“Constantly innovate”, With Douglas Brown and Abby Kircher of Abby’s Better

Constantly innovate. The minute the company is no longer being creative is the same minute the company is in a downward spiral. It is vital that you are always taking the information that you are getting from the consumer and putting it to action! Give them a reason to come back and buy again. It […]

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Constantly innovate. The minute the company is no longer being creative is the same minute the company is in a downward spiral. It is vital that you are always taking the information that you are getting from the consumer and putting it to action! Give them a reason to come back and buy again. It is about creating a strong returning customer base so that people are LOYAL to you.

As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Kircher, Founder & CEO of Abby’s Better.

A young female entrepreneur and health enthusiast, Abby Kircher combines her passion for innovation and nutrition to create a new way of healthy snacking as the CEO and co-founder of Abby’s Better.

Raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Abby has always been known to take on a leadership role, even from a young age. In 2015, when Abby was just fifteen years old, she became invested in her health and creating a healthy lifestyle. It was during this time where she couldn’t help but notice the lack of options for foods that were both delicious and nutritious. With a drive to bridge the gap between taste and health, Abby took out her food processor, nuts, a few natural sweeteners, and began making an array of nut butter flavors and bites to create what is known today as Abby’s Better.

Today, Abby is even more passionate and ambitious than ever to share her creations with the world. To those seeking a healthier path, Abby offers the cleanest snacks made with all natural ingredients with a promise to never sacrifice taste. Abby continues to inspire other young entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams, even if it means taking the road less traveled. Abby’s brand and products can be found at local farmers markets, major food retailers around the East Coast and Midwest, as well as online at AbbysBetter.com.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was 14 year old, I was overweight and unhappy with my body. I knew I needed to make a change in not only how I ate, but also how I treated my body in general.

I started to focus on the ingredient labels of the foods I was eating and one of my favorite foods at the time was peanut butter! I ate it on pretty much everything. However, the peanut butter I was eating had tons of artificial sweeteners, peanut oils, and general ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce and knew couldn’t be helpful.

So, I decided to make my own! I was 15, it was the summer of 2015 and I started mixing different nuts with different natural sweeteners, like fruit. I eventually came up with 5 flavors of nut butters: Coconut Cashew, Date Pecan, Strawberry Cashew, Honey Almond, and Coffee Almond.

After hearing what friends and family were saying about the healthy BUT delicious products, I approached my mom and said “Let’s start a business. We can call it Abby’s Better and it can be a hobby to look good on the college resume.”

Little did I know that making that decision that day would lead me not to college, but far from it into a world I was totally unaware of at the time. I soon realized that Abby’s Better was about a lot more than just nut butter, but about creating a clean label snack brand that could be a one stop shop for healthy snacking.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

In 2018 I was invited by Seeds and Chips to attend the World Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy. I was a key-note speaker in two sessions, but the really exciting moment was getting to introduce Howard Shcultz to thousands of people on stage from all over the world! There I was, 17 years old, getting to meet one of the most amazing entrepreneurs and present him on stage. An experience of a lifetime!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom, and Abby’s Better COO, has always been a huge inspiration for me. We have very different skill sets, different outlooks and opinions, and that helps us complement each other in a work environment. I am also IMMENSELY inspired by all of the other successful female entrepreneurs in a variety of different industries who have paved the way for me to be able to do what I do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Funny enough, a quote I have always admired and to this day “keep in my back pocket” is one by Julie Andrews — “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

When I first started on my health journey I remember struggling with being unsatisfied in the foods I was eating. I found options that met my health “standards” or “requirements” but none that satisfied my taste preferences. That is why I make sure that every product I create in the kitchen for Abby’s Better not only is incredibly pure and minimal, but also TASTES GOOD! No more dissatisfaction with healthy eating.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Abby’s Better is not just a nut butter company. I am creating a clean label snack brand to be a one-stop-shop for healthy plant-based snacking. I want to touch as many people as possible with my products and show everyone that eating healthy is not only important, but is also enjoyable and can affect every area of life for the better.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

My motivation was to share my love for healthy eating with others and to make plant-based eating accessible and enjoyable for everyone. I grew up an overweight and unhealthy kid. When I decided to make a change (around 14 years old) I didn’t know anything about eating to fuel my body rather than just filling it. I did extensive research and taught myself from the ground up — but what I found was that it was difficult to find store bought items that tasted good WHILE meeting my health requirements. That’s what drove me to get in the kitchen and take it upon myself to find the solution — not even realizing that I would get to share my creations with so many people today!

