Meeting Your Consumers Where They Are (with Radically Delicious Soup).

Fixing the broken food system is no piece of cake—but one brand believes they can do it, one bowl of soup at a time. 

We do think that soup is the perfect food, and we're trying to get as many people all over the world to eat it, enjoy it, and get behind it.

Sara PolonCo-Founder and CEO of Soupergirl

Transcription

Saving the World One Bowl of Soup at a Time with Sara Polon, a.k.a., Soupergirl

 

Mickey Cloud (00:00):

Before we dive into today’s awesome episode with Sarah Polon from Soupergirl, I wanted to let this audience know about a fun conversation I’m having with our VaynerX chairman, Gary Vaynerchuk, the GaryVee, coming up on Wednesday, May 19th at 9:00 AM at the virtual Unvalley conference. We’ll link to the conference website in our show notes so you can get some more information, but for a quick overview, Unvalley is a two-day conference that explores the untapped potential of what they call the Unvalley, where the tech hubs and talent that exists beyond Silicon Valley, New York and Boston, where still, in 2021, majority of venture capital funding is funneled. Gary and I are having a keynote conversation about why VaynerX believes in the Unvalley, What brought us to Chattanooga over six years ago and all things, talent, entrepreneurship, and ecosystem building. It’s going to be an awesome conversation, so I hope you’ll check me and Gary out and feel free to hit me up on Twitter at my handle @MickeyCloud, to talk about the event now onto today’s episode of Building While Flying.

 

Katie Hankinson (00:54):

Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson.

 

Mickey Cloud (00:56):

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. Sarah Polon, welcome to Building While Flying.

 

Sarah Polon (01:18):

Thank you, thank you. I love that name. I love that name. When I saw the name, I was like, yes, yes.

 

Mickey Cloud (01:23):

You know it, you know it. Yes. Well, Sarah is a former standup comedian turned soup maker, and currently serves as the CEO of Soupergirl, the radically delicious soup company that we at The Sasha Group absolutely love. Sarah, you’re the CEO, but you’re also the Soupergirl, right? So can you give…

 

Sarah Polon (01:41):

That is correct.

 

Mickey Cloud (01:42):

Can you give people a little more context on Soupergirl, and what you and the team are up to?

 

Sarah Polon (01:46):

Yes, absolutely. So, as you mentioned, I’m a recovering comic. I hope to return. I do love the stage, but my mom and I started this business in 2008 with a extraordinarily humble mission of changing the world, one bowl of soup at a time, no big whoop. A little bit of naivete, chutzpah, and ignorance. And here we are 12 years later, still trying to figure it out. But we still have the passion, and we love what we’re doing, which is the most important thing. So we do think that soup is the perfect food, and we’re trying to get as many people all over the world to eat it, enjoy it, and get behind it. We have expanded our menu quite a bit, but soup is definitely our hero product, and you can find our products on our website. We deliver all over the country, and then you can also find us at Whole Foods, Costco, Wegmans, Amazon Fresh, Peapod. So we’re really trying to meet shoppers where they are, which is a… That’s a whole journey.

 

Mickey Cloud (02:51):

We’ll be diving into that for sure.

 

Sarah Polon (02:52):

Yeah. But we still believe in our mission, and if anything, we believe in it now more than ever, after the pandemic has just laid bare the ugly truths behind our food system and how there’s a lot of room for improvement, which is great, and consumers are paying attention. So we’re pretty excited about that.

 

Mickey Cloud (03:11):

Awesome. Well, we know behind every superhero, there’s an origin story, and I know yours includes the incredible Soupermom. You already mentioned Marilyn, your co-founder. So I guess, can you talk a little bit about your upbringing together and what led y’all to start a soup company together?

 

Sarah Polon (03:30):

She’s always… That’s a great question. People ask what it’s like to work with your mom, and it’s so much fun. I mean, she’s hilarious.

 

Mickey Cloud (03:39):

She is.

