There are challenges faced by black founders that those who are not persons of color will never understand. However, the events of 2020, though tragic, helped propel these black founders to heights they had never imagined were possible for them.
There are challenges faced by black founders that those who are not persons of color will never understand. However, the events of 2020, though tragic, helped propel these black founders to heights they had never imagined were possible for them.
Quinton and Terran Lewis are two black founders who have experienced this. They began their startup, Herb’N Eden, in 2015. Herb’N Eden is an all natural plant-based bath and beauty company based out of the Atlanta area. At the end of 2019, Quinton and Terran headed into 2020 with hopes of closing $600,000 in product sales only to exceed that goal by 450%.
In this episode, we discuss the unprecedented success that 2020 brought to these entrepreneurs. They also explain how this unforeseen growth actually brought some challenges to both their business and their personal lives. Quinton and Terrn experienced the challenges mentioned above, both of being black founders when most founders are white and those challenges brought on by the black community, as well. Tune in to hear their raw insights into this important topic.
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Terran and Quinton Lewis, founders of Herb'N Eden
Quinton Lewis: Hi, I'm Quinton Lewis-
Terran Lewis: … and I'm Terran Lewis, and we are the cofounders of Herb'N Eden.
Quinton Lewis: … and this is OUR startup story.
James McKinney: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. This episode is a bit longer than most because we spend a decent amount of time discussing a topic that is, well, considered uncomfortable for some and necessary for many others. That topic is related to the challenges of being a black founder and how the events of 2020 helped our guests scale to heights they could have never imagined.
But before we jump into it, I want to say thank you to Amy Rollin and the team at Varia Search. Varia Search is a boutique legal recruiting firm that uses a bespoke approach to fill legal departmental roles within your company. Now whether it's general counsel or a paralegal they have a particular focus on startups and growing tech companies which is why I wanted to bring them and get them in front of you. Varia Search is a boutique firm which allows them to provide individualized, in depth attention to both their clients and to their searches. They focus solely on placing in house candidates which allows them to give their clients a bespoke experience in filling their legal needs. Their matchmaking approaching ensures that clients are paired with candidates who not only have a great set of credentials but also have a good cultural fit for your growing company. To learn more about Various Search please visit their website at variasearch.com. Now let's jump into this week's episode.
My guest this week is Quinton and Terran Lewis, the cofounders of Herb'N Eden. Herb'N Eden is an all natural plant based bath and beauty company based out of the Atlanta area. Last year I had the privilege of sitting with Jamie Schmidt who sold Schmidt's Naturals to Unilever for hundreds of millions of dollars after she spent seven years growing it from her kitchen through the farmers markets, and into the stores all over the world. We unpacked her story after her successful exit. Well Quinton and Terran Lewis play in that same space so we could very well be hearing the makings of another incredible growth story in the making. In fact at the end of 2019 they headed into 2020 with hopes of closing approximately $600,000 in product sales, and ended up exceeding that figure by 450%. You heard me correctly. In a year that decimated so many businesses, this is one of t hose stories of success. And in this episode we discuss the challenges that the unforeseen growth brought to their business as well as their personal lives. And you're fooling yourselves if you think that type of unforeseen growth isn't painful, because it is. We also have a very raw discussion about the challenges of being a black founder, and not just from the perspective of being a black founder when most founders are white, but we also discuss the challenges of being a black founder that are brought on by the black community. Again, this episode hits on some real and raw topics, but these are ones that need to be heard. Yet, like all of our Startup Stories, we can't jump to these discussions until we understand the entire journey. So for that reason, let's start at the very beginning.
Terran Lewis: I was not raised, well I actually was raised around entrepreneurs and my grandparents, but my parents in particular were not entrepreneurs. My dad was in the military for about 25 years I think, might have been 25 or 26 years. And my mom, she's done various jobs and just got a lot of college education throughout the years, and worked jobs. But my grandparents though, my grandmother actually was a Mary Kay sales director all her life, all my life, all that I've seen. So I always saw her working from home and of course cooking and taking care of the home there. And then my grandfather is a pastor and he actually has a Christian school down in Pensacola. He's a Virgo like me, like I like to attribute to it, and I just talked to him not too long ago. But he has this thing going on, so I can get the entrepreneurship spirit from them. But personally I wasn't like entrepreneurial minded as a kid.
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah. So no early side hustles, no bubble gum hustles, no garage sale to try and make some money, nothing like that?
Terran Lewis: I was not. I was not. Not as a kid, I really did not do like… I was very into clothes and really liked fashion. I was a thrift store shopper. Now you know, when I was like, well not until I got to college, I did some selling of my clothes that I would wear, I would just resell those. That was like my introduction, that was about it.
James McKinney: Now what about you, Quinton? Obviously from your childhood, you're an entrepreneur now but your early days were you surrounded by entrepreneurs?
Quinton Lewis: So I wasn't particularly surrounded by entrepreneurs. I think my dad is a salesman. He was a salesman. He was a car salesman for like 10 plus years. He did used to kind of hustle and kind of sell clothes, but he didn't have like an actual like I wouldn't call it a business. I kind of call it like a hustle. My mom was just traditional, just went to school, got a regular job and whatnot. My grandmother, she had a daycare business and she was the one that kind of introduced me I would say to like, "Hey, you can go cut that person's grass for $20," and she would take me to my great grandfather's house and I would cut his grass. I remember in school and high school, my dad worked at a vending machine company. And you know with vending machine companies you have to take the candy out if it's a day over the date.
James McKinney: Oh wow, okay.
Quinton Lewis: He would bring the old candy home and I would take it to school, and I would sell it for cheaper than the vending machine. I had to lay low doing that but that was my early introduction to selling things, was selling that candy in high school.
James McKinney: I love it. I love that. Most entrepreneurs have some type of I call it the bubble gum hustle. There's someone, their parents give them milk money, they stop by 7-11 or whatever, grab a bubblegum, sell it for $1 a piece or whatever. Everyone's got something and I love it. But Terran when you come to the end of high school, military is part of your family, ministry is part of your family, Mary Kay is part of the family. There's a lot of diversity in the exposure of what your future could be. So when you were coming to the end of high school, what did you think you wanted to do?
Terran Lewis: When I came to the end of high school, when I went to college, I knew my mom because my mom is what you call a professional student. She was in school for a long time and so of course coming out of high school that was really my option was college or the military, and my mom was very big on me having to go to college. I just was picking something. I was like I'm going to be a journalism major. I always loved to talk, so I was like I'll just do something like I'm a news reporter or something in the journalism field. That was the only thing I was thinking about.
James McKinney: One of the down sides to podcasting is that the audience can't just see all the different mannerisms as the interview is taking place, but Quinton has been pretty stoic as Terran is talking, and the moment she says, "I really like to talk," he just starts nodding his head.
Quinton Lewis: Yep.
James McKinney: The nuances of podcasting that don't come across.
Quinton Lewis: She does.
James McKinney: I love it, absolutely love it. So you thought something around journalism was really what you were feeling.
Terran Lewis: Yes, that's all I was thinking was something around journalism.
James McKinney: Now that obviously meant college, right? I don't think you… was there a field in journalism you were thinking where I don't have to go to college for? Or you just knew college was next step?
Terran Lewis: My mom was very integral in my life, so it was really college. I wasn't thinking military. She was like, "You're going to go to college." She held a college night for all my friends, for us to do applications. So I picked Georgia State because at first I wanted to go to like Spellman but they weren't offering some of the things that I wanted to do, and I picked George State and they had communications and broadcasting, and then I got into public relations so I was going to start to go down the field of public relations.
Quinton Lewis: Mm-hmm.
James McKinney: Oh there we go, there we go. So Quinton, how about you? Coming into the end of high school for you, what did you think your next steps were?
Quinton Lewis: Man, crazy thing is that I was a sports head. I played football all through high school in my earlier years so I was just thinking sports. I knew because of religious reasons that I wasn't going to play college football, so I just wanted to do something in sports. I actually got into exercise science. I went to George State as well. That's where me and Terran met was at Georgia State. So exercise science was the thing that I was looking at. I wasn't even thinking business or anything like that. It wasn't until I dropped out that I started thinking about business, but exercise science was the thing. Because I wanted to stay within the sports because I'm a sports fanatic. If I weren't doing what I was doing now, I would be doing something in sports.
James McKinney: Okay. But with that said, if being in sports was part of what you saw for your future what was your step outside of college? Obviously you meet Terran, a relationship develops while in college. But coming out of college, what was your first job?
Quinton Lewis: I actually interned at an urban farm. I think I would say, wouldn't you say that was probably like my first kind of like thing outside of college, Terran, was probably the intern at the urban farm?
Terran Lewis: Didn't you take on Brickman Group when you were doing the vegetable garden?
Quinton Lewis: Oh yes, yes.
Terran Lewis: That would be like a good-
Quinton Lewis: I'm sorry. I was really into gardening before all of this and I got a job at a commercial landscaping company as like a gardener, so I was designing gardeners. So that was like my first job or whatnot. Because I was trying to, after the sports thing and after I wasn't going to do that, I kind of shifted my mindset to gardening which is a whole story behind it, but I start getting into that. Then I wanted to monetize those skills so I worked for a commercial landscape company to kind of understand that side of things.
