About this episode

Jaime Schmidt started Schmidt’s Naturals after attending a local recreational class on how to make shampoo. From that class, she grew Schmidt’s Naturals to the point that Unilever bought Schmidt’s Naturals just seven years from when she started.

Since Jaime’s sale of Schmidt’s Naturals to Unilever, she continues to represent the brand as an ambassador. However, she is now working on two new ventures, her book, Supermaker, is set to be released in the Fall. And she is also the co-founder of Color, an inclusive funding for early-stage consumer brands venture capital company. Both are centered around elevating the entrepreneurial story for makers and underrepresented founders.

I am so excited for you to hear this episode of The Startup Story podcast because I love Jaime’s story, and I think you will too. Her story paints a complete picture of how incredible entrepreneurship can genuinely be. This is Jaime Schmidt’s startup story.

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • How entrepreneurship seemed to come naturally to Jaime, from having the best lemonade stand on the block to providing neighbors laminated ‘save the date’ cards weeks in advance of a lemonade sale.
  • Her business-savvy expanded to babysitting during her preteen years. Her parents’ encouragement to save half of her earnings enabled Jaime to buy her first car.
  • How growing up, attending college was expected as the next step, so even though Jaime had no clear path in mind, she attended Michigan State University.
  • She chose a business degree with a focus in Human Resources because she did enjoy working with people.
  • Her first employer paid for continuing education, which enabled her to get a Masters Degree in Sociology.
  • Unfulfilled by Human Resources, Jaime took time off to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and her career.
  • About the fateful Google search, which led Jaime to a shampoo making class, the class inspired her creative side and competitive side.
  • After creating her shampoos and products, she eventually began to sell at Farmers Markets and used customer feedback to perfect them.
  • Jaime describes her business journey and how she was able to enter the retail market as a result of being in Farmers Markets.
  • The growth of her company: manufacturing in her kitchen, to eventually moving to a larger manufacturing space to create products for large retailers.
  • Why she thinks inserting some of your own story into your brand is necessary; and what she says she would do differently.
  • What she is doing now: including the release of her book, Supermaker, and the work she is doing with the Color.

“I have never been the type to look too far ahead. I just took every single day at a time and decided that I would NEVER say no to anything.” – Jaime Schmidt, Schmidt’s Naturals

Resources from this episode

Schmidt’s Naturals - https://schmidts.com/
Jaime on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/JaimeSchmidt/
Schmidt’s Naturals on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/schmidtsnaturals/

Jaime’s book, Supermaker: Crafting Business On Your Own Terms, is scheduled to be released on September 8th. If you register for Startup Story LIVE at http://startupstorylive.com you will receive a very special offer for her book!

Color Capital - https://color.capital/

The Startup Story LIVE - Virtual Conference: http://startupstorylive.com
The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

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EPISODE CREDITS

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer, Danny Ozment.

He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, HR professionals, recruiters, lawyers, realtors, bloggers, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and impact the world.

Contact him today at https://emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory

Special Guest: Jaime Schmidt.

Episode transcript

The Startup Story - Jaime Schmidt

Jaime Schmidt: Hi, this is Jaime Schmidt, founder of Schmidt's Naturals, and this is MY startup story.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

[00:28]
James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. All right, everyone, this is the week that our epic two day livestream event goes live. If you've been listening to The Startup Story for the past few months, then you are very much aware of Startup Story Live presented by Entrepreneur Magazine, and this is the week, May 14th and 15th. For all of you who might be new to the show, let me bring you up to speed on what Startup Story Live is all about.

Startup Story Live presented by Entrepreneur Magazine is an epic two day livestream event with over 14 hours of incredible content to help you re- engineer and rethink your business. I know how much the shutdown due to coronavirus has impacted The Startup Story so I feel the challenge you're dealing with right now. For that reason, I reached out to so many in my founder network that have built successful companies and asked them to join us for Startup Story Live to give us practical and tactical advice that we can take into our business. I'm not talking about self-proclaimed thought leaders, I'm talking about real founders who have built real businesses, providing real tactics direct to you. And it's 100% free to register and attend the two day livestream event. You simply need to go to startupstorylive.com to claim your free two day pass. This is about entrepreneurs supporting other entrepreneurs, and the roster of founders who are participating is stacked. Here's a quick snapshot of who's going to be there.

Christina Stemble of Farm Girl Flowers. She bootstrapped her business from $49,000 in 2010 and at one point she only had $411 in the bank and has since grown Farm Girl Flowers to $32 million as of 2019. You might recognize her from the Capital One commercials that play everywhere. We're going to have Jason McCann of Vari, formerly VariDesk. Built a global enterprise that has shipped to 98% of the globe, all of this started with a stack of boxes on his desk to alleviate lower back pain. We're going to have Emma Rose Cohen of Final Straw, an environmentalist turned entrepreneur that has raised $1.8 million on Kickstarter to develop her aluminum reusable straw. She has since positioned Final Straw on the shelves of national retailers everywhere, and in fact she just launched her second Kickstarter in the midst of the coronavirus and it exceeded goal within hours. She's a Kickstarter genius. We're going to have Matthew Arevalo, former cofounder of LootCrate. From a local hackathon, LootCrate rose to $100 million in revenue in just three years, while at the same time completely reinventing the subscription box business as they shipped close to 500,000 a month. We're going to have Ju Rhyu of Hero Cosmetics. She launched Hero Cosmetics with one product and did over $1 million her first year. Hero Cosmetics now sells a box of Mighty Patch every 30 seconds in over 2,500 stores. We're going to have Sean Cannell of Think Media. He lost almost 80% of his revenue in one month, and within two months later he rebuilt most of that revenue. He now has a multimillion dollar media company, and Forbes calls it the 20 must watch YouTube channels that will change your business. We're going to have Luke Fox of WhiteFox Defense. At age 24, Luke raised $26 million for his drone defense company. We're going to have Davis Smith of Cotopaxi, serial entrepreneur with multiple exits. Okay, I'm going to stop there, but there are still so many more founders. This truly is going to be an epic two day livestream event. Do not miss out on this unbelievable opportunity to learn from some incredibly brilliant entrepreneurs. Register for free for your two day pass at startupstorylive.com. All right, now let's jump into this week's episode.

Our guest this week is Jaime Schmidt, founder of Schmidt's Naturals and might I add will also be at Startup Story Live. Jaime started Schmidt's Naturals after attending a local recreational class on how to make your own shampoo. From that class, she grew Schmidt's Naturals to such a point that Unilever bought Schmidt's Naturals just seven years from when she started. So again, when I say we're bringing real business builders to Startup Story Live, I mean it. Since her sale of Schmidt's Naturals to Unilever, she continues to represent the brand as an ambassador of sorts, but she's now working on two new ventures, those ventures being Supermaker and The Color Fund. Both are centered around elevating the entrepreneurial story for makers and underrepresented founders. I'm so excited for you to hear this episode of The Startup Story podcast because I absolutely love Jaime's story. Her story, this episode, is one that I truly want everyone to hear because for me it paints the most complete picture of how incredible entrepreneurship really can bel.

[04:37]
Jaime Schmidt: I feel like I'm one of the most relatable entrepreneurs. I never thought about entrepreneurship. It wasn't really anything that was discussed in my household. My dad was an engineer and my mom was a stay at home mom who took great care of my brother and I. But I did, looking back I had some moments, some glimpses into my entrepreneurial future I'd say. One was I was the kid in the neighborhood that was known for having the best lemonade stands. I was very prepared. I would schedule these like a month out in advance and my dad and I would create these "save the date" little postcards, and he would laminate them, and then I'd deliver them to the mailboxes in the neighborhood. So it was this big build up. And I had more than lemonade. I had little packages of potato chips and homemade cookies and such, so there was that piece.

We also had garage sales in northern Michigan at my grandparent's house every summer, and that was a huge moment for me. I would have my own little table, called the Kiddie's Table, and I'd have all my toys lined up. I'd negotiate with the kids on prices for my Barbie's.

