This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
Discover how you can invent and create your own products during this interview with Kate Hansen. Kate is the inventor of the Ergo Spout(R), a spout and handle for mason jars, which she launched on Kickstarter raising over $40,000 from over 1,000 backers. She shares her journey, tips and tricks she learned along the way, and talks about how food bloggers can do the same thing.
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
Kate Hansen is the inventor of the Ergo Spout(R), a spout and handle for mason jars. She and her husband launched the Ergo Spout(R) on Kickstarter in the summer of 2018 and raised over $40,000 from over 1,000 backers. Since then they have launched several other smaller products, including an Ergo Spout(R) cookbook. A Wide Mouth version of the Ergo Spout(R) is currently in development and will be launched on Kickstarter soon.
If you want to read some more about this, here are a few helpful links.
Today we dive deep into how you can create your own physical products, the ins and outs of using Kickstarter, and how you can apply the lessons of creating products to blogging in general. Today's guest is Kate Hansen from Culinesco. Kate is the inventor of the Ergo Spout. Which is a spout and handle for Mason jars. She launched it on Kickstarter and raised over $40,000 from a thousand different backers.
Jason Logsdon: They put out several different products since then, including an ergo spout cookbook. She's coming on today to share her expertise about the ins and outs of product creation. Kate, welcome to Makin' Bacon.
Kate Hansen: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Jason: I'm really excited to have you on the show because I think your journey from an attorney to now you are designing, inventing, and creating products, which just blows my mind. And I really want to know, learn from your expertise and kind of share with other bloggers or other people how they can do this on their own. So I'm really excited to have you here and talking with me.
Kate: Well, I'm excited to be here.
Jason: So one thing I like to start with before we dive into the nuts and bolts of what you do is, what's it like around your table, your dinner table on a typical night?
Kate: That's a good question. Well, I have 3 kids, so it's usually noisy and messy. Um, even though they're a little older, I'm still surprised at the amount of mess they can make it a dinner table. Um, but we're often talking business. My, my business partner is my husband. And he's really the engine of how we got started. He's the one that's passionate about product development and wanted to bring something to life.
And so we're often talking business and uh, we often talk about new product ideas and our kids have started to do that. Well, they'll say, Hey, I have this idea. And so that's always fun to hear that they're, they're looking to solve problems too.
Jason: I think that's such a valuable skill just in life is the ability to come up with. Problems that you can come up with a solution to and, and not kind of turn off that part of your brain. I feel like a lot of times you think every product I or idea I have to come up with has to be a good one and it doesn't work that way. You need to come up with a hundred and then five of them might be good and one might be great if you're lucky.
Kate: Yeah. I think that's a lot of the way that it works, and I also think just problem-solving works in any industry. You don't have to know something; you only have to know how to learn it.
Jason: So you invented the ergo spout. Can you talk a little bit about what that is? So my audience could kind of picture what the ergo spout is. Sure. So the ergo spout is an ergonomic spout and handle for a Mason jar. So basically, it transforms an ordinary Mason jar into a pour spout with a handle, kind of like a syrup dispenser.
Kate: And I use syrup dispenser cause that's really how I came up with the idea. I when my kids were really little, I would make that cheap homemade maple flavored syrup. It's just like sugar and water and maple flavoring because you know, they dump it all over their pancakes anyway. You don't want to give him the good stuff.
And I made it a lot and I had a really great syrup dispenser that was a gift for my mother-in-law, and it was vintage. It was like midcentury. It was really great. And one morning I chipped the edge of the jar when I was washing it. And then of course you can't give your kids broken glass for breakfast.
And I was really bummed and I tried to find a replacement. The things that were available on Amazon were all plastic. I bought one and I hated it. And I kept thinking I would store a lot of things in Mason jars. I was like, I really want. Something for a Mason jar that would turn it into a syrup dispenser and it just didn't exist on the market.
And that was, you know, that was an idea that kind of tumbled around in our brains for a lot of years. And finally, my husband was ready to get, you know, developing a product. And that was just the simplest idea we had come up with. You know, we'd come up with a thousand ideas and it's like, well, let's try that one.
And um, you know, so that's really how it got started.
Jason: I feel like a lot of people listening to that can relate. They're like, Oh yeah, I do something. And. Oh, there's a, I wish there is a solution to this. And then we go on with our day. We don't go back to it and then actually create it. So how do you take something that's just conceptualized in your head and turn it into an actual real physical product?
