Sahar Saidi is the founder & CEO of LUS Brands (Love Ur Self). They make hair products for curly hair that actually work!
LusBrands – Curly Hair Simplified.
3 Value Bombs
1) Get rid of your safety net. If you have a product or service that you believe in, even if no one else believes in you, just figure it out and do it.
2) If you have a good product, and it works, people will go tell their friends and family about it.
3) Get rid of your safety net.
**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: How to Bootstrap a Startup with Less Than $100K Capital (and Get to $30MM+ Revenues in Year 4).
[01:40] – Sahar shares something about herself that most people don’t know.
- She quit her corporate job in her 20’s and moved to the Caribbean for a few years, and then moved back to North America where she dove back into what she is doing now.
[2:41] – Sahar talks about bootstrap her company instead of going after the traditional investor capital.
- She knocked on so many doors, yet none of the investors she approached thought that a shampoo company would make it and be highly profitable.
[3:50] – Sahar shares the moment when she knew that there was a great product-market fit.
- She used to use friends and family as ‘guinea pigs’ to distribute the product to anyone with wavy or curly hair. Everyone who went on to get small sample sizes actually showed interest and asked for more of the product.
- Early feedbacks made her put more money into it.
[5:35] – Who was Sahar’s first hire?
- Her first hire was in customer service. They launched a direct-to-consumer website.
- Early on, one of her customers volunteered to help her and took over customer service for the company. She’s now their community manager.
[7:08] – Sahar talks about her second hire.
- Someone to take over sales and marketing was her second hire. A lot of their success was (and is) because of her.
[12:01] – How did Sahar grow her company so fast?
- Have a good product that actually works. If you have a good product, and it works, people will go tell their friends and family about it.
- Most DTC brands rely on breaking even on the first purchase
- Instead of using influencer marketing, they turned people into micro-influencers by using their ad platforms.
[14:36] – Sahar shares more about applying for investor capital.
- They got accepted for investor capital and went through the Y-Combinator program—the largest tech accelerators in the world.
[16:54] – What makes them different from other DTC brands?
- Being profitable is a huge differentiator.
[19:16] – Sahar’s key takeaway for Fire Nation.
- Get rid of your safety net. If you have a product or service that you believe in, even if no one else believes in you, just figure it out and do it. Don’t wait on investors and go all in.
[19:55] – Sahar’s call to action.
- Go to Lusbrands.com and check out what Sahar has created!
What's shaking fire nation, J L D here with an audio master class on how to bootstrap a startup with less than a hundred thousand dollars capital to drop these Sahar Saidi on the mic. She is the founder and CEO of a less brands. Love yourself. They make hair products for curly hair that actually works in foundation day. We'll be talking about why, why would you bootstrap opposed to going with investor capital? We'll talk about the importance of the first hire and the second hire and how to do that the right way. We'll talk about growing fast and how to really make things happen when you're in that environment. And then of course, we'll talk about the right way to take investor capital when it's the right time and so much more.
When we get back from thanking our sponsors
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0 (1m 7s):
fire nation. Would you be fired up with an e-commerce business generating 10 K per month? Well, today's sponsor qwantify wants to help you get there. Qwantify provides end to end e-commerce training and support. And if you are accepted into their partner program, your success in revenue are guaranteed apply for their partner program today at qwantify.com. So har say what's up to fire nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people don't know
1 (1m 34s):
What's up. Fire nation Sahar here. Really excited to speak with you guys today. Something interesting about me, the most people don't know is I quit my corporate job in my twenties and moved to the Caribbean for a few years before coming back up to North America and diving back in to everything I'm doing now,
0 (1m 53s):
Where specifically in the Caribbean, because you're talking to a Puerto Rican right now.
1 (1m 56s):
Oh, nice. Turkson Keiko. Ooh,
0 (1m 59s):
Very cool. Haven't made it to that one yet. Would you recommend
1 (2m 2s):
A hundred percent have to go to church and kick goes, I've been to Puerto Rico though. Beautiful.
0 (2m 6s):
Yeah. Puerto Rico is great. And I'm looking forward to exploring a bunch more of these lesser Antilles islands as recall, we've been to a bunch, but we still got a bunch of more to do and fire nation. We're talking with Sahar today about how to bootstrap a startup with less than a hundred thousand dollars capital, which by the way, most people don't really think is possible. But I want to just start by asking you so hard. Why, why did you decide to Boosh up your company instead of going after the traditional investor capital?
