Building A Hot and Cold Therapeutic Wraps Brand – Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel
Sponsors & Partners
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel, shares how she created a line of user-friendly hot and cold therapy products and brand that provide a contoured fit for the curves of the body while being a full-time stay at home mom. This interview shows how pure grit and perserverence over time can help someone overcome challenges and grow a business over time.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel
- Could you please share the startup story for Life and Limb gel? How did you get the idea? Was there an idea validation process?
- How are the products different from what is already available in the market? What is the value proposition?
- How do you prevent from getting copied by others?
- Who is the target market?
- Is this a full-time business for you or a side hustle?
- Initial funding – Ta’ala Fund, other funding after that. What was the funding used for?
- What is your product development process? How do you improve a product?
- What were your initial marketing efforts? How did you launch and get your first customers?
- Website, branding – which ecommerce platform are you using? Analytics?
- 75K+ investment generates $10K+ per month. What are profit margins 76%? Do you continue to see revenue grow YOY?
- Manufacturing, Production problems – Made in the USA
- Pitching to Shark Tank
- Are you wholesaling, retailing to Big Box stores?
- Warehousing, Fulfillment (Free shipping on orders over $30) – Do you ship all over the world or US only?
- What are all the current sales channels (Amazon, eBay)
- What are some of the marketing channels that are really working well for you in terms on new customer acquisition as well as engaging existing customers?
- What does your team look like right now? What area of your business is strongest and weakest from team perspective?
- How do you provide customer service?
- What is it like managing family life and business?
- Could you please share some of your biggest failures and lessons learned starting and growing this business?
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel
- One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2020 and why (Response: Grit by Angela Duckworth, Duckworth.)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Fiverr)
- A peer entrepreneur or business-person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Entrepreneur who founded a Town called Seabrook in Washington,)
- A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things (Response: helloabound.com)
- Best business advice you ever received or you would give.(Response: Be true to yourself.)
Sushant Misra :My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today I’m really excited to welcome Chelsea Frank to the show. Chelsea is the founder of life and limb gel, life and limb gel creates a line of user friendly hot and cold therapy products that provide a contoured fit for the curve to the body and provide penetrative penetrating therapy therapy in a safe, easy, comfortable, and effective way. And today, I want to ask Chelsea a few questions about her startup story and some of the strategies and tactics that she has used to grow her business. So thank you so much for joining me today. Trep Talks Chelsea.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, so I’m just really excited to be here today.
Sushant Misra: So let’s get right into it. I’m really excited to know about your startup story. So how did you get the idea for life and limb gel? How do you get started? Yeah. So what is your startup story?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Right. So for us, I, my story is kind of unique. So I first went to school to make artificial arms and legs and kind of happened upon inventing a shoulder ice rap. And that really helped the patients that we were seeing, suffer from after surgical, you know, relief from pain and comfort. And it made the company that I worked for lots of money, and was just a really fun way to start to go into manufacturing facilities and explore different materials, something new that I hadn’t done before, and I kind of really found a pride with that.
Sushant Misra: Okay, so so basically you, your education was and something related to this. And then you started working with a company. And
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: yes, so so shortly after I invented that shoulder wrap, they wanted me to make the gel pack that goes inside. And so I started looking at the margins of that product and realizing that they were pretty high. And the technology as far as shoulder, shoulder, ice wraps, and different ice wraps that fit different parts of the body was just really lacking at that time. And this is about 10 years ago. So there are more innovative options now but nothing really conformed to the body well, life and limb to bring this company to life. And so that’s why we’ve called it life and limb gel. So
Sushant Misra: cool. I’m sorry, the internet can I got this? I don’t know what Have a look. Lost there for a second. Oh, so, so so my question would be so you so you had this idea and you were trying this out was there with this company that you were working? So you saw that, you know, whatever product that you had created started selling. So you said, A, why should I, you know, give all the profit to this company? Why should I not just start my own company? Was that part of it?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Exactly. So, um, yes, so what the product that I created for them was a different product, it was an orthotic, and I couldn’t really go out on my own and sell that it wasn’t mine. But the, the idea of the ice wrap had was my own unique idea. And so I thought, you know, I, I’ve done it once, and I can do it again, and hopefully, create something that’s better than anything else on the market. So and I feel like we did
Sushant Misra: So that that brings me to this question, you know, make something that’s, that’s not available in the market. So when I think about like this hot hot wrap and the cold wrap thing, this this is actually pretty widely available in like, you know, drugstores and things like that. So how is your product different from what is already so what is your unique value proposition?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: So one of the issues with some of the products that are available right now is the inner interfaces and arterials either prevent it from getting a penetrating relief or there is a big watery mess everywhere. And so our unique fabric is laminated to a thin four way stretch plastic barrier and that keeps the skin at the optimum temperature for the optimum time without creating a watery mess. So our innovative materials And the designs, allowing them to be adjusted on a really small person all the way to a really big person with a custom fit every time. So a lot of the products you’ll find out there, you know, they might have Velcro straps, or they might have the interface lining or fleece, but they’re just not tested and true, I guess.
