Creativity is not born from fear - Sam Garst, Founder and CEO at NOOD.COM

Sam: I was like 23, 24, like I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Um, I had no idea how to make, I had no idea to make money. That was the rub. Like I knew how to build products, but I had no idea how to run a business and I had no idea how to make money. Um, and so I kind of spent, you know, the next three, four years after that

Jennifer: Hi, everyone. We're so glad to have Sam Garst with us today.

He's the founder and CEO of Nuda. com, which he started in the summer of 2021. Uh, they're on a mission to help people feel more comfortable in their skin by creating better hair removal experience with the power of light. Their hero product is the FDA cleared flasher 2. 0, which delivers the same results as laser hair removal, but from home and for less than 200.

Sam bootstrapped the business to 60 million in trailing 12 month revenue in just under two years all direct. Super impressive. You can now also find them at Target. And prior to founding Nude, he also founded Black Forage Marketing, where he helped small and midsize startups grow. He was a director of growth at Dosh, and a startup mentor.

Welcome, Sam. It's so nice to have you here today.

Sam: Thank you for having me, Jen. This is actually my first podcast, so I'm ex I know, I know, I wanted to say that, but yes, I'm super, super excited to be here.

Jennifer: Well, hopefully we give you a grand and fun experience.

Sam: Yeah, I'll do my best. Hopefully I'll have some good insights and stories to share for all the listeners.

Jennifer: Yes, just be yourself is all we can ask for. So Sam, I usually like to start these, I gave your intro, but I always want to ask, who are you in your own words?

Sam: Yeah, that's a great question and a tough question. It's it's a very introspective and tough question to answer. Um, I think, you know, I'm a, I'm a son. I'm a friend. I'm a partner. I'm looking deeper. I think the 2 things that I've tried to embody recently. 1 is. Um, being an artist, and I, I think that's it's an odd thing for an entrepreneur to say, especially someone that comes from a technical background.

You know, formerly my education was in electrical engineering, computer science, um. But one of the things that drove me into entrepreneurship was the creative element of it. And I think everything, everything that you do as an entrepreneur, whether it's people problems and like figuring out how to structure your organization, where people are best suited, where their unique skills are, how to manage the interpersonal relationships.

Um, and certainly everything related to product and marketing, um, are very creative disciplines and there's, uh, there's this really awesome book. That I'm going to space the name on, um, if I, if I come back to it, I'll, I'll bring it back. But, um, The, I think just like being an artist, first and foremost, and thinking creatively is one thing that I try to embody.

And then the second is being an adventurer. Um, I would say that I'm an adventurer at the deepest, deepest part of my, my soul.

Jennifer: sort of see it coming straight out. It's

Sam: Um, it's what inspired me to start NUDE. It's what's inspired me to continue to grow NUDE. Um, and I think a lot of that. That adventure seeking spirit, the question of like, it's just this deep seated question of like, what if, what if things were different, you know, what if we did it this way?

Um, and that plus the kind of creative element, I think that's been, um, that's kind of the energy that I've tried to embody over the last couple of years in working on this business.

Jennifer: I love that answer. In a way, it's such a human answer too, right? If we are as humans, creators, adventurers, explorers in what we do. And I

Sam: core to the human experience. It's totally core to the human experience. But we, but we, I think we lose that, right? You know, we, we wake up and we lose the sense of adventure. Like, we lose the sense of creativity. Um, and the more that we can foster those things, I think the more fulfillment we have in our lives.

Jennifer: Absolutely. They talk a lot about play and the value of play and fun and infusing more creativity into our work. And so love that you're leading with that. Was the book you were describing, is it Rick

Sam: yeah, it was Rick Rubin's book. It was

Jennifer: Rubin, right. Thank

Sam: Yeah, yeah,

Jennifer: have that on my table, my coffee table. I'm hoping to read it at some

Sam: how serendipitous, right? That that was enough of a seed. Yeah, yeah. Well, his 60 minutes with Anderson Cooper was enough for me to be intrigued, to listen to his story. I mean, I think he's got, that's basically the core thesis of his book, is everyone's a creator, everyone's an artist.

Um, and, uh, yeah. I embody that to the core, to the best of my

Jennifer: love it. And he's a fascinating human, too. I love how he infuses the creativity and the coaching with the folks that he works with. Okay, let's talk about how you became who you are today, Sam. So we'd love to start with some of the formative experiences that you had and use that to transition into your venture into entrepreneurship. So what, what was formative into your,

Sam: Yeah. This is, this is, this is also a really good question. Um, informed by a lot of introspection and a lot of therapy, I would say in a lot of ways. Um, it's, it's one of those things that it's really another thing that's really easy to lose sight of. And then you start asking the question of like, why the hell am I doing this?

