64. Erica Rankin: Growing A 6-Figure Cookie Brand w/ Organic Marketing

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The Brand Builder Show
64. Erica Rankin: Growing A 6-Figure Cookie Brand w/ Organic Marketing

When launching a new brand, a lot of eCommerce entrepreneurs assume the best (and perhaps only) way of reaching a large number of their target audience is through paid advertising.

In this week’s episode, though, we sit down with Erica Rankin who has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for her startup cookie dough brand purely through organic marketing.

She breaks down her strategy for building an audience on platforms like TikTok, and also delves into why building a personal brand can be such an asset for brand owners – even if you have nothing to sell.

This is a great conversation with an inspiring entrepreneur that will give you lots of takeaways to put into your business. Enjoy!

Episode Links

Talking Points

00:00 Introduction to Guest: Erica Rankin

00:56 Background of Erica

03:28 Erica’s favorite five

07:00 How Bro Dough started and how it grew

09:39 Challenges in selling refrigerated food brands

11:48 Fund-raising for business growth

15:38 Why go for organic content vs paid marketing

19:12 TikTok vs other marketing channels

20:45 Erica’s strategy for collecting emails on TikTok

24:45 Building TikTok community

28:16 Tips to reach different countries when posting from another country in TikTok

29:26 Importance of Personal Branding

32:42 Being present and connecting with people on LinkedIn

37:10 Common mistakes on LinkedIn Contents

39:16 Where to find Erica

Ben Donovan  00:00
Hey folks, welcome back to another episode of the brand builders show. And today’s episode has a bit of a twist, we’re going to be talking about branding of a bit of an E commerce brand, but also some personal branding stuff in there as well, which is going to be a really interesting, great topic to chat about and, you know, explore more ways that you can earn money in your entrepreneurial career. And to do that we brought on Erica, Erica, welcome to the show today. Thanks for joining us.
Erica Rankin  00:23
Thanks for having me.
Ben Donovan  00:26
I’m looking forward to having a discussion about you know, firstly, the brand that you’ve built, add a little bit of a look at it before we recorded it’s very cool. I like it. And then we’re going to talk about TikTok, which is an interesting topic of discussion right now for many reasons. And then a bit about a bit about personal branding. Before we do that, I’d love to hear a bit about your story, your journey. You know, give us the elevator pitch of your journey, entrepreneurial journey so far. catch us up to today, and then we’ll dive into some more stuff.
Erica Rankin  00:56
Sure. Yeah, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. So yeah, I’m Erica, and the chief everything officer and founder of a startup called Bro Dough. Where we make functional like protein snacks, better for you snacks. We have a edible cookie dough on the market right now, added protein, less sugar cleaner ingredients. And then we’re launching cookies pretty soon in the US. So the three pillars of our company is fun, functional and nostalgia. We kind of tried to tap on those things with all the products that we launched. And yeah, my story, I guess I went to school for psychology grew up, you know, like my parents work normal jobs. I grew up in a very small town, graduated with a degree in psychology in 2017, worked in my fields for just over a year and absolutely hated it. And at my desk, I used to listen to entrepreneurship podcast. So I would go into work, listen to podcasts all day at my desk while I was like filing stuff and scanning stuff and answering calls and my contract had come to an end at that job, and I decided to quit it not continue working there and to pick up everything and go backpacking for three months across Southeast Asia. And on that trip, I met entrepreneurs, and that’s where the seed kinda got planted in my head. And I realized, oh, I can actually build a business, I don’t need to have a business degree, I don’t need to have parents that have built businesses before. I just have to have the willingness to learn and figure it out. So I got home Google Business workshop near me, drove out to a Business Resource Center, learn how to write a business plan. And then later that year, in 2019, I launched Bro Dough. And it’s actually a product that I used to eat myself and make for myself back in 2018. When I competed in bodybuilding, I had to like replace all of my junk foods and sweets with healthier alternatives. And I would make them myself. And this was something that I made it was like a healthier edible cookie dough protein bites, so to speak. So I decided to package it and sell it and branded as roto. And now we’re here.
Ben Donovan  02:53
Yeah, no, I’m very cool. I love the I love the journey, that it was just something that was a something that you wanted to solve yourself. It’s those are the greatest products on times, aren’t they? And, yeah, it’s a very cool sounding brand. And so we’re obviously we’ll dig into some more of that, and the journey of that. But to help us get to know you a little bit more as well, we do like a little section, lightning round favorite five, and to try and understand your favorites of some things. So if we could dive into that, before we kick into some of the deep, deeper questions, that would be amazing. Do you have a favorite ecommerce brand?
Erica Rankin  03:28
