Matt Edwards is the founder of Moab Provisions, a brand that started off selling beef jerky with minimal ingredients and high standards before expanding to seasonings and apparel.
Find out how he made 6 figures by getting his product in front of customers the old fashioned way: going door-to-door with retailers.
In this episode, we discuss:
- How to get honest product feedback from friends and family.
- How to score meetings with key retail decision makers.
- What a business agreement with an affiliate looks like.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
- Store: Moab Provisions
- Social Profiles: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
- Recommended: Ask Garyvee Podcast, MFCEO Podcast
Felix: Today we’re joined by Matt Edwards from MOAB Provisions.com. That’s M-O-A-B P-R-O-V-I-S-I-O-N-S.com. MOAB Provisions started off selling beef jerky with minimal ingredients and extremely high standards to help you perform at your best. Now has expanded the catalog to seasonings and apparel. It was started in 2015 and based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Welcome Matt.
Matt: Hey, how is everybody doing?
Felix: Hey great to have you on. Let’s start off by talking about your store. Obviously like I said, you start off by selling beef jerky. Tell us a little bit more about the store and how you got started?
Matt: That was a long drawn out process on my journey down the eCommerce road. I got the idea, I wanted to do beef jerky. I started actually making beef jerky in my previous career which put me on the road traveling all the time. Basically I lived on airplanes and in rental cars. You get out there enough there’s really no healthy snacks in convenience stores or something that was easily accessible. At that point it was like, “I’m going to start doing my own thing.” I started doing trail mix and jerky. I was like, it hit me one day, "I should turn this jerky thing into a business. The idea was let’s get this done and basically build out an eCommerce platform and start to sell it online.
Things didn’t exactly work out that way, but that was the plan. Basically my eCommerce life started out on GoDaddy believe it or not. Which was extremely not fun. It was very rudimentary is the right word. It was not pleasant because I built that site myself with 0 experience. Then that led into me finally finding Shopify and that changed my world. Their platform, I don’t even know the right word for it, was much more user friendly. Basically the first 4 or 5 months I was open on eCommerce I had virtually no sales. I probably chalk that up to the website was terrible. Then once I moved to the Shopify platform, got the website redone, eCommerce started to take off.
Felix: Cool. Let’s break this down a little bit. You were traveling on the road, that’s when you had the idea or you had this desire to have healthier snacks. You don’t want to be buying chips, and chocolate, and candy bars like that. You wanted something healthier so you started making beef jerky for yourself. Was this, what kind of line of business were you in at the time? Was it beef jerky related or what was …
Matt: Not even close. I was in basically it was corporate beverage sales. I dealt with actually convenience store chains. I would go pitch somebody out in California a chain of convenience stores maybe they have 20, 30, 50, 100 stores whatever it may be. I would go in and pitch our beverages to them. Which we did food service beverages so if you go in and you get a cup of coffee or you get a glass of iced tea or something that’s what we manufactured. That’s what I did prior to starting MOAB.
Felix: Very cool. You had this idea to create beef jerky for yourself. What made you decide to take, not that huge of a leap, but what made you decide to consider selling this stuff that you were creating for yourself?
Matt: After a while it just dawns on you it’s like, “You know what? There’s got to be more people our there with this same problem that I have.” I was like, “You know what? Let’s take a dive into it.” Really my focus at first was Farmer’s Markets. That’s because I was like, “I need to get other people’s feedback.” That’s really what launched everything. I was just going to Farmer’s Markets and cutting up pieces of beef jerky and selling away. That was actually a lot of fun.
Felix: I like this prose where you decide to sell in person to get feedback because a lot of times when people start businesses online they think about how can I get feedback online? How can I get long surveys or how can I collect data to understand, to validate this business. You went a more rudimentary route. Also potentially faster route by just going and selling your products in front of people in marketplaces. Tell us about that experience. Why did you decide to go offline first to sell your products? What was that experience like?
Matt: The reason I went offline first is frankly because I didn’t know anything about online at the time. There was one thing I know how to do and that’s talk face-to-face, meet and greet. Sell in person. I’m great in person. Online I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was like, “How can I do this and get this in people’s hands quickly to a diverse group of people?” Farmer’s Markets, you have a variety of taste profiles, opinions, age ranges. I was like, “Okay this will work this is what I’ll do.” I reached out to a few Farmer’s Markets, got myself a table and off I went.
Felix: What did you hear or maybe before I get there. What questions were you asking? How were you soliciting feedback from customers because this is a product that they’re buying. Are they trying it on the spot? How do find out?
