killing me. I’m trying to find local or US based suppliers for some of my art materials, and it’s just, some of them are so unique that I can only find it on Amazon at like a reasonable price, so, or a website I can use.

So a lot of these companies. That’s the other thing is some of these other specialty industries, they need to adapt their websites for mobile. Like they haven’t done it yet. And I’m just like, what? What are you waiting for? Now? We’re about to launch a new version of our website that’s a Shopify 2.0 theme. We were on a theme that our developer built off of it’s like a custom theme, but he built it off of a standard theme on Shopify, the debut.

And it was a 1.0 theme, and I think about six months ago, or maybe 10 months ago, the Shopify launched 2.0 themes that are more dynamic and faster. So we’re getting ready to launch that theme shortly. And I’m only looking at it on mobile when I’m testing it. I, my developer keeps. [00:41:00] He gives me pushback cuz he looks at it as desktop and I’m like, I only am looking at it as a mobile view.

I’m not even bothering with desktop because desktop converts so high already and I know everything’s gonna work because he’s looking at it on desktop that I’m like, I don’t even need to waste the time there. And then I have a team that’s dealing with our conversion rate optimization. So they look at it from every angle, but the ones that I wanna care about is just mobile and some of the smaller industries

are gonna have to think like these smaller mom pop like little companies that haven’t adapted to the pandemic or anything. They need to get it mobile first. That’s my, I do pottery. So the clay supplier the website, you cannot use it on your phone. It’s like old school. It’s, it feels like geo scapes or geo cities back in the day.


Zan: Yeah, MO Mobile is. Is definitely something that people overlook. It. It’s interesting you bring it up because earlier [00:42:00] today I was actually looking at your data and data from a couple of other clients and just mashing it together. Mobile, cause like the mobile traffic is 88% of traffic across our client portfolio,

and you mentioned that people convert more on desktop, but actually I don’t know if you noticed that, but if you look at people moving through the websites, it’s typically people make a buying decision on their phone, add products to their cart, and then they go to the desktop to pay. And that is, is causing a lot of these conversion rates as well because people are just buying more comfortable paying for on desktop, but they make shopping decisions on their phones. Now you shared with me your art projects the last time we spoke, and you also mentioned the new theme launch right now. So those are already two exciting projects that you have going on. Which other projects, or maybe one of those two is something that you’re really focusing on the most [00:43:00] right now and are looking forward the most to sharing with your audience.

Ayelet: So we’re, I’m very excited to see the response to the new website and I’m excited to see just the speed, cuz that’s something the Shopify they give you the speed report and it’s always low. I mean, I have not seen a website above 70% consistently that actually has google tracking like pixels installed, has Facebook pixels, has a chat bot, has, you know, functionality that I’m like, I’m not giving up the non-negotiable functionality that I’m excited to see

if that improves the speed, which in turn will improve customer experience. A lot of our demographic is older, but so they’re not as good with technology. But if you make it easy to use, They will use it. So I wanna see how they react to this new website and all that. So I’m excited to share that with my audience.

I’m a little bit [00:44:00] nervous about sharing it right before our Black Friday sales, but I think it’ll be okay. I think I have enough good people on my team. Thank God that we’ll be able to make sure that it goes okay when we switch websites. But I also, I’m excited to share some of these art projects locally and I think I might expand them

to be kits for people, but we are gonna be doing these more frames. I laser cut and that’s what you reminded me of the website. Like I add the laser cut materials to my cart in on mobile, but I actually go to my desktop to check out because I can’t see my cart properly with one of the laser cutting websites that I use and they’re like a young local company.

And I’m like, I don’t understand how your website is not like ama and it’s Shopify. I’m like, why is this still bad on mobile? But I go to a checkout on the desktop, so I actually have to do that today cause I need more materials for these workshops. We’re gonna do with moss art. So the moss is gonna be a preserved [00:45:00] moss.

We currently have a couple options that are completed. So I have a laser cutter and we design letters and custom designs that are then put, You know, wood against the moss sheets that we have, and it’s a real moss that gets preserved and died with natural dyes and then it requires no watering, but you get to add greenery to your space.

It doesn’t have the same effect of cleaning your space, but it definitely warms up any space that I’ve seen these pieces in. So it’s on our website. On the left hand side, you look at the botanical art. You can see all the different pieces that we have with that. For the holidays, we’re gonna launch this box that you then can add pieces of moss to, in different colors to make beautiful pieces.

We’re we, were gonna run some workshops locally for people to come here and kind of bring awareness in the area of our presence because we haven’t spent, we spent so much time [00:46:00] growing our e-commerce. We haven’t spent a lot of time on local campaigns. We’ve done some farmer’s markets. We did two years of farmer’s markets.

We’ve done other activities in the area. But they’re more popups and people don’t realize we have a permanent location they can come to when we do those popups. So I was like, if we invite everyone to come here, we have a beautiful space, we have beautiful plants, and we’ll do something, you know, maybe either martinis or wine and making art

pieces that you can bring home and then decorate your space that you’ve made. I think every one of them that we’ve tried making, I’ve had some people on my team try making them who aren’t artists necessarily, so that I see that, you know, everyone will create a beautiful piece to bring home. So I’m really excited to share that with our customers, for them to see it.

I’ll be curious to see if people want kits that they could do it at home, not necessarily in a workshop that’s more educational. So those are some things we’re definitely trying to [00:47:00] make, give people more unique experiences, but integrating plants into those experiences. I have actually tomorrow a workshop.

I need to prepare some stuff for a succulent arrangements for a workshop I’m gonna do in January for someone. And they wanted me to bring some pots and then explain like how to plant them, what the plants need. And teach people basically how to become planned parents, which I’m always happy to teach and share, you know, with my art.

I do other, I do resin art too, and I was trying to figure out how to incorporate that. I think I might do that with our terrariums, but not yet. But that, that’s, like, I, I have more ideas than I have time to, to execute them all. So that, that’s why main hold up is, is not enough time in the day.

Zan: Right. I mean, that that’s a typical problem, isn’t it? 

Ayelet: Yes,

Zan: I think what a lot like in it, it’s sometimes better to have more to do than, than not enough, so, , still, still doing better. Now. So anyone that’s in the area should definitely drop, drop by for one of [00:48:00] these workshops and see how, how you guys handle these.

Now, just before we, we wrap up my last question that maybe wraps the entire conversation. We talked a lot about the future of e-commerce already but how do you see Verdant Lyfe and everything that is around it. All, all the projects that you’re running for it and the e-commerce industry moving ahead in the future?

Ayelet: I really wanna get a stronger footprint with some of the more unique items that we sell and carry that you really can’t get anywhere. I, we have a mounted, we have some plants that are mounted. It’s hard to purchase mounted plants. It’s also hard to ship a mounted plant. So our mounted staggers are our most popular, but really more education around that.