Kate: You know, we often say, we'll build it out a Play Dough, build it out of clay. Like find a way to take your idea that's in your head and make it a physical reality. And it doesn't have to be what it's going to be made out of. You just have to see if you can make it work in some way. So we actually started by, um, hiring a designer and, well, he's an engineer and he would 3-D print prototypes and he, I think we did like a hundred different versions.
I have so many 3-D printed spouts in my house. Um. But, but the idea was to, and it was, and it was really exciting when he first, like the first one that he printed, cause I was like, Oh my gosh, that could really work like this, this could be great. And then we took time to refine it and you know, try to make the handle comfortable.
And really it was just a bunch of iterations. And you know, that's a word that we use a lot is you need to iterate. You have to keep tweaking. You have to get to the point where it's going to work the way that you want it to work. So really it's about building a prototype. It's a finding a way to make a physical reality of the product, even though it's not going to be exactly what the final product will be like.
You've got to physically be able to hold it and figure out if you can make it work.
Jason: I think the process of iteration for any type of product or anything you're trying to improve on is so important that. A lot of bloggers, especially sit down and say, if I'm going to put out a product or a course, I need to have it be perfect when I first put it out.
But they don't do that with recipes. You know? You don't do that with writing. Your first draft is never your best one. You have to keep going through and through, so it's good to hear that about physical products too.
Kate: Yeah. I think iteration is the key. You have to be willing to tweak and find better ways to do it and just keep trying to make it better.
At some point. You do have to stop though. I mean, at some point done is better than perfect and I think it's easy to get hung up on that perfect idea.
In fact, I was chatting with a friend, he's an artist, he's a fantastic artist and has been trying to launch a website and he could not pull the trigger. He's been working on it for years and he's like, well, I don't like the I, you know, I don't like my photography and I need to hire a copywriter. And I was like, no, you don't. You're selling art. Like you're, you know, it speaks for itself and you know, you just need to jump in because working on something after you've started is way more fun than working on something before you started.
And I think you need to keep iterating and keep improving, but at some point done is better than perfect. Like jump in and get working on it. And so I told him that. I was like, feel the fear, do it anyway. Like your anxiety is never going to go away.
You know, I think some people are looking for that perfection because if we think we get to a point, then we'll feel calm enough to move forward.
Jason: It is never perfect enough to remove the nerves from it.
Kate: No, it's not. And so I think you have to kind of balance that concept of, of making it better and always improving, but also just jumping in and doing it.
Jason: Yeah. I feel like you have to push things to where they get good enough and then at that point, you can push it out there. So you get real feedback from real customers that are paying money, and then you can really start to see. Is this successful or not? Or now how can I tweak it? And it's no longer your opinion, it's you're getting actual analytical feedback on it.
Kate: Well and I think that you bring up a good point cause that's really the next step after building a prototype is getting that market feedback. And, and in product development we talk about that as validation. Like you have to validate the product, you have to validate that it works, but you also have to validate that there's a market for it.
That someone's actually going to pay money for it. And how we did that once we had some 3-D printed prototypes of something that we thought was good enough, it, you know, and if you look at those, they're not the final product.
We started going to farmer's markets here locally, pay 10 bucks for a little booth and set up a table. And, um, we took uh, email addresses because we knew that we were going to launch it on Kickstarter and we said, "Hey, we got this product. Is this something you're interested in? If you want to know more about it and you want, you know, we're going to launch on Kickstarter, we can, we have an email address". And so that was how we started.
We're able to get to, to decide that it really was worth moving forward. And you know, my husband who wanted to do this in the first place, I think in his mind he thought, you know, this is a really niche product. It's just a Mason jar attachment. Like, I don't know if the market's big enough to support the amount of money it's going to take to develop it.
After a couple of farmer's markets, when we had, you know, several hundred email addresses, he was like. I think people would actually buy this. Well yeah, I think they will. But that was the validation. Like, you know, you need to prove that, that, that it's worth moving forward with.
Because the thing about physical products is there a lot they take a lot more capital than just launching a blog. I think food bloggers are incredible because the amount of content they can push out. Um, you know, I mean, I, I'm amazed at what food bloggers do because they just. Just are constantly developing content and driving that traffic.
But with physical products, there's a lot of capital that goes into it. So you have to, you really want to make sure that people are going to purchase it. If you, if you go through with these steps.
