Customer behavior is changing.
We’re not running to the store anymore to pick up milk after work, or popping in the gas station for a candy bar. Our office is at home, and our groceries get delivered. So how do businesses handle the ever-evolving customer behaviors of the pandemic? How do you adapt your eCommerce strategies to not only cope with the times, but thrive?
”I would say the biggest trend this year is the relationship between consumer demand and supply.Rachel TipographMikMak
eCommerce in the Time of COVID with Rachel Tipograph
Katie Hankinson (00:02):
Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.
Mickey Cloud (00:04):
And I’m Mickey Cloud. And welcome to Building While Flying, a new podcast from The Sasha Group, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.
Katie Hankinson (00:22):
Welcome to this episode of Building While Flying. My guest this week is Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of MikMak, the enterprise marketing e-comm platform that helps brands better understand consumers by connecting digital investments to online retailer insights. But also I love this on the bio that your team shared, Rachel. You’re a true tech star and entrepreneurial established on Twitter and you’re on all of these impressive lists, such as the Forbes 30 Under 30 are changing the world. Mary Claire’s, Most Influential Women in America, but my two favorites were Goldman’s, Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. We want to find out about what is so intriguing and also, Business Insider naming you one of New York tech’s coolest people, which frankly, it’s got to be at the top of the list of things there.
Rachel Tipograph (01:12):
Yeah, I agree. That’s a very strange name that Goldman has, but I’ll take it.
Katie Hankinson (01:18):
I love it. Now, let’s talk a bit about your background and how you really came to set up MikMak. You had a whole travel kit going on, you had a stint at SNL, you worked for a while on the real pure retail side at Gap. Talk about how you came to spot the opportunity for MikMak, and What experiences led you to establishing the company?
Rachel Tipograph (01:43):
Yeah, so I was an intern at SNL when I was in college. I went to NYU, I studied entertainment business. My plan was to become a Hollywood agent. And then I learned you have to start at the mail room and make $300 a week. And that just literally, wasn’t an option for me from a financial standpoint. I also graduated NYU, the height of the financial crash 2008, 2009. And at the time the only people who were hiring in New York, were digital and social media agencies. So I ended up at the right place at the right time. And I started working at this company that no longer exists. It was acquired. It’s called Undercurrent. It definitely competed against Vayner, which Gary likes to joke about. But we ran digital strategy for PepsiCo, for GE, for HBO, for Estee Lauder, for Vans, and what really launched my professional brand was that I ran the PepsiCo, and I was literally 22 [inaudible 00:02:48] for undercurrent.
Rachel Tipograph (02:49):
And this was 2009 when Pepsi decided to give away $25 million online. And they called the program, the Pepsi Refresh Project. And that was at the time the largest social media campaign that ever existed. And my name really got attached to that. Long story short, I got recruited by Gap in 2011, there was a guy named Seth [Frastic 00:03:13], who was their new CMO, who was my boss, ended up becoming my boss. And gap just went through tough times at a decade of declining sales and an aging customer base. And they wanted someone who could help them lower the average age of the customer, and acquire a twenty-something woman. And so my boss decided to hire the target customer internally, which was me.
Katie Hankinson (03:37):
Rachel Tipograph (03:38):
Yeah. And I was the youngest executive they ever hired. And I was given this crazy opportunity when I was 24 to run global digital for Gap.
Rachel Tipograph (03:46):
And I was there for three positive years of the company’s growth. So this was 2011, 2014. It’s unfortunately now a different story now. But I was able to do some incredible work with an awesome team there. And we increased the net profits of the company by 70%. Digital went from 5% of the overall revenue to 25%. And we also knocked a decade off their average customer age. But while I was at Gap, I got to see the global market trends, [inaudible 00:04:18]. A lot of people poopoo on Corporate America. I love Corporate America. One that’s who [crosstalk 00:04:23]. Yeah.
Rachel Tipograph (04:25):
But two, When you work in Corporate America, you get to see everything because you have every startup pitching you, you get to work across all the different regions. And there were three major trends that I got to see while I was at Gap. One was the rise of video as the predominant form of content on the internet. Second was the change in the customer journey. So when I started at Gap in 2011, gap.com, the homepage was the most trafficked webpage. When I left three years later, our product detail pages, meaning gap.com/ [inaudible 00:04:59] we’re seeing five X the amount of traffic.
