Kara Froula: BackEmbrace.com
How do you build a product business on the side while working a demanding day job? What steps do you need to take to replace your income and operate your new business full time? In today’s episode, we speak with the founder of BackEmbrace.com, Kara Froula, who has already built a massively successful business in just over two years. Kara talks about her methodical steps to quickly grow her business through marketing and public relations. Listen to this interview to receive great advice for inventors and entrepreneurs at all stages of business development.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
You can watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/4fAmy96NC10
By gently retracting your shoulders into proper alignment, BackEmbrace works instantly to improve your posture while you sit, stand, walk or do just about anything. Check out Back Embrace’s full line of products at BackEmbrace.com, and get a 10% off your purchase by using promo code “harvestgrowth”
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Visit HarvestGrowth.com to set up a free consultation.
Jon LaClare: How do you build a product business on the side while working a demanding day job, to the point you can replace your income and operate your new business full time? Today, I speak with a founder that has already built a massively successful business in just over two years. She talks about how she grew so quickly, and has great advice for inventors and entrepreneurs at all stages of their business. Welcome to another episode of the Harvest Growth podcast, focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses.
Today I'm really excited to be speaking with Kara Froula. She's the founder of backembrace.com. We're going to talk about exactly what that product is. I do have to say, I love this product and I really love the way she's presented her marketing to date too. I encourage you check out their website at a minimum to see what she's done and the great graphics, the story, everything she's put together has been fantastic so far. Again, backembrace.com. We'll jump in and talk about exactly what the product is and get to know more of Kara's story, and how she has built this business successfully and very quickly. I think you're really going to enjoy this interview. Kara, welcome to the show. I'm so glad you joined us today.
Kara Froula: Hi, [unintelligible 00:01:15] thank you so much for having me. It's just such an honor to be on your podcast, and just to share a little bit about BackEmbrace.
Jon: Absolutely. I'm really excited to share your story, as I mentioned. Let's start off by, can you explain what is the BackEmbrace? How does it help people?
Kara: Yes, so BackEmbrace is a posture corrector, and it just gently pulls your shoulders back into proper alignment. Anyone can use it. You don't have to have had major orthopedic or back problems or suffered a back injury, just merely from tension and strain, from working in front of our computers and our mobile devices. It's a gentle reminder. You can wear it over your clothes, under your clothes, it's seamless and flexible, and incredibly comfortable.
Jon: I have to say, I can't remember if I've mentioned this to you in past conversations or not, but I love the brand name. For me it's-- I'm a big believer in being descriptive with your brand names, even though of course the creatives in the world would say never do that. The lawyers would say the same. It's harder to protect the more descriptive as opposed to a made up word.
It's easier for consumers to get it when it's a little bit descriptive, and especially when there's a play on words. I just love the fact that it acts as a brace, but in reality, it's embracing you and hugging you into that proper alignment positioning, just genius. Can you tell us about the process? How'd you come up with it? Was it hard name to come up with, or is it one that came to you at one night?
Kara: It's funny, I was out actually shopping with a girlfriend and I had been trying to figure out what I was going to name this thing. I really wanted to include the word back. I wanted it to be somewhat descriptive, having to do with the body part that it helps the most. It just popped into my mind and I remember racing home to go buy the domain on GoDaddy.
Jon: Sometimes it's when you've got something that's too, I would say basic words or regular words, let's say, man, it's hard to find a good URL that actually exists for that. It's karma, I guess it's meant to be that it was available and you were able to use that URL as well as the brand name, so that's fantastic. Now let's talk about the product. How did you originally come up with the idea? I guess noticed the problem. Let's talk about the design actually later on, but how'd you realize this is a problem that needed to be solved?
Kara: Great question. My background's accounting, and I was actually working in Marina del Rey in California, I had an accounting job. I was working really long hours and I had so much tension and strain in my neck and shoulders. It felt like needles going to down, just from being sedentary for so long. I was going to to the chiropractor and those bills were piling up. I was spending so much and trying exercises at the gym and someone had recommended a posture corrector. I checked out a local store actually just on Wilshire in Santa Monica.
They directed me to a posture corrector and I tried it on and I really noticed that when my shoulders were back, so much tension and strain was alleviated. I was wearing this thing and I was excited because I finally got some relief. The thing was, it was really bulky, like really padded straps and really restricted my mobility. It had a big buckle on the back. It just, it wasn't very attractive. I realized I actually started just wearing it around and I ended up- I was actually too embarrassed to wear it around, to be honest, [laughs] it was just so not cute. I'm somewhat of a fashionista so I actually sewed a cover for it.
I found some fabric at like JOANN Fabrics and my mom helped me sow a cover. It made it just a little bit cuter, and so when I was wearing that around, literally people would stop me and say, "Oh, where did you get that? I need one of those. Oh my gosh, my posture's terrible now, my shoulders hurt." That's when I realized, I think there's a need for this.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. By your description, I think part of the reason there was a fashion concern with it is it was bulky enough. You couldn't wear that one underneath your clothes, as opposed to the BackEmbrace. That's part of what drove part of that design. How did you get from that point to now designing the current product you have that works so well and is hidden?