1 (2m 34s):
It wasn't from lack of trying that's for sure. I mean, I put together a beautiful business plan and I knocked on so many doors and you know, none of the investors I was approaching before I started my company, thought a shampoo company would make it, let alone become highly profitable and be a fast-growth DTC brand. So it wasn't so much a decision to bootstraps so much. So as, Hey, if I don't do this, then there's no way my company is going to get off the ground. So fire nation,
0 (3m 1s):
When life hands you lemons, you just make that less lemonade. And it's exactly what Sahar has been able to do over the years. If you actually just go and check out some YouTube videos, you'll be able to see kind of the evolution, you know, as it's evolved. And I really found it cool as I was doing some research for this episode. And I'd love to know so hard from you. If you could just think about that exact moment, when you first knew you had product market fit. I mean, you knew from the back in the day that you had something that was going to work, but just because it was going to work, it doesn't always mean it's going to get traction. So what was the moment you were like, okay. Product market fit check.
1 (3m 42s):
Yeah, it really did start before I even went live with the site. I used to use my friends and family as my Guinea pigs. So I would pick up product samples, distribute them around the city of Toronto, anybody that had wavy curly, kinky coily hair was testing product for me. And I think what really did it for me is everyone would get these small sample sizes. And they were just on me all the time as to when are you launching? We need more. We've never tried anything like this. And so I think it was just that early feedback. And even though they were friends and family, they were, they wrote me, they were willing to pay for this stuff. And I thought, okay, I've got gold here. And I mean, that's really what made me put my own money into it and back the company and just get started.
1 (4m 22s):
But it wasn't until a few months after launching that our sales really started to pick up that I knew, okay, we're onto something here,
0 (4m 29s):
Fire nation, when people are willing to vote with their wallets, that's the key, that's a critical factor. So many times I've seen myself by the way, it's happened to me. And so many people in my audience would be like, Oh, I know I had this great idea. And all of my friends and family, they agree with me. They nod their heads up and down. Like, yeah, that's a great idea. You should definitely do that. And then, Oh, I spend months and months concocting the idea and working on it. And then I released to the public and nobody buys. And I go to my friends and my family and I was like, Oh my God, but you told me it was awesome. And they were like, well, yeah, for somebody, but like, I'm not going to buy, I don't need this. I know it has to solve a real pain point. It has to be such a struggle, such a solution to that struggle that people would be willing to part with their hard-earned money.
0 (5m 13s):
And that is such a key thing. So hard that you shared is that your family and friends were willing to pay you right off the bat for this because they needed it. They wanted it. And so once you started to get that early traction, who was your first hire, that's always a tough decision
1 (5m 28s):
Tire was in customer service. So we launched, you know, direct to consumer. It's a website, we're selling hair care products for curly hair. So we're doing pre-sales support and post-sale support. And it was just me doing all of our social media, all of our email. And it was getting overwhelming and really, really early on one of our customers who lives in Florida, she reached out to me and she was kind of an influencer in her own. Right. And she was just like, I love this stuff. I would volunteer for you. And I said, great. How about a job? Here's customer service, please take over. And she stepped in kind of mimic my tone learned really quickly. And you know, she's still with us today. That was January, 2017 when she joined and, you know, fast forward to today, she's our community manager and customer service was definitely the first, first role I had to fill for.
1 (6m 18s):
So yeah. And I was really lucky that she came to me and you know, I didn't have to go out and source that first hire. I love
0 (6m 24s):
Stories and fire nation. You should be looking towards your raving fans, like who are people that know the product that believe in the service that utilize a product, they use the service that are telling their friends and family. I mean, those are your advocates. Those are your evangelists leverage that opportunity for sure. So you got that first person in the door, they're taking some heat off of your plate because you know, you're having to do your thing and get out there and market and promote and do other things. Who's your second hire.
1 (6m 56s):
Because very quickly I realized that I am not going to learn Facebook marketing. And as a DTC brand, you know, you, you kind of rely on the social media platforms to start advertising. And I kind of played around with it on my own for the first couple of months. Then three months after launching, I hired a freelance consultant on Upwork and she had self-taught herself, Facebook marketing, and she said, look, I'm not going to make you a lot of money, but I'm also not going to lose your money. I'm pretty sure it can break. Even then I said, that's kind of good enough for me at this point. So she started with a very small monthly budget of a thousand bucks a month, which I micromanaged. And eventually she joined us.
1 (7m 36s):
Full-time moved from Ohio here to Toronto, Canada. And today she's our director of sales and marketing has built out a fully in-house sales and creative team. And she still runs our digital ads. In-house we don't use agencies, but yeah, she was a critical, critical first hire. And I attribute a lot of our success to her
0 (7m 55s):
D T C and what that means fire nation is direct to consumer. And that's what Les is their direct to consumer. And guess what, when that happens, when you're running a business like that, you need to get the word out somehow. And of course, social media advertising via social media is a great way to do that. And so heart, you have what I like to call a sticky product, which means if and when people use it once and they love it, they're going to be using it again and again and again. And they're going to be telling their family and friends about that. So you have a great product for something like a Facebook marketing, because if you can just break even on your initial sale, guess what?
