In our latest episode, we spoke with Josh Elizetxe, entrepreneur and founder of Snow, a globally patented teeth whitening product. We covered a variety of topics related to marketing and entrepreneurship:
Josh started out building and designing websites as a teenager, learned the fundamentals of marketing and advertising, and eventually created a business platform offering marketing solutions and management to traditional media and PR companies. After college, he sold that business, and it was in the following lull that he thought seriously about what he wanted to do and realized he needed to build something big—something with a long horizon that would keep his interest over decades.
Building up businesses and flipping them gives a quick hit that Josh compares to an insulin spike. It can be addicting, but it can also lead to burnout. To grow something longterm is a challenge that requires diligence and focus, and you can't always be reaching for the next shiny object. This can be especially hard for marketers to learn, since they're always looking to sell and see an opportunity in everything.
If you look at some of the biggest names and biggest brands, Josh says, they've been doing what they do through multiple companies over long periods of time. Money is made either by being the best or by having a monopoly, and you can only achieve that by doubling down on something over years. That's what allows you to take advantage of compound returns.
When Josh began creating Snow, he put a lot of his own money into the research. I noted how uncommon that is in entrepreneurs, who usually look for outside money to make their ideas happen. Josh said he's never done much with investments like stocks or real estate—one lesson he learned from his mentors was never to play another man's game. He knows the best returns he can get are from betting on himself, so that's where he puts his money. Moreover, having your own money in your company will give other potential investors more confidence in your ideas.
On a related note, we both spoke about how we view debt as a good thing. If you can take on debt that allows you to grow a brand that you believe in, that's good debt to have. As Josh said, he knows the returns his business will give him is far higher than any interest rate a bank would give him on a loan. While you want to have your own money where your mouth is, leveraging loans and other people's money as well can buy you time in which to grow your company and your brand awareness.
Josh advised that there's a gap or inefficiency in every market. Look at expiring patents to see where you might be able to compete in the future. Also, think about what you want to build, how big you want it to be, and what comes with that—whether, for example, it's working in an office with employees, or working from home.
Early on, Josh says, focus on profit so you can put that profit right back into boosting your brand's awareness. Margin is very important at this stage; you won't have the volume of someone like Wal-Mart when starting out, so your packaging and customer service have to be on point and allow you to charge a premium price. That extra bit of margin gives you the breathing room to grow bigger. At the same time, recognize the deals that may not make you money upfront, but that are the seeds which will bear fruit later. Josh used the example of Snow breaking even on social media ads—or perhaps even losing money on certain platforms—so he can make money from the deals with retailers, who are now interested in his product because he's already built up the awareness.
Related to the topic of brand awareness and visibility are celebrity influencers, who have played a big role in Snow's success thus far. My final question for Josh was for his top tips for brands to reach out to influencers.
He recommended an app called Brandsnob, which he described as Tinder for influencers, and talked about the importance of knowing both who an influencer is and who their followers are. On the flip side, he also mentioned the idea of 'microinfluencers' and incentivizing customers to post content or reviews about your product. Shopify, in particular, has an app that allows you to analyze your customers' social network followings. As he rightly said, the cheapest photoshoot you can do is sending out product and having other people do the work of posing and editing.