Episode 2 of the Ecommerce Growth Stories brings to the front a very exciting story of Hush Blankets and how its co-founder, Aaron Spivak, together with Lior Ohayon, managed to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.5M+ in 30 days – making it the Top 10 most raised Canadian 30-day Campaign ever.
Hush Blankets is now an 8-figure brand!
Aaron presented their story in a less-than-an-hour podcast episode, so, by all means, please enjoy! The main ideas are right below.
Who is Aaron Spivak?
Aaron Spivak is a Canadian serial entrepreneur who co-founded Revitasize at 18 years old – an organic cold-pressed juice kitchen serving high-quality juices, smoothies, acai bowls, and a variety of vegan options. Aaron most recently co-founded a sleep improvement company called Hush Blankets together with Lior Ohayon, selling a product now considered to be Canada’s Most Popular (And Reviewed) weighted blanket. Aaron and Lior were most recently named to Forbes 30 under 30 for the Retail & Ecommerce Section.
Convincing by trying out
You come from a brick and mortar background. How do you get blankets on people and convince them to buy when you’re selling through eCommerce primarily?
It’s exactly what it is. The second you feel that the blanket comes on you, you have this relaxing feeling. Everything just comes out of you, just like, wow, I can’t believe this is real life!
We have a hundred-night trial so we don’t label it as “try before you buy” because we’ve tested that; there are some stats about people who just love to try things, but there is a security behind the fact that if you think it might work for you and you’re not entirely sure, go online, you have one hundred nights to sleep with it. We’ve got customers that after five days, they message us and say, “I want a refund!” “You still have 95 more nights.” And two weeks later, “Wow, I’m so happy you told me to keep it!”
We did that for a reason: keep trying the product. It does take time to get used to. I remember our first sample of the one that we run now. When I received it I was like, “Oh my God, it’s the worst thing ever!” When I kept sleeping with it and I was like, “Wow, this is really working for me!”
So it is expensive to take it and because we’re not brick and mortar you can’t just put it on you. We have to find a way to get it in your home and your bed for X amount of nights. It’s kind of risk-free.
Selling for the first time at a young age
How did you feel when you started selling the blankets in the store?
I was always very consumer-centric. I was always dealing with the buyer and when I dealt with them, I would never be rude to them. It does make sense for me. It’s always like we’re bartering. I’m trading something that you deem more valuable than the money and you’re giving me money, which I deem more valuable in this product. And we’re just trading. And I never believe them being rude or having that be a negative transaction. It should never be a negative transaction. We should both be happy because we’re trading value.
When I got my first job, I was in this environment and it was almost like we hated the customer from this specific manager because growing up was my favorite store “I’d come in and it was in different locations and people were so warming and it was so fun. We would talk about sports and I would buy all my sports stuff and everything was so nice about it. And then when I got this one manager, when I finally got the job of the place that I love, he was, unfortunately, a little bit miserable and started showing me the dark side of dealing with people.
I would see his employees being very, very angry at each other. There was no coalition between us. So we’re only chasing revenue and sales. And the words “You can’t do it!”, “Not possible.”, “You don’t know what you’re doing!” were a constant thing. I’m coming from a background of there’s nothing here I can do that will make this better. Then eventually when I quit, and if you read the LinkedIn post, he was like “You can never be a manager!”Eventually, we started our own business when I was 18-19.
I made a commitment that I’ll never treat anybody like that. With Hush, it’s been three years. We’ve had like one or two people leave us and they left us for different jobs and moved up, they promoted themselves. At Revitasize, we’ve had staff for seven years already.
The biggest thing is that I truly don’t believe that any of us is better or smarter than the next person. I think that we’re all the same. We just have different experiences and we grew up differently with different privileges. I don’t think that we should put anyone down or treat people differently based on things they didn’t control, like the way I grew up and the way you grew up completely different. I can’t pin that against you. It’s not your fault. For us, it’s really about being transparent and allowing people to be what they’re really good at.
Customer-centricity to the max
Why do you think the other companies in your industry are not seeing what you are seeing in the relationship with your customers?
John, a friend of mine, talks about the customer journey versus the company journey. If we’re sitting here – we’re a team of 6-10, whatever size it is – every day we speak about how we can improve the company and what can we do to increase revenue, increase profit, increase sales, increase clicks, whatever department we’re trying to grow, we’re trying to do, we’re trying to move that needle. Oftentimes, to move that needle, you need to sacrifice the customer experience. It is what it is. You want to reduce returns, make it harder to return. It’s very simple. You want to increase revenue, increase your price. You want to increase your retention rate, drive down offer after offer every single day to someone who just bought until they buy again. There’s a way to do it.
So if you send an SMS blast every single day and we tested this, unfortunately, you will make more money, I can promise you, but people will hate you.
We had a customer who bought five times from us and during this test of SMS-ing almost every day, he sent me a text because I usually respond to them, and he said, “I bought from you five times and I’m never buying you ever again, just so I never have to receive a text from you!”
He had a good point. Imagine that you bought five times from a company you love and they just keep harassing you with messages. But the data was that we were making way more money doing this. So it’s that whole company journey versus the customer journey.
It was really eye-opening to us to say, “You know what, let’s scale back a little bit.” Because if you know anything about us, in 2018 when we first started, we were just like a kid with a six hundred thousand dollar company and in 2019 we scaled to like a seven million dollar company, and in 2020, just under 20 million dollars. We’ve been like 2x and 3x every year, we’re just running and sprinting.
Just recently we’re like “We need to not scale back, only to slow down and take care of our people.” It’s been huge. We’ve stopped with the harassment or we’re only providing value and maybe at the bottom of your value. Listen, if you’re interested, here’s something. If you’re interested, you don’t need it.
Your open rates go up, your sales don’t skyrocket. But you have to ask yourself the question “What are we really chasing?” What are we really going after? We’re going after doubling our sales again and being on some news article, or are we actually trying to build a connection with people for a really long time?
Some of the best brands in the world have been doing it for decades. And for some reason, a lot of the smaller brands – like us – don’t value that.
Nike is never saying, “Buy my shoes!” They always say “Check out this amazing athlete! They were so successful, they just won a gold medal!” They’re not even talking about their shoes, and you’re like, “Wow, I didn’t even know about that athlete who grew up like this.” They did a whole documentary on this one athlete that had nothing to do with Nike. But you know that Nike is a part of that vision.
And it’s really where we’re shifting our entire mindset to now.
BONUS: An interesting point of view on customer retention
We never promoted living a normal life or to live one or two percent better. We never promoted that at all. So that’s really the reason why our customers are buying and the reason why our retention rate is so high. We don’t sell consumables. So 25 percent retention rate isn’t even that good. The odds are you don’t need to buy again. It should last. But the retention rate is high because I have a product that works for me, but my friend is not doing so well and I’ll go and I’ll buy one for him.
We have a huge gifting component about our product and people want their friends and their family and their loved ones to live a better life as well. So it’s really cool to see the main needle mover of our product.
Tune in with us next time when we’re going to hear the story of Erica Rankin, the Founder & CEO of Bro Dough, a company created for consumers who prioritize their health and still want to enjoy a treat, without sacrificing their health or fitness goals.
This podcast is sponsored by VTEX.
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