[05:36]
James McKinney: I love it.

[05:37]
Jaime Schmidt: So that was always really fun. And then as a pre-teen I started babysitting pretty early. I was 12 or 13 years old. I went around to the houses and I'd advertise myself as a babysitter. I did that for years, and my mom and dad always encouraged me to save at least half of my money, which I really appreciate now looking back. I had this bank in our safe. It was shaped like a strawberry. And it was every time I'd come home from babysitting my dad would unlock the safe and I'd put half the money in there. Later when I bought my first car I bought a Volkswagen from all the money I'd saved from babysitting.

[06:09]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[06:11]
Jaime Schmidt: So I feel like I learned a few things in my childhood about how to be an entrepreneur, but it wasn't really anything I considered as part of my future.

[06:17]
James McKinney: So when you were in your high school years because obviously that's a pivotal chapter for a lot of people, something one chapter closes and one begins. So when you come in your high school years, what were you thinking you wanted to do long-term?

[06:30]
Jaime Schmidt: I hated that question. I never knew and I felt like my friends and everybody else just had some sense. Even as a young child that question of what do you want to be when you grow up, everybody has veterinarian or doctor, and mine changed every week. I just didn't know. Then it got worse in college I think because that's when people had chosen their major and they were there for a reason. I would go to these parties and that'd be the first question out of people's mouths is, "What's your major?" I remember that was a big adjustment for me. I didn't like it. I always thought why can't we talk about something more interesting. So I didn't know. It was really hard. I chose business as my undergrad at Michigan State University.

[07:10]
James McKinney: But for you, college was the next step. You didn't think about any other alternative, it was just part of the journey. Was it because of your parent's upbringing?

[07:19]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah…

[07:20]
James McKinney: College was I don't want to say mandatory, but it was an inherent next step for you.

[07:24]
Jaime Schmidt: Right, it a was always in my plan I guess because my parents, they paid for it which was incredibly generous. My brother went to school. It was always the conversation around the house, so there was no question there. So yeah, right after high school went on to college. Chose business as my focus for my undergrad degree. I took the classes, didn't love it. In fact, I was kind of a rebel where I would wear headphones during some of the classes because I just was too cool for the info.

[07:51]
James McKinney: Can we put a year on that, because I want to picture what headphones exactly. Probably not earbuds.

[07:55]
Jaime Schmidt: I had a Walkman, yeah. No it was 1997 probably.

[08:00]
James McKinney: So not discrete headphones.

[08:02]
Jaime Schmidt: Right. Sitting in the back of the classroom. It's funny though. So yeah I got my degree, and I got an emphasis on human resources because I had to choose a focus area. I chose that mostly because I didn't love the other options, but I liked the fact that there were humans involved, human resources, I'm dealing with people so that was a bit of a draw there. So I got my degree and the first logical step is to get a job. Graduate college, you get a job. And that was a real challenge. People weren't really hiring in the area.

[08:30]
James McKinney: What year was that when you finished college?

[08:32]
Jaime Schmidt: Graduated in 2000 and I was in East Lansing, Michigan. It took me months to land my first job, and I got a job at a staffing company where I was working to put people in jobs.

[08:43]
James McKinney: It's interesting as you talk about the people side of it, because in just sitting with you for this recording I can feel your love of people. Like I can tell you enjoy being around people. You're not the introverted entrepreneur. If you are, you are an extroverted introvert. So I can definitely see people as part of it, and you talk about the excitement you had when the garage sale and all the people coming by. I can see HR being a natural step, but I also would have assumed almost like a sociology or a psychology or something along those lines. So as you were in college for the HR degree, were you hoping for a big massive company with lots of stability? What were you thinking you wanted?

[09:27]
Jaime Schmidt: I didn't know. I just wanted to be done with college and just figure out my next step. I did end up working in HR, starting with the staffing companies. It didn't take long before I was advancing up the HR ladder. I had a really nice job at the prestigious McArthur Foundation once I moved to Chicago a year later, after graduation. I was moving up the rank so I had a nice salary, I had great benefits, working for this awesome foundation. But I was giving orientations to employees and I kind of felt like a schmuck. I was like I want to be doing the cool stuff that these employers are doing, not the person telling them what their policies and procedures are, their benefits package. I think there's some HR professionals out there who are amazing at what they do, and we need them. But it just wasn't my thing. That continued, I moved out to Portland about five years after being in Chicago.

[10:14]
James McKinney: So 2007 maybe?

[10:17]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. Let's see, yeah around there, 2006. I got my first job working for Portland Public Schools, and I promised myself that I would only do it for about a year because I knew I wanted to do something else. Part of moving out here was a change up in my life. But I got the job at Portland Public Schools working in HR. I remember my first or second day there, one of my coworkers saying, "This is so not you. What are you doing in this job?" And I didn't take it as an insult. I saw it more as a liberating like moment of oh my God, somebody else understands, I'm not feeling this. But to back up a bit, when I was in Chicago I got a master's in sociology.

[10:50]
James McKinney: Oh, so I wasn't far off.

[10:52]
Jaime Schmidt: You weren't. I know I was wondering did I tell you that or what. No, so I got the master's from DePaul in sociology, and that was more of an attempt at incorporating this human element that I was talking about. I didn't know what that meant in terms of my career, but I felt like it might open up more opportunity there. My employer paid for the degree so it worked out nicely.

[11:08]
James McKinney: But what was the catalyst? I don't want to skip over the significance of a major move from Michigan to Portland. What was the catalyst for that?

[11:18]
Jaime Schmidt: Just this sort of soul seeking journey that I've been on for so many years of my life. Well first of all, getting out of Michigan was a big deal for me because I felt it was lacking in terms of culture and just things that I was excited about. So moving to Chicago made sense because it was the closest big city to Michigan, and I was there for five years. I loved it but it was almost too big. I feel like what I was lacking was access to nature, camping, hiking, things that I care about. So I visited Portland and I fell in love. I was one of those people that made the cross country move to start over and yeah.

[11:52]
James McKinney: Oh wow, that's awesome.

[11:53]
Jaime Schmidt: Never anticipated where I'd be today here in Portland.

[11:55]
James McKinney: No kidding. And that's a beautiful part about the journey, it's amazing where it takes us when we just follow those breadcrumbs that kind of point a certain way, and you wanted to have something bigger than Michigan, not quite Chicago. So you end up here in Portland. You're with a school district. You commit to a year, which I'm curious why you wanted, I'm going to use your words, "I wanted something different." What were you seeking at that time? I understand taking the job for a year because you want to get settled and grounded in your new environment, but what were you seeking that you wanted something different?

[12:26]
Jaime Schmidt: Just a feeling of fulfillment or identification with the work that I was doing. I wasn't unhappy but I just wasn't ready to be destined to work in human resources for the rest of my life. I just felt like there was something else out there that was for me. I had no idea what that was, zero. So I did the year. I followed through with my promise to myself which was cool. Then I got a little crazy. I took a road trip cross country, followed one of my friends to watch his band play. Made some stops along the way. Took the trip back by myself and was along this journey thinking maybe I'd find the answers, looking deep inside myself, but nothing came to me. I just knew okay, I want to do something else, once I go back to Portland I'll figure that out.

So when I did get back to Portland, I took a job at a local hotdog shack, called Zack's Shack, and I was slinging hotdogs for several months. With this master's degree, this undergrad, just like totally… happy, thinking of this as an opportunity to look inside myself, spending the time hovering over the grill to figure out what I wanted next in my life.

[13:31]
James McKinney: it does sound very Zen.

[13:33]
Jaime Schmidt: It was in a way. Yeah I was working late nights. I stunk. There was no air conditioning and this grease, so I did that for several months. And then I decided to potentially see what I could do with this master's that I had in sociology. The closest thing I could find was a job working with kids that had mental and behavioral health issues. I saw the job in the newspaper, which was really more psychology. They were looking for fresh students with psychology degrees and I was a non-fresh student, I was a little older, with a sociology degree, but I got in the door for an interview and got the job. It was actually my husband that interviewed me. My husband now, who interviewed me for that job.