You know, so I don’t buy that much stuff online. However, there is one company, they’re local, I order a meal prep. And they’re called macro foods. And I love their website, it’s super easy to navigate, it has all the meals and Nutritionals in there, you can create account, get points and get discounts on future orders. So they’re one brand that I really like and I love to support the quality of the food that they have is really awesome. So I would say that. And then I’m a big fan of smart sweets. I buy a crap ton of smart sweets. I don’t know if you know, are you familiar with the brand? Oh, no. So it’s like a healthier candy. Like, I think there’s three grams of sugar per bag. They’re not cheap, but they’re good. And they’re good alternative.
Ben Donovan  04:09
Yeah. Yeah, that’s good. Sounds good. Okay, cool. And then in terms of a very on brand, by the way, because you know, you have a food brand and then yeah. Yeah. That’s good. Do you have like a software or tool that’s your favorite that helps you run the business.
Erica Rankin  04:28
I really like Hootsuite, because I’m big on content. So I use that to schedule like all of our posts on various platforms. And look at the analytics. They’re super helpful.
Ben Donovan  04:38
Yeah. Nice. Nice. How about an organic marketing channel? I feel like I know what this might be. But
Erica Rankin 04:44
yeah, TikTok, I would say. Yeah.
Ben Donovan  04:47
Yeah, definitely. We’ll get into some more that. What about paid marketing? Did you match that?
Erica Rankin  04:52
You know, I don’t really I think I would say TikTok because I have dabbled in that. It’s been challenging just because my product Like, I couldn’t sell outside of Canada, but once we launch. I mean, there’s a lot happening with TikTok right now. But, again, when we launched in the US, I think TikTok would be a good page channel as well.
Ben Donovan  05:12
Yeah. Good. Okay. And do you have a favorite business book?
Erica Rankin  05:16
I recently read atomic habits. And I think that can be applied to a lot of entrepreneurs. So I think habits are super important. And that’s been very helpful for me. So.
Ben Donovan  05:28
Yeah, absolutely. And then bonus round, because you mentioned podcasts before. Yeah. What’s what was the best entrepreneurship podcasts that helped you on a journey?
Erica Rankin  05:37
It was called the MF CEO project by Andy Frisella Yeah, I like I highly recommend people go check that out. I listened to it every day.
Ben Donovan  05:48
What is the MF CEO stuff?
Erica Rankin  05:50
Mother? See?
Ben Donovan  05:55
Ya Yeah, sure
Erica Rankin  05:56
if I could swear out here, but you know, it’s
Ben Donovan  05:58
fine. I was a bit naive. There wasn’t.
Erica Rankin  06:02
Yeah, that’s okay.
Ben Donovan  06:05
I thought you said MF CEOs. I was like you said MFC. Yeah, yeah. I should have picked up. By the way, I love your self proclaimed Tyler. Earlier, Chief everything officer? I like that. I’ve not heard that before. Yeah,
Erica Rankin  06:18
it’s a blessing in disguise.
Ben Donovan  06:22
Yeah, well, and a lot of our listeners will be very much in that same boat. So they will, they will resonate with that having to kind of do everything. And, you know, we talk in our community about the book, E Myth, you know, E Myth revisited and drawing out your organizational chart right at the beginning. And it’s kind of a great thing to do, but a little bit depressing when you start because your name is like on every single box. It’s like, jeez, but, but that’s how every business starts. Right. So that’s good. Speaking of which, let’s let’s talk about Bro Dough. You talked a bit about the, the concept and why you started it. Can you just give us that? How long has it been going to say?
Erica Rankin  07:00
Just over three years?
Ben Donovan  07:02
Okay. And how’s that trajectory been? Have you seem sort of quick growth has been sort of more like gradual growth. How was the trajectory been?
Erica Rankin  07:12
It’s been interesting, because I launched three months before the world flipped upside down, right? Like March 2020, is when everything shut down. And there was this big DTC wave, like everyone was buying online. And I capitalized on that, like, it was really good for me. You know, I did a lot of marketing, and I really pushed for content, and a lot of people saw it, and that’s when I started like getting on Tik Tok as well. So my DSD channel blew up, and then the following year, it, you know, it’s still pretty consistent. And then this year, and last year, even 2022, it kind of flipped. So due to see things kind of slowed down there. And then we launched into retail, and now we’re getting stronger footing and growth and retail compared to online. So that’s been really interesting to see. But this year is the year of scaling. And I’m fundraising. I’m taking outside investment to help grow the company quicker and scale quicker. So that’s exciting. And I think over the next year will will grow a lot quicker than we did last year. Last year, we got into about 120 doors. And then this year, we’re looking at expanding and increasing that number.
Ben Donovan  08:18
Yeah. Just on that aspect of retail, what did that look like? Was that just how did that happen? How did it come about circumstance? Or did you go out there and pursue it?
Erica Rankin  08:30
Yeah, it was challenging because I had to when I scaled, I basically used to make this stuff myself, right? I would rent a commercial kitchen, I would go in at night, make dough, bring it back to my condo. At one point, I was storing it in my car and packing like in the driver’s seat, it was super scrappy. And then it started to grow. And I outgrew my apartment, I could no longer make it. So I found a manufacturer. And then from there, I found a distributor heard a lot of nose before I heard yeses. And then from there, things kind of just fell into place. And we started to grow it into retail, because the product itself that is refrigerated so it’s really hard to scale it online, shipping and shipping costs, especially over the past few years, they’ve just increased astronomically and people aren’t willing to pay it anymore. They’d rather go in store. So that’s kind of why we flipped and shifted our focus from online to retail.
