Entrepreneurship Podcast post

Sustainable Innovation with Olivia Herron

George Grombacher November 3, 2023

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Sustainable Innovation with Olivia Herron

LifeBlood: We talked about finding sustainable innovation, how to go from idea to revenue, what to do after a successful launch, and what to do when you have a terrible idea, with Olivia Herron, GM of Innovation with SamCart.       

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You can learn more about Olivia at SamCart.com, Facebook, TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Olivia Herron

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Libby Heron is the GM of innovation with Sam cart. They’re an E commerce platform for digital creators empowering them with the tools they need to bring their ideas to life. Welcome, Olivia.

Olivia Herron 0:14
Hi there. How are you?

george grombacher 0:15
I am awesome. excited to have you on. Tell us about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Olivia Herron 0:23
Well, I guess on the personal life, I’m a mom of three, based in Austin, Texas, and just sort of living the the Texas dream in the heat or the ice storm, depending on your preference. And my why I do what I do. Well, I had the chance to work for the small business group at Mehta in North America. For a few years, I loved that work, empowering small businesses. And it became something that was very near and dear to our heart at the end of the day. And thinking through how to enable others to really be successful entrepreneurs start their own things, manage small businesses, is something that has always super inspired me. And so when Justin Smith, the CEO of SamCart, said, We have a business line for you to run in typeset that empower small businesses, I joined. And it’s been awesome. Ever since I felt like I was putting kind of putting my money where my mouth was we invest in some small businesses here in Austin. And then, you know, I had the opportunity to spend day to day working with small businesses to make sure that they had the tools they needed to be successful. So I

george grombacher 1:29
love it. We have a business to run and typeset I’m not smart enough to know what that means. Good.

Olivia Herron 1:36
Fair, fair question. So back in May, Sam cart made the decision to partner with and purchase a platform at the time that was called Drop deck. It is a platform for building presentations, like sales presentations, you can build ebooks, you can actually create social media content to promote your business at the end of the day. The idea being that, you know, there are lots of tools out there that can help you create really beautiful looking things. But you’re asking lots and lots of people who are not designers to become designers to cram their idea into a template. And instead, Stefan and BARCHI, who founded this company, approached it in a slightly different manner. And focused you really on putting your ideas in writing, and then taking your writing and turning it into really beautiful content. So you didn’t have to be a designer anymore. And we launched the product about four months ago, it has exploded in a great way. We have a lot of people using it now called typeset. And really, what we’re seeing is a lot of small businesses use it to like get easy sales, pitches out the door, easy onboarding, or HR training for their employees, easy ways to make one piece of content and then proliferate it into multiple pieces of content. So they can publish it to social channels, etc. So I got to hop on board and and build that with them and really see some awesome small businesses using it.

george grombacher 3:02
It makes a ton of sense. So gm of innovation, so it makes sense that you were working on a new thing you get to put in people’s hands. What else does that mean? I’m sure that yeah, that’s innovation going on.

Olivia Herron 3:20
There there is. So gm of innovation is an interesting title, a lot of a lot of pressure comes behind that title. But I think one of the things you know, when you join an established business, like Sam cart, that really has been a leader from an E commerce perspective for creators, you also realize that you always need to be kind of looking for that next hockey stick growth line. And that has to come through really deliberate testing, and launching of a variety of things. And so, for SamCart, that first started with a product called Creator, you it’s a platform for the 47 million people who call themselves creators and are really not ready to start selling to get ready to start selling. So like what do they need to do from a marketing perspective? What kind of content should they sell or build all of those different things? And then turn it over into typeset? When that was acquired to do the same thing, like, Hey, we’ve got to get this out the door? Who are our initial kind of ICPs? Why should we target them? What do we do with them? How do we build this business? It wasn’t paywalled previously. So we took it from zero to we have almost 6000 paying customers today. So it’s been this kind of awesome opportunity to test and iterate and figure out how we do that in smart ways that have the right measurement behind them, and the right priorities behind them. And then you know that you’re really honest with yourself after doing the tests and you say like, this is awesome, and it really worked or like this did not work and my idea was terrible, which can be really hard. But what we’re you know, our team is getting really revved up on this idea of you know, two and three week testing Sprint’s that allow us to figure out if we’ve got Product Market Fit figured out if we’ve got the right additional feature, figured out if people can figure out typeset, and then go in and make changes and modify so that, you know, at the end of the day, we’re successful, our customers are successful, which is ultimately the thing we want.

george grombacher 5:25
You feel like going from zero to 6000. paying customers is essentially proof of concept for what you’re trying to do. Like help other people go from zero to 6000, kind of a thing?