Expanding our educational arm. I wanna get more content up on our website that is informative. And then also building out a good client base locally. And then for the third thing we [00:49:00] wanted really grow. We launched a corporate gifting program, but really wanna expand that option. Like we said, you know, people are working from home.

A lot of the companies have reduced, you know, overhead costs for space. I think they can send a plant from their company that might have a logo or the branding. I can do custom things. That’s like, Hey, you know, we wanted to make your space nicer to work in. When you’re working there, here’s like a plant for you to put on your desk or succulent or something.

That really just is a nice touch. So growing that over the holiday we still have a bunch, but we will keep growing that into the new year and getting someone who can manage some of that load will be part of our continued plans into 2023, which is insane. I can’t believe it. And then continuing I also wanna. That’s something we’re talking about is swap out some of our plants. Some of our plants don’t do well in shipping, and that’s part of the strategy. So in January [00:50:00] we’re gonna be doing like a last call for some plants that we’re just not gonna stock anymore. They’re not as hardy, they don’t do as well in shipping.

I mean, I know our customers want them but they’re gonna be just available locally for pickups, so we’re not gonna ship those. And really tailor down our assortment and create more content around the tailored down assortment that can show people how they can, you know, add to their space, add, you know, more clean air to their space.

And of course, what we always wanna do, more giveaways, more colabs with other brands to do giveaways and give back to a lot of our customers who follow us, engage us on social media too. So even if you’re not in the US you can give us a follow on Instagram. We try to do some interesting content that might inspire you and inspire you for your space.

How to decorate, how to do things. And some of the art projects we have coming, we’re gonna put on there too.

Zan: Great. And for anyone that’s in the eCommerce space, I think that looking at your marketing could be an inspiration as well. So they should, not copy too [00:51:00] much, but still they should still follow you for sure. Awesome. I think this is a good space for us to leave it, Now just before we do that if someone’s looking to make the space look better, if they’re looking to follow you around and the art projects or maybe even for, to work with you through your legal practice, where can people find you?

What else they should know?

Ayelet: So, if you message us through the Verdant Lyfe website, which is v e r d a n t, lyfe, l y f e. Dot com, I get all the customer service messages come directly to me so that I can see if anything’s an issue immediately. And then I have my mother helps me manage some of it. And some of our team answers it depending on priority but they can email me directly.

My name’s a Ayelet it’s spelled a y e l e t at verdant And I’m mostly just registering trademarks now for my legal practice because I [00:52:00] burnout life has taken up. Thank God it’s grown and taken up a lot of my time. So we’re just sticking with trademarks for now. So that I can give, you know, even my clients in the legal practice, a good experience, but definitely reach out.

I’m always looking to collab. I’m always looking to get inspired and meet, you know, other cool people in the e-commerce space. And honestly, anywhere I’ve, I like meeting people doing interesting things,

Zan: Perfect. Awesome. So definitely people should check that out. I thank you for being on. This was fun as always, and I hope we can do this again

Ayelet: Thank you.

Zan: soon.

Ayelet: Definitely. I’m happy to be here and thank you for inviting me. I think it’s a great service that you’re giving through this podcast, and we’ll continue, you know, to be in touch and maybe we’ll be back down the road.

Zan: Perfect. All right.


How Burju Shoes Laverages Social Media For Hyper Growth

In this episode of the eCom Insights Podcast, the founder of Burju Shoes, Burju Perez shares her journey of how she overcame the gap between dance and fashion shoes and became the market leader in the process. From studying business in college to becoming a professional dancer, Burju shares how she started her own e-commerce business and grew it to become a fast-growing company in the industry. Listen to this episode to learn more about Burju’s story and how she turned her passion for dance and fashion into a successful business.

Show Transcript

Zan Vipotnik: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the e-com Insights podcast. Joining me today is Burju Perez, the founder of Burju Shoes, a brand that overcame the gap between dance and fashion shoes and became the market leader in the process.

Welcome Burju and thank you for joining.

Burju Perez: Thank you, Zan. Thank you for having me. I’m honored and excited.

Zan Vipotnik: Perfect. I am excited to talk to you as well. I think we have quite a few interesting stories to go over and hopefully you have enough time to go over all of them. So just to get us started can you tell us a bit more about yourself and Burju Shoes just in a nutshell.

Burju Perez: Sure. I was born in Istanbul, Turkey came here with my parents to New York City dance, and the arts were always a part of my life. But my generation definitely was not encouraged to pursue dance and arts as a valid career choice, I would say. So I kind of followed the path of what the norm was [00:01:00] for my generation.

But I couldn’t help but still do the thing that fed my soul, which is the arts, which is dance, music, all those things. So, you know, I, out of college, well, in college in general, didn’t have any idea what I really wanted to do. So I did what everyone else did and studied business because it’s as general as psychology or any other major as you can get.

Went into kind of the corporate world for a couple years, this is in 2000, I actually graduated in the year 2000. And then, you know, still was kind of dancing, and my then boyfriend at the time was my dance partner. We started dancing Latin, to specific, to be specific Latin style dances. Got into some good gigs and really it took wind.

We became professional dancers, two years in the corporate world, and I quit to become a professional dancer, contrary to everybody’s professional advice. I said, well, you know what? I’ve got this one life to live, so I’m gonna go for it. And you know, back then there was a thing called job security, right?

So everyone was like, you’re crazy to give up such a secure job and insurance and all [00:02:00] that, and I was like, well, man, I’m crazy. So I went for it, and I’ve always had a kind of thing for some fashion specifically shoes, I’ve always had a little bit of a obsession with heels and things, so it was always kind of bedazzling and DIY customizing my little dance heels that I felt were very let’s just say,

you know, lack personality, you know, it was just all this tan satin, especially in the Latin dance world, very tan satin, like everything was so pizzazy up in the costume, you know, all these gems and glitter and the shoes were kind of like, meh. And so, I kind of did my own thing. Did it as a little side hustle for like other dancers that would be like: “Where’d you get your shoes over?”

“Like, I did it myself.” They’d be like: “Here’s mine. Can you do the same?” I’m like: “Sure”. Never knew anything about manufacturing or e-commerce, so, I mean, granted the internet, you know, really blew up when I was in college, so never really had foresight into any of this business or this, I would, I don’t know if this was a dream, but you know, it was fun.

I did it as a side thing. I kind of become a [00:03:00] reseller for a couple of brands and again, would continue to customize and do unique things to the shoe. Never thought that I would actually start designing, cuz that wasn’t my background either . And I just had one day an opportunity to do my own label. I think a factory reached out to me.

I was like, this must be a scam. But I said, I don’t know what I bought into the scam. I said here’s $5,000. Send me five designs that I just drew up. And it turned out not to be a scam. And here I am today. You know, fast forward. After 15 years dancing professionally, loving that career path, of course.