[14:13]
James McKinney: Oh wow.

[14:14]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. So he's like, "You're over qualified, you're perfect." So I took a huge pay cut from the HR work and started a new whole life there, working with kids.

[14:24]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness. Now were you thinking at that point in time, I'm a big visual guy so I'm picturing your journey and it is very much back and forth like ping pong. There's some linear movement forward but it's very much back and forth as you're figuring things out. So when you landed at this company, did you think this is what you'd been leading to the whole time as you did the soul searching of the cross country journey?

[14:49]
Jaime Schmidt: I felt like I was getting closer but I knew it wasn't really sustainable, for one because the pay was so low and I didn't have the proper qualifications to excel in the capacity more than just working in the residential treatment facility, running trainings and helping kids with their daily hygiene and things like that. So it was comfortable for the moment. It helped me meet a new group of friends and my future husband, and I enjoyed it. But it was tough. The kids were aggressive. I was dealing with getting kicked and spit at and things. But I felt like I had more purpose at least in the work that I was doing, so that felt good. Then I got pregnant. So I'd been there maybe a year and a half, and unexpectedly was pregnant with my beautiful son Oliver. He's nine years old today. So being a pregnant woman working in this facility, I had to move out of the aggressive children environment, so I got a job there moving over into programming type of work.

[15:45]
James McKinney: I was expecting to hear HR, I don't know why.

[15:47]
Jaime Schmidt: Right, right. So I had a job. I think they kind of made this new job and it wasn't really a fulltime job but it was labeled as such because I was there 40 hours with not much to do. Being pregnant and still confused about my life, I had a lot of time to think and sleep in the office.

[16:02]
James McKinney: Out of curiosity, because you know we're now you said your son is nine-

[16:08]
Jaime Schmidt: It was probably 2009.

[16:09]
James McKinney: … 2009 probably. So in 2009, you're still somewhat confused about your journey and life, career, what have you. And you're trying to figure things out, and if I'm dating things correctly you were probably in that state for at that point in time 10 years or so. Was there any part of you that was discouraged or frustrated by being in that state? Because I think a lot of people listening are still trying to figure things out and they might be in year 10 of trying to figure things out. It can be incredibly frustrating.

[16:46]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, it really was. And I tried all these little hobbies on the side thinking I might find fulfillment there. I had a moment of okay, maybe I'm not going to love my job or my career and that's okay, but I need some kind of creative outlet or just something to bring me just more purpose. I explored a lot of things. I actually started taking more classes at a community college in interior design. I thought all right, well I can do a little bit of this. It was okay but then I realized I didn't love it. I was paying money for these classes, so I stopped doing that. Then I tried sewing. I bought a sewing machine, took some sewing classes. I spent a whole day making a dress and it just turned out terribly. I just didn't have the patience for it. I think the patience is there if it's something you love, you'll make patience. So I moved on from that and tried just little side things for a long time which really leads me to where I did find my purpose.

So I'm pregnant, right, I'm at this facility with kids that have mental health issues and such, but I had this new dilemma of now I'm about to be a mom which is amazing and exciting, but if I don't know who I am yet as Jaime Schmidt, this is scary and I'm just going to become a mom and then my life's going to go away. I wanted more. I wanted to be a great example for my son.

[17:59]
James McKinney: So you felt like you had to have, you had to fully be clear on your identity before you stepped into motherhood.

[18:03]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah.

[18:04]
James McKinney: I get it, I get it.

[18:05]
Jaime Schmidt: Right, yeah. And so I had mentioned the work was pretty slow in this new job. I literally was spending afternoons sleeping on the floor of the office because I was pregnant, I was tired and had nothing to do, but I also was spending a lot of time on Google. One day I Googled things to do in Portland today, right, and there was this class, and it was how to make shampoo. I thought that sounds cool. I'm pregnant, I'm a very, very humble new budget. I'm being conscious of the products I'm using on my body because I have a baby inside me, and I want something to do, and so I found this shampoo class. I went, it was that night.

[18:39]
James McKinney: Oh my goodness.

[18:40]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah.

[18:41]
James McKinney: That's incredible. And so I have to ask, from that shampoo class, did something trigger for you or was it later on where you're like this is what I've been searching for?

[18:50]
Jaime Schmidt: No, it was that night. So the only requirement of the class was to show up with a glass bottle, and so show up with my bottle. The woman leading the class starts making this herbal formulation of shampoo, very DIY. So there's herbs and essential oils and such, and it was in this tiny little house, crowded little house in Portland. I was eight months pregnant so huge and kind of pushing my way up to the front. I that there were maybe 20 women in the room. I was so intrigued by what she was doing and I was like this is my thing. I immediately got really competitive and I was like looking around the room. I'm like okay ladies, this is mine.

[19:28]
James McKinney: But what was it that so clearly for you was this is my thing?

[19:33]
Jaime Schmidt: It was so interesting and I felt like there was a lot of opportunity. I have always had a business mind, and so I feel like that was coming out a little bit. But it was also just like it felt so personal to me, like this is something I can use, this is something I need in my life, and it's something that's very practical. And I was intrigued. And I knew not only could I make the shampoo recipe she taught, but I knew there was more things to be made and that's where I was really intrigued was like all right, what else is out there? So I went home and I bought all these books on Amazon for DIY body care.

[20:04]
James McKinney: After one class?

[20:05]
Jaime Schmidt: Yes, yeah.

[20:06]
James McKinney: You had full clarity and you just bought a ton of books and started just learning everything you could. Oh my goodness.

[20:12]
Jaime Schmidt: I didn't know at the time I was going to start this business, and then be where I am here today but I knew that I enjoyed it and I found pleasure in it, and that it was something that I wanted to learn more about.

[20:21]
James McKinney: What was your husband saying at this point in time? The reason, I want to preface why I ask that question. There have been so many times where my wife has been passionate about something and I have not been the most supportive in that. So what was he saying?

[20:36]
Jaime Schmidt: I am so grateful for my husband, Chris, because he's always been supportive, and still today. But he liked seeing me excited. He had his side hobbies. He was in a band and that was taking up some of his time, and I think he was just excited to see me excited, and he was my guinea pig for all my products. So he, this shampoo that I brought home, he went in the bathroom and tried it, and came out pulling herbs out of his hair. He's like, "Oh, this is great." Like he's into it, but he's probably like okay, we'll see. But once I started making more things he was the dude who I tested on. Especially with the deodorant, that was such a long journey perfecting my formula. I was constantly smelling his armpits.

[21:16]
James McKinney: That's awesome. What were your parents thinking at this point? Because now Michigan born and raised, obviously educated because they paid your way through college, through your undergrad at least. What were they thinking as you bounced through different jobs leading up to this passion project you have?

[21:34]
Jaime Schmidt: They're sweet and very supportive, but I think they're from the mid-west and live their life a certain way. My brother had followed this path that was really predictable and comfortable and safe. So I'd always been a little out there. I think especially after college it was constantly like, "Did you find a job yet? Did you find a job yet?" And then once I quit, that was probably freaking them out a little bit. But I think, gosh when I fast forward a little bit to those earlier days of Schmidt's once I started running the business, that was probably freaking them out a little bit. Every day when I would talk to my mom on the phone, she'd say, "Are you still getting orders for deodorant? Are they still coming in?" Even when she'd see the product in stores at Target later, "Is everything all right? Still doing okay there?" So yeah, I think-

[22:13]
James McKinney: That's awesome.

[22:14]
Jaime Schmidt: I think finally maybe six or seven years into it, they were like all right, this is the real deal, Jaime's in Forbes and she's getting these huge accounts. But yeah.

