Yasir Hashim – Co-Founder & CEO of Lumen
Yasir Hashim, Co-Founder & CEO of Lumen, is disrupting the wellness industry with his innovative hemp-based wellness shots. Tune in to hear about the challenges he overcame on this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.
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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m thrilled to have my next guest. Here we have Yasir Hashim here who is the co founder and CEO of an incredible, incredible drink, called lumen. And we were connected through a friend. And I was so grateful to be able to try this drink. And we’re going to talk a little bit more with the author about it. But he is the co founder and CEO of lumen. And more than anything, I love his story, in addition to his products, you know, I’m all about stories. And he was on a path to becoming a doctor. After being accepted into medical school, he broke the news to family and friends that he wasn’t going to do that. And instead, he was going to jump into the beverage industry. So love, love, love that for so many reasons, finding your passion, and figuring out how to move forward, we’ll talk a little bit more about his co founder as well. And as I said, learning from challenges is, is really what this podcast is all about. And just recognizing what he ultimately wanted to do with this life, as well is, is so so key. So these are hemp based drinks, we’ll learn about some of the challenges around bringing a hemp product into the market, too. So welcome to the show.
Yasir Hashim 2:11
Hi, Kara, how’s it going? It’s a pleasure to be here.
Kara Goldin 2:14
Awesome. Really, really good. So let’s talk a little bit more about you. As you know, what were the early years like you emigrated, first of all, to the US, and you move to Texas. So I’ll let you continue to share that story.
Yasir Hashim 2:33
Yeah, yeah. I mean, as a young kid, I think at the time was 11, or 12, big culture shock. So the first, you know, was born and raised in the Middle East, Eric’s my first language, and I learned English growing up. So that part wasn’t as hard to kind of transfer over come to the States, but just going from private school to public school in Texas, Ido, and then to private school, growing up to public school in Texas, and then going from having to wear you know, like Navy shorts and a shirt, you know, polo to wear whatever you want and go from class to class. And so I think a big part of it in the early days was just understanding American culture. That was the biggest shock for me. I remember, one of the biggest things for me as a kid was with culturally in the Middle East with women, you don’t really look them in the eye. It’s just a cultural thing. It’s out of respect. Whereas here in the states, if you don’t look someone in their eyes, it’s like, oh, you’re not paying attention to me. And so that was a really weird thing as a kid growing up is like, just constantly adjusting to like, okay, no, I’m listening. But it’s so little things like that, and kind of adjust to over time. But I loved it. I think there are a lot of parts of American culture that I fell in love with, right away, you know, freedom to express yourself however you wanted. And, you know, there were obviously rules, but like in middle school, so yeah, dress however you want, you know, wherever, whatever you want. And so you got to see and experience a lot more like a lot more diversity of culture. So that was really cool. But yeah, I think the first couple of years was a really big culture shock and just kind of making friends and trying to understand how things worked. And, and then over time, you know, actually, fortunately, met my co founder for lumen in middle school. So having two or three people that you meet early on that kind of bring you in under their wing. Let me show you how things work. You know, this is this is where we sit at the lunch tables, go grab a tray over here. And so it was cool. I think. I’m very fortunate to be in America and those first couple years where they were interesting, but once I adjusted to the culture, I really did fall in love with it.
Kara Goldin 4:28
So you talked about your co founder, so that was so when you got to the US you grew up in Plano van or immigrated to Plano, Texas so he was living in Plano was living there. Yeah, as well. He was
Yasir Hashim 4:43
actually going to the same school. So he lived in a similar neighborhood. So is two neighborhoods that fed into one middle school. So we I met him in middle school, but we became friends in high school. And so I knew who he was. And then we were both on the path to become doctors. And so our you know, we were very fortunate at our high school had a program that’s called clinical rotation. So if you wanted to be a doctor, you kind of applied for this program. And what they would do is you’d start in nursing homes. And so they take you around to all these nursing homes and you get certified as a certified nursing assistant. And so we were helping, you know, elderly patients we do, we check blood pressure, we would help, you know, whether it was shaving or bed care, whatever it was kind of as a as a high schooler. And so Chris got accepted that program as well. And so it was a small group of students, I think, you know, every class had like 17, or 20 students in it, and there’s only two. And so we were in the same class. And that’s when we really became friends. Because it was like, Okay, we both want to do this doctor thing. And obviously, it’s a big shock to beat a nursing home, but we loved it. And it was a whole experience. And you kind of get to see how everything works out at a basic level. And then from there, you rotate hospitals, so they, you know, they find a couple of departments in a hospital, they’re willing to take on students and they say, okay, you know, that 20, we can split them up into groups of three. And so one, you know, one week you’re in er, the next week, you’re in the NICU, the next week, you’re in the radiology department. And so there’s a lot of fun, because it’s, you know, two, three seats, and we got to leave campus, which is great, as a high schooler getting to drive off to a hospital. And you get, it’s very experiential. I mean, there’s stories of people, you know, helping with CPR and Justin passions, and, and so you got to experience a lot of medicine before you go into medicine. It’s like basil soup is what you really want. And at the time, that’s what we wanted. But you know, as we, as we kind of went to college,
Kara Goldin 6:24
things change. That’s, that’s wild. So Chris, obviously, when you think about influences, he definitely was one of them. And it sounds like, but how did you decide to change your mind? I mean, you talked a little bit about this, you went on to go to undergrad, and then finished, that you and Chris obviously remained good buddies. And and so what was kind of your thinking at this point?