Matt: What I did was I went out there. Of course I had it all bagged up for sale. I also cut up samples. I had a nice cutting board full of jerky samples. They could come up and try the jerky, whether they bought some or not was irrelevant. Usually if they tried it if they stayed there I always asked, “Did you like it? Did you not like it? What did you think?” I always asked for feedback. Good, bad or indifferent you need to know what somebody thinks because if you’re getting 8 yeses and 2 no’s you’ve got a winner. If you’re getting 6 no’s and 4 yeses you may not have a winner on your hand. By doing that it really allowed me to gauge feedback from a diverse group of people that you can’t get frankly out of nowhere online right off the bat. Pretty much in one morning , 6 hours I had 100 different people tell me what they thought.
Felix: Did you, I think this is a common … I’m not sure if you could say it’s an issue, but whenever anyone goes out there and asks others whether it be strangers or friends or family for their feedback on something they created. People tend to not be that honest. Not in a malicious way, they tend to give you more credit or tend to give more positive feedback than if it were more anonymous. Did you feel that going in? How were you able to get the honest feedback from people and get the good and the bad feedback from them.
Matt: I agree with you on that 100%. I always try to say, “Hey, give me your honest opinion whether you hurt my feelings or not.” They’re not going to be hurt because not everyone is going to like my product and I understand that. The only way you can help me is by being honest. Without being honest you’re not helping me. You’re doing yourself a disfavor for not being honest and you’re not helping me at all. It’s one of those deals just ask them to be honest. “You know what, I know my product isn’t for everyone. Everybody’s product isn’t for everyone.” It’s just easier to understand that and it’s a lot less emotional. You try to take the emotion out of it.
Felix: You basically clear the air and make it okay for them to give critical feedback or negative feedback because all of that’s obviously very important when you’re just starting off your business. What did you hear exactly that made you decide that, “You know what? Let me continue to pursue this. Let me continue to move forward with this idea?”
Matt: Basically a lot of this stuff is fantastic. Where can I buy it. That’s pretty much it.
Felix: I was going to say what’s next then? After you find out that if you were interested in this when you’re selling it to them face-to-face. What was the next stage after that?
Matt: It took a 2 prong approach. It was obviously I knew I needed an eCommerce site. I needed to get that thing up and running. I just went and pounded the streets, knocked on doors. Grocery stores, convenience stores, anybody who was open to selling beef jerky I went and said hello. I still do that today. That’s just how … It was like, “Okay, I can’t rely on one or the other.” Because at this point in time I was no longer employed by my employer. It was time to go all in. I went all in.
Felix: I definitely want to talk about your experience going door-to-door and talking to people in person. Before we get there, beef jerky obviously is not a new product. There’s big businesses out there already that sell beef jerky. Did you feel intimidated when you were going to those convenience stores and you already saw that beef jerky is a well known product already. There are well known brands already. Did you ever feel like, “How can I make my place in this market?”
Matt: Yeah. It’s definitely a challenge when you’re going to retail. Retail is not the easiest thing in the world. In the beef jerky world one brand really owns the market. When I say own, it, they own it. It’s not … There’s not 2 major players, there’s one major player. They pretty much try to keep everyone else out. That was the challenging part because I’d walk in and give samples and say, “Hey, what do you think?” If it was a smaller store, if it was a 1 or 2 store individual. Usually you can get in there, hand them the samples. Say, “Here’s my jerky. What do you think? Would you like to carry it?” “Yeah, we’ll give it a shot.” I’d sell it to them right there on the spot. Some of the bigger customers I’d go in and pitch and then they’d say … You’d start getting the 20 questions and going into that. All the details they ask. Of course you’ve got shelf space. They only have so much room in the store. You really have to carve out a spot in that store for your products.
Felix: You’re saying that you at this point you no longer had this full time job. Was this a voluntary decision? What happened there? How come you weren’t working full time anymore while you were still pursuing this idea.
Matt: It was time to part ways.
Felix: Did you ever consider okay, I’m going to leave my full time job and go work somewhere else or did you feel, okay I’m going to leave and I want to leave specifically to pursue this other idea?
Matt: My original plan was to keep working and actually do the Farmer’s Markets on the weekend and start to build up the eCommerce. Things just didn’t work out like that. It was you know what? Do I go all in or do I go find another career and continue to do this on the side. I made the decision to go all in.
Felix: Do you think it would be possible today, it sounds like when you went all in it meant that you now had the time and the pressure too to just get those sales immediately. Start going door-to-door, go to all these retailers and just start pitching every single day. For someone out there that’s listening that wants to get into retailers and wants to sell to retailers whether it be food and beverage or any other product. Is it possible to take this route that you took and it sounds like you’re still taking while holding down a day job or do you need to really quit the day job to be able to pursue this strategy?