Jason: I think that prototyping and getting in people's hands, the validation step is huge. My background before I became a food blogger was in computer programming and web like web development for our applications. And it's, it takes very little effort to get to something that you can show people and have them click around and you know, are holding their hand, whether it's made out of clay or whatever. It takes very little to get to that point. It takes a long time and a lot more time and energy to get to the point of a polished end result.
You know, for web development, you can use a PowerPoint almost to click and you could change the page. You can do that in a few hours, but. Fully program, like an entire custom sports application like I was working on is 5 or 6 months of development time and you know, $250,000 so you want to get as quickly as you can and not go towards perfection until you know that this is something that there is a market that exists for it.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. In the startup community, they sometimes talk about failing fast. Like, you know, get it, get it. So you can find out if it is a failure, you find out if it isn't working. And what if you can tweak it and make it work, then you want to fail fast.
And I think sometimes people don't get it out there or don't keep moving forward because they're afraid of that failure. But you've got to embrace it. You got to embrace being willing to have it not work out and, and, you know, fail fast.
Jason: And once you get to a certain point, it's. It's good enough to learn if it's probably going to succeed or not, and spending another, you know, 5 weeks trying to make it a little bit better isn't going to change whether it's going to succeed or fail. So find out now and then try out another idea if it is going to fail.
Kate: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. And I think it's sometimes hard for people who come up with their own ideas because you fall in love with your own ideas. Like you want it to work out so badly that sometimes you're blind to whether anyone else cares.
I mean. You see that a lot in entrepreneurs, they're like, I have this great idea. And like, you know, they, they're so in love with it. They're like, and you're kind of like, Hmm, I'm not sure there's a market for that. Or I don't know if people would really pay. Like, it's a cool idea, but you know, and so I think you, you have to sometimes take a step back and be willing to let go of something that's not going to work, even if you love it.
Jason: Yeah. you have these babies that you want to in your head and you just want to keep developing them. But I have a whole list of great ideas that are amazing ideas that all of my friends that I talk business with all were like, "eh". And so I've never worked on that because I swear they're amazing ideas, but have no one that I trust thinks they are too. You know then I'm probably wrong.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. You got to have friends who are honest.
Jason: So you launched your product on Kickstarter. What made you decide to go that route instead of some other routes?
Kate: It really was my husband who wanted to launch it on Kickstarter and, and there's a lot of advantages to Kickstarter. My husband actually founded the Utah CrowdFunding Summit here in Utah so he's put on a big conference specifically around crowdfunding. And so he really had learned from the best in our community. And there's an amazing Kickstarter group of people in Utah, like incredibly successful. And so it was something that he really wanted to do himself, you know, instead of just talk about and put on a conference about. And so, um, so that was always the plan is to launch on Kickstarter.
Kickstarter's been around about 10 years and. It's changed a lot. I think when it first came out, we all remember that it was like a product with launch and it would make like, you know, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars really quickly.
And it was, I think the novelty of it really made it, you know, people interested in doing it. But it's really changed because there were a lot of products that launched on Kickstarter and were never fulfilled. And you know, and I mean. There, if you go on there, I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but you can see they have a place on their website where you can see how much money they've raised and it's in the billions of dollars that they've raised over the 10 years.
So the way Kickstarter works is they provide a platform for you to say, I'm going to build this product. You have to have a prototype. It can't be conceptual only. And so that's one of the ways that they've tried to make sure that people are going to fulfill.
And basically, it's presales. Your saying, I'm going to build this product. And people say, well, I want one here's my money now, send it to me when it's ready. So, so it's a crowd funding platform. And there's, there's some advantages because you can, you can get on the platform, and if you don't hit a funding goal, you don't have to do anything.
When people pledge, they're not charged until the end of the campaign. So if the campaign is 30 days, then they might pledge even in the first couple days. But their credit card won't get charged until after. So they really wait until you fulfill, you get to, you know, you hit your number. So for us, we had an initial funding goal of $10,000 and we hit that in the first 14 hours and went on to raise $40,000 towards the manufacturing.
Now this was an injected molded product and we were able to use that money to pay for the molds, but we still had to buy inventory. And so that's something to keep, like it's an expensive way to do it, but launching a product is expensive. And I think what's nice about Kickstarter is it hedges your bets a little bit. Because it's a great way to get some validation to like, you know, we did our research on validation before, but if people aren't going to pay for it on Kickstarter and you can't drive that traffic, then you know, it's a good way of saying, Oh, you know, maybe this isn't such a good idea. And so you can kind of hedge your bets a little and you can also get some funding in the door before you have to go out and start manufacturing.