Sushant Misra: Okay. So that, you know, that that makes me think, you know, how, how do you prevent like someone else coming in the market? And and just, you know, looking at your product and just, you know, duplicating it? Do you do you have a way of, you know, do you have like patent or some sort of intellectual property rights, where you can prevent anyone from just copying your product?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Oh, that’s a really good question. Um, you know, and that’s what stops a lot of people. I think from starting Anything and going out on their own as well, it’s my idea, and I’m going to protect it. And that never gets anywhere. And what we’ve figured is we’ve put in, you know, six, six years to perfect our product. So it’s been that long testing different materials, testing different chemical compositions as far as the gel goes, and really coming up with a perfect model. And along with that, we’ve had all that experience with our customers getting the feedback, you know, growing online, and getting to be a reputable salesperson, so somebody might come along and now, you know, one of the reasons we were hesitant to have our manufacturing overseas is, you know, worrying about copying. But we feel like we have put in the time you know, we’ve we’ve now been in business nine years. We’re established and it took us that long to get where we’re at. So it’s, it’s not just, you know, slapping your own label on it and calling it yours. It’s we know our products and our materials and even if people think they might have similar products, you know, what it really comes down to is knowing exactly what those materials are. So, you know, it can always happen.
Sushant Misra: Yeah, so can you take us to the beginning of your, you know, idea when you had this idea of Okay, I want to start my business. I already have this educational background, I did something for this company, which worked really well. What were some of the some of your first step from having the idea that I want to be my own boss to, to actually setting up the business and what were some of the first challenge like what can you take us to through that process?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yeah, um, so the first thing was I needed to first you know, get a little bit of money so that I could have the materials needed. And so I had to take out a loan was $7,000. And that was enough materials and machinery to make potentially $30,000 worth of products. So I knew that it was just me if it was just me and my sewing machine. And you know, and I’m not worried about paying for my time yet. I knew that it was, you know, a pretty It was a risk, but it was a pretty low risk, because I could turn that into products that could be sold.
Sushant Misra: And so but how did you know that the products when you will create the product that that you will be like you have such certainty that you’ll be able to sell them?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Right? So I kind of looked at it like a worst case scenario or what do I need? So what I needed was I was pregnant with my second child, and I needed to be able to stay home with them, my two children, and be able to pay that loan back and be able to, to get some money for our bills, so that that amount was like, at that time, like $650 in sales. And if I could hit that, then I’d be in the positive. And then I thought if I keep going with that, then if I get $3,000 in sales a month, then I don’t have to go back to work ever. So right away, I was at $650 in sales, just on eBay, just thrown out my products and, you know, hoping that somebody you know, takes a risk on a new company that has no feedback. So
Sushant Misra: So you got the $7,000 you created your own product. And you put them on eBay and you saw like that your product for selling. Did you like one When you created your eBay page, eBay shop, do you. I’m assuming that the product page that you created you, you wrote all the different differentiating factors that you have on your, in your product and, and how it’s different from what’s available in the market.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, yes. So I was able to, you know, do do all that stuff, you know, use good word choices, and, you know, just kind of sell it like I was a professional medical person because I was. So, you know, I was just hoping that that my medical background could differentiate me, between other people in the marketplace. So I didn’t know anything about selling online. I had zero reviews on EBS. So, you know, I really am thankful that a few people said, You know what, I just took a risk or it looks interesting. So
Sushant Misra: for now, Now you knew that your product has, you know, demand or you know, there are people out there who are interested in this product. What did you do next to to take your business from there to the next level?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Well, yeah, so and so I was going, Okay, now I’m surviving, you know, we were, we were in financially not a very good place at that time. You know, I lost my job. We had moved and shifted some things. So then I thought, this is working, and I could potentially do this and not go back to work. You know, my field was very lucrative. And so it was a really hard choice for me to make. But I, I thought, you know, let’s make this bigger. And so we started expanding, you know, selling on our website and going towards Amazon, just thinking bigger thinking in terms of, you know, what are we going to do now and then what are we going to do tomorrow but not really getting beyond that, but you know, it’s really Really the customers that kind of push it forward so we had one customer that bought the package and she said I want to return this product and I said Why? You know, I was surprised that anyone would would want to return and she said well this is in a plastic bag you know, it’s not it’s supposed to be a gift for my friend and it just there’s no packaging with it. It’s just you know, in a plastic bag and so she said if it had a gift bag or if it’s in packaging and so then it would make me go Oh, well I guess if I’m selling this many products, you know, what’s the next step? You know, the next step getting packaging getting on store shelves and slowly evolves over time, I guess.
