Chase Alderton: Welcome to Hit Subscribe, a podcast by Recharge designed to educate, inspire, and connect the subscription commerce space. Today we're talking to Brock Cady, co-founder of Ballsy, creators of grooming products for men. To expand their market reach, Brock and his partner, Adam, started specializing in below the belt products, a niche segment where they've seen massive success. We chat about retention strategies and the competitive body wash market, embracing an authentic marketing tone, and the importance of using your platform to raise awareness. Ballsy is partnering with Movember on initiatives for men's health. Fair warning, this episode has more than a few puns. Brock. Thank you for joining us.
Brock Cady: Thank you for having me. How are you doing?
Chase Alderton: Excellent. Excellent. How are you?
Brock Cady: I'm very good.
Chase Alderton: Cool. So give us an intro on yourself and on Ballsy.
Brock Cady: Well, first my name is Brock Cady. I'm a co-founder of Ballsy brand. And my background is I've been in intersection between retail, being a buyer about 12 years ago, for some big box retailers and apparel, moved to San Francisco, got in early in the whole e-comm market back when it was representing maybe 3% of normal retailers business. Obviously we know where that's gone since then. Worked at a bunch of startups in e-comm across product development, e-comm optimization marketing pretty much ran the gamut from an organizational standpoint of different positions. Acquired enough scales to eventually, I take a crack at it myself, and have since then starting e-comm companies and brands in the CPG space. The latest and greatest is Ballsy. And we've been in business about three and a half, going on four years now. So yeah, that's my background. Pretty much a Jack of all trades, trying to become a master of them all, but not a master of them all yet, but working on it.
Chase Alderton: I love that. It's very relatable because that's where everyone starts now. The common theme is that everyone feels like you have to be an expert in something, but realistically, you're a Jack of all trades first, and then you specialize. So give us the background on Ballsy. What are you guys all about?
Brock Cady: So Ballsy brand, we make men's products for man parts, essentially, specifically male hygiene. So below the belt care, speaking of the groin, the balls, sweat, odor, irritation, and some male hygiene issues that, up until recent years, were kind of being overlooked as a category for personal care. And as we've seen in recent years, men's personal care has become a booming industry. Now men are buying products for essentially every part of their body, just like women have been buying for years before us. And one of the biggest areas that men attach to their confidence and themselves being a man in general, at a time four years ago, didn't have any products. So we decided to create those products and go to market.
Chase Alderton: So let's actually double click on that and jump right in. I know that you and your co-founder, Adam, have worked before at previous companies, decided to start this thing up, and you guys do most of the work on your own. You guys kind of lead pretty much everything on just you two. How did this start? I know you kind of mentioned there wasn't really a market for this. Is that why it started? Or was there another reason?
Brock Cady: Yeah, definitely. So Adam Hendle, a dear friend of mine, now business partner, and have worked together in the past at an e-commerce marketplace and platform that started in San Francisco together. I was general ops. He was really customer-facing and community. We, also there, held a bunch of different hats as well, but those were our roles. And we helped build that company from the ground up to millions of customers, over 150,000 stores. And then he decided about two years before I actually exited the company, to move on to LA. We worked so well together that we said, "Hey, eventually someday we'll work together," because we just knew we had overlapping skills and we both liked that we were both the Jack of all trades, but we also had different personalities, which I think mirrored each other very well. And so about three years after he left, he gives me a call and he tells me about this idea that he had in the shower.
Chase Alderton: Of course it was in the shower.
Brock Cady: Of course, all the genius ideas in the shower. And he mentioned that he wanted to launch a product called Ballwash, and I laughed a little bit and I giggled and I was like, "Wait, really?" And then as he explained to me the opportunity, I was totally in. Essentially, he just noticed, like I said, his wife had all these different products for various parts of her body. And there had never been a product for men's below the belt before. So he hopped out of the shower, Googled "ball wash," and to his surprise, it's never been done. So he just did it and called me. And then we were off to the races after that.
Brock Cady: From the initial idea, I will say, then we started to really see that the initial product, as we got into market, we really started to see how big of the category could be. So it wasn't necessarily like, "Oh, male hygiene is a thing that's not there." We actually just went first with just a really good product idea with some, in our guts, knowledge of the industry, knowing that there could be something there, but we just really went based on that first product. And then over time, built out the brand and the extension of the products around what we saw was trending in the market. So yeah, that's how it all started.