Jason: I feel like Kickstarter seems to be good too, for kind of judging what the demand is like above validation. But if you barely meet your goal, you know that like, okay, this is about how may I need to produce. And if you. You know, 10 times your goal, then I need to produce a lot more. But you're not making that kind of in a vacuum of, I have to pay for all this upfront. You know, how do I manage what inventory I have to fulfill, but not too much that I don't sell it. I feel like it does help you kind of make those determinations in some ways.
Kate: It does, but it's an interesting platform because I think in the past you didn't have to drive your own traffic, like it sort of like created your own traffic for you, but you really should think of it almost as like these social media sites.
You wouldn't put up an Instagram account for your blog or your business and sort of sit down and go, okay, let's see how many people started following me. Like we understand that's not the way Instagram or social media works. We understand that we have to go out and figure out how people can find us and drive that traffic.
Kickstarter's no different because of the number of people that are on there. You can't put up a project and expect it to fund. And I've seen projects that it looks like that's exactly what people are doing. Like they put it on there and then they like sit and wait. You really need to drive your own traffic to the site.
But what's nice is there is a huge community on there. So if you can get it, I mean, it has an algorithm just like, just like Instagram. If you can get it, if you can drive enough traffic and get it seen and fund quickly, then the platform will start working for you and it'll show your product to more people.
With our product, we, if you look at like our numbers, about half of what we raised were from people coming into the site that we were driving. We drove a lot of them, you know. But people coming into the site or finding us online, and the other half was straight from the Kickstarter platform. So we did get a lot of customers that were from the platform, but we wouldn't have gotten them if we hadn't figured out how to drive that traffic.
And for us, the beginning of that is building an email list before you launch. When. Um, before we launched, like kind of after those initial farmer's markets, my husband said, all right, if we're going to do this, we need 5,000to 10,000 email addresses. And I was like, are you kidding me? Like, that's like Mount Everest. It felt like, like, it just felt like, you know, how are we, we got 200 that's how we started. Like, Oh, yay.
We spent almost a year building an email list before we launched. And so I think sometimes people want to launch on Kickstarter when their product is ready, but you really ought to launch when your email list is ready.
Jason: How did you go about collecting those email addresses and finding people?
Kate: So we knew that in order to get that many, we couldn't do it all just with farmer's markets. Also because now it was winter, you know, you lose the whole, the whole summer season. Um, so we knew we needed to find our online community. So we of course, started our social media start, you know, started doing that on Instagram and Facebook.
But we did do some more shows, like we actually did the Salt Lake Home Show. We did a, the Utah Valley Home Show where, and what was great about that is it was not just about getting email addresses, but it was getting feedback on the product. So we were, you know, it was kind of like a twofold.
We are going in and saying, Hey, we're going to build this. And people would tell us what and what they thought, and the initial product didn't have a lid. And so that was where we started developing a lid and doing some additional product development in addition to building the list.
When we initially were looking for our online community, we thought, well, it's Mason jars. Like these are going to be the people who can, you know, like we need to find the canners and it did not convert. Like we were running ads for the product with the prototypes towards a landing page that would collect email addresses. And it just wasn't converting, which I thought was really interesting.
Then through Instagram we were finding that it was a lot of homesteaders. It was people that, not just can, but they had backyard chickens. They had, you know, they had a small homestead. They were concerned about, you know, where their food came from, or, you know. With a zero-waste lifestyle where they're like a lot less plastic and things like that.
And so that then we started targeting homesteaders on Facebook and that's when it clicked and we realized that, well, that's where our people are, that these are more than just like, you know, you're, you're once a year canners these are the people who really have a lifestyle of using Mason jars for everything.
It was kind of a combination of doing things in person, finding out, you know, getting feedback, building the email list by talking to people. Um, but also trying to find that community online and doing a lot of AB testing and, driving traffic to a landing page to collect email addresses.
Jason: I think there's a lot of valuable information in what you just said, and one of it is getting out there and talking to people is so valuable for getting feedback. And I think that's true of products, services, anything that you're trying to create, even if it is just a blog, and what articles should I write about.
In my niche, like getting out there and having one-on-one conversations, which we don't do as food bloggers very often. We live a lot online, but having these conversations with people, you learn so much about what are they looking for, what are you addressing properly and not properly, and what kind of directions should you take different things that you'd never get from just a customer feedback form or something like that.