Like this isn't easy. Like entrepreneurship's not easy. Starting a business isn't easy. Like what, what, why do I feel like I have to do this? Um, and that's a tough, that can be like a really tough question to answer. I think one, one big thing for me, so I was an only child. Um, my parents are older. They, my dad had been married before.

I have two, two, two half sisters, but I didn't grow up with them. They're 16 years older than me. So. Um, when we, um, I grew up in, you know, a traditional, uh, you know, suburban American experience, like had a bunch of friends on a cul de sac, um, but what, what was kind of a pivotal moment for me when my, my parents, when I was nine, my dad retired and he's an outdoor, an outdoor man himself, he's a biologist and they thought it'd be great to move to the outskirts of town.

And so when I was nine, my entire life was uprooted, and we moved to this rural part of town on this beautiful plot, seven acres of land, um, and it was really hard. It was like a really tough experience for me that was, I think, compounded the sense of loneliness, the sense of like,

Jennifer: you know,

Sam: just feeling a bit lost.


Jennifer: drafts

Sam: I don't know directly how that got catalyzed into this need, but it created this void of like, needing to be seen and not feeling, feeling totally unseen, feeling unheard. Um, and that's not a reflection of my parents at all. Like my parents were wonderful. They were very loving and supportive, but I was just super disconnected.

And I think that that space got filled with this deep desire to be seen and to feel important and significant. And. All the stories that I've heard about entrepreneurship, um, as a kid, I think very formatively early in, in, you know, high school and college hearing about. Facebook and, um, the success of Mark Zuckerberg.

Uh, that was a really, you know, a really impactful story for me. Um, given how young he was specifically like his success and, um, his significance at such a young age gave me, it fostered this sense, like, okay, I can, I can, I can break out of this, like I can break out of the shell. And find something and find a path towards building something and creating something significant and entrepreneurship and creating products that people could use that people could see like that was the vehicle for me to feel important and to feel significant, like, at the deepest and most fundamental level, like, I didn't none of this was at a conscious level.

I just think very as I've explored, um, I think subconsciously that was a big driver.

Jennifer: Yeah. This,

Sam: Yeah, that was a huge piece. And there's another, there's one other thing that I can share on that. Um, You know, high school was a really interesting experience for me. I was valedictorian in my high school class of 400 kids.

Um, but that was like, what's interesting about that is there was no pressure from my parents. My parents didn't care how I did academically, like they just wanted me to do well, but they weren't like, you know, Hey, your mom was a valedictorian, like you need to, you need to do the same thing as well.

They're just like, you know, do your best. But I got connected with a group of

Jennifer: fun.

Sam: Really sharp, um, really driven people. And that, uh, the, that core group of friends, like we just competed, it was just who can get the best grades. Um, you know, who, who can write the best paper. And that became a core to my experience in high school.

Like I was, I was involved in athletics and played a handful of sports as well, but like my identity in high school was trying to be the smart kid. And it was like trying to win in class and the art teachers and the programs that we were involved in. I was involved in this program called international baccalaureate, which is like a juiced up version of classes and, um, it just created this positive reinforcement vehicle for.

Um, you know, success and I think that set a really high standard and really high bar for me as I, as I left and went into college. And then I went into, um, my professional career, you know, it deeply. It was just. Beyond, like, wanting to set a high bar for myself and having high standards for how I showed up, it was like, I need to win.

It's like, I need to be the best. I need to win. Um, and that is obviously very fundamental to any entrepreneurial journey.

Jennifer: Oh, my goodness. As you were talking, it's so interesting how a child develops, right? I feel like there's so many nuggets here for, like, child development psychologists of

Sam: my god, yeah.

Jennifer: Your parents moved out into nature. And, like, it's interesting because we, I, my, my husband and I are thinking we want to be in nature.

But now I'm like, oh, my goodness. But I don't want our kids to feel disconnected. And, like, things impact children in all different ways. Yeah. Um,

Sam: my parents had no idea, like they had no, I, I've spoken with my mom about this so many times and she's just like, Oh, I hadn't, I had no idea that you felt that way. I was like, well, yeah, I didn't feel like, what was I going to come to you and be like, Hey mom, like this isn't cool. We got to go back to the cul de sac and have a fit and protest about it.

Um, you know, that wasn't, that's not how I chose to express myself during that, that time. But, but it obviously had a huge resounding impact.

Jennifer: yeah, and to your point, they were doing their best, right? And, and they loved you, and you felt very loved, and, um, it's

Sam: And they have to live their life, just like you and your partner have to live your life. You know, there's a level of compromise, right?

Jennifer: yeah. And I also love your story about then being in and finding your crew in high school and getting so competitive. And so such a thing for entrepreneurship.