Ben Donovan  09:23
What are some of the challenges that you face selling consumable products, particularly refrigerated one? Aside from shipping of course, but like someone selling you know, dog leads or something, you know, what are the unique challenges that a food brand would come across?
Erica Rankin  09:39
I would say there’s just very especially in Canada, I’m not sure what it’s like in the States or like other parts of the world but there’s very limited like frozen or refrigerated storage. And oftentimes, there’s really high minimums like there’s one warehouse here and I talked to them and their their pallet minimum was like 100 I don’t have 100 pallets of product to have have like, yeah, so when you’re small, it’s really hard. You know, like getting people to give you the time of day and take you seriously. And yeah, it’s more expensive as well like ambient storage is can be 20 bucks a month or 10 bucks a month. Frozen can be 40 $50 a month per pallet for Astoria. And then freight is more expensive as well like you can have a truck just a regular truck take product anywhere that shelf stable or Ambien and then you have to get refrigerated or frozen trucks for for my product. So it does it affects you know, the whole supply chain to like and you It’s riskier, because you don’t know like, okay, the shipment is getting delivered in August and it’s like 35 degrees. I don’t know if you guys do Celsius do you do Celsius? Okay, it’s just America. That’s weird. But
Ben Donovan  10:49
you guys do Celsius?
Erica Rankin  10:50
Yeah, we do. We do.
Ben Donovan  10:52
Oh, yeah. Those Americans.
Erica Rankin  10:53
I know. They’re silly. But yeah, you don’t know. Like, maybe like the driver was unloading a pallet. And it’s like, out in the parking lot, cuz he’s talking to someone for like half an hour. And then the quality of your product, you know, like it melts or something happens to it. Like, I’m sure you’ve gotten ice cream before and you’ve opened it up and you’re like, it’s half empty, like, Well, I happen or how’s freezer burned or something somewhere in the supply chain. Someone goofed up or I got left out or something happened. So there’s just more risk with it
Ben Donovan  11:19
Yeah, wow, the margin for error is really slim, isn’t it on that? Yeah. You don’t really think about that kind of thing. And then in terms of raising funds for it to be able to grow it? Again, I know. It’s a bit of an open ended vague question. But But what does that look like in terms of, you know, you pulling together? Obviously, a lot of stats, a lot of data to, you know, show the progression of the business. But yeah, can you give us some insight into how you’re going about that, what that whole process looks like for you?
Erica Rankin  11:48
Yeah, so this has been something that I’ve been doing for the past like six months, I basically put together like a pitch deck and show the growth of the company and projections and like our plans for, you know, retail and DTC. The big selling feature of the brand and getting people to like, really invest in it. And like the journey and where it’s headed is like the community that I built with it. Like, I think we have close to 300,000 people across multiple platforms. And the problem that I have is, I can’t sell to a lot of those people, because they don’t live in Canada, like majority of the people who follow are American. So that’s why we’re pivoting and we’re launching a shelf stable product in the US market, just to kind of open that up and bridge the gap. And I’ve kind of been explaining that to investors, like, Hey, look at this as the engagement. This is where we’re at compared to other brands, we’re making a lot of noise and people want to support but they can’t, we need your money and to help us get there and make it happen. Right. So I think we’re building a really awesome brand. And like I’m showing them the innovation and all the things that are coming down the pipeline. And then also the team like I’m no longer just a one woman show, I still kind of am the chief everything officer to an extent. But I now have like an operations advisor who has come on and is helping me we meet weekly, and I have a full time employee, which is really awesome. And then I have additional contractors that have been helping me and will likely come into the company as it continues to grow. But fundraising right now, in this climate, it’s not super easy. And I know a lot of other founders are struggling to. But that capital is like really necessary to really grow. Just because there’s so many expenses, especially with food, the margins are a lot tighter than other other products.
Ben Donovan  13:35
Yeah. The funding that you’re going to be getting, is that going to be giving, like equity in the company or return over X amount of years? How is that working?
Erica Rankin  13:44
Yeah, so I have two investors who have came on so far, and they will get equity. And again, this is like something that’s like all news to me, you know, I have no business background, and I have no finance background. I got C’s in math in high school, you know, but what I’m doing, it’s called a safe. So it’s a simple agreement for future equity, I believe. And basically right now, because the company is so young, I don’t really have a valuation like it doesn’t really have a number right now of what it’s worth. So basically investors who come in now, they don’t get equity yet. But then when I do my next raise, which will be my series A in 2024, they’ll get more equity for last because they came in earlier, so they’ll get a discount. So it’s kind of like a bonus for them because they came in earlier when the company was less mature.