Sushant Misra: Okay, so at what point did you start your your own website your own? So you went from eBay to? I believe you said Amazon and
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: well, I guess our website has been in the background about whole time, it was kind of, we use it as, I guess, a validation tool. I don’t generate a ton of sales on it, and I really need to go in there and fine tune it make it better. But that was how we started actually before eBay. But I heard crickets, you know, and I didn’t make any sales and I thought, you know, maybe this isn’t the right strategy, I need to go where people are, you know, no one’s gonna land on my page unless I really did a lot of homework. So, so when I didn’t want to take the time to do that I, I switched here. So we always we’ve had a website for 10 years, and it accounts for about 10% of our sales,
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yeah. So Well, yeah, I guess that’s about right.
Sushant Misra: For most of your sales are really coming from Amazon or more like no, no, we are
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: No longer sell on eBay. It was just Amazon’s been, especially with COVID. Our sales have almost doubled since the beginning of the year. And also some of the products have really taken off. And we’re, we’re making them not being able to keep up with the demand. So that’s a good problem to have. Yeah. So.
Sushant Misra: So that brings me to this next question of your manufacturing, like, the the the aspect that you’re not able to keep up with the demand is that because you just don’t have the manufacturing capacity? To me, it seems like you’re doing your own manufacturing, right. So would it not make sense to try to
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: So some of the things that some of our struggles have been, you know, we Our dream is to be in big box stores, and we’ll get really into negotiations with people and then all of a sudden, they’ll say, well, you need to be able to do 10,000 dollars in sales, like it, you know, at the snap of a finger. So we’re not able to do that. So one of the mistakes we’ve made, it was not not dreaming big enough, I guess. Because we just thought, Oh, well, everything slowly happened over time. And that’s just kind of the gradual progression of things. But I’m really in order to grow, we needed to make it jump. So when we realized we weren’t able to do that, we decided at the beginning of the year that we’re going to outsource a majority of our manufacturing, and that’s been working out really well for us.
Sushant Misra: And that is only this year in 2020.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, actually, we are. We still are not sending those products out yet. We’re in a transitional phase where we’re gonna have to change some of the wording on our website and on Amazon, so that we’re taking off of that, you know, that homemade feel, I guess The mom and pop shop to a more professional, mainstream look. So we want to, you know, make sure that we’re not sending those products out before we make those changes so that there’s nobody buying under false pretenses, I guess the third made in the USA. So, but yeah, we just openly I have four kids, and, you know, an employee gets, you know, leaves or gets sick, or we have one that’s on maternity leave now. And it’s a lot of work for me to pick up this lap. And, you know, just after 10 years, I thought, you know, if I want to sell this business or leave it, it’s in, there’s too many moving parts, you know, we really need to streamline it. So I’m very happy with our quality that we are getting from China, from our suppliers. We’ve had a good relationship with them for two years, so we know that we can trust them to do this. The right way.
Sushant Misra: So when you look at the last eight years or so, where you are doing your own manufacturing, I guess, do you wish that, you know, this, this whole process of getting a different manufacturer would look you would have done sooner? Or do you think that it is only now that, you know, you feel ready that you know that that this was the right time? Like what what is it? Like if you if you were to, if you were advising a different entrepreneur, what advice from your experience would give them if they want to, like manufacture their own stuff like wood, you know, tell them that, you know, it’s a good way to go or you say, no, go and find a different person?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Well, one of the great things about doing it ourselves was when we bought those materials initially, you know, it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg we were spending $7,000 on materials and I and my time and I could take those materials and say, Oh, I don’t like This design or let’s tweak it a little bit. And one of the problems with, you know, getting a big order from from somewhere else is, are you sure that those materials are right? Are you sure that that’s exactly the right size? And so, you know, should I have done this sooner? Yeah, maybe like three years sooner, but not. I’m really glad that initially we did it. When we did it. I was able to kind of put my business on hold when we had emergencies or babies or anything like that. And so I’m glad that those experiences, I’m also glad that I really know exactly what I want now. And so I recommend to anyone if you can, and if it’s financially feasible, do it in house first, there’s no reason not to. And then, you know, slowly let go or shift away. Um, because right now, you know, one of the things is, I just don’t want to be in charge of a big factory forever. I’m an innovator. Create and in fact, I’m creating another business right now. And so I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was spending so much time in you know, managing the manufacturing so frees up my time and allows me to do what I’m good at.
Sushant Misra: So I guess it allowed you to more experiment with different materials, different ways of doing it, getting customer feedback, and now you know exactly what works and so now you can outsource it. So you mentioned that you were selling on eBay, Amazon. So initially, you didn’t really have to do any special marketing to get the customer you basically just leverage these platforms to get your first customer. So you really didn’t do any marketing at all in the beginning.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: No. So don’t you know, at We just that’s one area we really need to work on is, you know, marketing and putting ourselves out there. We we rely very heavily on, you know, Amazon’s Trusted Platform, and, you know, certain people’s reputations, so we don’t have a lot of experience in that.