Matt: No. No not at all. They can definitely still have their day job. It’s going to be a lot of weekends because most of your decision makers are going to be gone in the evenings. You’ll have to try to catch them on the weekend when you’re in there, Saturdays, Sundays. I would definitely say if you’re doing that or you’re going the other route set a meeting around your lunch time and go on your lunch break. If you’re a retail outlet or a grocery store whatever it may be. If they have 10–15 stores, there’s usually one person that makes that decision for whatever your product is. Find out who that person is get a meeting with them around your lunch time or late in the day. Take off early and go make it happen. There’s multiple ways to do things you just have to get creative.
Felix: Makes sense. Let’s talk about this. You decided, “Okay I’m going to go into this business full time.” I’m going to try to get some sales and maybe some retail customers. You start going to … How do you identify which retailers you wanted to go to. What did you do once you walked into the door?
Matt: Told them my story. Told them where it started. I let them try the product and off we went. My first pitch, my first actual sales meeting was with the grocery store that’s got 100 plus stores. That was my first real sales pitch.
Felix: I think you obviously have the experience and the background to … It’s almost like second nature to you to be able to approach these retailers since that’s what you were doing in your full time job and selling to them. For someone that doesn’t have experience at this at all. Maybe doesn’t have a business or has a business but has been doing this solely online and has never considered approaching retailers off line and wants to pursue this. How do you A identify the, I’m not necessarily the stores. How do you identify the key decision makers? How do you actually get the chance to talk to them?
Matt: There’s multiple different ways. First off always learn that store. Whatever product you may have, learn if they have a competitor or if you’ve got some creative unique product that they don’t carry. Learn their store and start talking to store level people. Usually they’ll always know who that person is. Once you find that one person that will tell you their name, then you just pick up the phone and call the corporate office. You say, “Hey, can I speak to so and so.” Most of the time they’re not going to pick up the phone so you leave a voice mail. You say, “Okay how else can I get ahold of this person?”
Then you can always go the send samples route. Get creative on that. Send it in a unique box or send a unique style package with a nice note and some samples to their office addressed to them. That’s a good way to get their attention. Especially if you’ve got an outstanding product that really stands out. Be unique with it because these guys get hammered with phone calls and emails all day long. If you’re not on their radar or they don’t know who you are it’s very hard to get in the door. Definitely get creative and take things from there. Don’t call a guy 100 times in a week. That’s not going to do anybody any good. Have some fun with it.
Felix: What was your pitch in because when you went to these big retailers, these big grocery store customer that you’re talking about. How did you position yourself in a way where you were unique? You were worthy of them hearing you out? You were worthy of them considering you as a product that they wanted to sell in the stores? What was your angle?
Matt: My angle was I went in there I learned what they carried. I said, “Okay, they have nothing like my product.” I got my product in the buyers hand before I even got the meeting. He gave me the meeting based on trying my product. That’s how I found out who was the person that managed that category. Got my product in his hands. He liked it and said, “Okay, I’ll take the meeting.” I reached out to him. By this time he knew a little something about me. He knew the product. He said, “Okay, come see me.” That’s how I got my foot in the door with my first retailer.
Felix: Are these meeting and business deals are they pretty uniform between the different retailers that you’re going to. Is there a particular goal that you have in mind for the first meeting? Does it require multiple meetings? What kind of deals are arranged? How quickly do they come about? Give us an idea of how different or even similar they are between all the retailers that you approached?
Matt: Usually in every meeting I go into I have a goal. I want something to come out of that meeting. Usually it’s a defined next step. A lot of people especially in the food world, especially if they have a lot of stores they won’t put you in all stores off the bat. They’re going to want to do some sort of product testing in 20% of their stores or something like that. I always try to get that type of commitment. Say, “What’s our next step?” “Okay, let’s pick these 20 stores.” “When do you want to start? What type of paperwork needs to be done?” Then I just keep the ball rolling from there. Usually from the first meeting if they like the product that’s what we do. We just take it from there. Then I get it in the stores. Get it in people’s hands.
Felix: How long did this take between the time you left your full time employment until the time you landed your first big retail client?
Matt: That’s the funny question. I actually got this meeting within 4 weeks and I thought I was off and running. In the retail world things move really slow. It was another 5 months before hit their shelves.