Yasir Hashim 6:51
Yeah, I never, it was never an instant, like a flip of the switch. I think it kind of took time. You know, once I did, when I started my undergrad, the first time for me was that it was never as easy to you know, I was never as smart as some of the other students. And so it was never as easy to make the grades, I think, for that I watched students study for a couple hours and go and I’m like, I’m still here, I gotta figure this out. So it took me twice as long. And so part of it was that it didn’t necessarily come naturally to me. And so but I still felt like medicine was what I wanted to do. So that was like, Okay, well, this, it’s not as easy as I think it is. But I’m so passionate about it. I think another part of it too, is we got to experience from doing clinical rotations to internships while I was an undergrad, I got to see what the other side of medicine was about when it wasn’t necessarily taking care of a patient. But how do these doctors feel? What is their free time, like, what are they doing outside of the hospital. And as I went from high school, to undergrad to graduate school, I watched some of the same doctors that I’ve kind of shadowed since I was in high school become more and more burnt out work longer and longer hours. And I was like, Okay, this isn’t a good trajectory, and they just didn’t seem happy. And they would always tell me, like, Oh, my buddy started this business. And I wish I would have just done that. Or oh, you know, my friend created this thing. And they’re, you know, off in Italy, and like, that would have been really cool to do. And so, for me, I think to coming from the Middle East, there’s being an entrepreneur is not like a normal thing. Like, there’s, it’s very hard to be like, Oh, I’m gonna go start this. It’s not a thing. It’s not something you aspire to do. And so that only started, I only started to realize that kind of through my undergraduate studies, and then into graduate school, I realized that entrepreneurship programs, there’s people that have ideas, and someone’s willing to give you money for their ideas, like, like all their hard earned money and are like, hey, I’ll support you. And so to me, it was like, partly understanding this, this whole new concept of like, whoa, you can, you can create something, and people will believe in you, and they’ll support you, and they’ll help you. And then it’s like, and then this other thing that I really wanted to do kind of my my love for it, so it kind of waned. And so it was a combination of, I think, multiple factors. And then what really pushed me over the edge was, while I was doing my graduate studies, Chris had decided he wanted to have a startup. And so he’d already decided to go for med school, so different for me. And so I was like, What are you doing, dude? It’s like all those like, Chris, what do you do? And he’s like, Well, no, I’m like, I want to do this other thing. And so I was helping them build the business plan for that. And I just fell in love with it. And I fell in love with the process of putting a business plan together, and going and pitching it, even though our first couple of pitches were absolutely horrible. But just that that entire process, I just fell in love with it. And that was at that moment, I didn’t turn back and what was the company? Okay, so it was a company is going to be in Texas, and it was for a is called the Texas compassionate use program. So it’s a program that was designed for patients with a very rare type of epilepsy where it’s very debilitating, debilitating. Actually, they can’t it’s really hard to go to school, they’re developmentally delayed, they have seizures that happen, you know, pretty intense multiple times a day. And so for these particular patients, CBD at high levels really helped reduce the intensity and the frequency of their seizures. And so what Texas had done was they designed this program where it was like, Okay, we’re gonna make CBD legal. And we’re gonna allow people to grow it. And they built an infrastructure for it. And so Chris was really drawn to the program because it had helped his mother as his grace, his mother had epilepsy. And so he had kind of an emotional connection to the program. And he was a bit of a miracle child, his mother wasn’t supposed to be able to have kids. And so there was, there’s a connection for him to the program. And so he’s building this kind of business. And I was doing my neuroscience Master’s at the time. And so he was like, Hey, could you you know, reach out to some professors and see if there’s any overlap, but can you look at my business plan and things like that. And so that’s how the process started. And we, so then we ended up building a plan together. And what happened for that business was the, it was a regulatory shift. And so it was our first big loss as entrepreneurs, but we put everything we had into that business. And the state of Texas decided, you know, what, instead of it being, I think it was like 3000, or $6,000, to get a license to be able to build this business, we’re gonna make it a quarter of a million dollars, you’re gonna have to renew it. Yeah, you have to renew it every two years. And instead of it being an unlimited open program, we’re only gonna give out three licenses. And so we’ve spent all this money, all of our savings for med school to like, build this business. And we’ve gotten some investors that we’ve met, you know, like, at the gym, and, you know, mom’s dad’s friend’s cousin to help out. And so we already have, you know, we’re in the program and, and so we had a small rock, okay, what do we do? And some of our investors were like, what we’ll support you, if you get a license, you know, we’ll help pay for it like everything. Okay, so okay, we’ve got a good group that’s willing to help us here. And I think we built our whole application by ourself, we ranked in the top third of companies, and we didn’t end up getting a license and a part of that, I think, so we lost everything on it. And you know, gave whatever, whatever’s left at the moment, give the investors their money back. And, yeah, it was a it was a rough learning experience for us. But I think one of the things that started to draw me away from business, I was like, Okay, wait, I don’t want to do this whole regulatory lobbying, find someone that can help you push you, and this isn’t for me. And out of that opportunity, with one of our advisors came the opportunity to work on lumen. And so after that first company kind of fell apart, it was crazy how many people were like, Hey, you want to help me run my real estate company? Or hey, do you want to do this project with me? Or do you want to do that? And we’re like, whoa, okay, what opportunities and so we kind of went down the list and living with someone we were like, that feels really good. So we just jumped headfirst again.