[22:21]
James McKinney: But you know what's funny, just even in obviously that Forbes moment was significant because you remembered it immediately when it came to your mom, but isn't it funny how for our parents it's some of that old school validation that matters, like oh you were in Forbes. Not on Target shelves, not anything else, but Forbes. Cover of the Wall Street Journal, now you've made it.

[22:41]
Jaime Schmidt: It's funny. Even today, so since then Schmidt's has been acquired, jumping ahead a little bit here, and she will still get really excited and comfortable if I'm doing some work that relates to the Schmidt's business now, so that's the safe place now. It's not this crazy other weird things I have going on right?

[22:57]
James McKinney: Isn't that funny? Oh man, so funny.

[22:58]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah.


[23:00]
James McKinney: Before we continue on with Jaime's incredible startup story, I want to expand a bit more about the incredible opportunity that you have with startupstorylive.com. The Startup Story podcast unpacks the entire journey of our featured, whereas Startup Story Live is going to be all about the tactics our founders are employing in this incredibly challenging economic season. So if you want to hear the specific tactics that Jaime employed to grow and scale Schmidt's and how she would navigate the complex season today, then you're going to want to register for this event immediately. This type of opportunity to get direct access to these amazing founders would cost close to $1,000 in any live setting, but at Startup Story Live it is absolutely free. Yes, the entire livestream, both days, and Q&A with each founder is absolutely free. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. Visit startupstorylive.com for all the details and to register today. All right, enough of the announcements, now let's get back to our episode.


[23:53]
James McKinney: So you experiment with the shampoo on your husband, you acquire all these books on how to learn. So now let's start, well technically it wasn't Schmidt's Naturals yet, it was still just a passion project, you were figuring things out. How did this grow? Because I don't know you were eight months pregnant I think you said when you went to the class, so somewhere in there you had a baby and the recovery from that as well. So how did Schmidt's Naturals actually come to be from that class?

[24:20]
Jaime Schmidt: Right, yeah. Once I started making the products, I was using them on myself and realized they were amazing, they worked, and I was so excited to share them with everybody. So I started looking at these opportunities to sell around Portland. In Portland, there's no shortage. There's farmer's markets every weekend, street festivals, and so I start signing up. I thought this would be cool just to get out there and share my creations. I still hadn't quite seen it as a business yet, and so I signed up and got denied several times, especially because I was applying late in the summer which is the end of farmer's market season. It was different. I was like this girl trying to sell this handmade deodorant in a market that prioritizes vegetables or whatever.

[24:57]
James McKinney: And just for our listeners, for those that aren't huge farmer market people, you were denied from… is it that competitive to get a space there?

[25:06]
Jaime Schmidt: It can be, yeah, definitely. So they fill up pretty quickly and I was at the end of the season, so trying to squeeze my way in. Also, a lot of markets only have food products. And plus I had zero reputation or any track record of anything, and so it's a risk for them to bring me on. And so that, I ended up maybe squeezing into one or two markets at first end of summer, and then had my son in January, but meanwhile still formulating and having fun with that. Then once my son was born, I was continuing and really saw an opportunity to sign up for a lot of markets that coming summer. So I'm a new mom, my son is in the bedroom sleeping which is right off the kitchen, and I'm in there cranking away on my deodorant formula during his naptimes, because that's the only time I could work. His naptimes were beautiful, and there were two of them. They were very predictable. There's one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so instead of sleeping-

[26:00]
James McKinney: Gotta make deodorant, like you are napping.

[26:02]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah right? Exactly. So instead of sleeping like a new mom should be, I was in the kitchen tiptoeing around getting excited about my deodorant. And so then that summer came and I had a lot of opportunities to sell. So I'd bring my son with me in a little pack and play, a little playpen and he was in there and he was cute, so people would stop by the booth and say, "Oh, this little baby." They'd try the deodorant. And then it didn't take long before I had customers raving about the products and telling me they were amazing.

[26:30]
James McKinney: When you say it didn't take long, within a summer, within-

[26:32]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, within weeks I'd have somebody who bought the product one weekend and they'd come back to my booth a week or two later and say, "This deodorant is awesome, I love it. Can we do some other fragrances?" Or, "What other products can you make?" So I had a few things. I had deodorants and lotions and sunscreens in those earlier months. But it was great because it was an opportunity to meet face to face with my customers. They were my focus group. They could tell me what they liked, what they didn't like, I could pick their brain. There was no pressure, it was just this beautiful synergy of me and the customers.

[27:05]
James McKinney: Now at that time, so what 2010?

[27:09]
Jaime Schmidt: Let's say 2010, summer of, yep.

[27:11]
James McKinney: So 2010 from a market perspective, were the natural hygiene products a big thing? Now it's huge, but 2010 was it a big thing then or was it new?

[27:23]
Jaime Schmidt: It was just sort of starting under the scene. So there were a few brands, like if you think deodorant specifically we had Tom's of Maine, that was the big guy. There was Jason. Not many though. There was a lot of work to be done I think and a lot of education, but it just needed a shakeup. The options that were on the market at the time for me didn't work well, and it was a shared frustration with a lot of customers. People said, "Natural deodorant does not work. It just doesn't." And so people gave up on it or didn't even explore it. And so I was convinced mine worked. So when I was formulating it I wanted it to smell good, to be packaged beautifully, but also it had to work because others were failing. And I knew there was a business opportunity because of all those conversations I'd had with customers. This was a shared frustration people were having, I'm like I have to crack the code because there is something big here.

[28:14]
James McKinney: So when you're doing farmer market, obviously at the end of the season you're getting great feedback but while you're doing it are you thinking this is my focus group because I'm going to do something with it, or was this still just I have a way to make a little bit of money?

[28:29]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. I started to realize okay, there's something immediate and short-term here with these markets, but I think if I can continue this momentum, there's more. And once, I'd say it didn't take long, I mean less than a year where I realized this is business. I had retailers coming to my booth asking if they could carry the product in their stories, or they might say a customer came in looking for it.

[28:51]
James McKinney: Really?

[28:52]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, oh yeah, and that's when I was like oh my God this is something. So then I was just like boom.

[28:55]
James McKinney: So what year did retailers come to you?

[28:57]
Jaime Schmidt: That happened, gosh, it was 2010, 2011. I had my first account by the end of the year.

[29:03]
James McKinney: Really?

[29:04]
Jaime Schmidt: Oh yeah, it didn't take long at all, and I was still-

[29:07]
James McKinney: So from class where you learned how to make the shampoo to being in stores, it sounds like it was under 18 months.

[29:14]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, it was.

[29:15]
James McKinney: Unbelievable.

[29:16]
Jaime Schmidt: I was still perfecting my formula.

[29:17]
James McKinney: And you had a baby.

[29:18]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. I just think he was an ally in this whole process. I couldn't do it without him.

[29:23]
James McKinney: Babies and puppies, they help sell.

[29:26]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. I mean I'll set the scene a little with market. I'd have retailers come asking for line sheets, for example, and I was oblivious kind of to what that even meant. So I'd go home and Google it, and come back the next week and email them like, "Here's that line sheet you asked for." So I had to come up with wholesale pricing quickly. I had to get UPCs and barcodes for my products, so I went to buyabarcode.com and got these recycled one, which later proved to be a problem and I'll tell you why. Yeah, so I just learned it all in the moment and started small with the local retailers.

[29:57]
James McKinney: What was in your head as to what did you think you were building at the time? I think for some entrepreneurs, we get excited about if I'm on a retailer's shelf I'll have made it. We have these milestones that become the flag we plant that I made it, which that becomes their target. Doesn't always get beyond that, so at that moment in time, what were you thinking the potential for this was? Were you thinking what it ended up becoming?

[30:20]
Jaime Schmidt: Right. I just knew that I was happy with what I was doing and I could see that I was having a positive impact on people. That just kept me going. I've really never been the type to look to far ahead. Even today, maybe just months, a few months, that's it. I just took every day at a time. Once I was hearing more and more from retailers and customers, then I thought I'm not going to say no to anything. That's really what led me through the whole journey, is just say yes to whatever opportunity presents itself.