My then boyfriend and partner became my husband, and business partner. And we decided to start our family, at which point we thought, hey, this little e-commerce thing kind of might have some wings here. So we went for it, and today we’re here, survived a pandemic somehow and. Finding some growth, thankfully.

Thanks to a great team. Of course.

Zan Vipotnik: Not just a bit of growth, right? You’re growing very fast year over year, [00:04:00] which is good to, to see as a business owner. But before we go into that, because. I think that’s an important topic, but an important topic for us to cover sooner is I’m interested. How did your of course, you know, going from business school to a professional dancer, which is to a diff completely different topics, how did these two things influence the way that you built and are still building your brand?

Burju Perez: So it’s very interesting. Being a professional dancer still does require business networking skills. Of course. I mean, you’re ultimately running a business, managing yourself, advertising you know, you have the accounting side of things, you know? At some point you might, we built it to be a little bit of an entertainment company where we were, you know, training other dancers and teachers to go out and do gigs, basically trying to duplicate ourselves, if you will.

But what’s interesting is in hindsight, looking back what was taught to us, excuse me, in [00:05:00] business school and that era, I’m talking about 96 to 2000. The traditional forms of business was, you know, wasn’t based on social networking and your brand as much as it was like you make a business plan, you go to a bank, you get a commercial loan, you do this and this and this and this.

And you know, maybe a little bit of learning how to build a website was in there because it was the new thing. So it helped, but I think what ultimately helped us succeed in, in that business is learning quickly that how to network social networking, whether it was online or in person, was the vital thing to our businesses,

definitely. It was getting out there, talking to people, letting people know what we did, who we are, because if people like you, What do they do? They support you. They buy from you. They become a customer, they become a supporter. They, you know, a fan if you will. They’ll share you with other people that might enjoy your services or what you, your story, right?

So we, you [00:06:00] know, my husband and I learned early on that this kind of social networking, again, on or offline was kind of crucial, to building our, at that time dance business, which was our primary business. So we were out there networking with nightclub owners, you know, different corporations, “Hey, do you guys want a salsa class for your Latin Heritage month?”

You know, like things like this, you know, where there were dance festivals, we were submitting audition tapes, we would even sometimes fly ourselves there just to be there in person and network and talk to people. Cuz in, at that time, in that industry, definitely that was crucial. You just had to get your name out there, you had to be in front of people.

And you know, to be honest, I was very resistant when it came to social media. Initially I refused to have a MySpace. Like when everyone was doing my space, I was like, yeah, I’m not doing that. just I’m, it’s not me. Like, yes, I’m a very social person. I love being in front of people, in person, but this whole living my life online, I wasn’t trying to do it.

Facebook came along, still wasn’t trying to do it. I was very hesitant. And I think it was [00:07:00] 2009 when I finally caved in. And I did it because I was like, okay, maybe this will help our business. So, the most important thing is I, I learned that adaptability is really important. You know, things are gonna change, technologies are gonna change.

At the core of it, I find still kind of that, so like being. Present with people, you know what I mean? At the end of the day, talking to people again, whether offline or online, is at the core of everything we do even today. I don’t mean to fast forward, but we take our interactions with the community very seriously.

So on social media, I have a team of people. Literally just answering every single DM, like, and every single comment, because I’m like, this person took the time to write a comment. We are taking the time to write a comment back. And at the very least, liking their emoji if they put a smiley, hard eyes emoji because they took the time to do it.

So we wanna know that they, we saw them just like they saw us. And so I think that has been kind of at the core of my experience from university going into corporate. It’s just like it’s, you know, [00:08:00] We wanna connect with people. Connecting is so important. So I don’t know if that answered your question, but it was like, it’s like, it, it helped and it didn’t, you know, it was kinda like, yeah, throw all that away.

We’re gonna do it this way anyway,

Zan Vipotnik: Right. And it actually seems, it did it did help, right? Because anyone that is listening to this and hasn’t checked out your social media yet, they should definitely do it as a best class execution of social media, a hundred percent. And it, it, it shows through your growth, right? For not just as a brand and as a, as a business.

You grew through your social media presence and through yourself putting yourself out there you didn’t have this conventional growth path of figuring out ads and, and you know, tweaking them for a few percent conversion rate. You put yourself out there, build authentic relationships and I wonder how does that affect your day to day?

You already mentioned that you have a team of people just making sure that everyone’s heard. But if you look at, at it from a business perspective, [00:09:00] how is that impacting your business? This decision to be much more personal than most brands.

Burju Perez: It’s, it is wonderful and exhausting at the same time because, you know, to constantly show up online it is you know, and we definitely, my team supports it and encourages me that show your face, you know, especially when it comes to educating and informing. Cause there’s different ways to connect with people, right?

You can entertain them. So sometimes just showing cute little transition video of some feet turning into shoes is great. That’s entertaining. Three seconds. People are, oh, that was cute. I like that. Hard eyes, right? But then there’s the information like, why are our shoes different? Why does this make a difference?

Why do you wanna take care of your feet, especially as a dancer if you’re gonna be wearing heels? Like all that kind of stuff coming out in front of the camera and being someone that has experienced 15 years of it as a professional dancer and speaking why I did what I did, why I used what I used, what, you know, what goes into it, what, who I am as a person who we are as a brand, what we stand for.

Even, you know, being transparent [00:10:00] about where we stand on social justice and issues. I mean, especially because the community and the audience that we cater to, like these people, like wanna be heard, wanna be seen, and very important. So they’re spending money with us. We wanna make sure that they know we also

stand with them in the things that matter. So, you know, it, it takes a lot. It’s a lot personally being, you know, someone that is kind of the brand. I mean, I, against my better wishes, it was named after me. I didn’t really think I wanted to name a brand after me, but my husband and, you know, close friends and networks said “No, no, it’s unique.”

It, it, it’s about you, what you’ve created. So go for it. So now it’s kind of like something you have to maintain and there are days you just don’t feel on, you know, you’re just like, I am in a sweatshirt and I just, you know, my kids were driving me crazy, yet I just don’t wanna get out there. But you do it and it always feels good when you do it.

And I see the impact it has. I think people really respond and resonate with authenticity and like I said, valuable information, not [00:11:00] just content for content’s sake, but, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” “Oh, that’s so interesting.” “I didn’t realize, you know, blah, blah, blah.” All these different things where fed so much information nowadays,

so it’s really hard to know what’s you know, relevant, accurate, correct. So when it comes to this little pocket of information, when it comes to dance shoes and taking care of yourself, you know, if I’m kind of a, an expert on the topic, then you know, I wanna show up and make sure I keep giving the community as much information as possible.

But definitely the team makes it easier because while we can put out the content, You know, and, you know, batch it, there’s all these techniques, you know, that people tell you how to do it. I think the team is what, you know, between, like I said, answering everybody. I can’t get to everybody myself personally.