Rachel Tipograph (05:03):
And then finally the kicker that caused me to quit my job, you think about Gap, it’s one of America’s oldest direct to consumer brands, vertically integrated brands. I saw Gap’s, organic search results, in Amazon rise. [inaudible 00:05:18]. Meaning that consumers were typing Gap in Amazon. Gap is still not available for sales as an authorized seller on Amazon. So it was early signs to me that the major e retailers were about to become the new wealth guardians. And that’s when I decided to quit my job, to build MikMak, and to really go after the opportunity that I saw in the market.
Katie Hankinson (05:41):
Well, I feel like the opportunity grew and grew and grew. And you were definitely at the beginning of the crest of that wave. So, can you briefly explain MikMak, as you operate today? Because I know the company’s shifted over time.
Rachel Tipograph (05:53):
Yeah. So we are an e-comm acceleration platform for multichannel brands. So if the majority of your sales come from places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Ulta, Sephora, Best Buy, Sporting Goods, Petco, Instacart, Drizly, Minibar. So, hopefully what you’re hearing is not DTC. We focus in marketplace and wholesale. Those are our clients and we help them grow their market share, improve marketing effectiveness, and strengthen their position with retailers.
Rachel Tipograph (06:22):
And the way that we do that is, we essentially have two parts of the platform. We have MikMak insights, which is e-commerce analytics for multichannel brands. And then we have MikMak commerce, which is multi-channel, e-commerce enablement. So if you’ve ever been in an environment like Instagram or on a YouTube video or in Hulu or Paid search, and you were given the option to choose where you want to check out, Amazon, Target, Walmart, that’s us [inaudible 00:06:51] powering that. And that’s how we capture all of this data. And it’s more data than our clients have ever seen before because our clients are not DTC brands. [crosstalk 00:07:00]-
Katie Hankinson (07:00):
Yeah. Gatekeepers, in terms of a data. Interesting.
Rachel Tipograph (07:05):
That’s the value problem.
Katie Hankinson (07:08):
You mentioned, obviously. I can imagine that your customers have changed over time, who is currently successfully using the MikMak platform right now. And how has that changed since you started out?
Rachel Tipograph (07:21):
So, I mean, 2020 is such an unusual year. But the growth of my business has been crazy and I feel very lucky, but a lot of the growth is coming from grocery and alcohol. So consumer demand accelerated by 10 years overnight during COVID, and the brands that have experienced the most transformation are brands that are typically available for sale at grocery stores and liquor stores. So that wasn’t the case for me a few years ago. A few years ago, the first clients to sign up were beauty, because they were really embracing e-commerce, they were really embracing social commerce. It’s actually been a really tough year for beauty, because people are staying at home. They don’t really care what they look like too much, but I feel lucky to be able to work across such a diverse set of companies. So we do beauty, personal care, food, beverage, liquor, pet care, home care, consumer electronics, toys, apparel and footwear. Pretty much all the consumer product categories.
Katie Hankinson (08:24):
Well, I think it’s interesting there, given that you also have the insights side of the business. We talk a lot about how innovation and learning about how to run within one’s own vertical can often be inspired by what you’re learning about from others. Is that something that you find you’re able to bring to clients? It’s almost like, “Hey, I learned this is what was happening in the beauty category five years ago and it’s move over to food and see what we can apply here.” Can you give a couple of examples of how that’s spreading out?
Rachel Tipograph (08:50):
Oh yeah. That’s like my every day. We are very lucky, billions of impressions get flighted to our software. So we have very rich data across all of these consumer products sub categories. And at any given moment, I literally could tell you which media channel is driving e-commerce performance. And my data is really dictating the way that brands are spending their media dollars.