It's like, you need to be crazy to say, I'm going to build something from scratch in a good way. I think it's wonderful, obviously. But like to say, this thing doesn't exist. I'm going to build it myself. And I'm actually like to have the confidence to say, and it's going to be great. Thank you. I'm going to win 95 percent

Sam: a lonely

Jennifer: fail

Sam: It's such a lonely journey, you know, and like they, I think even this wasn't the first startup that I started. Right. So I had other friends that had started businesses and had deep, deep developed relationships with other entrepreneurs that had developed and have developed much larger businesses than I've done today.

But, um. When you start, and especially if you're transitioning as a first time entrepreneur, like you're, you're alone, like you're, you're friends and family for a lot of first time and small business owners. It's not like you have a group of, and a cohort of people that are also entrepreneurs that are also going through the same thing.

Um, it takes time. It takes time to build that community, but it is like so important to have other people, um, that are within the same industry and, and, you know, solving similar problems and sharing those stories. Otherwise, you just feel like you're on an island.

Jennifer: Absolutely. 1000%. And yeah, and it's a great point of advice for entrepreneurs, right? Because the journey is you are learning a new industry, a new market, building a new product, whatever industry that is in, and you're constantly learning new things and needing to iterate and getting so many market pushbacks and setbacks.

And. It's unlike, it's really unlike anything else. And having that sense of community to say, you're not that crazy or to actually say, maybe you want to pivot now. Uh,

Sam: Or when things, yeah, when things go to crap and you're like, what do, what do we do? You know, that you have these existential questions about the business, like someone else has been in a similar situation before. You don't have to answer that question. Go get feedback, go get, you know, go get data and then figure out how to make an informed decision.

Jennifer: yeah, absolutely. So,

Sam: also have a group to just vent to. Like, you know, someone else you can complain to when things aren't going

Jennifer: yeah, and being being able to say, hey, I just need to vent. I don't need y'all to fix this versus I actually want advice now, because now I'm ready to fix this.

Sam: That is key in all forms of communication, yeah.

Jennifer: So coming back to your journey, so then after high school, like you said, you did electrical engineering and computer science. And then how did you transition that to starting a marketing firm?

Sam: Yeah, well, the first, the transitional point was actually my first startup. It was a company called One Greek. Um, it was a social media for fraternities and sororities, um,

Jennifer: Okay.

Sam: traditional Greek life for anyone that went to a larger collegiate body and had either was involved or around Greek life.

Um, it was, You know, there was one that was that was the transitionary period for me. It was like we, I was set on a path to becoming an electrical engineer. I was working, um, the summer of my junior year, I was working as an intern at Intel. So I was like set, you know, in getting an internship at Intel the summer of my junior year, I was like, I can get a job here post grad.

This is obviously an amazing company to work at. Um, but I was approached by a friend of mine who. Interestingly enough, like, was not directly involved in Greek life. He'd gone through the recruitment process, but didn't end up joining an organization. Um, and he approached me with these, these mock ups of this.

It was a website. It was like before even, you know, mobile apps were all the rave and, um, he's like, Hey, I want to build this recruitment website. Can I, can I get feedback from you? You know, you're the vice president of your fraternity. Can I get feedback from you and just get some thoughts on whether or not this is a viable opportunity and idea?

And I sat down and I looked at it and I was Oh, this is, this is sick. Like, this is so cool, like, it just I could, I had a complete, I saw the mockups, and I was like, yeah, I don't really like this, but I, it just sparked this vision of what this platform could be and how we could integrate it into our organization.

Um, but I didn't, I wouldn't have had, and I didn't have the conviction at the time to just go build something on my own. Um, and truthfully, like, I don't know if I would be where I am today without Gavin. I think he was, he's still a really close friend of mine, but he, like, I just told him, I was like, I want to work on this with you.

I don't know what that means or what that's going to look like, but I want us to work on this project together. And that was a four year long journey starting this business with him. Pivoting like three or four times trying to get the product, trying to find product market fit any, anywhere we could like any, with any type of product feature or with any market we could.

And, um, we launched that it went viral in 2015. We moved to Austin in 2016, which was also a really big, like that was a big move for me because we stayed in Tucson, Arizona and Tucson is like. A wonderful city. I would recommend anyone visiting it. It's a really quaint town. It was a great place to go to college, but like that is not a place to start a business.

Um, the community of other entrepreneurs there is just small and few and far between in comparison to the valley to, I mean, to either coast or to Austin or many of the other larger cities. And, um, moved to Austin in 2016.

Jennifer: of different places that sold that

Sam: Um, sold that company for a very small period of, uh, very, very small amount of money.

