Jason McGowan and Sawyer Hemsley founded Crumbl Cookies in 2017, now the fastest-growing franchise and second-largest cookie company in the nation with 260 stores in 36 states in 4 years.
Crumbl Cookies – Need cookies like… now? Visit their website to find a Crumbl near you!
3 Value Bombs
1) Don’t be afraid of going after something – even if you are not experienced.
2) Connect with your audience on a personal level.
3) Do not skimp on quality of service and product.
**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: How to Create a Cult-Following in an Unattached World with Jason McGowan and Sawyer Hemsly
[1:37] – Sawyer shares something that he believes about becoming successful that most people disagree with.
- Don’t be afraid of going after something – even if you are not experienced.
[2:58] – What was the key to creating such a loyal and engaged fan base so quickly?
- Connect with your audience on a personal level.
- Do not hide behind the brand. Be the brand.
[4:07] – Jason breaks down their success strategies on social media that helped them go viral quickly.
- Be early on a platform, and invest time into creating your content.
- Be raw and authentic.
- Explore and leverage your audiences.
- Explore new audiences.
[7:59] – What was the first TikTok video you got traction on?
- They started posting the behind-the-scenes videos of their cookies, and those went viral.
- Customers started to engage.
[12:15] – How did you make Crumbl different?
- Focus on being different, being better, and being unique.
- Being an open concept kitchen makes Crumbl unique. Cookies are made in real-time.
[14:24] – What other technology have you leveraged in order to accelerate your rapid growth?
- The first thing they did was hire a technical team.
- They decided to have a custom-designed POS and KDS system.
- Crumbl is not just a bakery, but a tech-driven bakery.
- Focus on customer experience and how to improve it over time.
[19:13] – How have you achieved rapid growth and managed to sustain it?
- They’ve achieved rapid growth and sustained it by being data-driven.
- It is essential that you know all of your metrics
- Data has helped them scale, create metrics, and build custom dashboards for their business partners.
- Crumbl focuses on culture, experience, and concepts.
[22:58] – Sawyer and Jason’s parting piece of guidance.
- Do not skimp on quality of service and product.
- Your number 1 competitor is yourself. Always be working towards beating you, tomorrow.
- Crumbl Cookies – Need cookies like… now? Visit their website to find a Crumbl near you!
Who's ready to rock today, Fire Nation. JLD here and to welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like Female Startup Club. Today, we'll be breaking down how to create a cult following in an unattached world to drop these value bombs. I brought Jason McGowan and Sawyer Hemsley into EOFire studios. Jason and Sawyer founded Crumbl Cookies in 2017. Now the fastest growing franchise and second largest cookie company in the nation, 260 stores, 36 states and four years. And today furniture we'll talk about building a loyal and engaging fan base. How to use social media to go viral.
How being unique is key and other technologies that you can leverage to accelerate your growth and so much more. When we get back from thanking our sponsors as a small business owner, paying and taking care of your team can be tough. That's why Gusto built easy to use payroll benefits, onboarding and HR tools. And right now you'll get three months free. When you run your first payroll at Gusto.com/fire. Wondering what to do when you need motivation, wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnout tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts, Sawyer say what's up to Fire Nation and share something that you believe about becoming successful.
0 (1m 34s):
The most people disagree with
1 (1m 37s):
What's up Fire Nation. This is Sawyer. Now something I believe that has made, you know, our brand successful me personally successful is to not be afraid to go after something. Even if you're not experienced now in the cookie world, we had nothing, no knowledge, not as much as we would have liked jiving into the cookie world, but we weren't afraid. And so I think a lot of people may think you can't do something because you don't actually have, you know, an expertise in that field or that career, but anything can be learned. And I think because me and my business partner, Jason, weren't afraid to just go after it.
1 (2m 17s):
And we had a dream and a vision. It really made us successful. And through all of our failures, we found that success
0 (2m 25s):
Nation, you just heard Sawyer mentioned his partner, Jason, and we did talk about in the introduction, how today's focus is about how to create a cult following in an unattached world. And we will be hearing from Jason soon. We're going to keep it with soy right now because soy, I want to know about building a loyal and engaging fan base, because let's be honest with our listeners here. It's tough, but you guys did it. You figured it out. So what the heck is the key to creating such a loyal and engaging fan base? So quick?
