#235 – Product Development With Oren Schauble

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the episode today, we have Oren Schauble. Oren, welcome. Thomas, thanks for having me. Excited to be here. I am excited to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Sure, so I’m a marketer and product developer that really focuses on the intersection of product and marketing, so making differentiated products, building supply chain, finding opportunities in the market, working on product roadmap. Over the last decade or so, I’ve done that across a lot of companies. Most recently in the cannabis space. We did a roll up of multiple brands, took it on the public market.

Before that, I helped build the consumer drone channel in retail across places, worked in the outdoors market. And now I’m working with just a number of different companies specifically on product roadmap and supply chain and the opportunities that kind of this new global economy presents to people willing to chase it down. Well, thank you for the introduction. There’s a lot I can ask you about there, so of the things that I could ask you about, what’s your passion to talk about? I really like talking about products and product development, how you can create things that are differentiated. I really like talking about kind of, the opportunity now for more people than ever to become entrepreneurs and launch their own brands because of things that are happening in the world. Yeah, happy to dive in anywhere. Well regarding product based, should we say, would you call it tactics or strategy, what would you say are the biggest misconceptions around that topic? Well, I think that anyone who thinks that something is saturated, I think right now in this year probably isn’t true. You know, people will always say, hey, I don’t wanna start a brand or make a product in the fitness niche or in clothing or, and there’s so many things that are out there and uh, I think that that’s a big misconception, partially because there’s still tons of opportunities in organic search even for things that are saturated by just kind of finding niches and there’s also just these evolving consumer tastes that we’ve seen of where people want things that are more tailored to them, their background, their region, their specific user needs, even just, you know, values that they’re associated with.

And so I think that there is more and more opportunity for people to create small successful businesses or to, you know, market product niches in a different way and find success. So for those types of industries, let’s say the fitness industry really, you would say that there’s not enough specificity catering to certain individuals. Um and there’s tons of opportunities you just have to, shall we say, find your, your buyer, find a person who is going to be your customer. Exactly. And I think that, you know, what sort of happened is there’s all these giant brands that we all grew up with, right, just, you know, these these big houses that sold, you know, and they give the U. S. Like Nabisco and Heinz and these products you see on grocery shelves all around and those companies are, you know, they have a hard time being nimble and kind of moving and adjusting and they have these core sets of products and you know, I think I found that consumers have really more specific taste now and they say, hey I want a specific flavor or specific thing or something that has a specific additive appeals to my values around health or something of that nature sustainability and for those companies to look at those opportunities, they’re often not big enough.

And so I think what we’re seeing is all these small companies, new entrepreneurs and DTC companies kind of chipping away and making businesses that are very respectable for for you or me, you know, you’re either a couple, you know, a couple million dollars a year etcetera. That’s that’s chips to these larger businesses. But just an example of this kind of shift that’s happening between larger corporate and kind of new entrepreneurs and you can kind of just do that by just finding those opportunities, what do users want or what are people searching for on the internet that they’re not being served a proper product for. Have you got any examples of how you have used that approach yourself? Oh yeah totally. I think we’re actually working on this the other day as I was doing a workshop with a with a fitness company that you know they make fitness materials. So they basically things like benches and weights and stuff of that nature and they want to branch into supplements like protein. And so we spent, we use this tool called H. F H R E. F. S. It’s an S. C. O. Toole and we we loaded in basically hundreds of different kind of terms related to protein related flavors and we actually found pretty quickly that no one is selling like a caramel protein at all, like there’s, you know, one or two and then that’s actually a flavor that search for really significantly.

And so it was just kind of that combination of okay they want to enter a market. I don’t wanna do anything super special. We did search for all kinds of weird new flavors like you know like macha or savory or we tried all these combos and by going through that list and saying, okay, how difficult is this keyword to utilize and how much search volume doesn’t have, what kind of stands out. And the answer for for that brand was caramel which is in something that they are kind of working on and developing and that was an extension of an existing product roadmap. They’re looking to do something different. Um you know another one that’s similar in the food industry that a friend of mine was looking at was he buys the social websites and so he was looking at website in the food space and he found that a really large griddles have complete sc opportunity. No one’s you know, making something that’s big or making a website that’s optimized for one that’s big. He was looking to buy a website set up a supply chain specifically to serve, you know, thousands of people that are searching that term every month and don’t really have a product for them. And so that’s a really tactical example of using an S. C. O. Service to determine that by amount of keyword times difficulty like kind of coming up with a factor system, but it’s just one example, you could apply that same thing to amazon or the same thing too, if you’re searching it on Tiktok or any number of these kind of niches that are locations for distribution that we see evolving and how did you get involved in this space or where’s your knowledge come from around product marketing.