Sushant Misra: But do you ever think that, you know, given that, and this is just a hypothetical question that, you know, Amazon just being like a third party platform, of course, Amazon is really huge, but just like Facebook, or you know, Google, they keep on changing their algorithms or something like that. If and if Amazon changes something and your business is affected all of a sudden then it’s like, you know, all of your eggs, at least on an ecommerce online sense are with Amazon. So what do you have like a bag A planner.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Right? Well, you know, and that’s so common to have problems. We’ve actually experienced a huge problem on Amazon when I got this new packaging. And we had switched our barcodes up. And I didn’t realize that when we were putting in our new packaging, that the barcodes didn’t translate all of our, you know, build up and our feedback. And so what happened was we basically started from zero. So we were going from selling $8,000 in sales a month to like three or 4000. And I reached out to them and said, Hey, help, and they said, it’s too late. You can’t switch the barcodes back. And we went, Oh my gosh, we didn’t realize that one mistake nearly put us out of business.
Sushant Misra: So what was the reason for changing the barcode?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, it was our It was our mistake. You know, we just we had the barcodes on the boxes I think Well, this would be an easier, easier method. And so, yes, you know, I mess with the critical things that were not supposed to be touched on there, you know, on your pages. And so it does make you go. Okay, so another big platform that we’re really going for, which is, the reason why we’ve taken this leap to getting out outsourcing or manufacturing is to be in big box stores. And we’re really close to doing that. You know, getting on with some sales reps that you know, are very reputable, and maybe getting into Canada. We have a sales rep over there, that we were working with until all the virus stuff so that’s kind of been put on hold. You know, pharmacies are not really accepting. new things are getting into those catalogs. A tricky process. But yeah, yeah, Want to keep our eggs all scattered around so that we’re not
Sushant Misra: out of business one day so so just to get good back go back for one second. So the Amazon your your sales so your your barcode was changed and your sales went down because with the previous bar barcode you had all the reviews and things like that, but now with the new barcode is left like completely blank and so that that middle huge difference.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, we were able to get our reviews transferred over so it would show that you know, we’ve got a five star reputation, but the algorithms did not transfer so like the tracking that you’re gonna get with those products. You know, it went from you know, we were ranked like, you know, this product ranked number 100 out of gel packs and then now it’s 3000 so there’s not a lot of hope coming For that, you know if you make a mistake like that, at that time Amazon was not really putting their foot down when people were paying for you know influencers to write reviews and you know really paying their way up. So I was you know, and I had built all of my you know, I had built my ranking organically and was doing good that way. So yeah, I really
Sushant Misra: saw on Amazon your your products like you were just letting your you know, you put your keywords and you were just letting the organic traffic come in, you know, whatever the Amazon traffic is, if they’re searching for that keyword, they would find your product so you weren’t doing any special marketing even for Amazon to drive any special traffic to your to your product. Oh,
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: yes. Which, like nowadays started If I were going to launch this business today, I don’t know if it would have succeeded the way I’ve done because 10 years ago, there was a lot less competition and things were much different. Now I’d have to be much more aggressive, and have a lot more marketing in place, and, you know, professional images, videos and all that upfront, not just, you know, over time. So.
Sushant Misra: So you’ve been working with Amazon for quite a few years now. What is what has been your experience overall working with them? I’m assuming that you’re not using leveraging their like, Fulfillment by Amazon, you’re doing your own fulfillment. So in terms of like fees, in terms of like fees and things like that, do you think that it’s a fair platform for for vendors to sell their products? Are they taking a lot of you know, your profits
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Right. Well, you know, there’s, I guess there’s two, two or three ways to look at it. You know, so if I made $15,000 in sales last month, which was one of our best, best months, we just have been really increasing since that since this virus and since we’ve got a couple of our products that are now like the top choice on Amazon, and so once one product hits than the other, kind of start picking up steam, so I might not get half of that money, after it’s all said. So if it’s $15,000 in sales, basically, I get like 7000 yo, it’s the fees and I’m, they do all my fulfillment.