Kara Goldin 12:27
If you’ve been listening to the Kara Goldin show for a while, you may have heard about my book undaunted, which by the way, is now a Wall Street Journal, and Amazon Best Seller. In undaunted, you will learn about my journey not only how I came up with the idea for hints, but also the ups and downs, twists and turns along the way. I learned from stories, and I guess my own story is no exception, you will definitely hear it all in undaunted, listening to books is one of my favorite secrets to getting more books under my belt, I find that I can always get a bit of listening in whether it’s on my lunch break, or even on a hike. Probably the thing that has made me happiest about writing this book is hearing from people, hearing how this book has helped them push through hard things that they are dealing with, and try new ones. I’ve heard from countless people how Adonijah has helped them see that they are not alone in their difficult times, but also how pushing forward and finding a way is usually what it takes. Looking back on my stories and sharing observations about how I got through just those sticky moments might help you think about some of your own sticky situations as well. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. It’s time to move past your fears and defy the doubters to my book. And Don it is available everywhere books are sold on Amazon and audible as well and shoot me a DM and tell me what you think back to the show. So let’s talk about lumens. So how did that came about through an investor from the failed startup? Before I always, I always say failed is such a funky word, right? Because it’s it’s not I mean, it sounds like you truly learned a lot you learned about, you know, how hard it is to do certain types of businesses, right? And what you know, and even if it didn’t make sense, and you were doing really good, you were running into regulations that were going to be really tough hurdles to overcome. And they were going to take a lot of time and so you decided I’m going to go and start lumen. So talk to me about lumen, so it’s obviously you know, takes some of the CBD piece from the previous startup, but this is a hemp based drink. So talk to me a little bit about that.
Yasir Hashim 14:54
Yeah. So I think the process of transitioning what we found as founders, you know, like for Chris and I We were passionate about when we were looking at the first company, the reason there was a link between the two was because we’re passionate about this concept of regenerative agriculture. So it’s this type of farming where you don’t use any chemicals, you don’t use any pesticides, it actually worked. The unit economics actually worked great. And so it’s, it’s a way to make really clean food. And so when we were looking at that program in Texas for epilepsy, we realized that we could use the same farming methodology, and the same practice to create really clean CBD. And so if it’s going to be given to someone as medication, we need to make sure that there’s never any chemicals or pesticides used at all in the process, because we’ve seen, you know, lots of studies where some of those pesticides didn’t get concentrated through to the final product. And so it’s like, okay, well, how do we create that system? The other thing, we were passionate about this, it’s like healthy food, and then making the world a better place. So those were the the key concepts. And so when, when our advisor connected us to this idea of lumen, it was the same concept. It was, how do we use this regenerative agriculture, good for the planet way to make clean food and tie it to a brand? And so it’s like, okay, well, that’s what we’re passionate about. We’re passionate about the core concept of making clean food that is healthy for people and healthy for the planet. And it was tied to this idea of a consumer company. And so we’re like, oh, yeah, that’s gonna be easy. We got this, and we learned the hard way. So, so we, I booked, I remember I had like, no money left. And I told my parents, I was like, Well, you know, I don’t think they fully knew that the first company had like, gone under. And it was I was just devastated. I was like, Look, I’m going to California, we’re gonna, we’re just taking the, you know, business, we’re figuring some stuff out, like, I’ll be back. And I walked into a Bank of America, I got my first separate credit card didn’t didn’t ever have a credit card before. And it was like a $500 limit. And I booked a one way ticket to San Francisco. It was like two or 40 bucks or something. So I already used half my limit. And we land it because I had some cash was like, I need to stretch this out as far as it’ll go. And so landed in California, and there was a third partner that was helping us with the business at the time. And it was like, Okay, we’re going to do this, we’re going to tie this concept of clean food to to a consumer brand. And the idea was, everyone’s making CBD extracts and isolates and we’re going to do it very different. We’re just going to juice the hemp plant, and it’s gonna be cold pressed hemp juice, it’s not gonna be extracted, it’s not gonna be isolated. And so that’s, that was the idea of our partner, Jacob. He’s like, look, we’re juicing it just like you do celery juice or kale juice. And we’re like, alright, yeah, sounds sounds great. And so yeah, we flew out, we had one investor that was crazy enough to write us a tiny check. We took what was left and we bought a juicers like this is called like an X six or something. It was like a $6,000 juicer made the most portable hydraulic noise down. And we, we drove it up to a farm in Oregon, who was the advisor that had connected us to the idea, and he’d grown some hemp for us, and we couldn’t even afford a place to stay. And so we pitched up some tents in his barn. And I remember telling Chris is like, Chris, I can’t do this. And so we got a, I got a membership, or we both got memberships at Planet Fitness, just so I could like shower and like brush my teeth. And I was like, do I have to shower, I can do the tent thing, but I got a chef. And so we’d harvest hemp, so we’d harvest hemp, and you know, we wash it, and we juiced it. And we thought, that’s how you start a juice company, you just you just use it. We didn’t even think about the customer at the time. And so here we are juicing hemp. And so we have helped us now are like, Okay, well, what do we do now? So gotta sell it. And so we’re like, Okay, well, we don’t have enough money. Because, you know, from the consumer space, it’s really expensive to buy bottles and labels and apps and all the other ingredients and stuff. So I can vote with you. And so we’re like, oh, we