Connor Young is the founder of Ample Foods (getamplemeal.com), a super healthy meal that comes in a bottle where all you have to do is add water, shake and drink. It is a pretty frickin cool nutrition product that any busy, on-the-go entrepreneur or business person can certainly appreciate, but the reason we are really impressed goes beyond Connor’s product.
He is a hustler through and through and truly epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit. So much so that he raised $135,000 on Indiegogo in only 2 weeks for Ample Foods. That is some headline breaking news.
We know a lot of you are considering building your own products, brands, services, etc. and are looking for ways to fund them, so we hopped on a quick Skype call with Connor Young to get the lowdown on how he created so much excitement around his product – before it had even launched.
This is what we learned.
Note: Since we conducted the interview, they’ve raised an additional $35,000 and are now at $170K+ total
Tell us about you came to create Ample Foods
I have always been a health nut myself. I majored in bio and minored in environment science in college and also started doing Crossfit as sophomore. I started my own gym right out of college and got the whole entrepreneurial thing on small scale.
Following that, I sold medical devices for Johnson & Johnson and moved to Cleveland to work at The Cleveland Clinic, overseeing the surgical staff. Really frickin interesting stuff!
You build an ego really quickly unfortunately, but it didn’t sit well with me. There was way too much reactive medicine and I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines.
So I quit and moved to a San Francisco hacker house and decided I was either going to fix fitness or diet. I started with fitness for a way for physical therapists to keep patients engaged. I raised some capital, learned to code, got a technical co-founder, everything.
It was a wonderful learning experience. Whether it was my leadership, the market, the product itself, who the hell knows, it didn’t end up working out.
At the time, there were some 50 people living in this ‘nerd frathouse.’ I knew there was no time for my friends to eat, so they didn’t! They would eat ramen. I did cooking classes, nutrition lectures to help them get to a point to eat healthy but it was too much for them. I was trying to get them to make brussel sprouts but it didn’t work.
One of my friends, Jason, was drinking Soylent everyday. He would say “I drink it because its easy not because its healthy. If you made something 10x better, I’d have it it a minute.”
Eventually, he kept begging and I said…
Ok! I’ll work on it. But its going to be awesome. I’m not going to half-ass it.
I had some free time as my other business had failed. I just started mixing stuff in a bowl. The first iteration was nasty but I iterated very quickly.
In hacker house, I studied and would make a new batch everyday, balancing taste and nutrition, etc. I would tweak the ratios. It took about two and half months for a market ready version. The initial one was a plastic bag with powder in it and a vial of oil for mixing. It was not good. I didn’t have a first product at all. From there, I moved to a single pouch and eventually to bottle.
At the point I thought, cool. Now I would start considering raising some money.
Why crowdfunding? Why not raise capital traditional way?
I did both actually. I received a little funding before from the 500 startups accelerator.
I did this initially, but let me tell you. You don’t have to get a ton of money but I think it makes sense to have a small amount of money in bank. You don’t need $200K, you just need $20-$30K.
From there I looked to crowdfunding for two reasons. First, this is the type of product that is buzzworthy.
It is a meal in a bottle! It is an interesting conversation!. Diet and nutrition is a hot topic and crowdfunding lends itself to this viral quality.
Second, it was a great way to generate and understand demand and then supply it. People were essentially prebuying my product.
So what was your strategy?
Kickstarter vs. Indiegogo wasn’t a big deal to me. I wanted to focus on the bigger problems. I didn’t even decide which platform to use until two weeks before. It was late but it wasn’t a big deal.
What is a big deal, though, is knowing who your customer is and knowing how to create a compelling story.
We sell a food product. You can make the case that everyone is our market. WRONG. I learned that you really only need, three, four or five hundred backers for your project to succeed. Don’t go after massive market. Go after 50,000 of loyal market. Spend all your attention on them and get a few percentage to buy into what you are doing.
To do that, you need to figure out what your story is. It should be a good story. I had a good story and it was authentic! This makes a big difference!
With that, how do you convey your story? You could hire a copywriter, but it has to come from you… the founder.
Do the content first. Then do your video. We did it the opposite. I realized that the process of content actually informed us of what our story was and then we adapted, changed, etc. Your vision and your video is a reflection of your content. Start with content, think of issues and then do video.
So how did you get people to back you?
I had a small amount of samples and a very small email list of 200 or so. That is literally nothing! Most people recommend starting with an email list of 10,000, 50,000 or whatever!
You know what? I don’t even care. Growth hacking is not one of my strong suits. My strong suit is sales. If I can 1:1 sell to influencers, GREAT. That was our strategy. The more niche you can get your influencer, the better.
So what I did was send out samples and background to about 144 people. 40 of them supported us in some capacity. Our follow-up could have been better. But what we did nail, people LOVED. They said the product was great. That was square one.
What we did and I am very excited about this… you have to consider price point and goal when doing this campaign.
I have a friend who had a project on Indiegogo, set the goal for $50K (what he needed), raised $38K and FAILED. He thought to himself, “maybe I set my goal too high?” So, he relaunched on another platform with everything the same, BUT he lowered the goal to $15,000. Through that campaign, he raised $576K.
The reality is, people don’t care about you until they are confident you are doing what you say you will do. People want to bet on winners.
They will back you before you are funded but people don’t care about hypothesis. Your goal needs to get fully funded within the first 3 days. If you don’t, you failed. You need that mindset.
At the same time, don’t lower it to unreasonable point. For us, how much money did we need? We needed $100K. But we set it up for $50K.
The fact that we hit $50K in 30 hours, that propelled us. Now we are at $150K, beyond what we need to be.
I know it would not have been the case if we had set that goal for $100K. You can only really get press once funded.
The other thing to consider is price point. Consider this.
It has to be such that you don’t have to get thousands of buys to hit your goal. For instance, if its $15 per order, that would have taken 3,000 people to hit $50,000 goal. That is very difficult!
Make sure you can find a way to raise the price, convince people that buying more is better. $4-$5 per meal. 6 pack at a time maybe 12. The way I hacked it was through a lifetime supply offer.
I knew I was going to lose money in the long term but I also knew that by the time I started losing, we will have grown. They will become our biggest evangelists .That $5000 is KEY.
What I did was, I got two people who were previous customers to commit to a lifetime supply. I reached out and told them that within 10 minutes of posting, I want you to buy. They did. At 10 am, we had $12,000 in funding. Almost 25% funded in like 3 hours. It spurred momentum and allowed us to take off and provided social proof. It got people excited to share.
You have to make it easy for people to share their social capital. If it is interesting, it is a benefit for them. Shit! In 2 days, it had sold out. The social proof was there.
What advice would you have for someone looking to crowdfund their project?
In my story… I didn’t have a choice. But it’s the fact that anything in life these days requires absolute superiority or you just wont see the results.
The 4th fastest person in world doesn’t get a medal, any glory, anything. And that’s the 4th fastest in the world!
There is a huge distribution curve in the world.
90% goes to these 3 people.
If I want to make something that achieves that, I can’t half-ass it. Anything less than 100% isn’t going to work out.
Think about what gets shared online. 1% of all blog posts make up 99% of online traffic. Because of that, you have to be all in!
I was forced to do that. My business failed. I had the mindset of “I have to do this right now and I have to make it happen!”
Get something to the point of where you know its possible, iron out the kinks and then quit and make it happen.
Be sure to support Connor Young and Ample Meal on their Indiegogo campaign. There are 7 days remaining.
Also, be sure to tune in to The Hustle Sold Separately as we are having Connor Young on in mid-June.