eCommerce Rockstars – EP 16 – Shane Heath – MudWtr

MudWtr is a brand that I have been following closely for over 6 months. When it first popped into my feed I thought what an incredible product and unbelievable brand both aesthetically and in the messaging, they were pushing and the community they were clearly building. It came as no surprise then to hear that the founder Shane Heath came from a background of not only design management and development in Silicon Valley, but also is an accomplished fine artist.

While trying to kick his coffee addiction, he discovered Chai while he was in India, and quickly adopted it into his morning ritual as a replacement. He then started to experiment with multiple other beneficial ingredients like Tumeric, Chaga, Rishi, Lions Mane, cinnamon and more.  When his friends would ask what in the hell he was drinking, he wanted a nice simple answer to give them and that became “its Mud”.

He never had any intention of building an eCommerce company, but as fate would have it, he was hired by a company to do re-design all of their packaging, website and the entire subscription management back-end. He started sharing his new found recipe with the people in the office who all seemed keen to cut back on their coffee consumption and the product quickly gained a lot of popularity. That is when it dawned on him that he not only had a really strong product that the market was hungry for but also all of the necessary skills to get his brand off the ground.

He took his first steps without really knowing what he was doing with the attitude that “tomorrow ill figure out the next step”.

Having such a diverse set of skills as a founder, Shane admits that one of his biggest challenges as a CEO is now delegating some of those tasks to other people. As someone who has worn so many hats in my business too, I can totally relate to the struggle of letting go of tasks you are used to doing yourself and trusting others to do them as well.

Shane brought a former business partner from a shared failed venture on board as his first hire for the team. Paul DeJoe also cut an investment check for the business which allowed Shane to make the leap and quit his job. The two work incredibly well together and have incredible amounts of trust for one another having gone through the previous failure. Shane is more of the branding, creative and customer and web experience guy, whereas Paul is more skilled with operations, finance and business level execution.

Shane also points to the importance of having someone like that in your business where you can respectfully disagree with or have arguments constructively with. This brings a healthy level of polarity and duality to a business and allows for new ideas to be formed out of the constructive banter.

Something that really drove me to connect with Shane is that the entire MudWtr brand was born out of a passion for the product, the design of it all, and the building of a community, and not via a whiteboard session to determine market size and potential exit value. It really is the story of one man’s passion for a product that produced incredible results, using his passion for building beautiful looking brands, and then spreading that to the audience who needed to hear it the most.

When your focus is on creating something incredible that you would use rather than simply something that is profitable as a business, you unlock the potential for building a memorable brand.

MudWtr has been amassing an extremely loyal following with the business because they are not afraid to be polarizing in their messaging about why they are better than coffee on so many levels. This encourages people to talk about their product to their friends in a way that encourages them to join the same club. The “us vs. them” approach, even when in a light-hearted way like theirs helps dramatically with virality and building a strong community who purchases again and again.

They aren’t looking to make everyone happy, they are looking to speak directly to those who are looking for an alternative to coffee. When they speak to just a target few, it allows them to build a community even faster rather than trying to speak to everyone.

In the very beginning of the business, Shane personally reached out to the first 500 customers with customized messages and took the time to get to know them, why they purchased, what they liked about it, etc. This not only gave him a really powerful understanding of what his top 3 customer segments were that he could target, but it also drove an extremely strong connection to the business that he was building and the validation that he should keep going.

Shane is pretty big on educating potential customers on the ingredients in the product, rather than simply hard selling them all the time. They prefer to be advocates of a lifestyle through a very unique brand voice, rather than simply offering a prescription for a way of living.

Once someone makes a purchase, they receive the product in nice packaging along with a note from Shane on why he started the company, some free stickers with the language and catchy sayings that they have come up with, more information on the products and how to make it. This gives people the highest chance of using the product regularly and also like it as much as possible. They also introduce people to the subscription options for the product going forward. They also receive a post-purchase email sequence that arms them with more information on the product and all of the ingredients and how to get the most from the brand, but also some great ongoing content like office playlists, and how other cultures experience and use the ingredients.

MudWtr operates two physical locations right now that generate significant brand awareness and genuine loyalty. One is a cafe shop directly linked to their office space, and the other is a pop-up shop in the busiest and most famous area in Venice Beach, CA. Both of these locations offer the chance for people to come in and try Mud on a donation basis (which goes directly to charity), and also buy mud at discounted prices and sign up for the subscription service.

Incredibly both of these operations nearly break even on the front end despite being donation based as a cafe, which is also remarkable because of the myriad of ancillary benefits that they provide. This is also where Shane interacts directly with customers 1 on 1 to educate them on the product and build tons of trust and affinity with the brand. It also provides Shane with a huge reminder on why he is doing this and a connection to the thousands of customers who are loving the product and seeing incredible results from it in their own lives.

The previous companies that Shane had started before this were more based in numbers and math and growth hacking as opposed to coming from a place of authenticity and a love for the brand itself.  MudWtr came from a place of personal discovery and finding out more about who he was, what he stands for, and what he really wants to contribute to the world.

If you are doing things like dropshipping and affiliate marketing and want to break into building a meaningful brand, then first realize that the skills you have acquired are tremendously useful in things like conversion rate optimization or media buying. Then start to look at yourself and ask what things and products you might be doing or using every day that might be really useful to someone else as a way to get started working on something you are really passionate about.

Building a brand isn’t always a straight line of start to finish, but rather an evolutionary process that provides multiple opportunities to develop a deeper and deeper passion for what you are working on. In the end, as you discover more about yourself and what you really want to do, the pathways to building a truly amazing brand will reveal themselves to you with perfect synchronicity.

Video Highlights

00:50 – Shane’s eCommerce journey

05:45 – Delegating when you are used to wearing so many hats.

08:20 – Having someone to disagree with is valuable

09:45 – The organic launch of a true brand

12:19 – Personally reaching out to the first 500 customers

15:43 – Education vs hard selling

17:50 – Post purchase onboarding

22:32 – Physical locations mixed with eCommerce

29:14 – Unlocking a purpose-driven brand opportunity for yourself

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