As with most pharmaceutical drugs, Adderall comes with side-effects which make it undesirable for a lot of people – including addictiveness, something which inspired the team behind Gwella, a Toronto based company to launch vegan non-prescription edibles that boost energy levels, focus, mental clarity and positivity.
Founded in the pandemic, Gwella is a remote-first company with 3 co-founders. We sat down in studio with Stefany Nieto, the company’s COO and one of its founders for this, the 50th episode of our StartWell Podcast.
In this episode of the StartWell Podcast you’ll a wealth of information which relates a unique foundation story valuable for anyone interested in Consumer Packaged Goods or startups in general.
In a rush? Here are some highlights from this conversation
- Entrepreneurship, passions, and personal growth. (0:00)
- Creating a psychedelic brand and product development. (3:29)
- Psychedelic products and their manufacturing process. (7:18)
- Product development and marketing strategy. (13:41)
- Building a wholesale arm for a brand with limited experience. (17:12)
- Legal and business challenges in the psychedelic industry. (20:41)
- Branding, marketing, and packaging for a wellness company. (27:30)
- Partnerships and marketing strategies in the CPG industry. (30:24)
- Psychedelic mushroom branding and product design. (34:32)
- Supplements and their effects on mood and focus. (40:22)
- Selling CBD products on Amazon and internationally. (43:50)
- E-commerce, customer relationships, and retail size. (49:28)
- Mojo's customer base and marketing strategy. (52:43)
- Brand awareness and content creation for a supplement company. (56:21)
- Customer support challenges in a global business. (1:03:48)
- Marketing and brand positioning for a natural food product company. (1:07:11)
- Psychedelic mushroom branding and growth strategy. (1:10:16)
- Product development and customer feedback. (1:16:31)
- Building a loyal customer base through community-building and personalized products. (1:18:59)
Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript
Stefany Nieto 0:00
And the pandemic allowed for some time to kind of reflect on that. And you know, just kind of thinking about what is it exactly that I like to do? What can I like watch on YouTube for hours and not realize Good question. You know, it's a great one to kind of ask yourself like, what are you passionate about? And it wasn't until a friend brought up like you like drugs.
Qasim Virjee 0:23
Founded in 2017, start well is Toronto's independent hub for innovators to collaborate. Our podcasts relate perspectives from the world's most diverse urban population to reflect unique insights into global business, media, and culture.
Qasim Virjee 0:56
For this, the 50th edition of the start will podcast, which is quite a nice milestone. It's funny because I don't think about it often enough, we we start recording these pieces. And it's just nice to have conversations that it goes and goes and goes. And it's been 50 conversations in this series since 2017. So for this auspicious occasion, I'm set today in studio here on King Street West at start well with Stephanie Nieto, the founder or co founder, co founder, we're going to hear about who else is part of your posse, co founder of a lovely brand. Well, no, it's not just Mojo. This product that I'm holding in my hand. It's quella. Yes. So Guanella mushrooms, Inc, is what's on the package. Grella is the brand. I would love to hear everything about your company. But first, welcome to the studio.
Stefany Nieto 1:54
Thank you for having me. I'm very excited.
Qasim Virjee 1:56
It's a pleasure to have you here. And I love your color choice of outfit today. Thank
Stefany Nieto 2:00
you, I was sick of blending into everything else in Toronto.
Qasim Virjee 2:05
And I'm so used to it, you know, people show up, they might watch one or two of these episodes before they come on camera. And they're all seeing me wear the same black shirt all the time. And it's a Black Studio, and everything's black. And it's just kind of like dark and winter color is so nice to see. So it's refreshing. Okay, so let's talk about this company that you have, and who you founded it with. Let's start there.
Stefany Nieto 2:26
Yeah. So, I mean, during the pandemic, at print my previous life, I used to build greenhouses in the Arctic. And I did that for about eight years. Eight years. Yeah, yeah, it was, it was my first baby. And, you know, I had been doing it for so long, my personality, who I was so tied up with what greenish blue was, and then the pandemic hit. And I was like, wow, I've been doing this for a long time. And I don't think I have hobbies anymore. Like, I don't know, what happens when you're an entrepreneur, right? It is. And it shouldn't, it shouldn't. Now I have more boundaries in place, but at the time, I didn't. And so I was really just kind of figuring out like, what's next? Is there something next, like, what do I want to do? What do I want to be when I grow up? And the pandemic allowed for some time to kind of reflect on that? And you know, just kind of thinking about what is it exactly that I like to do? What can I like watch on YouTube for hours and not realize Good question, you know, it's a great one to kind of ask yourself, like, what are you passionate about? Yeah. And it wasn't until a friend brought up like, you like drugs? You know, it's a, it's a passion of yours. Not just doing them, but like, learning about them. And really,
Qasim Virjee 3:45
it's funny how Canadians could say that just off the cuff, right?
Stefany Nieto 3:48
Totally, especially now. Like, I feel like pre pandemic was still a little bit more taboo. But ever since I feel like psilocybin has really picked up steam, and it's more of an open conversation. But even back then I was just like, yeah, that's just a passion of mine. And at the time, I was like, how does one create a career in drugs without being like an underground dealer, which I did consider for a split second, but I was like, you know, not not exactly the road, I want to go down. And so I started kind of just reaching out to people in cannabis, if anybody was going to know anything about the space was going to be those guys. And I eventually got connected through a mutual friend to my current co founder. He kind of you know, same kind of deal. He wanted to build a psychedelic brand. We had our third co founder who actually had a formula that was more of like a natural Adderall, but we wanted to tweak it and make it more of a microdose our whole thing was accessible psychedelics, because psychedelics we don't know when if they will be legalized. And so yeah, we kind of just like we didn't even meet in person going back to like not, you know, seeing people in
Qasim Virjee 4:58
it and paint the picture. When this was, so this was like, May
Stefany Nieto 5:02
June 2020. Okay, right away. Yeah, we, so we met, like over zoom probably around that time, then we negotiated co founder, you know, like equity without having met each other without even really knowing each other, just going off of like a mutual friend that knew both of us relatively well. And we, you know, we've been in the startup ecosystem. So we had friends of friends who like knew each other. Yeah, negotiating kind of the deal and ideating on what we were going to build. And we started building Mojo was a lot of iterations from that original formula and making it more into microdose. Testing it at home, you know, with friends and families, like how did that make you feel? Were you able to do XYZ, and then starting to hire a team. But again, all of that was, you know, I didn't even meet meet Pete, my co founder, until about six or eight months and like in person, and I didn't meet our third co founder, Daniel until the following summer.
Qasim Virjee 6:03
But you guys were all signed up? And on paper? Yes. You're inked? Yep. Um, so what's the what's the tie that binds? Like, between the three of you? There's obviously the shared interest in, let's call it what altered states of consciousness?
Stefany Nieto 6:18
I'd say, that's a great way to put it. And, and
Qasim Virjee 6:21
so how did that so quickly evolved into product development? Who had the who's already playing with the stuff?
Stefany Nieto 6:31
So our third co founder, Daniel, he had created the original formula, I guess, the base formula, like a decade ago when he was in university to get through finals, so something that it was just kind of on the backburner? You know, just there?
Qasim Virjee 6:44
And what was that story? Why, why did he create that? He needed, you know,
Stefany Nieto 6:48
some support focusing really like being able to focus not wanting to get hooked on Adderall? Like a lot of, you know, college university students do. So that was really the focus. He's also a biochemist. So, you know, he has a
Qasim Virjee 7:02
school for biochemistry. Exactly. So I don't need to take this drug and get stuck on it. So exactly. So
Stefany Nieto 7:08
he made a natural option, I guess. Yeah. And so for us, I mean, it's funny,
Qasim Virjee 7:13
it did it work right away. Like he, he helped him get through school. Oh, yeah. sold it to his friends, no. Money in his locker. And, you know, he would he would ride on his bicycle, like, supplement dealer.
Stefany Nieto 7:28
You know, I think he just used it for himself for a really long time. And then, you know, graduated, finished off, started his own, like, r&d slash manufacturing company. And he's been doing that for a really long time. So Pete, and Daniel actually met on a, like a psychedelic forum online.
Qasim Virjee 7:48
Man, this, this reminds me of the early internet. Yes.
Stefany Nieto 7:50
That's actually a great way to describe our foundership Especially because of the pandemic, like we've not meeting each other in person kind of hearing from other people seeing what their work was beforehand, putting trust into that. But yeah, that's how they met. I met Pete through a mutual friend who had worked with me on my previous company. And yeah, we kind of just jumped into it. If we had this base formula. We knew what we wanted to do accessible psychedelics. We knew we couldn't make a hallucinogenic, hallucinogenic. hallucinogen hallucinogenic. It's a hard one. Yeah. But yeah, we wanted, we couldn't really replicate that. But we could replicate was mood focus and energy. And so we took that base formula started testing with it, the testing was a whole journey of its own
Qasim Virjee 8:39
anecdotes. What does that mean? Is this like, it's
Stefany Nieto 8:43
a imagine bringing, like, opening up your mailbox and finding just like gummies in tin foil, like in a little baggie in your mailbox. And you're just supposed to be like, alright, blind faith, put it in my mouth, see how it goes. And at the time, like, the first time I tried the, one of the first times of mojo, had no, no background, Pete failed to tell me, you know, take half which Daniel had told him. And so I just took the entire thing. I was like, Yeah, target me, I'm gonna, you know, test it out. And I was, I was bouncing off the walls. I was like, I need to clean my entire house. Right now. It was it was a little too strong. But
Qasim Virjee 9:27
it shows that the effects work.