[30:47]
James McKinney: I love it.

[30:48]
Jaime Schmidt: And then next thing you know, we're in Costco.

[30:52]
James McKinney: What was the first retailer? Before we jump to Costco, because Costco is a whole other. Then you're talking manufacturing, there's a lot that goes in.

[30:57]
Jaime Schmidt: There's a lot that happened before that.

[30:58]
James McKinney: So your first, who was your first retailer?

[31:01]
Jaime Schmidt: In Portland there were a couple little tiny mom and pop stores that are unfortunately no longer open. Those started I had a few consignment accounts actually. But I'd say my biggest notable account were the co-ops in Portland, and that was a big deal to me because co-ops, they're picky with who they bring in. so getting their approval was big and it showed okay, well if they're willing to put their faith in this product then there's more people that will be too.

[31:29]
James McKinney: unbelievable. So how do you go from cooking in the kitchen to pushing out enough product for a retailer? Even the cost. I'm assuming now you're talking a few hundred units versus what you were providing for a farmers market. How much product would you show up for a weekend?

[31:47]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. Some I'd say my batch sizes were around maybe 20 deodorants and I'd make maybe three batches for a market, so about 60 and a few different fragrances. That was, it wasn't full time yet but then as I started to get more accounts and I was putting in more hours, and the batch sizes were getting bigger, I began to outgrow my kitchen. I actually decided to hire somebody to help with the production. Because then the shipping started taking up my time.

[32:12]
James McKinney: And are you online yet at this point?

[32:14]
Jaime Schmidt: At that point, let's see, online probably started early 2012 or late 2011.

[32:19]
James McKinney: Okay, so you're still local retailers at this point.

[32:22]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, but we were in New Seasons which is a big one here in Portland. But once I opened up the online sales, then I had people from around everywhere.

[32:31]
James McKinney: So you solved manufacturing locally, that was your first step.

[32:35]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, so it was kitchen. So once I hired somebody he was working out in the mother-in-law space behind the house, this little studio where he took over for production. It didn't take long before I knew we had to get out of the house and do it right. So there was a space that opened up around the corner from my house. It was this little building that had a few shared spaces. There was a pet shop in there, there was a paper shredder, and there was an opening for me. So I called and told the guy my story. He was so perfect for what I needed at the time, because no lease, no agreement, just some dude that was happy to make a little money. So we had this very loose understanding of what our arrangement. So he helped me lay it out, he built some shelves for me, we painted it together. It was perfect.

[33:22]
James McKinney: How did you finance everything as you grew? Because it sounded, and hearing the journey when you're making it in the kitchen for the farmers market I can see self-financing. You're only spending a couple hundred bucks in product in order to make a few hundred dollars at the farmers market. But now you're getting into bulk orders, and now you're talking about new equipment for a new space that you need. How did you finance the early days of Schmidt's?

[33:45]
Jaime Schmidt: It started, you know the first year or year and a half I had a couple side hustles too.

[33:49]
James McKinney: In addition to the product?

[33:51]
Jaime Schmidt: Yes, because Schmidt's wasn't really fulltime yet, so I start taking on work but I only wanted jobs that were somewhat related to the work I was doing with Schmidt's. So one opportunity that came up was making private label lotion for a local massage parlor. So they approached me at a market and said, "Can you make these five gallon buckets of lotion that we can use in massage?" and I said yes.

[34:11]
James McKinney: That sounds so disgusting but I know, just a massage parlor asking for five gallon buckets of lotion.

[34:17]
Jaime Schmidt: But it was a beautiful product, but it took a long time for me to make it perfect because it had to have the right glide, it had to have perfect scent and all this. With that, I brought in a little bit of money that I put right into the business, so I consider that money like seed money for Schmidt's starting the company. That got me to a certain point, but once we unlocked digital sales on our website, then that money was crucial for helping us get to the next level. We were able to put that money right back into the business.

[34:41]
James McKinney: It was cash in hand.

[34:43]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, there's no waiting around for money, you get the money, boom, put it back. Then we used that towards all our growth.

[34:48]
James McKinney: At what point in Schmidt's Naturals journey did your husband come on fulltime for the business?

[34:55]
Jaime Schmidt: He had been there from the beginning with various projects, like building my website and such. We really made the commitment for fulltime work early in 2014.

[35:04]
James McKinney: So about four years in, okay.

[35:06]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. One of his first tasks was to really take on the digital marketing and go strong with it. He had built the website a couple years earlier when we had online sales, which were helping, but once he came on and put some real strategy behind digital marketing, that's when we saw big results.

[35:22]
James McKinney: Incredible. Now you mentioned Costco in there. I want to unpack the Costco journey because one, I don't think everyone is aware of what it's like to do business with Costco. I think people might think man, if I get my product in Costco I would see hundreds of thousands, maybe a million units or whatever the case may be. But there's still the infrastructure side of doing business with Costco. So can you talk about how you got the Costco account and how did you fulfill and service the Costco account? And then what are some things entrepreneurs need to know in general when it comes to dealing with big, massive outlets like that?

[35:58]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. There's a lot that led up to that. So Schmidt's really started with I mentioned co-ops, then we made our way into natural grocery stores, then the next logical step for us was other grocery that wasn't necessarily focused on natural, then mass market. So we're talking Target and Walmart, and then came Costco, the big box. So it was very intentional journey to get there. Then throughout that time we had several moves. So I was no longer in the space in my neighborhood that had the lenient landlord. That lasted maybe a year or so, and then we outgrew that. It was crazy. We were just busting at the seams.

So we found a place out near the Portland airport that was our first legitimate manufacturing space. So we had to continue to build out our manufacturing, so that meant bringing in more equipment, making these assembly lines, basically hiring a lot of people to fill out two shifts. We started with the one shift and it wasn't long before we needed a second shift. Because we had our shipping department, we had a line of people making the deodorant, we had the people putting labels on. So it was a lot that happened in those years to really get up to Costco, because we couldn't have handled it earlier. There was no way. So when we really were ready for them as much as we would be ready was early 2017.

[37:14]
James McKinney: Just two years ago.

[37:15]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, yeah. We'd been talking to them for a couple years before that, and kind of back and forth. They were watching the market. Not everybody was ready for natural deodorant either. That was a big risk in the sense for them to take it. We were the first natural deodorant that they stocked. So then they were ready, we were ready. It came together beautifully, but with a lot of hiccups and a lot of hard work to get there.

[37:38]
James McKinney: As you were growing within the outlets, you mentioned the Target and big ones as you continued to climb, what were some of the learnings you had from doing business with… I think people have this idea, the mom and pops are very agreeable. It's great to do business with the small businesses because you're a small business yourself, so it's like you understand each other, you speak the same language. There is some common concern for each other, we're cheering each other on as small business owners. As a small business owner, Target's the tail that wags the dog. What were some of the challenges in dealing with just the whales of the industry if you will?

[38:20]
Jaime Schmidt: Right. I mean there's certainly less flexibility there; if they wanted something, we had to deliver it. In our first meetings with Target there were a few requests. One was to change the shape of the top of the deodorant. So before that, we had just a flat top and the buyer was insisting that we create a rounded top to better fit the armpit. I like the idea, but it was something I hadn't taken on yet because I didn't know the best way to do it. So I said, "Yeah, of course we can do that," and figured it out. Just some other changes like they wanted to see artwork on the cap of the deodorant. It's little things that made sense for us, but we had to quickly figure out how to implement.

Another thing that was a real challenge was figuring out the right pricing strategy, because Schmidt's had been selling at Whole Foods, for example at a price point that wouldn't work for Target. So not only did we have to figure out our cost of goods and make that work, but we also had to appease all the other retailers that we were working with. We couldn't just sell the same product for $3 less at Target and say forget everybody else. So the solution we came up with was to create a smaller size deodorant that we could meet Target's requirement for pricing. It was still a very generous deodorant size. In fact, it was the standard 2.65 ounces, and so we created this new SKU that worked perfectly for mass, and it met the price point.

