Under The Hood: Ash from Obvi
Peeking under the hood with Ash, the founder of the massive success: Obvi
Obvi is a massive hit. They sell collagen protein powder, and a much bigger lifestyle around the brand. Ash (left) and his 2 co-founders Ronak (middle) and Ankit (right) started in 2019, and in less than a year and a half, turned it into a multi-million dollar movement. We go Under The Hood with Ash to hear tips and tricks of the trade.
Welcome Ash! When was Day 1 of Obvi? And how fast have you grown since then?
We started in 2019, um, around like the summertime. We only came out with 2 SKUs, it was a very limited run. We wanted to test the concept before we went full force. We ran ads and we ended up selling out in 2 weeks. So that’s when we decided to jump in and create this brand.
We were completely bootstrapped. Just us 3 founders. We each wrote a check for like $10,000 and that's what we started with. We sold through inventory, and bit by bit we re-ordered more and more, and by the end of 2019 we ended up doing $250,000 in sales.
But then in 2020 - with the pandemic and the eCommerce growth spurt, that gave us a real jumpstart. That first full year, we ended up doing $5m. And then last year (2021) we closed at $18m. All completely bootstrapped.
And how many employees do you have today?
Unbelievable. So you just started off with testing via Facebook Ads?
Yeah. Facebook ads prior to these iOS updates was our bread and butter. Even prior to starting Obvi, my partners and I ran a boutique agency and I was the main media buyer. One of my partners was the main designer and the other partner was overall strategy and communication.
So we knew what we were getting into. We had worked on several brands before and managed $10-15m in spend up until that point. Facebook was our thing, and taking a product from zero to selling out in two weeks wasn't difficult. And over time, our channel mix evolved. We started finding influencers, exploring Snapchat etc and starting to build a real ecosystem.
Tell me about the product: You’re selling collagen protein. Were you data-driven in picking this niche? Why did you go into this space?
When you look at that market, and the top competitors in the space - all of their stuff is very dark/black, right? No disrespect to the top players in the industry because they paved the way for us and others, but the branding of those products was always very “medicinal” and the products were largely unflavored.
The products felt targeted towards an older demographic. But since our human bodies start producing less and less collagen already in our 20’s and 30’s - we should all really be consuming supplements to prevent that and prevent visual signs of aging. So we wanted to create a product that spoke to that younger audience that may not even realize they need collagen just yet.
And that’s how we came up with the brand: Hot pink branding with cereal flavors. Something completely out there.
Yes - the famous Obvi hot pink! How has the brand evolved since day 1? Was it always the same?
The initial design that we went with is still pretty much what we have right now. My partner Ankit had a vision, and he’s usually on the money when he does have a vision. He visualized Obvi in ads, on shelves, in retailers. He wanted something bold and scroll-stopping.
Tell me about the sequencing of events on the acquisition front: How did you ramp up sales so quickly? What came after Facebook?
So Facebook is still the main tool for scalable acquisition. And for a while, we were just breaking even on the Facebook sales, making a bet that those customers would come back later. But quickly - as we got more street cred, we started selling in retail, and reinvesting all profits from that directly back into D2C. In total: 50% of our time was spent on D2C, and the other 50% on selling to Mom & Pop shops.
We just kept pushing as much as we could into D2C to get to a point where at least 30% of revenue, comes from returning customers. At that stage, the revenue from a strong base of returning customers can be used to fuel growth and we can finally breathe from a financial standpoint. And right around the time when we reached those targets, GNC reached out and that became our first big name retail placement which was a huge win.
What about retention: How have you improved it?
What helped tremendously with retention is that we put out a new product every single month. To do that, we leveraged our own Facebook Community of 45,000 women to help us identify those new flavors - and that’s how we organically built a “collectable” mindset around Obvi.
How did you create such a large and strong community? Are they all customers?
There’s probably about a 25-30% overlap of customers. It's not something that we push heavily on our customers, they can decide to choose if they want to. Really it’s a community of women who simply want to support each other and better themselves. They take inspiration from the group, which is why it’s so active and full of love.
Fascinating. Let’s switch to the tech stack. What’s working for you guys right now?
On the landing page front, we use Unbounce, and we've just started utilizing product quizzes via Octane AI. And then post-purchase, we use Cart Hook. But at the cart level, we’ve built upsell / bundle functionality natively to get the functionality right, without harming site speed.
And then finally - we’re using TripleWhale for analytics. That’s been absolutely game changing for the way that we looked at data day to day. It completely replaced the Shopify dashboard for us. I particularly love having the ability to add-in COGS and overhead expenses to actually see net profit in-app as well as Cost Per New Customer metrics. I’m also starting to leverage the Triple Whale pixel for attribution - which is yielding good insights. I wish they could pass the attribution data back to Facebook to improve their attribution and close the loop there - but we’re not there yet.
Tell me about the team. Have you hired devs full-time?
For the longest time we were working with dev agencies, and we enjoyed that. But when you need things to be done ASAP, you can't rely on an agency to just drop everything and help you right then and there. So that’s why we brought that in-house. To move faster.
We've been trying to find somebody who is not just a talented dev, but also someone who has the knack to come up with their own ideas on how to improve things in the funnel. Having a development team is good, but also having a team who can think up and execute tests is even better.
What do you attribute most of your success to?
I attribute a lot of the success to our customers.
As a founder, you can take a guess as to what the right next step might be. But it’s not about you - it’s about your customers. So I'm very proud of the community that we've built. I'm very thankful to the admins and the moderators that we've selected to help push forward positive conversations in the group.
They’ve guided us this far, and we owe a whole lot of our success to them.
Now what would you tell yourself 2 years ago? What do you wish you would’ve known?
I wish I took greater advantage of the eCommerce growth spurt during the pandemic and tried to acquire as many people as possible. We were aggressive, but I wish we would have been even moreso.
And then the only other thing I’ll say is, I wish I knew to buy more Bitcoin!
And some Bored Ape Yacht Club at the time! Thanks so much Ash!