Stefany Nieto 9:29
Yes. It was a few more iterations until we got to one that you know, we were happy with until we launched our soft launch anyway. But it was a journey of just like testing with friends and family and like getting them to just tell us honest feedback. That's
Qasim Virjee 9:44
what you should see on the package tested on humans not tested on animals. Yes, humans
Stefany Nieto 9:50
test it on real people on our team. That's what Aesop does with their soaps, their pet line passed the tested on employees pets, so you know that They wouldn't harm their own pets.
Qasim Virjee 10:01
You hope you would hope, right? In a normal world normal people who live normal lives? Yeah, totally, totally, totally. It feels like things have gone fast for you guys. Because if you met each other online, in 2020, started whipping up batches of the stuff and testing it on each other, and feeling the effects at the high liking it. And now we're sat in studio with packages on the table of this product that people can, you know, buy. So tell me about the, I guess the manufacturing process that you had to focus on in order to like, reach the ability to put it in people's hands. Manufacturing
Stefany Nieto 10:50
wasn't the hard part. It's really building the brand. That was the hard part. Manufacturing because Daniel has, we're vertically integrated, like he has his own manufacturing facility.
Qasim Virjee 11:01
Okay, so it's a food manufacturing facility or whatever it is. Okay, so I assumed it was like industrial, when you said manufacturing facility, I'm like, okay, they make chairs, Oh, my head, no,
Stefany Nieto 11:11
totally food safe food grade. And so creating the different versions of it wasn't, wasn't too hard. Because we had all the equipment, the molds, the ingredients, like, everything on that side was relatively, not easy, but easier, in contrast to the hard part, which was figuring out our product market fit. So at first, we decided that we wanted to target gamers, we were like, You know what, this is a segment that I think will really appreciate a clean energy enhancing products an
Qasim Virjee 11:46
alternative to like, Rockstar energy drink. Yes, Red Bull.
Stefany Nieto 11:51
That's exactly what we thought our whole theory was that there are gamers out there that have these like, wellness lifestyles, and you know, they're relatively like clean living. But then when it comes to gaming there, they have the Red Bulls. And we figured, you know, they probably want an alternative, untapped market. And so we, you know, we basically did zero testing, other than on the product itself, making sure it worked. And then we just launched, we had investors who had connections into the, you know, eSports world and
Qasim Virjee 12:22
question pause. How did you have investors at that point?
Stefany Nieto 12:25
We so I'm, I hate saying the serial founder, I have started companies previously, so has my co founders. And so we had a network of people who had already bet on us in previous instances, and kind of, you know, where you go, I go type of relationship. So we had already either dies or right or dies. A lot of family, friends, some people with maybe like a family office. But Angel, this was an angel resin, the angel round? Yeah. And so yeah, we launched it did terribly. We,
Qasim Virjee 12:54
how did you launch? When you say launch? Where did you sell it, how we worked
Stefany Nieto 12:58
with a bunch of gamer and micro influencers? We sponsored a few e gaming events, we started doing some paid performance stuff with who we thought was the demographic. We made an Instagram, like we launched the website, you know. And what we figured out relatively quickly was that, yes, gamers might have a super clean lifestyle. But when it comes to gaming, it's all about immediate performance. Yeah. And Mojo takes about 20 to 30 minutes to kick in. Okay, so it just wasn't the ideal fit. And more importantly, we aren't gamers, like, I'm not a gamer, neither are my co founders. And so for us, we didn't really understand that. The culture, like how people speak about things, what they take, what they don't, what the games that were popular were like, and we tried, we hired people that had that experience, were passionate about the space, but it just didn't make sense. After doing it for like, four or five months, we're like, this isn't this isn't working.
Qasim Virjee 14:03
But that's good. That's a good, you know, that's not that long as the time to invest in testing the market. It's
Stefany Nieto 14:09
not, and we and we learned quickly, over after, after that, I would say like, maybe a month after we were realizing it wasn't really picking up steam. We kind of went back to the drawing board. And we really went back to like, why did we create this? Right? Like, what was the reason behind it? And a lot of it was we wanted a product that we could take, right, you know, like we were the audience. And so once we started kind of drawing out who the audience was, and you know, how did they think where where were they finding their information? What were their pain points and kind of started retargeting, our messaging, our packaging, our logo, our ads, then we start picking up steam and so we relaunched we did a hard launch in October 2021. And it went really well. We like beat our forecast for sales by like fifth DEA is 36% within the first two months, and yeah, we that's kind of when we realized we had a winner on our hands.
Qasim Virjee 15:07
So October 2021. Last October. No, it's now 2023. Right? Pandemic time, pandemic time. 2023. Wow, a year and a half ago. Ish. Crazy. So, okay, so how'd you launch? What was the launch? And what was the positioning?
Stefany Nieto 15:30
At first we went with natural food product. Okay, natural alternative wellness? Sure. Okay, I would say still kind of what we are. We are in terms of our launch all the things that we did previously just with a new type of audience. And we really focused first on just our performance marketing kind of strategy. And who we were targeting, we went deep into the psyche of like, who are other people like us? Where do they hang out? What can we sponsor? Where can we be in front of their faces? And then we were like, what was that prototype?
Qasim Virjee 16:06
Like, what spell it out?
Stefany Nieto 16:10
Well, for California, we started going to things like, there's this big, like beach parties called the box party. And it's all about like, day to day wellness, but also, like millennial hanging out wanting to find their inner self type of stuff that it grew from, like 30 people back in 2016. That's like over 200 to 300 people. Okay, we were there. Oh, we started going to like different types of meditation, yoga studios, fitness spaces, co working spaces, and just giving out free products. Like just try us like put lotion. Yeah, just push on the product.
Qasim Virjee 16:46
Stefany Nieto 16:48
was okay, candy. That was literally me. Showing back back. Exactly. So yeah, we started doing that a lot. And just seeing what people would say. And then we started getting orders, which was great. What we didn't expect was, we were fully ready just to be like a direct consumer play, right. But then we started getting wholesale interest and interesting. Like, I had never done wholesale in my entire life. And then building out a wholesale arm of like, sell sheets and information about the brand and decks and discounts and invoicing and
Qasim Virjee 17:27
learning as you went or will absolutely no mentors, no advisors that are, you know, with industry experience worked at Coca Cola for 5000 years sort of thing. Uncle Tim,
Stefany Nieto 17:38
we did have those folks, but because of we were at that awkward part where it's like, we're kind of too small for their advice based on their experience. But also, we need some guidance. And so instead of relying on advisors who had worked at kind of those bigger companies, I started reaching out to other brand owners, and just being like, hey, it's my first time doing anything wholesale, like, I don't even know what margin I'm supposed to expect. Like, what, what how do I build out this sheet? How do I find like, just starting from scratch fully. And thankfully, you know, other brand owners were took pity and took me under their wing and taught me a lot about what I'm
Qasim Virjee 18:18
supposed to do. Any particular ones have no, definitely
Stefany Nieto 18:21
Daydream the drink.
Qasim Virjee 18:23
I think I've seen that. Yeah, I've seen that on shelves or Fiesta farms where I do my grocery shopping.
Stefany Nieto 18:28
Nice. Well, daydream. So Alex, the founder, he was crucial in all of this. There was also my partner's older sister so she actually was one of the first sales marketing people for Vega like that. It's like a not a supplements, like a pre workout type of thing. Back when they first started and Reagan energy bars, no, it's like a powder.
Qasim Virjee 18:52
Well, that's one of the things they do, but they have they have a Yeah. Okay, I know what you mean. That's the vegan one though. Yes, whatever new it is at the time when it came. Now there's lots of vegan options, I think for protein powder, but it's right.
Stefany Nieto 19:04
Yeah, I think so. But basically just like, sitting with these people and be like, What am I supposed to do? It's awesome. And then building it from there. I'm still learning to be honest. But
Qasim Virjee 19:14
yeah, cuz it's again, this is what three years in Yeah,
Stefany Nieto 19:17
just full on learning. A lot of things still might think might one of my favorite ones was I feel like I was trying to run before I could walk. And so I have this like, beautiful notion built out, like sell sheet with all the information and you'd like there's a different tab, you have all the product specifications. It's beautiful. But when I'm speaking to wholesale retailers, they're like, tell me the PDF and I'm just like, I have this beautiful link where it can be you can
Qasim Virjee 19:45
explore it and learn more and they're like I don't have time. Yep, I made
Stefany Nieto 19:49
a little video you know, as techie as it could get. And now I'm going back to the drawing board and creating like a PDF at the moment. Honestly,
Qasim Virjee 19:55
the power of the PDF man it's it's a but not to most people. It's crazy. And it's not fair it. And yeah, and what's funny in startup world, I mean, people people make their PDFs like decks, you know, everything's a deck, like, let me sell you on some shit. No, no, no, it's kind of the dumbest document you can make with only the most functional links hyperlinked, if at all. And it's literally just to pass the information around, right? Yeah, if it's not a form, and that's a whole different thing. It is interesting to like, have to figure it out and, and go that way. Because that's, I mean, I've always thought that's kind of the like, the way the entrepreneurial way is like you have a, you have problems in front of you. And they're just really, things to walk through. And, and the journey is so much fun. Like, I hope you guys have been having tons of fun doing this.