[39:34]
James McKinney: Were you able to keep margins-

[39:36]
Jaime Schmidt: Yes.

[39:37]
James McKinney: … across the board or was there an impact because again, Whole Foods is great but Target is I have to believe numerically significantly more powerful when it comes to pushing product out.

[39:47]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. I mean there was a lot of strategy and planning that had to go into that, so that meant negotiating with our suppliers on better prices, negotiating terms. There was a lot of work that went on behind the scenes to meet these margins. But once the suppliers see your commitment and think, "Oh wow, we're working with Target now," they're willing to flex a little more and give you what you need to.

[40:07]
James McKinney: How many people did you employ going into the Target conversation?

[40:12]
Jaime Schmidt: We had probably about 150 employees at that point. So we did, we staffed up. I mention we had a second shift. That came on right around the time we were ramping up for Target.

[40:12]
James McKinney: Of the 150 how many were on the administrative side?

[40:26]
Jaime Schmidt: Probably 30% or so.

[40:28]
James McKinney: So you had 30 that were the buyers, the sellers, business development working the accounts?

[40:34]
Jaime Schmidt: It still, it was pretty lean, our crew, for sure. We had our sales department was almost nonexistent. We had brokers that we outsourced, but we didn't hire many sales. We had one person that was assisting with that. We mostly hired for our marketing department. That's where the majority of our admin positions came in. so we had a creative team, we had a digital marketing team, and a brand team.

[40:57]
James McKinney: In the Schmidt Naturals growth, when did you become less hands on with the accounts?

[41:03]
Jaime Schmidt: I was always hands on. Yeah, that was I was the one that every retailer would go to from day one, and I had managed those relationships up until the acquisition.

[41:13]
James McKinney: Really? Okay.

[41:14]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. In fact, it was hard to say goodbye to some of those. People had gotten so accustom to talking to me every day and then when we partnered with Unilever later, there was a change they had to get used to. I like that part of the business and it was cool that the retailers probably enjoyed it too. They saw that growth. Some had been there from day one, witnessing all this transition and transformation that we've gone through, yeah.

[41:36]
James McKinney: Unbelievable. What was your favorite part of building Schmidt's Naturals? For listeners, if you thought that Schmidt's Naturals was the reason she's on this show, there are many things that we're talking about afterwards. So during the Schmidt's Naturals period, what was the most fulfilling for you?

[41:52]
Jaime Schmidt: I think it was just seeing that we were literally like having a genuinely significant impact on an industry, because naturals they were newer at the time as I mentioned, and specifically with deodorant. They just didn't yet exist to the level that they do today. So I could see that we were defining this new industry and this new way of consuming deodorant, so that was really cool just to see we were reaching people that otherwise had never heard of natural deodorant or were not interested, and a lot of that was due to our innovative ways of marketing and advertising and jut a formula that really, really worked.

I also loved creating new products, new scent specifically for deodorant. I love fragrances and coming up with those different fragrance combinations is always fun for me. That was probably what brought me the most joy.

[42:39]
James McKinney: That's awesome. So again, we know Unilever bought Schmidt's Naturals. How did the partnership and conversation take place? If you could walk us through that journey, because I think a lot of people when they hear about acquisitions for those who haven't gone through them, they don't fully understand how things work. Now, sometimes it is just a company comes in and, "We're interested in buying you," and you try to work through term sheets and so on and so forth. But that wasn't the case for Schmidt's Naturals. So how did that journey happen?

[43:08]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. It happened fast. Really early in 2017 is when those conversations started happening. Before that, we would get some interest, an occasional letter from some random company that wanted to buy us and I would just throw them in the paper shredder and not thinking anything of it. But once I saw the interest from companies like Unilever, that's when it became real, something that I started to take very seriously, and for several reasons it was attractive to me. One was that I understood that in partnering with somebody like Unilever Schmidt's would have access to much more capability around supply chain, consumer insights, research and development. I also knew that naturals were at a point where either the big companies like Unilever were going to start making them themselves, or they needed to acquire brands like Schmidt's, and if it wasn't Schmidt's it would be somebody else.

I also knew that we were at a point where I had done what I could for the business. There were probably… I had more years in me, but I think I just knew that it was time to bring on a partner that could really take us to the next level, especially with a global expansion.

[44:13]
James McKinney: So were you working with them for distribution or they just came to you directly saying we're interested in buying?

[44:17]
Jaime Schmidt: They just came to us, so we had a broker that was Goldman Sachs that were talking to several parties that were interested in acquiring Schmidt's and it was all happening very quickly. We had many, many names and calls around the diligence process, and there was a point where there was almost a bidding war around. So we were in a really great place but it was also incredibly scary because it could have just changed gears overnight, and nothing is a done deal until it's signed.

[44:42]
James McKinney: Was there any part of it that you almost didn't do it? Was it hard? Because I think for a lot of us, when we lose a business through missteps and failures, what have you, there's a grieving process that takes place. We have to recover from that. Obviously an acquisition is an exciting time, but was there part of it that you thought man, I don't know if I want to get rid of this.

[45:03]
Jaime Schmidt: I had so many emotions around it. As you know, I had spent many years trying to find myself, and so I finally had found Jaime Schmidt through Schmidt's, and that was seven years of my life. I had moments of well what does this mean for me now, where can I put all my energy. And I knew I'd still stay involved, but it'd be in a different capacity. I was also relieved. There was an incredible amount of stress that comes with building a business that was growing that fast. It's just scary in a lot of ways. So I was overcome with emotion. Also very, very proud of myself. I had a moment in the bathroom at the time of the deal signing at the attorney's office, and I looked in the mirror and I said, "You should probably cry or something," and that's when the tears started flowing. Then I was like all right, I'll give myself 20 seconds to cry and then I've got to get back out there and sign this.

That moment with myself was cool, and I understood this is only the beginning. I'm young, I learned so much. I knew that I could take all that knowledge and experience to something. I didn't know what that meant but I still wanted to be involved with Schmidt's. That was really important to me. That was worked into the deal and so I'm happy to say that I am still involved and my company's doing well.

[46:13]
James McKinney: That's awesome. If you were to start Schmidt Naturals over again completely, the timeline matters so 2010, different space than it is now. But if you were start, and again we have so many creators out there, we have so many platforms in which to sell these products now. How would you build Schmidt's Naturals, or we'll just call it Schmidt's, how would you build the business today starting in 201, differently than what you did in 2010?

[46:41]
Jaime Schmidt: I think yeah it's a very different landscape, especially with natural deodorants. I think I would probably be a little more planful today, because back then I was sort of oblivious and I didn't take a lot of time researching the competition. I think that naivete was almost an asset back then because I didn't' stress over what's so and so up to, and what do I need to do to be better than this brand. I was more like how can I make this product the best possible and connect with my consumers. But today, I don't think brands have that luxury as much; there's no time for it. It's such a competitive landscape that I think you have to come in with a really strong understanding of who you're up against and how you can be different.

[47:19]
James McKinney: 2010 no Instagram. Well Instagram but you weren't using it for anything.

[47:23]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, it was just starting, yeah.

[47:25]
James McKinney: You see a lot of brands that just pop up on Instagram and start on Instagram. If you were starting over and doing it all, would that be a big player for you?

[47:35]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. If I started a brand today, yes. I think another thing that I would probably do differently is put a little more of myself out there. When I was building Schmidt's, I was so deep into the business and operations. I had an Instagram count but it was for Schmidt's. my face is behind the scenes. We were putting pictures of deodorant. But I was such a key part of the business. I was the brand, right? And so if I were to build it today I think I would just put a little more of me and my personal piece out there.