So I started on the marketing side and specifically on, you know, actually bringing things to market and digital marketing. But then I kind of got really obsessed with the, you know, like the messaging nature of that and like how do you create a compelling product from the start and house marketing involved in that process and product marketing and then eventually that carried over to all right, Well now I want to understand how the product is made and then now I understand supply chain and I start working in these roles that kind of moved across that and kind of being, you know, I went from kind of being VP of marketing, being VP of product marketing to you know, to try taking on larger words within that and I just find that they’re so intertwined, right that especially if you’re a marketer that can understand supply chain or from the start, help make those requirements stocks and talk to customers that’s just super value will be in there at that early stage and then gives you a very different kind of career trajectory um and something that I’ve been really excited about. So for those who should we say are heavy on the marketing experience and not so much on the supply chain perhaps or manufacturing what are some of the should we say basic knowledge gaps that those people miss.

Yeah, So a lot of that is just about the uh, a lot of, a lot of supply chain and what makes it effective is really just running through checklists because you’ve done things before and have realized kind of what gets what’s hard and what’s bad. Um, and so I think that it all starts in the same place, right? Which is trying to have an amazing kind of user experience. And so if you’re a marketer and you’re saying you’re talking to your ideal customer, you’re working through the pain points they have or how you’re going to message something? That’s the same thing that the product team should be doing when they create a product requirement stock of what does the user want, Right. Really thinking through that experience from when you open the box or when you open a piece of software through the end. And the difference is the marketer turns that into something consumer facing the product person turns out into something that they want a factory to create. And so really like the knowledge gap is just, what are those steps that you go through to actually create something like that? And a lot of that is thinking about, okay, how is it packaged where component the times, how do these things all come together, where gaps in the process where a manufacturer might make a mistake or where something needs to be extremely detailed they might not think of.

And then how do you combine that with the timing of all of that being put together and the pricing to make sure that you’re compelling in the market And so really that’s just I think product development a little more of an equation or if marketing is a little more intangible, but something that if you have one skill set, I think you can work over into the other, thank you for that. You also mentioned that you have been in the cannabis business now this is something which I have due to being in the UK, very limited knowledge about. So can you tell me about how you got into that and what it’s like? Yeah, sure. So it’s a little bit of a nightmare, not gonna lie, but the, I got into it because I worked a lot with with regulated products prior and so I spent a lot of time, you know, building camera, the camera drone channel and retail globally and and that was, you know, we were in uh, everyone from harvey norman to Australia and back in France and Virgin, I forget I Harrods in the UK and a few other places in the channel we were building and so I was used to kind of regulated products because when we started the consumer drone space, the word drone was still like a bad word associated more with a drone strike than you did with a drone camera.

I think that perception is kind of now changed and there’s a lot of regulation education around how consumers can use it, you know, weight limits, you know, how do you educate that kind of people in retail? It’s really nuanced. And so it’s the same thing with cannabis where you have a complicated products. People feel a lot of ways about, there’s a ton of education, there’s a ton of retail experience education and so it was kind of a kind of natural shift to move to another regulated market. The differences in the U. S. Especially is that it’s a really complex area to operate in because you are still federally illegal, even though you are state level legal, which means a lot of business operational challenges. Because for instance, in your business, you, you can write, you can write off operational expenses, you can only write off your cost of goods sold from a tax perspective, which means that your businesses are much more expensive to operate than any typical business. And then also, you have trouble working with banks and you get charged fees and people want to charge you more for your real estate. Everything just becomes inherently complicated. Certain services won’t work with you for things like HR or marketing or, you know, like mail ship doesn’t want you sending emails, but you might be okay with this other service, that kind of thing.