Not enough to really say that it was successful. Um, and kind of like at that point I knew I was like, okay, I want to be an entrepreneur. Like I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to start a business. This, this wasn't it, but like this was a good, a really good education, the education that I wish that I had gotten in college,

Jennifer: Yeah, so it sounds like you started this business with Gavin for about four years. You were building iterating on product market fit until you finally found PMF and you, you blew up, you kind of scaled in, in a year and then sold it

Sam: Yeah, yeah, we got, we, we got lucky. I mean, we built this app and like the only way, this is a quick story. I, it is interesting. We, so we, the only way to get onto the app was if you referred someone else onto the platform. Um, and this was before like meerkat and all these other social networks that come around that require, like that would like pull up your contact list and then spam invite everyone.

Like you'd have to be verified to get onto the platform. And we built this, this, basically this referral marketing engine into the onboarding experience of the app. And the first day we had 5, 000 people sign up. The first month it was 50. And then in six months we had 300, 300, 000. We had like literally half of the market on the app in six months. it just wasn't, it wasn't sticky, you know, and we weren't making money from it was the rub, but

Jennifer: Okay. And you didn't really have folks advising you at this time. It sounds like it was just you and Gavin learning on your own. Wow. That is

Sam: we had no formal advisory experience. I mean, we were involved in this program called Startup Tucson, which was helpful. Um, but we didn't have an advisory board. You know, we didn't know what we were doing. We just, we just had ideas for products. We were like, this would be cool if we did this.

So let's try

Jennifer: Yeah.

The creator and inventor again, enters and enters the room. and so then what was it after this whole experience that you were like, I really liked this and I really identify as an entrepreneur. I want to do it again.

Sam: I mean, I was like burnt out after the end of that. Honestly, I was exhausted. I was tired. You know, I went through this four year cycle and I was like, okay, I need to take a step back. And had started, you know, Figured the experience that I had in building that platform while we didn't make a lot of money could be relevant for other startups.

But again, you know, I was like 23, 24, like I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Um, I had no idea how to make, I had no idea to make money. That was the rub. Like I knew how to build products, but I had no idea how to run a business and I had no idea how to make money. Um, and so I kind of spent, you know, the next three, four years after that, like starting a bunch of other startups.

And having similar stories where like we got a little bit of traction. Um, we had a little bit of funding, but nothing that really took off. Like I was really just trying to find something that could, that could stick, that was profitable, that would make money. Um, and I, I, part of that was wrapped up in, in the, um, was wrapped up into this, this marketing firm that I had started Black Forge.

I was doing consulting work on the side, but I was also starting a couple of startups. Um. And then that got, that got exhausting after a while. I frankly had no money. I had, I'd saved up some money like after working in the internships that I had in college and then also some, some money that I had inherited.

But, you know, 10, 10s of thousands of dollars, maybe 30, 40 grand. And I'd run through all that cash and had like 5, 000 in the bank and I was like, I need to get a job. Like, this is, this just isn't working. The firm's, this firm's not working that well. And, um. I wasn't really running it like an agency. I was running it as like an incubator for startups and then just taking on contract gigs as they

Jennifer: Mm hmm.

Sam: And yeah. And then I took, I took a role at DOSH. I was like, I know how to, I know how to do growth. I know how to do product marketing. Um, I know how to do product development, so let me just get a job and like, see what it's like to do this at a business. And I took that job, um, Gosh, what is that? 2019. I mean, not super long ago, you know, it was like 2019, 2020, um, Needed to make some money.

Led the team, led a growth team at DOSH from series C to acquisition. And while I was doing that, I was like, I, I needed six months into that. I was like, I gotta get out of here. I can't, like, I

Jennifer: like I don't

Sam: don't want to do this for other people. This isn't fun. I gotta get the hell out of

Jennifer: entrepreneur.

Sam: Yeah. I was like, this is like, the money is great.

I love making money. This

Jennifer: but I'd rather go make my own money.

Sam: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so, yeah. Um, and then, you know, that has, that was kind of the impetus for starting it.

Jennifer: Okay, let me pause you here because this is so important and I know so many entrepreneurs going through a very similar thing, right? You're an entrepreneur. You're building your cash strapped. You're financially stressed. So, so many entrepreneurs encounters and then you have, feelings of imposter syndrome.

What am I even doing? But then you still are all in and you want to do this, but you just need to make things work financially. Also, I think, it's hard to be stay creative and stay as a formidable leader of a team. If you are worried about, you can't make rent the next month. And so it's very, very, very normal feeling very important thing.

and so just wanted to highlight for you that you ended up taking a job that gave you some more financial runway. For a little bit, kind of

Sam: I would encourage others to do the same. Like, I think if you're in a, if you're in a situation where you want to be to start as an entrepreneur, like, you're right, you can't, creativity is not born from a place of fear. And if you're afraid of making rent, if you're afraid of being able to pay the bills, if you're afraid of what's going on in your relationship, like you have to create enough space to be able to start a business.