1 (2m 58s):
Honestly, I feel like something that we we did from the very beginning is we connected with our audience and with our customers on a personable level, we, we were real, we were, were raw. We called out our mistakes and we did that all online. You know, if they said that our product or service was slow or not the best, we would say, okay, well thank you for the feedback. Let us jump on that and improve and better. And we always answered everyone's DMS or any of the comments. And they really felt heard, and they felt that connection, which we weren't just hiding behind the brand.
1 (3m 38s):
We were the brand.
0 (3m 39s):
Now, Jason, I want to say thank you first off for being patient with us since by hanging out because you and Sawyer have built something pretty special. So I'd love to hear anything that you might want to add to what Sean Sawyer just share. But also I want to move into social media because you guys use social media specifically TechTalk and you created a viral social media presence, pretty darn quick as well. So break down those success strategies for us.
2 (4m 7s):
Yeah, absolutely. Hi, Fein nation. Glad to be with you here today and excited to talk with you all. I think one of the things that was important to us is to also be early. A lot of times, people wait on social media and say, Hey, I'm going to wait till this platform is huge. Before I joined and go on. When we went on Tik TOK, it was pretty early. So we went on a little early and we went all out as if it was Instagram or Facebook or any other platform. And so one of my bits of advice probably would be to make sure you go early on a platform and don't be scared to invest both your time and content and all those other things that you do on a social media platform to, to be early.
2 (4m 48s):
So I think one, we were early and too, and I think it goes back to what Sawyer said too, as well, which is really being raw and authentic. People love it when you're authentic and raw and real. A lot of times when people go on the platform, they try to just take this content. There's like, I'm going to split it across all the different platforms. And this is the content. Well, every platform is a little bit unique. What, what speaks to people on Facebook is different than what speaks to people on Instagram and what speaks to be different to people on Tik TOK. Like why was TOK invented is basically or primary videos and it's where trends start and all these other different things. So when you look at it, you think, how can we build content around kind of leveraging what the platform was built for?
2 (5m 29s):
So I think being early is one and then leveraging the platform of what it's built for us too. So another one that Instagram was really built early on around the camera. People go, we're getting mobile phones. The pixels were really pixelated. And so Instagram provided filters and all kinds of things to really make it great. And so what we did is really leveraged photography on Instagram and what's the vibe on it, or what's the pattern on your, on your feed? All those little intricacies made a difference for that particular platform. So what do we do specifically on Tik TOK? Well, it was raw videos and, and, and customer reviews and those kinds of things started bubbling up on Tik TOK. And so rather than just saying, oh great, that's our customers are creating that content.
2 (6m 10s):
It was, how can we get, and this goes into the third thing, which is how can we really take what's already happening in working on the platform and double down and 10 X down on it. So, because customers were going in and they were rating our cookies, we created a whole campaign around that. We're like, it's already happening. How can we create that? How can we create that and leverage our hype cycle marketing, which we do on a weekly basis. So, because our content is every single week, we're able to create content fresh every single week. We kind of build that hype up for the cookies and really create this hype cycle marketing. So you take, what's working already on the platform and what it was built for you early, adopt it.
2 (6m 51s):
And then also you watch the audience and watch what they're specifically doing on those platforms that are unique to your brand. And you leverage that and you 10 exit and make it that thing. So I think those are the kind of three things that have worked really well for us to really blow up and go viral on these different platforms.
1 (7m 8s):
And Jason didn't, I would add exploring new audiences because we were intimidated. Don't get us wrong at the beginning to jump on Tik TOK, because it was very a young audience. And we were going after the common, typical soccer mom, would you typically find on an Instagram and Facebook very strongly, but we said, you know what, let's try going after this younger audience. And it worked out to our advantage
0 (7m 31s):
Being early in leveraging the platform for the reason it was created Fire Nation. I mean, those are some fantastic takeaways. And by the way, something else is coming, something is around the corner. Something's just over the horizon that hasn't even been launched yet. It's always an opportunity to be early if you are patient. And then you jump on the time is right. And Jason, before we move on, I do want to ask you what was that first tick talk video that you put out that really got traction, like bring us to that moment.
2 (7m 59s):
We started posting the real raw behind the scenes videos of our cookies. So instead of just posting, like, cause when we got started, we originally started like trying to do all the dancing, try and do all the things that are happening on Tik TOK. But really what's kind of set us on fire is when we just showed all the behind the scenes, the fun, the, the coolness and the sexiness of the cookies and that part. So when we've spared, leveraging and focusing on the cookies, which was great for us, that's when we noticed our posts started going crazy. That's when we noticed customers starting to engage and that's when kind of things really started to take off.