Chase Alderton: I don't know if I could recommend Googling "ball wash" and see what comes up there, but I'm sure he got some interesting results in addition to not finding the actual results he was looking for.
Brock Cady: Now when you do it, hopefully it's just littered with our name and our links everywhere.
Chase Alderton: There you go. There you go. Much better results. Very cool. So, dig a little bit more into kind of how that research initially started. So did you just dig into the men's category as a whole? Was it just starting as this ball wash and then kind of going from there? How did the kind of product development move?
Brock Cady: To be honest, this is kind of a preface to this because I think it's important. We're not venture-backed, we never raised any money, we're bootstrapped. So we started this whole business, who now we've done multiples of millions of dollars in manual sales every year, with essentially less than $5,000. So at the beginning, it was a struggle to just find a manufacturer that was going to take a chance on us, because mostly MOQs are really high for personal care products, unless you're buying something that's just off the shelf. And we knew that if we were going to make something, we wanted it to be differentiated, custom formulated, and built it from the ground up. And when you start getting into customized products, MOQs become higher.
Brock Cady: So at the beginning, we essentially just had enough capital to fund this ourselves, a very small amount of units doing it bootstrapped, and launched the products in December, sold out 1,000 units in 48 hours, went right back to our manufacturer, who's based in Michigan, and said, "Can we get any more?" And luckily they're such a good partner. We're still working with them today for all core products, they were able to make another five, another 10,000, right in December, continued to kind of snowball that, and then we had cashflow to then think about, "Oh, what's next?" Right?
Brock Cady: So from that initial product, we actually built some capital and then decided how we were going to extend the brand from there. That's when we started thinking about more issues related to below the belt odor. So we launched a solid cologne to help mask odor and keep you smelling more attractive down there. And we also launched a neutralizing older spray that also helps with some irritation and itch, and then we kitted those together as essentially what we call the Sack Pack. And it's the starter kit to mail hygiene, a couple of the products that you could need to really help just daily comfort and fight odor, itch, irritation, and everything like that, and sweat. And when we started to package these things and build the brand around the idea of male hygiene, and really start to solidify it as a real category, that's when things started to take off.
Brock Cady: So it was a bit of launch the product, test it, see if we can even get people to be interested in it. And then if people were interested in it, how could we start to expand? We really, honestly, didn't do that much preliminary research. I was kind of, there's always a stroke of luck in everything, and you should be able to admit that. So we launched Ballwash. It was a hit at the beginning. We just thought it would be really fun. And then as we started to grow, we saw people were interested in it, and the questions and the comments that we were getting about other products, and then we started to see the opportunity for kind of a game changing category with male hygiene. And it's just been growing and growing since
Chase Alderton: Definitely. That's an awesome intro story. I want to put a pin in the products real quick because you said something really interesting around bootstrapping and about inventory management. What other things in addition to those two are maybe troubling or difficult or things that new entrepreneurs or new businesses don't really know about that you kind of run into upfront and you go, "Oh shoot. I didn't really think about this thing when I was launching a product, launching a brand."
Brock Cady: That's a great question. So cashflow is think is the biggest thing you have to worry about. With lead times with certain products, and when you're trying to hit certain revenue numbers throughout the year, if you can't get that product for four months, but you want to have, let's say, go from 10,000 to a million sales in that first year, you need to upfront put down a ton of money to buy that inventory, but you're not going to be able to sell it for four months. So as much as you want to go out there and say, "Hey, we're going to launch this one product and we're going to add a bunch of new skews," that money has to come from somewhere because it's going to take four months, three months. Luckily, we have really good relationships with some of our manufacturers. We pretty much can get things done in 60 to 90 days with most of our core products. But in general, you're talking four months at times. So you have to put all that money up front before you can even sell it.
Chase Alderton: And even then, once you start talking about lead time, 60 to 90 days is pretty fast for my understanding of flipping a [crosstalk 00:11:28] and actually getting it back. But even then, you're talking about planning a quarter out and you're talking about planning what you're doing now as we record this in April. What's this going to look like in July, August, September, the second half of the year? That's kind of difficult to do for a new brand.