[48:04]
James McKinney: Do you think that is a general I don't want to say rule of thumb, but a general good practice for people building brands? I feel like consumers now, they want a connection beyond the product. It's almost like they want to know who the mom or dad is, or who the veteran is. They want to know the person. Do you think that is across all consumer products?

[48:28]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, I do and I think not only do they want to know who is behind the product but they want to know more about that person. Little silly things that a founder or an entrepreneur can post on Instagram about their daily lives I think is really intriguing to customers, and the more they can get to know that person on a personal level, I think they're more inclined to buy their product.

[48:45]
James McKinney: That's good learning for all you listeners out there that are looking at consumer products. I think part of what makes platforms like Etsy compelling is that you know it's going to a maker, a general creator. I think that is part of the draw for those who buy on Etsy, but you can still have a big brand and still have that connection if the founder or creator is putting themselves out there and sharing more of the story to that product.

[49:11]
Jaime Schmidt: I think it's a lot of work. For me it could have been really distracting because I was so deep into the business and every operational aspect when I was leading this company that to prioritize something like putting a picture of myself on Instagram or doing stories all the time, that would take away from the business. So it's not easy. I think there's a balance there that can be difficult to achieve, but if you're in a position to make it happen I think it is important.

[49:33]
James McKinney: In my mind, I can't figure out how to solve that because to your point it is distracting.

[49:38]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, it really is and then you have to always be on right?

[49:40]
James McKinney: Like doing 40 stories a day or whatever, I just can't even imagine. I know the value in it, I just haven't solved it to figure it out yet.

[49:47]
Jaime Schmidt: I also think it's easier, like some people can just pick up the phone and just start chatting. For me, I'm like take a deep breath. 10 minutes of prep, look in the mirror and make sure my hair is okay. So getting through that, that ego stuff and just like not worrying about the tiny details.

[50:02]
James McKinney: So before we step off the Schmidt's Naturals chapter and into the next phase, I'm passionate about female entrepreneurship. You self-funded everything, so you didn't have these awkward VC conversations. Let me rephrase that, not awkward, horrible VC conversations from female founders that we hear where there's just a doubt that a female founder can build it or do something. So because you self-funded and never had those, was there any moment along the journey that you just had a doubt in your ability to execute?

[50:38]
Jaime Schmidt: You know, maybe I didn't have those awkward conversations with investors like you're talking about, but I did have other moments. For example, we had hired an accounting firm to do our accounting the last few years. When we were leading up to the acquisition, they were heavily involved doing diligence and such. I remember this moment very specifically where one guy from their office said to me, "How are you feeling? How does all this make you feel?" This whole touchy feely thing, but then to my male counterpart might be like, "All right, let's talk numbers." So I just was treated differently. I saw it, I experienced it, maybe in a different way.

[51:14]
James McKinney: That storyline is not uncommon across some of the tech founders that I've met that are female, where they'll be pitching with their male cofounder and it's almost like the softballs are thrown to her as the female and he's getting the analytical data questions. There is just this weird I don't want to say… it's this weird ignorance that when it comes to female entrepreneurship that females can't do the heavy lifting. But again, you were self-funded. Other than that moment, I assume you didn't have when it comes to buying and selling your product in big stores, you probably didn't have those weird moments.

[51:49]
Jaime Schmidt: There were always weird moments along the way. I think any entrepreneur will encounter. Maybe it's even in the networking event or something, right.

[51:56]
James McKinney: Unilever buys Schmidt's Naturals. Life changing money. You and your husband, you really don't have to do anything else but you're right, you're young and now you've had the taste of this idea of building something from nothing, and it's super addictive.

[52:11]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah.

[52:12]
James McKinney: It's a thrill ride. And as emotional, up or down, well actually one of the things we didn't talk about with Schmidt's Naturals, was there ever a low point for you where you're just like why?

[52:22]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, there were definitely moments of feeling sort of trapped, I'm so deep in this and it's all these people are depending on me. I have employees, I have customers, I have retailers, and it's like I'm in charge of this huge machine that's become more than me. It's scary and it's really intense. You can't take a day to just hide out in your bed and say screw it all, so yes I had moments. I also knew that it was the most liberating and exciting thing I'd ever done in my life, and I was all into it, 100%. When that Unilever acquisition happened, it was an opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work that I had done but also to understand that maybe I would be in a position now to do the next thing with even greater purpose.

[53:06]
James McKinney: And did you know what that next thing was? Had something been percolating in your brain towards the 2016 year when things were kind of starting to happen with Unilever in 2017? Did you know what that next step was?

[53:20]
Jaime Schmidt: No, I didn't. Honestly I really was looking forward to just a little bit of quiet time. I knew that something else would probably come, but I didn't want to think about it too much. What I really was excited about was having time to myself to reflect on this, I mean the last seven years of my life. I also just wanted to be still. You said I was clearly an extrovert, but I actually consider myself an introvert. I was looking forward to this time to sit alone in the room and be a normal human. Take walks, do laundry, go to the grocery store, just stuff to make me feel normal. And my beautiful son, he at the time of the acquisition was 7, and I was just so ready to get back into being a mom. It was, I do give myself credit for balancing both very well, the entrepreneurship and motherhood, and with my husband we had a beautiful thing going. I think we did well, but I was excited to not have the distraction of talking about deodorant at dinner or stressing about the next big retail account, and just be 100% mom. So that felt really good for a while. My son has just been so supportive through the whole process too, with how he could be from what he understood about it. I think he's learned so much too, so it's been great.

But I did reach a point where I thought okay, there's more to be done here, and I didn't really understand what that was until I started getting hundreds of emails from people. A lot of entrepreneurs telling me they were very inspired by my story, asking questions. Very practical questions but also bigger questions like how do I build a business and sell it to Unilever. So I was overwhelmed in a really great way, but also wondering how can I help so many people? I obviously can't have one on one calls with every single email, but I want to do what I can to help. That combined with my husband and I being kind of like brand nerds and loving products, we decided to launch this media platform. It's called Super Maker and the point of our website really was to draw attention to other entrepreneurs doing things that we thought were really cool, and then also to have real conversations around workplace issues and career advancement, just all stuff that we had personally been through or that we knew were hot topics in the community of entrepreneurs. So that was one piece.

Then we also launched an investment fund too around the same time. Actually that came a little bit sooner. That fund is called Color. Our goal was to invest in underrepresented entrepreneurs, so primarily women and people of color. We're really passionate about consumer packaged goods, CBG brands, so that's where we saw our biggest value add was with those types of brands and founders. So with Color and Super Maker, our mission is really aligned to just be of support to other entrepreneurs, and especially people that need the extra support.

[56:00]
James McKinney: Oh, I love every bit about that.

[56:02]
Jaime Schmidt: Thanks.

[56:03]
James McKinney: The investment mechanism makes sense and there's almost low hanging fruit. As an outsider observing, well of course someone's going to invest, right? What you're doing with Super Maker, I am so passionate about elevating the entrepreneurial story and providing as much assistance as possible. Because I think one of the things, and I'm sure you experienced it within Schmidt's naturals, is that we can get so isolated in building our business and we kind of forget about the other entrepreneurial community around us. In those low moments, it's those times when the community can really help pull you out of it because it gives you that perspective like okay, I'm not alone in this journey, it's not uncommon to me, and probably can contribute to a much higher level of success for those that are part of a community.

[56:48]
Jaime Schmidt: Right. Any time at a community event now, I congratulate other entrepreneurs for being there. I think that's huge because I was so deep in the business I didn't take time to do that. That support from other entrepreneurs is so key. There's so much to be learned.

[57:03]
James McKinney: From a community and entrepreneurship perspective, what do you wish you would have done differently while building Schmidt's Naturals?

[57:09]
Jaime Schmidt: I think bringing more attention to the incredible value that my team had brought. I loved and valued every employee that we had there. When I could, I would tell them but I think I could have done more. I think sometimes I was just so busy that it was just like taken for granted. Of course you're doing well and of course I think you're amazing. But like if I could have just told them every day you're awesome, I couldn't be here without you.