Ben Donovan  14:35
Yeah. So if you’re raising money, you would have your eyes on selling the business at some point down the road.
Erica Rankin  14:41
Yeah, that’s the goal. I’m not sure when that will happen. I am just taking things as they come and I think I’m going to take it as far as I can and then you know, kind of see what happens but for now, I think it’s like longer to hedge. Yeah.
Ben Donovan  14:58
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I love The brand though, you know, it’s not just saying that because you’re on the podcast, but But you know, the name itself is very catchy. You could see that kind of name and brand product being on shelves all across America and lots of places. So I think, yeah, it’s exciting time. So
Erica Rankin  15:15
yeah, thank you.
Ben Donovan  15:18
You mentioned about the growth of it has been predominantly almost entirely organic. Obviously, a lot of DTC brands would just throw themselves straight into paid marketing. What was it that really steered you down the route of creating organic content to build a community?
Erica Rankin  15:38
The bootstrapping phase, I guess, I was just so broke, I didn’t have the ability to invest in marketing, which at the time, I was kind of upset and like, oh, I have no money to spend on marketing. It sucks. I hate this. But I’m so glad that I struggled. And I was forced to, like, build a community organically, because I think a lot of founders are now realizing the potential for that, versus just throwing money on Instagram or Facebook, especially with like, the iOS changes on like, you’re not getting the conversions that you normally did. They’re like, okay, how can I, you know, like, how can I mark it or get creative or a lot of companies are pulling back their marketing spend, and they’re actually pivoting to organic, and they don’t know where to start. So I think it’s really great for brands to start doing that from the beginning. And what I did was, and again, like listening to that podcast, the MF CEO project, I’m Andy is very big on you know, like, it’s one customer at a time, one customer at a time, word of mouth is so powerful, treat them all the same, you know, like, treat them like gold. They’re there for you. And also like, the things that I would do, as well as like, what are what are your competitors doing? And what can you do to be different and stand out? So I would do you like handwritten notes, the things that, quote unquote, can’t scale are the things that make you stand out, and people really appreciate it. And I think those small touches, kind of just like helped build my community, it just kind of sparked and then kind of grew from there. And just consistently showing up to like, I think some people post once or they have one video that does really good. And they’re like, I’m good. And it’s like, no, you need to write that momentum and connect with your audience and like continue to build and treat them like your friends rather than like a transaction. I think it all comes down to the mentality that you have around it.
Ben Donovan  17:24
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Which brings us nicely on to TikTok as a topic of conversation, which, from what I gather has been one of your if not the major channel for you for growth, starting off, like, are you concerned about what’s going on with TikTok now?
Erica Rankin  17:41
Yeah, um, you know, I mean, it’s that saying goes, right, like, don’t build a house on rented land. I think we all it doesn’t matter what platform it is, like even LinkedIn, I really, I use LinkedIn heavily. And I rely on it for a lot of things. And I got locked out of it multiple times. And it’s like, I don’t have they own everything. I have nothing. I’m just you know, a person who uses a platform. Same with TikTok. So I guess what I’ve been trying to do, and this is a strategy that we’re going to start implementing, is trying to get emails, because emails you have, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re yours. You can have them, and then you can add them to your flows and send them out and, you know, keep your customers that way. But yeah, I mean, it is definitely scary. But I think that there’s always going to be an app like Tiktok, there’s going to be another one that comes out and replaces it sooner or later. Probably not like a Chinese based app, maybe a US based one, I’m not sure. It definitely does suck for a lot of creators, because like me, for example, like I built my whole business on there. My a lot of my best friends had built their businesses on there. I know a lot of people rely on it for marketing. So if it does get banned, it is concerning. And I’m not sure where everyone’s gonna put their time and energy into a probably maybe Instagram temporarily, but then everyone wants to boycott Netta. So we’ll see what happens. Yeah, yeah.
Ben Donovan  19:04
So you wouldn’t see comparable results from the same content on reels or your Instagram or Facebook or YouTube shorts even?
Erica Rankin  19:12