Brock Cady: Yeah. And especially if you have seasonality spikes, you're taking big risks. We have really big holidays because we do a fantastic job, in my opinion, at marketing our products specifically for the gifting segment. We do fun boxes with really punchy kind of edgy, punny branding on the front. Valentine's Day, we do, "I'm nuts about you," the female giving it to their boyfriend. For Christmas, we do boxes that'll say, "Keep your jewels jolly," or something like that. So we sell a hand over fist, tons of those units during gifting moments. And every year we're 2xing our business, or more than 2xing our business since inception. And to plan that inventory, you're taking a little bit at risk. You're saying, "I believe that I can hit these sales targets, and if I don't buy the right amount of inventory, and if I buy too little inventory, I'm not going to hit my sales target." So there's a lot of inventory management and a lot of cashflow management.
Brock Cady: Luckily there's tons of new ways to do inventory financing and inventory loans. There's a lot of agencies out there who do this stuff now, which has helped the space a lot. And we've taken advantage of them at times, really low rates, really easy to set up and go. But yeah, that's one of the things that cashflow is kind of hugely important, especially if you're a bootstrapped business and you're not just sitting on VC funds.
Chase Alderton: This episode is brought to you by the DTC Handbooks powerful and profitable series. Dive into eight robust playbooks from 12 industry experts, ranging and topics from building a brand community, the top of analytics to track, effectively utilizing cross sells and upsells, and more. Visit rechargepayments.com/playbooks to download all eight chapters. So going back to product now, you mentioned, remind me the name of the starting pack again?
Brock Cady: It's called the Sack Pack. It includes a nut rub, sex spray, and ball wash.
Chase Alderton: If we get through this interview without dying of laughter, that'll be a success on our end.
Brock Cady: [inaudible 00:13:43] So many times, I still giggle, even though I've said them-
Chase Alderton: It's pretty good. And we'll get to marketing in a sec as well. How was the decision made to kind of lead with this bundle? So instead of just saying, "Here, buy the one product we think that you need,' how did you come up with this idea? Put everything in one pack, give them the starter pack, there's a gifting option for it. How did that kind of set the stage for then your growth after that?
Brock Cady: Essentially return on ad spend. AOV, increasing AOV in order to have a return on what our customer acquisition costs were. It's easier to make more money on a $40 product than a $10 a single product. So figuring out ways to kit these things together, to just have a profitable business, right? Obviously there's other things that go into that, but that is the main point. We're in the business to obviously create great customer experiences, but make money as well.
Brock Cady: The second piece of that is just convenience. If we want to give the customer a no-brainer easiest way to figure out what to buy, put it in a box, give them everything they need at a reasonable price point that we know when we analyze gifting business, whereabout that would fall where it's kind of highly convertible customers are really likely to convert. What's the price point that fits our brand? It was $45 for us. So it just made sense from what we wanted to establish ourselves as, and Ballsy is a male hygiene product. So here's essentially the starter kit for that area of your body. So it was both probability from ad standpoint, but just a really solid, good first brand impression to any customers that came to the site that they would, "Oh, okay. I get it. These guys make a bunch of products for that area of a man's body."
Chase Alderton: And I think you hit the nail on the head when you said average order value and lifetime value as AOV and LTV, is that that's the lifeblood for a subscription brand. Obviously, you know that, but when you start talking about bringing in above the belt products, and you start to expand your product line, how do you look at those in terms of average order value and lifetime value? Is it just an add on, or is that an entirely new arm of the business?
Brock Cady: Yeah. So as you alluded to, we have started venturing into body care, we call it. So we have a few categories. Balls, body, and head and face. And when we started to think through strategies for our platform extensions and product extensions, we really thought about the LTV aspect of the customers we've got in the door because we stand for this new category that's a little bit novel, a little bit new, it's shiny. So they see it in a digital ad, they're going to click on that more so than just another body wash that's in this very competitive market. We're probably going to be able to always compete within that category that we are solely focused on or majority focused on, which is the balls, get them in with that. They'll trust us with a beautiful experience they've had with that product.
Brock Cady: Now let's sell them the more traditional products like body wash, shampoos, face lotions, face washes, and things like that, through all of our more retention marketing channels, email, SMS, retargeting ads, et cetera, et cetera, our physical retail stores and what have you. So when we thought about these body products or extending the platform, it was truly to figure out ways to keep repeat and retention and increase that lifetime value over time.