 

Sarah Polon (03:40):

And the trust is, people love her. They’re like, “Oh, hi, Soupergirl, but Soupermom is awesome,” and she’s got no shame. She’s got a tremendous amount of chutzpah and she’s got guts and she never complains, and she’s got a lot of energy, which I think is largely due to her approach to health, health and wellness. She’s a perfect example of how… She really shouldn’t be as healthy as she is. Genetically speaking, she should be a freaking mess. And she, out before COVID, traveling and working, and she’s in her seventies, but she’s opinionated, but she’s usually right. And so when we started, I originally had a partner who backed out. I’m still very close with this person. She had a growing family and it was dawning on her how difficult it was going to be to run a business, and she was right. And so my mom naively said, “I’ll help you.” And that was, I think she had no idea, neither one of us had any idea.

 

Sarah Polon (04:43):

And I think if we had truly thought this out and could’ve seen into the future, I think we would have been like, “Are you kidding me?” But we just, her, neither one of us, we pride ourselves in the fact that neither one of us went to cooking school, and we’re really self-taught in terms of how to make a good bowl of soup, and also our approach to nutrition and wellness. We really just kind of tried to educate ourselves as much as possible when it comes to food, production and cooking, and then just share this with people. And there’s no nefarious, there’s no corporate sponsor. There’s no evil anything. It’s just like, this is the way we eat. This is our approach to food. We think we’re onto something. And it turns out people agree with us. And now we’re just trying to figure out, like… We think we can make the world better with this type of brand.

 

Sarah Polon (05:38):

We think we can make the world better, people’s healths better, everything better if we just get more and more people to eat Soupergirl. And so, it’s just great working with someone who has such passion and energy.

 

Mickey Cloud (05:51):

Well that’s awesome. Well, before we dive too deep into Soupergirl, I don’t want to gloss over the fact that you’re a recovering comic and still would love to one day perform. And I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about this, but I just, I really admire standup comedians. Like you talked about Huntsville, that takes a lot of guts to get on that stage with a mic. And so, just for me personally, I’m curious, what were your favorite memories from those days? And then maybe on the more kind of business side, are there lessons you took from the standup world into your startup world?

 

Sarah Polon (06:19):

Absolutely. I entered comedy, I’ve reconnected with several of my comedy friends as I’m trying to work on my brand a lot, and we’ve reminisced. And I entered the comedy world actually right after September 11th. And it was actually an amazing time because New York, I moved to New York, and I just dove in, started going to open mics, taking classes, networking, and just throwing myself out there. And New York was just, was so obviously wounded, but bonded, and there was this feeling of comradery, and the first comedy show I went to post-September 11th to date was the funniest… It is the funniest comedy show I’ve ever seen in my life. Janeane Garofalo is on stage, Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, who has since passed. But I remember I was crying, I was laughing so hard, because it was cathartic.

 

Mickey Cloud (07:21):

Such a release, yeah.

 

Sarah Polon (07:22):

And it was in this place called Luna Lounge, which has now turned into condos, which is so sad. I went with my boyfriend. It was actually in December of 2019, who knew it was going to be the last time I went to New York for a very long time, we used to go up every year. I was taking him around the lower east side. I’m like, “A, my grandparents lived in teeny, teeny apartments here, and B, this is where my comedy roots were born, and it’s unrecognizable.” And that’s like, ah, but this show, it was like… It was Monday nights was called Eating It at Luna Lounge, and you would see Dave Chappelle, Sarah Silverman, I mean, these great people, and people that I got… That were in my cohort, if you will, who went on to do great things. Demetri Martin, Mike Birbiglia, and it was like an industry night. I mean, people from the public would come, but you would just hang out, and every Monday night we went there and it was just awesome.

 

Sarah Polon (08:26):

And we got to be there when all of these people were like working out their stuff. Yeah. And it was just, it was amazing. And in terms of comedy, you have to have very thick skin, be quick on your feet, and you better be funny, hello. And so I’m trying to infuse that into the brand. And it’s hard. It’s really hard because we’re a brand on a mission and that can offend people, because I remember being asked, I remember maybe it was… I was asking or being in a conversation where the question was posed, “What’s your approach to food?” And what I realized is, most people are like, “I’m hungry, so I’ll eat something.” [crosstalk 00:09:15] And I live in this bubble. Yes. I live in this bubble where I’m trying to know the story and how that got your plate and blah, blah, blah.