could do a Kickstarter, or like an Indiegogo, because that’s a good way to get people to buy it without us having to like, have all the money and everything figured out. Yeah, like, it’s just cheap, people want it. And so that was as far as we thought is just like as young entrepreneurs. And so we started doing all the numbers for for launching a product on Indiegogo as a Kickstarter, and to do pre sales. And we realized that you because we’re going to do a full size hep juice, and we’d add like maybe some celery and stuff to it. And we realized the unit economics don’t work. Like it’s just it’s too expensive. It’s too heavy to ship, you know, for juicers with ice in a box to keep it fresh to not have to heat pasteurize it. And so that’s how the idea of a wellness shock came out. Like, okay, well, if we do a two ounce, and we can charge, you know, x, and then it costs us why then, okay, the numbers work. Okay, let’s just do well in the shots. So that’s how the One Shot numbers work. Because there’s literally just got on an Excel sheet. We’re like, Okay, well, we can buy this for this. And so now we decided, Okay, we’re gonna do well in shots. And so
we got the flavors kind of as best we could. And we had what was left at the investment money and we’re like, Okay, we’re gonna take what’s left, and we’re going all in. So all of its gonna go onto Facebook ads, it’s going to drive traffic to our website, everything’s going to be great. And we’re gonna launch we’re gonna make money, everything’s gonna work out just fine. And so we moved to Oakland, we have all of our hemp juice in it’s like, stored in a you know, freezers in our apartment. And we had like a commercial kitchen is what ready to let us work. And we had go on our videos or Indiegogo launches. We go to Facebook, we run our first ad and they block it and they were like, nope, You’re an illegal drug manufacturer. This is you know, this is cannabis. And we’re like, no, it’s just have to, like it’s just so no ads. So here we are the clock’s ticking on our Indiegogo. And we’re looking at, like, okay, what are we going to do? And so we took all the money, and it was a pivot, we took everything we had, we’re just going to make wellness shots. And so we did one big run. And we filled I don’t know if you know that, like the igloo coolers. Yeah, the white lids. So we built igloo coolers. And we got a map of Oakland at the time we lived by Lake Merritt, we pinned all of the like yoga studios, CrossFit gym, like music center, meditation center, and we just pinged all of them. And we would go, we start as early as we could. And we’d go door to door and we just not like, look, you know, we’re young startup. And you know, we can’t do ads online. And we just need to find a way to get our product out. And so we printed these cards on a Kinkos, or FedEx that said, you know, please support us on IndieGoGo and had the link, and we’d set up a bucket of ice and we would just sample and you know, we go in and we do yoga with the class where people participate in the class too. And so we’re in there, getting our butts kicked out to do yoga, just sweating was way harder than I thought. And then we’d finish recovered and sweat and we’re just sampling shots. And they tasted horrible. But you know, I’m so grateful for all those early, you know, people that were like, You know what, guys? We’re gonna we’re gonna
Kara Goldin 21:15
support some right What year was this?
Yasir Hashim 21:17
This was in 2018, I believe. Yeah, it’s like 20 Yeah, right. Yeah. Is it 2018? And, yeah, people just if we did $32,000 just up and down the block in like six weeks. That is why just door to door. And we’re so grateful for every single one of those Indiegogo subscribers.
Kara Goldin 21:36
What was the point when you actually were getting it into like the whole foods of the world?
Yasir Hashim 21:42
Oh, God. So we went from Indiegogo to our after that campaign completed the first ever grocery stores Erawan actually in LA that kind of saw what happened on Indiegogo like I will give you guys a chance. And so we go to that was the first move. It was the first ever grocery store. So we packed our bags, he just made friends in Oakland. And every day, we’re like, Okay, gotta go business got to go somewhere else packed, our bags moved down to Long Beach, because it’s all we could afford. And we were that’s how it started. So it’s like five grocery stores, it was just Erawan. And no distributor put us on their truck, because they’re like, We got five stores, I’ve got 100 products, you know, plus on my truck, I’m gonna lose your two little boxes. And so we’d have to eat up make it a commercial kitchen just like we were in crusaded Jeep at the time. So we drive the Jeep to the back of the Erawan, which is all these trucks. And here we are these two founders and you’re walking up to receiving and they have their clipboard and like, hey, look, can you please help me like I don’t want to wait, you know, please into the receiving guy’s got to know us, you know, we buy him doughnuts and coffee alcohol lube invoicing here. But you know, they tell the 18 Wheeler guys like, let them through come on just a little founders. And so we’d go to receiving that give us you know, the thing, we’d go put it on the shelf, and then we’d sample and that’s how it started. So we kind of did a lot of the sampling. It was grocery stores and coffee shops. It’s kind of how it all started or like little Bodega is where they make sandwiches and stuff, any store, we could get any sale we could get. And we’re growing the business and it had hemp juice at the time, which is we cold pressed the entire plant. And the California Department of Public Health didn’t really understand what it was. They’re like, is it CBD? Is it not CBD it has naturally occurring CBD. But if it was, that’s just it wasn’t like a CBD extract or Iceland or anything. It was just like you just say kale or celery. And so they kept pulling it off the shelf. So here we are, as a young brand, just trying to get sales and just trying to understand our consumer. And we could barely, you know, we’re we could barely keep our product on the shelf because it was selling but also because it kept getting pulled off by the California Department of Public Health. And the early days of your brand are the hardest. And we’re trying to figure out how to just refine the brand. And so we’re in there, and we’ve got little demo tables, and we’re sampling and trying to figure out why the product keeps getting pulled off the shelf. And did you know in the pandemic
Kara Goldin 23:52
off the shelf, or were you just like trying to figure out like, I mean, did anyone tell you what was happening?