Kate: It's the part I liked the most because I love chatting with people and to see how excited they are about the products we're developing. But it's also a great way to build a fan base. Because I have, I mean, I will talk to people and they'll say, I remember seeing you at the Salt Lake Home Show. Well that was like 2 or 3 years ago now. You know, it was, um, and so that's, that's what, yeah, it was in 2017 in January. So yeah, it would be like 3years ago. They still remember us and they still follow us online and now, you know, now they're, they're our fans and they're part of our community because they, they met us in person and they're invested in our story.
Jason: Yeah. I think so few people do get out there and speak one-on-one to people that it really does set you apart and differentiate you from the competition that's out there. But as an introvert, I struggle with networking. I've been working on networking for 20 years now and I'm finally getting better and better at it.
But it's again, it's a skill that you can learn if you put it in the time and effort, but it will pay dividends for helping you separate from the crowd.
And your point about marketing yourself as soon as you put out the product or you know. Not just putting it out there on Kickstarter and saying, you know, give me traffic is so important across almost everything. A lot of people think, okay, you know, I have this campaign ready, I have the Kickstarter ready, I have a cookbook or an ebook that's ready to be sold, and I'll put it out there and I'm done.
You're just starting that process because you need to drive traffic. And I put out a lot of cookbooks on Amazon and it was so critical to put out a book, hit my mailing list, hit my blog, hit the social media to drive traffic and drive sales, and I would sell 300 to 400 books in the first week, and then I would sell a thousand in the weeks after that because Amazon saw the sales, they'd start promoting it, they would, you know, "people that buy this also buy this", and it'd be on sous vide circulator pages and they'd send it out in their newsletters.
But none of that would've happened if I wouldn't have put in the effort to sell it on myself and to continue driving traffic over and over.
Kate: Yeah, that's a really good point. I think it's true probably for any platform. And, and I think, you know, to go along that with that is, I think if you're going to do products, you have to learn how to sell a product.
I think the nice thing about a lot of food bloggers is they can put out content and really they're trying to get people to find them. There's a lot of search engine optimization. You're really focusing on how to be found. And if you are, then you drive traffic and then you could make money off revenue from the ads that are on your site. And that's a really great way to make money.
But I think when it comes to a product, you have to be willing to sell it. You can't just say, here's a product. You have to be willing to talk about it. You have to be willing to say, this is what I love about it. This is what you're going to get out of it. This is the problem that it solves. Here's how it will help you in your life.
I think we, you know, I say we, because it's not just food bloggers. I think anyone who's dealing with a product needs to get better at selling because that's how people are going to buy it. You can't just, it's not, I don't think it's the same as just offering a recipe. I think you have to sell it in a way that you, you don't have to sell all content.
Jason: I think a lot of food bloggers struggle when I talked to them about creating products and services, they struggle that. Especially if they're at the point where they're putting out a cookbook or putting out a kitchen product, they've been doing this for generally at least 3 to 5 years, and most of that time they're putting out free content. Everything they've been doing is pretty much free. Do you have any tips for people making that transition of, I'm used to not charging for whatever and now I need to sell and I need to start getting over that hurdle of what I'm creating isn't worth money.
Kate: Yeah. I haven't personally had that experience because, I've been a fan of food blogging since the beginning. You know, I've been reading them since they started, but it wasn't something that I wanted to pursue personally. Um, so I haven't. You know, I can see where it's hard.
I think it's hard for anyone to sell because you feel like it's a big ask for someone to spend money on something you have. And I, I've been watching a lot of Instagrammers, I like to follow people who are really good at selling, you know, that, you know, like, and I've had people tell me like this person, their audience buys. And I was like, they buy because they sell, but they're also selling things they love.
And I think the tip is. Find where you're comfortable selling. Don't try to sell something you don't like. Don't try to sell something you don't use. Sell something you love. Because if you love it, selling comes naturally because you're talking about, this is how I use it, this is how you know, this is how I do it in my kitchen. And you know, this is why I love it. That's selling.
And so stop trying to sell something you don't like. Try stop trying to hawk product that someone's paying you to hawk, hawk product you love. You know, reach out to brands you already love, because that's how you, that's what people want.
They want to love something too. It's, you know, that's why, you know, we're looking to fall in love with our products. We're looking to find things that make our lives better. And so when other people love it, we're like, oh, well maybe I'll love it too. And I think that that's the selling. So I think my, like, my advice is.
