Premama is one of the hottest startups in the maternal supplement niche, and we’re lucky enough to have them as tenants here at Hatch. Last July, we interviewed founder Dan Aziz on how he got his start and what the future held for the company. Now 8 months later, we sat down with Chief Marketing Officer Jamie Schapiro to get his insider perspective on their success, what’s in store for 2016, and his advice to young marketers just starting out.
How was 2015 for the Premama brand?
When I look back at this past year, we really went in and built a new foundation for the company. We stepped it up.
We started out the year by asking what the next step was for us as a company; how do we raise the bar? To do that, we rebranded. We kept the name the same, but created an entirely new package, marketing materials, and website. We also launched two products and enhanced our story.
What were the new products?
Premama was built around the premise of providing an alternative to prenatal pills. Our two products provide “bookends” to that experience. At the beginning of the journey, we now offer Premama Fertility. On the other side of the journey, we have Premama Lactation, which gives new mothers natural nutrients to boost milk production.
As we expanded our product line, we also developed a new tagline to better suit the brand: “Complete Maternity Wellness.”
In our interview with Dan last year, you had just landed CVS as an account. How are things now?
We launched CVS back in June and July of last year with four products in 2500 stores. We put a lot of energy into launching and supporting CVS, and had most of our eggs in that one basket. Thankfully, it paid off. Our success with CVS helped us land H-E-B (the largest grocery chain in Texas), as well as GNC. Though largely a male consumer base, GNC is building out their women and kids set. We rolled out to 200 GNC stores, and if it goes well, it will roll out to the 3000-plus GNCs. We also continued to sell in Buy Buy Baby and Amazon.
More recently, we finally got to see sales data from our retailers, and the products are doing very well. In some cases, the products were turning better from a velocity standpoint than some of the leading brands.
What’s coming up in 2016?
The year started with a bang when we attended the largest show of the year, ECRM Vitamins Show in Las Vegas.. It’s like a speed dating of buyers, and we had sixty meetings in four days – including the major buyers of all of our top targets. We brought our brand to life in our room with charts and infographics and presented to each buyer in just twenty minutes. We nailed it. People who had never heard of Premama saw that it was selling, they liked the new marketing, they liked the concept and our story, and they want to bring it in: Walgreens, Vitamin Shoppe, KeHE, Meijer, Lucky Vitamin, iherb.com, Walmart.com, the list goes on.
All told, we’ve increased from 3000 to 5000 distribution points. That’s a great start to ’16. Now, we need to execute a flawless launch across these new retailers.
What would that rollout look like?
The key is to ensure sell through at retail. To support that, we hired our third employee, Megan Bell, as our marketing and sales manager.
At this point, that’s where our focus is: supporting these new retailers – especially retailers that are running tests to determine whether they expand to thousands more stores.
How did you and Dan first meet?
We met about 3 years ago on a panel at an entrepreneur conference called The Garage in Providence. There were about 800 people in attendance from many different companies, we happened to both be on a panel called “food as medicine”. There was a great mix of of people on that panel from companies Edesia, RI Farmfresh, UNFI and Galaxy Nutritional Foods (my last job). I was particularly impressed by Dan, who had started this company while still a college student. Some time after he called me about working with him – offering a lot of equity, but not much salary. I have three kids, so I didn’t feel I could do that at this time in my career, but told him that if he ever raised some money, we should talk. A year later, Dan had raised money through Cherrystone Angel Group, and he got in touch with me again about coming on board, which I accepted.
What was it like when you first came on board?
I started in October 2014. The first three to four months was all about getting my feet wet. We moved from 1 Davol Square to Hatch during that time, which we’re obviously pleased about. We set up our new office at Hatch to prepare for growth.
Dan and I work really well together. We’re both entrepreneurs, but bring different different things to the table. I’d worked in four early stage companies (Cliff Bar and Jamba Juice among them), but never less than $6m in revenue. To come in with <$500k in revenue, it was very different. At this stage in my career, in my forties, that was a risk – after all, 90% of startups don’t work. But I was ready for the challenge, and I believed in the product. So I decided to leave a very stable, well paying job and said, “I’m gonna do this.” And I’ve always wanted to start something or find someone who had an idea and start it. And this fit with my background in natural food and beverage products: I had been the head of marketing at Galaxy Nutritional Foods, which produces cheese alternative products, and had started my marketing career at Jamba Juice, back when there were nineteen locations (there are now 1000+).
What advice would you give to a young marketer today?
Getting in on the ground floor of a company at any early stage is invaluable. I’ve been in early stage companies throughout my career – the largest was 250 people. During that time I was rubbing elbows with a lot of people and sitting in shared office space. If you’re a marketer and want to propel your career, there’s nothing better than being in a small atmosphere where you can learn and listen. You’re not going get that experience at a larger company. The experience I had in these companies simply can’t compare to anything you would learn in textbooks. I still use ideas I learned 20 years ago that stuck with me.
Also, never burn bridges. especially if you’re in a small industry like natural foods. Always leave on good terms, because you just never know when you’re going to cross paths in the future. I’m still in contact with people I worked with 10-15 years earlier.
Curious about Premama? Visit their website at DrinkPremama.com!