Yeah, you know, I think TikTok is just a lot different. It’s because of the way the algorithm works. You’re basically in your own little bubble, right? Like it basically figures out what content you like, specifically, based on your watch behavior, like whether you like something, comment on something, how many seconds you watch a video and then it continues to deliver content that you like or engage with. That’s why it’s so addictive, but it can also be great. It’s super educational, like people like I’ve learned a lot of stuff on there. So I think it’s also a lot easier to engage with your audience like you can respond to comments with videos, you can message like it has all these features that makes it really accessible to like talk one on one with people who are you know, commenting on your stuff and you can step up and do it Like it’s very inclusive, whereas these other platforms like even Instagram reels. I don’t think it’s really the same. And I know people really like TikTok because it’s less shiny. And there’s more candid content on there over any other platform. But I think definitely, YouTube shorts is something that’s going to start taking off, I believe, and I think that’s something that we’re gonna start taking advantage of and posting on there more.
Ben Donovan  20:24
Yeah, definitely. You mentioned about emails, collecting emails is notoriously quite hard to collect emails from TikTok, there’s not always a huge conversion of, you know, lead collection or anything like that. Is there anything specifically you’re doing to improve that or any tactics that you’re trying at the moment?
Erica Rankin  20:45
Yeah, so we haven’t really started implementing that just yet. I have done like giveaways before. And those videos have done pretty well. And in order for someone to enter the giveaway, they had to put in their email. So we just have like a link tree and a landing page, people put in their email, and then that’s kind of it and it was pretty effective. And then same with like, when we’re launching into the US kind of putting out content being like hyping it up, right? Like, hey, we’re launching, we’re gonna have a pre sale soon. You have to, like, offer something right for them to want it to put in their email. So I think that’s a really good strategy, like kind of having like, the whole FOMO like, you know, if you’re not signed up to this list, like you’re gonna miss out on when we announced this or dropped this or so I think it’s like constantly putting out that information and making people aware of it, they’ll want to put their email. And so I’ve been doing that on Tiktok a little bit and then say, with Instagram, same thing, like kind of promoting it there. And then even like done, I’ve kind of been like, you know, like dropping hints and stuff like we’re coming to the US, like, be sure to sign up here. And it usually does work for the most part people do it.
Ben Donovan  21:52
Yeah. Yeah. No. Is it a website? On Shopify? It is. Yeah. Yeah. The product seems like it obviously lends itself to like repeat purchases, is a subscription, sort of plan or model part of what you do?
Erica Rankin  22:09
Yeah, so we didn’t do it with the cookie dough. Just because we had to do minimum order quantities, based off of like, we kind of just shipped one jar of cookie dough. So it was kind of a little tricky. But with the cookies, when we’re launching those in the US, we are going to implement a subscription model. And then we’re also going to, like launch with two flavors, and then do like Limited Edition drops or like, pre sales or things like that. And I think like having that subscription piece in there. Like will really help with repeat customers and having like consistent sales coming in, right?
Ben Donovan  22:45
Yeah, definitely Definitely. Good. Nice. Cool. So yeah, sorry, back on Tiktok. Whether it’s Tiktok or short form, obviously, I don’t know how this podcast episode will age, because who knows what announcements will be made? Do you know when they’re going to make a decision on it in the US? Is there a date?
Erica Rankin  23:01
I’m not too sure. Canada is a little different. We’re there. I guess they’re kind of fighting right now. I know that TikTok Canada team, and they have been fighting Bill C 11, which they’re trying to basically regulate, TikTok and YouTube and basically show Canadians Canadian content on the algorithm, not content out of anywhere else. But I think that will be scrapped. If the US bans TikTok, I feel like Canada will probably follow suit. So I don’t think it’s something that will happen overnight. I think it’ll be a lot of back and fourth. And then if it does happen, I’m not sure like, are we just not going to be able to log in one day or is there going to be announcement or like, what is that going to look like? Because we’ve never seen anything like this really happen? I mean, it’s happened in India like TikTok got banned in 2020. There, but I’m not too sure. Yeah,
Ben Donovan  23:56
I feel like it’s a really naive thing to say, but I just feel like it just won’t happen.
Erica Rankin  24:00
Okay, I hope you’re right. Because I don’t know.
Ben Donovan  24:03
I don’t have a basis for that. I don’t I mean, I haven’t read the, you know, the legal proceedings or anything like that. I just, I feel like it’s, you know, an overreaction, but then some people would say, you know, it’s needs to be done. So it’s, I don’t know, it just seems extreme, but I’m probably being completely naive with it. So who knows? Yeah, yeah. But let’s say TikTok does survive as hope. What are some of the success points that you said, you know, for beginners that just maybe wanted to start out on the platform? Maybe it gets the approval to stick around long term? What should begin as be doing what have you done to really build that community build that audience on TikTok from day one?