 

Sarah Polon (09:23):

And most people have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And it’s questionable if they care, and that’s okay, I’m not… And so, to be able to communicate that we want to educate you, but we don’t want to be jerks, but we gently think if you eat this way, the world gets better and your health will get better, but it’s so hard not to want to shake everybody and be like, “You don’t need all the pills, and you don’t need all of the…” It’s like, you can take control of your life, and it’s just, so I’m trying to really dig into my comedy background to kind of…

 

Mickey Cloud (10:01):

Disarm.

 

Sarah Polon (10:02):

Yeah. And comedians have a really… Good comedians, have a way of approaching difficult subjects with humor and getting us to laugh at topics that aren’t, you don’t think of as funny, but we need to talk about, so I’m trying to dig into those roots [crosstalk 00:10:25].

 

Mickey Cloud (10:25):

Like the broken food system.

 

Sarah Polon (10:26):

Not funny, but like…

 

Mickey Cloud (10:29):

Let’s talk about it.

 

Sarah Polon (10:30):

Crazy. Yeah. We got to talk about it.

 

Mickey Cloud (10:33):

So you moved home to DC and identified the broken food system as something you wanted to tackle. I want to touch on, I guess next, you mentioned meeting consumers where they are. And so you launched with a retail shop of your own. You’re doing delivery in and around DC, you’re growing distribution. You’re doing e-commerce. That, I think, is one of the most intriguing aspects of your business is just how you support all those different channels.

 

Sarah Polon (11:02):

This is a conversation I was having with the board this morning. They were like, “What’s the channel strategy?” I’m like, “All the food to all the people.”

 

Mickey Cloud (11:10):

So what’s the toughest part of that? All the food to all the people. What’s…

 

Sarah Polon (11:13):

Yeah. Distribution is so hard. It’s so hard. I’m actually reading a book now that I do recommend. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops. It’s called The Secret of the Supermarket, I think. I got to get that right. And I’m flipping through it like a novel, and it exposes the ugly underbelly of everything that goes into the food that ends up on the supermarket shelf. And he’s talking about the farmers and the small producers and the truckers and the slotting fees and everything that goes into actually getting your product on a shelf is, it’s crazy. And we were trying to attack it all. And I will say COVID, while it’s been a horror on so many levels, it did force us to focus and realize where our energies were being… I don’t want to say wasted, but not really. Where we weren’t being efficient.

 

Mickey Cloud (12:14):

So what were those…

 

Sarah Polon (12:16):

So our stores, we’re trying to start a revolution. We’re trying to start a soup revolution. And while I adore meeting, seeing consumers come in every day, it’s very hard to manage a retail location, even just one. And we had two. It’s very hard, because like, I would get off the phone with Wegmans, or be at a meeting and then have to come in and close the shop at night and mop the floor because the closer didn’t show up. That’s not a good use of energy and time. And so we’re not going to reopen our stores. And then our retail, we were… We didn’t have enough resources. We were kind of, one person was handling D to C and retail, and another person was handling some of the retail, and so, we had to form our buckets. You are in charge of D to C, you are in charge of retail, you are in charge of product development, this is our goal, and we had to get focused.

 

Sarah Polon (13:21):

And when we have that focus, we are more easily able to see the vision of all the food to all the people, understanding that if you go to Whole Foods, you’re not probably going to get all of the food on our website yet, but if we could build the case, maybe. But as long as we stay focused and understand that goal… Our vision to save the world one bowl of soup at a time, we can get there, I hope.

 

Mickey Cloud (13:51):

I heard the other day that the pandemic has accelerated five years of e-commerce growth in one year. And so I was curious, with that focus, with letting the stores go and focusing on D to C and then your wholesale distribution, retail partners, what’s been some of the… How did that play out in Soupergirl’s world from a D to C perspective?