Olivia Herron 5:37
That would be great. I think yes, and no, I think that, on the one hand, what we’ve learned is that there is clear demand for support and creating things that look nice, you could go out and purchase like a Canva. But again, you have to have a designer’s eye, you have to be able to put the pieces together know what you’re looking for. And, frankly, they have so many templates, it’s hard to navigate, figure out where you need to go. And so I think what we’ve proven is this model where instead of needing that designers, I you can spend the time actually on the ideas, and let us do the designing for you is is really, really valuable. There’s a lot of demand there. I think what we have yet to figure out what we’re working on as a team is like, what are the resources necessary to support this, for example, or? And by that I mean, like onboarding materials and market? How do we inspire you and all these things? We haven’t yet figured out the team’s component of this. So like, if there are four or five people on your team using it, do we have all the features in place that are necessary for you to be successful there? So those types of things, I think, are kind of the next iteration of this. On the you always want to sit like celebrate, you want to be like, Yes, we did this, we did this in 120 days, like this is incredible how much we’ve done. And on the other hand, you’re constantly I think this is true as a professional or a parent, you’re constantly I should have done that better. Why did I do it that way that time, or like, Oh, I see this tiny problem over here. And I’ve got to go fix this. And so you’re kind of in that I’m in that stage right now of being like, Yeah, we did this. And also we have so much to go do, which is exciting and scary and rewarding sort of all at the same time.

george grombacher 7:23
Right? Because you need sustainable success to Yeah, sustainable

Olivia Herron 7:27
success. That has I mean, one thing you know, that’s true about a company that goes from zero to 6000, in that period of time is like, we don’t have a lot of operations in place. Yet. As an example, like everyone has been at full sprint all the time, that is not sustainable. Like I need to go to Pilates twice a week like and be a sane person. And the other day I pinged one of the cofounders of typeset. And he was like, oh my god, I’m so sorry, I just I needed to go for a workout. But I’m like, oh my god, go for her workout not acceptable. Get back to the important like, and you know, we have this joke about needing hobbies outside of our jobs. And so like, I think that there is an awareness of like, you can be in these sort of like high tech, early stage, innovative startup areas, and you can do it in a sustainable way. And that doesn’t mean like, I wake up every day at 5am. And like journal, like I definitely I cannot wake up at five, I’m probably awake at 5am. But it’s because my child is not by choice. But you can make other decisions along the way that like make your life easier and you ruthlessly prioritize to ensure that like whatever time you do, have, you’re doing the absolute most that you can, and again, that you’re like documenting and you’re measuring, and you’re making decisions based on that information, and you’re kind of like moving on to the next thing. Yeah, I

george grombacher 8:43
appreciate that. You referenced a sprint of two to some weeks. What was it that you said

Olivia Herron 8:50
we sprinted for about forms? I wish it was weeks, it was kind of months. But we sprinted for about four months, you know from the start basically of the paywall, so getting the paywall live, until we just did a pretty large kind of telling all of the SamCart customers about typeset. So there was kind of four weeks in there where we crammed in from a product and engineering perspective, a ton of new features and use cases. And then from a go to market perspective, a ton of learning, like get on the phone and talk to your customers and see what they need. And and then testing and iterating on ads and all these other things. So there was a lot of sprinting to make sure that every every all the systems were operating as functionally as they could under that kind of sprint and with the resources that we had. And now it’s like, okay, we’ve like rebranded. We’ve, you know, hit a threshold in terms of customers like now let’s like sit down and really strategically focus on like two or three things that we need to get done and increment our way

george grombacher 9:58
is that similar to what What you help your customers to do, I know that you’re helping your customers to create beautiful things with just the idea. So you’re not making them designers. But it just strikes me that you’re freeing them up to, instead of them trying to piece everything together on their own, they can come to one place and get their idea out there. And then you help them sort of do the rest of they’re free to go focus on other stuff.

Olivia Herron 10:21
Yeah, I mean, actually, that’s a great lens to view all of this through, like incrementing your way and finding the different pieces that you know, as a small business, at the end of the day, make you successful is, I think, like a critical component of being successful, but also a really hard one, because you do have to do this test and iterate and when it’s you or when it’s you and one other person, you don’t have a lot of people to bounce ideas off, you have to sort of seek out where to find different tools, different resources, you have to take the time to learn those tools, and resources. And I would say I’m only like marginally tech savvy, when it comes to stuff like that, and I’ll give up really easily. And so, you know, you have to be committed to that craft in that process so that in the same vein, you can get to a place where you’re like, Okay, I’ve sprinted and I’ve gotten to here, and now I’m going to set myself up kind of from that operational and incremental standpoint to continue moving forward. That’s a great lens.

george grombacher 11:24
So every day, as you’re going through four months of paywalls, up, we are now onboarding customers in 6000. That’s awesome. So congratulations there. That’s a that’s no small feat, obviously. And I’m sure that they came in just just one after another instead of 5000. At once. But I’m making a joke there somehow. So what is the gap Pilates a couple of times a week, and probably hopefully, we’ll be able to up that to three, or however many times you want to go. Maybe what else? What else do what else has to go into your day? Not necessarily from Pilates, but from a business, whatever you want to share?