James McKinney: So there sounds like there's a lot that took place in your college years, Quinton. And before we get to unpacking Terran's college years, you enter college Quinton wanting to do something in sports, yet when I ask what you do afterwards it is in landscape design or gardening. What happened in those college years where it's like I'm not pursuing sports, and this is a route that is of interest to me? Because they're so very different, especially these particular interest.
Quinton Lewis: I think really what happened was that I'm in school. I really find myself doing what everybody else is doing. I'm just in the college life. I'm partying, I'm going to class, I feel like the average person, just doing what everyone else is doing. It wasn't until I actually met a contractor, this is like right after high school, and he introduced me to gardening. Fast forward I get an internship at an urban farm and I start getting into growing food and just urban farms. That actually around that 2011 or 2012 time, it was kind of becoming popular, like people growing food and sustainability, and all of that type of stuff. So as I'm learning everything at the urban farm I want to work in that field, like the landscaping type of gardening. I wanted to find a job in gardening. They actually required a degree. I didn't have a degree, but they still gave me the job because I showed my passion for it. So that's kind of how I transitioned to that. Just wanted to just get into the field.
James McKinney: Now before we jump to Terran's college years, a lot of my listeners may not have any frame of reference for an urban farm. They may think a community garden where it's just an 8x8 plot of land that you get to plant things if you want to plan things. Is that what an urban farm is? A farm to me contextually sounds much more significant in size and scale. So what is an urban farm?
Quinton Lewis: Well in the case that we're talking about it is like, so we're in Atlanta. Well, we're in Douglassville and Atlanta is the main city. In Atlanta there's a guy named Nuri. He purchased five acres inside of Atlanta, like it's right in the middle of the city. It wasn't that 8x8 plot, it was this five acre place. He had just acquired it and he needed students to just come in and free labor pretty much. I pretty much helped him to just kind of build it up. So the urban farm it literally was pieces of land with trees. It used to be an abandoned… it used to be a motel.
James McKinney: Really?
Quinton Lewis: It used to be a motel, but he pretty much just like converted it into this oasis of herbs and composting, and worm composting, and growing tomatoes, and basil.
James McKinney: In the middle of Atlanta.
Quinton Lewis: In the middle of Atlanta.
James McKinney: Wow.
Quinton Lewis: And actually there are like different places around, and this place is still going to this day, but like that's what this place was. It was no one here. It was just him, I call him like my older brother Nuri, and then me this young kid that just had a passion, just wanted to just learn. It wasn't even about money, I just wanted to get in there and just learn how to like… I just wanted skills. I was listening to Jim Rona and he always talked about, "Gain more skills," so I think that was my focus was just pick up some skills.
James McKinney: I love it, love it. So Terran for obviously again you and Quinton meet in college. Coming into college you wanted something to do with journalism and you switched to public relations. Coming out of college though what was that journey, and what did you end up doing out of college?
Terran Lewis: While I was in college I took on a job as a server, so that became my thing. It was a great way to make quick money. I loved being a server and I was just still going to school. What deterred me from school a little bit was because I was taking journalism/public relations and I remember taking a journalism class, and the teacher telling us about propaganda. I was like wait a second… you know? When I learned about propaganda and fake news, and how you work for certain corporations and you have to deliver this news, I was like that's not going to sit right with me. I wanted to be true to who I was. Not only that, but me and Quinton we were like spending a lot of time, so it was really like us talking a lot more about different things. I was having questions as I was turning into a young adult about religion, about my whole upbringing. What is life pretty much, I was going through that. I wanted to establish myself as a young adult.
And so Quinton was really into gardening, and his thought process has always been kind of like radical. So even when I'm like hanging out with him, it's like okay yeah, I want to drop out of school and do this. When he mentioned dropping out of school I was like oh shoot, we drop out of school around the same time, we both dropped out of school around the same time. And so even then, while we were in college, I had saw that flyer for the internship and I told Quinton about it. And he was the only person that responded to the internship. We dropped out of school and I was just working, but I was just like stressed out from the day in and day out of being a server, working in the restaurant industry. And Quinton was like, "Why don't you come up to the firm with me sometimes and start doing an internship too?" And so that's what we started doing.
I think it was during the summer time that we really both got into it, so like we would go to the farm during the day and then later on at night we would go to work. He was a valet at the time and I was in the restaurant industry being a server at the time. So we just learned more about farming practices. I was learning more about plants. That's where I learned about my first herb. That's where I learned about food, just even growing on a plant. I didn't even have that connection for myself growing up. I didn't kind of understand that food grew on a plant. So being an intern at that farm kind of just opened up my eyes to so much, and the fact that herbs can heal because Nuri showed us a plant. He showed us this tall, magnificent plant and I was like, "What is that?" And he was like, "This is the mullein plant. It helps to open up your lungs. It helps to open up the bronchial tubes," and I was like a plant helps to open up your lungs? Like what? So we're learning about the power of plants. Quinton, he recommended… Nuri was so deep into the soil, he was into this practice called biodynamics and so Quinton started getting into that. He's got a book called Secrets of the Soil and we just were learning about how complex growing a plant, Mother Nature, is.
Quinton Lewis: The mindset shift, that's the place, the mindset shift.
Terran Lewis: That was the place, so I wanted to learn a skill.
James McKinney: All right, let me jump in here really quick because Quinton and Terran's story is about to really pick up some steam as we begin to see how their life started leading up to them starting Herb'N Eden. But before we get into the thick of it, I want to invite you to join Grindology. This month is our premier shipment and you do not want to miss out on it. So what is Grindology you might be asking? Grindology is an entrepreneurial subscription box that ships every quarter, full of resources to help fuel your grind and your hustle. Each shipment delivers two bags of uniquely crafted coffee, specifically roasted for you the founder, the hustler, entrepreneur, maker, and creator. Each shipment also includes an exclusive mug that speaks to the unique nature that is you, the entrepreneur.
And lastly, and arguably most importantly, every single Grindology shipment will include a copy of the Grindology tactical manual. Every single issue of Grindology will be chock full of real tactics from real business builders, not journalists. Within the pages of the Grindology tactical manual we will be delivering to you tactics and strategies that you can integrate into your business immediately. How great would it be to receive real marketing funnel strategies from those who are doing it? Wouldn't it be helpful if a successful founder laid out specific user acquisition strategies that they use to grow their business? Well those are the types of tactics that will be found in each issue of Grindology. Like I said, real tactics from real business builders. Everything about Grindology is about helping to fuel your grind. That is why our friends at Design Pickle have partnered with us for our first shipment by hooking up one lucky subscriber with a full year of unlimited graphic design services. You can visit grindology.com to learn more. Like I said earlier we ship our first box this month, and it will be an exclusive shipment. So make sure to secure your box today at grindology.com. Like always, we'll include a link to grindology.com within our show notes for easy access. Now let's get back to our episode.
James McKinney: So my brain is going a little bit crazy right now because that is such a complete shift from where you both started just a few years before when you were entering college, which is why in The Startup Story we unpack the full journey because there are these moments where we just cut a different direction. There's something that happens to us or around us that begins to challenge the way we think, the way we process, and the way we do things. And now you're both in an urban farm environment. You're understanding more about the soil and the plants, and your perspective of the circle of life if you will begins to open up. But were you thinking this had something to do with your future from an income earning potential, or was this still just a hobby of some sorts? Because again, I know you had your other gigs to help provide an income but was this all just a hobby for you at this time?
Quinton Lewis: It kind of was just a hobby at the time. I mean, we were involved in the farmer's market culture. Like Terran said, we were very radical so we were thinking, "Oh, we're going to live on a commune. We want to get land."
James McKinney: Well hold on a second, let me say something. Terran said you were very radical, let's just be very real.
Quinton Lewis: Me, it is me. It is me, yes.
James McKinney: Let's just state what it is, because when Terran said that all I thought was oh man, I would have loved to have been there when she brought him home to meet mom.
Terran Lewis: Oh, it was really difficult because when we dropped out of college, like my parents were upset about that. So Quinton though, he was the radical catalyst and I eventually adopted it as well. But he was the catalyst.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, my parents even looked at us crazy, looked at me crazy. But I was expressing to her just like I just want to do more. Like I felt like everyone else. You know the little picture when it shows a person walking on the road by himself, and then everyone just walking in this row? I felt like I was in that road where everybody was just going. I don't want to go down that route. So after that I really wanted to monetize those skills that we learned because we weren't making really any money. We were servers, I'm a valet, we're not making any real money. What are we going to do? So that's when I started my first business. I monetized the skills that we learned at the urban farm to start my first business, which was called Ruach Ecad, a landscape design and gardening business where I would install vegetable gardens in people's backyards. It eventually kind of morphed into landscape design because the market really wasn't responding to the vegetable gardens. They really want flowers and trees in their yard.