So I’ve got a team of people that are just as knowledgeable and they, I say, listen, if you can’t answer the question, I’m a text away, right? Like, text me, I got you. Or if you feel like the question requires more than a simple answer on a dm, like, I need to make a video on that because more than one person’s asking, maybe it’s a new [00:12:00] topic we discuss.

Great. Like, so, getting organized, having a backup. And that also gives us an opportunity to kind of hit all the time zones, right? Cause I’m not gonna be on 24/7, like, I need a break, I’ve got a family and so does, you know, my team. So, because we’re in different areas and appreciate the flexibility,

someone can be on morning hours, someone can be on afternoon hours, evening hours. So, getting organized you know, having kind of clear meeting with everybody, having clear objectives for the month and what the messaging is, and just everybody having their roles has been critical to having success on social media.

And to be honest with you, we tried the paid ads route, you know, when. On Facebook when everyone was saying, oh my God, this is the way and we’re spending crazy amounts of money. And you know, right up until the pandemic, actually we were spending a lot of money trying to get the, get this to grow the, you know, the whole, if you build it, they will come kind of mentality, but we were just not seeing it.

Like what they were saying was the return, you know, with the attribution models that were [00:13:00] in place, it just didn’t make sense. I was like, yeah, but the bank account isn’t growing. is not showing the numbers that this 10 x is showing, I don’t understand how this is working out. And you know, when it came to becoming in survival mode, I know, I don’t know if this is where I wanna go, but I just wanna express that, how important it is to be authentic because we cut all that.

That was the first thing to go. I said before I start cutting, you know, anybody out or salaries or anything, I was like, we’re gonna cut this paid and go back to the organic, authentic. You know, let’s have people share it if it’s valuable. And we did. And between that and the affiliate marketing, honestly we experienced more growth in the second half of the pandemic year, 2020, than we ever did in like the 10 years that I’ve been doing the business.

So it was hard route getting there, you know, you wanna believe all the experts cuz I don’t claim to be an expert on social media or marketing in any way. I’ve learned a lot on my journey, definitely. But I just think it’s not, you know, paid [00:14:00] advertising is great for some, it wasn’t for me. My brand resonates with organic real content.

You know, literally every time I’ve used a professional camera and put out this flawless edited stuff, it gets like, A fraction of the views that if I just use my phone and my hair looking a little bit dishevel, but I’m just like “Hey guys, I just put this out here today. I want you to know this is the benefits, this is what you can use it for, and have fun and let me know your feedback.”

And that gets way more. Interactions. So I was like, this is working. Let’s build this more. I’d rather invest in people helping me build this more than just an ad agency that might like charge you tons of money on these paid advertisements that don’t work for me. Again, not hating on it. It doesn’t work for our brand and what we speak for.

So that’s what I learned on my journey.

Zan Vipotnik: Right. And yeah, absolutely. Every market is different, right? And you have to, as a business owner, try many things until you find the the one winning formula and you found one with your social media presence. And of course, I have to ask because I couldn’t get beyond this [00:15:00] without asking, but which one of the platforms do you see the most future in?

Right now?

Burju Perez: It’s tough. Okay. So being that I serve a very You know, people, a community of people that appreciate movement, right? Yes. There’s, you know, we can call us a fashion brand, but my, the core of my, my audience or my brand has always been in dance and movement, right? They have always been more on Instagram than Facebook, for example.

Facebook’s not the platform for, it’s not the dancers playground as much. Instagram definitely was. There is a big shift towards TikTok as the newer shinier version of that. And now the two of them are kind of, you know, doing their thing, battling to find, you know, their place. But I think Instagram definitely still has its strong hold.

TikTok is great for going viral which, you know, I think they, you need to be able to use, I need to be able to use them strategically, just like Twitter’s not necessarily a platform that’s geared for us, but [00:16:00] what we’ve decided to do is, for example, use Twitter as an opportunity to have our voice when it comes to social justice and things that matter and what we’re trying to do as a brand fumbling through becoming more sustainable and all the different kind of trials and tribulations about that.

So I think. And on Facebook, we still go back to recognizing that it might be an older generation of dancers that might still be on there that wanna connect and make it more, you know, suited to that. So I think It’s different for each platform. So if for going viral and getting a bigger audience, definitely TikTok and still Instagram.

Those are the ones that seem to get the best results, I think. But they all kinda work together because you, you know, and, and emails everything too. I mean, the email’s definitely not dead and that’s why we love working with Reach Realm, I mean, is not a shameless plug. I’m not just saying this, but I mean, we recognize that someone

finds us maybe on Instagram or TikTok because you know, it got shared, it went viral. And then what happens is they click Link Bio, [00:17:00] what do they see? Here’s how you join our email list. What are you gonna get when you get, and then, you know, we’re nurturing again, a different conversation there, more in depth conversation because everything’s so instantaneous on these platforms, right?

A minute or less. Now we’re down to what, seven seconds or less in video. So here’s an opportunity for us to like, okay, sit and read with us. Here’s what we’re doing as a company. We have impact emails. We have “Did you know?”, like we, you know, talking about the holidays, like as much as a brand wants to make good money at a time like this.

I personally don’t believe in overspending and over shopping. So you know, how do we talk to our audience about that and be honest and be real, like, okay, yes, we’re gonna discount some things, but here’s your opportunity to buy things at a better value. But not necessarily over buy. We don’t wanna promote over buying over shopping.

That’s not what we’re there to do. We don’t want our audience struggling, you know, with paying rent because they bought five extra pairs of shoes cuz they happen to be on a great deal. No, buy one or two cuz you need them. Get them at a better deal. Come [00:18:00] back six months or a year from now. Like, I don’t need you shopping every day.

That’s not the point of what we’re trying to do. So I think every channel has value. I think every channel is worth using. And I think the more there’s a strategy of kind of like what, I think I heard the term, I don’t, don’t, it’s not my quote so I won’t take credit for it, but like, play the channels, like to each other.

Like you might put a quick blurb about okay, we just passed Indigenous People’s Day. You know, that’s how we choose to honor that day. Not as Columbus Day. Well, we might just put a very simple infographic on Instagram, but we’ll say, Hey, go to Twitter if you wanna have a conversation about what it looks like.

What books are we reading? What are, you know, what are the things we wanna talk about? What are the conversations we wanna have as a brand, as human beings, as people in this industry or this community? How can we nurture and foster, you know, a better. Better way. Basically. So I guess all of them.

But if you wanna go viral, definitely TikTok and Instagram are the where, where to kind of start [00:19:00] playing. That’s where people find you at least.

Zan Vipotnik: Perfect. All right, so, it sounds like knowing your audience. At a really, really personal level has been a big part of your growth as well right? From just content creation to building the right type of product all the way to optimizing a business. And if we pair this with your growth that you’ve seen after that slump at the beginning of the pandemic but then managing in the middle of the pandemic to turn things around and start growing really fast.