Olivia Herron 12:05
Yeah, I mean, so I, obviously like we all worked from home for a period of time over COVID. And we have an office here in Austin, although we’re a remote first company, and I go into the office, like, I would say, four to five days a week. And people are like, Why do you go to the office, it’s 20 minutes. For me, it’s like not, it’s not like super convenient to me by any means. But I love the drive alone in my car. Usually like the daily is on or some podcast or just music or, you know, I call my mom or whatever. But like that, like 15 minutes of just glory alone in the car is really worth dropping up to the domain every day here in Austin. So I really love that. I am a believer in taking walks, I do a lot of walking meetings. I love I mean, I’m in a very cold air conditioned building. So I also just need to like defrost every few hours. So I will go on a walk for five or 10 minutes. And again, same thing like I can’t do anything right then I’m not going to respond to my slack. I just gotta like go walking and like, let my brain breathe for a second before I like dive back in anything. And then I love picking up my kids at school, it’s you know, it’s the best worst part of my day. Like I seeing them is so fun hearing about what they’re doing. I do block my calendar every day from like four to 8pm. I’m offline, like I just I will do what I can if something, you know, of course there’s a fire or an emergency. But on the whole my team knows and really respects that time. And I just love getting to hang out with my crazy kids and hearing about what they did that day. And my husband is the cook in our family. So we gather in our kitchen, he’s cooking, we’re all talking and hanging out and quizzing on spelling or whatever has happened. My son is taking a ballet class that he loves at school. So talk about Miss Bravo and ballet. And that’s a really important part of my day. And then once the kids are down depending on the day, usually I’m back on line for a little while, sometimes I’m not and I hang out with my husband, he gets the short end of the working stick for sure. But you know, it’s just I really, I am really grateful for the family that I have and the life setup that we have. And I try to remind myself of that even in the very, very hard moments of especially being a parent. And it’s they’re just like critical to it. And I coach soccer I never played soccer but I coach soccer for second graders on Tuesdays. Amazing.

george grombacher 14:39
So as the working in innovation for in innovating, innovating, innovating innovative tech company, I’m sure that so many things come across your desk of people interested in you taking a look at their new idea or their new widget or whatever. How do you how How do you filter all that?

Olivia Herron 15:03
Yeah, um, so usually I ask why me? Because I think that that’s a pretty important question. Because sometimes the answer that question is like, they actually don’t know why me. And so then I’m not the right person. And sometimes the answer is like, because I know that you have a strong POV on XYZ. And it’s like, I definitely need to make time for this. So I usually will start that way, if it’s still a lot, which it can be sometimes. I will also frequently depending on the answer to that question, I might direct them to someone else first and say, I totally get it a and the person who has even more experience in this is so and so. So go talk to them. And if you don’t feel like you get what you need, come back to me. And and I’ll you know, and I try really hard to follow up with people to just check in and say, Hey, how did it go? What happened? But to your point, I know, I can’t look at everything. And so that question is a really great filter for understanding what they’re hoping to get out of it. If it’s just pure validation, it’s, it’s not really going to be a super productive conversation. And if they don’t really know why it needs to be me, then it’s also probably not going to be a super great conversation. But if I have like a pretty strong answer to that question, it usually should be me. And if for some reason it can’t I know exactly the type of person that I can get them to who hopefully will have the time to have that conversation.

george grombacher 16:38
I appreciate that. Thank you. So I appreciate you coming on how who should be checking out Sam cart? And how should they? How should they check it out? How should they engage?

Olivia Herron 16:49
Yeah, so you know, across the SamCart family, businesses or like lines of businesses, if you are an online seller, and especially around the subscription world, then Sam cart is an E commerce product that makes kind of the idea of checking out anywhere really, really seamless. So people who are selling kind of digital goods online, same card is a great product from that perspective. If you want to be a creator, and you’re not exactly sure how to get started then creator, you is the first place to kind of go in and figure out what do you need to be doing to grow your your online presence your followers, if you are going to write an e book, for example, like what niche Do you want to focus on and got an AI synth in there that can help you get that done. And a bunch of other tools and features for just like starting your pot your journey of becoming a creator. And then if you’re if you’re there, or you need anything from a distribution standpoint, then typeset is really the place to go in terms of like really making that content. So you’re ready to write your ebook. typeset is a great product to do that in. If you’re building a sales pitch, or presentation for almost anything, it’s a great platform for that kind of stuff. Same with things like trainings, etc. So we hope that we kind of cover the lifecycle of a creator and that we can offer different tools at different intervals based on what you need. And we see them all really working together in strong ways as well, which is really exciting. Yeah, for sure.

george grombacher 18:15
Right. And so the different access points to different websites,

Olivia Herron 18:20
types that.com is where you can go and try a seven day free trial. And then creator u.com And Sam cart.com. Both also have a variety of options available, depending on what you need.

george grombacher 18:34
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show Olivia your appreciation and share today show the friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to typeset.com when you’re ready to create that ebook, that training manual, or whatever else you have in mind to bring to life go to creator you to learn more about getting started in the subscription economy or getting started selling online. And then finally go to Sam carts.com to check out the great resources for really bringing it all together. Thanks, guys.

Olivia Herron 19:08
Thank you. Till next time, remember,

george grombacher 19:10
do your part by doing your best

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