Yes, selling is uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be when you actually like it. Selling my own product is so easy because of what I've invested in it. I love it. I have, you know, 7 of them in my kitchen. I use them for everything. And you know, so it's easy because I, I already like using it. And so I think that's my advice be comfortable and sell things that you love.
Jason: I think that's great. It's so much, we do a lot of selling. I feel like in our personal lives, when people ask us for advice and they say like, Oh, people ask me what's, what's sous vide circulator do you use? And I tell them like when they're my friends just hanging out and basically selling them on a product that's out there.
But I don't feel uncomfortable talking about, I don't feel, because I'm just sharing my opinion about what it is and it's about something that I love and I've tried to personally translate that to my website and my books and my courses and everything that if I put out something that I'm proud of and I can see how it's going to monetarily that is going to be valuable for the money that they're going to give me. They get more value than they pay. Then I feel comfortable with it and asking for money, and I've been surprised how much you can ask for.
And try to sell without hitting that line of, you know, we see them on, you know, if they send a daily email and say like, you have to buy this, you have to buy like. You don't come anywhere close to that. You know, you have a long way to that you can start pitching your stuff without getting anywhere near that like sleazy type of over the top end.
Kate: I think that's true. And I think consumers are really smart. They can tell when you are trying to sell something you don't like, they can tell like they're really smart.
The other thing is. I think selling is about solving problems, and that's always can be your focus. Like the, you know, if you have this problem, here's a great solution. And I do think that sometimes food bloggers are worried about driving away traffic because they're worried if they start selling things, then you know, their audience is going to go away.
And I guess my thought on that is, you know, audiences change all the time. And if you want to be someone who sells products, if you want to have, you know, an income stream like that, then you've got to let the people who don't want to hear that go away. Like, and that's fine. They can go away.
But you'll find people who do want to hear your opinions and do you want to see how you do things and do want advice in the kitchen and will it like you will attract people that are, that will you want your content. And if that content is selling, then and that's something you want to do, you'll find your people. Cause I'm amazed at how many Instagrammers there are that they literally are just talking about, here's this product I use for this, here's this product I use for this. And they and their audience only increase. You know, there are people who want to be sold to.
Jason: I found an article that was really interesting by Tim Ferris. He does a big podcast and he decided that he wasn't going to do ads any more in the podcast because it took too much time. He researches everyone that's going to advertise in his podcasts. He researches, he uses the product, it's basically like an affiliate situation. And he was like, it takes too much time and I don't need to be pitching to my people, I have enough fans.
So he decided to go to a patreon model where if I get, you know, basically cover it in people giving me money to produce a podcast, I'm not going to have the ads. And he said he got more complaints in the first month of trying that from everyone that missed the ads. Because they knew that he tested them out, that he was putting his weight behind them, and they're like, "What am I going to do now when I want X?" Like you were providing all this value and information and now, now I'm not getting that.
And so he, he scrapped that idea even though he was making more from doing the Patreon model, but it was, his fans wanted ads. They wanted to be heard of the products that he's using that he loves because they respect him and they're interested in his thoughts on it.
Kate: Yeah. I think that's really interesting.
Jason: It's just, it's hard to get it out there and get in your mind like. If it's valuable and it's going to help somebody, they don't mind being told that even if it's going to cost them money, it's, it's fine.
Kate: Yeah. Well, and it's interesting cause I do think we're moving to a world where that's how people are discovering new products. Like they're not, you know, it's not about TV ads or it's not even about online ads anymore. People are discovering products through following the individuals that they follow online.
Jason: The golden model of the influencers, right? Like someone that uses it that you, you like their, their tastes and their sharing things they truly love. Which the actuality of that, you know, we know is not necessarily how it is but I think that is like the golden ideal of what influencers are supposed to do.
Jason: So speaking of selling you, do you have an affiliate program, is that right?
Kate: Yes we do.
Jason: Is that something that you manage yourself or did you go through an affiliate network or?
Kate: I manage it myself. We just have some affiliate software. So for food bloggers who, or anyone who's interested in getting a commission from sales they drive to the site, we do it through Affiliatly. Which is just a software program. We switched a while ago. I like Affiliatly because it gives an advantage to affiliates and this is the advantage. Typically, with an affiliate you can only get the commission if you, if someone clicks your link, excuse me. And so, you know, and there's cookie is that might keep that open for, you know, a certain number of days. But the problem is, is a lot of times people who are trying to figure out the product, they might go directly to your website and they might buy it sometime later. And so you don't get the commission.
