Under The Hood: Aishwarya from Brightland

Under The Hood: Aishwarya from Brightland

Interview With Aishwarya From Brightland

Welcome Aishwarya! I’m so excited to talk to you about Brightland as a long time fan and customer. Brightland is thought of as one of the original brands to create “pretty pantry” staples.

Were you even thinking along those lines when you started Brightland or did you want to just create something different than what was currently on shelves? 

My whole journey for Brightland really started with my own kitchen journey, cooking journey, health journey, all combined and swirl together, getting intrigued by the olive oil industry in particular. I realized I hadn’t given olive oil much thought even though it’s a foundation of our food and we're using it all the time.

And then when I started visiting grocery stores and cute stores, I was shocked at how unforgettable the packaging and everything was for olive oil. So then I thought, oh, what if we create something that evokes some sort of emotional response in people? And that was really the genesis for it.

Where did the inspiration come from for the olive oil bottle designs to create the unforgettable packaging?

For me, it was thinking it could be really fun to have something that stands out, that's really bright. I'm South Indian and Indian Heritage, so I wanted bright colors as part of the brand no matter what. And then I tried a lot of bottle shapes. So by the time I was ready to think about brand design, I knew that I wanted a white bottle even though we didn’t even have a brand name yet.

I knew I wanted a cork looking top. I knew these core pieces of it. And then for the colors, I really wanted them to be bright, but also be vegetable colors like tomato and blueberries and sun golds and things like that.

Aishwarya From Brightland

So going back to 2019 when Brightland officially launched, how did you get your first couple hundred orders? What did acquisition look like then?

A few months prior to the brand even launching, we started building an Instagram presence. We had a couple thousand people following the brand by the time I launched it, so that was really amazing to see. It's just so much harder now. It was a different time.

Could you walk us through what that strategy looked like in 2019 and why you think that's changed now?

So first of all, I started by bootstrapping, not with a million dollars, but with around $30,000. And that was for inventory, design, production, everything soup to nuts. So I didn't have a big budget to play with.

So the way that I thought about it was why not lean into Instagram, lean into press a little bit, and all of those channels still work today, but it's just so much noisier. There are so many more accounts on Instagram that, and as we know, Instagram posts don't even get seen anymore. 

In three months, we had at least 2,000 followers that were real human people that were excited about what we were building, and we didn't even share what it was yet, but people were just so much more willing to follow interesting, lovely accounts.

So then when we launched, I saw that there were customers who I didn't know who had started following what it was they were buying, and then I knew that I wanted to invest in PR. And so we got a New York Times style section, small placement. It wasn't like some big story or anything, but even that small key placement was immensely helpful for us. 

Aishwarya Iyer, founder of brightland
Aishwarya From Brightland

That's really interesting. Just out of curiosity, if you hadn't launched a product yet on Instagram, what were you posting to garner an audience?

We were posting a lot of inspiration photos, a lot of found content and imagery, some poetry, some allusions to what it could be, like quotes about olive oil made by Thomas Jefferson or somebody else, but didn't actually share what it was, but it started showing what the color palette of the brand might look like and what the brand might make you want to feel.

So what are the channels driving growth for you now? Is there anything that's working really well? Is there anything that's really not working well anymore or has never worked well?

I talk a lot about having an omnichannel marketing strategy and how important that is. We do a little bit of everything. We have an influencer gifting strategy. We do organic social on multiple channels. We have our own content platform and blog for SEO, a little bit of digital paid channels. Email is really wonderful for us. We do in-person events, we do brand collaborations and partnerships with other brands, with restaurants and chefs. We do a little bit of everything.

brightland olive oil
Brightland

Could you give some more details into what that omnichannel strategy looks like?

Brightland is available at Crate & Barrel, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, a lot of department stores. We're also in hundreds of specialty, smaller retail shops, gift shops, and then we're at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms and a slew of other grocers. We’re also on Amazon. So even the omnichannel is omnichannel.

Grace: I'm really glad you brought up Amazon because some founders aren’t sure whether they should put their brand on Amazon, whether it would be a meaningful channel or would just inspire dupes. 

So do you recommend that brands be on Amazon? I’m curious what your thoughts are on the channel?

I think a lot of people feel precious. We definitely felt precious about it too. What does it mean to be on Amazon? But I think we need to be where customers are, and if they're there, then we should be there. But we hadn't come to this realization until last Fall.

brightland olive oil
Brightland Olive Oil

We were chosen by Oprah as one of her favorite things, which was such a high honor and so delighted by that. But part of that was that Amazon is a sponsor, and they said the winning products need to be on Amazon during the holiday season.

So we had to sprint to get set up on Amazon, but it ended up being the best thing we could have done because we're really pleased with it. And I don't know if we hadn't had that forcing function, we might've still hemmed and hawed, but now I tell brands that are coming up, think about your customer. Some people might say, I'm not ready to put Amazon as a part of my mix. I want people to really know us first. And that's perfectly fine. And then there are other brands that have built nine figure brands and 99% of their revenue comes from Amazon. So I really don't think there's a one size fits all.

Brightland’s most recent product launch was Pizza Oil, which looks amazing. Can you walk us through what product development through launch of a new product for Brightland typically looks like?

My husband and I love pizza so much, and the team loves pizza. And so we were just talking about foods that make us happy and what we would want to see in the world, and started dreaming up what it could look like to have a pizza oil in the world. And then we worked with one of the oldest olive farms in the country to help us think through from a taste standpoint and the actual oil standpoint, what it could taste like, and started doing rounds of tasting and talking through what the design should look like.

brightland pizza oil
Brightland Pizza Oil

We really thought about the East coast old school pizzeria look and feel for design and the label as well as the taste of the oil. 

We were still going to do the glass bottle, and then one day we were holding the glass bottle and drizzling it over some oil, over some pizza, and it was just so heavy and not the right fit for pizza. We though, oh, what if we did something like chefs who use a simple squeezy bottle. What if we did that for this product because it's more casual and fun. That's how Pizza Oil was born.

Pivoting more to a retention side rather than acquisition, how does Brightland think about retention? How do you get customers to want to stay with the brand?

Oh gosh, it's a lot of things. A lot of it is relationship building. We just sent our longest standing subscribers a special thank you note from me and a limited edition product that we had come out with in the summer, one of our vinegars. So we sent that to them as a surprise. So it could be things like that, those surprise and delight moments.

brightland
Brightland

We’ve also used tried and trusted tactics like SMS and email, but I think we really try to be personal and meet the customers where they are in their journey with us.

What have agency partnerships or external partnerships looked like for Brightland?

For PR, we have an agency we work with, and that's been really great. We've been working with them for almost three years now. We have a freelance designer we work with. We have a broker we work with for Whole Foods.

We have an external partner for Amazon we work with. We have a digital agency we work with, so a number of folks, and they're all such instrumental parts of the team at the end of the day.

And what is Brightland’s tech stack?

Shopify, Klaviyo, Fairing for post-purchase surveys, Northbeam for analytics. I use Superhuman for email personally. Lots of Google Suite, Canva, Gorgias.

And last question, what would you attribute the success of Brightland to?

It's such a good question. In some ways, I say, success is yet to come, and we've only scratched the surface. And then in other ways, I feel like it's exceeded my wildest dreams of what I thought was possible. 

I think it's timing. I think it's product. I think it's design. I think it's the storytelling. I think it's the partnerships. I think it's the soul and essence of the brand. I think it's so many things, from the photography to the site itself, to where we're found in stores, which stores were such amazing champions to new customers who are now excited about the brand.