Yeah, I guess it’s like humanizing. Whether it’s like your personal brand or your business. I think having like a face to the account or the brand is really helpful. I know a lot of founders are very apprehensive to do that. They don’t want Wanna be the face of their brand, but it’s really worked. And I think it’s proving to work. Because you know, people want to feel something, they want to feel connected to something. And I think that’s gonna set you apart from your competitors. So, if you can show up consistently in your videos and post consistently and talk one on one, like you’re talking to the person directly, I think that’s super impactful. And share your story, like storytelling is huge. Like, why should people care about your content? Like, Share, share, not only like the highest share the low show, like, Whatever industry you’re in, like, give people like a peek behind the curtain because it’s super interesting to people. And they’re gonna want to follow along for the journey. So I think it all comes down to that. And then yeah, there’s like, different tools that you can use, like there’s trends talk and helps you find trends, trending sounds, trending videos. I, like I think you can schedule with Hootsuite, I haven’t done that yet. So if like time is a huge thing, like you can schedule posts, and then on top of that, you can time block. So a lot of people come to me and they’re like, I want to grow on Tik Tok. But I don’t have time. And how do you have time for this? I don’t get it. And I’m like, Okay, well, you can content block, like just go sit down or whatever, for like two or three hours a week, make a bunch of videos, and then you can schedule them if you need to. It really doesn’t take that much time or energy, as long as you’re consistent with it. And you, I guess, get used to the platform. But if someone’s like looking at just getting started, I would go in scroll on the for you page, look at even search competitors, or people that are doing what you’re doing in the search bar and like look at their page and see like, oh, this really worked for them. I can do this because Tiktok is basically just everyone copying each other. No one is original. So you can you can take like ideas and inspiration from other accounts. There’s no like problem with that. So yeah,
Ben Donovan  26:54
yeah, I’ve noticed a few people trying to do content, get content on Tik Tok, and trying to get maybe like a VA in the Philippines or something like that to post the content for them. But then it only gets shown to an audience where it’s posted. Have you discovered that? At all?
Erica Rankin  27:10
I have it. But that’s very interesting. I believe that that it could be true. Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Even if you can take some and this is like something that I’m very good at remembering little things. So it’s not a problem for me. But like, if you don’t have like a scheduling tool, and you need someone, maybe you want to outsource it. I personally would sit down and just like, you know, set an alarm, like for 9:30 or something and be like, Okay, I’m gonna post it today. Or like, if make it a habit, like on your lunch break, maybe you’re gonna post, you know, like, kind of atomic habits, it comes down to have a stocking, like combine the things right? Yeah, that’s yeah, that’s the advice that I would have.
Ben Donovan  27:56
Yeah, no, no, it’s good. I think the only limitation is then. So for me, I like I’m in the UK, but a lot of a lot of our sales come from the US. And I want to reach a US audience and is navigating that isn’t it. But But yeah, it’s interesting. I’m not sure whether that still happens, or that was just like a thing that used to happen. But yeah, just wondered if you did encountered it. But
Erica Rankin  28:16
the other, I’ll just quickly tack on to that. So I can like initially, like we’re pivoting now, but before I can only sell my product in Canada, right. So I didn’t want to reach anyone who was outside of Canada, it didn’t make sense for me. So I was using like hashtags like Canadian made or Canadian, Tik Tok, things like that, to try to reach that audience. And I think it does work. And it does help. Because oftentimes, a lot of Canadians engage with the content that has those hashtags. And then they’ll continue to get content that has those hashtags. So I think if you add in hashtags of different locations, that should help. And it’ll also batch it. So if someone searched the hashtags in the search bar, then your if your video performed, well, then it would be under that hashtag. And they could find it there too.
Ben Donovan  29:02
Yeah, good thoughts. You, you mentioned about tick tock for like a brand or personal branding. Your something that you’re passionate about is personal branding. And you know, you mentioned LinkedIn, you’re creating content on LinkedIn. Why do you think is important for you? And then why do you think it’s important for other ecommerce brand owners who are listening to the podcast to build something of a personal brand?
Erica Rankin  29:26
I yeah, I am a huge pleasure of personal brands. Some people don’t love it. Some people love it. But I think personally, especially as a startup, you want to build trust, whether that be with business partners, customers, potential investors, and I think if you’re constantly showing up and you’re putting out content, you’re adding value, you’re building a community. It’s going to come back to you right like if you are constantly giving down the road when you need things you’re gonna have that community there that’s going to help you because You’ve kind of given so much to them already. And the way that I look at personal branding, yeah, like you’re building your personal brand. And you know, this is me, this is me. But I think also at the same time, your personal brand is the way that you are perceived by others, and like the value that you add. So for example, all the things that I’ve learned in my three years of building Bro Dough, I’ve tried to share, like be very transparent with all the failures, the learnings from it to help people prevent, like, prevent them making from this the same mistake. And like, also, you know, I was posting three years ago, I think, two years ago, when I first started on LinkedIn, and sharing the journey, and I didn’t really need anything at the time, I wasn’t hiring, I wasn’t fundraising, I wasn’t doing anything like that. But when it came time, to me needing to do those things, it was a lot easier because that community was already there. And I already have the resources. And it’s also a lot easier to get in touch with someone who you normally wouldn’t have the ability to, you know, work with or message or whatever. Because you’ve established a presence on there, and you have the community. So, yeah, I love personal brands, I think it’s worth it.