So really, you just do a lot of challenges every day, but it’s when it comes down to it, it’s a lot like any other consumer packaged goods industry from a marketing or product perspective, you know, you want to create things that look good at retail, you want to educate the people at retail that are going to educate the consumers, you want to kind of create demand around the product you want, you wanted to evolve and interesting space from that perspective, this is surrounded by all these additional complications that make the industry really challenging and what do you make of some of the things you highlighted there? So for example, merchants that wouldn’t work with you or premises which are more expensive, but what, what conclusions do you come to there? I just think that, you know, in any emerging industry, you’re, it’s going to be a bit of the Wild West, you know, where you’re trying to find solutions to more complex problems, which I think is great for a certain type of entre entrepreneur, but I do think that it makes it really hard to run businesses there with any level of sophisticated planning and so there’s always just this kind of chaos factor that comes from, is this vendor gonna get shut down, Am I gonna get charged an absorbent amount for this, that just makes operating on a day to day kind of really, really hard.

And so that’s, that’s not for everyone. And I think that there are people that can work through that and really make a name in the brand for themselves and do great. But many people get excited about the industry and want to go into it and realize they’re doing one of the most complicated things you can do. And so I’d recommend for most, you know, it’s, it’s worth enjoying being a consumer, but you may not want to be in the industry. Well, you said that people have mixed opinions about it. Did you get any, should we say awkward conversations or interesting instances with friends or family about the business? Um, no, not particularly. I’ve, I’m a relatively passionate advocate about it for a number of reasons that are, you know, and I think once you start kind of walking through from a medical perspective or from a sleep perspective, I think it’s easy to walk through that now. It’s just, uh, especially in kind of, you know, places where it’s already become legal. You know, I live in California. It’s part, it’s a normal part of the conversation and the people’s day to day lives. So I’ve been able to work through that pretty well without awkward conversations. But I’m sure in some of these new States, it’s a little more complicated, But I think once people experience it and experience saying, hey, this isn’t about recreation, a lot of this is about being able to sleep better or being able to recover from athletics better being able to treat medical related pain or use these substances instead of alcohol or opioids which are worse for you.

Once you start walking through those conversations, I think anyone can kind of be persuaded a bit at least to be intrigued by the potential of cannabis and in terms of the role that you played in that that business, your, I mean what was it that you were doing? Yeah. So I started off just on the product side, I basically ran all product development. We had, we were doing a roll up, right? So we basically had, we brought three companies together into one company and then we expanded each of those companies across different states and areas. And then we brought more companies in over time and becoming about six or seven companies total inside that roll up. So a lot of what we were doing was making a product roadmap for each of the brands that were underneath that, making sure that we were in tune with the market as that evolved. We owned both brands and retail stores. We were thinking a lot about making products specifically to sell inside our retail and how to fill gaps in that, you know, in that chain. And then optimizing that supply chain and especially over the last year as shipping container timing and costs has changed a lot. And you know, working with overseas, um, you know, we’ve been working a lot specifically on the cost of these components, the timing of these components and the tools to bring that to market.

So I started on the product side and then I actually ended up becoming president of the entire organization. Um, you know, about about a year in just a lot because you know what you do inside of a product role in cannabis where you’re actually dealing with, you know, the agricultural component, you’re dealing with the product ization and you’re dealing with house sold at retail. It made a lot of sense for our business because we spend so much of that that someone with an intimate knowledge of that, you know, kind of be in charge of the day to day operations of the people. Um, and then as the company got bigger and bigger and turned into more of a retail operation and that made less sense. And so that’s when I became have now gone on to do what I’m doing here and they have a great kind of executive team in place that’s uh, that’s working through the, you know, the next generation of that business. Thank you for sharing that in terms of your approach of the roll up. Um, did you have an exit in mind for that or was it strictly for the growth of perhaps a new brand? No, we did. So we basically had two stages of the roll up. There’s an initial stage which was done privately in the second stage of the rolled up. We actually, we did essentially a reverse merger with a public company.

So it was a smaller public company that one of the first kind of plant touching public companies in the US. And so we essentially took over their their vehicle with the private company that we had and then did some additional acquisitions. And that was the idea was to be able to get liquidity for the people that had been a part of the roll up in the process so far, and also to have resources to be able to expand to the future by having that, that public vehicle. Um, and that was, you know, not always the plan from from moment one, but was the kind of the right move at the time to be able to expand that business um, intelligently and yeah, I know a lot of people like to, when you ask them what the future of their businesses like or you know, what they wanna do, they try to keep it more intangible. I think, you know, when you’re doing a roll up like this, you wanna have really specific goals in mind and say we want to be exercise or an ex states or be on the public market or have an exit to a company like this, you know, in a certain time period, if you don’t have that really well defined and don’t know who you’re selling this combined combination of companies to then you can kind of end up in this, in nowhere essentially and kind of lost in it. And so we were always trying to have some, some level of guidance and plan through that.