Stefany Nieto 20:50
I would say there's fun and pain and equal amounts,
Qasim Virjee 20:54
what has been what are what are the mentionable painful things?
Stefany Nieto 20:59
From the beginning or from like recent,
Qasim Virjee 21:01
go back way back to the beginning. I'm
Stefany Nieto 21:07
understanding what you can and cannot say on packaging, on and on social platforms. Pain, big pain,
Qasim Virjee 21:13
big pain. Getting lawyers involved at
Stefany Nieto 21:16
some point. Yes. And knowing what to ask them. Right. Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 21:20
So you don't you have to watch your budget and watch your Clock and Watch your mouth. Yep. Because lawyers aren't humans?
Stefany Nieto 21:28
Well, that's when you find one that has the human element. So
Qasim Virjee 21:31
tough. I have, you know, I once counted how many lawyers I know, this was like, 15 years ago, I knew 22 lawyers that I could name and call. Now, it's probably tripled. And that's just cuz you meet lawyers, they're everywhere. But what's interesting is, yeah, there's so few that I know out of the multitude that I do know, who understand business case, for anything you bring them if they're corporate lawyers, most of them are literally thinking about, you know, the law.
Stefany Nieto 22:05
So weird. It's important to have so like, I would say, what a big pain point finding service providers that like, understood your business, especially because we're in such a weird, little niche, and being able to ask them things that like, I'm like, I don't know if what I'm asking you is illegal or not.
Qasim Virjee 22:24
Is this a drug? What class of drug is this? Yeah, exactly. Like arrested for this small
Stefany Nieto 22:29
things like that, or even insurance. That was a big pain point. We're a supplement straight up, like we're a supplement, and that is our classification. completely legal. But because our name has microdose in it,
Qasim Virjee 22:43
it was a raises all these concerns. Insurance companies have also gotten so yeah, they've they've really tighten their belts in the last few years. You know, it's weird, because it came up the other day, we're like, not the other day, a couple of years ago, we're we're renewing our policy, which is just general liability for real estate and right office space. And the policy came back and the broker was like, I can't renew it. I'm sorry. And like, that doesn't make sense. Why? You know, we haven't changed our type of business. Oh, it's got to do with COVID and increased risk exposure. Offices. All offices are no longer insurable. How's that gonna work? Well, no, it's not that it's just that that these guys are getting out of the office insurance business. Who are they Lloyd's of London? Unlike No, Lloyd's of London is one of the largest insurance companies in the world. So I guess you know, what I learned through that process and then got a different broker to get me the same policy I used to have from the same underwriter the same, whatever, and so bad, but like so yeah, insurance is difficult, because it's not necessarily about who's insuring you. It's about who's brokering that insurance as well. They have to understand what your business is to be able to fill out the PDF that they need to fill out, right. Yeah. And
Stefany Nieto 24:03
also because functional mushrooms even when you say a lot of people don't necessarily know what they are. And they just assume you say mushrooms in today's environment. Oh, well, it's a psychedelic It's a magic mushroom. Mushies Exactly. And so it's just yeah, just kind of I've had I've made multiple insurance stacks kind of pointing out like these are ingredients like there's nothing illegal in here.
Qasim Virjee 24:26
But do you think that's part of the okay because part of your your discovery in racing the market and then figuring out the product market fit must have entailed a competitive analysis or looking at least even if you don't consider a competition but look at other products that use ingredients that you guys are blending. And then look at how those with the brand equity and say the brand positioning of those ingredients are. It seems to me that the last five years products that you know, have some of the products I've seen in Canada and North America in general that have like Reishi Lion's Mane and all these things are touted as more than they are sometimes to kind of like shock value the purchase. And maybe that's because those brands didn't know their market positioning. So they were kind of like testing the waters by being racy.
Stefany Nieto 25:14
We looked at people that offered the same benefits and how they spoke about sudden benefits. And a lot of these folks, you know, one, they have their energy product, their focus product, their mood product, it's an all in one. And often, it was very much like the granola like, wellness, mindfulness type of branding. And so for us at first, we did try to go down that route. After the gamer, you know, stent, we went down the wellness stent. And full bloom. We did, we did, we truly did. And then what we found was that we just weren't a natural products sweetheart, like we just weren't. And that's partially because there is synthetic caffeine, which sounds, you know, it can sound a certain way. But all it is, is it's slow release. So instead of like when you know, when you have a coffee, you get that immediate like Rush.
Qasim Virjee 26:11
Real though I thought a lot of that was perceivable. Because of taste, it
Stefany Nieto 26:14
just releases right away. That's all it is. And with us, it releases slowly over time. So instead of getting one big rush, you kind of get a slow build. And so yeah, we kind of realized like, we weren't a natural sweetheart, that are that type of branding wasn't going to work for us. Like there was a version of mojo that didn't have colorful, anything and was more like, you know, what is it called, like recycled paper or type of vibe. But well, then we realized that no places like Jim bows or maybe even Erawan they weren't really what Jim bows. They're like the they decide what is a natural food product? And Jim Bose? Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 26:52
there's a place called Jim Bose that determines whether your product is natural or not, basically.
Stefany Nieto 26:56
So they are Is there a man named Jimbo?
Qasim Virjee 26:59
I would hope I really do hope and he sits in an office at the top of the hill
Stefany Nieto 27:03
winds. That one's good. There is a company out of it's a grocery store based out of California. And they are the strictest on in terms of what they put on there. Like the kosher rubber. A little bit. Okay. Yeah. And so yeah, that if you kind of, if you're not on their shelves, you're not really in the natural space. Maybe other places like Trader Joe's Whole Foods, they'll take you on because they're not Joe's. Yeah. But what we realized were as like our ingredient list didn't really align with them. And so we kind of moved past that. And we realized we were kind of in this like, mid way point where yes, we had organic ingredients. And generally like, you know, we were vegan and all of the kind of good for you trust certificates, we had them for the most part. But we also wanted more fun branding and our brand was wanting to be more lively and not just for you know, meditation or breath work, we want it to be for a party, we want it to be for your workout, we want it to be for your work day, we want it to be for somebody recording music, like there were so many
Qasim Virjee 28:16
360 lifestyle brands. Yes. And
Stefany Nieto 28:18
so that's been one, I would say one of the interesting and difficult parts of figuring out how like how to do performance marketing for us, or how to speak about the brand when there is so many different types of use cases. It's it's still something that we like to debate on a weekly basis. And something where I'm actually in the midst of doing customer interviews and figuring out like, what are the reasons like you use Mojo, the top ones, at least to help inform what we're going to do next?
Qasim Virjee 28:47
Have you and so have you guys along the way engaged? I guess on the on the press side of things, or PR side of things, getting your product in front of people that can write about it and help kind of amplify your voice to the product marketing side of things and product, even package development design side of things. Have you worked with external people for this? Or is this all internal staff developed? You know,
Stefany Nieto 29:17
now we've definitely worked with experts. PR wise, we've worked with a few few agencies few freelancers over the past year and a half, two years. Some were better than others. They got us into Business Insider Forbes. And you know, we that was amazing. Yeah, that was a really great day. But and then in terms of like the packaging design. Initially, it was done in house. The first two, three iterations. Then we worked with an agency out of Seattle for the current version, and we're actually updating our packaging. It's like going to print hopefully today, fingers crossed on that one and it should be ready for berry because we're launching. I don't know when this is going to be released, but we're launching in Urban Outfitters. And so I wanted like really snazzy new packaging for it. That's
Qasim Virjee 30:08
exciting. Yeah. So how did that come about?
Stefany Nieto 30:12
So I may or may not have messaged over 73 buyers at Urban Outfitters worldwide on LinkedIn. To go to
Qasim Virjee 30:24
LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best. Yeah, yeah, no, people should just Just admit it. Let's all connect. That's why we're connected. You know,
Stefany Nieto 30:32
it is great. And I am a fan of LinkedIn. I am one of those people. That's like, if you add me, I'm gonna ask you why you added me like I want I want to be able to somewhat know, you know who you are.
Qasim Virjee 30:41
If nothing is like, Hey, what's up? Let's you know, yeah, let's jam on something. But what? Yeah, exactly.
Stefany Nieto 30:47
And so, yeah, I messaged a bunch of people. And I guess one of the people that I messaged, I had also like, applied through their regular portal. They happened to be the same person. She got back to me. And she's just like, Yeah, I'll give it a shot. And so then I sent her like, a whole SKU of like, all of our stuff sent her a sweater. I was like, and, like, handwritten note, like, please, please like our product.