Affiliatly allows you to track commissions with just the discount code. So we give our affiliates a discount code they can offer to their customers, and if the code is used, regardless of the link of how they got to our website, the affiliates will get the commission. So nice.
Jason: That's a great way to do it. It's always that hard. You know, you're promoting something that you, you believe in, but you also do want to get commission for it. And if it's not something that necessarily sells right away, then it's can be a lot harder, I feel like to motivate yourself to promote it.
Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I think that's hard because a lot of times the amount you're getting from the commission isn't a lot, and your, our products aren't very expensive, so we're offering 10% on affiliate commissions plus a 10% discount.
Unfortunately, I've struggled with our affiliate program a little bit because it's not a recurring revenue in the sense that like if you are selling a food product that's perishable, people are going to buy it multiple times, right. With the, you know, with the Mason jar product they're going to buy at once.
I think it's a little bit of a struggle to do an affiliate program with an inexpensive product that is only purchased maybe 1 time because it's hard. I think it's hard for food bloggers to make money doing it, I guess is my point.
Jason: Yeah. Have you found any affiliate strategies that have worked really well for the people you work with?
Kate: I will give one example that I thought this Christmas it happened that was really interesting. So I had someone that I actually follow them online. They don't have a large audience. Like it was an under 2,000 tiny audience. I knew she was online and I saw she'd ordered some through our black Friday sale.
She ordered like 20 spouts. And I'm like, that's really interesting that someone ordered that many spouts. And, um, and so sometime in December in her Instagram feed popped up that she had made a little Christmas gift card that said, "you better not spout", right?
Like, you better not pout from the Christmas song. And she'd made a little gift card and said, Oh, you can give these as gifts. And she tagged me and I'm like. Why did she reach out like that was my first thing, and so I immediately messaged her, I'm like, Hey, do you want an affiliate code? Like, do you want a discount code for your followers? Like, I mean, she didn't have a, you know, a big following that I was like, this, this really cute, and I posted on my Instagram, so I sent her, I got her set up and I can get people set up within minutes, right? So I got her all set up and she was all excited.
Then she got on her stories and say, Hey, I have a discount code for you. She sold more with that and her tiny audience than any of our other affiliates during Christmas. And I thought that is so interesting, and I've thought a lot about like, what is it that did that one? I think she probably has really devoted followers, but I think the other thing is she made a little gift card there was a free printable to download. So she was giving people a way to like give gifts. Like, you know, it's not an a, it's a $20 product. Like here's a cute way with a gift card, you know, a little gift card that has this kind of clever little saying on it. And so people went, you know, because a lot of the people that bought from us bought multiples.
And so, if you really want to be an affiliate and you really want to sell something, you've got to incorporate it into your content.
Jason: I think that's so valuable that they had a small audience. There was a small blogger. A lot of people talk about, I can't do a product, or I can't do a cookbook because I only have 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 followers, and that doesn't always matter. And you don't want to work with an influencer or like do a co-post with somebody because they don't have a big audience. But that doesn't always matter. You can have a devoted audience that really fits what you're trying to do and that can be all that you need and would be better than having 100,000 people on your site.
Kate: For sure. And I think I've heard the term micro-influencer thrown around. Like that's the one they use for these smaller influencers that their influence is more powerful with the people they have. You know, cause it's not such a huge audience.
Jason: So are there any other gotchas for if a food blogger says, I'm interested in creating a product, I have an idea. Things they should be kind of aware of that might crop up, it could save them some efforts in the long-term?
Kate: Well, I think just start out, I might say that I feel like product development, there's like a spectrum and down at the bottom of the spectrum are like digital products that you can create 100% yourself.
You know you can, you can crank out that content and you can create something to sell and it's not going to cost a ton to like a ton of money to invest in to create that. And then you might move up the line and then you might create like rebranded products. Like you don't have to invent product, right?
Like on Alibaba, or these might be your t-shirts or an apron with your logo on it. It's a rebranded product, so it's a product that already exists, but you're putting your own brand on it in order to sell it, you know, like a white labeling or a custom labeling of something.
And then the next thing up, what I call the" Me Too" products. It's a product that kind of has already been done before, but you might put your own little spin on it, a little bit of difference. You know, you might, you might tweak it yourself. Um, and you know, or, or maybe package it in a different way, you know, pull together a couple of different products and so you're, the thing that you're selling is, is different. It's been, you know, it hasn't been done in that way before cause you're putting together something.