James McKinney: They want the visually beautiful.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, they want beautiful stuff. Not many people had that mindset of I want to produce food in my backyard because we're so used to going to the store. And I completely understand that. I don't think the market was completely ready, and I didn't understand marketing at that time as well.
James McKinney: So now you're again, you're starting to monetize the skills you're learning. What is your journey at this point in time, Terran? What are you thinking from an income earning potential with regards to the farm that you're working on? As you're seeing him starting to monetize, are you starting to think the same way or what's going on in your life at this time?
Terran Lewis: So what's going on in my mind is I am starting to think the same way. At first, we started selling vegetables, having the connections where we were taking the vegetables to the restaurants, and then Nuri had me and Quinton selling at farmer's markets. We were selling plants and vegetables. So now I'm starting to see the commerce, I'm starting to see that transaction going on, and I started to look around the farmer's market and I had learned this skill, and I was learning how valuable of a skill farming was. I was like wow, I've got this farming skill, but farming is very tedious as a skill. And I'm looking around the farmer's market and I'm like I want to learn how to do something so that I can have this life at the farmer's market. I want to be one of these people selling my own thing at the farmer's market.
James McKinney: Okay, okay.
Terran Lewis: I want to learn a skill, and like Quinton said we were thinking about like… because we had went to go visit a commune that has a very popular birth center on there. I don't know if you've heard about the caravan that was back in the seventies that traveled from California from Tennessee.
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah.
Terran Lewis: We went to go visit their land. So when we went to go visit their commune that they have in Tennessee the way that they kind of prospered was that a lot of people had businesses. That's how they actually, they told the story of how they got started. A lot of them became midwives. They had a soy company doing tofu. So to have a community, you want to have a valuable business. So I was like okay, what skill am I going to learn to do? And I got into jewelry making. I was doing that and I was actually making jewelry and started selling the jewelry as well. That was really my introduction into me doing my own personal business. Then I was like this is not it, I want to learn how to do something more valuable. I was going through a craft book. I love to read as well. We went to Barnes and Noble and I just picked up a craft book and I was going through the book, and it had so many different crafts in there but for some reason soap making stood out to me, and I just ordered all the ingredients that it took to make that soap, and I made soap.
James McKinney: There you go.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, I remember that.
James McKinney: So now we're at this point where we now, I'm assuming… do we consider that moment the beginning of Herb'N Eden?
Quinton Lewis: Yes.
Terran Lewis: That was truly the beginning of Herb'N Eden.
James McKinney: So before we unpack Herb'N Eden, I feel like I would be doing my listeners a disservice, like there's probably this resonating question in their brain and I don't want them to be distracted as we unpack how you built Herb'N Eden, but what was it about a commune living that was attractive? Because that's not how either of you grew up, especially being raised by a military dad. I mean neither of you grew up that way. What was it about commune living that was attractive?
Quinton Lewis: One thing that I kind of left out was my father has always been a researcher of religion. He's always been searching. So we came into a religion called Hebrew Israelite. It's kind of like the black Jewish side. So they are very self sufficient type and very I would say radical, and just think differently, and growing your own food. They're like that. We were still involved with that community at the time, so that's kind of what that mindset was thinking, and that's when she was like, "Hey, let's develop skills." You know what I'm saying? Because growing food for a community is like the most essential skill. That's the most essential because we've all got to eat, so that's kind of where that mindset stemmed form was that religion. So when me and Terran got married and we were dating or whatnot, she came into that way of life that I was already in since I was 13.
James McKinney: And let's just be real, I'm Baptist and food is essential. Let's just, like-
Quinton Lewis: Hey, I'm always like-
James McKinney: Whoever has got the best potluck is going to have the biggest congregation, period.
Quinton Lewis: Absolutely, absolutely.
James McKinney: So I get it. So now you have this landscaping business that you are building on the side. Terran now is making soap. I assume the soap is what you took to the farmer's market.
Terran Lewis: Well, honestly when I first started making soap it was based off a hobby. Literally like I said I wanted a skill. Even though I was thinking business, it was kind of like I still just wanted to have a skill under my belt. So the first batch of soap I ever made was what we call melt and pour, where all I did was order a base and then I put the ingredients into it. And so I just posted that on Facebook and I was like, "Look, I made soap," and people were like, "Oh, I want to try it." So it wasn't really… it was more like a hobby, like I like to do this and I'm going to learn more and more about it. And then our congregation that we were involved in, that's where I started selling the soap. So before I even came up with the name Herb'N Eden I just wanted to sell my soap that I was making at our congregation, so that was my introduction to actually selling. We weren't involved in the farmer's market just yet.
James McKinney: So at what point, again now you have transactions on this product that stems from developing a skill as well as your time on the urban farm. So between the two of you as discussions are taking place, who is the driving force for continuing to level up Herb'N Eden? Where does that came from? Because you just via Facebook and among your congregation just selling it or distributing it. Then at some point you go to farmer's market. Then at some point you do something. Who is the mastermind behind the continual leveling up?
Terran Lewis: Quinton.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, yeah.
Terran Lewis: Quinton is the catalyst. He had the first business and everything. He's the one who put me on.
James McKinney: So then with that being said, Terran, as you were distributing it and really just learning how to make soap and distributing among the congregation, did that put you off at all as he's starting to see ways to monetize this skill set? Were you nervous in any way, shape, or form?
Terran Lewis: No, I wasn't nervous at all because the only thing I was nervous about probably was when we left school. But other than that Quinton was just so like entrepreneurial minded already. Even when I was just doing whatever I was doing with the soap he was like, "You need to start a soap business." Like he was the one who actually said that, and I was like… actually I was nervous. I was like start a soap business? What does that look like? I really remember my reaction being like what does that look like? A soap business? He was like, "You need to learn how to make the soap from scratch." That would make sense, because I would want to know everything that's in it, so I was like… So then from there I had to order a soap kit and learn how to make soap from scratch. And I had it in my mind okay, well I'm going to have a business. At first, I was like, Quinton helped, he came along I think like a year when we got into the online store. But for a while I was just learning my ways, reading books about starting businesses. And Quinton was working on his business and doing internet marketing at the same time. We didn't have a TV. We were just making soap and reading about creating an herbal body care business. That's what I was doing on my end.
James McKinney: So now for you Quinton as you were seeing her do this, your brain obviously is wanting to level up the business. As you see her distributing locally among the congregation, obviously then moving into farmer's markets, where were you seeing this from a journey and trajectory?
Quinton Lewis: So the crazy thing is when Terran was explaining the story about how she's in the kitchen, the melt and pour, the soap kit, I'm in the other room learning about internet marketing because I'm in my first business. My first year in business was horrible. Why does no one want vegetable gardens? Well no one knows about it. You don't create any content, duh. Now I start getting into internet marketing and start learning about content creation. I start learning about blogging and things like that.
So I always had a thought in my mind like I'm doing this service, it's taking a toll on my body, but then I'm looking at this product over here that Terran is making and I'm like, "Huh, this can be shipped. This can be sold online. We can make sales while we're asleep. Huh. This is the business right here that's going to take care of us for the long haul." I'm still doing my business and learning and things like that. It wasn't until at the end of my tenure with my landscaping business that I was just like okay, I really want to do something different. I really wanted to get into marketing, but I'm going to leave it there.
James McKinney: There you go. So one of the things that with any startup, because now we're in the startup phase of Herb'N Eden. And before we continue on, Terran can you unpack for my listeners what exactly the Herb'N Eden is?
Terran Lewis: Herb'N Eden is an all natural body care products company. It started with us making bar soap. Now we branch off and make liquid soap. We do facial care, we do body butters, and body oils as well. That's Herb'N Eden. It's me loving plants. And the basis of Herb'N Eden is that every product that we make it has to incorporate plants. It has to be plant based. We only use essential oils to scent any of our products so we don't use synthetic fragrances, and it's really just a matter of staying true. So just even our bringing up at the farm, we just wanted to stay true to the earth so that's what Herb'N Eden is for me. Creating products that are allowing us to stay true to the earth. Before we even started Herb'N Eden we were using like natural soaps. We were eating differently, we were trying to be more healthy inside and out.
James McKinney: Awesome. When would you say, what year would you say is the beginning of Herb'N Eden?
Quinton Lewis: Unofficially it's like end of 2014, 2015. But we officially created it on paper January 1, 2016.
James McKinney: But the products you were testing and distributing end of 2015.
Terran Lewis: Yeah, 2014 I started making soap and 2015 we were like distributing.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, just hobby hustling, selling it to congregation and to coworkers.
James McKinney: Okay, but all these things, the product, the packaging, there's costs to these things. And thus far, there isn't a tremendous amount of income opportunities that I'm seeing through the business that you were struggling with Quinton in the garden installations and landscape design. How did you fund this as you grew from nothing?
Terran Lewis: We still had our jobs. We were still working our jobs.
Quinton Lewis: Mm-hmm. I was fulltime with the landscape business the last two years, so since I was able to do that I was able to put some money in there. And then also I did take out a terrible-
Terran Lewis: A bad loan.