1 (8m 32s):
And it was more of the process, Jason, it was more of actually cracking the eggs and showing them how fresh, real, and raw are are are mixing was, you know, like they were genuinely interested on how our product was made and they love that. They love seeing,
2 (8m 49s):
And it was so fun. Cause at first you're like, oh, they just want to see us dancing or something. Right? Like that's how like, but again, same thing with everything else. We are constantly engaging in working that, like Sarah said, like when they see the behind the scenes and they see the freshness of the eyes, how Crumbl and how a cookie is made, it really resonated with them. And,
1 (9m 10s):
And it brought it to life like exerience was able to be captured through video and it actually appetized them to find a store or the store nearest them and
0 (9m 20s):
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0 (10m 42s):
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1 (11m 57s):
Yes. So our three things that we always focus on is how can we be different, better and special than everyone else out there. And it's been something that we focused on since day. One, something that I think really truly makes Crumbl unique is we are open concept kitchen. We make all of our cookies in real time. And as a customer, you can walk into our door and see every single step of the process. We don't have a huge glass display case with all the cookies that have been pre-made early in the morning. We actually make the cookies in real time, which is unique because you're walking out with something that was just barely baked.
1 (12m 39s):
That's still that soft, nice cookie right out of the oven. And I think that's, that's, that's something that people really truly love. It almost takes you back to when you used to make cookies with your mom or your grandma and used to sneak one off the panel.
2 (12m 55s):
Yeah. You can see the flower there. Right? So here, like you can see like on the counter and you can see the egg shells that are, they're sitting in after they've been cracked and done. When you walk in, you can smell, right? Like you can smell it because it hasn't been made hours and hours ago or early that morning, you can just smell it made in real time. So it's, it's a, it's a feeling for sure when you get in there.
1 (13m 15s):
Yeah. It's magic
0 (13m 17s):
And you know, what's crazy Fire Nation. And this is something that I don't even know if you two thought about before, but in a lot of places, especially in like cities, kids don't even know how food is made. They literally just think food appears like it is later. It's like, you know, catch up is just catch up. Like it just literally like you squeeze up a bottle, like they don't know there's ingredients in there and it's this and the status of grow and all these other things. It's like, people don't know how food is made these days because everything becomes pre-packaged, pre-made all this stuff. So to see the eggshells and the flower kids going to be like, why are there eggshells? Why is there this white powder over here? Like they literally would not understand unless they have this process. So that's something super cool that I think parents would really jive with bringing their kids is such an interesting environment.
0 (13m 60s):
And Jason, what other technology did you leverage to accelerate your rapid growth?
2 (14m 7s):
We did two early on in one decision that we made was we hired a technical team immediately, right? So I come from a technology background. My whole career is kind of based around technology and, and, and when we first leveraged our, our first experience was, was delivery with door dash wasn't around. And none of these experiences were around when you can order cookies and watch the driver come to your house. That was really cool. I I'd say today, it's kind of just normal. You can see it it's but when we first launched, we were kind of at the cutting edge of technology where you could actually see a driver come to you and, and watch that car come in and have those special experiences. But we also spend a lot of time and energy around our mobile app being able to order and have it, you know, whether you're going to the store to pick it up or have it delivered into your car, all those kinds of things.
2 (14m 58s):
We've built all of our custom tech technology, all right, from the beginning, another big move that we made, which almost seems crazy to probably any other food and service business is we decided to actually build our own custom POS. And we did this in such a way that it was just really exciting to use. So we, when we set out to build it, we're saying, how can you use our POS system as if you've never used it? Like you're a customer it's almost as good as a self-help kiosk. And so we did that and make doing those kinds of things. When customers come in and they can see it and you can touch a cookie and it slides into the box, all those things are part of an experience. It's how you feel when you order it.
2 (15m 38s):
Right? And so all those decisions that we made early on, and even now to say, we're going to own the whole experience, whether you're ordering something from the screen, whether you're, you know, smelling when you walk into the store or what the cookie looks like, or how it's delivered to you, all those different pieces and all the technology behind the scenes to make that work. It's actually a lot. We built around KDS system. So when tickets appear and makes it easier for the bakers to know how to prepare the cookies, all of those kinds of things, we built technology in and out front of the house, back of house, everything. And I think it's really helped us kind of understand the customer experience.
