eCommerce Rockstars – EP 13 – Chas Smith – Paleo Valley

Many of you reading this can relate to running multiple businesses at once…it is sort of in an entrepreneurs blood to always want to be doing different things. Chas Smith is the CoFounder of Paleo Valley and Wild Pastures, two companies that are absolutely crushing it with incredibly high-quality products being brought to market in unbelievably sustainable ways.

Chas founded Paleo Valley with his wife Autumn, who was a fitness trainer for various celebrities in LA. She and her clients were in incredible shape on the outside, but she had terrible digestive issues that were ruining the quality of her life. The two stumbled upon eating the Paleo diet as a potential solution, and after a month her symptoms were gone and never returned again.

This was pre-Paleo craze on the internet, so the couple started the business with publishing and information products, and did quite well helping a lot of people find these similar solutions.  After this market became quite saturated, the two turned to create physical products.

Their first and flagship product was their beef stick with no preservatives and sourced at the highest quality and sustainability. The idea was to have high-protein snacks to eat on the go for Chas and Autumn themselves, and this spread quickly into the marketplace with a massive boom.

The two have been focused on selling the highest quality product possible from the get-go, and this commitment has only gotten deeper and deeper as time has gone on. They have also studied deeper on quality and then on the sustainable side of the industry so that their knowledge continues to fuel their passion. The impact in this industry is huge – getting rid of the highly destructive animal agriculture factory farming industry in favor of sustainable farming and quality meats.

They then launched a very complementary business which is best described as “if Costco and a farmers market had a baby” it would be called Wild Pastures. It is a membership club for taking truly grass fed and pasture raised meats with no pesticides or additives and using fully regenerative agriculture techniques that actually heal the land instead of destroying it like most animal agriculture operations.

Currently, these meats are not available to most people because of local availability typically really high pricing. WIld Pastures is changing this game, one geography at a time, and changing the animal agriculture industry in the direction of full-on sustainability.  The object is to commoditize extremely premium product so that it can be made available at better prices and frequency to more people, all while regenerating land and ending animal cruelty.

The logistics landscape for Wild Pastures in doing home delivery have been pretty unique and challenging when compared to Paleo Valley. The expansion requires using geographically centered hubs around major urban centers and expanding slowly using each hub as the anchor to enter new areas. They are also taking steps in ensuring that every part of this process along the supply chain is done as sustainable as possible and with as little impact on the environment.

A huge reason why they’ve been able to run both companies is that both businesses are so closely related in terms of the customers’ they serve and a lot of the marketing infrastructure that they share.  This reduces new employee training time significantly and allows for some very healthy cross-pollination between companies. From there it is a matter of prioritization on important opportunities or threats that need handling.

The meal and food delivery industry is extremely difficult to survive in, so Chas says that having a business built behind Wild Pastures has been incredibly crucial in ensuring they can thrive in terms of acquisition costs, infrastructure, logistics and more.

From day 1 of the business, Chas and Autumn have been super passionate about the business and the products, fueled by the dramatic experience that autumn had with her health transformation, and re-creating that for others. This has been the fuel and the glue for creating the brand tone of voice and the character of the brand itself, and then being able to share that with the world.

When you exude passion for what you sell it comes out on every sales page, your about us page, every ad, every interaction that you have with your audience and your customers. This makes it almost effortless to fuel the brand into the direction of high potency.  People are also a lot smarter online now and used to seeing B.S. and so they can sense authenticity when they see it.

You don’t always need to have a super passionate founding story in order to create a memorable brand. Chas tells stories around each of his products, the farmers behind them, regenerative agriculture, scientific stories about the ingredients and products, and more. The more depth you have to your brand and the more you give a damn, the more stories you will have to tell. This also gives people opportunities to resonate with your brand in many ways, because not everyone will resonate with every story.

It’s also important to note that you might not have this epiphany moment from day 1 with your brand, that you might get the deeper and deeper connection and find more stories to tell and more reasons to be passionate about the business and the products as you take in feedback.  Small revelations and tweaks in stories also can reveal massive opportunities. Chas shares that they stumbled upon this one detail in their beef stick story surrounding why they used the fermentation vs a chemical ingredient for preserving. When they made a campaign around this they were able to spend over $500k promoting this difference and the health benefits, and that really catapulted them to new heights in the early days.

Like many great brands, Paleo Valley has incredibly strong retention and repeat customer numbers. He says that one of the main reasons for this is that they really start working on retention far before a sale is even made. They do this by indoctrinating their audience on who they are, what they stand for, why they do what they do, why their products are the best on the market, and what those products can do for the consumer.

This ensures that when someone purchases, they have a really good idea of what they are getting and WHY – and the WHY is the essential element in the mix for getting people to come back. This way you aren’t just enticing them on an offer (like 20% off), you are selling them on the product itself and on the brand behind it.

Finding a product with great margins on Alibaba and marketing it like crazy produces a one-off relationship with a customer, and that is not the real opportunity in eCommerce. Repeat business is the real opportunity, building a brand is a real opportunity. 90% of the work is done in retention when your customers know the WHY behind the brand, and that you have an amazing quality product.

Chas is a big believer in separating business out from your personal life. He tries to only work 6 hours a day (hard hours at a computer non-stop), and then have the rest of that time for his family.  This is kind of tough for him too because he loves what he does wholeheartedly, and would work 18 hours a day (with breaks of course) if he could.

As an entrepreneur, it’s often hard to turn your brain off, but if you can manage to do it, keeping some time away from work actually makes you more productive in the hours that you are switched on working.  There is always something you CAN be doing as an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean that you always should!


Video Highlights

01:30 – The origins of Paleo Valley

04:30 – The laser focus on quality and sustainability

06:57 – Their new, complementary, but complicated sister- business

09:25 – Controlled growth

11:40 – Running multiple related businesses

15:45 – Creating a rock solid brand you are passionate about

19:18 – Deeping a connection with your brand

20:32 – Retention starts before the sale

23:35 – How to get a lot done and enjoy life at the same time

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