Rachel Tipograph (09:16):
I had a conversation yesterday with the CMO of a major food brand, and he had to run into a meeting and he calls me and he’s like, “I need an insight from you.” And I’m like, “Okay, your top performing channel right now is Twitter to drive e-commerce sales.” And he was like, “Really?” I’m like, “Yeah.” And he goes, “I was literally going to have a stop spending on Twitter.” And then I’m like “Jack Dorsey right now should be paying me, just prevented a major food brand from removing their media investment in Twitter.” But I had a different conversation this morning with someone who’s the head of e-commerce at a major toy company. And I was telling him about the competitive sales insights that I’m seeing in food, because what’s really interesting right now is the behaviors in basket building and the type of really creative product bundling that we’re gleaning insights into to drive higher e-commerce conversion rates.
Rachel Tipograph (10:11):
So, there is so much cross-functional work that happens. And we feel very lucky to be sitting on all this data.
Katie Hankinson (10:18):
That’s awesome. I love that. I’d love to hear actually… Just, it’s a little sidebar, what are some of those behavioral insights? Because I can so imagine all these tons of consumers who were not typically buying online. There’s a bunch of people who would be happy with shopping online and have been for some time. There’s a whole bunch of other people this year who’ve been catapulted into suddenly doing all their grocery shopping online, who behave differently. What are some of the trends you’re seeing there?
Rachel Tipograph (10:47):
Yeah. So I would say the biggest trend this year is the relationship between consumer demand and supply. So, I mean, most marketers this year have had to become an expert in supply chain, because there’s been such product shortage. With China being cut off in the U.S, it’s just so freaking crazy right now. What happens is, when your products are out of stock, the consumer puts a competitor product in the cart, and the behavior in e-commerce, especially environments like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Instacart, Drizly is replenish, replenish replenish. So if your product’s out of stock, consumer puts a competitor in the cart, you’ve now forever lost your market share for a long time. So the big thing that we’re helping brands do is marry consumer demand with where products are in stock to ensure that the consumer is purchasing their product.
Rachel Tipograph (11:43):
And so I’d say that’s major trend number one. And the reason why I share that is because that actually triumph everything else. So in stock availability, triumph’s price and also triumph’s retailer preference. So three years ago, if you were Sephora loyalist, it didn’t matter what sale Ulta had, because you were just so addicted to getting those points, and you loves Sephora. Now we’re seeing no retail loyalty. I think that consumers are looking for is, where’s this product in stock and they’re willing to purchase from retailers that they’ve never heard of before.
Katie Hankinson (12:17):
That’s fascinating. So that definitely plays into that signal that you saw many years ago about how named branded searches were popping on platforms like Amazon versus people cruising around elsewhere on the web. So, and that checks the box on people who are going in knowing what brand, what product they want. How are brands tackling the serendipitous piece. Is that where the creative basket creation comes in? So what by that, I mean, I know I want a delicious treat for the family, but I haven’t totally whittled down exactly what it is that I want to try, or set that thing of when people are walking down the aisle in a grocery store, and they just randomly put something in the basket. How are brands recreating that online?
Rachel Tipograph (13:03):
Consumers have turned to brands from their childhood. Right now, while the world is so chaotic, everyone is looking to grab onto something that feels familiar and gives them a sense of control. So like my clients at Hershey’s right now, for example, are killing it. Like these name sank historical brands right now, are the ones that are winning, and it’s actually creating great challenges in terms of bringing brands to market that you’d never heard of. So that’s number one. And then number two, you hit the nail on the head, impulse buys online are challenging. And it’s not just challenging because you no longer just standing in an aisle with idle time. It’s actually challenging from a profitability standpoint. So let’s continue with the analogy of candy. Buying one pack of M and M’s, it’s unprofitable in e-commerce. You can’t just sell one pack of M and M’s. That’s why when you shop on Amazon, you’re buying like a 36 pack of M and M’s, and no one wants to do that. No, one’s looking at that type of search sugar rush.
Rachel Tipograph (14:13):
So it’s really hard. And there’s a few ways that people are trying to navigate it. One is with product bundling. So if you buy a costume and a pack of M and M’s now that’s profitable for the retailer. So you’re seeing a lot of interesting digital shelf collaborations to drive that type of bundling. The second is, there’s players emerging in last mile delivery. So in the grocery space, for example, an emerging retailer is goPuff, which is essentially disrupting like 711. So it’s one hour delivery for those type of convenient. So I think you’re going to see more of that click and collect Instacart to really fulfill those impulse buys.