Quinton Lewis: … a terrible personal loan. I will never forget I took out a terrible personal loan of like $4,000 I think and I put that into Herb'N Eden and was just like… that helped us get a lot of material and things like that to first start off.
James McKinney: That was in 2015 or so?
Quinton Lewis: That was like 2016, at the beginning of 2016. That's kind of when I took out the $4,000 and I put up some money to buy like essential oils. I remember we bought our first drum of oil and things like that.
James McKinney: So in 2016 as you really started ramping up, what did 2016 look like for Herb'N Eden? Because now you are really starting to look at it as a business and not a hobby, not something you're just distributing among friends and family. You are looking at this as something, especially because as you said Quinton you were really getting head deep into internet marketing. You saw this is a product that we can ship and sell online. So what did 2016 look like for you from a marketing perspective, a funding of the growth if there was growth in 2016, as well as the products themselves?
Quinton Lewis: Terran was kind of doing a lot of things herself. She was doing a lot of the production herself, because I was still in my landscaping business that whole 2016.
Terran Lewis: And you were doing valet.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, and I was doing valet so I would be gone all through the day. Terran would be at home and she would be doing the production, doing all of that stuff. In terms of marketing-
Terran Lewis: I worked, too. I was a server at the restaurant.
Quinton Lewis: But remember you were only a server from January to like March.
Terran Lewis: At the beginning, yes.
Quinton Lewis: That's when we got into farmer's market.
Terran Lewis: We got into farmer's markets, that's how…
Quinton Lewis: And our physical sales outperformed the online sales. We didn't really have any online sales, but one of the things that we did and we stayed true with was we collected data at these farmer's markets. Every time we made a transaction we were collecting a number and an email and a name. we always did that, even if it was only a few hundred for the whole year, we stayed doing that and we stayed emailing and communicating. Terran was controlling the social media then as well. In terms of numbers, the first year of 2016 we only did $15,000 in revenue that entire year, and majority of that was physical sales at the farmer's market.
James McKinney: That's incredible, that's incredible. So now the end of 2016, are you still thinking, I'm going to ask this question of Terran, are you still thinking that there's some legs to this business and it can grow? Or are you like man we busted our tail for a year and only generated $15K? what were you thinking at this time? Because I know Quinton is just like we're about to scale, this is going to be crazy. I'm sure he's probably thinking like big, big, big right? I want to know what you were thinking though, Terran.
Terran Lewis: Because it was something I was passionate about as far as making soap I felt like we were going to still continue to go on. We were really starting to pick up traction because we were making the activated charcoal soap, and tea tree and turmeric soap. So when I was doing my research and development for even the products that I was coming out with I was trying to figure out what's hot, what's hot right now. So a lot of people were picking up on oh I like this activated charcoal, and the tea tree and turmeric, and we were getting good responses from the farmer's market. Even though it wasn't like the best and you know we struggled. We were like dang, do we need to go… I quit my job, I was like, "Do I need to go back after a while?" But 2017 is really when it got tough for us. 2016 it was like okay, we're going to keep on doing this. 2017 we were questioning.
James McKinney: So what happened 2017?
Terran Lewis: At the end of 2016 because we were in Destined, which we do a Destined trip pretty much every other year, and we were in Destined. I was having a talk with a subscription box and she was like, "Yeah, we want to put in an order for 4,000 bars of soap. And I was like huh? She found us through Instagram, first and foremost. She found us through Instagram. She tried out the activated charcoal soap so that was our driving force truly. She was like, "I really love this soap and I want to order 4,000 of this particular soap. I want to get 4,000 bars of the activated charcoal soap." When I first did the deal I was thinking, I usually don't tell this side of the story, Quinton says this.
Quinton Lewis: When you first told me about the deal you're saying?
Terran Lewis: Yes. When I first told him about the deal I was like, "She's going to buy all 4,000 at retail price," and he was like, "What? She is?" I'm like, "Yes, she is, she is."
Quinton Lewis: I didn't believe it. I didn't believe. I did not believe it.
Terran Lewis: So then I talked to her again and of course she did not buy at retail price. Actually she bought it even below the price that we made it, but because we were kind of like in a position where we really wanted the opportunity, even though we really didn't have any money in the business, we just saw it as an opportunity to be in a subscription box where we were going to be reaching out to 4,000 people that we weren't reaching out to on our own. And throughout our whole span of ever making soaps, our years of being in business, we had never made 4,000 bars in totality. So that was a new, we had never done that. I didn't know how I was going to do it, I wanted to take this on because I saw it as a really big opportunity for us to kind of just market a little bit more and create a brand partnership. That brand was actually more noted than we were as well. They had a lot of people that were using their subscription box.
James McKinney: I mean that's the beauty of subscription boxes, the discovery side of it, right, for brands to be discovered. But what was the downside of that for you guys?
Quinton Lewis: Like she said it was a good thing for exposure but the down side was that it's a brand partnership. They labeled it as this is a brand partnership, so we're only going to buy the bars at $1. Now, we're selling the bars at $6 at the time, so I'm like $1? We had to sit and think like okay, let's still do this. So basically the downside was that it wasn't a profitable deal by any stretch of the imagination but the thing was that they were going to front us half of the money up front. So they front us half of the money upfront so we can buy materials to start producing it. Another down side was that, that deal even though she started talking with them at the end of 2016 we didn't finalize the deal until-
Terran Lewis: It took months.
Quinton Lewis: … Until like February or March.
Terran Lewis: And we had six weeks to fulfill it.
Quinton Lewis: We had six weeks to fulfill it, and again we had never produced 4,000 bars ever. And at the time we were going through it very hard financially. Very hard to the point where-
Terran Lewis: We were actually about to find jobs prior to that.
Quinton Lewis: Yes. Terran was actually about to find a job.
Terran Lewis: I got hired.
Quinton Lewis: She did get hired. The day you got hired, they called you back and was like, "Hey, we want to do the deal."
Terran Lewis: And I called the job back like, "I'm not going to do it because I've got six weeks to make 4,000 soaps."
Quinton Lewis: Yep. So fast forward, we produced the soaps and I never… because this was our first deal, I didn't negotiate shipping, anything. I was so green in this I didn't negotiate shipping. I didn't even negotiate anything. It was just like they gave us the deal, and we just said yes.
Terran Lewis: We'll take it.
Quinton Lewis: And at this point in time today, if we ever heard that deal again we'd be like, "No, absolutely not." But that deal really set our online store to really go off, because our soap was getting exposed to 4,000 people. We didn't have any money for shipping. We actually run out of money towards the end of producing this, so I look at Terran and I was like, "Hey, we honestly don't even have enough money for shipping. How are we going to get it to them?"
James McKinney: So you were able to produce the 4,000 bars in a very fast period of time, which you've never done before so I'm curious how you accomplished that. But then once you did produce all those you didn't have a way to get it to wherever they needed to be.
Terran Lewis: Nope, we didn't.
Quinton Lewis: So the way that we did this, to answer your question about how we produced it shout out to our mentor Craig. He used to do some woodworking so what he did was we stayed up literally all night and he literally helped us like 5X our production. We were only making 100 bars at a time.
Terran Lewis: Because we only had like seven molds to start w.
Quinton Lewis: So he helped us produce a lot more molds ourselves. So we went to Home Depot, got the wood cut, and we stayed up all night putting together these molds. So then we went from 100 bars at a time to making like over 500 bars in one session. So we were able to knock that out and produce these bars.
Terran Lewis: So that helped to increase our production. We were creating bigger batches after that.
James McKinney: So how did you raise money for the shipping then?
Quinton Lewis: So as far as raising money for the shipping, I told Terran, I said, "Hey," I remember this night, we were at the urban farm. I said to her, I said, "Hey, what if we drove the soap there?"
James McKinney: To where? Where did they need to be?
Quinton Lewis: In LA, and we're in Atlanta. So I said, "Hey, what if we rent a vehicle and we drive it there?"
Terran Lewis: The radical.
Quinton Lewis: we only had like a few days left to get it there and it wasn't going to make it there in time. And then at the time I didn't know about third party logistics where they could be cheaper than going through USPS and them. I didn't know about that. All I was thinking was man I've got to pack 20 something boxes, ship it USPS, it's going to cost like $1,200. We didn't have $1,200. I was like all right, let's do a video, let's do a Go Fund Me. I literally took my phone. I said, "Terran, let's ask them for the money." I shot a video of her and we literally raised $4,000 in two days.
Terran Lewis: And Quinton really spearheaded a lot of that as he said. He even had the idea, he was like, "Okay, so let's go through and go through our Facebook messages, and personally message everybody that we know on Facebook messenger," and that was how we were able to get that money in like two to three days because these people that we were personally… we would have conversations with them. Not only that but Quinton his big motto through it all is document the journey.
Quinton Lewis: So we documented it.
Terran Lewis: So we had been documenting the whole process of yo, we've got a 4,000 bar order. Y'all we've been staying up late at night making soap, waking up early in the morning, my thumbs hurt, showing everything. We'd been showing everybody everything, so they'd been along with us through the process. And gave money to us.