Yasir Hashim 23:58
They didn’t tell us what was happening. But we were such a young brand. That was how we paid our how we paid our bills was having product on the shelf and then selling Yeah. And so if it wasn’t selling fast enough, we’d have to go into the store and like put down a bucket of ice in sample. And so we figured out that it was missing because we were in stores so often that we go into a store and the products out there like what’s going on ever
Kara Goldin 24:17
got like a notice from the Department of Public Health? No, no, we found
Yasir Hashim 24:21
a couple of notices in the stores after we’d found our product in the back with the notice on it. But no one had ever been like, let me call we’re such a small company. Yeah. And then the pandemic hits, right. So we’d spent all this time and we’d you know, finally gotten some friends and family involved in growing the business it was like up to like two grand a month or something. And all of a sudden the pandemic hits and it’s like, okay, all the growth all the coffee shops are just like shut down. Yeah, all of our bodegas and our sandwich shops shuttered. So our revenue just plummeted. And we’ve been talking to Whole Foods for such a long time. And we you know, we’ve met the buyer, we met some of the, you know, executives and like, please just give us a chance and they’re like, We Love to. We love the brand. We love the idea. But we don’t understand this hemp juice thing like it’s, you know, we don’t know what the regulatory thing is on it. And so we had this moment, you know, we’re looking at our business, we’re looking at, you know, the pandemic hits, our revenues are plummeting, we’re running out of money. And we’re like, what do we do? How do we where do we go? And we turned a look at what Whole Foods was selling that has happened because we’re like, okay, customers love wellness shots. And they love the concept of hemp. And they love hemp juice. But we can’t do hemp juice right now. So what else can be substituted with that still maybe have but it’s still functional and tastes delicious. And that would work? Well, how can we make this work? And at Whole Foods in a lot of these other grocery stores that are selling hemp seed oil? And so Okay, well, a lot of the ingredients, we use a regenerative can we find regenerative hemp seed oil? And we found it and we’re like, Okay, well, what are the benefits of hemp seed oil? Well, it’s got, you know, it’s healthy omega six. And so we’re like, Okay, how much we have to put into our wellness shots for it to be your full daily value of omega 369. And so we pulled the hemp juice, added hemp seed oil, and it made the shots creamier and made them more functional. All the ingredients in the shot are better in the presence of healthy fats. And that’s essentially what MCT oil. And so we went back to whole foods at the middle of the pandemic. And we were like, please just give us a chance. That’s all we’re asking for is just one chance. And they said, Fine, we’ll do 20 stores, and you’ve got three skews, we’ll take one. And so at the peak of the pandemic, our sales are plummeting. We don’t know what to do, we literally we didn’t even have like the right boxes, or the right like we just, it was it was a horrible experience. And they put us they give us 20 stores and we looked at you know, as a team, we looked at each other off, okay, this is our chance to make it right here. And so back to the fundamentals. And so peak pandemic, we’re in stores with a mask, and there’s like a plastic shield, and we couldn’t even sample and we just stand in store, you know, with a bucket of ice, and we produce extra products with scratch out the barcodes. And we tell people like, hey, look, we’re young startup, this is our chance, you know, we’d love for you to try our products. And it’s a buy one, get one free, we bring them in from home or from the production facility. If you buy one, I’ll just give you one for free. So it’s helping drive that early trial. And we knew that if we could just get people to try it, even if it was an in store that they would come back. And you know, the bet hit because people kept coming back. And our volumes kept growing. And, you know, it went from 20 stores to four regions. And the rest is kind of history. But that’s how the whole foods story ended up coming about. That’s
Kara Goldin 27:28
amazing. What do you think is it was the? I mean, I feel like there’s still so much education around? Have you touched on some of this? Where people, you know, think it’s marijuana, right? I mean, how, and how much of that has been a hurdle to you actually being able to get your product on the shelf, and just people not being as educated about your industry, your category as a whole.