Katie Hankinson (14:59):
Got it. That makes sense. And, yeah, it’s so interesting. I actually want to go back to one of the things you just said about the nostalgia play. Cause it’s something we’re seeing a ton of as well, that the brands who are playing into that sense of reassurance and knowing what’s coming, or knowing what to expect essentially is really where the winners are playing out. And I think the other thing I think is really interesting going to your point about product bundling is how creative people are having to be this year with that in mind. And I think there’s some really fun creative innovation happening out of necessity. Is there anything that you would speak to in terms of some of the more fun, creative ways in which brands are diving in right now?
Rachel Tipograph (15:45):
Yeah, I mean, our clients at Kellogg’s, they’re doing so much social listening and seeing creative ways that people are using Pringle cans and actually like leveraging that content in national television. So I would say Kellogg’s is probably a brand to watch in that space.
Katie Hankinson (16:03):
Awesome. Let’s take a slightly different track just for a hot sec and go back to you as a leader and a founder. We talk a lot about Building While Flying. Looking back on the trajectory of the business, it’s so straightforward to build that perfect through line from spotting the opportunity to MikMak as it is the kind of hugely successful two sides of the platform today. But can you talk about challenges that you might have had over time? Maybe big bad moments that might have misfired while you were building out MikMak, or directions that you took that with hindsight, maybe didn’t take you in the direction you expected.
Rachel Tipograph (16:46):
Yeah, there are plenty. And I think that the biggest one, which is public is that I actually pivoted the company. So the only thing that’s the same as the name. I’m obsessed with the name, but to be honest for everyone who’s thinking of pivoting, I would suggest that you change the name because it creates confusion in the market. But here I am to tell the tale. So when I started the company personally, I quit Gap the end of 2014 to build MikMak. And the first version of MikMak was completely different. It was a B to C model. I am now a B to B model, and I literally created an iPhone app called MikMak, where I had comedians Hocking products through vertical video. This is 2015 when I brought it to market. And I was ahead of my time.
Rachel Tipograph (17:36):
And I created this magical world that people described as QVC for Snapchat. And I did that for about a year. And then I looked at essentially the economics of what I was doing. And I said to myself, this makes no sense. I need the scale of eBay for this to become profitable. I need 150 million daily active users. But I was working with these really big brands, like L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Kate spade. And they all kept telling me that they wanted to white label MikMak. So instead of taking that at face value, I just picked up the phone and I called them and I called a bunch of other brands. And I asked them a really simple question, “Why can’t you do this yourself?” And by asking that question, I just got them to tell me all of their pain points. And then at the time I bucketed those pain points into creative for e-commerce, user experience for e-commerce and attribution for e-commerce.
Rachel Tipograph (18:32):
And those three pain points were actually even more exacerbated. When I talked to brands, where the majority of their sales came from places like Amazon, Target, Walmart. And that’s when I did the hardest thing in my career. And I said to myself, “I need to change the business model from B2C to B2B.” And I had to tell my investors. And one of my main investors is Gary Vaynerchuk. And I had a meeting with Gary in Hudson yards.
Rachel Tipograph (19:00):
And I essentially said, “Gary, these are the three reasons why I’m going to change the business model.” And then I said, “And this is the one reason why you need to give me more money.” And he looks at me and he goes, “Why didn’t you think of doing this from the start?” And I go, “I needed to live through this experience I guess, I wish I did know this from the start.” And that’s when he wrote me another check and I moved the whole business to an enterprise software model. And I brought that to market in the beginning of 2017. And then the whole company took off. And since the beginning of 2017, we’ve grown 300% year over year. Yeah. And we’re now one of the fastest growing companies in America. And I feel very lucky,
Katie Hankinson (19:41):
That is phenomenal. And what do you think? I mean, in my mind, it takes a great deal of courage, focus and also the ability to spot an opportunity and dive in. That takes it there. But when you think about the thread that has carried you through in terms of what’s at the core of MikMak, whether it was in V1 or V2 or quick 2.0, what is at the core and the foundation of you and the company?