0 (8m 36s):
In the longterm, over the long haul, you're going to be winning big because they're going to be going back to you over and over again, to buy the product as a run-out, as you continue to have essential models for them for different product lines, as they need at whatever that might be. And that is such a critical thing to realize for our nation, if you have that sticky product, but people are going to need more than just a one-time purchase. You can factor that into your advertising and say, Hey, breaking even is a huge win because in the long run, we're going to win on a massive, massive way. So fire nation, we have a lot of Austin this to talk about. As soon as we get back from thanking, our sponsors e-commerce is on fire and it isn't slowing down anytime soon.
0 (9m 19s):
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2 (11m 40s):
Today. So, so heart you
0 (11m 42s):
And your team grew fast. I mean, lightning speed in certain areas at certain times,
2 (11m 48s):
What did you do that we did? And I attribute a lot of it to having really good that actually work
1 (11m 54s):
Like you just said, you know, if you have a good product and you have a sticky product and it works, people are organically going to go and tell their friends and family about it. So I think that was really important to our growth, but really it goes back to our efficiency in digital advertising. I mean, most DTC brands, they kind of rely on this retention model that, Hey, it's okay for us to break even, or even lose money on the first purchase. Because eventually over time, we're going to break money and break even and make money. That was never our goal. We wanted to build a profitable company, right from the first purchase. We wanted it to build a company where the unit economics make sense it's sustainable and we're not just relying on Facebook to grow.
1 (12m 36s):
So we worked on creative, we had super low creative costs. Our customers would actually create videos, send them to us. And we featured them in ads. So instead of using influencer marketing, we turn normal people into micro-influencers by using our ad platforms. So it was really win-win and it was a great strategy that worked incredible for us for many years. And then just now going into our fourth year, we're starting to diversify off of social media advertising to other traditional channels like television. But yeah, I think, you know, just being able to nail the price point and nail the brand and the strategy, and then being super, super efficient with our advertising spend having low acquisition costs, right from that first purchase allowed us to use our retained earnings to fuel our growth even faster.
0 (13m 23s):
So that's so cool because people can relate to people. And I love how you did that. So hard. I mean, yeah. It's one thing to have these beautiful influencers and these perfect individuals, but at the same time, they're like, Oh, well that looks good on them. Of course, because they're beautiful and they're perfect. And, and whatever it might be, but when you can actually just see yourself in the ads and you can say, Oh, wow, that looks like my mother or my brother, or, you know, whoever might be, or myself, like people can relate to that. You're winning. And so, I mean, that's just to me a great way, especially in the age we live in right now, where it's like a people to people sell, sell, and sale, that's fire nation where you can really say, Hey, how can I just continue to leverage my audience likes a hearted, by the way, for her first hire for the second person that she brought on.
0 (14m 9s):
And now for the actual ads and promotions that she's running, it's so meaningful. And so you grew so fast, you had a lot of success in a lot of different areas and you know, you bootstrap, I mean, there's so much to be said for that, but now, Hey, you're a success. You have product market fit, you have traction. Did you ever end up taking an investor capital?
1 (14m 30s):
Good. So a few months after launching, I applied to YC the Y Combinator program in silicone Valley and we got rejected and I said, okay, no problem. Let me go and put some sales up and I will come back and I reapplied. And on the second go, we did get accepted. So we went through the Y Combinator program, which of course is, you know, one of the largest tech in the world and we're companies like Airbnb and Stripe got started. So it was quite an honor getting into YC and, you know, temporarily relocating to California from Toronto and being amongst all those incredibly smart people. So we took capital from YC. And then when we finished the YC program, we raised a small seed round from notable angels and venture capital firms like sound ventures, which is owned by Ashton Kutcher and Comcast, and just a lot of great angels.
1 (15m 21s):
Who've been super helpful to me as advisors. I'm a solo founder and I kind of took capital, not because we needed the money because we were already profitable at the time, but more so for me to build out this advisory board with individuals who had complimentary skillsets and experiences to my own, that I could pull on over the years, that I, that I build out the company. So yeah, we did take capital. We've never used the capital, but it has been great just getting the right investors behind us.