 

Sarah Polon (14:18):

Yeah. It’s funny you say that because I don’t think people know. Nobody knows. Nobody knows what they’re talking about, they’re just guessing. Because it’s too short of a time. It’s too short of a… At the beginning of this, I think we thought this was going to last like two, three years. The development of a vaccine in this amount of time is…

 

Mickey Cloud (14:44):

Crazy.

 

Sarah Polon (14:45):

It’s crazy. And I remember being on the phone with a… We’re in DC and some of our clients are big [inaudible 00:14:54], big people. And I remember being on the phone with this leading epidemiologist, and he was like, “This is…” He asked me if my team was cooking in hazmat suits, and did I understand that this was two and a half years minimum? And so the fact that we’re reemerging a year later is, it’s… I don’t know if these habits have been permanently changed. Certainly there are some people who are… Have seen the light with online, with app shopping, with delivery, but there are a ton of people like my mom, the minute she got her second, thank God she behaved, because that could have gone either way.

 

Sarah Polon (15:36):

She behaved, she stayed home for a year. She and my dad, it’s a miracle they’re still married. They are, they’re great. But like, wow. But they behaved, and the first thing she did two weeks after her second shot was go back to the store. She hated shopping on apps. It was confusing and she never got what she wanted. And there are a lot of people, and I think retailers have to come… It’s terrible for retailers to have online shoppers. There’s no differentiation. So retailers have to work on giving customers a reason to come back to the store. And I think that’s going to be to highlight emerging brands and to really show how you can interact with cool brands if you come back to the store. So I’m not convinced that everything has changed, and I’m not ready to double down on one channel yet.

 

Sarah Polon (16:25):

But we’re working on fixing our D to C, because we… The pandemic, we were at the point of like really thinking about phasing it out and just retail, retail, retail. That changed dramatically, obviously. Retail became impossible. We couldn’t get buyers to call us back. We couldn’t get in and do demos. And I got to say, emerging brands like ours suffered, because I don’t have the budget to buy a banner ad on the top of the Instacart app or the Whole Foods app. I don’t have that budget. So I needed my website, but my website was not set up for that volume flexibility, and so it was just kind of changing things on the fly. Now we’re really focusing on, okay, we have a year of data, we understand what the consumers want. We understand where we fell and where we can fix it. And so we’re iterating again and, but I’m not ready to double down on one of those two channels.

 

Mickey Cloud (17:25):

Yeah, that makes sense.

 

Sarah Polon (17:26):

I have to see.

 

Mickey Cloud (17:29):

Yeah, well there’s opportunity in both, so, and it’s just how you prioritize and get through it. So you’ve brought up a couple times, you’re on a mission to save the world one bowl of soup at the time. Let’s talk about that a little bit, because you’ve got the superhero motif, you’ve got the branding, the radically delicious positioning, your premium and good-for-you soups, but that those are all underpinned around, we got to fix our food system. So why is that mission important to you and how does it manifest in how you run the company day to day?

 

Sarah Polon (18:06):

That’s a great question. So every time we have our weekly meeting, we start off with just a reminder of the golden rule, and our team is, we remind each other and it’s supposed to be hanging at everybody’s desks wherever they’re working is, treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s really what it’s all about. And what is others? To me, that’s humans, animals, the workers, the fields, the earth. Other is the big other. And we need to make sure that we’re respecting all of the others when we produce every single bowl of soup and we make every decision. And when it comes down to cost cutting, when it comes to retailer partnerships, when it comes to our supply chain, we need to keep that in mind when we make our decisions. Who we’re buying from, who we’re distributing to.

 

Sarah Polon (18:49):

And we’ve had some awkward conversations where we don’t know if certain partners or certain brokers or distributors are really living up to the values that we try to uphold. So, but in terms of why, I mean, what’s my differentiator? I’m not so naive to think that there aren’t other good soups out there. There are, I think they’re a little salty, but what is our differentiator? It’s our brand, and our brand and our values. And it’s the approachability, I hope. I think we haven’t nailed it yet, to be clear. We’re still trying to figure out how to communicate this, but if we can be the brand that people think it’s like so much fun and they stand for so much, I’m part of this community, I’m in with Soupergirl, I’m part of team soup, and we’re really making progress. That’s what’s going to differentiate ourselves. That’s why, when you go to the supermarket, you see three brands of soup, it’s going to be a no brainer that of course you buy Soupergirl, because of everything we stand for, and P.S., it’s delicious. Let’s not forget, you better be making a good product.