Sushant Misra: Doing a fulfillment.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes. So So, at the end of the day, I might get 30 orders, but I’m not sitting there and You know, printing out 30 labels and labeling 30 different boxes and going to the post office and doing that. And, and you don’t, that kind of stuff is really time consuming for me to do 30 orders that would take me a good, you know, a couple hours. And so, you know, I love going, Hey, I’m on vacation today and I made $800 today, you know, so that’s some of the beauty of it. And I trust Amazon as a consumer, if I want something, I go there I look for the five star review products and you know it’s it’s a good place for me. And I know if I don’t if I have a problem with something, I can always return it. So a lot of that stuff, you know, I can’t just you know, you really have to be trustworthy so that you take care The bad with the good, I guess so. Yeah, they take a lot of my fees, and you can definitely make money on it. In fact, when they do fulfillment, it saves me money because we’re able to do that faster, my products are heavy. And so for me to get them cheaply shipped, its you know, $7 is about as low as I could ship one of my raps so okay. You know,
Sushant Misra: basically once you ship your ship out to a product, it’s like they’re they’re doing all the heavy lifting and and basically charging you for the services. So I guess that that makes sense. Now, I read somewhere that at a certain point, you were trying to pitch for Shark Tank or something. And, and what was the Did you want more of the expertise of the entrepreneurs have in a shark tank or where you are Trying to fundraise money? And what was the whole? What was your experience with that?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: So and Shark Tank at that time, we were probably generating, you know, about 130,000 in sales a year. And so that was, you know, pretty good. And I was just really hoping to get it maybe in with a box store, hoping that they would help me in the outsourcing of my products because obviously, with a partner like Shark Tank, I’m not going to be making these in my garage anymore. So just the connections and we actually, were really excited. We made it to round two in the process, and I got a phone call and there was some confusion about if my product actually made it there. I had seven days to get this shipment of my products to their fulfillment, or to their facility where they would, you know, take a look at the products and It didn’t make it there on time. So I didn’t realize that you know what was going wrong until it was too late. Unfortunately, you know, we use you, we use the postal service for everything, and we hardly ever have any problems. So it’s just really unfortunate that that was the end of my experience. You know, I mean, I’m not saying I would have made it onto the show, but to have it in with so much uncertainty. But we’ve we’ve had a lot of almost with our business. And that’s almost harder to get in almost. And then there have been no benefit, just, you know, not so right after that. We were also invited to, um, to pitch for another television show. And then that that show looked a lot more appealing to us. Put a focus more on our family, and that kind of aspect. My kids are entrepreneurs as well. They have their own businesses. They sell things on. And then that show ended up taking a different direction featuring only outdoor products. So we no longer fit the niche and we were dropped again. And so, you know, it’s, it’s hard to hear those almost get hopes all up, but we actually ended up coming out of not needing Shark Tank, after all, you know,
Sushant Misra: we’re somewhere over
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: well, just i doing it slowly over time and just the grip that I have and the will to just keep pushing forward when it’s hard. So, you know, right now I’m going well, I don’t need you know, obviously the exposure and experience will be amazing and getting a partner will be so great, but we’ve kind of passed that, that hurdle, because now we’re getting our products you know, in these new beautiful boxes and they’re looking good. And you know we’re we’re, we have great quality control with our manufacturing and so I’d have to really re evaluate it if I was gonna do it again you know what I’d be what I got going on for so
Sushant Misra: the impression that I get is and please correct me if I’m wrong is because you know you were you at least even from the beginning you know where because you have have the family and children and things like that your business was almost like a side hustle kind of a thing. And but but you have you have been trying to make progress slowly but steady and consistently and so the, the pace of growth was not that that quickly but over time you have grown Is that how you? You see it or that Do you have to manage and juggle your family and business at the same time?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: You know, and we, we’ve always taken our profits, I guess and just put it back in to the business, you know, like, Oh, well, if we buy this material and so much bull will get such a better price, or if we get these parts made this way, it’ll be faster. And so, you know, it’s always been for nine years, has been just kind of taking and putting back in and all of the sudden that’s sitting back and going, Wow, all of a sudden, you know, this is we’re at the point that I’m happy with. And, you know, last year we actually, in trying to grow bigger for these big box stores almost went out of business. And it was a really hard time for us just, if we really looked at the numbers, we lost money, trying to grow it trying to put it back in it You know, wasn’t financially at a good point because we were building so that we could get these orders that were in, you know, that were not really promised to us, it was like, Well, if you get to this level then call us. But it was, you know, wasn’t really a guarantee. So we were kind of taking some risks last year that you know, just in trying to grow that I’m just so thankful now that we have, you know, these new manufacturing lines so that we can make things quick quickly for people and get these orders to the big box stores that we’re hopefully going to be going into,
Sushant Misra: okay. And throughout this time, like have you have you been paying yourself like this as part of the profit? Or because it seems like you know, you put so much sweat equity and you’ve been reinvesting all the money in the business. What was your personal like, have you been paying yourself or is it Is it more like, you feel your business as a as a future? You’re just building it and hopefully in the future?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yeah, it’ll be as a as a company as if you’re not the right size, getting funding, you know, or saying, Hey, we need $20,000 to get these bags man here in the US and they make them this way and do it that way. And how am I going to do that? So, you know, we can’t you can’t really go to a bank to get alone. You know, we’ve had, we’ve been lucky that we’ve had access to some starter funds through my husband’s Native American, so through the reservation, but we’ve just been a lot of times building for the future and like, I just hope this is gonna work. And so, some years I’ve been able to pay myself regularly. And then other times, like last year as we were, as we were building to grow To really explode, I was like it, we’re either going to go big or go home last year. So I’m thankful that we’re coming out the other side of this and saying this is working. But yeah, it was, it was hard last year to work so hard. And to realize that at the end of the day, you know, I was had, I had four employees that I was paying, but I wasn’t able to pay myself. So that, you know, but I feel too, don’t be like me, I would tell other entrepreneurs pay yourself because otherwise, what are you doing it for? Um, you know, has to really be you know, you can’t just be doing it for the future because you just never know what’s around the corner. But yeah. Now, today, okay.