Chase Alderton: It's definitely worth digging in a bit more on, because you said something really interesting. You'll never be able to compete with that at the shampoo brands of the world and the body wash brands of the world. There's just too many of them. It doesn't matter how much money you're running in ads, you're just going to get outbid and outweighed. So sticking with your core product and just using everything else as kind of the add on and the support for that, that seems like a really, really good strategy that I think a lot of brands miss.
Brock Cady: Yeah. Focus is key. I mean, you were successful for a certain reason. So over time, definitely you have to extend the platform, you have to grow and you have to always be creative about ways to grow. But you have to figure out how these new strategies that you're implementing to grow, actually work in the overall creation of the business. I can't just pretend I'm going to be able to put out a shampoo or a body wash and it's going to be a hit, it's going to be millions of dollars. Maybe you do view that like we did. You're not ever going to take your shampoo as having a lion's share of your ad spend, but you're going to use that a lot in a very specific way to do a very specific thing, right? Because the core of your business is still going to be below the belt hygiene, Ballwash, Sack Pack, et cetera.
Brock Cady: And you're right. We can compete on quality. We can compete on a good product, but from a ad spend standpoint, from how much money they're putting into it, how many competitors there are, it's just going to be expensive. It's not that we couldn't make compelling ads to get people to click. It's just a supply and demand of the marketplace for digital advertising. It's just that. The cost per clicks and everything are going to be so much higher because so many people are bidding on that same audience for the same category for the same product. So yeah, it was all about focusing and figuring out how to extend the platform, offer our customers products that they want.
Brock Cady: We definitely did our research and sent out surveys and really said, to validate ourselves, we are Ballsy. We know we have this very specific focus around the male hygiene. Before we did anything, we surveyed thousands of our customers and thousands of non-customers who had never bought, and said, "Would you buy other products outside of the balls from Ballsy?" And 95% of people said they would. And I know survey data is strange at times, but it's a good enough signal for us to utilize that signal amongst a few others and say, "Okay, how are we going to launch this next iteration of the Ballsy body section? And what products are we going to launch and how are we going to really market them?" And we've been seeing success with that. Actually, our body products do extremely well, comparatively on subscribers adding on our body products. So the conversion of a subscriber to a new body product, I don't know the exact multiple, but exponentially more likely to subscribe to a body product from us. And those products do very well on subscription versus just one time buy.
Chase Alderton: It seems like focuses is a big theme. With a small team, with a growing team, with a lot on your mind, how do you maintain focus to really knock the goals out of the park that are right in front of you and not really worry about too much that's moving around?
Brock Cady: Yeah, for sure. Definitely.
Chase Alderton: So let's get into one of the, maybe, more comical parts of this business, which is your marketing. How did that start? Is it just luck of the draw with the name of the company is Ballsy? How do you get to the marketing? Where does that come from?
Brock Cady: So in general, the brand started as, because we just looked at the space of personal care at the time. And though we knew that we were going to focus on a very specific area, we knew that men's brands in general, up until that time, they were all kind of very sophisticated or speaking very to the more well-to-do, more modern customer. There wasn't kind of this everyday, kind of direct language that was being used at the time, so we just knew that we wanted a brand that felt approachable, but fun at the same time. And the fun came into the play when we knew that we were going to be speaking about mail, hygiene issues, sweat, odor, irritation, below the belt, and we wanted to make sure that people wanted to engage, and we were going to be very upfront about it. So we knew that when we were going to be creating content and marketing, we wanted to bring people in on the conversation, than try to make this a hush-hush thing, something you didn't want people to know.
Brock Cady: So that's why all our products are pretty much in your face. They say exactly what they are. They're very direct. And we use a lot of fun language in all our ads. And you see this manifest itself in the digital space, to wives tagging their husbands, girlfriends tagging their boyfriends, friends tagging their buddies. Everybody gets a laugh, but then they start to talk about it and they're like, "Wow, this is actually useful. It's fun." And it's kind of de-stigmatizing this sensitive subject, in a way. And that's why we wanted to lead with a little bit more playful brand, not creating the packaging where it was subdued and it didn't say what it was. That's one strategy you could have taken. We just decided to be ballsy, right? It's within the common nomenclature, what ballsy means, to be a little bit more bold and daring, and it just so happens to go very well with what we do, the balls. So these things kind of all came together intentionally over time, and yeah.