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

Most of it has stayed the same, except that in the very beginning I was just creating a product, whereas now I am making a clean label snack brand to be a one-stop-shop for healthy plant-based snacking. My vision is a much bigger picture and I now am striving to touch as many people as possible with my products and show everyone that eating healthy does not need to be monotonous or overly challenging, but that you can ENJOY the process.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am very excited about a podcast we are currently working on where I will be deep diving into the entrepreneurial stories of young business owners — going over their wins and losses throughout the start of their careers, lessons learned so far, and their insight into future business trends, along with tips for the next generation of young entrepreneurs. I had so many questions in the beginning and even though it was helpful to watch interviews of very successful business owners, it became difficult at times relating myself to someone so much older and so much farther ahead. That’s why I wanted to make sure that this podcast would be focused on YOUNG entrepreneurs and their startup stories.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures is really a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million-dollars in sales revenue?

In business you are always having to be innovative and pivot at any given point. It is hard to plan for steady growth when you know that at the last minute BIG decisions will need to be made. That was key for Abby’s Better going into 2020 where our growth skyrocketed. In January, I decided that I wanted to ‘pivot’ and focus on primarily ecommerce sales where we had killer margin and more connection with our consumer. That was right before COVID hit and began to affect everyone’s lives. People were less likely to go into grocery stores to shop, so we positioned ourselves early on to be ready for the spike in online sales. Needless to say, it worked very well!

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

One of the many strategies we focused on during the e-commerce growth was getting as many customer reviews/thoughts/opinions as possible. Everything from social media polls and comments to email newsletters that could get people engaged and talking with us. We wanted to know how we could be the best possible brand and provide our consumers with the exact products they wanted and needed. LISTENING is such an important tactic and strategy in any business, but especially one where you have to compete with the internet to get people’s attention and bring them back again and again.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The amount of time we spent hand jarring each of our butters is insane. Hours upon hours because we didn’t know how to find the other option. That kind of “grind” in the beginning is good though. It taught me perseverance and to do the hard work that needed to be done even when it seemed insurmountable. Since then we’ve now moved into our own manufacturing facility!

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

We recently hired a national sales manager to help with our aggressive retail goals in 2021. Before now, to be honest, my family and I have been the sales force. In some ways, you couldn’t have a better “team” to “sell” your products because no one is going to be as passionate and driven as the founders!

Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Seems very simple, but learn your consumer — who is buying your products? It was hard for us to hone in on this one at first because we had notions of who was buying our products, but not the proof to back it. That’s where e-commerce analytics became so important. We had the ability to know exactly who was purchasing our products. Age, gender, job, location, interests. It’s all important.

2. Strategy 2 goes along with 1 — it’s to listen to your consumer. As I mentioned previously, it’s important to get that consumer as involved and active with you as possible. Make it fun for them to help you get to know them better. Let them know how important they are and position yourself as a brand who is introducing them to your “family,” so to speak.

3. Constantly innovate. The minute the company is no longer being creative is the same minute the company is in a downward spiral. It is vital that you are always taking the information that you are getting from the consumer and putting it to action! Give them a reason to come back and buy again. It is about creating a strong returning customer base so that people are LOYAL to you.

4. Find your ‘perfect’ team. No one can do this alone. Starting and growing a business takes a lot of attention and focus coming from all different areas of business, so make sure you are surrounded with people who know what you don’t know, who have the experience you don’t have, and who you enjoy working with and being around.

5. Know your end goal. This also sounds simple, but you don’t want to be grinding day in and day out not knowing where you are going and what your end goal is. Even if business is booming, it won’t feel like you are moving upward if you don’t even know where you want to go.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

Creativity and innovation is key, however this is grueling work and can get tiresome. If you feel like you have stalled in innovation, make sure you get someone on your team to bring fresh energy and new thinking! Mix it up a bit.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Trial and error, honestly. To find YOUR consumer means you will have to be reaching so many eyes to see what sticks. I would just suggest don’t hold back! You might be completely surprised by who ends up being your key consumer and taking you to that seven-digit threshold!

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

Once you know who your consumer is, test every area of your business along with them (the areas that they would experience). What is their age? Make sure you have someone in that category be immersed in the product and customer service and maneuvering around the website. Get as many opinions as possible and go from there. Also, keep in mind that you will have to be constantly changing and pivoting to keep up with their demands!

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

It’s important to be coming at it from both angles. You always want to be getting your products and brand in front of new eyes, but it is not sustainable if you are seeing a decrease in your rate of returning customers. Focus on having a STRONG rate of people who come back after buying once, and then go from there. If that rate is low it can say a lot about your brand. There is something about you or the products that a consumer doesn’t want to come back to. That could be a lot of different things from product to customer service to shipping rates or how easy/difficult it is to maneuver your site. If you’ve spent enough time and energy on getting to know your consumer and hearing from them, this should fall into place eventually!

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a movement prioritizing education in nutrition and what it means to take care of our bodies. Not one focused on the way we look or our “goal bodies,” but one that focuses on making us feel good, energized, and fueled for our day. I want to show people that you can ENJOY eating well and working out, and that the focus needs to be on the process and the day to day changes not just the ultimate outcome.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

This is no surprise, but Oprah Winfrey! She has overcome tremendous adversity and obstacles and has become one of the most powerful women in the world. She is such an inspiration and it would be such an honor if I ever get the pleasure of meeting her.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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