Qasim Virjee 31:07
Like grandma, Stephanie. I needed this for you. Literally,
Stefany Nieto 31:11
I was I tried, you know, our best to land that one. Similar to fantastic fungi, the Netflix documentary? That's like, I don't know it. Can you should watch it. It's fantastic.
Qasim Virjee 31:25
Right? That's why it's called Fantastic fungi. It is.
Stefany Nieto 31:28
I've watched it like two or three times now. documentary
Qasim Virjee 31:31
about all sorts of fungi. Yeah. Okay, cool. But
Stefany Nieto 31:35
we reached out to them. And now we're on their store, which is really wild, because it was so huge, I think in 2021. But yeah, a lot of the time when we're like, we get these kind of bigger orders or partnerships. It's a lot of times like our small team, doing our best like on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn reaching out and being like, hey, like, I have this cool brand, please take a look at it.
Qasim Virjee 31:58
Yeah. And that's what it takes that kind of hustle. And there are well everyone says in the early days, but like I always, I've been always and I think there's a lot of really interesting organic relationships that form that can support brands that way. Once you get, you know, corporate down the line. Hopefully, you don't need to go down that path if you don't want to, but like, yeah, the corporate CPG kind of world is a very dry place. And this is cool. This is this is way more fun. That's why I asked about the fun. And then also, you know, as these relationships form, and you have people that are helping amplify your voice helping you find new markets. It's kind of titillating, isn't it to like, consider what the opportunities are. And when you have a new relationship, just think of the product in that many more people's hands? Yeah,
Stefany Nieto 32:47
no, absolutely. One of two, going back to like the fun part. Two partnerships recently that I was like, wow, this is gonna be so cool. Because I'm fangirling over their products or services. I'm like this, like this is going to open up a completely different audience. So one was vinyl, they do so they send it's like a subscription of vinyl records that they send to you. And I was talking to the founder. He was just like, I don't even know how many people actually have like, record players at home. But it makes for great, like coffee table, like on a shelf type of vibe. And he's like, I don't actually know how to move
Qasim Virjee 33:21
vinyl on the wall and be like, I'm cool. I
Stefany Nieto 33:23
got vinyl. Yeah, you have this like really big thing that has like a you know, an artist's name on it. And they also provide the look at your Spotify and they can provide you with like, recommendations, but enough for like a form factor with a vinyl record. He's
Qasim Virjee 33:35
saying he's selling this late. He's selling vinyl to people that don't have some Yeah, that's so weird, man, like so I, you know, I've been a DJ since 1998. And I've performed all over the world and had record labels and music festivals and stuff like that. So that that sounds so strange to me. You know, I have my selection of my last maybe 300 records at home that appeared my like 10,000 records or 5000 records and know how many out of the height collection down to the like the gems the most gem of the gems just to be able to move around the world with that selection. So it sounds crazy. It's heartbreaking to me.
Stefany Nieto 34:14
I mean, I get it though. I'm like I love a vinyl record. I don't have a record player at home.
Qasim Virjee 34:18
But I will get you a record player. Okay.
Stefany Nieto 34:21
I literally thought about buying one specifically for this partnership. And then there was her bars so they're this like mushroom facial oil out of wow. I want that's kind of cool. Portugal or Germany I don't remember. But their product is really cool. And like their their brand is really nice. Their packaging is beautiful. It's just it's just really nice. Like meeting other founders with really cool brands are like, Oh, this was your passion project. They're cool.
Qasim Virjee 34:45
Yeah, totally. Absolutely. I think it's amazing what you guys have accomplished in the last few years. It sounds it's it's it's really quite an accomplishment. So as of now, where is So Mojo. Okay, let's break this down. Because, you know, I think that there's a lot under the hood already. And that's why I'm very proud of your accomplishments from what I've seen. Because gorilla, Gorilla seems okay. So in your marketing, at least from your website, you're you're focused on three things, right? Is that like, fair to say?
Stefany Nieto 35:18
And this is like the benefits of mojo? No,
Qasim Virjee 35:19
in terms of like, what gorilla does?
Stefany Nieto 35:21
So? Yeah, so I think it's important. The context of gwala is more of like psychedelic editorial content and trips applies ish. Like, we have like a dosing calculator and a strain library of different types of psychedelic mushrooms, right. And girl, it's like psychedelic branding. Mojo is more day to day wellness, leaned on the edgy, illicit marketing side with microdose in the way that we sometimes speak about the product. But it's an like legal product can be in a Whole Foods doesn't have any problematic language on the site, etc. And so the reason that we've done that is, well, one, yes. I mean, we wanted to create a psychedelic company like that was the entire basis of all this, but gwala is more so like building up street cred, really in the psychedelic space. Mojo is creating a consumer brand that people can recognize. And eventually, if psychedelics are legalized one day, somebody can walk into a psychedelic shop and be like, hey, there's Mojo. They're also at CVS, you know. And so that was the reason behind it. On our new packaging, we actually took out the quella logo from from packaging,
Qasim Virjee 36:29
the packaging that's coming out today. So yeah, well, from getting printed,
Stefany Nieto 36:33
getting Fingers crossed. Because we there is a bit of that, can that confusion can arise like? Well, well is on there? And well is like very much a psychedelic brand. If you go to websites, so does it have drugs in? And it's like, no, no, it doesn't. And so we wanted to limit that type of confusion. But Mojo is one of wellness products. It's a little confusing.
Qasim Virjee 36:55
No, I get it. I get it. Also, because it's, it sounds like this, this is a little organic, and the kind of branding and brand extrapolation is going to continue on in the next few years. So it makes sense, sort of Mojo is the kind of functional mushroom product line. I'm sitting here with a few packages that you brought in, they're all different colors. I haven't think about this in product design quite a bit. You know, like, when you look down in your shower, and you say, I've used the same products for my hair for like 10 years, same shampoo and conditioner, and I constantly forget which ones shampoo and which ones conditioner and then you squint at the bottle. And you see oh yeah, it's the smallest type on the bottle. I still don't know why they do that. Every brand does it. Okay, but I'm seeing different colors, possibly for different flavor. But it's the same thing.
Stefany Nieto 37:50
Yes and no. So what you have in your hands, you have regular to regular strength and one extra strength, I believe. Okay, I
Qasim Virjee 37:57
see macro strength is this red one? Yes, right. That's this one. Then I've got two of these guys.
Stefany Nieto 38:06
Regular strength. The new packaging is going to make it more clear on what's extra strength, it's going to be like, imagine that nice lilac color. But then the extra strength version of it will be like a dark gray with the center kind of mushroom image in the middle being that purple. So you have the like, Okay, this is lighter, you know, it's full color. And then you have like the all too dark because it's extreme. Totally. And yes, you have that voice when you're actually thinking about it. But yeah, different flavors. The I think. So this is the regular strength. And so what we had originally thought of doing was like a darker color or darker depending the color of the regular strength to make extra strength. But for some people, especially if you have a bit of a colorblind landscape today, it's tough to tell. So yeah, we're changing it up.
Qasim Virjee 38:56
So this is just a larger package of this and different flavor. Different strength but yes, different strength it is what yeah, this was normal. Oh, this Sorry. There we go.
Stefany Nieto 39:07
Different flavors, same strength. Right on and different sizes.
Qasim Virjee 39:10
There you go. Yeah. Okay. It's also exciting. I can't wait to try this. Okay, so the active ingredients looking at the ingredients are a quarter steps. A quarter steps just means mushroom. No.
Stefany Nieto 39:23
Yep. It's a type of mushroom. Two different types of we have two different types of cortisol synthesis
Qasim Virjee 39:27
and militaries. What synthesis sentences, a different
Stefany Nieto 39:32
type of quarter step. So I mean, quarter steps in general are those like really freaky fungi that take over different types of bugs like ants or caterpillars, or there's a bunch of different types of bugs takes over and then just like uses the host body to like grow, some of which keep the host body alive. There's a new show up there that takes the same concept. It's like zombie being your host, that's Cordis. stops, it's great for a few things, including things like blood flow, energy, heart health, libido, like it's it has a bunch of different uses.
Qasim Virjee 40:12
So the difference between sinensis and militaires kind
Stefany Nieto 40:15
of same thing but different, different aspects of energy, I would get into the science aspect of it. But that's not my strong suit. In Lion's Mane, Lion's Mane, it could look at things like memory can look at things like your mood, your focus, we mostly use it for focus and memory. And Mucuna. Now will look at your mood Mucuna Pruriens. Like it improves your mood.
Qasim Virjee 40:46
Because you don't want to you don't want to make your mood bad. And the ginseng that you guys use Where's it from? Is a Korean ginseng. Now?
Stefany Nieto 40:57
I don't actually know. To be honest, I love ginseng is a good one. But it's funny because it like for mood. People tend to think like, oh, it's going to elevate my mood. And I mean, for me it does. For other people, though, it just kind of stabilizes your mood. Depending like with any supplements, you never really know how it's going to affect your own body and your own tolerances. But I was doing customer interviews recently. And when asking people like, Oh, why do you take Mojo? They're like, Oh, well, I take it because I want to stabilize like how I'm feeling during the day, I don't want to have too big highs and tubig lows. And I thought that was really interesting because I take it and I'm like, if I'm having a bad day, I want to take mojo to uplift my mood.