Quinton Lewis: So when we asked for the money it wasn't like, "Oh, what you need the money for?" They already knew because we were going live, we were showing everything. So when we asked for the money they gave it to us quickly. We were able to rent a vehicle. We were able to have money for gas, food.
Terran Lewis: Bring an extra person with us, an extra driver.
Quinton Lewis: And we literally drove it across the country in 36 hours, delivered it by hand-
Terran Lewis: And came back.
Quinton Lewis: … got to meet the people and had enough money to make it back to Atlanta.
Terran Lewis: Yes.
James McKinney: Unbelievable, unbelievable.
Quinton Lewis: That was the best moment. Out of everything in our whole entire journey that was the best experience so far.
Terran Lewis: That was. Yes, that was.
James McKinney: Now in my mind I can assume why that might be but why do you consider that to be just a remarkable moment for your journey?
Quinton Lewis: The thought, like for example when I was at the urban farm and I was like, "Hey, what if we drove it there?" And then I actually executed on it and we did that. Being able to drive across the country, I never drove across the country so seeing America, America is absolutely beautiful.
Terran Lewis: It's beautiful.
Quinton Lewis: It's beautiful and being able to see that, travelling and seeing new things it brings up like new thoughts and new experiences, and you can conjure up just new things. I think just the experience of it, and we were young. We were, how old were we at the time, like 25 I think?
Terran Lewis: 2017 yeah we were like-
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, 25. We were just young and ambitious, and it wasn't about the money. Because again we didn't make any money on this deal. We didn't make any money but the fact that we were exposed to all these people. So after the deal was done I start seeing the reviews coming in. I start seeing the reviews of, "Hey, we got your soap in the Onyx box. Hey we got this soap in the Onyx box and I love it." People start coming back to the online store, shopping with us, and that's when I started seeing the growth and the uptick start to come up.
Terran Lewis: And even in the farmer's market we were having people coming up to us like, that lived in Atlanta and were like, "I tried your soap in the Onyx box and found out you guys were here in Atlanta. Saw you on Instagram and saw you did the farmers market, had to come find you guys in person." So we were seeing some good results as far as that was concerned.
James McKinney: That's incredible. One of the things that we learn during this process with the GoFundMe is that you've been documenting the journey. And obviously there's lots of people that talk about the idea of documenting everything, and using video, and telling your story. For a majority of entrepreneurs there is this block to wanting to do that until they have something to show for it. Why was that not a block for you? Because especially when you said 2016 that was a rough year. You guys were getting jobs. I don't think anyone wants to hold up their phone documenting on Instagram story, "Hey guys, it's really hard. We're about to go get a J-O-B because this ain't working." How did you still maintain this idea of documenting everything despite the numerous challenges you were having?
Quinton Lewis: I think and shout out to Gary V, I think Gary V was one of the ones that really helped me because people struggle with this what do I post, what content do I create. I don't know if you know that post when he talked about don't create, document. That actually is easy. So at the end of a day or maybe in the midst of our day all I would say to Terran, "What happened?" That's the content, what happened, and we would just show that. So that was a way of us trying, that kept us consistent in our content and our posting. We just communicated with our customers as if they were like investors almost. That's how we were doing it. We were just communicating to them like they were family, just letting them know everything. So that's kind of what got us through that. And it stemmed from that first business as well because I did a lot of documenting in that first business. So I took a lot of those things that I was doing in that first business and applied them to this product based business, and as you can see it produced a lot more results.
James McKinney: Were there moments where you were like I don't want to document, this is too embarrassing, this is too challenging, this is going to make us look bad? Were there moments where you were like I don't want to hit record?
Terran Lewis: I was the only one that ever felt like that. Quinton always had to push me. Actually, one of our videos that really went, that a lot of people noticed, it went really-
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, I remember that.
Terran Lewis: … was okay one time we didn't really have any money and we didn't know how we were going to pay the rent. We were like we're going to go out to some salons, some beauty salons and barber shops, and go sell the soap.
Quinton Lewis: Door to door.
Terran Lewis: So it was Quinton's idea. Quinton was like, "We need to make some money." So Quinton was like, "Okay, now it's your turn to go up to this one salon and go in there and sell." And I was so nervous but he started recording. He was recording me being nervous about going in there, and he was like, he's in the video saying, "Just go in there. You'll be all right." And I'm like, you could see my hesitation like I don't want to go in there. But so many people loved to see that transparency and that vulnerability, and see that they thought, you know they see is successful and they're like, "Wait a second, you were scared too to go sell your product?"
Quinton Lewis: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Terran Lewis: You know, showing that. That honestly gave me confidence like being able to show those vulnerable times and people actually reaching out and being like, "You know you inspired me through that vulnerable time and showed me it's not all peaches and cream." They love to see that.
Quinton Lewis: And to give you numbers, 2017 we ended up growing to $68,000 in that year.
James McKinney: Oh wow, okay.
Quinton Lewis: So we went from $15K in 2016 and then the end of 2017 we ended up doing $68,000 in sales that year. So it was a good year in terms of the growth.
James McKinney: Yeah, absolutely and obviously numerically not just revenue but units and customers. There's lots of things that are now starting to work in your favor from a marketing perspective. 2018 happens, what does 2018 look like for you from a numbers perspective?
Quinton Lewis: So 2018 we did $108,000 so if you ask me about all of our years, I would say this is our worst year and the only reason why I would say this is our worst year because this is when I learned personal expenses really kind of got in the way that year. Me and Terran were living on our own in a house. Because what we forgot to mention was that in the early part of Herb'N Eden we moved back with our parents. In that 2015 before we officially created it we moved back with our parents to try to figure out what we were going to do and things like that. So 2018 we were out on our own, we were living in a house, and I really felt like personal expenses were killing us. Even though it was a more consistent year, I think we probably were doing around like $8,000 a month on average and we did $108,000 so in terms of growth we did grow. But we didn't grow like I expected to. Because our Q4 of 2017 was bigger than any quarter of 2018.
James McKinney: So you just played that out in Excel, like okay we're going to have a $250,000 year in 2017 and didn't get there, got it.
Quinton Lewis: Yep, it didn't. But again, it was more consistent but it just… if your Q4 of 2017 is bigger than all of your quarters in 2018 it's just like what happened?
James McKinney: Yeah, absolutely. So lets' walk through the years because 2020 while it was a challenging year for most businesses it was a tremendous year, although there were challenges with it as well, but it was a tremendous year for Herb'N Eden. So 2017 you had said you did about $108,000 I think you said for the year.
Quinton Lewis: 2018.
James McKinney: 2018, $108,000. What was 2019?
Quinton Lewis: 2019 was $263,000.
James McKinney: And 2020 what did that year end up for you?
Quinton Lewis: It ended $2.7 million.
James McKinney: What happened? That is remarkable growth. That's like Inc's Fastest type of growth. That arguably might be in like the top 500 of the 5000 list if it gets there. So what took place in 2020 that worked so well for you?
Quinton Lewis: At the end of 2019 Q4 of 2019 we did $100,000 in Q4, so at the end of 2019 I'm like okay, we've really got to like step it. I really want to go into… because we only projected in 2020 to do $600K because to go from $263 we were like hey, if we hit $600K that's a good year based on the trajectory of all the other years. So I'm like hey, $600K that's good. So we've got to run paid ads. We were never really running paid ads at all in any of those years.
James McKinney: So up until this point word of mouth, remarketing in your emails that you're capturing, the subscription box had a nice boost for you, other maybe partnerships come along. But no paid ads, organic search and just word of mouth stuff.
Quinton Lewis: Only paid ads we really were running were like we ended up getting a brick and mortar in 2019 just for production, and then we turned a little bit of the front into a store. But we did a grand opening, I ran ads for that, for the grand opening. But other than that I wasn't really strategically running them like how you're really supposed to do it, like commit to a budget every month and scaling them up incrementally. So in 2020 we started off January, we started off with a budget of $2,000 for ads. We also hired a videographer, so we said, "Hey, we really want consistent content. We really want to have a videographer with us to document everything and to really just be with us."
James McKinney: So you went, this is amazing to me, you end 2019 at $200,000 something in revenue, and at that point you're like now we're going to dedicate $2,000 in paid ads, I assume most of it Facebook but you might have done some Google.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, Facebook and Instagram.
James McKinney: So paid ads and you're going to hire someone dedicated to creating video content.
Quinton Lewis: Mm-hmm.
James McKinney: You were going all in at this point.
Quinton Lewis: Absolutely because I said, hey, and the crazy thing is that through 2019 we were living with our parents. We were doing, like I said we ended off the Q4 of 2019 at $100K for that quarter, still living with my parents. We had no expenses. We kept those expenses super low because remember 2018 I learned that personal expenses can really kill your business. So I said you know what, let's just take a step back, let's really be all in. because if we really want this business to really be for us, and really take care of us long-term we've got to go all in. so we committed to an ads budget, we commit to a videographer and COVID hits. The protests, you know the George Floyd stuff and people really wanted to just support black businesses, and what was that other thing Terran? Oh, COVID, protests, and ads. I think the mix of all of that-
Terran Lewis: And our brand story had gotten released during that time.