Rachel Tipograph (20:10):
I was used to fail. So resilience. I just so strongly believe in myself and I have no humility around being wrong. It’s all about learning from your mistakes and actually running a really capitally efficient business. So you can make mistakes. Thank God I’m frugal, because that gave me the runway to be able to do this pivot. And now I’ve created so much value for Gary Vaynerchuk and all of my shareholders, and they really believe in me.
Katie Hankinson (20:49):
I love that. And one about… We talked a little bit about 2020. How has 2020 impacted how you’re planning the next four months of the business or aspects of how your offering has changed?
Rachel Tipograph (21:04):
The offering hasn’t had to change, because we were ahead of the market, and then the market arrived. And I would say the clients… We’re just signing more grocery and liquor brands than we’ve ever signed before.
Rachel Tipograph (21:14):
So we definitely are doubling down and in those areas for sure. But we’re also seeing all the other categories really come back. I would say how I operate the business now is totally different, like most companies, so we’ve fully embraced remote work. I actually broke our Manhattan lease and I made a major message to the company it’s called MikMak Anywhere. You can work from wherever you want, in the U.S indefinitely. It’s been amazing for the employees, great for recruiting. It’s terrible for taxes for anyone who’s listening, but you got to do what you got to do. And so that’s been huge because working remotely, you fundamentally have to change how you do work as a company, the policies, the tech stack behind it. And so I’m really continuing that. I’m in 2021 planning now, and the business plan is making the assumption that we’re going to continue to operate remotely, but we’re also going to be doing a rapid expansion internationally as well.
Katie Hankinson (22:18):
Oh, how exciting. I feel like the CA has… It sounds like you were already doing this in terms of really approaching things from a frugal, keeping things tight from an CapEx perspective. But I think also just generally that attitude of pivoting the company and your company operations. We’ve done the full remote thing on the Sasha Group side, and same here. It’s just done so much for bringing the company together. Instead of it being three offices, who happen to be in different parts of the company, there is no office. We’re all one entire team and there’s so much fluidity. It does come hand in hand with the culture piece. Helping finding other ways to maintain the culture of a company. How are you tackling that as of interest?
Rachel Tipograph (23:05):
It’s so hard. You have to be so intentional. And I think the big thing about culture right now is making sure that your employees feel heard and seen, because there’s no more running into the CEO in the hallway. There’s no more being able to overhear a great idea organically. And so you have to create a lot of transparency into the company, in terms of opportunities for people, how you recognize your employees. You just have to be way more intentional. So, there’s big things that we’ve done and there’s little things. But sometimes the little things are the ones that really matter. So one of the things that we did was, we created a new Slack channel called praise yep. Where it gets integrated with our employee management system, which is called lattice. And so we took our company values.
Rachel Tipograph (24:03):
We have five core tenants. and we created this form that exists in lattice, where if one of your peers does something that truly exemplifies our values, you go in, you put it into lattice and then it blasts it to Slack. So the whole company sees it-
Katie Hankinson (24:21):
Rachel Tipograph (24:22):
… And, it’s a way for employees to celebrate each other. And then the entire employee base to have visibility into great work in an example of a great MikMaker. And it gets logged in the employee for their manager to see when it comes down to time for reviews, bonuses, et cetera. So, that’s a small tactical thing, that’s actually had a major cultural impact of the company. So that’s one example. A more fun thing literally this week. So every quarter we celebrate what happens in the quarter. And typically that would happen in person and we’d do something super fun.
Rachel Tipograph (24:58):
And then we’d go to a bar and like, whatever. But we can’t do that. So we found this service, it’s crazy. I don’t know how they’re making any money, but it’s called pizza time. And I encourage every employer to do this. So the company’s called Pizza Time. And essentially you set up a pizza moment for your company. You upload all your employees, email addresses, or whoever you want to do it with. The employee gets an email saying like, “Your boss wants to send you a pizza pie. Where are you going to be tomorrow at 1:00 PM.” Everyone enters their address. It can work anywhere in the U.S, and then literally the entire company, which is now completely dispersed all over the country, on Wednesday at 1:00 PM, get a pizza pie, entire pie delivered to their door. So it created… First of all, all this conversation in Slack about these pizzas and how does this work? And then everyone was freaking out and they were taking selfies. And so, that was a way to have a shared experience across the entire world.