And for me, like the break with Dosh was huge. It was a pivotal moment for me to be able to get some cash in the bank, save some money, um, and then also get enough creative freedom and like mentally create the space to be able to start a business. Um, and some people like, you know, the. Maybe, and this might resonate with some listeners, um, if they're thinking about starting a business or if they've gone through a path, maybe they have to shut down and wind down a business.

Like, it feels like a step backwards. Um, but like life is not always a step forward. Sometimes

Jennifer: Yeah. It's not linear.

Sam: to move forward. It's not always linear. And it's, it's, uh, that can be a tough pill to swallow, but it is important medicine to take sometimes. And

Jennifer: Was there anything additional that helped you get through that period of feeling like, man, I feel like I'm taking a step back potentially.

Sam: I think just having What I committed to, like, I think it was three to six months in the job. I said, I'm going to start a business in the next three months. I don't care what it is, whatever I can start in the next three months. I'm going to start a business, setting a timetable for myself, um, and committing to it and, and like being determined to do so was, was critical for me to feel like, okay, I'm not stuck here, right?

This isn't like, this isn't the end for me. Like I'm going to start another business. Um. Um, that gave me, that, that allowed me to sit into the space and, and also do the job at DOSH, but then, you know, work the hard hours after work to go work on the startup, um, and know that there was a path out.

Jennifer: Yeah. Where you feel like you're not losing your identity or not betraying yourself as an entrepreneur. You're just here to give yourself that creative space and you're actioning it. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. It's really, really important. So tell us about how the idea for Nude came about.

Sam: This is also a good story. Um, and I'm, I'm excited to share this. I listen, I listen to so many, I'm so happy and just grateful to be on this podcast and share my story because I, Podcasts were, were, you know, They were actually a pivotal part of me starting my business. Um, it was, I was listening to podcasts every day during COVID, um, which is when the business started and going on runs, listening to my first million Sam Parr's podcast and, um, the founder podcast and a handful of other podcasts and just trying to get inspiration and fuel that creative fire.

But the, I think the story that people expect to hear is like. You know, there is this incredible product insight and I discovered this technology and like we went through years of R and D and like, I built this out of a garage with my best friend and, you know, all this capital was invested and that's just not, that's not the story of Newt at all.

Um, we, I'd actually heard of another company. That was selling IPL devices in Australia from a podcast. And the tagline was 24 million in 24 months. And I was like, damn, that is a lot of money. And that's really impressive. And I'd never heard of this space before, and I was super interested in it, because I had laser hair removal done back when I was in college.

And so I, like, I knew, I was like, this is a huge market, this is a huge opportunity. Um, but I just, the, the thesis that I had in hearing that was like, there's still a huge white space. Because when I talk with my girlfriends, and I, mostly girlfriends is where I started, I just like ask my girlfriends, Hey, did you know you could do laser hair removal at home?

Everyone was like, no, I've never heard. I have no idea what that means. Um, but I'm interested. I was like, oh, okay. Curious. Um, I know this is a huge market. I know it's a huge pro hair removal is obviously a huge market, um, within personal care. And I just was very underwhelmed and underimpressed with what that company was doing and then also with what everyone else in the space was doing.

Just, there was no my, my thesis was like, there is white space in the market. And none of the brands that are currently in market are doing a good job of creating trust with their audience. And I think we can do both of those better. Um, and that was, that was the thesis that started the business. 24

Jennifer: Incredible. When you said 24 million in, or was it 24 million in 24 months? 20 million? How much?

Sam: 24 months.

Jennifer: I was chuckling because it was like the competitive Sam shows up and

Sam: Yeah. Yeah.

Jennifer: and we'll get to that in a minute. Um, but so I'm a chemical engineer by, by training and undergrad.

And so, and I worked in drug development, not on device manufacture for a little bit.

And so I'm curious about, because the 1st thing that came to mind for me was, man, how did he get this through FDA clearance? And what was the development process? Like, so wonderful. Idea came from, I heard from a podcast, there's a big space in the market where this need can be filled and done better with also building more trust with customers.

And then what did that product development look like?

Sam: Yeah. It's a good question. Um, so I mean, maybe to step back, like there is a huge, um, there's an IPL space has been around for a while. So the technology has been in development. I think the first device was in market in like 1990s. Um, that's when it was first commercialized and brought obviously like a form factor that no one would be comfortable using today.

Um, But there is, there's kind of a huge development arbitrage R and D and product development arbitrage opportunity with China. And people think of China's manufacturing, but China has over the last, like, 20 years become a much more proficient engineering and product development hub and resource. And so.

Uh, you know, Alibaba I knew was a resource. I went to Alibaba and I started scouring and looking at IPL manufacturers. Um, there's a lot of crap on Alibaba and, you know, the best manufacturers and the best developers you can't find on Alibaba. Um, but that was a good entry point for me. Um, because I didn't, I didn't want to build the device from scratch.