[57:33]
James McKinney: That is awesome. Oh my goodness, I love it. Let's talk about Color a little bit, because Color is for women and women of color.

[57:42]
Jaime Schmidt: People of color or women generally.

[57:43]
James McKinney: Oh, okay, so a male of color can be part of your portfolio.

[57:48]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, and that's just our mission. We'd make an exception for a brand that was amazing and there's other entrepreneurs maybe that don't fit that specific criteria, they need support too. We're not saying no to people, but we just see the biggest name for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

[58:03]
James McKinney: Especially for female founders.

[58:05]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, and there's more and more women building businesses every day and it's so inspiring.

[58:10]
James McKinney: There are women building businesses that can become something incredibly significant, both globally and personally for the founder, that without the guidance of someone like you that has done it before, may never become globally recognized and so I love that you're pouring back into that entrepreneurial community for female founders. I love that.

[58:32]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah, it's really inspiring and I learn so much too. I'm so blown away by the quality of like craftsmanship and brands in general right now. Because when I started I think it was different. I think back to those days of standing at my booth and I would see other people who made things, and it's just so much more sophisticated now. I'll go out to a weekend show in Portland and just see these beautiful brands with awesome packaging, and they know what they're doing, a full marketing plan developed.

[58:57]
James McKinney: Do you realize, when we talk about it's so different now, it's so different these days. Your shampoo class was 10 years ago. That's crazy to me that we're referencing something as old and I don't want to say irrelevant but so different today and it's just 10 years ago. It's so different now for entrepreneurs.

[59:23]
Jaime Schmidt: I think it's because they see, there's stories like Schmidt's. The fact that Unilever took a chance, not took a chance but saw the value in a brand like Schmidt's, that's huge. That's what's different today, so other people are inspired like wow, I could do that. That could be me and so they're like all right, I'm going to start my own thing. Entrepreneurship is just so hot. It really is.

[59:41]
James McKinney: It really, that's I think that's exciting but I also think there are too many of these success stories out there and people are assuming that's the norm. It's like that's the anomaly for people. Everyone, listen, Jaime's story, your story is an anomaly. It's not the norm. The journey though is what is applicable and relevant to everyone listening.

[60:05]
Jaime Schmidt: And I say it to people all the time too, like success means something different to everybody.

[60:09]
James McKinney: 100%.

[60:10]
Jaime Schmidt: Right? I mean it doesn't mean an acquisition. It doesn't mean bringing in millions in revenue, it's just what brings you satisfaction and how you can make your own difference in the world.

[60:18]
James McKinney: Yes, absolutely. What do you hope comes of Super Maker and Color?

[60:23]
Jaime Schmidt: Well, you know I'm not the type to look too far ahead.

[60:25]
James McKinney: That's true.

[60:26]
Jaime Schmidt: But I really-

[60:27]
James McKinney: I guess for the rest of this year what do you hope?

[60:28]
Jaime Schmidt: Yeah. I just really want to be a resource and a support system, and an inspiration to other people. I just want people to have their stories told and to know that there's a support network out there. One thing that we've been saying lately around Super Maker is an alternative to homogenous business media. We're not looking to replace anybody or do anything better than any other media platforms, but we just see opportunity to do things a little bit differently.

[60:51]
James McKinney: Oh, I love that. Oh my goodness. It's funny as you're saying this, I can hear a joy and almost an abundance of gratitude just from all the different that have contributed in your life, and that leads to as our time comes to an end, a couple of my final questions, the ones I ask every founder. First one being is about gratitude. When you look back on your entire life's journey, there's so many people that have contributed to where you are today, and I think a lot of times founders they lose that perspective and it becomes isolating. If you become isolated, it increases your chances of failure because you need to have that perspective that you can't do this alone. So when you look across your journey, who are all the people that you point to with immense gratitude for where you are today?

[61:36]
Jaime Schmidt: Well, this is very fresh on my mind because I just wrote my acknowledgements for my book which is coming out, which I'm really excited to announce. My book is called Super Maker, same as our website.

[61:48]
James McKinney: Oh, I love it.

[61:49]
Jaime Schmidt: So more information to be found on supermaker.com. But anyway, so within those acknowledgements, I had a moment when I put that together, I'm like wow, there's… the Jaime Schmidt alone is nothing. It's like the support around me that made everything possible, and so it's my husband Chris. It's my mother-in-law who stepped up to watch my son when we needed her. My son himself. All my friends who have been there, my family. Every employee of Schmidt's, every partner of Schmidt's, retailers that took a chance on me. Then just the wider community of entrepreneurs and makers that are out there.

[62:23]
James McKinney: I love it, oh man. That is one of my favorite questions because I fully believe that you cannot do this alone, and too many people try. I think again it plays back to the success stories people hear about where someone just sleeps on a couch for 18 months and all the sudden they're selling for $60 million, whatever the case may be. Again, it's an anomaly, so I love hearing the gratitude answers because like you mention your mother-in- law. Those moments matter and were key to the success of Schmidt's Naturals. So I love that.

So as our time does come to an end, we've been talking to tens of thousands of listeners and getting inspiration and encouragement from your story as we've unpacked it all. But I'd like to have this mentoring moment with one of my listeners, because I view The Startup Story as a digital mentor for entrepreneurs. Imagine this to be a coffee shop, where it's just you and one of my listeners and my listener personas kind of fall into a few different brackets. One is the existing entrepreneur who has a business but maybe a bit frustrated. Cash flow is a challenge. Maybe they've been doing it for 20 something years and they're a small business in a small market. Maybe it's the defeated entrepreneur, the one who has tried time and time again, and just can't get anything to succeed and they're just about ready to hang their hat up.

Or maybe it's the want-repreneur, somebody who has a 9 to 5 job and like Jaime was 10 or 12 years ago, knew there was something greater for themselves but didn't know what. They wanted to create, they read these stories, see the news, they see these platforms where people are doing amazing things but they have something in their head that just tells them I can't pull that off, or maybe I'm too old, I'm 60 years old, maybe I'm too old for it, or I have a mortgage and kids I can't just pick up my life right now. Any persona you want, and maybe it's all three because at some point in time you were one of those three. What do you say to that person?

[64:08]
Jaime Schmidt: it's never too late to change your mind. If you're invested in something, you feel like you put a lot of time or money into something but you're just not feeling it or maybe it's not going the way you planned, then shift gears. It's okay.

[64:21]
James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Jaime brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. The easiest way to support Jaime is to purchase her new book, Super Maker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms. The book is scheduled to be released on September 8th, but if you register for Startup Story Live at startupstorylive.com you'll receive a very special offer for her book. Let's show up for Jaime Schmidt in a big way and connect with her on Instagram as well. She loves connecting with entrepreneurs everywhere. Her Instagram handle is @JaimeSchmidt, and like always we will include a link in our show notes. Remember, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's show up for Jaime in a big way. And now for my personal ask.

The Startup Story community has been so incredible about sharing our podcast with others, but we have more stories to tell and more people to reach. We too are a startup and word of mouth is everything, so please follow us on Facebook and Instagram @TheStartupStory or on Twitter @StartupStory_. If you're on LinkedIn, please search for The Startup Story and follow our company page. LinkedIn is a really powerful way to raise awareness of the show. But the most impactful way you can help us grow our audience is to leave a review on Apple Podcast. Or if you listen to the show via Spotify, then please simply share the podcast directly from your Spotify app or wherever you listen to the show.

These simple actions can make a huge impact in getting these amazing founder stories out to the masses. And please make sure to tag or mention The Startup Story when you do share so that we can connect with you and say thank you directly. I'm so incredibly appreciative of the fact that you listen to the show each and every week, and I look forward to sharing these amazing stories with you every Tuesday with hopes of encouraging and inspiring you to start your story.

If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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May 12 2020
Jaime Schmidt, founder of Schmidt’s Naturals

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