Katie Hankinson (25:59):
Oh, I love that. That’s genius. Oh, it’s immediately going on the list of things for Sasha group. I guess the whole simultaneousness piece of that. Oh yeah, I love it. Digital turning into an instant moment for everyone. Awesome. And I love that… I think the employee praise thing is a really nice way. Everyone’s got some form of giving props to team, but actually turning it into something, that’s been systematized and feeds into proposals, I think makes a ton of sense. So I’m going to ask you final couple of questions, because I know we’re coming to the end of our time, but what are you up to right now? I saw you guys have launched the podcast. You’ve got all sorts of other irons and fires. What are you most excited in terms of what’s going on for you and MikMak right now?
Rachel Tipograph (26:46):
Well, yes. Everyone listen to Brave Commerce, my podcasts I’m doing with my friend, Sarah Hofstetter. It’s awesome. That’s awesome. We’re just crushing it. I truly believe everything that we’re doing from a product standpoint, we’re soon going to be changing how we fundamentally go to market. So in the coming weeks, you’re going to see a brand new website from us. That’s been a lot of work behind the scenes. We’re expanding internationally. We’re going to be working in new verticals that we’re not currently and we’re hiring like crazy. So everyone, please check out mikmak.com/careers.
Katie Hankinson (27:23):
Oh, I love it. My final question is down at dirty tactical. At the Sasha group, we work with a lot of clients who are on the smaller side startup, but also scale up brands. And quite a few of them have been owning and operating businesses and are only just exploring e-commerce for the first time. But knowing they have to jump in. What would be your top three tips of how to best prepare or adapt to that e-comm centric world. Now that they’re almost forced to, knowing that that’s something that they probably need to do in the long-term too?
Rachel Tipograph (27:57):
Yeah. There’s the e-commerce fundamentals. So you don’t even start with technology. First you have to have your whole supply chain logistics on lockdown. So yeah. Who’s manufacturing your product. Who’s distributing your product. How are you going to fulfill orders? Are you going to do that yourself, or are you going to use a third-party delivery service? And that’s number one, and then working out the unit economics around all of this, to make sure that it makes sense. Then you have to decide, are you going to go direct to consumer and like launch a Shopify, or big commerce, or are you going to go marketplace or wholesale? As a business, you really need to figure out what makes sense for you. The advantage of DTC is that you get to own your customer, and you collect all this first party data, but you’re in control of acquiring each and every one of those customers.
Rachel Tipograph (28:48):
And it’s quite expensive. The advantage of going marketplace wholesale is you have extreme reach. You are going to reach customers that you don’t have to pay for on your own. You just need to make sure that you’re really optimized for search, and that you’re fulfilling a need state that doesn’t currently exist in the merchandising mix, but you’re going to lose a bunch of the revenue and it’s probably less profitable. And, and so you have to figure out what makes sense for you. And then, you need to have your customer acquisition strategy and tech stack on lock down. So there’s different things that happen.
Rachel Tipograph (29:23):
And what I would say is, none of it’s rocket science, but if you’ve never done it before, if you’re a small business, you don’t need to run out and hire someone. Get yourself really educated. There’s so much materials online. Like Shopify, for example, has an amazing learning center, sort of Amazon. So read up on that and then talk to people who’ve done it before. Set it up yourself, so you understand the fundamentals. And once you get it humming, then hire someone, because it’s so important that you understand the fundamentals yourself.
Katie Hankinson (29:54):
I think that is so vital. It’s funny, because the exact same advice we often have with clients about just thinking about social media from a marketing perspective, try and spend time with Gary the way he said it he. He’s a practitioner first and foremost, and that enables him to be able to figure out exactly what path to take or how to advise others. So I think educate yourself, build something small that you can run yourself and then scale and bring in a team, is so vital for this space for sure.