Qasim Virjee 41:40
I'm gonna try one of these guys. So the other question I have is the format. So all of these are gummies. This is what you guys sell is gummies. What was the reason for this particular format as your first product?
Stefany Nieto 41:56
I don't know about you, but I hate when people mess with like my coffee or my tea. And most supplements are either in a capsule, or powder. Capsule felt a little too medical. For us. It was a little Yeah, it was a little too medical, which wasn't the brand that we were trying to build. And we also had theory that a lot of people that are probably going to take this, they probably already have their own supplements at home. Like for me, I have, you know, a kind of an array, almost like an 80 year old person. Things I take and I didn't want to add to that. And then powders are just inconvenient. You can't take it with you. Or if you take it with you'd have to like bring it in a little thing. You have to stir it and you're gonna either ruin your tea or your coffee at some point. And that wasn't necessarily what we wanted to do either. So yeah, we made a gummy. That was so you just had regular string, regular string, strawberry tangerine? I would say it depending on your tolerance. I typically recommend people that can have a coffee pass through pm and still sleep. Yeah, you probably want to go with the extra strength. Okay. So
Qasim Virjee 43:00
is extra strength the same as like two of these two and a half of those.
Stefany Nieto 43:03
Okay. Although they we are actually making regular strength, stronger, come February as well. Interesting.
Qasim Virjee 43:12
Okay, I'll take one more.
Stefany Nieto 43:14
Well, you should try a different flavor. If you're going to explore. I'm going to go for the blueberry. Which is interesting, because a lot of customers do that. And I don't get it. I would be curious to know like, what made you choose blueberry?
Qasim Virjee 43:26
You know, I'm going to tell you, it's product psychology. It to do with aesthetics. Actually, I took that one first because it was the biggest one. Okay. That's why I took it. Then the red O's turns people you know, you want common colors, typically like blues and greens and turquoises and purples. And yeah, so that's why I went for this because it was like, if I have to make a decision, this is the easiest one because it's like a soft color. Gotcha. Okay, yeah. Red is danger, right?
Stefany Nieto 43:53
That's valid psychologically.
Qasim Virjee 43:55
Oh, these guys have gotten a little sticky. Sticky. Yeah,
Stefany Nieto 44:00
that makes sense. I've had them in my drawer for like a solid three weeks.
Qasim Virjee 44:06
Thank you. Actually, I do like this. Wow. I prefer this taste in the sense of the flavor is less mushroomy it's less earthy. And if
Stefany Nieto 44:18
we find that with the my favorite person was the pomegranate hibiscus. I find it's like the nicest flavor for me. But blueberry like that is basically one of our you know, top sellers.
Qasim Virjee 44:28
Wow. Very nice flavor. I like it. So let's talk about the scale at which you guys are currently where where asides from the couple of new distribution partners like Urban Outfitters, which is exciting. Where's this available in stores and grocery stores? Yeah, so food stores will be
Stefany Nieto 44:52
Qasim Virjee 44:54
your direct channel primarily
Stefany Nieto 44:56
direct, but we're also on Amazon. us. We're also in about 55 stores across the US a lot of random not random. Like, more boutique grocery or cannabis, some sex stores too. So that like it's been very much independent type of stores. Now we're actually as of this morning, I signed a sales team broker ish agreement to try and grow that arm. And we went international back in October. Okay, so now we sell Thank you. Yeah, we sell internationally as well, but wholesale only in the US and soon to be Canada. Hmm.
Qasim Virjee 45:37
This is interesting. So internationally, that means you are you selling directly internationally or you have kind of you have sales partners that are pushing the product or trying to try to get it into foreign territories for you have
Stefany Nieto 45:48
a fulfillment center that does our logistics for international shipments.
Qasim Virjee 45:53
All right, because you're selling online, so it's less about the retail. So if orders come in from anywhere in the world, you have them distributed. I love that. How's the experience been selling on Amazon? Have you used them? Have you used them as your fulfillment? partner or yes, okay,
Stefany Nieto 46:12
we are an FBA platform like we are brand rather. It's been tricky. So at first so one of the one of the things that we kind of, obviously messed up on we did our whole persona mapping and you know, did it for the brand and great launched it did really well went on Amazon, just assume that it would be the same type of customer use all our same tricks up our sleeve. failed, massively failed. We launched so the first one that you tried the regular strength. That was our first SKU on Amazon. What we learned was that Amazon customers don't want regular strength. They want like extra strength as the strongest punch you can give them alongside affordability like that is what they're
Qasim Virjee 46:56
they want value for their buck. Is that what it is? Exactly? Even in a consumable? Yes, supplement.
Stefany Nieto 47:04
And so we had this moment of like, wow, like, our reviews are awful, because a lot of people are like, this isn't strong enough for me. And then second part of that was Amazon for a solid two months, they messed up our fulfillment, and so they were sending people the wrong product. And so are
Qasim Virjee 47:21
listing one flavor or like some other pair of jeans.
Stefany Nieto 47:24
Yeah, like completely just wrong. No. And so they just tanked our rating. Like we had like a like a 2.9 or three. It was It was awful. How do
Qasim Virjee 47:34
you come back from that?
Stefany Nieto 47:35
You don't we looked at you relist. We killed the store. We killed the store. We killed the listing. Then we actually got into an accelerator out of Guelph. And we as part of
Qasim Virjee 47:47
it, accelerator out of Guelph. Yeah. What is it?
Stefany Nieto 47:51
It's a wow, this is they would kill me if I didn't remember this
Qasim Virjee 47:54
university is affiliated with the University of Guelph,
Stefany Nieto 47:57
I don't think the innovation thing is called Innovation Guelph, they do have partnerships with the university, but it's not part of the university. And yeah, we got in and as a part of that, we got an an Amazon agency advisor, which actually got I saw, the entire reason I knew about any of this was because a different brand owner of like a kid's bar that I know from Toronto, was like, You guys need Amazon help. I worked with this guy, but I ended up not being and not having to pay the agency because I got into this accelerator, and he's part of it. And I was like, Yes, that's what we need to know. Credits. Exactly. And so yeah, I applied we got in, we got to work with the agency. We're still working with them now. And basically, yeah, they like took care of the new king of our previous listing and got all of our product back. relaunched they redid our storefront changed, like, really looked at what type of wording and copy we were using. And anyway, right now, I think we're at like, right at 3.9 at the moment, and I'm just like to that 4.0 Just push
Qasim Virjee 49:00
just a bit Oh, ratings are tough though a man they are.
Stefany Nieto 49:04
It's not like you can ask people like Amazon super vigilant about, you know, asking for reviews. And so we've been, you know, just working our way through it mate doing the best that we can. But it was a big learning curve of like, if you have an omni channel strategy, you can't just assume your persona is going to be the same across all
Qasim Virjee 49:24
right, yeah, every channel is different. Oh my god. So what are you most happy with? Is it's that direct to customer sale from your website in terms of being able to handle the relationship? Yeah,
Stefany Nieto 49:37
I mean, it depends on what you mean by happy with.
Qasim Virjee 49:41
Well, I wonder like this is the holy grail right? The Zeitgeist currently is is maybe for the last name is post Zeitgeist but the last couple of years right with the pandemic has been e coms rebirth or maybe not rebirth for for the like. Average Luddite ecommerce is something new. And I've been shocked by that personally, because it's like, you know, 20 years, we've been talking about ecom. But the Holy Grail, of course, is being able to have attract your customers and retain your customers through your own e commerce platform. Connect with them evolve your relationship with content, and everyone's happy. But it kinda doesn't work that way. Right? Like, I don't know, if you find this, people might buy stuff from your website, then they'll find your stuff somewhere else, they'll buy it from somewhere else, they know the brand, but they're not thinking of the relationship as involving the port of transaction. Which of course has its own issues on the back end, at least I'm guessing to do with, you know, how many middlemen are taking the share and revenues. And it's, you know, more profitable to sell direct, and customers don't know that do they need to know that? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Stefany Nieto 50:59
So customers know that now, the end because of the EECOM. Resurgence during the pandemic, I feel like that, and maybe I'm just biased because I'm a brand owner. And so now I like I will not shop on a Black Friday deal. I rather get it before or after. And I'm like, keep doing what you're doing. You know, and I feel like customers have become more aware of like, especially to the shop local, even if it's not shopping local, physically, it's like support the brands that you that you really like. Even if even if you test them out on Amazon first, but you come back and you buy through direct to us. I mean, yeah, owning the relationship is very valuable. We learn a lot. And we also have this like really amazing community of beta testers. So when we want to launch something new, we're like, Hey, can anybody just try free products for us and tell us like what you think about it, which is, which is great. But at the end of day, I'm like, I also really want to build our retail size. And the idea that we could be in a bunch of CVS is and you know, people like see us by us, even if it's not direct, like it's incredibly exciting opportunity for sure. So I mean, I don't know, wherever you buy. I love you for it.
Qasim Virjee 52:06
And so for our audience that's listening and watching CVS, if you're not in America is kind of like our Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada. Yeah, right. CVS and Walgreens are those two number, there are those largest, maybe pharmacy grocery combos in America, I
Stefany Nieto 52:24
think CVS is more like a 711, or a shoppers ish, like Pharmacy Plus convenience, versus Walgreens, I think is a little bit more Walmart, like it has a little bit of everything. But I might be wrong, because I'm an American.