I like, that was not the intent. I was like, we can find a device and prove and validate that there's a market opportunity here. And then once we did, like, once we can prove the marketing and distribution opportunity, we can get into product development, but I don't want product development to get into the way of marketing validation because, you know, you can have that happens too often.

Right? Like founders, it costs so much money. It's prohibitive. And you're not answering the most important question, which is like, are

Jennifer: Right. Is there a demand?

Sam: Is there actually demand? Um, and so I spent, you know, months, like 3, 4 months trying to find a manufacturer and got really lucky. Um, I think I spoke with 180 to 200 different manufacturers and found two that had developed devices that were already FDA cleared.

And I was like, hey, here's what we can do. I know that we can market this in the United States. I know that there's a huge opportunity, like, we'll commit these volume minimums to you. I want exclusivity and distribution rights. In the U. S. market, you can sell in international markets, um, we'll, like, we'll cross that bridge when it comes, um, if it makes sense.

And the market opportunity exists in the United States and developed an exclusive distribution right with them and then built the business off that product. And we've, you know, since then, we've like, obviously hired our own DERM team, um, that is very experienced in light based therapies for everything from hair removal to, Uh, other kinds of treatments.

And we've used that team to work on developing our, our new and our own devices from scratch. But there is just there from in every, if you're, if you're an entrepreneur and you're trying to start a product business, like there are so many resources in China. Um, if you could find, even finding someone that speaks Mandarin and like helping source the right engineering partner, you know, a lot of these firms will just, they'll build a product for you.

At the cost of what it does, takes to do a mold, like they're not, they won't charge you for the R and D work. They'll like commit to minimums over the course of a year or two years. Um, and we will develop the product as you need it. We just need you to pay the injection molding costs, which could be tens of thousands of dollars.

So instead of going to a firm in the U. S. where they're like, it's going to be, I mean, if we, if we asked a firm to do this in the United States, it'd be hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. It would take 12 months. Um. There is just such an opportunity for product development engineering in China that I think is being that the U.

S. is sleeping on still small businesses. Specifically.

Jennifer: I think it's helpful for folks to hear about also the volume of folks that you spoke to because many folks just quit too soon. So it took you like 3 or 4 months. You talked to 180 manufacturers of which you found 2 that fit whatever quality standard you were looking for.

And then how long did it take them to manufacture the devices for you?

Sam: mean, not long, like, less than a month,

Jennifer: Less than a month and then you

Sam: but they'd already gone through. So there to your question about the FDA, like, they'd already gone through the regulatory clearance with the

Jennifer: right, right, right,

Sam: and it was like a month. It was a month out. And so they were developing the devices. It had already gone through the 5 10 K process.

Which is really interesting as another note, like I don't know how relevant this is, but I didn't know anything about this when I started,

Jennifer: It's very complicated

Sam: It's super complicated, but it, you know, the, the, it's the most straightforward regulatory pathway to getting something through the FDA, um, a 510k versus like a de novo process or any of the drug related clearances.

I mean, I mean, clinical trials, you have to go through. But everything is a commodity, right? Like the 510k process requires that you, um, the precedent is you have to demonstrate substantial equivalence and it's not just like this is an IPL device and that's an IPL device. It's like this IPL device has the almost the exact same specifications as this IPL device.

Um, and you can tweak it a little bit, but they are, you know, it, yeah. So

Jennifer: It's a strict boundary

Sam: it's a very strict boundary and process.

Jennifer: Which you need to play with. And, and again, so smart that you started with, let me test demand. Let me get to having a product with which I can test demand piece up on. And did you finance that with whatever money you were making at DOSH?

Sam: Yeah.

Jennifer: Right. Right.

Brilliant. Also like great, get a job. You can feel more safe, feel more creative, and also have some money to finance and bootstrap for a little while your company, uh, wonderful. So then what happened next all the way through product market fit?

Sam: Yeah. Well,

Jennifer: How long did this product market fit journey take

Sam: so I,

Jennifer: like you learn from the best teacher, which is experience.

You had so much

Sam: yeah, I had a, I had a lot of experience and I had a lot of conviction going into it because it's like, I know, I know that I can sell this. Like, I know this is a sellable. If we can get people. The same results that they get in clinic that they're, they have to inconveniently travel to and go to multiple sessions.

It's super painful. Um, it's awkward at times, you know, spreading eagle and getting your, your butthole lasered by an esthetician is not necessarily an experience that most people want to sign up for. Um, and so we, uh, You know, so, uh, I, so I said, I told myself, I want to test and validate this with 10, 000, I was like, I wanted to see if there's an opportunity with 10 grand, half of that went into products, um, and purchasing our initial order of products, and then the other half of it went into ad spend on meta and we started, um.

You know, the three, four months that went into sourcing the product, building the website, getting product photography, building our initial ads, um, coming up with a brand name. I mean, that was, that was probably half of the time, honestly, trying to come up with something that I could get a domain for that made sense that I felt like would, would, you know, be a brand that I'd want to work on for a while.