Katie Hankinson (30:26):
Well, I thank you. I know I gave you a hugely broad question that basically was like, “Can you just give an inspire marketing diploma outline, and three bullet points.” But I super appreciate that.
Katie Hankinson (30:37):
And my final question for you is we always talk about the metaphor of Building While Flying. What is your pilot’s checklist as you jump into each day and get ready to be able to pivot and know what’s coming at you?
Rachel Tipograph (30:50):
I would say for me, every morning I wake up and I asked myself, “What is the one thing that I can do today that can truly move the company forward in a big way that only I can do.” So, that’s like my question. And then I try to do the most complicated things first. I’m a big believer in that, also because I’m a morning person. And by the end of the day, my brain is fried. And then I need to make sure that my employees are just very clear on the objectives and ownerships of work stream. And that’s like my whole job.
Katie Hankinson (31:22):
I love that. So, many of the conversations I’ve been having up till now have been so much about that intentionality and focus, but not trying to boil the ocean unknowing. I think it’s also important when you say the one thing that you personally, an owner you can do to move things forward versus all the things you could probably dedicate to someone else. Very crucial. Well, thank you so much, Rachel, for your time. It’s been wonderful speaking to you. I know there’ll be such interest in your space, loads of really great advice there really appreciate speaking to you today.
Rachel Tipograph (31:55):
Thank you so much for having me
Katie Hankinson (31:59):
Well, now that we’ve finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land, but before we do Mickey and I spent some time unpacking some of the key takeaways that really stuck out to us.
Mickey Cloud (32:10):
We liken this to the post game show where we break down the really extraordinary nuggets that we can all benefit from, including us here at the Sasha group. We’ll get ready for the Sasha sidebar.
Katie Hankinson (32:28):
Now, let’s chat about Rachel. It was really nice to speak to her. I actually met Rachel eight years ago, I think it was. She just starting out with MikMak, and so it was really interesting to hear the arc, but also the kind of pitfalls and redirects that she had really just gone straight at. It hadn’t held her up. She’d actually grown a strong offering through going through some of those challenges.
Mickey Cloud (32:55):
I remember… Shout out to Phil Toronto in Gary’s world of being his eyes and ears in the startup space. But I remember MikMak from when Phillip was first talking about Rachel and the product, but it’s been so cool to see that how she’s pivoted that business, and how it is a different business today than it was when it first started.
Katie Hankinson (33:16):
Mickey Cloud (33:18):
She’s like, “It’s just a name. I like the name. So I kept…Everything else changed.” I’ve seen that from the first time I’ve looked at the app to now what it is. And now I’ve had multiple calls with MikMak this year about getting some of our food beverage and liquor and spirits brands on the platform. And, that’s what she was saying. Like, “We started, beauty were some early adopters for us, but the food and beverage and wine and spirits, all of the things that have done well in COVID.” Certainly seeing the need to take e-com retailers way more seriously.
Katie Hankinson (33:58):
I think it’s also really interesting to see how brands like this are really helping with the Amazon or… they’re still going through the e-comm side of big digital retailers, but allowing you to still have some level of data and insight, and what she has is incredibly rich data so that you aren’t just throwing it into the black box of knowing the volume that you’ve sold and that’s about it. And at the mercy of your retailer, you actually start to have a much stronger sense of what is or isn’t performing for you.
Mickey Cloud (34:31):
Yeah. And I loved her… She brought it up at the end, but I loved her take on, “If you’re starting out…” You asked around like, “If you’re starting out or you’re just early stages of getting your business on e-commerce, what are some quick tips.” Kind of thing? And she gave the same advice you called this out. I was literally making the note. And then I heard you say it. I was like, “Okay, If, Katie went the exact same place I went.”
Mickey Cloud (34:54):
Which is this exact same advice we give to entrepreneurs and small business owners and even mid-market companies around social, which is take the time to educate yourself on how these platforms work, and get actual finger on keyboard experience, doing the work. Because you putting in that time to make that effort, is going to make you a better educated buyer of social media services, marketing services, e-commerce services down the line. And so you can talk and have intelligent conversations around. What’s actually working, different strategies, tactics, all those things. So, her advice around going to Google, YouTube, take the time to research and learn it for yourself. And once it goes beyond What you can do, or at least you’ve got a baseline knowledge, then you can hire someone, whether that’s internally, an agency, someone like MikMak or whatever.