Felix: Were you nervous at this time? I guess if you have experience in this industry already you knew that this was coming. What was going through your head while you had all this not necessarily free time. You had all this time now to work on your business. You’re ready to go 100%. You’re ready to go 100 miles per hour. Everybody else that you rely on or you depend on, these customers, these retailers they’re not moving nearly as fast as you are. You must have been, did it drive you crazy that you were ready to go but they weren’t?
Matt: I had to make a pivot at that point. I was like, obviously these bigger guys are going to take quite a long time. I started going to small guys. Guys that I could do on the spot right then and there and get my product on the shelf within 10 minutes. I did it today. Walked in, cold call. A new customer today. Handed them a bite of jerky, introduced myself. “I’m so and so with so and so would you be interested?” “Yeah, let me try it.” He tried it. It’s on his shelf in less than 20 minutes. That’s what I had to pivot last summer and do because I knew I wasn’t going to survive long term waiting for the process to play itself out and the bigger guys. I went to the small guys.
Felix: With these small guys obviously it sounds like the lag time or the turn around time is way less. You did it in one day in your example. Do they also make you go through a trial period or do they say let me just buy a couple of boxes from you? What’s the typical arrangement?
Matt: Most of the time with the smaller guys if you just say, “Hey give me 30 days or 60 days, if it doesn’t sell I’ll pick it up. Basically it takes the commitment away from them because most of them A they want to help another small company and B if you say, ”Hey, I’ll give you 60 days if it doesn’t sell I’ll take it back." It takes the worry that they’re going to have a product sitting collecting dust that they’re not going to be able to sell on their shelf. That’s the way I approached it. It’s worked fairly well.
Felix: While you’re doing this when did you start making that transition into eCommerce? What made you decide that that was the next step?
Matt: ECommerce was always on my mind from the beginning. It’s just everybody that I talked to when I was getting website building quotes and things like that, they were just to me out of hand. I said there’s got to be an easier way to do this. That’s when I was like, I’ve heard of GoDaddy I got on GoDaddy got the website built out a very … I wish I took a picture of it, but I didn’t. Then I got that going. Then at that time I really started to do the Instagram and the Facebook thing and all that kind of good stuff.
Then as time went on I started studying a little bit more making mistakes on the eCommerce. I switched it to another, I still had GoDaddy. I got everything updated. I launched a whole everywhere template. A little bit better, sales were still slow because I was doing no paid advertisements. No ads, nothing like that. I was just simply posting on Instagram and Facebook. That was it. About 4 or 5 months of that. I was like, “Okay, this isn’t working.” I don’t know how I came across Shopify to be honest. I started looking into it. I was like, “This is what I’m talking about.” I shut down my other one. Launched my Shopify website and I haven’t looked back since.
Felix: Very cool. How were you getting the traffic and sales to the eCommerce site at the time. As you said you weren’t doing a paid traffic or anything. It was still a brand new company. I’d imagine not many people were going online looking for your product. What were you doing to drive attention towards your site?
Matt: Just trying to get creative on social media. Trying to use Instagram. Trying to utilize the hashtags to get people to actually check out the brand and drive traffic to the site. Lots of friends were lots of the first orders. Trying to do one of those deals. Getting people to share it. Getting people to post pictures about your product. That way it goes out to a larger audience. That’s how I got the ball rolling from there. It took I still learn everyday about it. Things have gone a lot smoother and definitely traffic has increased to the website substantially in the last 3 months.
Felix: You mentioned in the pre-interview questions that one of the keys towards your success online was working with influencers. What are these influencers? Who are they? Are they athletes? Who are you working with to help promote your products?
Matt: That’s another thing. I’d worked with some influencers it didn’t really drive much traffic to the website. I switched gears and went to a whole other category of influencers. Those came from the outdoorsman category. A lot of your hunting, your fishing those type of influencers because those guys eat a lot of jerky. They love cooking. Doing that, reaching out to a few of those guys is what really started to ramp up the traffic to my site. It’s been great ever since.
Felix: What type of influencers did you work with originally? Why didn’t it work and require you to shift to a different type of influencer?
Matt: More fitness oriented influencers. That was mainly when I just had the jerky, before I had anything else. It was driving a lot of brand awareness I’d say and a lot of in store buys but nothing really online. Very little traffic. Then I was like, “Okay, obviously this is not my category.” I didn’t know anything about … I’m not a hunter or a fisher or anything like that. I happened to get introduced to a guy who has connections in the hunting industry and he’s a big time hunter. He’s like, “Yeah, we’ll get behind you and we’ll start promoting you and things like that.” I said, “All right. Here we go. Let’s do it.” I gave him some product and to some of his guys and off they went. Next thing you know I’m getting posts from different states. People I don’t even know but they’re connected to him talking about the jerky. Online sales are kicking up. Instagram all of a sudden has increased in followers. I said, “All right, this is probably the right niche for jerky.”