Qasim Virjee 52:43
So what have you been seeing in terms of your customers? Like, I guess the are there prototypes, or I don't know, persona that have emerged from looking at, you know, as your client base grows, as the user base grows, the customer base grows over the regular user. You know, with this new positioning that's more kind of lifestyle focused and healthy Well, being kind of focused, what have you learned,
Stefany Nieto 53:12
there's a few different types of people that buy Mojo from, from my perspective, we have like, the people who are using it as an alternative to a psychedelic microdose whether they use psychedelics or not, but they want to get the benefits of a psychedelic microdose. And they for whatever reason, they can, or they don't want to get a psilocybin microdose they'll take Mojo, or maybe they ran out and Mojo is kind of a alternative. Then you have the people who are like, they it's their pre workout, instead of adding powder to water before they go to their workout, they take a mojo or take a few motors. And you know, you have it, I feel like it's like fitness, but it's also a mindfulness because you have like the yogi's and the breath work and cold exposure, people, they all kind of fit into the almost performance category. Then you have the mental health folks who you know, they look at Mojo as a way to help with things like depression or anxiety. And that's a regular everyday type of consumer. Like, just on that note, for Mojo for me, I use it as a way to deal with social anxiety like before a party, instead of pre drinking. I've definitely stopped drinking as much alcohol as I guess used to in my earlier 20s Mojo is a great way to kind of like get the same feeling of kind of excitement and a little bit more like chattiness did
Qasim Virjee 54:32
you just say in my earlier 20s
Stefany Nieto 54:33
He did in my I've
Qasim Virjee 54:35
never heard anyone in my life say that. Damn, I feel old.
Stefany Nieto 54:41
That's awesome. And then and then you have the people that would say like long shifts, and that can be broken into work for sure. Like it could be productivity boost during the day, but it can also be like nurses at night that have really long shifts or truckers or parents. You know that like you have an entire day. A with kids under five, for example. And so obviously, those are the main categories that people buy module four, which again, now we're kind of trying to figure out how to we have different landing pages for those very different type of use cases. So we're kind of working through how do we talk to those different types of people right now?
Qasim Virjee 55:18
It's tough, right? It's tough, it's kind of goes back to what you're saying earlier, like if your product is applicable to so many different types of people. And also, if it's differentiated as a product, like you have these different lines, like well as moving away from Mojo as a brand. It's difficult to tell the larger story to the customer. I think this is an interesting thing, especially with CPG, right, but like, today, more than ever, in this fast paced media landscape that we live in, it's extremely difficult to articulate the need for a customer to explore a brand. There's less examples of that kind of brand being prevalent in the world and even luxury brands that used to command that kind of responsibility upon the customers. Let's call it 20 3040 years ago, now are trying to peddle their product in the same way that any fast fashion you know, quick, seasonable, you know, what do they call them in fashion these days? Capsule?
Stefany Nieto 56:22
You heard that word? The capsule wardrobes?
Qasim Virjee 56:25
Yeah, it's like, Oh, my God, this guy just dropped that new hat. You know, it's a collab, you could only get this many pieces is kind
Stefany Nieto 56:34
of pretty hard actually took trying to find almost like a, like a category authority on different types of categories, including fashion. I like, no longer am I looking at like, what is Zara dropping? What is Gucci dropping? What are these, like, bigger fashion houses, whether it's, like, elite fashion or day to day fashion? It's more so finding like those smaller designers that have like, you know, 200k following or something? What are they dropping? Because they're actually going to be the ones that dictate what everybody's gonna be wearing? Similar to supplements is like, who are the, like smaller, bigger players? And what are the ingredients they're using? How are they talking about their ingredients? And how do we do the same thing, and especially in a world where we're putting microdoses? You know, sometimes we're like, there is no path that we can kind of look at, it's kind of like, alright, well, let's just keep trying ABC and so on testing and see which one performs best and then go back to it.
Qasim Virjee 57:31
So you guys have definitely been doing a great job of kind of digging into content and creating content. What's the strategy with that?
Stefany Nieto 57:44
That's a great question. That I don't know how to hate
Qasim Virjee 57:46
that word, by the way content. For anyone who's listening, I would say if I please, I apologize for using that word. But yeah, you know, like,
Stefany Nieto 57:55
it's so many different things. We've tried the whole micro influencers creating content for us, without a script with a script, or with guidelines, rather, not a script. We've tried the founders recording videos and posting that out there about our experience as like creating a brand. We've tried it purely static type of content, where it's just educational, or maybe cool or aspirational. We've tried a lot of things. The thing about is is like the benefits that we want to talk about are often against community guidelines. And so maybe we've been deactivated twice now or so. And then from like Instagram, or from the
Qasim Virjee 58:33
meta, Steven, we've been deactivated. Over, it's awful
Stefany Nieto 58:36
and or you get shadow banned, where it's like, they don't tell you you've done anything wrong, but all of a sudden, like you can't be searched. And your engagement just takes a nosedive. And you'd have no idea what you did wrong. And trying to contact meta is like, well, good luck.
Qasim Virjee 58:51
You're right. They're all hiding in the metaverse. Yeah, I know it's a real problem, right? And relying on social channels to reach customers and kind of having them as your brand outlet is very difficult. You're not in control.
Stefany Nieto 59:06
Yeah. And so we're still trying different things. Like we are constantly kind of looking on social platforms, seeing what other brands do or seeing what other creators do, and then seeing, can we do something like that. But the rules are constantly changing. And so we're just, I would say, good at adapting to what type of content we need to put out trying new things. But honestly, like, it's just, it's always just something new. Yeah.
Qasim Virjee 59:34
But is the main thing to be able to spread awareness about the product whilst also kind of developing relationships with people like finding new customers?
Stefany Nieto 59:43
I would say yes, benefits like letting people know that there is an alternative to you know, mood, focus energy, that is relatively natural and organic and fun. And then starting conversations with people trying to be engaged on like, what How can you use Mojo? Trying to get invited to cool things as a brand? You know? Yeah, just, I guess really sharing our story and trying to create a community based on that, like right now. So I recently took over customer success until until Feb. And a lot of time, I'm just like, yeah, no, look, you're talking to founder right now. Hello, like, how are you using it? And I think just customers, even myself as a customer, like, I love that. I can reach out to a brand and get direct FaceTime, essentially, with the person who created it. Oh, yeah. This is what we're trying to do.
Qasim Virjee 1:00:34
I do the same thing. I do the same thing. If someone emails start well, and I respond, you know, I always, even if I'm in between 5 million things, and I pick up the phone, and we have this VoIP thing that rings all over the place, right? And they're like, hi, yeah, I'm just trying to do this. And I'm like, okay, cool. Send an email to email@example.com. And they're like, really? Will anyone read that? And I'm like, no, no, it's not a generic thing. It comes to me. I'm the CEO. I just don't want to spell my first name right now. This is really easy. Oh, really. You're the you're the founder. And I'm like, I that's another thing is like people, you know, this looks great, right? This this, this packaging looks awesome. Mojo. It looks like it's legitimate, you know. So people kind of when they see this, and they see it in a store, they see the branding on the website, and they see that there's so much content, and it's something to delve into their immediate thought or consciousness isn't around the founder story and the fact that like, there's people like producing this thing, you know, and that's a whole nother critique, I have, you know, of kind of the modern. Maybe the, also in CPG, particularly like in packaged goods, people kind of assume that these things just come out of factories. And they're born, they're born from the loins of the machine, you know, but there's, so it's interesting to humanize it, and to specifically like, you know, talk to the customers and offer that perspective. I think it's really fun. It's super fun to do the CES stuff, talk to people I think it
Stefany Nieto 1:02:05
is, there's the again, 5050 on the fun and the pain, right. But I I've also noticed myself as a customer, different brands that I've recently become like absolutely obsessed with, like, I will find out who the founder is, and I will message them on Instagram be like, Look, I'm also a founder, and I just created a fantastic product. I am like, I am one of your customers. And I think it's what you're doing is amazing. And founders love that. Because like a lot of people people do assume it's just like, Oh, it's just been created, produced somewhere. It's like, no, every single time that like you message us on Instagram or something like oftentimes I will see it, you know, and like, either it will make my day or I'm like, Oh, it'll ruin my day. And that's nice. People be nice, please. And that's what the other thing about customer success. Sometimes you get people that are really sweet and kind and understanding. And that time people just want to just complain and be rude and mean. And I'm like, There's no AI on the other side of this. I am a human. I recently had that with a somebody who was upset. And I was like, I typed back I'm like this is I think this is what you mean, I'm like, is this what you mean? And they're like, it sounds like you're frustrated? I'll just end the conversation. I'm just like, No,
Qasim Virjee 1:03:13
and this is the thing is like, the means of communication is so important to be able to communicate effectively and chat. This is I think why? You know, this kind of a semi quasi intelligent AI has really done well for chatbots in the last few, five, six years, is most conversations are triage, double, right. And you just want to get the customer to the information they're looking for or otherwise to ask watch their fear that they're not alone and that someone will reach out to them. But don't reach out during chat or is chat again, because it's so tough. It's so tough. Unless it's like some functional question someone has, like they're chatting with the software company trying to diagnose an issue to do with an integration. Very different than, you know. I don't know, what's an example even have like a customer support request for a product like this.