Kara: Okay. Thanks. I first just started ordering every posture corrector I could find, literally my roommate at the time was like, "What's going to on?" My dining room table was filled with boxes and everything. I was really studying all of these different braces and just figuring out, okay, well this one has a nice feature, but this material's really scratchy on the skin. I was really just going to through each one and ended up, over time, ended up just- I just really played around with different materials.
I was ordering memory foam. I was just trying to makeshift prototypes in my apartment with a stapler and just trying to figure out. I ended up working with a seamstress who executed some of my designs, and it took so many iterations. It took prototyping for actually years, because I worked full time. This was just a nights and weekends, whenever I had a chance, I would just chip away, chip away at it and time- it was a labor of love. It was exciting. It was fun, but it was a lot of work, and I eventually ended up coming up with the new design and I'm patented now, utility patent.
Jon: Oh, fantastic. Congratulations.
Kara: Thank you.
Jon: Let's talk about the launch timing. As you mentioned, it took you years to develop the product and get it perfected to the point that it's ready for market, and once you got to that point, I believe it was the fall of 2019, right?
Jon: Which I think is opportune timing. You and I had a quick conversation on this before, where a product like this with the shift that happened to the entire world, starting in 2020 with COVID driving almost everybody to work in their homes, now without supportive chairs, with non-ergonomic desks, not in a place they're used to working or it wasn't built for working for a lot of people. It drove a lot of back issues. For you, a lot of opportunity to help people to overcome that.
You couldn't have predicted that, but I think the timing ended up being great for your business. From that point forward-- Even before COVID, what would you say drove your early success? It's only a couple years ago. This is a very short timeline that you've been so successful with your business. What was one of the first things that drove that success?
Kara: I think definitely as I was prototyping and I had my full-time job, I wasn't sure how I was ever going to make the leap to leave my full-time gig with health insurance and salary and everything, to just start selling. One of the most instrumental things that I did was participate in trade shows.
It was a great way to prove my concept, and I started out just doing it with a small production run, I'd start out with like 50 and really test those. Then I put in an order for 200. I did a trade show and it was geared for people in the medical industry, and it did so well. I just had an overwhelmingly positive response. These are people who sell medical equipment and home health supplies, and they loved it. I just couldn't even believe the success that I had. That really helped give me the confidence to be able to quit my full-time job and move forward with BackEmbrace full-time.
Jon: That's fantastic. For our audience, if you've listened to many of our shows, I'm a huge believer and constantly talk about the benefits of selling directly to your audience, whether that's at a trade show, at a mall kiosk, or to your neighbors, friends, and family, whatever it might be. That person-to-person interaction, you learn so much in the very beginning of a launch like this where-- For you, it was a confirmation that you've got something, which is great. Also, I imagine, back to that point that you also learn some questions that come up that you can then convey into your website, your marketing materials, et cetera.
Kara: Absolutely, it was a great way to really understand my customers' pain points, and even the store managers, the kind of questions they get from customers who are looking for back pain relief.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. I want to ask you a question, I'm going to set it up in a second, but just to have you think about it for a minute. Think about what changes have driven the best results for you. Driving or thinking back to 2019, between then and now a couple of times where making a tweak to your business really drove an increase in results. One example while you're thinking about that, I don't know if this is a change. One of the things I love about your website, if- again, encouraging our audience, when you have the chance to go, check out the website backembrace.com. It's in the show notes as well, if you're driving or whatever, go check it out later.
When you check out the website, right after the top folds, right beneath the very top of the homepage, you've got a section for shop men and shop women. I love how you put simple videos together there. You've got a male turning around wearing one of these with his shirt off, you can really see how it works, how it fits, and then a female with a sports bra, so you can again see exactly how it fits. Both of them are smiling, happy, looking at you, and I imagine that probably was not on the site on day one. Things like that, making those modifications or adjustments, to constantly make yourself, your business look better, and improve it can make massive changes.
Anyways, that's one thing I wanted to point out that I saw that I would say doesn't work for every business. It's a great idea or suggestion to again, learn from Kara, if you're checking out the website. Any other thoughts Kara, on changes that you've made over time that have been really beneficial?
Kara: Yes, well, one of the first things that I did was work with a publicist. That was one of the best decisions I had made. I really realized, within this whole process that I spent so many years really developing the product and getting it with the right materials and everything custom done, custom woven with my designs. I finally had the product and I'm like, "Okay, I'm ready, I'm ready to have massive success." In my mind, I was at 80% there. I put it up on a website, and then I'm like, "Why aren't they flying off the shelves?"
I really realized it's not enough just to have a great product, having the strategy and execution to really create and run the business around the product is just as important, if not more important. One of the things that I did really it was was hiring a publicist, I needed to get the word out. Once I got some exposure, it just- I couldn't even keep inventory in stock. It was really phenomenal. I was on Good Morning America, and Healthline and CNN. It was fantastic.
Jon: That is often left at the backburner, at least at the very beginning, the need to get the message out. Often, inventors focus on perfecting the product and then get to the end. Okay, I've got it, perfect. Well, now what do I do with it? That's very normal. I think the good thing is, spending that time and effort to get it right means that when consumers do come across it, they're going to love it. That's important time to spend, but being sure as you're mentioning, how do you get the message out there?