Felix: A lot of people that might have taken the same route as you and decided to work with influencers. They might have done the same thing. They might have thought to themselves who is my target market? Who is my target market following? Who are their influencers online and start working with them and then find out that it didn’t get much traction like you had experienced. Then decide, “You know what? Influencer marketing is not going to work for my brand. I’m just going to scrap this and move on to a different marketing channel.” What made you not do that? What made you decide, "You know what? Let me try a different angle on influencer marketing? What made you continue to persist in that direction?
Matt: Frankly people buy from people, not from advertisements. Advertisements do work, but people buy from people. If somebody that they know is seeing whatever social media platform it’s on. If they’re on there talking about it or this or that, “Hey that looks good. I’ll try that.” That’s the category I’m using for the jerky. The seasonings I’ve started reaching out to other influencers, mainly cooking bloggers. People who like to cook, make recipes and things like that for the seasonings because that’s going to open up a whole other category for that. I’m trying not to get the company boxed into one set of influencers and rely only on them. Those guys are more the jerky. I’ve got chefs that I’ve started to work with for the seasonings. As I reach their audience that’s only going to drive traffic to my site. I reached out to a food blogger not to long ago. Sent her some product. She posted one quick picture. Next thing you know I got an order from her state. It works.
Felix: For a brand that might be listening for an entrepreneur that might be listening and wants to start working with influencers. How would you suggest that they identify the type of influencers or identify influencers to work with. Did you have some kind of process? Maybe it’s simple. Maybe it’s complicated. We’d love to hear what is the process for you to identify who to work with?
Matt: I just started diving in social media, started looking around. Definitely searching hashtags, different criteria. There was all kinds of different ways to look. I never went for the top, whoever has got the most influence. I stayed away from that because those guys are getting hit left and right. I found somebody with a good size audience. Then at that point in time I just sent her a message saying, “Would you be willing to try my products in cooking. Cook some dishes if you like it, would you mind posting about it? If you don’t like it no worries. No sweat.” Usually their reply is, “Yeah sure.” That way it’s not a, “Hey, I sent you some stuff. Why aren’t you posting about it?” It takes that edge away. It’s hey if you like it I’d love to see you post about it. If you don’t, no worries. No one knows anything. It’s no sweat besides some product which isn’t that big of a deal.
Felix: What’s the typical arrangement with these influencers? Are you just sending them products? Have you gotten to the point where you’re working with influencers that want to be paid?
Matt: That’s my next step. That’s actually what I’m working on trying to figure out how to implement basically influencers to get paid. What do they call that? Affiliates, that’s the next step. Right now it’s just, “Hey I’ll send you a bunch of product. Post a few pictures. Eat and enjoy the rest.” Usually I’ll send them multiple products. I won’t just send them one little item. I’ll send them a little bit of everything I have. That way it’s more of an experience. They don’t think I’m trying to, “Oh he just sent me this ad that.” No. I want to make sure they get something out of the deal too. I want it to be worth it for them.
Felix: What challenges have you found now that your transitioning from a casual relationship with these influencers to now more of a business arrangement where you are looking for affiliates. For people that are going to push your brand, represent your brand and they actually get paid for doing so. What kind of challenges have you found now that you are looking to shift in that direction?
Matt: The biggest challenge is getting the proper agreements in place. Those are key. Then making sure both parties follow through on their agreement because if you don’t watch it if it doesn’t take off right off the bat they may just quit doing it. Yet, if you’ve got an agreement for X number of months or whatever it may be you’ve got to hold their feet to the fire. That’s been the key challenge. Do you let it go and just move on and don’t even worry about it or do you say do this, this and this. Is it worth it? Is it worth your time effort and struggle. That all depends on what you had to invest up front.
Felix: What does the typical arrangement look like? What are some key deal terms that you have to nail down to make sure that it’s a solid affiliate business deal?
Matt: Still working that out, but usually I try to get them to agree to at least one post a week. Not any more than that because you don’t want to overload their feed or anything like that. One post a week or every 2 weeks. In return they’ll get paid on the sales they drive to the eCommerce site. Then I’ll send X amount of product per month for them. Usually I try to keep it as simple as possible.
Felix: What do you want to make sure that both parties have in this arrangement to make it successful? It sounds like you want to have some kind of quantifiable thing that they have to do. Are there things that you voluntarily offer to them too other than the monetary side of it too that makes them want to work with you or give their best effort when they are promoting your products?