Would you say that those two things worked hand in hand, or was it something else that propelled that?

Burju Perez: I think definitely yes, there’s a couple more factors, but yes, knowing the audience intimately and that’s what I mean, showing up and like this, this networking, the socializing, whether on or offline. Talking to people, understanding what pain points are, what motivates them, what excites them what inspires them.

All [00:20:00] these things became very important because in, you know, cutting out ads and all this, we had to really hone in on our message on who we are as a brand, how we wanna show up in our community. So that was crucial and probably. One of the top ones, if not first place. And then, yeah, and then doing the actions, right?

That actually showing up and doing it and filming it and saying the things and, and being bold and transparent and honest. Because I think after 2020, I think there was a massive shift for people in that yeah, we’re not doing business the old way anymore. Like people aren’t at even me, like as a, so here’s to knowing your customer

intimately right. One, I was a dancer. Okay. So I understand, but just as a consumer of fashion or brands, like I just was done giving my money to just any brand just because they had some, like fast fashion, not, not doing it anymore. Like it’s not worth it, you know? So it became really important to me when I shop that I understood that these brands were doing something

correctly that they were [00:21:00] being sustainable or contributing positively. You know, trying to at least work, do the work. Cuz I can’t say that I’m completely neutral or doing the work to try to get there when it comes to, you know, offsetting emissions and all those things. I wanted to see that behavior from the people that I shop for.

And I stopped spending money at places that didn’t, didn’t do those things. You know? It wasn’t worth it to me. So I wanted to become that. I had to make sure that I was telling people that I’m not there yet. I’m honest, you know, I’m not there yet, I’m a small brand trying to fumble through this thing, but I’m figuring it out and, you know, help join us on the journey.

Like, let’s get there together. And so that’s really important. And then I think the other thing was also just really with the team kind of. Re reestablishing what our core values are, like, understanding who we are. I think, you know, we were trying to be too many things at one point and we didn’t understand how to

make a message to everybody, like the grand, like the general public. So what we decided, you know, listen, we are a shoe [00:22:00] brand. I mean, yeah, you can wear our shoes for fashion and all that, and that’s where we wanna get to. But the reality is, if we go out to a fashion person with an ad and they see a pump and they come into their site, they’re gonna see dancers and it’s gonna throw them off and they’re gonna run away like, what is, what did I just come to?

Right? So we had to reorganize our strategy, and that is what about instead of trying to attract the everyday person to our brand, what if we took the dancer to everyday with us? Because outside of the studio, they do have a job. They do have other passions other things. They’re getting married, they’re doing, they’re doing things that other humans do, right?

So what if we took the dancers so the conversation became less about “Wear our shoes because they’re more comfortable”, like to the general public and just saying, “Hey, if you love the comfort of the shoes in the dance studio, why don’t you also wear them out, right? For every day?” And so we said, let’s take them on a journey with us, and then eventually when they’re in that every day, You know, zone with thinking about [00:23:00] Burju shoes as, man, these are my preferred heels for every day, not just the studio.

Then came the, how do we get them to spread the word? Tell your bestie, like tell your friend like shhh the big secret cats out of the back. And there was, it became a little scandal was funny. Last year, I remember the moment, it was literally in like July or August that I did this video on TikTok. I had 2000 followers maybe on TikTok at that point, and my biggest following was on Instagram.

We had like 60 or 70 k. And I did this video that over with an audio that said, nobody’s gonna know, right? And I was putting on a pair of our shoes and then, you know, it cuts to me looking different saying they’re gonna know. And then I was like, no one’s gonna know. And the writing was like that. These heels are dance heels and they look like regular pumps.

That thing went viral, like 2.6 million people found it. I had flight attendants, I had hairstylists. I had like hosts or greeters from like restaurants, like all these people, like I was wondering how Beyonce was dancing in those heels and then it [00:24:00] was like a, like that light bulb moment when I was like, oh my God, the messaging shouldn’t be, oh, wear these shoes

cuz they’re just more comfortable. They’re just like, Did you know you could wear dance heels and be like, Beyonce at your job. You know, like be as confident, strutting without pain. And that’s when that was like that, “Oooh, that’s the message.” “Oh, that’s what’s gonna get people talking and asking more questions.”

And then it became about me showing up. And cuz people were like, the number one question was, “What’s the difference? “Tell me more!” “How?” “Explain yourself.” “This is a controversy.” Like it was the big like scandal of summer 2021. So I went on and they said, you know, then I did the whole thing. Here’s why you should get rid of your regular heels and only wear dance heels and then that one exploded because then it was, came about information because they’re softer, they’re flexible, they’re built for stability and support, and long look at all the memory foam and they’re meant to hug your ankle. And [00:25:00] it was great. And then now I found out, oh my God, so what are these occupations or things that people might still wanna wear heels for, but never, like, they couldn’t, they just couldn’t find something comfortable.

Now I’m like, oh my God, I gotta make a flight attendant video. Like wearing dance heels, doing like a little dance, move down the aisle of a plane or something. So it’s interesting like that, that intimate conversation with your audience brings on such new, like, you didn’t even think, like, you’re like, oh, these are the questions they have.

Okay, let me, let me get to answering that in a cute trending way. Right. So yeah, like just coming back, I’m sorry I got a little excited, but basically coming back with the team and be like, who are we? What’s the message? You know, who are we, internally? Who do we wanna, you know, and how do we wanna show that to people transparently?

And then how do we do it? Like who’s good at it? I mean, as much as I was resisting being in front of the camera, People seem to like it, so I’m not gonna say I’m good at it cuz you know, we, we never like what [00:26:00] ourselves, we always criticize ourselves, right? But people do seem to like it. It seems to work. So I am the camera person.

You know what I mean? Then when it comes to other stuff, I know that I can use another team of people. When it comes to doing the dancing trends, I lean on the dancer community, like the tight community of people that I work with and I’m like you know, the influencers, here’s the shoes, here’s the funds, let’s get you doing the moves.

And we show that to people. So yeah, I, you just have to be evolving, I think. And everything keeps changing. I mean, that’s what it is right now, but I’m open to what’s gonna be new and different 2, 3, 5 years from now as well. But I come back to the knowing my audience and having conversations with them, showing up in front of them and being transparent, honest, and the dialogue is two way, not one way for us.


Zan Vipotnik: I think this would be a very, very good thing for everyone to consider. And I hope you would agree that really having a conversation with your audience is important. Not [00:27:00] just talking at them, but talking with them.

Burju Perez: Exactly. Yeah. And like, we do, we do a lot of kind of, we’ll do the polls and question, you know, the socials have these things now where they’re like, you put in your story. We’re like, do you like this? This is, we’re trying something new. What do you think? What’s your idea? What color would you wanna see this in?