Ben Donovan  31:11
Yeah, it’s an interesting, interesting point of view, I think, because I think when a lot of people think personal brands, they think, Well, you do that, because you’ve got something to sell. And it’s an interesting angle you take there because you don’t have you’re not aware of or maybe you do now, but didn’t then, you know, you said when you first started creating content, there wasn’t any, you know, specific purpose in terms of anything to sell or anything to raise or anything like that. But the community that you can build from it. And I think that’s absolutely true, because I’m relatively active on Twitter, probably, well, not that active, I should be more active. But there’s a good community on there of E commerce, you know, we’re quite big in sort of the Amazon space, but also DTC, there’s a lot of good operators on there, at the moment is just kind of flooded with chat GPT threads, you know, of how to use chat GPT to automate your life and earn million pound a month, million dollars a month, all that kind of stuff. But you know, but in general is really good. And I’ve got a lot of value from other people on there. If you need something, if you’ve got questions, or you need to find what’s the best way to do this, there’s always people willing to chip in there. So I you know, I would 100% concur with that. And but what’s interesting, I think is you’ve taken the route of making LinkedIn, I think your number one focus, you talk to us about why that may be or if that’s if there’s any other strategies, you know, there any other platforms that you’re majoring on? Or is it just that one?
Erica Rankin  32:42
Alright, yeah, I guess for me, and like one person, and I always tell people, I try not to spread yourself too thin, try to pick one or two platforms to really dive into and be really good at. And then when you kind of figure that out, and you’re doing well on there, then maybe add another channel like I haven’t, I created a Twitter account. But I honestly haven’t given it the time of day just because I’m mentally tapped out. And I can’t but yeah, LinkedIn, I guess, like, that’s where I found my employee. That’s where I found and he’s a rockstar, by the way, like, he’s great. And I don’t think I would have found him if had I not been present and posting consistently on the platform. Like I posted a position and I had tons of applicants come in and they know me, and they know the brand, right? But yeah, like my ad operations advisor, like he saw a post on LinkedIn. And that’s how we got connected. And now he’s helping me. And he’s worked for big corporations like Walmart. So I think like having that talent come in and help me it’s such a small size, like it’s, I don’t know, I think my time and energy has been spent building on there. And even like retailers, like creating awareness and just kind of using it as leverage. And then when you go to those retailers, it’s kind of like, oh, like, I’ve seen you on LinkedIn, or like, I know what your brand is about. It makes things a little bit easier, and you can get your foot in the door. So it’s really great for b2b, even mentors, mentors, like I remember when I first started posting on there, I had, I was terrified to like I was messaging. You know, CEO and founders of products that I eat daily and consume daily, and they built multimillion dollar companies. And here I am, like, hey, like, I have this cookie dough company. I store it in my living room, you know, do you have 10 minutes for a conversation. And they were very receptive and they got on the phone with me and they talked to me and they helped me and some of them are still mentors of mine to this day. And this was all through LinkedIn and the knowledge and the learnings from just my experiences with the people that I’ve met through there are invaluable, they’re priceless. And you can find like, you know, your your community, they’re like, whether you’re in low tech or CPG or whatever industry, you’re trying to be successful at, like the people are there. And I think surrounding yourself with people that are in the same space as you is is very helpful, and I’ll help you get places quicker and help prevent you from making screw ups, right?
Ben Donovan  35:07
Yeah, no, very cool. And you’d like to say really interesting take on it. Because I think my, my immediate reaction and a lot of people’s is our personal brand. Some of that to sell, you know, that’s separate from their brand. So it’s a really interesting take to actually leverage that for your brand. And that’s really helped your brand grow. I love it. I think it’s really smart. What’s, what are some of the content things that you’re doing then is all just the journey of your brand? Are you throwing kind of leadership stuff in there? What’s the what’s the play?
Erica Rankin  35:39