Whether it's through a publicist, whether it's through paid ads, whether it's through organic social media, whether it's working with influencers. There's a lot of different ways to do it, and every every product has a different path to success specifically, but the one commonality is you always have to have something to give you exposure. In the early days, a publicist getting "free PR". Sure, you pay the publicist, but a lot of that is ultimately free exposure that comes naturally.
Jon: That's great.
Kara: Then you mentioned the videos on my website, that was another thing that I did. My first photo shoot I did in my apartment with my cousin's roommate, who is a trainer, and he was super photogenic. I recruited friends of mine to wear it and that was on my first website. Then realized I really need some great video content. I really want to be able to show people how this works, how flexible it is. I want to-- I needed to be able to really show that it's great for men and women, they can be worn over and under the clothes. I did a pretty big photoshoot just about a year ago, and that also really moves the needle.
Jon: One of the things I like about that concept, that idea is as you go to the website, it feels very premium. Again, you spent the time and effort to make sure the product was premium, that it worked well. Now you got to prove it through the content you have, the creative assets you use, if you've got low quality images- again, in the beginning, great. When you can improve the look and feel of how you showcase your product, whether it's your website, or video, or whatever the platform might be, but making sure that premium look and feel is there so people feel right away, "Hey, I know, this is something I can trust."
Not only is it going to work, but it looks great, it's they're- the smiles alone convey that, okay, it's comfortable to wear. The little nuances like that, you've clearly thought through. Is there something you wish you would have known before you started this, if you rewound it to 2019, or maybe even earlier, if you would have done something differently with the knowledge you have today?
Kara: It's so funny, thinking about that, because I was thinking about that before, and I thought, "Gosh, I don't know." I guess I never, I didn't realize- you just don't realize how much work goes into developing a product- not just developing a product, but running a business and how everything is so intensive now. As far as Google ads, there's a whole strategy behind that. I mean there's these [unintelligible 00:16:44], and it's not just you can get an overall view, or understanding of how all these things work. I don't think there's anything that I really would have done differently, to be honest. Any setbacks that I've had, I've learned from, and that's just helped me as I moved forward into new situations and opportunities.
Jon: That's a good way to answer. I think sometimes we look at failures like, I wish I wouldn't have gone through that, that time or made that decision or whatever, but with your perspective, like you just talked about, if you can learn from that, it helps us to grow. Sometimes we need those little failures or big failures sometimes, to help us grow in a very different direction, we wouldn't have gotten to in a different way. That's a good way of putting that. Do you have any any resources that you recommend that- any books or podcasts or things that have helped you along your journey?
Kara: Yes, definitely something that has just been a phenomenal resource for me is a website called Haro, H-A-R-O, Help a Reporter Out. It's free, and you're able to access what all of these editors are writing about. They send email three times a day with various topics. You don't have to have a publicist or be a publicist to respond, but I've gotten some great media publications from that resource.
Jon: That is a good resource. I think, especially when budgets are limited, and you can use it forever. In the early days, when you don't have money or capital for a publicist, or whatever it might be, and you have the time and ability to do some of that on your own-- H-A-R-O.com is definitely one to check out. Kara, is there anything I didn't ask in this interview that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Kara: I think just also, maybe reiterating, to start small. That's one. I've had several friends that they've created- maybe it's a great product, and they went ahead and went overseas and produced 5,000 units. Then maybe realized, oops, there's something I wanted to change-- Being stuck with a lot of inventory. I definitely think it's worth it to perhaps pay a premium, and start slower and smaller, smaller batches so that you can test and pivot along the way, especially during these early stages.
Jon: That's good advice. I often say something relatively similar, where- it's okay. I always, and I actually am a former accountant as well, maybe that's why we think that way. It's okay to think at the very beginning of if your products are going to cost you $10 when you do small production, it's going to cost you $5 per unit, eventually. Plan around that $5. Forget about- this is testing, just consider some investment in the business to do smaller runs, pay more per unit, that's okay, as opposed to 1,000s of units that might sit there. Even if your product takes off.
I've seen this many times where they wish they would have been able to make a tweak to it. Yes, it's selling really well, but if I had this one extra feature, it would sell even better. My consumers would be that much happier, or the return rate would be lower. When you start off small, you get some of those learnings that can be translated into bigger production runs down the road, so I guess that accounting mindset, great advice. I do want to remind the audience, please go check out backembrace.com. Again, it's in the show notes, so if you're driving or whatever, check it out later. If you use discount code harvestgrowth, one word all lowercase, you'll get a 10% discount off of your purchase.
We encourage everyone to go at least check out the website. It's really cool, what Kara has done with this business. Great product, but also great look and feel, just to learn. I encourage everybody to learn from other businesses, what's driven to their success. If you've got a product business that's very different from BackEmbrace, you can still learn from some of the successful things that Kara has done in within her business. For the listeners, again, please check out the website, but also be sure to check out Harvest Growth podcast, to see other episodes we've recorded, and if you liked this episode, and want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and leave us a review at iTunes or Google Play.
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