Matt: Monetary obviously that and they get the free product. I’ll try to give them a little extra too if they’re just focused on one product or what not, I’ll try to include a few extra. That way it’s a win-win. I try to make it a win-win for both parties.
Felix: Are you using any specifically apps or tools to help with this affiliate program to make it easier to set up and also of course track the return on your investment?
Matt: Not yet. That’s what I’ve been diving into lately. Usually I’ve always just kept track of it. When somebody enters a discount code. You can see that discount code and then I put that discount code in a spreadsheet. Now I’m trying to see what apps are out there that can definitely streamline that process much more efficiently for me.
Felix: Actually manufacturing these products, what’s the process like? Are you making these yourself still or have you outsourced it?
Matt: No. No. No. I outsourced everything now. Selling to retail, especially the amount of retail that I do I have to have insurance. Everything on the meat side has to be USDA certified. All that is stringent. Then same on the food seasoning. All of that has to be FDA approved. All that good stuff. I definitely use co-packers for that. What I do is I find one take them my recipe and ask them, “Hey, can we do something with this? Can you make this for me?” Some will say no and some will say yes. Then you find one that fits with you and your product. Then off you go.
Felix: Tell us a little bit about this process of identifying a co-pack or identifying a company to outsource your … Especially when it comes to food finding a co-packer to work with. What was the process like for you?
Matt: A lot of research and then a lot of testing to make sure the product was right. Then I usually try to find somebody within 3 hours of St. Louis. That way if you’ve got to drive to them, you’ve got to set down and work with them. Whatever it may be they’re close. That would be a challenge if I had a co-packer in California. I get there’s not always going to be a co-packer around your town. You may have to go further out. I was just fortunate enough to have the resources here in the Midwest to make my products. From there it was just identifying the right one because they all have different minimums. There’s different standards, different up front costs. You basically want to definitely reach out to 2 or 3 and make a spreadsheet or make a list of, these guys have minimum of this. These guys have a start up cost of this. Then start to narrow it down which one is going to be the best fit for you.
Felix: Similar to the question about working with the affiliates. What are some key deal terms that you have to pay attention to when you are striking a deal with a co-packer?
Matt: Definitely term times. Lead times, you definitely want to make sure you know those up front. Then time frame on new product development. Say one of the seasonings I want to launch a new flavor. I’ll do that recipe, I’ll get that and I’ll take it to them and say, “Can we mass produce this for the cost that I need it to be done in?” You definitely want to, “Hey, when is this going to be done, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 30 days?” You want to know your dates and your terms. You want to have all that set in place and you definitely want to have all your agreements in place too. All your arrangements, that way they can’t take your formula and give it to somebody else. Most of them won’t because you’ll sign confidentiality agreements. All that good stuff. You definitely want to have all those agreements in place.
Felix: What goes on, you said that there was a lot of testing involved? What goes on in testing? Is it just like you’re taste testing or is it more involved than that?
Matt: Take for example I tried to launch a seasoning a few months ago. We had made one and took it to the co-packer and said, “Hey can you match this?” The match wasn’t coming out right. We did it again and again and again. Finally I just scratched it because what you create may not be what comes out once it goes through the manufacturing process. Not everything works. That’s when you say you do a test batch and then you do another test batch. A lot of times it’s testing and tweaking. If something isn’t quite right you’ll say, “Okay let’s tweak this a little bit.” You’ll make another test batch. You’ll work with that batch. You may have to tweak that again or it may be right. Once it’s approved off you go.
Felix: You’ve been in business for, I think you told me 13 months. You started in 2015. How long did it take you to find a co-packer? To find someone to outsource the manufacturing to?
Matt: The jerky it took a few months to get that narrowed down. The seasonings took a few months. The beef sticks didn’t take that long at all because I started making meat contacts and everything. In the meat business, I just simply asked somebody, “I’ve got a beef stick I’m making. Where can I go get it to be produced.” He said, “Oh, you’ve got to go see this company.” Picked up the phone and called them. They were great right off the bat. Off we went. It’s definitely gotten easier and it’s gotten a little quicker to find companies now that I know a little bit more what I’m doing than when I started.
Felix: You were saying earlier about all the regulations that go along with food manufacturing. Do you need to worry about that or do these co-packers take care of all the stress?
Matt: They take care of all that. There’s a few things that I have to do, but it’s very minimal. Just submit the nutritional statements and things like that. Most time they’re going to help you with that because they have the contacts with the government to do that. They have to work with them on a regular basis anyways. Usually they’ll just do that for you and it makes life easier for you.