You know what I mean? Like just asking them and it becomes fun and engaging. People feel like they’re a part of the process. You know, we even kind of give some creativity. We haven’t done it in a while, but I wanna get back to it where we allow other people to kind of express how they would for the brand.

Like if they were, you know, we did a contest where like, You could choreograph and do a visual, like a commercial visual kind of content on your own. We would fund it, we would give you all the shoes. But you express yourself. No, absolutely no direction from us. Like, no, nothing. And so we had a great turnout with that and it’s.

So fun to see how people use your brand view, your brand how excited they get about sharing your brand in their [00:28:00] own way. Like it’s really, it’s really powerful and to me that’s so much more powerful than any paid advertisement can ever be. Cause obviously I’m gonna say great things about my brand is my brand, but the best is when someone else is out there saying the things

about your brand, right? And that’s how everybody’s getting out there now through the phone, through social media, one form or another, they’re telling, “Hey, you gotta check these. You gotta check this out. This is great. This is legit. This is real.” You know, so we value that a lot. A hundred percent.

Zan Vipotnik: All right. Awesome. Maybe shifting gears a bit into a business mindset or a more operational mindset, but you talk a lot about your team and how your team has been vital for you to producing this content, building these relationships, and at the same time having this community around yourself, having these networking connections with dancers, having all these

quote, unquote, assets at your disposal or that you [00:29:00] built over time? What would you say were some key, either hires connections that you made building this business, and how did you go about, and how do you go about picking people to, to partner with or to onboard to the 

Burju Perez: Oh my. This is gonna be loaded. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing just community of people. So a lot of the people came through me through personal networks. So one key person is Doreen, who’s my operations manager. Just met her through some neighbors and friends. And, you know, first she actually was my kind of like personal life coach.

You know, Just at a time when my husband and I were looking for everybody need, I’m, I’m, I wholeheartedly believe in therapy, coaching, learning that needs to never stop. Right? So she came in at the perfect time when we needed kind of that in our lives personally being, you know, business partners and.

Life partners, you know, it’s a lot, and just becoming great friends from there. When, at a time when it was just my husband and I running this kind of business, we [00:30:00] were still dancing. This is pre-kids. She come, she came along to start helping us. Her mind was very much operationally driven, like I struggle with execution and operational stuff because my brain thrives in creative, lofty, like I have another great idea situation.

So Doreen has given me the freedom to dream. And dream big and, and go crazy because she’s taken those dreams and shown me away a roadmap to execution. She creates processes, automations, she finds resources where we didn’t have them. I mean, she found Reach Realm like just sending an email out once a month was like the most daunting

exercise for me to do. And now we have, so, you know, there’s an internal team, but there’s an extension of that team through, you know, working with agencies like your Reach Realms or our warehouse now is a three pl, like all of these things, we all, I mean, I personally used to do all of these things myself and Doreen was[00:31:00] 

the queen of making this happen, cuz there was no expansion, there was no increasing the capacity. I can only work so many hours a day. Right? So she, she said, this is what we need to do to grow, to scale. And she found the people and she executed and she found the procedures. I’m just getting the, the inventory out of my garage

and into a three pl was like, such a, a feat of I don’t know, genius. I couldn’t even fathom figuring that all out by myself, and she did so. And, you know, because she’s a great human being. Like a, like, like attracts like, so, She’s always been able to, I’m like “Doreen, who do you know that does bookkeeping?”

“Doreen, who do you know that does this?” She’s like, my, who do you know person? You know? I’m just like, who do you know that does these things? And between personal networks and professional, you know, clients even. She’s always connected with me, with great people, and when she doesn’t know, she’s just able to, she’s just able to

get to it. She has the mind, the, the capacity [00:32:00] and all of it, the wherewithal to just find great people to work with. So literally she’s I don’t know if there’s a higher rank. She’s like my, my other half. Like, I don’t function without a Doreen. Everybody needs a Doreen , get you a Doreen. And so she was kind of the start

of everything, because once she came into the organization you know, things started to fall into place. We were able to get more organized. We were get able to, you know, automate, find the processes, do the things, find more people to fill in on things. So I’m eternaly grateful. She’s like a partner.

She’s my work wife out. Like the love is there eternally. And you know, from there, finding. You know, I have her relatives that work for me, her daughters on my social media team. She’s a college student. Brilliant young woman, like their cousin is another one. She was on the social media team,

now she’s moved into our sustainability and community partnerships because she just, you know, graduated from Howard. [00:33:00] Brilliant young woman that studied political science and is all, I mean, just smarter than I am on all things that need to be talked. So all of these things, you know, came through just finally, I think at some point you have to understand one, none of us achieve any success without a team of people.

Absolutely. There is no self-made anybody in this world and anybody that proclaims that or believes that. Is not all there . I just said, I, I’m just gonna say it. It’s, it’s delusional to think that it’s not possible. So, and being that I was a control freak and very much worried and concerned and possessive about, oh, I, it has to be answered this way and it has to be done, da, da, da, I had to be willing to acknowledge that

I don’t always know how to do it the best. And I had to be able to let people in that were more skilled than me, that were smarter than me, that had, you know, the right skills and the different avenues of the business that’s made up of so many different things other than, besides just designing the shoe and, you know, doing a fun video.

There’s more to this, right? So, you know, [00:34:00] being able to let go and understanding that and trusting in the process of it is a lot for someone like me that can be very type A with certain things. Since I’ve done it, I can’t stop now. I’m like, what else can y’all do to take off my plate? Right?

Because I wanna be present in the ways that I, you know, that I excel where I’m most skilled when it comes to designing the shoe, creating something new, creating something exciting, listening to the dancers, talking with them, networking with them, creating the, you know, something fun and collaborating on ideas.

So. Yeah, everybody needs to start if it’s with one person. And it’s hard because when it comes to hiring anyone or working with an agency, it’s hard because you’re like, do I have the money to do this? Right? And to be honest, you may not, but it’s worth figuring out how to, because you, you’ll never get the money if you don’t.

You see what I’m saying? Cause you’re not gonna all of a sudden have a million dollars and be able to hire a dream team of people. It doesn’t work that way. So it takes a little bit of [00:35:00] like, whether it was cutting my own salary, taking some loans, or doing what I had to, in order to bring in someone like a Doreen and then bring in, you know, the Hannahs and the Sammy’s and the Sahara’s and the, and and everybody into the team and then hiring Reach Realm to do this.

And then, you know, my three pl to do that. At each, at each, you know, fork in the road or turn in the road. It was like, oh my God, do we actually have the money to do this? Can, can we sustain it? Like, and not go bankrupt in six months? But each time we just trust the process and trust the experts in each thing.