Yasir Hashim 27:57
I think it’s huge. It was, at the beginning, we realized that we had to educate the retailers, we couldn’t even get to the consumer, because the retailer had to understand exactly what the product was before they were willing to even put it on the shelf. And so the education process was it was we were always educating. And then what we realized that, okay, we can get the retailer to understand what it is. But then when we were trying to educate the consumer, what we also realized, you know, as a wellness shot, it’s such a small little product on the shelf, that you don’t have a lot of space for someone to teach someone about issues, right. And so you have this fractions of a second. And the question for us became, how do we do this? How do we educate and so we tried a couple unique things like with Erawan, we tried doing what was called illuminate. And so we would give them fresh press have juice, and they put it behind their juice bar at the time. They don’t have it anymore, but it’s what the deal was, was they were kind of they’re making lemonade, and they would do this fresh shot to have juice that they would add to it. So it’s more of a consumer experience for them to see. Because, you know, CBD was usually came in like a vial, and you kind of like squeezed it out. Whereas this was like a green juice. And so we felt that if we could get people to see the juice and see it getting added to something that would be a part of the education component to it. So that helped a little bit. And what we also realize is, it was how we spoke about the product. And so we had to stop, we used to talk about all these intricate details on how hemp juice was good for you, we realized we had to just keep it very simple. And say, you know, it’s just juiced have Yeah, and we just use the plant and it’s just like juicing kale or celery or spinach and it’s green juice. And that was the essence of what really started to get the ball moving on people understanding what it was. And then it would ask like, Oh, does it have CBD? And we’d say yeah, there’s some naturally occurring CBD but it’s also got, you know, chlorophyllin vitamins and minerals and, and so it was kind of like a whole prep plant approach and we’re like it. The analogy was kind of like having a caffeine pill or a coffee. Right where one is concentrated the other you get kind of the entire experience. And so that was a part of the education process. And I think what we learned even switching to hemp seed oil was to just keep it simple. And, you know, our sales really grew when we, you know, change the front of our packaging to where it said, you know, Ginger turmeric, instead of trying to explain what hemp seed oil was, and we realize it, there’s just people are excited about it. And if you can just draw them in with just the word hemp, and they were willing to pick your product up, you can explain more about hemp somewhere else on packaging. So it’s a constant process to educate. But I think if you spend the time to you learn so much being in store. And so I think the most valuable lessons that we learned for how to talk about hemp was just to be in store with a bucket of ice and samples, because whatever consumers latched on to was what we were able to kind of re edit and reengineer into our packaging. So if they’re like, oh, you know, hemp like omegas. And we’re like, yeah, like hemp seed oil and like, Oh, no way. And so you tear omegas constantly, like, oh, like fish oil, or like, Oh, is it like Omega three? And so when you when we started to hear that pattern, we then integrated that into our packaging. And so we knew like, Oh, if hemp would get them to pick it up than if it had omegas on there, it would get them to kind of go through that discovery process?
Kara Goldin 31:07
No, definitely. Well, I think a lot of what you talked about too, is actually listening to the consumers too. And I always talk about like, especially during the really hard days, I mean, when you’re dealing with buyers that are just not educated about our, in our case, it was probably the same for yours. When we were starting hence, 17 years ago, there was no category for unsweetened flavored water, and I’m like, just create it. I mean, create a category, you know, like, we’re not going to do that. And so you know, then you’d walk out the door and, and hopefully next year, you’d get to come back in again. And you know, it’s frustrating. But I kept looking at the consumer and kept reading comments from the consumers. And I would run into those people, I felt like even, you know, one of the things I talk about in my book is, during the hardest times, I’d go back to Whole Foods, not necessarily to talk to the consumer, but I would stand there and try and talk to consumers. Sometimes they’d be, you know, buying my drink. And sometimes they’d be buying other stuff, because I felt like that was my focus group. Like those were my audiences. So a lot of the stuff that they were sharing with you. Oh, omegas. I mean, those are the things that really helped me to understand what consumers were looking for as well. So none of it is rocket science, I think more than anything, it’s like, the more you can simplify, the better off you’re going to be. And definitely, I mean, we had stories with hint, in the early days to where we all lots of buyers that we were meeting with would say we want different, right, we want something unique and different. And the reality is, is that the consumer would still buy the things that they knew. And you know, they know Tumeric they know ginger, they in our case, they knew cherry they knew, you know, BlackBerry, watermelon. And those were the things that they wanted to buy versus other flavors that we created that were amazing, like hibiscus, and they couldn’t figure out what the heck, hibiscus was, some people could Yeah, but many people couldn’t end it ended up not to be the best sellers. For us.
Yasir Hashim 33:17
That’s great. I think a lot of those key learnings I mean, even if we go back to the earlier days, we had a you know, we had a wellness shot that still wasn’t dialed in, in terms of flavors, called Restore. And it’s good for kind of like sleep and calming down. And you know, we’d have people spit it back in the cup, and then head to the cup. And we’re, it was just a horrible moment because you’re like, I put all this energy into it. But you have to remove kind of the ego part of it and be like, You know what, this is you take the cut back and you kind of like throw it away and be like, Okay, well how can I make it better and you know, some people most people were like, just no this one go away. And then some people were kind enough to you know, with our immune to be like, Oh, less ginger, more Tumeric you know, Tao this you know, all its, you know, the kicks too much. And just taking those early learning lessons helped us kind of refine the product. And so I think you’re right on when it comes to spending that time to understand the consumer. I think another thing was on our boxes that sat on the shelf, it used to say you know, have ginger tumeric and it was right at the bottom of the shelf. And we didn’t know that the shelf has a lip. And so when we they would put our box on the shelf, it would cover all of the key ingredients. And so we go into the store and you have to be there you have to look at the lip to say something’s not working. That’s what it is. So we moved it up and then you watch your sales take off. And it’s sometimes it’s as simple as just seeing that the ergonomics of the way that the shelf works means that you have to move your label up a little bit. So I think there’s nothing more valuable for an early stage founder and whatever business you are to spend as much of that time as close as you can to the consumer or to the customer to make sure you dial in that experience
Kara Goldin 34:52
and everybody will have a little bit different situation with their products too. I mean the case of hint I want our original labels were cool. We’re, and I wanted a totally clear product. And then when we got it on the shelf, the lighting was was no one would mess it up and you couldn’t see it. And then we were always placed next to next to vitamin water. And they had no bright colored drinks that was sitting next to, you know, a clear label with just some fruit on it, you couldn’t see it. And so, you know, packaging makes a huge difference. But I think that the quicker you can get it on the shelf to see exactly, if the consumer is going to be able to see it, whether it’s, you know, the box, or it’s the actual bottle and who you’re going to be placed next to as well. And I think that that is such a key key learning. What are some of the toughest things about starting a company that nobody talks about?