Felix: Now that you are no longer making these beef products yourself you outsourced that piece of it. What’s your day to day like? What do you spend your time doing? You wake up in the morning. How do you spend your day?
Matt: Usually it varies. I try to split my week up so it’s not the same thing everyday. A lot of it is still out and about seeing customers. Making sales calls. Making sure deliveries are going where they’re supposed to be going. Then part of the week is working eCommerce. Reaching out to influencers. What’s going on on the eCommerce side of things. Usually that’ll make up Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The weekend when no one else is working. That’s when I’ll switch to eCommerce.
Felix: I’m looking at your site. You have products that range from I think the cheapest is $1.50 up to … I haven’t looked at everything, up to at least $66 I’m seeing here. How did you decide on the pricing? How did you figure out how much to price these products at? I’m not too familiar with the pricing of the more popular beef jerky. Is this would you say your product and your pricing is more premium compared to what you see in a typical convenience store?
Matt: No it’s actually really competitive. When you look at the high end the $66 that’s a combination. That’s a big 12 pack of product. Then that $1.50 is just 1 beef stick if somebody wanted to add 1 at checkout. There you go. Usually I’ve got everything priced in singles and then multiples. Then quad packs or even a half a case which is what the $66 one is. That way the more they buy they get a little bit of a price break.
Felix: When you were launching these different product lines. Actually before you launched these product lines. What made you decide to go beyond just beef jerky? What was the impetus to launch a new product line.
Matt: If you’re on the website and you actually look at the logo it says Provisions. That used to say beef jerky the site actually used to be MOAB Beef Jerky. After a few months of getting out there and pounding the tables. I started looking around and say, “Okay I definitely want to take the company in multiple directions and not just beef jerky.” That’s when I changed over to MOAB Provisions. I started looking, what can I do that fits in to what I want to do and where there’s room for me. That’s when the seasonings came next because I started looking at the grocery store shelves.
Everything on there was full of artificial ingredients. Full of salt. Things I just didn’t buy hardly. I said, “Okay there’s got to be a market for a premium line of seasonings.” That’s what led to that. I got that up and running. Then as I’m in the store selling jerky and things like that, I started looking at the beef sticks. I said, “Okay there’s 2 players on the beef sticks.” They all have pork. They all have, not all but some of them have minced chicken parts. They’re all greasy and they’re all full of artificial ingredients. I said, “Okay, I know I can make a better beef stick.” I went out and made a 100% all beef stick that has no artificial ingredients and is not greasy. It’s just one of those deals identify something that you want to make and go do it.
Felix: What about launching the apparel line because usually this move into apparel you have to have a super strong brand. Did you feel like that was starting to happen where people were starting recognize the brand itself and that was the reason you decided to go the apparel route or what makes you decide to? The food, the seasoning all that makes sense. It’s kind of a progression that you’re going through. What made the decision to also launch a line of T-shirts?
Matt: Just something extra on there if somebody wants to buy a T-shirt and support the brand. More power to them. I appreciate them doing that. It was just more or less to have some fun because I needed T-shirts to wear around. It was like if I’ve got to wear them around I’ll buy enough to put online and sell them. That’s how the apparel started. I’ve got to have stuff to wear around. It grew from there.
Felix: It sounds like you’re at the stage now where you have the manufacturing nailed down. You seem to have a process to for working with these retailers door-to-door. You have a eCommerce store set up. What’s the next step then? How do you scale this operation? What do you see as the next stage that you want to achieve with MOAB Provisions?
Matt: Scaling means I’m going to start building my team now because now I have distribution in all 50 states. I’m not sold in all 50 states, but I actually have a distribution network. My products can reach all 50 states and Canada if need be because I’m sold in 10 states right now. About to go into another 2 or 3 over the next few months. Definitely going to build a team to scale the retail and build a team to scale the eCommerce because I want to keep growing the eCommerce. I need help doing that. That’s the next phase is start to hire my team to help me build out both those channels.
Felix: I think this is a stage that a lot of entrepreneurs are at where they’ve done everything they can being a solo entrepreneur. Maybe outsourcing their manufacturing and maybe outsourcing their distribution as well and logistics. Now they want to go bigger obviously because they’re capped out by the time, the amount of effort they need to put in to expand. What’s the process that you’re going through? What’s going through your head when you decide who to hire? How to find the right people to hire? All of that.