There’s been nothing but growth. You know, and to be honest, I haven’t burned out too because of it, thankfully, cuz I was definitely very close to that as an entrepreneur, as a new mother you know, as a wife, as a woman, there was, there was many points where I could feel burnout and that wouldn’t do anyone good.

So, it was, it [00:36:00] was tough decisions and you had to kind of like stomach it for a little bit. But I won’t turn back. And now I trust the process. I trust my team wholeheartedly . I tell Doreen to tell me what to do most of the time. I’m like, you decide I trust you because I know that these are great, intelligent people, that also, they’re committed to the brand as I am.

That’s the other thing that I think is really great. We have a small team and is lean and mean, and they’re so committed. So even where I might fall to or make mistakes, they’ve got my back. They look out for me, “Hey Burju that might not have been the best decision. Let’s look at that.” And I think, and I hope they know that I leave space for them to do that.

So it’s not. Burju knows all, says all. She’s the boss. You know that’s not the case. I want everyone to feel like they’re a part of this as much as I am so,

Zan Vipotnik: Perfect. Good leadership is always required, but good. It, it doesn’t work without good people right

Burju Perez: Exactly. . [00:37:00] Exactly. I wouldn’t say I’m their leader. I think we’re more, we’re teammates, we collaborate. I think everyone feels they can have a voice and that their ideas and thoughts do matter here. And I respect and trust them wholeheartedly. Even if we don’t disagree even if we don’t agree initially, oh, I want this, they want that.

And we’re willing to kind of learn from each other because it’s all about growth in your mindset as well, not just for your business. You, you have to be willing to grow in your mindset and be open to new ideas and better ways of things. We don’t all know it all the time. It’s not possible.

So, you know, be. If you’re that entrepreneur, if you’re that person, start, okay, it’s your idea, it’s your concept. That’s great. And where you might, you may know a lot about one area, you have to be willing to understand that there’s gonna be people that know way more than you in the other areas. You have to let that them take the reins there and take leadership.

And I think what that creates, I mean, so far there’s no, nobody’s going anywhere. There hasn’t been any turnover either. [00:38:00] So everyone here is quite tenure. And it’s great because it’s, it’s like a family, you know, we have our little moments where we’re like, oh, da that wasn’t fun, but we learn and we grow and I think we’re better for it.

So it, it feels like it’s run. The company’s run very well with just a few people. Really. It’s just a few people. Very few people. Yeah.

Zan Vipotnik: Are you planning to keep it to keep her team lean or is the idea to grow faster?

Burju Perez: That’s a great question. I thought I knew what I wanted and it keeps changing for, I think, I think it’s great to want your business to grow, but at some point you have to ask yourself at what expense. Right? Time, mental health, physical health, all those things, at some point, you know, you may find yourself sacrificing in order to experience certain growth.

So my answer to that question at this time is that I will only grow if it [00:39:00] doesn’t cost me more time, my mental health, or my physical health. And obviously, you know, when I say time for time for my family and, and things that matter in this world cuz that’s stuff you don’t, you don’t get back, right?

So if we’re running smoothly and we’re growing on this team of seven people the way it is, great if expanding that causes more headaches on anything. I don’t want it. I just, I just don’t want it. I’ve learned that it’s not worth it. I’m not, not trying to be the next billionaire. I’m just trying to make sure we have a nice life for my family that I can contribute positively to society.

And really that’s all like, I don’t wanna hoard anything. I don’t wanna hoard the money, any of it. It’s not worth it in the end to me, so where I stand at this point in time. We’ll see. We’ll see. I’ve been in it for a couple years. I might be like, I’m done . Just say, you know, you, you know, and that’s okay too.

I’ve also you know, said, you know, what is this life cycle of this entrepreneur and this business? Like, is [00:40:00] this something that’s meant to outlive me? And, you know, my kids will inherit it. And, you know, I don’t. I don’t know, honestly, it’s just gonna be organic and fluid. And if it’s serving a good purpose for you know, the community, for the people that work with me, for myself and my family, then it’ll continue to exist.

But the minute it becomes, you know, doesn’t serve any good and it becomes about either money or greed or anything else, I don’t want anything to do with it at that point. It either needs to be dissolved or sold or whatever it does. So, I think. That’s something that I’ve also become okay with. Like, even though it has my name on it and I started it from scratch, like the ego’s all gone at this point, you know, I am not the brand, you know what I’m saying?

I am so many other things. So I will take the skills and things and relationships I’ve built along the way and find the next new best thing for me that aligns with my values as a human being First. And not isn’t about financial [00:41:00] gain necessarily. And here’s the thing is when I was able to clearly express that for myself and own it is when I realized the most growth, because I wasn’t obsessed with having a successful business.

That’s not what I was. I literally, after 2020, I became obsessed with just being a great human being and a brand that is human. You know what I mean? Like I get it. Brand people, some people think, oh, brands, nobody cares what you think. Just sell your product and shut up. But brands are run by human beings and I’m like, I’m not gonna be one person in this, you know, over here in this corner, and another person here.

I just wanna be a good human being that contributes positively to society, to humanity, to my kids, to people around me. I wanna lift people up, not drag them down. That’s who I wanna be. End of story. And I became obsessed with just living my life on those values and not worrying about whether I got a sale and, and what a, what was going on.

You know? Sure we care. We need to, you know, the lights need to stay on, we gotta pay the bills. I [00:42:00] get that. But it wasn’t the thing that I focused my energy and my attention on, and I think that was a major shift. So I don’t know how many people believe in that kind of thing, but because my energy was in a different place, I think that set the stage or it created space in the universe for everything else to align and work out.

Cause I was open, I was ready to receive the new information and the new opportunities and learn. And grow.

Zan Vipotnik: So it sounds like your, your vision for the company comes from first what aligns with your values, aligns with what you want to achieve, and everything else comes second.

Burju Perez: Exactly, exactly. Profits come last.

Zan Vipotnik: And if we take that, and I know that you have a lot of projects going on that you’re incorporating into the business and are affecting the future of the business.

So if you will share a bit more about which are some of the [00:43:00] projects that you are maybe the most proud of or the most excited about that are either already out there or that you’re prepping, and how do they tie into your, your vision for, for Burju shoes?

Burju Perez: Well, I’ll, I’ll put it into a couple of different buckets. You know, now that we, now that there is a team and there’s room to breathe one of the biggest projects internally working on is becoming, again, most the most sustainable we can be. My goal, Is to be the kind of brand that has a full, is a full circular product or economy eCommerce where basically we’re using either all recycled you know, less harmful materials to build our product, give it the longest life cycle we can through second hand or recycling, whatever.

And then at the end of it that it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Like I’m, you know, I have a one person on the team dedicated just to that at this point. Like, how do [00:44:00] we get it? You know, the biggest lifespan. There’s a lot of initiatives in war in the play that some of them due to either some technical issues or just, you know, some of the companies we wanna partner with to execute this are not necessarily taking on maybe companies of our size that are maybe smaller or just they’ve just got been inundated.