Sushant Misra: Okay, that’s good. So now that you’re ready to get, you know, get your business to the next level, going into retail stores. I A lot of times, you know, when I talk to people, you know, I’m interviewing entrepreneurs, and when I asked them about that, you know, getting into the retail stores, I hear these two perspectives. One perspective is, you know, that it’s good that it’s, you know, now you’re getting into the mass market. But the other perspective is that, you know, a lot of times it’s difficult to work with retailers, because, you know, they have a lot of demands and things like that, you know, what has been your experience trying to trying to get your products with the retailers? And, you know, just some of your learnings.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, yes, so, one of the things is I, you know, I sometimes go and I try and pitch my, my company, and somebody will look at me and say, weren’t you just in here? Do you know, we’re just here like yesterday and I’ll think No, but somebody was in that job. was to pitch a product. And it’s not my job and I’m not good at it, and how can I compete with that when there’s people just bombarding these these little businesses. And so that kind of put things in perspective for me, like, I don’t want to be going out and, you know, driving around doing the sales, I need to be in these catalogs that these people are looking at. So getting in a different way has been a good way for me to look at it. So, you know, getting into these pharmacies, a lot of times they’ll have a supplier and they, you have to get your products from these catalogs. So at one point, we had gone into a pharmacy and they weren’t going to put on our products and all of a sudden, they pulled them aside and said, Oh, we we were told by our supplier that we can’t put out your products because they’re competing. realize there was going to be so much red tape for me. And fortunately for me, they decided they were going to kick that retail to Taylor to the curb, and ultimately go with me and they said, Come and pick up all your products because we’re going to go with life and limb gel. But I just did not expect it to be so. So difficult. And so I’m hoping that by getting into these catalogs, getting my name out there, and you know, that’s going to be a different avenue for me. So it needs to go up there.
Sushant Misra: So these catalogs are these like the distributors that are that have products from a lot of different people and it’s like you, you, you hire them in a way and they will probably take away certain margin from you, but it’s their job to know they’re working. Like your agents and getting your products into different retailers? Is that how it works?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Exactly. So, yeah, if these companies, if you’re going to get into their catalogs, they’ll charge you know, five to 10%. And then your prices have to be you know, 50% or whatever, you know, a retail. So, it also has to make sense you have to say, am I going to make money from this on my mark are my margins there, because at the end, at the end of the day, it might not make sense for certain products or certain categories. So for us shipping these products to a different location, that’s also been challenging because they’re heavy. And so if we get an order for 300 $400 it costs us a lot to ship and then you know, that eats away. So we are on a website now. Called a bound abound, or I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name of it right now. But it’s our wholesale accounts. And so they offer free shipping internationally, and up to $400. And so it’s for free. And so I love to refer people there. So if your wholesale buyer or buyer, you can get those products there and send them to, you know, everywhere and I don’t have to. I’m just so small that I don’t have all the rates negotiated with all these big box places.
Sushant Misra: So if anyone so if anyone, let’s say in Europe wants to order your product wholesale, they basically go to this website, which is a bound or something and maybe you can send me the link later on.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: On our website if you if you go to wholesale or wholesale page, I can’t remember what it’s called right now. But yeah, you just click on it and then it will, you know, be our wholesale catalog instead. So, yeah, because if individually, we only do our products in the US now, international charges have gone skyrocketed since we started. So at the beginning, we used to sell products overseas all the time, Europe, you know, we would have a map that meet mark where they where they go so that my kids could see, you know, every, every country and all you know, we’re having all these goals, but, um, that really, you know, I can’t afford to do it anymore. And I don’t want to take the risk. So even if people want to buy it and pay the shipping, you know, these products are covered for a certain amount of time, and I just, it’s not worth it for me anymore. So.
Sushant Misra: So what does what does your team look like look like right now? I think you mentioned that you had four people last year.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, no. So right now we’re actually Down to Yeah, I guess yeah, I guess for part time people right now. And one of our one of our ladies, the main person that does all the sewing is on maternity leave. And so you know, I get to go down there and be part of the team again. And, you know, work at the manufacturing line. So things myself, which is good to do as a business owner to know what’s going on. But I’m going, Oh, I’m so glad that we’re not doing this any longer, because it’s, you know, so much time accounted for, but now we’re going to be shifting to a new direction where we’ll be doing a lot more volume, and a lot more, you know, packaging things up and shipping them to bigger places. So we’re not going to lose any employees. We’re just going to be switching gears to get on distribution. So
Sushant Misra: and you don’t have to worry about customer service because that’s all being taken care of by Amazon and your other partner then?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, well, you know, I mean, if people have problems they’re supposed to, or they’re, you know, our informations there that they can directly reach out to us. But yeah, they do emphasize, you know, 90% of our shipments to page two, you know, customers
Sushant Misra: have you throughout your business 910 years have you worked with any like business advisor, advisors, mentors, who have like, advise you on your business? Or is it mostly like you working and driving it?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, yeah, so you know, it’s been me, which is really, really lonely. Sometimes I don’t have anyone to ask advice for or, you know, really, you know, go to four names and we last year when I I was feeling like, what am I going to do? Am I going to close up? I’m going to sell my business. I just was feeling kind of burnt out after so many years and just not being at the place that I want it to be. I hired a business coach, Marcus Alden, so he’s a former NFL player and his brothers, Jonathan Ogden. He’s probably one of the best offensive linemen ever. And so Marcus kind of shared, I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of audio tapes. And I heard his story on a podcast by Mel Robbins and just really resonated with it. I thought this guy had all this money, he put it into a business and then he lost all this money and so he’s kind of been building his way back up. And so connecting to him hiring him as as a business coach and just kind of realizing what what do I want from my business because sometimes I You know, I, it’s easy to get lost as far as you know what your goals are. And he is now a 1%, owner of the business and kind of like a product liaison. And so he’s going to hopefully once you know, we’re getting our new packaging and all this stuff, everything’s happening so fast but helping us get into some of these other places. He’s all the way on the other side of the stage for me and so, hopefully helping us with some growth that way.