Chase Alderton: There's so many puns in here. I can't even start to...
Brock Cady: Yeah, it's incredible. That's the fun part of the job is just the word play.
Chase Alderton: So, it sounds like the marketing is kind of just the hook. A lot of people's marketing is the products. If you can't market the product well, then that's a huge issue. But when you have quality product that stands for itself, that represents something where the market really doesn't exist, you're kind of creating this category. The marketing is just the hook to get you in initially. And then you start to do the education piece. People start to understand, "Oh wow, this is a real thing. This isn't just a funny thing that I saw scrolling through Instagram that one time."
Brock Cady: Yeah. Yeah. And we pride ourselves on that. Some of our reviews that we have on our website, they'll be like, "I thought this was so fun. I want to get it from my husband. Now he doesn't use any other products. The quality is great. The fragrances you guys use are spot on. They're not overly sophisticated or not there, or they're not too adolescent where they smell like Axe body wash or like a locker room in high school. They're finely tuned in." The women who actually buy for the men, which funny enough, around 60% of our customers are women buying it for their significant others.
Chase Alderton: It's so interesting.
Brock Cady: Yeah, about 45% of women that we surveyed, and we have some other survey data, stated that they were the ones buying these categories for the men in the homes and their teenage boys. So the women were making these decisions. So we figured out really good ways to leverage our language and our copy and our content to bring the women into these conversations as well. You see Ballsy and you're like, "Oh, that's such a bro, man, masculine brand. That's all for guys." But sometimes you forget just because that's who we're speaking to directly, there's other people who might be making its purchase decisions, and it was women. So we play around a lot with the female advertising and branding piece as well.
Chase Alderton: Did you look to other brands as inspiration for some of your marketing? I think Dollar Shave Club kind of comes to mind where it's entertaining and it's loose and it's kind of fun, but it's not necessarily the brand. You still have to actually provide a quality product.
Brock Cady: Yeah. We definitely know, everybody knows the Dollar Shave video from a long time ago, and it's been brought up many times in regards to just how brands started to use humor a lot, and kind of take themselves less seriously in some ads, even though they have a serious product. So we definitely took some notes from that and just, maybe not directly, but just being in the market and knowing the consumer space through osmosis, probably definitely influenced a lot of the brand.
Brock Cady: To be honest, for a long time when we were starting this, there was this diesel campaign from 10 years ago called "be stupid." And we really got a lot of inspiration from that campaign, which is a fashion brand, but it can come from anywhere. It was just about doing things a little bit different and how, kind of be yourself, don't be normal. Don't be afraid to go out there and be bold and be daring and be a little bit quirky and weird. And they kind of use the word "stupid" in this way, where we kind of think about ballsy in a similar way. It's like, "Be yourself. That's the most Ballsy thing you can do." So a lot of just font choices and messaging and pop colors in how we do some of our ads pulls a little bit from that to get specific about some certain campaigns. Yeah.
Chase Alderton: Very cool. Very cool. No, I think that definitely resonates. It's really cool to see brands kind of take inspiration from other things and kind of weave it all into their own marketing. On the note of you saying that, kind of be yourself and kind of understand who you are using your marketing campaigns, I know you partner with Movember. Talk a little bit about kind of what you do kind of on the legitimate side of this. And there's a lot of funny and punny aspects, but how does this kind of play into the actual men's health section?
Brock Cady: Yeah. Point blank, period, we actually do care about balls. So we can't just be a brand who talks a big game about being ballsy and doesn't think about this from a few different angles, so we launched a charity ball wash, a charity wash, it's called "Give a Sack." Essentially we launched a new fragrance to one of our core products, the 16 ounce Ballwash, put a label on it that we worked with some local artists to design us a label. And on the back of the label, it shows how men can check themselves for testicular cancer in the shower, and we partnered with Movember to give a portion of all the proceeds, profits back to their organization, which helps research for male health issues like testicular cancer.
Brock Cady: So we have that product up on our website all the time now. It started off as just an April, testicular cancer awareness month product, and we've continued it because it does very well. And if we can better our business and better men's health and the organizations that support that, then why not keep it around all the time? So yeah, we're continuously running that product, which was such a fun project for us to do with Movember.