Yasir Hashim 35:48
Oh, I think it’s a people management, I think was a really big one for me, growing through the business. Just understanding that at a certain point, it goes beyond just you as a founder you as a founder and a co founder, and there’s other people that you hire on to help you. And it’s just understanding that, you know, the startup is not an easy place to work. It’s a no, it’s it’s extremely volatile. There’s ups and downs. And it’s someone that needs stability. I think in the early days, we hired, you know, made some hires that were for people that needed stability, but also kind of understood the trajectory of the business. And so it was really daunting as a founder to try to understand how do you how do you balance that like no stability, but you know, find the way to find their comfort place. And then I realized that okay, well, I wasn’t spending enough time that I needed to running the business. And so a big part of it was making sure that we hire the right people that understand the risk and the stage of the business. I think some of the other tough parts of the business was just coming as an outsider, for me personally was not knowing how to run a business. And so understanding of, you know, p&l a cash flow statement and balance sheet. And so I think a lot of the times we were learning as we were building. And so you know, when you know, those early days, you’re watching your revenue decline, and you don’t really know how to fix it. And we were fortunate enough to have advisors where I called one of them, you know, I’m looking at our bank balance, and I’m looking at our business. And I was like, Look, he’s like, Hey, I’m worried about just don’t worry about me, just helping me and like, this is what I need. And he’s like, send me what you got. And so I’m very fortunate to have had people during the toughest times of our business to just say, like, I need you now. And they rolled up their sleeves and said, you know, okay, no, your financials don’t look, right, this has to go here. You know, in consumer, we do trade spend after your top line, and then you do your colleagues. And so these are all trades, then and this is what it looks like. And so and then I’d send it to them and send it back and be like, Okay, we’re getting there. But we’re, you know, this has to go down here. And just dialing that processing to understand the business, I think was a really tough time for me, because you still have to build, you have to run the business. And it’s it’s still payroll, it’s all employees. And, and so but then the picture became very clear. It’s like, whoa, we have to find a couple points of margin, we got to, you know, this, these are the levers that we can pull on trade spend to drive our revenue. And these are the expenses and now I can see all of them. And so how do we turn down the lights to extend our runway so that we have more funds to then pivot and then grow the business? And so I think a part of it that was just tough for me personally was kind of managing the business and the people side as I was learning the business.
Kara Goldin 38:18
Yeah. The rest of it. How did you meet most of your advisers and investors? Some of them are both right for you. But you have an incredible group, you know, Ahmed from NUMMI. And and many, many others that I may not know of, I think you actually reached out to me on on LinkedIn, why is it? Yeah, and I believe so. And I think that, you know, that’s part of also, I think your job as an entrepreneur is is to figure out how to grow that network. And I think so often people get stuck running the business, you know, building the team, trying to make sure that your sales are happening in Erawan, and Whole Foods and everything, but they don’t actually focus on, you know, how can I make sure that I have a proper network that can that I can actually call on when I’m running into these walls and roadblocks. But how did you know how to do that?