Um, that took a long time and then out of the gate. We, I put the website together. It was on Webflow. There was like a Webflow Shopify integration. It was this very, very, is basically a landing page with like an ad with really strong direct response copy. That was like permanent hair removal in eight weeks.

Bring your money back. And we were breakeven in the first week. Literally in the first week of ad spend, we were breakeven. And I was like, damn, there is. an opportunity here because this is crap. Like what I put forward is not good. I launched it on my birthday. I remember launching it on December 17th, um, 2020.

I launched it on my birthday and we had our first sale that night. Um, I also got COVID that week, which was fun, but, uh, I know it was a very eventful week. Um, we launched it, got our first sale that night. And then got, you know, had sales trickle in over the course of a week. And I was like, this is, there's something here, this is interesting.

And then I put in another, I think, 10, 000 into improving our assets, our digital assets, um, same website, just better ads, better ad copy, more ad spend, and we started turning a profit in. Like right at the end of, right at the end of Q4 going into Q1 and I was like, okay, we're, we're just going to, we're going to keep doing this.

We'll keep, we'll keep spending and see if we can just how far we can snowball this and reinvest all the profits into, you know, building a team. Eventually that didn't come for at least a year. It was a solo operation for a year. Um, but yeah, we just started reinvesting, just started taking, I mean, it was, it was basically profitable within the first month of operations.


Jennifer: is wild, Sam. Huge congrats. Also

Sam: in hindsight,

Jennifer: spotting that.

Sam: super lucky, you know, that is not, it's not a realistic expectation to set for anyone. We got very, very lucky. So,

Jennifer: Yeah. And you also, like, I think you learned so much truly from the experience that you bring into this. It's the like lessons on literally what is good versus bad ad copy. Um, like having the insight to test the marketing first, truly things like that.


Sam: Had we not had that, we would have stumbled for months. Candidly, like, if I had not had that insight, I think we would have, we could have easily spent tens of or hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to make something like a funnel that just doesn't work, um, or on channels or, you know, marketing distribution channels that don't work.

Jennifer: Yeah, I want to talk about you as a CEO and your team and growth and what stretched you before we go there. Let me ask you where, what are, what are you guys doing today? Meaning how big is your team? If you feel comfortable revenues, like what are, how many products do you have? Where are you at today?

Sam: Yeah. Well, we're still largely a single product business. Um, we, you know, we, a lot of our growth has happened over the last 12 months. Um, we, our first year was a little slow relative to, I mean, I slow, like, you know, a couple million dollars. And then we ballooned the year after that, as we started really scaling aggressively on meta.

Um, right now the team is small. Like it's, it's a team of 10. It's, we're small and nimble. Um, yeah. There's a lot of really key people. It's, it's largely marketing and product, um, and operations. We've got a few people on each team. We're, we're marketing. Our team is marketing heavy, which also goes back to kind of the, the lesson in core focus for us is like, we are a marketing business.

1st product business. 2nd and operations. We'll do the least we'll do. The lead will be least centered on operations. Um, anything that we can outsource, like our 3rd party logistics. Like company that does all of our distribution and logistics. That's not a core part of our business. That's not what, like where we are differentiated.

So we don't need to have

Jennifer: You're delighting customers

Sam: Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer: and product. Mm hmm.

Sam: So we're, we're around the same level. Um, As what, as what you'd shared, uh, revenue wise, I think there's getting to that scale. Um, you can't, you can't 10 X that easily, you know, and even doubling that is hard. Uh, and so what, you know, what is allowed us to get to 50, 60 million is not the same thing that's going to help us go to 100 or 150 or 200.

Um, a lot of our efforts right now are being invested in product development. Um, really with the focus of bringing unique and differentiated products to market. I think we have, we're working on some really exciting things in the IPL space. I can't share specifics, but, um,

Jennifer: Of course.

Sam: have a, an awesome research and development team and have some new exciting technology that we're going to be bringing to market soon.

Um, and we're also working on a, uh, an extended line of body care products that I'm excited to, we'll be excited to launch within the near

Jennifer: That's exciting. And, and this already, this level is huge and I hope you are taking the time to pat yourself on the back and soak it in and be present in it and not just focused on what's next and what's next. I know we, we get trapped

Sam: best of my

Jennifer: but. Yeah, also I love the nimble teams, I think so many companies get inflated and blown out with excess folks that are not as useful. And so congrats, congrats on that.

I want to ask you about being a CEO and being a leader and growing this company and where you feel you've had to stretch and what growth you've had along this journey.