Even as the market changed, thank you for sharing that for people who, let’s say they’re aware of the, of what a roll up is, but I don’t have much experience, what would you say to them. Um, yeah, I would say that uh, you can think of a roll up in a large scale or a small scale, I think a fallacy that resists a lot of people’s minds around other words, roll ups or mergers and acquisitions is that it always happens at major company level. I think that especially nowadays where, yeah, you can go on, you know, websites like micro acquire and buy a business for $10,000. It sells on amazon or something of that nature that all these concepts now exist in a smaller scale as well. So for someone who doesn’t quite understand that, I think you can look at these smaller examples in e commerce for instance, and it’s a little more approachable. So for instance, um, the concept of amazon aggregators, so businesses are small businesses that sell on amazon every day and they sell specific products and niches. An aggregator does a roll up by saying, hey, we’re gonna buy five companies that are smaller on amazon or certain size on amazon and we’re gonna combine them and we’re gonna take advantage of the opportunities that come from a, we can share marketing services, we can share accounting services, we can share warehouses, so we can basically reduce costs and increase operational efficiency and you know, you can think of that at that small level, all the way up to the size we were doing it at where it was, you know, $5, $6 million dollars every every month.

We’re combining a lot of businesses looking to grow significantly and it’s all that same. How do we bring these businesses together? How do you integrate them? And is there enough value being generated by combining them? It’s worth more on the other side. And I think that’s where you can go wrong is you can combine some businesses and realize it’s actually harder to operate multiple of these. We didn’t get any efficiencies and it’s not worth as much as the individuals which happens. But if you think about it intelligently, you can combine some things like for instance, a retail store and a popular brand that sells in those retail stores all of a sudden you kind of have a lot of synchronicity. Um, and you know, and get a lot of potential out of doing something like a roll up excluding what you mentioned. Are you aware of any other disadvantages to be aware of before you go into one. Yeah, I think integrating companies is hard, uh there’s personalities, there’s entrenched, you know, ideas and culture and sometimes it can be significantly different. I think a good example of that is, and we dealt with this inside. Some of what we worked on is you have companies that are very technology forward and savvy and who operate in the everything is documented, Everyone works on slack and you know, has project management software and the goals and tools and you have more antiquated companies where it’s like, hey, everything’s on pen and paper and we use outlook and you know, and it’s uh, and they don’t understand how to operate like that.

If you’re gonna try and combine those two companies in 60 days and expect them to operate together, that’s probably gonna happen maybe in a year with a lot of planning, you can do that excellently. There’s a lot of cultural things to consider as well. It’s not just kind of smashing two businesses together? It’s how do they operate? Who’s gonna do the integration? How are the people gonna feel about it? And are people ready for change? And honestly, most people are so finding people that are ready for change and working through that is, is a skill that has to be learned was a great answer, but it leads me to say, is it worth it? I think so. I think that, you know, in the right circumstance, especially I like the amazon aggregator example, because I do think that especially when there’s logistics savings to be had or business models are very similar where you’re saying, hey, we have five warehouses and we could really have one warehouse that’s larger and save a significant amount of money and then, and we do have functions where we could repeat process or apply. One company is really good at email marketing and the other company is really good at warehousing and we can lean on that. I think there’s a ton of advantage and there’s no way to go faster than to than to do that, right, if you’re gonna try and grow your business is organically, it’ll take you five or six times as long as if you’re emerging businesses together and in our current world where everything is so based on speed, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s one of the best tactics you have out there in the cannabis space in particular.