Quinton Lewis: We came out with a brand story video that did like 3 million views, and that really was like the perfect storm. So like to give you context, in January we were doing like $30K in revenue, February we did $38K, March we went up to $63K, April we went to $100K, May we went to $200K, June was at $300K, so it was just… it was growing so much. I know we'll probably talk about the mental side and the stress side of that, but when I say this was so unbelievable, I literally was trying to stop the sales and people were still just ordering.
James McKinney: Obviously that type of growth, especially unplanned for, probably just did a toll on both you individually, your marriage, your finances, your planning. All of that, your customer service probably became an issue. That is tremendous growth that you had not planned for in any way, shape or form. Again, I think a lot of people are probably listening thinking that's a problem I'd like to try and figure out and solve, and I'm sure it is a problem we would all like to figure out and solve. But for you being in the midst of that, trying to stop the machine, what was happening in your world that was so bad that you wanted to stop the sales?
Quinton Lewis: The way that I was trying to stop the sales was we way were getting back… so we produce all of our products in house. We produce everything in house and because we do I think that gave us a little bit of an advantage because we produce everything in house. So at first I was like hey, it's a week fulfillment time. Then I would bump it out one to two weeks. Then I would do two to three weeks. I was literally trying to stop the orders by the fulfillment time. It got all the way up to four to six weeks. I was like hey, I'm going to put it at four to six weeks Terran, I think people will stop ordering then. Just because we kind of needed to pull back, but at the same time I wanted that revenue to keep coming in because it was actually fueling the growth.
James McKinney: Cash flow.
Quinton Lewis: It's cash flow. We were able to hire, because pre COVID we only had like two or three employees. After all of this was said and done, right now we're at like 35 plus employees.
James McKinney: Unbelievable.
Quinton Lewis: And then we ended up getting a ware house in between that. So that's a lot of expenses. So we had to have that money come in. we didn't have any loans or any investors. We really needed that money so I just said hey, I'm going to put four to six weeks out. So by having people wait four to six weeks that allowed us to have this capital to be able to fuel our growth. It almost was bad. Like I'm not even going to lie. It was a customer service nightmare. That's when we hired a customer service person. And Terran, I don't know if you want to speak about just kind of like that whole mental thing that you were going through. And of course me as well.
Terran Lewis: Yeah, we were both definitely going through it mentally. Our marriage was actually doing, it was doing great because the fact that we had each other and we both knew what we were going through that helped us a lot to be able to have each other to kind of be like, "Okay, we're in this together." But it was really difficult because all those years prior to that we never had any fulfillment issues, we were getting orders out really quickly, our product quality was great, everything was looking good. I was just used to praises. That's all I was used to was good comments. So then when all of that started happening with the fulfillment time going on forever, we started encountering more like negative, "I'm disappointed, I've been a customer with you guys," and it was really taking like an emotional toll on me because I felt like this is my product.
Quinton Lewis: This is my baby.
Terran Lewis: Yeah, this is my baby so to start to see that it was like… it was suffering, it was just like you know I felt like it was like a weight on my whole world, and I was trying to get out of this hole, and it was like more dirt just kept coming in when I'm trying to get out the hole. But like Quinton said, the customer service, us hiring somebody for customer service literally saved my life, like my mental life. Because it was becoming too much because I was finding myself, I do research and development for the business. No new products hardly came out this year whatsoever. I wasn't able to do any research, no development. I was in fulfillment. I'm over here trying to figure out fulfillment, getting the orders out. That was my priority. I wanted to make sure we got the orders out.
James McKinney: Are you still manufacturing the product? Are you Terran, not the company. I know the company still does it all, but are you still part of the manufacturing?
Terran Lewis: I'm a part of the manufacturing process, so I create. For 2021 I'm trying to create more products as well, but we do… I have a production team but I do lead the team.
James McKinney: One of the things that I find interesting about this moment where it just became overwhelming because of the growth, in most marriages both people are not the cofounders of some brand. They're not working in it together. And I'm going to speak honestly as a male I don't bring a lot of my challenges home. I shield my wife and my kids from the challenges of the day, the cash flow challenges, whatever the case may be because I've mentally programmed myself that I've got to just figure it out. This isn't their burden to carry, I've just got to figure this out. So if I were to do that alongside my wife it would be very hard for me to keep that, I'm going to say that warrior front up as I'm trying to figure it out because she's seeing that I don't have an answer for any of this. What was it like for you Quinton, or is that just a nonissue for you?
Quinton Lewis: Man, no, like you're so right. Crazy thing, and Terran knows the story I'm about to go to, we went to Portland. So like one weekend we just had to get away because it was probably like in July, we had to get away for a weekend. At that point I think we had probably like 20 employees at that time, so we were able to just kind of like step away just for a weekend. Man, so I went on the back porch of this Airbnb we rented out in Portland and I just broke down crying. I just broke down like… I don't know Terran, I don't know if you've ever seen me cry like that.
Terran Lewis: I had never saw you cry like that before.
Quinton Lewis: And the reason why I did that was just I felt so much pressure. When I say it was so much pressure, it's because this like, we were like backed up by 5,000 or 6,000 orders. You can't stop. I remember I was consulting with my mentor, I was just like, "Man, can I shut all this down?" He was just like, "No, you can't shut this down at all. You can't." He was like, "I had a restaurant and when it got busy you can't shut down. What do you mean?" It's just the first time I'm going through all of this. And I remember telling myself before all of this happened, I was like man we need another 4,000 bar moment that's going to stretch us to grow. But I nowhere near knew that it would be like this.
So it's like I asked for it, but man, that's why I tell people be careful what you ask for because it just might come. And just the pressure, man. I think that after I cried, I literally felt so light. As men, like you said we have to hold it in. we really have to be this brick wall because we have to be strong. We really have to be strong so I think just really being able to be vulnerable in front of her like that. I remember she consoled me or whatever, but that moment of me just letting it out was just so good for me. I don't think we could have done this without each other.
James McKinney: You know let me ask you the question, Terran, and I'm asking this because I want all of the cofounders who are married couples who are listening, and I don't know how many I have. I k now 55% of my audience is male so from a demographic perspective let's assume half of that 55% are married. When you saw Quinton just break down, as your cofounder especially, as someone who is partnered with you in growing this business, when you saw him breakdown in Portland did that elevate any area of concern for you like oh crap, maybe there isn't a solution to all these challenges we're going through at this very moment?
Terran Lewis: No, it really didn't make me feel like there wasn't a solution. I felt like that we had it in the bag. I had to reassure Quinton. I just was like, "We're in this together. We're good. We're going to make it through this." And any time that I've ever had any tribulations in my life what has always gotten me through was looking to better days, and knowing that they're going to come regardless. So that's what I knew. Even though I felt like this was a storm that we were in, and we were pretty much… I knew that we were going to come through the storm so it was just that reassurance. But you know how when you're in the midst, we both had our moments. The good thing was that we never had our moments really at the same time. Our moments were at different times so that's why we were able to be strong for each other in that moment, whenever the other person felt a little bit weaker.
James McKinney: I'm so thankful that you answered that question because I wanted my male audience to hear that our wives do not think less of us when we have those vulnerable moments.
Quinton Lewis: That's big.
James McKinney: They too want to come alongside us and help us, whether it be cofounders or not. We don't need to keep this mask up, this persona that we've just got it all figured out because I'm going to be frank, for my 45% of female listeners we don't got it figure out, but you already know we don't got it figured out. So I appreciate you sharing that moment.
Quinton Lewis: That's real.
James McKinney: So one of the things about that season now looking back, a ton of learning, and we're all myself and the listeners, we're like man 10X growth in a year, that's amazing, especially a year that killed so many businesses. What an incredible opportunity. We heard about the challenges you went through and what a struggle it was for you to navigate that. So now looking back, for all of us that are wanting to experience a 10X growth in a year, what are some learnings you had that we should be preparing right now so that when we get to that 10X moment we're prepared for it?
Quinton Lewis: To prepare for moments like that, get your stuff set up now. Go all in and invest before because the thing is, one of the things that we struggle with was just it's almost like we were playing catch up the whole time. We implemented our customer service person in the midst of it so it's like get your customer service person implemented before so that when things do… because customer service is everything. Amazon knows this, all of the big dogs know this, you've got to have that customer service implemented before. Also, invest into the software before. We ended up after a lot of the storm hit, we started investing into a better CRM system. The one that we invested into was called Richpanel, so it's similar to Amazon's where people can come on your site, they can track their own orders. Because that's most of the emails. Most of the emails are, "Hey, where's my order?" and things like that, so we implemented a system where it would actually kind of automate a lot of that.
So I would say invest into your systems. Invest into people. Put the people in place. Hire from top down. The thing is that once we were going through the midst of this we were just trying to find people. "Hey, just come in, we just need help filling in the orders," or whatnot, but it's like hey, and it's going to take some money and it will take some sacrifice but do your best to try to do things before. Lay that foundation before because it's going to be so valuable. Again, for us I'm pretty sure we lost some customers but we gained a whole lot. We gained way, way more. But we could have performed way better if we were a little bit more prepared and had systems in place before.