And then the next one would depend on how much you changed a product, you might be getting to something that's really unique. Now you don't want to go too far off the spectrum because you can get to something that is so original that no one will ever buy it because they can't even conceive it. Like, you know, you're, you, you enter an adoption problem because they don't understand what the product is because it's so, you know, unique.
And so, I feel like there's this kind of spectrum and a good place to start for food bloggers is downward to something you have 100% control of over. As you move up the spectrum, you're moving up your need for capital in terms of the cost to create a product. And, and I feel like you also need to probably increase your patience because the amount it takes to get your return on your money is going to be a lot longer um, in order to do that.
And so I think it would be good for food bloggers to think about, well, where is my interest? Like, how interested are you in developing your own product? And, you know, are you willing to do what it takes? That's why we use Kickstarters, because it takes a lot more capital to do something that is unique and hasn't been done before.
And I think that's where it, like, think of that as a spectrum. And I think food bloggers as they grow. They can kind of like move up that scale. And, and because they're, you know, they might have more revenue from their blog that they can then pour into developing some kind of new product. Um, you know, if you want to start up here in the product, I don't think that's bad that you have to realize you're probably going to go out and have to get some funding. You're going to have to start with a Kickstarter, or you're going to have to go get some loans, or you're going to have to get some investors because the amount of money it takes to create a product where you're buying your molds, you're manufacturing and you're doing that is a little bit different.
And so I guess that's kind of what I would think about is like where on that spectrum are you comfortable and do you want to create products.
Jason: There is such a variety of things that you can do out there and the spectrum knowing that where you want to be on that spectrum and doing multiple products. You know, if you start off at the bottom, you're starting to facilitate and nurture that group of fans that are going to buy from you that we were talking about earlier. And by the time you get up to a product, you will hopefully have some dedicated fans that really are looking for the next thing that you're putting out.
Jason: How do you ship all of this? When you sell all these products? How do you handle the shipping?
Kate: So we do it all ourselves.
There's a there's a lot of companies out there that can do the shipping for you where you just basically warehouse it. And as orders come in, they ship them out. Um, it increases the cost and meaning that you're, it's a service you have to pay for. And for us, because we were developing our own product and we're really just up here on the spectrum of just product space, um, we decided to do it all ourselves.
I also am one of those people who want to learn how to do something before I pay someone else to do it. Because I, I, you know, I want to have a certain amount of control. I want to know what I want so I can give instructions in a way and get you know the outcome that I want. And so we still ship 100% ourselves.
It's our garage is no longer a place for cars. It has, it has spouts, it has all of our shipping boxes and a shipping station out there. And yeah, there's a whole separate computer out there that I just in the morning, go out and fill them up and take them to the post office.
Jason: I'm a big proponent of learning how to do something yourself. I think it was 37 Signals said that the way that they handle growth and outsourcing is they do something until it's just too painful for them to do anymore. And then, then you know it's time to outsource and you can more intelligently outsource because you know what you specifically need and the gotchas for your own your own situation.
Jason: So if people want to get ahold of you, either to be an affiliate, because they want to buy some of your amazing products, they can email you at kateatergospout.com or they can go to dot com to buy some of your products. We'll put links in the show notes below, and is there anything else you wanted to share?
Kate: Not that I can think of. This has been really fun. I feel like I have a true love for the food blogging community because like I said, I've been reading some of these blogs from, you know deck, you know, decades ago, you know, they celebrate their 10 year birthday. I'm like, I was there in the beginning, you know?
So I think the food blogging community is an amazing community and it's, it's fun to watch how it's changed over the years. And I think it's exciting that they're more focused on products and finding ways to, you know, serve their communities of people with more than just a recipe.
Jason: Yup. If you're listening and you're really interested in learning more from Kate and from me, we're going to be both speaking on a panel at, well I'm moderating, she's one of the stars that will be speaking at the Everything Food Conference coming up in Salt Lake City, Utah. So if you are going to the conference, make sure you come, say hi to her. Say hi to me. And if you're not going to the conference, you should look into getting tickets if you're a food blogger because it's a, an amazing event that a lot of, lot of good presentations and panels should be going on there.
Thank you so much for coming on. I learned a ton about product development there. It was great. You're at the further end of the spectrum than I am. So I like hearing about how the other side kind of works and functions.
This has been Makin' Bacon all about helping you serve your fans, grow your income, and get the most out of your blog. Until next time, I'm Jason Logsdon.