I think it’s, I think it’s complicated because regulation across areas and things makes things so inherently different. But you know, overall, I still think it’s a great tool to have in any entrepreneur’s toolkit, any thoughts on financing. Uh, you know, I think that in the, in the US at least there’s uh, there’s SB a loans. So it’s a small business administration that are really equipped entrepreneurs to do things like this at relatively low interest rates. I think there is a kind of work through some of the systems that they have out there, especially if you’re looking to buy a smaller business, say you have a successful email newsletter and you want to buy a small brand, you can promote inside that. There are really great tools for entrepreneurs to be able to access capital at relatively low rates for that. And so I think that as long as you are kind of doing your research and doing more and more traditional financing, that’s great tons of predatory stuff out there, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t necessarily be enthused about getting, but I think that if you kind of work through the traditional methods, I still think, you know, that’s, it’s one of the best tools to look at something like that and say, okay, I’m gonna be able to buy this in a monthly payment over five years versus having to have the cash now is how a lot of businesses grow, you know, and and figure it out because you have to have confidence in your plan and your operations.

Well, thank you for that, you’ve certainly got a lot going on and a lot of good answers what’s next for you. Um so, you know, right now, I’m working um, you know, really in depth on product development and building a product development community. So I have a newsletter called Product People and a website called Product World where I really kind of detail out for entrepreneurs or for people that have brands are looking to expand it. Just a lot of tools and resources of, here’s how you work with factories overseas, here’s how you think about ideation inside products that you work on, here’s how you develop a product roadmap, and I’m just sharing a lot of kind of knowledge in that and building a little community around it because that opportunity we talked about before, I’m really passionate about and I believe I have a lot of resources to offer to groups of people that are probably more useful than me just creating my own brand again. And so I’m kind of looking forward to guiding that and building a community around it online, something that I always ask in pretty much every episode I speak to someone, I say, what does success mean to you? Yes, success means, you know, I think there’s just two variables for me personally and one is having the ability to wake up and work on what you want every day.

I think that as, as humans, you know, you may aspire to a life where you’re on your yacht or at the beach every day. But I don’t think that that really fulfills a lot of driven people, you know, I think you’re still gonna be inclined to work, I want to contribute. And so I think just that ability to say, I want to do this today and I’m gonna change my mind tomorrow, I can work on X is success. Then the other thing is just being passionate, being able to have things you’re passionate about, you know, every day, all the things we’ve talked about here are things that I’m really excited about, I feel like I learned a lot inside the process of doing and you know, I think I would feel like I’m successful just by being able to lead that interesting life and work on those things that that get me excited and you know, that’s the kind of framework that I try to bring into, you know, everyday and also try to encourage younger entrepreneurs to are more focused on, oh, I really need to get to a million dollars, I really need to get $200,000 a year or that kind of thing to, to reframe their thinking about, you know, are you really worried about anything in your life and are you passionate about what you do day to day? And that’s probably a better metric for success and good things will come from that? So I think 100% right in terms of that some people do have that mindset, why is it that you think that how did you come to that realization?

I suppose there’s a better way of putting it. Um you know, I think having uh, you know that’s a good question, I think I, I spent a lot of time really just thinking about, you know, am I am I excited or am I feeling good about something because I noticed how inefficient and how unhappy I am when I’m not and so I think just it’s that kind of level of self awareness and and then continuing to kind of either write down or reinforce these things are going well and go towards it, but a lot of us also just having other people in your life that you know you can look look to and say okay, I believe that person is happy and I believe they’re successful, I believe they’re on their path and and kind of gravitating more towards those people and the people that are kind of more their loss or unhappy and trying to build that around it. I feel like I’ve gained a lot from just the entrepreneurial community, that’s one of things I really enjoyed about being in California versus places I’ve lived prior is there’s just a lot of people who are chasing similar ideas and who you can kind of be around and learn from. I think a lot of that comes from your peers as well. Is there anything I should have asked you about today? No, I think we covered a lot of interesting things. Yeah you did pretty well, nothing pops to mind.

Thank you for that. If people want to connect with you or learn more, where do they go? So I’m really active on Twitter at Oren meets world, “O-R-E-N Meets world” and then my newsletter product people which is got thousands of entrepreneurs on it and send out different factory links and aesthetic inspiration ideation kind of concepts every week. You can get that at productworld.xyz and it’s easy to sign up and beyond most of the easiest places to to connect with me and I’m always happy to hear from people and talk through entrepreneurial ideas or product and super available on the internet, so feel free to reach out. Well for those who are listening or watching, please review the links in the description and Oren, thank you for being a great guest today. Thomas, thanks for having me and yeah, looking forward to listening.