Yeah, it’s just like me, you know, I’m a 20, something year old, who’s never done business. I’m a first time founder. I’m very transparent. I don’t really know what I’m doing half the time. But I have really great people who are helping me. So I think just like talking about, yeah, like from, you know, picking and packing in my living room and showing what that looks like, from storing boxes on my balcony and the Canadian winters. Just being very candid with everything. That’s always been my goal, because I know some people are not comfortable sharing that stuff on there. And I guess the whole reason why I started posting on LinkedIn to initially was because I went on there, and it was very shiny, it was very toxic positivity, and fundraising millions of dollars and hiring and getting into new stores and doing all these great things. And I felt like I was doing everything wrong. Like I was working out of my car out of my apartment going into a kitchen, and I was like, I want someone to like look up to and relate to, and that person isn’t here. So why can’t I be that person? So yeah, that’s just what I’ve been doing. And for example, they’ll product that I launched into stores with wasn’t selling because of the price and the size and some of the ingredients. So we’re completely scrapping that one and launching a new and improved one and like a month or two. And that was kind of like, you know, a learning, right? Like, kind of sometimes things don’t work, and it’s okay, and you just have to solve it and move on. Right? So yeah.
Ben Donovan  37:04
Any mistakes that you see people making with their LinkedIn content or LinkedIn strategy,
Erica Rankin  37:10
selling too much? Like, I think the more you try to sell something, the less it’s going to sell. That’s not true. I think it’s good to sell things. But I think also you should have trust established between you and the people who are following you like, like, I did launch a TikTok course, and I was selling it, but I wasn’t posting about it every day. And if people messaged me, and they’re like, do you still do tech consulting? Or can I ask you TikTok questions, I would send them the link to my course. And because I built something and they see it, there’s proof that like, I kind of know what I’m doing. There’s that trust established there. And then on top of that, I tried to add value where it’s like, I put out free posts about LinkedIn or about TikTok. So then people were like, Oh, wow, this is really interesting. I want to learn more, and then they’ll go and they’ll take the course themselves, or they’ll message me and want to, you know, get more information. So I think people ask too much, and they don’t give enough. I think it does definitely come back to you when you start putting out more on the platform. And people just need to start sharing more and giving more
Ben Donovan  38:14
hustlin Yeah, really, really has piqued my interest about the platform. I think it’s something that’s a lot more people should be doing. You’re right. Yeah, for sure. Good stuff. Now, I’ve found this really interesting. I think you are building a great business. In all honesty, it’s, you know, the branding is great. And I think that you say you don’t know what you’re doing. But I think you’re doing I think yeah, as a first time founder sounds like you’ve got some real good direction and vision for the business. So it’s an exciting future ahead. Anything that I haven’t asked that you think would be good to share? Before we close up?
Erica Rankin  38:53
I think I spilled a lot out. So I think it’s fine. I think I think we’re good. Yes. Good questions.
Ben Donovan  38:59
Good. Well, when, if people do have sort of further questions or want to follow you on LinkedIn, obviously we’ll leave the link for that in the description. But is there anywhere else you would like to send people for to get in contact or to find out more about what you do?
Erica Rankin  39:16
Yeah, I guess Yeah. LinkedIn, Erica Rankin, you can go to brodough.ca if you want to sign up to the waitlist if you’re in the States, and you want to get some really good cookies, and yeah, I guess those two places and I have my website growwitherica.com If you’re interested in working together,
Ben Donovan  39:32
perfect. Yeah, I’ll we’ll put those in the show notes on the description. Have you looked at getting the.com For Bro dough?
Erica Rankin  39:39
Oh, yeah, there’s a cyber squatter.Yeah.
Ben Donovan  39:42
Yeah, we’ve got a .com for one of our brands that we it was like, you know, too expensive when we started and now it’s triple the price and they just won’t budge on it. It’s a nightmare. But yeah, it does. It does. I really do want the.com Because I I personally do believe that it is, it does make a big difference for especially for DTC brands, you know, for tech stuff, maybe not and some other verticals, maybe not, but for DTC brands, .com is a big deal, I think.
Ben Donovan  40:13
Yeah. Frustrating.
Erica Rankin  40:13
Yeah. Yeah. Got alternatives. Yeah.
Ben Donovan  40:18
Good stuff. Erica, thanks so much for taking the time out. Really appreciate all that you’ve, you’ve added. And yeah, I’m going to be following you on LinkedIn. I’m looking forward to following the journey. So
Erica Rankin  40:27
Awesome. Thanks, man.
Ben Donovan  40:29
Awesome. Well, thanks, everyone, for listening to the show today. I’m sure you got as much out of that as I did, make sure you follow up on it. Build your audience, build a personal brand and get out there. And you know, build value build community, because there’s so much value to be had from it. Thanks for joining us in this episode, make sure to like and subscribe, all that good stuff. And I will see you in the next episode. Same time next week. Take care, guys. Bye, folks.

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