0 (15m 48s):
And it's interesting foundation to think about it in that manner. That's a horse talking about as well, because guess what, one advisor, she has like one connection, one piece of networking that results from that, I mean, that can turn into an acquisition that can turn into a merger that can turn into so many things that wouldn't have otherwise been available because you know what I mean? Let's be honest, you know, so Harvey's up in Toronto working on her business, but you know, she's not networking getting it out there and nobody might hear about it that could do those connections and have those type of mergers and acquisitions that could be possible if that's a road that's a heart ever wanted to take down down that path. And let's talk about the difference, the difference about less compared to other DTC, those direct to consumer brands.
0 (16m 34s):
How do you differentiate yourself and what do you think makes you different?
1 (16m 38s):
I think being profitable is a huge differentiator. And even when we talk to investors and potential acquirers, I mean, they're all shocked to see our financials and kind of look under the hood and see that the unit economics make sense as though we were a traditional brand because most DTC brands historically have really relied on that retention curve and, you know, CAC to LTV analysis. And, and it's fine. I mean, it tells a story, but it's not always true. It doesn't always pan out. Whereas, you know, when you're running a company where the unit economics makes sense, regardless of your retention curve, you're saying, Hey, look, we're profitable on first purchase. We can continue to use our retained earnings to grow.
1 (17m 19s):
And our company doesn't actually need cash to meet our revenue targets down the line. And I think that's really, really different for a DTC brand.
0 (17m 27s):
It's kind of funny in a way to be like, it's, it's different and weird to be profitable, but it is kind of crazy in this world that we live in that that is just, you know, absolutely the case that it is different and unique to be profitable. In fact, the last conversation I was having was about how Facebook acquired WhatsApp and WhatsApp and was hemorrhaging money. I mean, it's not even like they weren't, I mean, they were just absolutely just throwing money out the windows, but they had a billion users. So, you know, Facebook wanted those billion users and, you know, at some point Facebook's going to be able and their mind hope to be able to monetize that and make that a profit machine. But, you know, there's the other route to go, which is like, Oh, well, we actually have money.
0 (18m 9s):
We have retained cash and capital that we can use to grow our business in a very sustainable way. So if, and when there is something that happens in the markets or in the economy or whatever it might be, you know, we're going to live to fight another day when all these other, you know, people in our industry, our peers or competition, you know, they're going out of business because, you know, they were just barely scraping by month to month paycheck to paycheck. You know, here we are comfortable with a war chest ready to do and battle so, so hard. You shared a lot of awesomeness with fire nation today. I mean, I, haven't taken notes about different ways that you can approach and look at things differently. And again, going back to something that you and I have both mentioned, which I think is so critical for our listeners is the stickiness of a product, which you have definitely proven that model.
0 (18m 56s):
What's the one thing you want to make sure fire nation really gets from everything we talked about today
1 (19m 1s):
Of advice. That's probably different than anything else anyone tells you, which is get rid of your safety net. And if you have a product or a service that you believe in, even if no one else believes in you, when you can't raise investor capital, just figure it out, get a grant, get a small business loan funded through friends and family and just do it. You, you know, if I hadn't done that, there's no way less would be what it is today. So don't wait on investors and don't, don't wait, just, just do it and throw away your safety net and go all in. Good
0 (19m 31s):
All. And I love that now work in fire nation connects with you and maybe share a little bit about how they connect with your brands less.
1 (19m 41s):
Yeah. So less brands.com, L U S B R A N D S. And lust stands for love yourself. Hopefully that's easy to remember. So less brands.com and we've got around the clock customer service. You know, there's literally girls with real curly hair, all over answering social media, Facebook, Instagram, all less brands and emails. So that's the best way to connect with my team. And I
0 (20m 7s):
Love it. And next time you come down to Porto Rico, I mean this humidity, I mean curly hair, you know, it's a, it's a dangerous combination. So shoot, we're breaking down some products. We have a lot of customers in Puerto Rico, fire nation. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And hello, you've been hanging out with SS and JLD today. So keep up that heat and head over to eofire.com type Sahar, S A H A R in the search bar. Her show's page will pop up with everything we've talked about today. Direct links to all that jazz Les brands.com L U S brands.com is the website to learn more about all the awesomeness that they have going on. And so hard. Thank you for sharing your, your knowledge, your value with fire nation today, for that we salute you and we will catch you on the flip side.
0 (20m 54s):
Sounds great. Thanks so much. Hey, fire nation today's value bomb content was brought to you by Sahar ends. Are you ready to rock your own podcast? Well, if you are check out our free podcasting course, where I teach you how to create and launch your own podcast for free visit free podcast course.com free podcast course.com catch you there. Fire nation, or I'll catch you on the flip side.
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0 (21m 36s):
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