So in addition to everything I said, let's go into logistics. Some of the things that I learned just through operations were ordering, like the material. Making sure you have honestly like the standard now is it has to be six months. You have to order for like six months now. That's just the norm now.
James McKinney: Is that because of your volume or is that because of COVID?
Quinton Lewis: That's because of COVID I would say. It has to be because of COVID and also too like all of us, especially in The Startup Story just listening to it, we're startups so we are growing. Prepare for that growth, so get six months plus of material. Order way more than you have to because you'd rather have that on hand because again, who knows? It used to be things that would only take like a few days to get to us, but it would take way longer. Then that would consequently back up orders because you're just missing like one little thing, and that would back up lots of orders.
Another thing also is to try to do as much as you can in house, if you can, because outsourcing as we all saw that made us a lot more vulnerable. So I'm not here to say that you can't get things overseas and things like that, but if you can try to find as many local vendors. Try to find as many vendors that are in the states because think about how much leverage that gives you. The fact that we were able to like put our fulfillment at four to six weeks, we were only able to do that because we produce everything in house. So try to be as in house as much as you can because that's going to benefit you. That's going to allow you to probably take more risk because again if you're outsourcing your product overseas or whatnot, historically it might have only taken you four weeks to get your product. But with COVID and all these special things it might take six months. It might take four to six months to get what historically might have only took a month, so just try to beef up your internal.
Really cultivate that and really just make sure that you are this well powered machine that's just ready for this growth because I think 2021 it's going to be another storm I think that's ahead of us that's coming, and I think that we all need to be prepared for it. When all this growth is coming, you're just like I'm just trying to satisfy these customers, get these orders out, we're just trying to survive. This year was all about surviving because so many businesses died.
James McKinney: Yes, so many did. So many did. Part of the narrative that contributed to the growth that you experienced in 2020 was the elevation of supporting black owned businesses. Prior to this moment in 2020 did you feel as though it was an uphill climb as a black business owner to gain awareness for what it is you were doing?
Quinton Lewis: I would say yeah, it's a little bit of an uphill battle just a lack of knowledge. We don't have all the knowledge in this world. We don't have a lot of representation for investment and things like that, and just having people in our network to just go to, just be like, "Hey, have you had a $1 million business so that you can come and help me?" There's not many people within our network that we can just go to that look like us, to be like, "Hey, can you help us with this?" But at the same time like it's also an advantage because it's almost like that underdog type of thing, that David and Goliath type of thing. It's something that we can play off of, and now people are looking to support these businesses now. That's the first question people ask us in the inbox. "Hey, is this a black owned business?" It's not something that we just super market because we're just being ourselves, and we happen to be black.
James McKinney: That's awesome. That's incredible. One of my past episodes, I think it was Naysa Mishler with the Everest Effect, one of the things that she talked about when it came to how she wants to support the underrepresented when it comes to venture capital, you know one of the things she said was if you can't see it you can't be it. And that has always stuck with me since because The Startup Story is really focused on trying to elevate the female founder story because in venture capital that is a huge miss, and the gender bias in venture capital for female founded companies is unbelievable. But I will also say too earlier in 2020 when everything started elevating the awareness of black owned business I had to look at my entire roster of past episodes and realize I'd been so focused on elevating female founder stories that I realized I only had one black founder on my who at that point in time, and it's like wait a second here, how is that even possible?
But what I also find interesting is that since June as I've really focused to try and tell more black founder stories it is so hard to book black founders. I don't know if it's because as a white podcaster, I don't know what it is. I was running a live event in June, a live stream event, and the comments on Instagram were like, "Wait, really? No black founders on the roster?" and I had 13 founders. But I did have Denise Woodard of Partake Foods, she's half Asian half black, and they overlooked it in that comment. But I actually invited them into a Zoom to discuss and they both were surprised by it, and I even told them. I said, look, I have a hard time getting female founders on because females they think they have to reach a certain level of success for their story to be worth telling. Guys will talk about ourselves all day long. Guys have no problem talking about themselves. We could have done nothing and we will talk as though we are experts at something.
For females that's not the case. There's something that has to take place in their startup for them to feel their story is worth it. I told them the same thing, I can't get black founders on the show. My acceptance rate from black founders, despite the fact of the awareness I can bring, the audience I can drive, all the things… One of the things that one of the ladies said to me was, "Well I can't speak to why you can't get black founders, but I would just ask that when you do get black founders don't try to be a savior to the black businesses." I'm like that is not even… the fact that was even a thought, I was like is that a thought as I approach? Now you approached me which was great, but had I approached you would there be any filter whatsoever as to why you may or may not want to be on the show?
Quinton Lewis: Oh no. Honestly like I listen to like… it's crazy, do you know the Shopify unofficial podcast?
James McKinney: Yeah, yeah.
Quinton Lewis: I was on there and like I'm actually good friends with Kurt Elster now. I like all these different podcasts. I like business.
Terran Lewis: Yeah.
Quinton Lewis: I like to hear stories. Even earlier, I was always listening to just different people's stories like of all various races. I'm not going to say I don't see color, but I'm into business and entrepreneurship. It's so, I learn from everybody.
Terran Lewis: The mentor that you were even mentioning-
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, Craig.
Terran Lewis: Our mentor Craig, he's not black.
Quinton Lewis: He's not black, yeah.
Terran Lewis: Well Nuri's like mixed, but it's like all the people that have interacted. And even when we started Herb'N Eden my aunt came to me and she was like, "Don't just sell to black people," and I'm like what? This is like, what are you talking about though? That was never our intention whatsoever. It's like Quinton said, it's about business and how do we develop personally and through business. And it doesn't matter how that happens. Even investors that are looking at us, the first set of investors that are looking at us are not black.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, and they even said out their mouth, "We didn't think that you would even talk to us because we were white."
Terran Lewis: They said that to us, yep.
Quinton Lewis: And we were like… And the things is to your point we actually have, because you know a lot of businesses now we were in talks with Sephora and a lot of businesses now are trying to commit-
Terran Lewis: And Nordstrom too.
Quinton Lewis: They're trying to commit 15% of their shelf space to black owned businesses. But they even said too, they're having a hard time with finding those black businesses. It's just because a lot of us like we can't handle that. We can't fulfill that, and that's our biggest thing right now is we need to scale. We need to really grow so we can take on these opportunities because right now our business, it's ready to go eight or nine figures. It is ready to go there but we have to get a lot of things internally right. We definitely need capital but our business is ready to take off. It's ready.
James McKinney: That's incredible. Now that we've had that discussion, I am going to pull pieces from that discussion. That is a conversation that needs to be had.
Terran Lewis: That was a conversation that needed to be had.
Quinton Lewis: That's a great conversation.
James McKinney: That is a discussion that needs to be had because as you promote your episode I assume there will be black founders that will listen to it, and so they need to hear this.
Quinton Lewis: Absolutely.
James McKinney: I think there's something, and again while I identify female founders as having this metric of success before they'll share their story, I think it's probably the same in a lot of demographics. Just men in general will talk about their stories like it's no big deal, but I think everyone has, they look for some type of metric where they say, "I have something to contribute."
Quinton Lewis: Mm-hmm.
James McKinney: I don't care what size the business is. That's not true, I do care somewhat size of business. If you just have an idea on a napkin you're not going to be on the show.
Quinton Lewis: Right, right.
James McKinney: You have to have done something. As we do get to the end of our time together, you've had a remarkable year in 2020. What does 2021 look like for you, especially being that you just talked about how there's opportunities in big box retail, because they're wanting to support more black owned businesses, you're being approached for it. You've got to solve the fulfillment side of it. What does 2021 look like for you?
Quinton Lewis: One of the things that we're trying to focus on is of course just committing to more channels, just more channels. We really focused on Facebook and Instagram. We did YouTube and Tik Tok but I really want to go in on YouTube and Tik Tok a lot more. Amazon is a play that we're doing. We're going to sell like some of our samples on Amazon at a higher price to try and get some of that traffic from Amazon to our site. Of course, wholesale. So the thing is we're direct to consumer. We have no done any wholesale this entire time except for that subscription box. So we're looking at strategic some big box retail. We're really looking at that, but we've really got to just fix some of our internal production issues. We need space. Right now we're in a 6300 square ft warehouse and we're busting out of it. So we need about a 20-25,000 square ft warehouse right now, so that's something that we're working on.
We're in talks with investors right now. We're adding things to our internal team, just making the right hires. We're still in a mode of laying foundation just like those other years. We're still like this is not a time where we're relaxing and we're letting up. We still have so much work because 2020 showed us so many glaring holes in our business that we have to continue to fix. Because people now look at us as, "Oh, you're so successful," and yes, we are successful but as the person that's in it we're looking at it like man we still have a lot to improve. We've got to just continue to get better. We've got to work on our left hand, you know what I'm saying? We've been dribbling with our right hand, we've got to work on that left hand, you know?