 

Mickey Cloud (19:55):

How do you share back that progress? Because I know in some of our conversations, you’ve talked about like, what is sustainable farming? There’s a lot of organic, there’s things that… It can be a complex communications…

 

Sarah Polon (20:14):

It’s hard.

 

Mickey Cloud (20:14):

Category. And so, when you talk about, we only work with suppliers that share our values and things like that, I guess, what are the ways you’re… And we’re making progress, you used that phrase, I’ve been curious, how do you, how do you prove that?

 

Sarah Polon (20:34):

Well, first of all, we don’t only because we’d go bankrupt, but we’re trying, we’re trying. But I don’t think we’re communicating it well. I think that we put a lot of money into our values. I mean, my CFO is always like, “If we’re going to spend this amount of money on compost, you better let people know that that’s why it costs a little bit more.” And that’s where we’re struggling, where we need to have people… It’s a very complicated conversation to have, because you have a lot of people that will march for a minimum wage increase, as they should, and then go to Trader Joe’s and buy soup for $2. And we got slammed on… Not slammed, but one of the things, we were on Shark Tank, and one of the reasons people were upset with us is because we don’t outsource, we don’t use a co-packer, someone else… We don’t use someone else to make our soup.

 

Sarah Polon (21:30):

And I visited co-packers and I remember one, I went to this co-packer and I’m telling you, when we were touring the floor, not one worker would make eye contact with the owner, and he didn’t acknowledge them. And then I think to another partner we work with, this distributor that we’ve just worked with from time to time. And whenever I spend the day with him, this man goes out onto the floor and greets every staff person and knows he has… He has no staff turnover. He has no turnover because he knows their whole life story. “Hey, good morning, Louis, how’s your mother, blah, blah, blah.” And so that’s who I want to be. I want to be Lou Martini. I don’t want to be that co-packer, but it’s on me to then communicate, because if consumers don’t make that connection, then we’re going to fail. We’re going to fail.

 

Mickey Cloud (22:24):

Well, when you live up to it, though, it can bring… There’s such opportunity with that. So that’s what’s [crosstalk 00:22:35].

 

Sarah Polon (22:34):

I hope so.

 

Mickey Cloud (22:36):

Well, what’s, what’s next for Soupergirl? You mentioned that this year has brought a lot of focus and opportunity, but what are you guys working on?

 

Sarah Polon (22:48):

So we’re working on building out that D to C experience. We’re working on changing up the experience online so consumers A, really understand what our brand is all about, and B, can get more food to everywhere. And then on our retail front, we’re really trying to push new retailers. We’re trying to propose to our current partners and future ones, “Hey, pay attention to us.” We’re going to go in there. We’re not going to do food demos, because I don’t know when those are coming back, but we’re going to give signage, we’re going to have informational demos. We’re going to have QR codes that let people know, hey, scan here, and you’re going to get to know all about Soupergirl and why it’s a no-brainer to go with Soupergirl instead of X. And that’s what our job is, to just communicate those values. And so what’s next is both those channels, brand communication, and expansion.

 

Mickey Cloud (23:41):

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Have there been any trend… You mentioned you’ve got a year’s worth of data on the D to C, side and what are some of the things that are popping from that data and showing like, are you connecting with some of that… New consumers or what have you learned from a year in of really being in the trenches on the D to C side?

 

Sarah Polon (24:05):

Variety. People want variety. We’ve learned that people, they don’t want to come back and see the same menu, and they’re smart to see like, if you just have the same menu and just pull things and plug things in and just rotate it every two months, they’re like, I see what you’re doing. We’re constantly adding new and exciting things, keeping the favorites, but keeping things interesting. That’s what I’m seeing. I’m seeing people want variety and they do want convenience.