But like this whole idea of, you know, secondhand, how do we incorporate that into our business? How do we get our consumer to ultimately recycle the product at the end of it? How we recycle it, what it turns into, does it turn to park benches later on? Like all this kind of great stuff too. How do we even create You know, where there’s need for footwear.

A kind of economy where we can eventually either donate. Heels are not the most like , you know, for everybody, usable item. But how do we generate something out of maybe our materials that then becomes something like a slipper that people can use that’s affordable, that’s easy to, you know, either donate or give with purchase?

How do we completely offset. All our [00:45:00] emissions. I mean, we are e-commerce, not brick and mortar. So we understand our impact when it comes to shipping, both importing and to our customers. So how do we continue to invest in projects that offset that, not just offset it, but hopefully neg, you know, get us over and beyond that.

Right. And it’s, and I’ll be honest with you, these projects, you would think, oh, it’s so easy and do it. But it’s not, it’s not for smaller businesses because unless you have massively deep projects where you can dump tens and $20,000 a pop to implement this, that or other thing. Some of the businesses that help businesses become sustainable won’t even look at you unless you’re making 10, 20 million a year.

So we’ve had to get creative. We’ve had to stay really diligent on you know following up and what’s it gonna take for you to work with us? Or how do we get certified for the, you know, be certified or this, what does it take? What are the steps? How do we, you know, just calculating our missions was the most daunting task.

So that’s like, It’s not even a money generating [00:46:00] product, more so than it is about becoming a brand of the future, a way of doing this thing the right way, and maybe hopefully paving the way for other brands and smaller brand like people that are starting businesses in their, like I did in their homes, in their garages, in their basements and their, you know, Yes, it’s great Etsy shop, let’s get the thing out there, blah, blah, blah.

But then also finding ways that that person can still do it sustainably. Like, can we use biodegradable only packaging because the recycling system is broken? So maybe if it’s gonna end up in the landfill, least let’s make sure it breaks down in like a hundred days instead of 20, a hundred years or whatever.

Things like that. So I think that is the most Important project that we’re working on and it’s a lot of it’s happening behind the scenes and a lot of it’s painstaking because people don’t get back to you. The emails, the calls, the meetings only to get rejected or find out you just don’t have the money to implement that at this time, but you’re like, okay, let’s check back in six months, kind of thing.

But it’s the thing that I think excites all of us the most [00:47:00] because while we love our brand and what we do, The idea of being able to make it so sustainable and no impact on the planet is the most exciting thing we can think of right now. So I would say that’s number one. The other most exciting thing, and it, I think it, it, it Touches on all the different little launches that we’ve been doing.

But the main, I guess, project is just making sure everyone feels included and seen in our brand, right? Whether it’s all genders, all skin tones, all body shapes you know, everyone is welcome. So from the way we, you know feature or show on our social media to the brands. Like we, we just this past June, July, we relaunched kind of a pump with pride collection, which was less about putting a rainbow on it and more about like, let’s

celebrate and learn about the pride, pride flag, the colors, what they mean, each color, having something. So a whole collection dedicated to that, to our eight shades of [00:48:00] nude, eight shades of, you know, when we say nude, my nude is different from someone else’s nude. So we have eight shades of nude, you know, to the different styles of shoes.

What might work for someone, might not for another, because we don’t all have the same leg shape, right? So we’re trying to continue to build on that and really have everyone see themselves in our brand and feel, seen, feel included, feel loved, appreciated, and have a space where they can express themselves through our product, through our social media, by being featured and all of that.

I think that’s really important going forward. And there’s, it’s not negotiable at this point. Like these two things are just non-negotiable. Like that’s how we go into the future. Is it sustainable? Is it inclusive? If it’s not, I don’t wanna even look at it. It’s not worth my time. Right. Or show me a way that you can make it sustainable and inclusive, then we can talk about it

right. So those are the two biggest ones. And then just Just fun projects have been like kind of these collaboration collections with some of the amazing choreographers, dancers, [00:49:00] instructors in the dance community. It’s so great to get to know these human beings and really one, they’re also the window into the audience more now than I am because while I’m recreationally dancing,

for fun, it’s not my thing anymore. So the more I get removed from that, you know, having these connections with these humans and being able to understand the needs and how to best meet them and just kind of, you know, I think it’s the collaborations are more about showing that we can build things better together,

and we don’t always have to, you know, it’s not about the competition, like we can fix each other’s crowns, lift each other’s up, and everyone can win. There’s room for everybody. And so just to, To model a supportive community and where it gives back, because at the end of the day, I love my dancers, I love my creative people, and I want them to always feel like there is a space where they are like celebrated, represented treated with respect, paid [00:50:00] well.

All the things that don’t always happen in the big world. At least in our little corner of the world, we’re trying to create that. So they’re kind of like big projects. And then, I mean, at the end of the day, if you ask, I mean, we’re just creating another, a shoe, another model, another style. But we like to think that we create it with a purpose each time.

We always think of the person that will be using it. That will have it, how it will impact their lives, how will improve their lives, how will create higher self-esteem a feeling of inclusivity feeling good about their purchase cause it’s sustainable, all those things. So it’s with the end user, that person that receives and opens that box, or bag, hopefully biodegradable, recyclable, and it’s like, oh my God, this just, this is everything.

This is great. I contributed to something great and I’m a part of something. . So yeah, that’s, those are the big projects.

Zan Vipotnik: Amazing. Doing something great and being a part of something great. I think this is a perfect place for us to, to leave it. [00:51:00] But before we do that where can people find you? You’re obviously super active on social media, what they should check out, where do they find the products? You a team. Where can people learn more?

Burju Perez: Yeah, everything is Burju shoes, B U R J U Shoes, plural. Whether it’s the website,, Instagram handle, Facebook handle, Twitter handle. We kept it really simple. It’s all Burju shoes. We have online chat. We have email. We have dms so you can get contact. Be sure that someone’s gonna reach out to you within 24 to 48 business hours.

And do reach out. You know, we love questions. We’re not trying to sell you anything. We just wanna connect and, and see how we can, you know, better serve people. Simple!

Zan Vipotnik: Definitely. Alright. Thank you for sharing the story of Burju Shoes and, and for being so transparent.

Burju Perez: Yay.

Zan Vipotnik: I hope people find a lot of value in [00:52:00] this conversation.

Burju Perez: Thanks for listening. Thanks for having me. I’m honored to share the story and I love working with you Zan, you’re just great. Your team is very, it’s crucial to what we do too. So, anytime you reach out for anything, I’m, I’m on board. , you earn my trust and respect.

Zan Vipotnik: Definitely too kind. Thank you and thanks everyone for listening as well.

Burju Perez: Thank you.