James McKinney: Do you see this as something that you sell to a larger brand or is this a legacy company where you continue on for decades?
Terran Lewis: That is honestly still up in the works.
Quinton Lewis: That's the question of the year.
Terran Lewis: Yes, that is honestly but as we talk to investors, that's not what investors are pretty much looking for. They don't want to have the legacy. They want you to sell it at some point, so it's still up in the air. After this year though it was really a lot. It's been a lot with Herb'N Eden. It's been so much, and me and Quinton don't have kids right now so you know at some point we want to start a family too, so it's like… and we both work heavily in the business so at some point I kind of want to slow down a little bit and be able to help foster the home life while Quinton, he'll probably… Quinton to me is like a serial entrepreneur. Like he said, he's passionate about business so I can kind of see him either like doing something else.
Quinton Lewis: I can see us being acquired by like a bigger brand. I can see that. I actually was doing research just with Unilever which Unilever is the biggest of the biggest, and the brands that they're looking for they're looking for brands that are the natural, the essential oils. They're looking for the brands that are online based.
Terran Lewis: That have a community of people, yep.
Quinton Lewis: That have a community. They're looking for that and our business is literally that.
Terran Lewis: It's there and going in that direction.
James McKinney: We had Jamie Schmidt on the show earlier in 2020. Her story, in seven years from making her deodorants in her kitchen, seven years later sells to Unilever, so her story is remarkable. So Unilever is definitely wants to be in that space.
Quinton Lewis: Yeah, that's what they want. And just to bring this up, in our community especially with black people -
Terran Lewis: In the black community.
Quinton Lewis: … they look at that as-
Terran Lewis: Being a sellout.
Quinton Lewis: … a sellout. They look at that as a bad thing, but they don't understand that we just talked about this whole entire story. They don't understand how founders start with nothing and you build a brand from nothing to millions and millions of dollars. So if a company happens to acquire you that should be celebrated rather than they demean it and they talk down on it. They don't understand the mental toll that it takes on a person. Man, like, it's a lot mentally. I think people just look at the outside and they don't understand what's really going on internally.
James McKinney: Why do you think it is looked down as a sellout, as I'm using air quotes, because I would think in this idea of you've got to see it to be it the black community would want to see more black success stories like that. Why is there this turning of the nose and snubbing it as selling out?
Terran Lewis: Because the bigger brands are not owned by black people, so that's why it's being thought as a sellout. It's like we started these businesses and then we're selling it not back to black people. But to our thing we see it as even if you… who were we looking at, Sundial. Sundial I think is that they guy-
Quinton Lewis: Shea Moisture.
Terran Lewis: Shea Moisture, yes. He did Shea Moisture and Sundial, and now him and his mom are set for life as far as millions. That's creating a legacy. You could continue on and do other things, and invest into other things. They just see it as boom, you just gave up your business and it's over and done with.
Quinton Lewis: It doesn't have to be that, because the thing is what I've learned and the potential investors have even told us even if you do get acquired there are ways you can structure a deal where you can still be involved, you can still have ownership. You're just selling parts of the equity, that's really it. Speaking about Sundial they were acquired for $850 million. Think about that, if you're acquired for $850 million he actually went and purchased Essence, which is a huge festival and-
Terran Lewis: Magazine.
Quinton Lewis: … magazine that's in the black community. Look what he was able to acquire? And also he started a venture capital firm as well. If I was to make a pretty nice nine figure exit, I would start some type of venture capital to support founders that look like me and things like that.
James McKinney: Yes, yes.
Quinton Lewis: That's a win.
James McKinney: Yes, huge win, and that's the stuff, that's why I look at this idea of calling them sellouts, elevate more of those stories, more of those success stories. One, get more of those success stories achieved and then get more of those success stories told because I'm willing to bet also that there are thousands and tens of thousands of successful black started companies that did have an exit, that maybe never made the headline because it was only like they sold for $40 million instead of $400 million, but no one knows those stories. Let's find these stories, tell these stories so that people can see it so they can be it.
Terran Lewis: It's a lack of understanding. Even when the stories are told it's still just a lack of understanding because a lot of people don't understand the details that go into it. They just see it as this person sold their business. That's the thing.
Quinton Lewis: They don't understand business, and that's all it is. So people are going to say things so you can't get too caught up in it.
Terran Lewis: We learned more about it the more we talked to investors and saw how that actually looked. That's when we were able to learn more about it as well. This is not things that are taught to us by our parents. Like I said, we're not, we don't have entrepreneurs around us.
James McKinney: Yeah. Oh man, I cannot wait to hear how the audience responds to your episode. It has been incredibly rich for me to have this conversation with you, but I do want to honor my listeners with the three questions that I end every episode with. Do you think anybody can be an entrepreneur? Not wants to be, because not everyone wants to be, but do you think anybody can be an entrepreneur?
Quinton Lewis: I don't think so because early in my journey I used to be a person, I used to think that anyone could do it. It wasn't until my dad came to me and was like, "Hey Quinton, everyone can't be an entrepreneur. Some people are going to work for you, and it's okay." You need brilliant people that want to be on your team. Everyone can't be an entrepreneur, but everyone can like be a part of the team, and work and have their job so I don't think everyone can be an entrepreneur.
James McKinney: Wow, love it. Absolutely love it. Collectively, this question is for the unit, the two of you. Many people think entrepreneurship is about just head to the grindstone, it's a solo journey, it's all about you and your resilience, that there isn't this army supporting you and this community of people that are helping you along the way. We all know that not to be true. We know where we are today because of the shoulders that we've stood upon. So collectively when you two think about your entrepreneurial journey, who do you look back to with such immense gratitude for their contribution to where you two stand today?
Quinton Lewis: Parents.
Terran Lewis: Yep, our parents. And I honestly say the community in general, just all the people that took us under their wing. Even Nuri who helped us. He really incubated a lot for us as far as just Herb'N Eden, that incubator for Herb'N Eden, Ruach Ecad, that Quinton had going on, I'll honestly say it's just people that were genuine with us, that really wanted to see that. But definitely like Quinton said our parents because they had us, they've been our biggest support. I don't know why but we received such an immense amount of love from people that we don't know, but from the people that we got to know along the way they've helped us tremendously and that's why we are able to be where we are today, the community support.
Quinton Lewis: Our parents just allowing us to move back with them on two occasions. Even times where I was just like man I'm moving back with my wife to my parents house, oh I'm such a bum. They allowed us to live there and really barely pay anything, just be able to go all in on the business. So we owe them a lot. And shout out to Craig, our other mentor, he really helped us with the mindset because he's a person that has made millions of dollars before, so he understand what that is like and how lonely it can be. So he really peeled back that. And of course the community. Like our community just incredible, I can't even express like how grateful I am for them.
James McKinney: Oh I absolutely love it, absolutely love it. We've been talking to tens of thousands of listeners about your journey at a high level and I like to afford if I could, I would love to arrange a one on one meeting with each of my listeners with a founder so they can just kind of unpack their own personal questions. That would be absolutely impossible and I would never ask that. But I like to leverage this last question as a mentoring minute. And so Terran I'm going to ask you this question. If you're having a coffee with one of my listeners, whether it be the entrepreneur who is frustrated because of coming out of 2020 COVID just destroyed their business. Or what if it's the wantrepreneur who has ideas that they want to do something but there's some hurdle and mental hurdle as to why they think they can't do it. Maybe it's because they think they have a mortgage, their personal expenses are too high. Maybe it's because they think that they're 60 years old and they think entrepreneurship is for the young. Or maybe it's the female, maybe it's the black female founder who thinks there are just too many challenges being thrown in the direction of black female founders it's not even worth it. Whatever persona that may be, what would you like to say to that person?
Terran Lewis: So if you are an upcoming entrepreneur, you want to start a business, you have an idea, or you feel like you're struggling within your business I would honestly say get out of your own way. Get out of your own way. Get out of your own head and feeling like having you have all these fears that you can't do what you need to do to propel and to excel to the next step in your life. One of my favorite sayings is, "Ain't nothing to it but to do it." All you've got to do is put your effort, and nobody can do it like you can. But I would also say stay in your own lane as well. Stay in your own lane. Don't always be looking at what the next person is doing and comparing yourself to the next person. Stay in your own lane and continue to build yourself and elevate yourself so that your business continues to grow. And if you're putting the effort in and executing your ideas, that passion that you have, everything else is going to flow from there. Success is going to flow to you easily.
James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value that Quinton and Terran Lewis brought us in this episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. And lastly 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. So please visit Herb'N Eden, and that's herbneden.com. visit herbneden.com and try some of their unique products. In fact if you use the code "Startupstory" when you check out you'll receive 15% off your entire order. I say it in every episode because I believe it with my every being, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs, so let's show up for Quinton and Terran in a huge way as a way of saying thank you for all the value they delivered to us today. Again, just visit herbneden.com and use the code "Startupstory" to get 15% off your entire order. Real transactions is how we show up for our entrepreneurial community. And now for my personal ask.
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