Stefany Nieto 1:04:08
Where's my shipment? Okay,
Qasim Virjee 1:04:10
okay, so it's mainly to do with that. Oh, no, a
Stefany Nieto 1:04:13
lot of times people are like, how am I supposed to feel? Okay. There's a fair amount of, especially now that we went international, it's like, where's my package? Because depending on Are we fulfilling somebody else we're filling, right? I got one that was interesting. Recently, she was just like, hey, I shipped it to my parents but then I realized it says microdose Ana, you guys don't have any drugs in it right? And I was like, no, no, we don't She's like I want to cancel my order because it says microdose on it and like I'm not sure what the pattern is gonna look like it's a plain white white like package like it's not gonna you know, freak anybody out but totally get it like you can reorder later No, no issue. But yeah, I would say some education, some logistic stuff. But personally like for me, even As a customer, I, when I, my heart just drops when I see that it's only AI, like it's only going to be a reservation bank of basically like different questions that people have asked. I'm just like, I just, I just want a person, I just want a person to tell me that everything's gonna be alright. And that's it. For
Qasim Virjee 1:05:14
me, that's why I love telephone, I still love telephone, I just adore the telephone. I think having a conversation with someone, of course, in person is the best thing ever. But I also hate video calls. Like, I hate them. I detest them vehemently. So, like zooms, and all this stuff with boxes. And just like, you know, I'm seeing only like one direction can move your head. Very annoying to me, I'd rather have just audio only. And so we have our telephone number on our website for that. And we encourage people to call and leave a voicemail. And that's another thing that unfortunately, people are not in the habit of, of utilizing voicemails these days. What. And what I found this is an interesting little social anecdote that I observation in the last few years is leading into the pandemic business phone calls. Typically, I would find for like, let's call it leads, like people that need to book a meeting spaces start well, we would have perhaps 60% 80%, like quite a high threshold of people calling that didn't reach somebody on our staff, they will leave a voicemail with the pandemic, it's gone down to about 30%. And the more I survey people, and when I find that I call back the missed calls Oh is and I ask people just to learn what happened. Most people are so burned out from their personal in their personal lives about being reachable and on demand for work and for home and they just there they don't know what to say when it hits voicemail. They kind of feel awkward. If there's someone there then maybe they can you know, they're not alone in a way they're forced to do it. Yeah, it's so interesting. So anyway, I like the phone a lot. I do miss voicemails, I like hearing voicemails is quite fun. But yeah, customer support can be can be tricky, especially as you are global. And you're selling your product all over the place. How has going back to the marketing side of things and the content? How has being global impacted that kind of, you know, brand positioning, or do you think it will?
Stefany Nieto 1:07:25
It will it hasn't? The way that we are currently International is with this really great company called maple. So what they do is that they basically do your advertising and your logistics internationally, which can get dicey for natural food product like us, because you know, you have to be careful about what you're saying or what you're not saying. So for this one, so we actually don't do any international advertising. Like we just don't, we only do advertising the US and soon to be Canada. And our brand positioning probably will change as that expands. But for now, I mean, it only launched in October, so we haven't done it yet. Okay.
Qasim Virjee 1:08:04
Yeah, cuz internationalization is difficult, you know, in terms of like multilingual, looking at like nuances, even the pack,
Stefany Nieto 1:08:13
like Canada with the French, we're looking at the new packaging right now. And it's like, yeah, our packaging, our new packaging, and this one, like, looks dope. But now we're gonna have to change it up and make sure that we have that room for the French translation, and make sure that it makes sense in French, you know, yeah, especially without having somebody that speaks French on our team. So like trying to find somebody that gets the brand gets our brand voice and understands how to translate it appropriately. But yeah, there's, there's even like, the value proposition that you're talking about on packaging. different audiences want different things. And so again, we haven't learned that lesson yet. Our assumption right now is that the Canadian market is gonna be very similar to the US market, particularly because of the sales that we've been seeing so far anyway, in Canada, but I'm sure in terms of the type of customer and in terms of the type of customer.
Qasim Virjee 1:09:06
So where's the company at now, in terms of its kind of like composure, how's your team grown? It
Stefany Nieto 1:09:14
is like, it started like three people, then it we grew to about eight people. And now we're back to five people. So the thing about building a company, right, is that you need different skill sets at different times of growth. And once you're past that kind of stage, or that those type of projects needed at certain different stages, then you move on to different skill sets. Some people might transition well into other skill sets. Some people need other specialists, they do that one thing. And so we've kind of, you know, gone up and down in terms of team size right now we're at Yeah, we're at five right now a little bit in marketing, little bit of product and a little bit and kind of operations do a lot of things but from us, we often just work with really good external freelancers. And so, yeah, we just kind of keep I'm not I'm
Qasim Virjee 1:10:00
pretty agile in the sense that you can kind of scale up and down your capabilities with using third parties. Yeah.
Stefany Nieto 1:10:06
And that's what we've really tried to get better at over the past two years, because we realize, like, yeah, you can bring on a bunch of team members, but then you're at a whole different stage of growth. And all of a sudden, those skill sets aren't necessarily, you know, it's not that they're not required, but it's not needed as much as they were. And those people don't can't sometimes can't necessarily transition into a more general role. It's,
Qasim Virjee 1:10:29
it's really a, it's tough to find multi talented people that can kind of in the early stage of any company, kind of pick up where it's needed, apply themselves, but also be able to not silo themselves, or go down rabbit holes and think that that's all they have to do. Some
Stefany Nieto 1:10:46
people like that are amazing, like, I love when I be a specialist. It's like, I do this one thing really well. I'm like, amazing, fantastic. I personally, I love operations, because I'm a generalist, my entire ethos when building companies like you should be able to jump in to any aspect of the business and like, do it. And if you can't, then you should have a co founder that can. But yeah, like I love a good generalist.
Qasim Virjee 1:11:12
Honestly, that's what I do all day. I'm Super General. I am the general of start. Well, yeah. And I think it's interesting, because it sounds like the company is is about to blow up. I mean, five people is a small team. It's a small team. How has capital, like financial capital played a role? You know, kind of, since you got the product out, and you're starting to do distribution deals? It has it played a point where you needed to go back to find more capital from either the original investors or look outside to bring on new investors. Yeah,
Stefany Nieto 1:11:50
I mean, capital has allowed us to test new formulas, new packaging, new distribution strategies. We've done I want to say three rounds. Yeah. Since then, beyond family friends, we moved into the VC space, mostly with psychedelic funds. Cool. Yeah, they've been really interesting to work with.
Qasim Virjee 1:12:14
And do you know, one of us based here called noetic?
Stefany Nieto 1:12:17
I do not know, Eric, we they are not one of our investors. But I have been told like, you should reach out to them. And I'm like, maybe next round right now we're our most recent round was more focused on DTC CPG type of VCs, to help grow that distribution aspect. But yeah, I mean, in terms of what it's been allowed us to do, it's allowed us to also hire people with those specialists mindsets, do that thing project really well. And build a really kick ass brand so far?
Qasim Virjee 1:12:45
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, and then now, let's talk tying the internationalism thing to the growth strategy thing and this brand positioning of quella. So I guess the idea is to prepare for legalization of psilocybin, somewhere, Canada or elsewhere,
Stefany Nieto 1:13:06
I'm saying like, probably, yes, Canada, back to the like gamer thing. It's like, it's really hard to launch in a space that you do not know the culture. And, you know, so maybe UK and my co founders from the UK. But, yeah, I mean, part of the reason that we built well, and Mojo simultaneously is in that eventuality, like we would be equipped to launch a line in that space. Do we need it? No. Like we
Qasim Virjee 1:13:34
did I see something on your website, though, about Jamaica,
Stefany Nieto 1:13:38
we were, we have a bunch of retreats listed on the Gila mushrooms.com website, where it's a bunch of retreats that do have, you know, psilocybin type of retreats. On there, we have some partnerships with a few of them, okay. And we're kind of working to build that out a little bit more. But us in terms of like, what we're doing right now, just creating partnerships, you know, creating a consumer brand people recognize, trying to provide value for people that are looking for psychedelics, like how to take what to take, how to do it, when to do it. But again, staying on the legal side of it, right, right.
Qasim Virjee 1:14:12
Yeah. Very cool. I'm excited by this. I think this is a really cool, what you're what you're on to. And I think it's great to hear that like people are really kind of well, actually we didn't I didn't I don't know if I heard this from you. In terms of the people that are your kind of regular customers, like what's the regular use case are people using Mojo through their daily life every day?