Chase Alderton: Very cool. I have a very close friend who caught testicular cancer really early and was able to make sure that got taken care of, so it's a cause that's close to me, and I appreciate you guys doing your work for it.
Brock Cady: Well, that's awesome to hear. I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm glad he's okay.
Chase Alderton: Definitely. Moving on to some closing questions. I know that you have tons of experience in the subscription world. You guys have been on Recharge almost since the beginning. What would be a piece of advice you would give to a growing brand? Someone who's trying to get off the ground, someone in your stages a couple of years ago?
Brock Cady: In terms of the subscription aspect of the business itself?
Chase Alderton: Or just, how do you, just an interlude brand that's growing? What's something to keep in your mind?
Brock Cady: Yeah, this sounds very general, but I put as much effort as you can in actually creating a product that has real value and has real potential, and focus all you can on making that product really speak to the customer's needs. Obviously PPP, product, price, promotion, all that stuff, but just make a product that has value in the world, because if you don't, it's not cheap to advertise anymore, and you might not be profitable on your first acquisition. And if people don't, your customer acquisition costs. So if you don't resell the products over and over and over again, you're not going to really have a business. So really do your due diligence in making the best product you can, and figure out the exact market that needs and wants this product, because none of those metrics matter unless the product really fits a need.
Chase Alderton: Spend all sorts of money on advertising and marketing, whatever it is. But if the product sucks, ultimately, people aren't going to buy it.
Brock Cady: And everybody can make a product, now. This is no longer special. And I'm super happy about this. I don't mean to say this in a negative way. I'm not discrediting any great businesses out there, but it should be empowering in a way. Everybody can figure out how to launch a product and bring it to market now. It's very simple. It's not complicated. But what that does, and I'm glad that it's giving more opportunities, but what that does is it makes an extremely competitive landscape. So how are you going to differentiate yourself amongst all these other brands, thousands of them that launch every day that are bidding against your same customers, because it's easy to advertise. It's easy to be on social. It's easy to get products to market and make things.
Brock Cady: So what is your true difference in your product? And then when it comes to marketing, be as simple as possible about that. Why? Exactly why did you guys spend all the money to create this thing and the time? What is it about this thing that is special? Why should they pay attention? 80% of the other things that you list in your marketing, nobody's going to really pay attention to. It's that one or two things that make your product really special. You don't need to list out everything, just the very core value proposition that you have with your product. And if you do that, then you probably got a good shot. Then it's just fine tuning and kind of building, improving over time, little by little.
Chase Alderton: And I can't tell you how important that last marketing comment was. So many brands now, especially because you scroll through Instagram quick, you're rolling through Facebook, Twitter, whatever it ends up being. But so many brands take marketing out of context, and they're not talking about what the product is. They're talking about the problem and they're talking about a roundabout way to get you to click on something else. Be straightforward, be simple, be catchy. That definitely helps, but you've got to talk about the problem and the solution right away, otherwise people get lost.
Brock Cady: Yeah. 100%.
Chase Alderton: Last question for you. What subscription products do you subscribe to?
Brock Cady: Great question. Currently, I've subscribed to a lot. I haven't stayed around most of them.
Chase Alderton: Rattle them off. Let's go.
Brock Cady: So I'm still on Seed probiotic, prebiotic. I do a wine subscription through Primal Wines, it's an organic wine subscription box. Liquid Death, I'm on Liquid Death. What else am I on? Obviously Ballsy.
Chase Alderton: Of course.
Brock Cady: I think that's it for now. Yeah.
Chase Alderton: That's a pretty solid group.
Brock Cady: Yeah, yeah. Water, wine, and supplements. Oh yeah. I have a protein powder that I'm subscribed to as well.
Chase Alderton: There you go. Nice and well-rounded.
Brock Cady: Yeah. I think those are all consumables too.
Chase Alderton: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, Brock, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time.
Brock Cady: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Chase Alderton: We want to thank Brock once again for joining us. If you're interested in Ballsy, you can head over to ballwash.com. If you're looking for more of our episodes, check us out at rechargepayments.com/hitsubscribe. And to get the latest episodes, remember to hit subscribe on whatever platform you're listening from.