Sushant Misra: Okay. last topic comments because just because I’m a little bit curious on this topic, and I asked other entrepreneurs also is, what is your experience working with China, Chinese manufacturers? How did you go about finding the right Chinese manufacturer to work with? Did you have to visit China to to look at the factory to look at you know, do your due diligence What would what has been your experience working with China?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Right? Um, so I was really hesitant on doing it at first. And if it wasn’t for I guess I also I’m part of a online business, like growth, things called my wife quit her job calm. Steve Chu is he leads, you know, you can sign up for his course and learn about how to connect other entrepreneurs how to do all this. He really encouraged me, Hey, why are you not getting your products made overseas, you could be making so much more money, the quality is going to be the same. You don’t really have that much to risk. So I first didn’t want to go you know, I didn’t want to reach out directly to the people selling exactly what I had, or what I want it because I was really worried. That’s how people run into knockoffs. That’s how People get their products ripped off. And so I first reached out to a company that made wrist straps for wrist pain. And I thought this was
Sushant Misra: Baba. Okay,
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: yes. And so reaching out to them and saying, Hey, can you make this strap for me and developing a relationship with them. And so they’ve been making that strap for me for the past two years, and just really finding that the quality is so good. The infrastructure is, you know, very, I don’t have to worry. The quality is great. And everything’s just been so pleasant really. It’s been nothing like the horror that I thought it was going to be. And then just slowly saying, Hey, you know, could you make, you know, could you incorporate the rap as well? And having them you know, work with different with testing different materials out, you know, making sure it was what I wanted. And then now we’re at the point where I’m saying, Okay, now I need a gel pack for it and connecting to suppliers and testing those and getting those set to the factory in boxes and then having everything completed over there. And since I don’t it’s really exciting for me, I enjoy it. And I just I feel like you have to know what you want. Before you go there. You can’t be a newbie or not really know what you want. You have to be very direct and say, Hey, I need exactly this exactly this dimension exactly this material or say, Hey, I don’t know what material but it might need to be exactly. So knowing the product really well is definitely a good thing. And I would say my experience has been really good. So I’m already working them with a couple of different suppliers for my new business as well. So instead of making those here in the United States, which wouldn’t be financially feasible, we’re working with some some people there. So
Sushant Misra: and when you work with these Chinese manufacturer Do you saw so one aspect is to give them like the exact dimensions and things like that. But do you also do like a nondisclosure agreement or some sort of a contract where you tell them, you know, make sure that whatever product that I’m making, there would be no sort of North sort of, like duplication of this and future or anything like that?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, definitely. So, you know, especially if it’s something like my raps, then took me two years to develop this relationship with this company. And they don’t, they don’t sell gel pack wraps. They are not in the business for making that product, I guess. And so I have different suppliers of different things, you know, should work collaboratively together to get to get those completed. So it, it would be a lot of effort for them to put my put all the pieces together and, you know, try and rip me off especially since we have a good developed relationship. So yeah, you definitely want to set set those things in place. And if you’re getting like a mold made for a particular part, you know, you want to own that part. But they’re going to own that part. So it’s, you know, is it yours or is it there, so you have to make sure that all of those things are, you know, addressed and then you have to go Okay, well, what if somebody lies? Am I still going to be okay? Or what if that part gets out? So yeah, yeah.
Sushant Misra: So when you look at your business like like the last nine or 10 years, what have been your biggest one or two mistakes or failures that you think you know that you feel that were the big, big failures? And what have you learned from those failures?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Yes, so I’m probably our biggest failure, or, you know, one of our biggest failure was when we needed to get these bags and take the business to the next level, we only could get our hands on $20,000. And so, unfortunately, the company that made the bags didn’t overrun and we had to sign a contract saying, we’ll pay for them if you do an overrun, you know, to a certain percentage, and we blew our whole money on the bags and we didn’t have enough money for the packaging that they were supposed to go in. And so then we were stuck trying to pay back this loan. Without having it be easier, faster, better. And so, you know, we, we, I guess you always want to leave a lot more room for error and a lot of room for, you know, to play around with and say, Hey, if we only have $20,000 maybe spend 10 of that or not go, not go quite so big. And but then at the other. The other side of that is another big mistake we had was not dreaming big enough. You know, we just kept thinking gradually we’ll be able to manufacture x, when really we needed to go we cannot manufacture x, we need to get a new supplier. So kind of knowing where those lines are for, you know, leaving room for problems to come up.