2 (16m 18s):
Know our ticket times really well know where the frustrations and pain points are in the technology process and how we can fix those things. So I feel like we've invested really early and really aggressively in technology and it has dramatically paid off. And I think the biggest experience where it had paid off is when COVID had come, we, no one knew what was going to happen. Right? Stores were closing, no one, all of a sudden could go into a, into a location. And so we had our mobile app out there and we said, you know what, we're going to build curbside and basically add a drive-through to every location, because we only had one or two locations that actually had a drive-through. And so here we are with, you know, hundreds of locations and we're like, how can we build a drive-through?
2 (17m 2s):
So in two weeks time, we revamped our whole entire app experience. And we made it possible for people to come to the store or to the cookie, see the whole experience and have them rate delivered to their, to their car right before, well, everyone was trying to figure out like, how does this work, or how are we going to do curbside? We executed in two weeks and our sales went through the roof. Like people just knew that they could order it. They felt safe and it was really, really fun to watch. So I think when you own your own technology stack, you can leverage it during key moments in, in your company, you know, history. So I think that was one thing that we were able to do quickly that was successful.
1 (17m 39s):
And so it's E it's, it's something to call out though. John is, we're not just a bakery, we're a tech driven bakery. And just like Jason said, we can be innovative and adapt and turn on a dime where we need to be able to adapt to the market. Especially recently, during the pandemic,
0 (17m 58s):
Something that Jason said over and over again, and Sawyer said a few times, as well as experience Fire Nation. I really want you to understand the power of that. You know, a lot of cookie stores or other stores that are similar, there may be, are just thinking about the product. Like how can we just get the product into the person's hand as soon as possible, get them out the door, quick turnover, blah, blah, blah, Jason and Sawyer are just like, Hey, how can we create an experience that people walk in anticipating a good time. They have a good time. And then they go home and they talk about the good time that they had. And they're looking forward to it next time as well. That's how you win at a very high level. And so ask yourself, this question, Fire Nation, how are you being different? How are you being better?
0 (18m 38s):
How are you being special when compared to your competition and experiences and bringing those in is a way to do these things. So Jason, you too, not only achieved rapid growth, you were able to sustain this growth over time. How
2 (18m 55s):
One of the things that we've done too, is we're a very data-driven company. And we, we understand all the metrics of all of our stores. So we've built technology to know everything from ticket times to how customers are feeling about their cookies, to what the sales were like for different cookie through when we dropped a new flavor for that week. So we, we were able to grab, grab all this data, and that really helped us scale. So rather than us coming around and trying to figure these things out, we said, let's grab all this data. Let's create some metrics and let's build custom dashboards for our franchise partners. So they have actually have their very own app just for franchise partners. And they're able to see how they compare to other stores, how well they're doing, what time of day that they're having bottlenecks and all those kinds of things.
2 (19m 42s):
And so when we talk about experiences and if they break down, we know from a data perspective, when it broke down, how it broke down and what we need to do to fix those things. And so becoming very data-driven and building these dashboards and turning them over to our franchise partners and having them become data-driven too, as well. Has it allowed us to go from, you know, that one store in Logan to 300 stores all across the nation, you know, every week we can sit down and say, Hey, where are we? Where's our weakest point? How can we fix that? And how can we do it very, very quickly? And so that has allowed us to scale today. We've never had a store closed down. So you have, you have all these things happening in the pandemic.
2 (20m 23s):
You have stores closing down and everything, and people are just shocked to know, like we have never, ever had a one location ever shut down. All of our stores are successful all the way up to 300. And we believe one of those key reasons is because we're data-driven that helps us to see when there's pain points or problems, you know, Sawyer can go in there and he can see the quality across the company and see, okay, Hey, where is where's the quality? Just not as, not to the level and the bar where we needed to be, and he can go in there and work and manage the teams and operations to make sure that they're successful there. And it sort of does design just absolutely phenomenal job at knowing the pulse of them because that data and really executing and helping everyone be at the level that they need to be at.
1 (21m 7s):
Yeah. It's awesome. I think something else I would add to why we've been able to grow is because Crumbl is such an exciting brand. We've really focused on the culture, again, the experience, but also just the concept in general, it's not only open kitchen concept, but something we have yet to mention John, is that we are a taste weekly concept. So we have a menu that rotates weekly. We have four new flavors. And so it's super exciting. The anticipation is high the week prior, and it brings customers back week after week to try all of these fun flavors. And it's just so fun because our flavors range from as crazy as a bubble gum flavor to a rich, deep caramel chocolate flavor.