 

Mickey Cloud (24:36):

So you’re putting Soupermom to work on some new recipe ideas.

 

Sarah Polon (24:40):

Yeah. She’s having a blast.

 

Mickey Cloud (24:44):

Awesome. Well, last question. You mentioned you immediately connected with Building While Flying as a concept, and we love it because it obviously speaks to the nimbleness, the flexibility, the foresight you need to operate in business, but also because pilots are renowned for their in-flight checklists, so that when training they’ve got when… Keeps them calm under pressure. So when your back’s against the wall, when you’ve got to make a tough decision, what’s that internal checklist process for you?

 

Sarah Polon (25:14):

What I have learned the hard way is, I have to listen to my consumers and that I have to look at the data. And I think the biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is deciding that we know what consumers want, and we’re going to present that to them. And it’s really created a lot of… It’s created a difficult website experience, it’s created a… It’s just hasn’t worked for us, and so we are going through this whole shift of no, what does the data say? And what does the consumer say? And let’s make every decision based on fact. And so our checklist is data, consumer feedback, over and over and over again. And I’m embarrassed to say we haven’t… That’s new for us, as opposed to being like, number 10 on the list is number one and two instead of nine and 10.

 

Mickey Cloud (26:10):

That’s awesome. Well, that’s exciting, because that means you’re going to be building a stronger relationship with the consumer and you’re going to be able to pull them through, and that should translate on all channels, not just your own.

 

Sarah Polon (26:26):

I do hope so.

 

Mickey Cloud (26:28):

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking time today. This has been awesome to catch up and hear how you’re doing.

 

Sarah Polon (26:37):

Absolutely, Mickey. Thank you for thinking of me. It’s a great podcast, you have great questions. So I appreciate you having me.

 

Katie Hankinson (26:45):

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 (26:56):

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, so get ready for The Sasha Sidebar.

 

Katie Hankinson (27:12):

Hey, Mickey.

 

Mickey Cloud (27:13):

Hey, Katie.

 

Katie Hankinson (27:14):

Great interview with Sarah, the ultimate Soupergirl.

 

Mickey Cloud (27:19):

The ultimate Soupergirl. That’s right.

 

Katie Hankinson (27:21):

Yeah. She was amazing, really honest and transparent and super generous, super generous with her learnings about how it’s been to run and grow a business. And also, of course, so much vitality and wholesome energy. She’s like, the embodiment of the Soupergirl brand. She really is.

 

Mickey Cloud (27:38):

Yeah. It’s definitely built on her and her mom like, that is a real, authentic story, and she’s bringing it to life.

 

Katie Hankinson (27:48):

I loved your question about her previous life as a comedian and what she had carried through from one to the other. And I thought it was so interesting what she said about, I mean, very much in the theme of Building While Flying, but the idea of being quick on your feet and adaptable, but also the other threads I picked up as she was talking were, one being about work ethic and just really being able to take the hits and pick yourself back up again. Even if you don’t connect with the audience, I’m drawing inferences from that, but I think that tracks right the way through to now, as Soupergirl, being able to stand up and figure out the next move, even if you’re being hit by COVID or some unexpected aspect of the business.

 

Mickey Cloud (28:38):

Yeah, and [crosstalk 00:28:39].

 

Katie Hankinson (28:38):

Well, go ahead.

 

Mickey Cloud (28:38):

And then the way she kind of talked about at the end, comedians have a way of approaching difficult subjects with humor and getting us to laugh at topics that aren’t funny, but that we’ve got to talk about. And that’s certainly one of the big challenges that she has from a brand perspective is the education of why Soupergirl is kinder to all others, and you know what I mean, is living by the values that she set out the golden rule and all the food to all the people, all those things. And she’s trying to get people to think about the food choices they make and the system that they support by what they buy.

 

Katie Hankinson (29:21):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Understanding the power of story. I wrote down that point she made at the end around, if consumers don’t make that connection with the stories you’re telling about the brand, then that could be failure. And I think, in some ways, she obviously has a wonderful product, but also connecting with people on that deeper level, in a way that telegraphs your values. It also attracts the right consumer, is going to be a big part of that story.