Sushant Misra: Oh, no, we’re going to do our rapid fire round, where I’m going to ask you a few questions. Really quickly and you have to answer them maybe in one or two words or one or two sentences. Do you have any and you mentioned that you read books. Do you have any book recommendations for entrepreneurs or business executives?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, yeah. So probably grit by Angela Duckworth, Duckworth. That’s just I guess my story. If you could put a label on me, I’d be great. So just there’s no secret sauce. Just pure persistence.
Sushant Misra: Yeah, I mean, actually, I was just thinking that, you know, your story is really just gritty. That’s going, you know, day by day, month by month, year by year and you’re basically figuring out every little thing and growing an innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that you’re excited about.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, well, let’s see. You know, I would say innovative product or idea I just look around at COVID and I see how this virus That came in and took everybody by surprise is really shaping every business and I think it doesn’t take a great business to make us go, Oh, wow. But we can look to our neighborhood restaurant who is now you know, serving a drive thru or figuring out a way to make it happen. So I’m just I’m looking around all over the place and seeing innovation and that’s just exciting.
Sushant Misra: Um, any productivity tool or software that you recommend.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, so right now, we’ve been using Fiverr a lot. FYI, ve rr.com and that will connect you to people that will, you don’t have to be alone in business. You don’t have to do it all by yourself. You can have, you know, there’s somebody they’ll do everything, dance, any dance for you in any type of music. You know, do a voiceover for you. Whatever you need. So that’s That’s been a great resource for us lately. So that I can spend my time doing what I need to do.
Sushant Misra: And that is to use it for like design purposes or what
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: photography you know, lawyers, you can connect with filing patents or trademarks doing does that product layouts, even keyword optimization, things like that, but you have to be careful who you choose. There’s people that are on there and you know, don’t know what they’re doing or they’ll be priced for $5 I definitely go with the more premium services I guess and the people that are you know, level two sellers. So that have been on there and have proven their their worth. So So Take the chance once and, you know, kind of go, oh, that wasn’t as good as I wanted, I’m gonna just go with trusted people. So
Sushant Misra: a startup or business that you think is doing great things right now?
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Um, well, let’s see, I just love any business, it’s able to kind of switch gears right away. And so there’s a company called a bound.com. And at first they were connecting people with sales reps. And now what they’re doing is connecting people selling their products directly to larger companies. So you know, you kind of go Okay, are we in a in a world where we need sales reps? Maybe not. Maybe we can do it this way. So I just like to see the innovation
Sushant Misra: appear entrepreneur or business person who inspires you
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Well, there’s a founder of a town called Seabrook here in Washington, and it is just the middle of nowhere. And this guy came over and had this vision for this beautiful multi million dollar housing complex and he made it happen and him and his wife, you know, worked really hard and did that. And so, that’s somebody close to me and you know, I’m not really friends with him, but he’s, you know, close. He’s only a 30 minute drive for me and he’s created this whole town and it’s very awesome. So
Sushant Misra: cool. Um, and the best business advice that you either you have received or you would give to others.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: I would say just be true to yourself. And don’t you know, don’t take you know, listen to yourself first. If you don’t have these advice to give yourself and maybe you know entrepreneurship isn’t for you, you got to be tough. You have to know what you want. And, you know, maybe not listen to other people’s advice if it doesn’t sound good to you.
Sushant Misra: Perfect. So yeah, those were all the questions that I had. Thank you so much for joining us today. jofi and sharing your story sharing your business insights. Now. Yeah, not your chance to share your website. I know you you know you have a new project coming up. Maybe you can share a little bit about that. Maybe you want to share about your your children’s businesses, please go ahead.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: Okay. Yeah, so my business is life and limb gel, www. life and limb gel calm. And my children, you can find them at little businessmen.com and they sell Lego inspired soaps and spirit animal necklaces. And so we have taken the idea of that spirit animal necklace that they’ve made and are growing that with business to my Totem tribe.com. And so that’s our new website with my with my family, I’m connecting to your Totem animal. And we’re creating a line of beautiful bracelets and pendants out of these little spirit animals. So really fun. And
Sushant Misra: so maybe in one or two years when, when when you grow in this business, you can come back and share your story about Yeah. Thank you, Chelsea. Thanks again for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure, and thanks for sharing your story.
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: All right, thank you.
Sushant Misra: Was that okay? I know we got a little bit derailed at the beginning but
Chelsea Frank of Life and Limb Gel: I’m sorry. I’m I’m out of practice. I guess
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