Stefany Nieto 1:14:38
Some people Yes, some people know. Some people like gym goers tend to go to three to four times a week to the gym, that you'll take three to four times a week. Other people that use it, maybe for their mental health, it's more of the day to day, we suggest five days on two days off. Why take a break? Just to make sure you're not building too much like a tolerance Okay, we also it is a riff off of the Stamets protocol for micro dosing psilocybin, which is, I believe, four days on two days off. I think we wanted to do a play on that, but also yet, make sure you don't build tolerance. And then you have people that like, if they it's a for, let's say, a preach, instead of a pre drink, they take Mojo, well, maybe they're only drinking once to twice a week on a Friday and a Saturday night. So that's their use case. So again, back to the like, there's so many different use cases and different types of customers. That it, it can be routine, it cannot be routine. And I'm still figuring that out. I'm still figuring that out with customer interviews right now, like, what is the majority? Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:15:39
it's tough. How are you conducting your customer interviews? Is it just like random surveys? Are you sending messages out to people who bought through your website?
Stefany Nieto 1:15:48
So we did, we looked at we Okay, so we looked at a model of people that were coming back and people that weren't coming back, we then downloaded all of their information, looked at trying to get like, some gender parity and some general like lifestyle parity in terms of income levels, where were they living, what their lifestyles were, like, we hand selected about 200 people in about four different batches. We emailed all of the selected people invited them to an interview and only chose between 25 to 50 of each batch. And then I sit with them for about 30 minutes and do like an A video call interview of, you know, a bunch of questions that we wrote out that are questions that our team wanted to know. And then I send them a gift card.
Qasim Virjee 1:16:33
Okay, so video call is the format, but with some good triage. And then that's so interesting. And then it's just about watching that content together. Or you run it through some AI to kind of drive sentiment analysis and stuff. Like the geeky way to analyze all the data from that call. But yeah, that's
Stefany Nieto 1:16:57
me on you know, Google smart sheets or whatever, just taking those notes, putting like key like highlighting ones that I think are really important. Yeah. Although that way, probably would be a lot better, but no straight up notes. Nice.
Qasim Virjee 1:17:10
Nice. That's cool, man. And our people, our people's responses when they when they hear that you're interested in hearing from them. Most of
Stefany Nieto 1:17:20
them are like, pretty down. I mean, you get paid, like between Wow, 50 bucks for half hours. Pretty decent. Yeah. And all you have to do is tell me about your experience, why you hated it, why you loved it. Like I do these all the time, like I love being the customer Interviewer I love making money that way. And so people are generally pretty willing, I find that sometimes have to preface I'm like, Yes, I am the founder, but like, feel free to tell me my product sucks. Like it's, I'm, it's totally okay. Especially because for some people's bodies, like, this just won't work for them. And that's okay. Right. So just prefacing that with that, to try to make them comfortable into telling you know, how they feel. It's been pretty good. So far.
Qasim Virjee 1:18:04
That's awesome, man. I think it's cool. Because again, you're taking this really full circle, approach to not only founding the company, creating the product, testing the product, growing relationships that can help distribution. It's a really interesting thing to see your approach as an entrepreneur, because I think it's, you're on the right track in so many directions. It's awesome. What do you think next year or this year? Geez, 2023. So almost February, this new year? What do you think it will bring for Mojo? What are you trying to achieve this year for the brand or for the whole company? I should say?
Stefany Nieto 1:18:40
I would say at least one different use case and or form factor. Okay, cool. Um, something limited edition, like a limited edition draw. Yeah, you know, like something, something interesting. I would say different flavors, maybe Limited Edition flavors, as well. Partially from customer interviews. And one thing I'd really love to do is an at home case, like these are great, but I like even for myself. I'd like to have something at home and also that is to go so I'm working on that literally right now. I was designing it this morning on Photoshop, rather than a ziploc like an actual like so you can buy it as a ziploc but once you get home you can transfer it into your at home case or we can fill it for you like ship it back like
Qasim Virjee 1:19:26
a pillbox maybe like a peel Box Hill box where each day's like divot has a little seal on
Stefany Nieto 1:19:32
the exactly make it airtight and that we could maybe even take it with you. You know because we have gotten that people really like Mojo because unlike a powder or capsule capsules, but unlike powders, you can kind of just drop it into your bag and go take it whenever you want. Say I'm working on that literally right now. Oh, and a loyalty program.
Qasim Virjee 1:19:52
Stefany Nieto 1:19:53
that's one thing that I is like topsites right now. Loyalty Program for our subscribers or for just returned customers.
Qasim Virjee 1:20:00
I love that actually. Because it's it's really, it's tough otherwise to divine. You know, who actually wants to have a relationship with the brand and the company out of your customer base. There might be regular buyers that are like, Yeah, I love this thing. It's cool. Now I'm living my life. But there's other people that are like, I love this thing. I want to be more people that love this thing. And we'd love to share stories. And so that will give you access to that. That's good.
Stefany Nieto 1:20:25
Yeah, I love brands that build out community that way. I don't know if I have like a love hate. I don't know if it translates into into dollars as much as some TTC people might think. Personally, I love it. Like there are a few brands like as I am, or hoo ha, who I love them. And I love being part of their community. Like I'm the type of person that will go on to their discord and like just kind of see what people are talking about and how they use their products. And that's just something I'm interested in. But is that majority of customers? I don't know.
Qasim Virjee 1:20:54
I mean, this is new to me to hear that there's brands that have been have discords.
Stefany Nieto 1:20:58
Yeah, it's super cool. So hoo, ha,
Qasim Virjee 1:21:00
and what Sorry, what are these brands? You mentioned? What does he do as
Stefany Nieto 1:21:03
I am it's an American brand. They are for curly hair specifically and like hair products. And what I love about it is that they don't have specific ingredients that like will make you lose your hair or provide specific like they don't have protein in their products, which is really weirdly hard to find. But they have a discord. And so you can log on and be like, you know, how do I add this into my routine to get my best type of curls and post a photo and you get real advice from their team and from other people in their community? Who Ha is a Vancouver brand and underwear brand. Get it? Who you know who covers or who exactly. Which they've also figured out a really unique way to talk about their product that doesn't get them banned on community platforms. They instead like they talk about your hoo ha with fruits. And like it's just like this alternative language that everybody knows what you're talking about. But it doesn't get you deactivated or shadow banned. Talking about underwear would do that. It depends on what you're posting about it. Yeah, it can get you shadow banned. Makes sense. And it's interesting seeing how their communities building out like if you go to their comment section, or even what they post about it, which is often community members. It's just fun to be a part of I'm part of this like, small club of like really great underwear. It's
Qasim Virjee 1:22:20
really funny, you mentioned that because I'll mention another brand that's actually affiliated with us because they shoot catalog content in our studio around the corner. So we have this big facility that's for stills in motion. And it's such a beautiful like big white studio with a psych so curved wall. There's like no corners. And it's Nick's so nice, another Canadian brand, that people love. Interesting founder story, right? And, and all of that. And every time that I tell someone that NYX shoots content at start, well, their eyes just go really wide. At least the customers have Nix that I am a
Stefany Nieto 1:22:58
next customer. And I also was one of their models once. Wow. That's amazing. Yeah, I was. I was I am a huge Knicks fan.
Qasim Virjee 1:23:07
And this is the thing, every single customer that I've come across, just anecdotally through telling people about this. And it seems like there's a lot of customers of Nick's right, because they retain their customers because everyone's like, this product is awesome. Listen elasticity issues, from what I hear, you know, things were down, it's okay. But yeah, people are such loyal fans that they are almost always shocked to even discover each other through these anecdotes. Like I've kind of have mentioned this in groups of people like just one more like family things. Like oh, yeah, the people are asking me who has been the shoot the studio and stuff. Because a lot of our friends are professionals. And this is just a wild, crazy world that, you know, the Qasim lives when I talked to them. And then yeah, groups of ladies will be like, Oh, you use those, oh, I have those Oh, and then they're off talking about next 20 minutes, you know. So it's, it makes sense that like strong brands can bring people together. And often cases, especially with your product, you know, the customers will share I'm quite certain lifestyle values that will align them with each other, even stronger. So there's a lot of potentiality to explore this year and onwards and anything we can do to help that. I'd love to if there's a community in Toronto that you want to bring together and physical real life IRL, bring it here to start well, whatever. Yeah, I think that's gonna be huge. Building Communities. Cool.
Stefany Nieto 1:24:40
I think so too. And on that note, one of my favorite moments of 2021 was me outside of a club in Toronto, just like you know, hanging out, it's like 130 in the morning. And then I was I was with somebody and like we were talking about Mojo and I was talking about like, work week. somebody hears Mojo. They're like, Oh, yeah, I love Mojo and then the person beside was like, Yeah, I'm like I love Mojo too. And they're talking about it. I'm just like, Oh my god. Definitely a highlight of 2021 That
Qasim Virjee 1:25:11
is awesome. Congratulations. Thank you. Yes. Such a pat on the back, isn't it? Again, going back to like walking through a store and seeing your product on the shelf? It's just like, that's why I do it, man. You know? Yeah.
Stefany Nieto 1:25:23
I mean, it's that level of like, pride. You know, it's just like, I did that and you know, it's making people's life a little bit better. Like that's pretty cool. Absolutely.
Qasim Virjee 1:25:33
fistball Thanks for coming on the podcast is great chatting with you.
Stefany Nieto 1:25:39
Thank you for having me. This has been so fun.