Sam: Yeah, that's a good question. Um, The growth for me has been I'm really good at a lot of things. And, and, like, pretty good at a lot of different areas. Uh, when it comes to executing on product, marketing operations. Not super experienced across the board, but like, I have no shame in jumping in and being like, yeah, I can figure out this problem that most challenging part has been being a good leader, candidly, you know, like I starting as a solopreneur and year one, letting go of the reins, bringing on people that are more talented than me and trusting them and, and letting go and saying, you know, we're going to trust what you're doing, even if this isn't exactly what I'm going to do or what I would want to do, I trust that you're doing this because I can't do everything.

And ultimately, like, I need to have faith and confidence that you are the right person for the job. And if it turns out that you're not, we'll find someone new. Um, but really letting go of that versus being in the weeds has been the biggest, and that's a continual thing. I'm not perfect at that by any means, but like, that's been probably the biggest area of focus is really just relying on.

The rest of my leadership team to help us set our quarterly goals and the annual vision and direction for the business and then trusting that their team and everyone else is, you know, going to be able to get stuff across the line and execute on it. Yeah.

Jennifer: for what it's worth again, it's very normal. It's your company is your baby. You built this from scratch. It was your vision and it's normal to have these feelings. what's really helped folks in my work is really focusing on hiring, right? Hiring for culture. For values, those are things that cannot be taught and then just making sure y'all have the processes in place where every person has their KPI that they're contributing to, which rolls up to an, which was up to a company goal and just tracking those diligently at your 1 on 1.

So, and then it's, it's a practice of like, I think the same control and competitive spirit and adventure that brings you into the field of entrepreneurship can also, um, it's like the things that help us be successful can also be one of our vices. And so it's just maintaining a healthy relationship with the control, the sense of

Sam: That's so true. You're totally right.

Jennifer: progress.

Sam: It's always, it's, it's just a balance of like letting, knowing what you. The control piece especially, like, first of all, what you, you can't control the outcome, so just accept that. That is really hard.

Jennifer: but you can affect it. And so just reframing from exactly. And so reframing from I can't control this, but I can affect it. And the rest I,

Sam: I can control the effect. I can control the effect of the input that I put into the system, but the system changes. And like the system is just, it's a black box in a lot of ways. You can kind of predict it, you get a sense, but you're like, I don't know, I'm going to throw this out into the world and we'll see what happens.

Jennifer: yeah, yeah,

Sam: People are

Jennifer: I'm definitely, we're all working, through aspects of that. So you're not alone.

Sam, this was so lovely. I want to end on a note of speaking of letting go of control and focusing on what you can affect and, and how the business is going. How are you designing your own life today?

So more holistically outside of just nude. What are you prioritizing? What's important to you? I think the meaning

Sam: This is um, this is a really great question. I'm glad we're ending here.

Jennifer: a lot of dreams. Mm

Sam: I, I think the, for me the most important thing is my mental and physical health. Um, and then relationships. And like without, without either of those being in place, there's, this is not, none of this is important, right? Um, I'd spent a lot of time and learned a lot outside of.

Product and marketing a lot on what a healthier work or what an unhealthy work life balance was like back out of college when I started that startup and was working, was in a relationship. I was working 12 hours a day, just, you know, killing myself, really trying to build this, those businesses and it sucked.

Um, everything that I've done with this business has been designed around how to make it less stressful. Like how to make it fun and how to make it less stressful. And that doesn't mean it's not stressful and it's just fun, but like, I don't, don't take meetings before 10 o'clock. I protect my mornings and I'm not a morning person.

I don't, I don't succumb to the, you know, the notion that you have to be a 5am, you don't have to wake up at 5am to be a productive CEO. I think that's bullshit. Um, so for anyone listening, that's been hit by, you know, hit by. Social media, like, let that go. It's not, you do not need to wake up at 5am. Um, and, you know, doing my best to let work go when I take off for the evenings.

Like, I just check off, be with my partner and, um, commit to spending time with my friends. Like, working that extra 3 4 hours a day, it's not worth it. It's just not worth it.

Jennifer: it's like, why are you doing all this? If not, if you're just going to be stressed and burnt out, like, why,

Sam: Yeah. What's the point? Yeah. And you're going to, you're going to, you know, spend five years in like, what if it doesn't work and what if the business fails? And then you look back and you're like, well, what the hell did I do with my life?

Jennifer: Yeah, or you look back and you can't even remember this period of your life because you were just so stressed and anxious and tired.

Sam: Exactly.

Jennifer: I love that so much. All right, Sam, this was lovely to get to know you. Everyone go check out nude. com for their products. And we can't wait to be in touch and see how your journey continues to unfold. And we both live in Austin, so we'll catch you soon in person.

Sam: Would love to, would love to catch up in person for sure. And Jen, thanks again so much for having me. This has been delightful. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Jennifer: My pleasure.

Creativity is not born from fear - Sam Garst, Founder and CEO at NOOD.COM
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