SocialNature is a social product sampling community that helps people try natural products for free in exchange for reviews. The Vancouver-based startup helps natural and organic brands launch new products by offering free trials in return for social reviews; using the SocialNature platform, a single product sample can reach up to 500 people.
SocialNature’s founding team began their mission to make green mainstream in 2010 with the launch of ethicalDeal, which quickly became North America’s largest green daily deal site and reached over 100,000 shoppers. Last week, ethicalDeal sold to nCrowd.
We recently connected with founder Annalea Krebs to chat more about her businesses, how she motivates herself when times get tough, bootstrapping vs. raising, and her advice for other entrepreneurs.
Q&A With Annalea Krebs
You graduated from Growlab’s Spring 2014 cohort with SocialNature. How did being part of the HIGHLINE family affect your journey as a founder?
I’m a sole founder, and since SocialNature is at such an early stage, I’m often faced with difficult strategic decisions. HIGHLINE is a community of intelligent and successful entrepreneurs, advisors, and investors, and having the ability to get different perspectives and essentially extend my team through their experience and advice has been invaluable. I still meet monthly with advisors that I met over a year ago.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned building the business?
Focus creates more time. You choose every minute how to spend your time. Spend it on the right things and you will succeed.
What was the moment you knew the business had legs?
When we launched the MVP version of SocialNature and signed up 25,000 users through social sharing in the first week.
How has your product evolved from MVP to now?
Our MVP had one way to share your product experience, and now it has nine. We’ve spent a lot of time building out our social sharing framework and understanding what motivates people to share. We believe the future of marketing is in consumer-to-consumer marketing, not business-to-consumer marketing, so motivating our community to share their product experience with their friends was key.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
My first company, ethicalDeal, grew from 0 to 100,000 users, 0 to 20 employees, and from $0 to $2 million in sales in its first two years without any external funding. I’m comfortable bootstrapping a company, but I know that if I want to maximize growth with SocialNature I have to get out of my comfort zone and raise funding. My current biggest challenge is balancing product building and sales with fundraising.
What advice can you give other entrepreneurs?
When a prospect tells you “no”, the sales process is just beginning.
Let’s talk failure. Was there ever a moment in your entrepreneurial journey when you felt you’d “failed”?
There’s been lots of times where I thought I failed or the end was near, but the thing that makes an entrepreneur successful is that they wake up and keep going. When my first venture, ethicalDeal, slowed its growth, I knew I was either going to have to pivot, start something new or sell. I decided to do all three. When there is a will there is a way!
Building a business comes with ups and downs. How do you bounce back in tough times?
I’ve been an entrepreneur for five years now, so I’ve lived through my share of ups and downs. Now I trust that it will get better and try to spend my energy on problem solving vs. stressing about the problem. I’ve also built an advisory board with specialities in HR, fundraising, sales, marketing and finance. Finally, my partner, friends and family help me keep my business challenges in perspective.
Who are the founders that inspire you?
I love working in the natural product vertical. It’s filled with positive, forward-thinking and innovative people who inspire me daily. Founders of brands like Nature’s Path, Method, and Ben & Jerry’s have incredible entrepreneurial stories to tell that prove that you can have a head for business and a heart for the world.
What are you focused on now?
Inspiring more people to #trynatural by expanding SocialNature into the USA, improving our product, and growing our sales team.
Describe your company culture in 10 words or less.
Profit with purpose.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Align your work with your values.
About Annalea Krebs, SocialNature’s Founder & CEO
Annalea has been garnering awards since her student days at BCIT and Royal Roads University. In fact, the $12,000 award she received for the Mercer Advisors Bachelor of Commerce Convocation Scholarship at Royal Roads financed the start of ethicalDeal, which reached $1 million in sales in its first year. In 2011, Fast Company listed Annalea’s business as one the Top 25 Women-led Startups to Watch. As a member of LocoBC, a non-profit that supports B.C. businesses, she is part of a movement that aims to grow the local economy while encouraging consumers to patronize the businesses in their own backyard.