Matt: Definitely. The one thing I always look for is the right attitude. I’ve got a few guys, 2 that I’ve got lined up that are ready to come on board. We’re working through some things right now. It’s identifying the right person to bring on board to fill the needs that you need help with. If you know you’re strong in one suit, don’t hire somebody for that. Hire people that are strong in areas where you’re not. One of mine is definitely eCommerce. I’m not strong in that area. That’s definitely going to be my first hires. “Hey, take over this. Do the analytics. How do we grow this business rapidly online?” Attitude plays a huge part. I don’t want somebody that just wants a job. I want somebody that’s going to be passionate about the products, passionate about their work. Is definitely coming on board for the long term and is not just looking for a job. If somebody says they’re just looking for a job, they’ve got no chance. There’s just no … I’m not even going to waste my time talking to them.
Felix: Is there a way to identify that because we’ve all been interviewed or interviewed people where you know the song and dance. You know how to say the right things to put yourself in a good light. Is there a way for you to pull the truth out of people to identify that they’re going to be a good fit and not just saying things that you want to hear?
Matt: Definitely. This makes a lot more sense for the solo-preneur the small team. Identify who you need and start asking friends and family say, “Hey, do you know anybody that’s good at this?” “Oh yeah, so and so is.” Try to get to know that person before you even say anything. Start asking questions in a round about way that you want answered. That will really help to gauge their thought process and what they think about things. I definitely like growth mindset folks. People that say hey, they’re not going to be fixed in this or that or they’re just going along to get along. If they have the right attitude with what they’re doing now. They’re more than likely going to have the right attitude if you can get them to come on board with you. As far as people that have asked me for employment, no usually that’s not going anywhere. Usually I’ll try to seek out the right person because that’s the only way you can get a feel for it. Always get to know that person before you even bring up a job. I definitely highly suggest that.
Felix: Makes sense. With all the work you’ve put in over the last 13 months. Give us an idea of how successful the business today? How much you’ve grown since you’ve gotten started?
Matt: I’ve already hit last years sales. It looks like I’m going to double last year if not a little more than double last years sales, 6 figures.
Felix: Cool, 6 figures. When you started this is most of the … You started obviously offline. Is most of the sales still coming from your offline efforts? Are you going door-to-door selling directly to just retailers?
Matt: Yes. Most sales are still coming from that. ECommerce since updating a concerted effort to grow that business has grown considerably. For example June and July did more business that I did, not the first half of the year, but almost the first half of the year. That’s really stepped up. Trying to get online where it’s steady and then continues to grow every month because I’m still having a high month and then it’ll dip. The focus is okay. Get the eCommerce month over month to keep growing a little bit at a time and stop dipping because definitely I love eCommerce sales.
Felix: Makes sense. While you are learning about how to market more online. Are there any specific books or blogs that you like to rely on that you’ve been immersing yourself in to learn more about how to run an online store?
Matt: Your podcast for sure. I listen to it all the time. Definitely my weekly go to when I’m out driving around. Definitely that one. That’s going to be eCommerce 1. I’ve done a few others, but I haven’t really lasted on them. Yours is pretty much the one I’ve stuck to. I’m going blank on the other one I listen to. I always listen to Gary V, if you know who that is. I listen to his a couple times a week. He’s always got good pointers with social media. What the next trend is or what to do on this platform kind of deal. Definitely hit him up. Then as far as business goes, definitely go to MFCEO podcast. That’s my go to weekly business podcast. Those are the 3 I stick to. Then Grant Cardone would be my fourth one, which is more business oriented.
Felix: I like MFCEO too, I discovered his stuff. I don’t think he’s exactly in food, but more athletic …
Felix: His podcast is great. The stuff he’s putting out is just so raw. Like entrepreneurship raw, business advice. Id definitely recommend checking out his stuff too.
Matt: He’s a good dude. Definitely check him out for sure.
Felix: Is he in St. Louis as well?
Matt: He is. He’s right here in St. Louis.
Felix: You should definitely if you haven’t networked yet, I think he’d be a great connection for you. Thanks so much Matt. MOAB Provisions.com again is the website M-O-A-B P-R-O-V-I-S-I-O-N-S.com. Anywhere else you recommend the listeners check out to follow along with what you’re up to?
Matt: Definitely Instagram, MOAB Provisions. That’s the kind of platform that’s getting most of all my attention right now. I’ve let Facebook fall off the edge. It’s all on Instagram. It’s @ MOAB Provisions.
Felix: Awesome. Cool. Thanks so much Matt.
Matt: Awesome. Appreciate it. Thanks Felix.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters the eCommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today visit Shopify.com/Masters to claim your extended 30 day free trial.