Mickey Cloud (35:44):
But I love that advice because it’s the exact same advice. We talk about creating content and running ads on Facebook, Instagram TikTok et cetera, et cetera.
Katie Hankinson (35:55):
Yeah, I completely agree. It’s like learn enough to be dangerous and to be able to evaluate the advice that you’re being given or the decision you’re making, and then feel comfortable scaling or bringing in other people to take stuff on as you grow. Yeah. Right. To the bad-ass. And I also liked the way she’s truly cut from a similar clock as Gary, like right at the end, it was like, “What are you excited about?” She’s like, “I’m excited because for crushing it.” Yeah, you are.
Mickey Cloud (36:23):
In business. Yeah. I love it. The question I had in mind for our audience was, “Where are you at with e-commerce right now? Is that something that’s always been the, is it your business. You’re only a GDC model business, and you’re you want to grow from there to be omni-channel and look at other channels? Or is it something that COVID has accelerated for you?” Did you follow Rachel’s advice in terms of trying to learn it yourself before going hiring or someone? Did you hire someone? How, like what, what did that process, because it’s great advice for us to give we eat our own dog food, so we do those things as well, but I’m always curious how many people actually follow that versus, “You know what, I’d rather just pay someone to do this for me and if that’s worked for them or if it’s no, I actually needed to learn more about this space before I went and hired someone.”
Katie Hankinson (37:13):
Yeah. I love that. Where are you in your e-commerce journey?
Mickey Cloud (37:17):
Katie Hankinson (37:17):
Are you a true practitioner? Have you outsourced it? What are your experiences so far?
Mickey Cloud (37:24):
Thanks for joining us gain and for Building While Flying with the Sasha group today, I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight. If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times tune into the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us. Plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on Building While Flying, across brands, businesses, marketing, and more.
Katie Hankinson (37:50):
This podcast is produced by the firstname.lastname@example.org, original music by Fulton street music group.
Welcome to Building While Flying!
This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.
In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild; building the plane while flying.
Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.
Rachel Tipograph has been kicking a** in the industry since her early 20s.
As CEO and founder of the enterprising and marketing eCommerce platform MikMak, Rachel has watched customer trends like a hawk. In fact, she always has. Rachel started her career thinking she’d become a Hollywood agent, and even had a stint as an intern at SNL. But her entrepreneurial streak and flair for commerce led her a different direction. Long story short, Rachel ended up at GAP, increasing their profits by 70% and knocking a decade off their average customer age. She did all this at 22 years old.
This savvy spirit and keen eye led to the creation of MikMak at a pivotal time for eCommerce. She eventually had to do quite the pivot herself, and revamped her entire business model. The big guy, our very own Gary Vaynerchuk, was one of her investors. His confidence in her and her plan helped make that risky pivot possible, and it paid off big time. MikMak is now one of the fastest growing companies in America.
In this episode, recorded near the end of 2020, Rachel breaks down how the pandemic has completely shifted customer attitudes and behaviors. She tells us what people are buying now that they haven’t bought for decades. And she explains how she accumulates and tracks that data and how you use those same trends to adapt your current business model. She also lays ways she’s adjusted to a fully remote workforce while keeping everyone motivated and seen. This leader knows her stuff. No wonder Goldman Sachs named her one of “The 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs.” We were intrigued indeed, and this flight was a fun one.
Other in-flight topics:
- The many lists Rachel’s been featured on
- How Rachel transformed Gap
- Why corporate America isn’t so bad
- 2020 Consumer Demand
- How to know where to spend your media dollars
- Replenish, replenish, replenish
- Nostalgic buying
- Rachel’s hilarious meeting with Gary
- Rachel’s podcast Brave Commerce
- What’s on Rachel’s Pilot Checklist
- Two Words: PIZZA TIME