Yasir Hashim 39:16
That’s a great question. I think coming as an outsider to the space, one of the biggest things for me was to and even for Chris and for Jacob was to instantly understand, you know, be humble to the things we don’t know. And what I what I learned from the previous startup that had failed was, the faster you can avoid the mistakes of others, the faster you can grow. And so the rate of learning was one of the critical things if we could learn and we could learn fast, and we don’t make the same mistake twice that we’ve got a really good chance of making something work. And so the best way to learn about how to build something is to find someone that’s built something similar to what you’ve built because they’ve done it and they kind of know what the path looks like. And so, you know, I was very fortunate the first ever advisor had was just this guy is a successful guy that we’ve met through a friend at the gym. And I started learning to seek people out that were in the business space is kind of broad at the beginning. And it you know, given Yeah, I was like just business and successful, like, let’s just whatever I can get at the start just anybody I can get to can help. And you’d be surprised how many people are willing to help you. This was just a connection through a friend at the gym. And I was like, Hey, I’ve got a business plan. He’s like, great, you know, I’ve got 45 minutes Next, you know, two weeks from now on a Thursday, meet me at a world market upstairs. You know, I’ll give you 45 minutes. So I pitched him my first business plan. And he’d get had all the notes on it. And I still remember to this day, he took my business plan and kind of like, flipped it over. And he was like, right pitch me and I pitched him and it was horrible. And he goes, Okay, well, you also, there’s two ways we could do this. You want me to be honest, or God? Because I was like, Well, I’d, I’d prefer you honest. And he was like, okay, and I, it was supposed to be a 45 minute meeting. And for the next like two hours I just got ripped into. He took you don’t have to do this, this is wrong. This isn’t where it’s supposed to be. At the end. He was like, Look, I’m really sorry. But I want I want better for you. And so and I see where you’re coming from, you’re a good kid. So like, let me just help you. And so that four page business plan turned into what we ended up calling our boat anchor. It was like 107 pages. He’s like, you don’t know what I needed in this piece of paper. And so that was the first experience is there was Daly great guy. And so from there, I learned like, Okay, I need more people like this, like more people that have kind of done it and will help. And so then we knew we just Google like we you know, John Roulin was is one of our advisors and investors. And, you know, just Googling and trying to learn more about hemp in the space, you realize he was one of the pioneers. And so he was doing a talk at some event in Oakland, and we couldn’t even afford tickets, but we like snuck in. And we got into his talk. And we had lanyards that had no tag on it. And you got to kind of like hide in your jacket, we found a seat and waiting for him to finish his talk and ran up to him. We’re like, John, we got to tell you what we’re doing. We’ve got this company, and we’re doing an insect when you guys talk to you about it’s, we got his email, we’re like, gotcha. And so go home, send him an email, send him our business plan. He’s like, Guys, what is this an idea? And, and eventually, he just kind of give us pointers. And he’s like, okay, like, you’re persistent. And, you know, he give us a couple tips. And we come back, and we’ve already figured it all out. And he’s like, I’ll give you a couple more tips. And then eventually, he’s like, okay, fine, I’ll write you a small check. So you wrote us a small check. And then eventually, his checks grew. And he connected us with a buddy I made and, and so it was the whole process, I think, for us was finding people that have done what we wanted to do, and just relentlessly chasing after them. And once you meet them, you realize they’re a lot kinder that you think they are, they’re way more willing to help than you think they are. They generally roll in packs. And so like John had connect us to Akhmed. And, you know, I’ve connected us to David, who is you know, his mentor, and so you realize, like, oh, this person can help me, you know, I met this, like much a lot more of a visionary understands flavor profiles, and packaging, branding. But then you realize, like, oh, but his buddy Eric is like a finance guy. It’s like, I can’t talk to Eric for a second. And so then Eric’s helping us with the finances. Yeah, okay. Well, why don’t you come into the fold? Yeah. And then some of them, like, it’s got a Bruce and got connected to him. And he was trying to understand he’s part of the kind of Vitaminwater deal and disrupt really great guy. And I remember the first time I said to him, our business plans, like, how small is this business? We can’t help? And I was like, no, no, I don’t want you to invest anymore. Like, I know, I asked you for investment. Just you just helped me figure this contract out. He’s like, Fine, send it over. And so we review the contract. And so he said no to investing the first time. And, you know, a couple months later, I go back home, and I’m like, Hey, Bruce, you know, the best solution. He was like, nope, not doing it. And I was like, Okay, fine, put your money where you want just keep helping me. I also got this other contract, which I forgot this, he’s like, Fine, send it over. And so I send it over and he’s redlining it and sends it back. And then after he said, no, like, seven or eight times, I connected with Chris is a cool help. Chris was sales stuff. And he calls me one day and he’s like, Hey, like, I’m gonna write you guys a check. You know, I’d love to invest in this business. And is it the founders of the guys, you know, it’s always about execution. It’s always about a good team. And, you know, it’s willing to work and, you know, ready to learn and, and so, you know, a lot of these people that we met, we kind of just googled or found a, you know, found one person that was connected to another and love and we realized, how do you put that puzzle together and bring it kind of bring a family together and know what everyone’s strengths are? And just really leverage it don’t take no for an answer, I think is the biggest thing, right? They’ll say no 4567 times. But advice. So yeah,
Kara Goldin 44:14
I love it. Well, so many lessons. And thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. Everyone needs to try lumen and it’s it’s a great product, where’s the best place besides the stores that you’re in? Where’s the best place for people? How can they try it? Yeah,
Yasir Hashim 44:32
you can go to drink lemon.com and you can order that way. So we’ll ship coast to coast here in the States. It’s two days shipping so that’s a really easy place to go and then obviously if you’re in if you’re in the coasts like a Whole Foods and mother’s market, Jumbos and then if you’re in the middle of the country, like Central Market in Texas, but I think the easiest place would be drink lemon.com and we ship custom. Well, thank
Kara Goldin 44:56
you so much, and good luck with everything and like I said, Everyone One needs to try it. It’s a great product and and you know definitely tasty for sure. Plus amazing founders. So really incredible that what you guys are doing and for all the right reasons so and thanks everybody for coming on and and listening and thanks for subscribing. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So with amazing guest, like yesteryear and definitely remember to come and find me on all social platforms at Kara Goldin, check out my book undaunted, if you haven’t already, read it or listen to it shares so much about my journey as well and have a great rest of the week. So everybody, take care and we will hopefully get to meet you guys at some point soon. So thanks again. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book.com and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of Pentwater Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening
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