1 (21m 54s):
And there's something for everybody each and every week. So it's super, super exciting. And not only do our franchise partners love it, but our customers love as well.
0 (22m 4s):
That's the question you've got to ask yourself, are you staying stagnant? Like, are you just producing the same thing over and over and over again, of course people are going to get product fatigue. It just happens across the board. Now let's stick with you Sawyer, because I want you to take this home for us. What is the one thing you really want to make sure Fire Nation gets from everything that we talked about here today? We talked about a lot of gray stuff, a lot of great tactics and strategies that you guys employed. What do you want to make sure our listeners really walk away with the best ways that we can connect with you and Crumbl, any call to action you have, and then we'll say goodbye.
1 (22m 41s):
So many things. But the first thing that came to mind is don't skimp on quality, whether that's through the service or the product. And I think when we first started out, there were multiple companies trying to compete with us. And me and Jason would always have many conversations talking about, you know, let's not focus on them. Let's focus on us and make sure we have the absolute best quality that we can because if we have high quality and we're using the best ingredients and we're focusing ourselves and where we're just moving forward, people will come. They will naturally come organically come and they will return. And I feel like we truly do have the best cookies, the best technology and the best service in the industry.
1 (23m 24s):
And we will continue to move forward and keep that number one spot because of our quality. And I think you had to have that to be successful.
0 (23m 32s):
Jason, I have one question for you. When are you opening up a Crumbl in Puerto Rico?
2 (23m 39s):
That's a great question. I don't have anything to announce today. That might be a little sooner than you think, John.
0 (23m 45s):
Ooh, well that makes me are really exciting. I'm going to talk to you about locations afterwards, because I got some ideas for you. Anything adjacent you want to say on that same topic was that Sawyer just shared. And then also give us the best way that we can connect with your company. And then we'll say goodbye.
2 (24m 1s):
I think I just want to echo what Sawyer said. We're out on a mission to bring friends and families together over the best box of cookies in the world. And focusing on quality and focusing on yourself has paid back in spades and in dividends while people are sometimes chasing their competitors. We always say our number one competitor is ourself and yesterday, and we got to beat herself tomorrow. And I think that's one thing that we will always continue to focus on is being better every day, putting the best quality of service technology that we can out there in the world and just continue to be better. So always focus on being the best that you can be and trying to slay the day. I always say
0 (24m 39s):
Slay the day Fire Nation. And of course you can just go to Google maps and type Crumbl and, and you can make that happen. That's C R U M B L to find a close location, but Jason, any social media, any place you want to find a nation to go to learn more or to follow or to just see what's going on.
2 (24m 57s):
I want you to go in and try the cookies. John. That's. The best way to engage with, with Crumbl is to just fall all over social medias, see our cookies every single week, and then every single week, just have a little taste and see what you think of the new cookies that week. So tastes weekly and try out our cookies and you'll be hooked.
1 (25m 15s):
Yes. Follow us at Crumbl Cookies on all platforms, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and, and write us. We'll write you back.
0 (25m 23s):
Yeah. Fire Nation. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you've been hanging out with three people for the past little while now. JM, SH and JLD. So keep up the heat, head over to EOFire.com, just type Jason or Sawyer or both in the search bar. And the show notes page will pop up with everything we've talked about and of course, follow Crumbl on social media. Get into the store, try it go back the next week. It'll be new cookies to try eat some more, make it happen. Jason Sawyer, thank you for sharing your truth, your knowledge, your value with Fire Nation today, for that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side.
0 (26m 3s):
Thanks John. Hey, Fire Nation today's value bound content was brought to you by Jason and Sawyer and Fire Nation. Successful entrepreneurs accomplish big goals. That's why I created the freedom journal to guide you in accomplishing your number one goal in a hundred days, and we're talking step-by-step so visit the freedomjournal.com and I'll catch you there. Or on the flip side, as a small business owner paying and taking care of your team can be tough. That's why Gusto built easy to use payroll benefits, onboarding and HR tools. And right now you'll get three months free. When you run your first payroll at Gusto.com/fire. Wondering what to do when you need motivation, wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnouts tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.
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