 

Mickey Cloud (29:49):

I thought it’s interesting she made that connection, because it’s definitely not something that I’ve thought about, where she said, “People will march for minimum wage increases, but then go to Trader Joe’s and buy $2 soup,” not making the connection that it’s costs $2 probably because someone along that supply chain is not getting a paid minimum wage of $15. And so there’s dissonance there.

 

Katie Hankinson (30:13):

Yeah. I thought that her, just that super simple line that we all know from kindergarten around treat others as you would be treated, that living as the core tenant of her value system does so much, really simply, to nodding to what you’re speaking about, which is just making sure that every person who touches the business knows that that is the ethos behind it, but also it puts a different face on the access, the all the food to all the people thing, it’s more about a democratic access and it is a sort of patronizing access, all the food to all the people. The other thing I thought was pretty awesome to hear her talk through was just some of the challenges and the forced focus that COVID had brought her. She’s really having to make some tough decisions about closing the stores and figuring out what the retail partnership’s going to look like when we come out of COVID. And I thought that was obviously tough lessons, but something that hopefully will mean they emerge stronger. And then the other piece that [crosstalk 00:31:27].

 

Mickey Cloud (31:26):

It’s a theme that we’ve heard through a lot of our conversations with the businesses coming back and yeah, to your point around, now she’s got… She’s like, “We haven’t had enough data, it’s only been a year. We don’t know if shopping habits have truly changed.” As the world starts to open back up, are people going to go back to grocery stores back in the way they were, and they’re just not going to order on Instacart or on DoorDash anymore. And so her now, she’s looking at the data more closely, but she’s also withholding judgment on, am I not going to over correct one way or the other?

 

Katie Hankinson (32:05):

Yeah. So smart. I think it’s going to be fascinating to see which of these behaviors and habits have changed permanently, and we’re going to start to see that shaking out in the next year, and also the changing role of retailers. I thought there was an interesting edge to this idea that now retail is going to have a job to do, to draw people back to the store. And that could mean showcasing emerging brands or creating experiences that are different. And that changes the dynamic a little bit, in terms of who’s got the leverage. So…

 

Mickey Cloud (32:38):

Yeah. Hopefully that’s a tailwind for her.

 

Katie Hankinson (32:41):

For sure. So what’s our question going to be this episode?

 

Mickey Cloud (32:47):

I think we’d like to know if any entrepreneurs out there had a former life, the way that Sarah is recovering standup comic, and what kind of lessons did they take from that previous previous path, and had brought over to them in their entrepreneurial journey?

 

Katie Hankinson (33:05):

Love it. Lessons learned, and what do they bring?

 

Mickey Cloud (33:08):

Thanks for joining us, gang, 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.

 

Mickey Cloud (33:19):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to 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 (33:34):

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.

Sara Polon and her team have a bold mission: to make the world better with soup.

Sara Polon is a former standup comedian turned self-taught soupmaker. She and her mother started Soupergirl in 2008, with a mission to fix the broken food system, and share everything they’ve learned along the way. Their soups are truly one of a kind—made with seasonal ingredients, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and radically delicious.

In their conversation, Sara and Mickey first dive into Sara’s background in comedy, and how those skills help and impact her as a business owner. Then Sara goes deep on the current food system, people’s different approaches to food, and how Soupergirl is making a difference, and will continue to do so. Sara also talks about meeting your consumers where they are, and shares how the COVID-19 pandemic forced her and her team to refocus their vision and channel strategy from retail to DTC. At the end of the day, Sara says, as long as they remain focused and understand their vision, we will get there.

If you’re craving some soup after listening, head to the Soupergirl website to find where you can buy some near you, or to order some for delivery right to your door.

Other in-flight topics:

  • Standup comedy in New York City
  • Starting a business with your mother
  • Infusing comedy background as a business owner
  • Defining your approach to food
  • Fixing the broken food system
  • How the COVID-19 forced them to refocus their channel strategies
  • How to meet your consumers where they are
  • The challenges of communicating a values-focused brand story

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