Episodes > Season 3 Episode 9

Mixhers - Supplements by Women for Women

How Mixhers builds community and empowers women

Jess Toolson & Kara Atkisson, CEO & Director of Operations @ Mixhers

What's in this episode?

On this episode we’re talking to Jess Toolson, Founder and CEO of Mixhers, alongside Kara Atkisson, Mixhers’ Director of Operations.

Mixhers is a company built by women, for women; driven and dedicated to helping women embrace their time of the month by giving their body the nutrition it needs.

We chat about the very personal origins of Mixhers and the early days of running a subscription business. We then dive into the brand’s decision to migrate to Recharge which resulted in thousands of new subscribers in the months that followed.

We also learn about Mixhers’ vibrant company culture and how they empower their small but thriving team to crush goals and build community. In the words of Kara, “We have brave strong women here, who do hard things.”

So, let’s get to it, Jess and Kara thank you so much for joining us.

Connect with Jess on LinkedIn and Kara on LinkedIn. Check out Mixhers.

Episode transcript

Scott Meiklejohn: Hey, I'm Scotty from Recharge on this episode of Hit Subscribe, we're chatting with Jess Toolson. Founder and CEO of Mixhers, alongside director of operations at Mixhers, Kara Atkisson. Mixhers is a company built by women, for women. Driven and dedicated to helping women embrace their time of the month by giving their body the nutrition it needs. We chat about the very personal origins of Mixhers, in the early days of running a subscription business. We then dive into the brand's decision to migrate over to Recharge, which resulted in thousands of new subscribers in the months that followed. And we also learn about Mixhers' vibrant company culture and how they empower their small, but thriving, team to crush goals and build community. In the words of Kara:

Kara Atkisson: We have brave, strong women here that do hard things.

Scott Meiklejohn: So let's get to it, Jess and Kara, thank you so much for joining us.

Kara Atkisson: Hi, we're excited to be here.

Scott Meiklejohn: I'm so excited to talk about everything Mixhers. Before we get ahead of ourselves, why don't we go back to the start, Jess, can you tell us about your own story and how you came to found Mixhers?

Jess Toolson: Yes. And Scotty, I love that you asked this question, because it's honestly one of my favorite stories to share. And I love to share it because it's such a personal journey. It's a very personal experience. Mixhers stemmed from personal health struggles. So I love that you even asked.

Jess Toolson: I was postpartum with my kids when, for the first time in my life, I really started struggling with PMS symptoms. And I didn't relate to my friends in my teenage years, or even my college years, that were missing out on some fun events or fun parties, or nights out because of their period and just being in pain. I didn't relate to that. But it was when I was postpartum, I was about 27 years old, and I really understood what PMS symptoms were. And I had cystic acne. I had the worst cramping. I had a really heavy flow. Scotty, you're amazing. You don't mind hearing all these things.

Scott Meiklejohn: I got a sister, a partner, a mom. Yeah, don't you worry.

Jess Toolson: I love, I love it. So I just set off on my own health journey because I was so frustrated with getting tossed around from medication to medication that wasn't solving anything. I wasn't feeling better on these prescriptions. So I really decided to be my own health advocate and find my own solution. And thankfully, through so many conversations, I landed on my solution with having a conversation, who is now my business partner, Cody Sanders. She was making these herbal concoctions in her home and putting them in gel capsules. And we call her our very own Mixhers witch. And she loves that term because it's not to make fun of her, it's to be like, that is amazing that you came up with this. She's a magician. So she challenged me to use these herbs and it was definitely a different approach than I had ever taken to my health.

Jess Toolson: We live in a world of instant gratification. So every solution I was searching for was like, what will help me feel better tomorrow? But she really challenged me to commit to consistency with these herbs. And in the first month, my cycle was a more normal amount of days. I had less cramping. The second month I had less cystic acne, and honestly the painful acne wasn't there. Because it would be under the skin and hurt for a few days before my period would even start. That didn't happen. And then it was in the third month that I realized this stuff works. Because my cycle just came and went, I wasn't raging for a whole week before. I didn't have to recover from my cycle after. And my period, for the first time in like two and a half years, came and went as it should.

Jess Toolson: And that's when I approached Cody and said, "I know because of my personal conversations with the women in my life that we have to make this accessible." Because no one had a solution. They all related to my problems, but no one had the solution. And that was when we decided to get to work on learning how to manufacture a product. Learning how to launch a company. And that was the very beginning of Mixhers. Yep.

Kara Atkisson: Cody is very like, one on one focus, like helping people one at a time. And Jess is very entrepreneurial and was ready to get this to the masses.

Scott Meiklejohn: And if you're listening right now.

Kara Atkisson: And that's the goal is getting this is to the masses.

Scott Meiklejohn: I was going to say, if you're listening right now, you're hearing from employee number one that leads us perfectly to Kara. So Kara, can you tell us how you found your way to Mixhers?

Kara Atkisson: Yeah, it was three weeks after the launch of Mixhers. They had 60 subscribers. And I really just believed in it from the start. I was like, I think that they're going to do great things. And I was working for an agency, like a marketing agency, and I was over their account and just spent way more time than I should have been on their account. I was going to events for them. I was just doing all this stuff for Jess because she was overseas. She was in Spain. So I was the feet on the ground here for a little bit. And it was just growing, looking back, it was growing really slowly but it felt like it was growing really, really fast. And so we did that for about nine months before I came onto Mixhers full time and things really started to move.

Scott Meiklejohn: And when you guys started this up, was subscriptions always part of the plan right from the outset?

Jess Toolson: Yeah, it actually was. Because we figured with a product that's based around periods, women are having a monthly cycle so let's make this as easy as we can, and take the thought out of purchasing a product every single month. And so it actually was set up to be a subscription based company from the beginning. I will truly tell you, Scotty, I didn't know the true potential that Mixhers had at the time.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love to hear that. Let's talk about that a bit. You walk away from this first like launch event, you get 60 subscribers, you're feeling on top of the world. Things are great.

Jess Toolson: Yes. We felt like, oh my gosh, 60 people subscribed to Her Time.

Scott Meiklejohn: We can do this. This is what it's going down. Yeah. But then in an earlier conversation you guys mentioned that it was about June, 2020, which I think is a few months later, that it really started to feel like this is the start of Mixhers. This is us doing it. So what was that change? What was it about that time that brought it all together?

Jess Toolson: Yeah. To what Kara had said earlier, I was coming and going from Europe. I'd be gone for 10 months and come back to the states for two months. And so we launched Mixhers in the end of Q4 in 2019. And, I left, I went back to Europe. And then due to the pandemic, my family and I, we moved home from Europe and landed back in Utah. It was a big life change for us. We decided that we were going to stay stateside.

Jess Toolson: And we also had seen a lot of organic traction for Mixhers. And so it was at that time that I made the decision, A, I'm going to pluck this awesome girl Kara from this agency because I knew that she was the person behind the scenes over there actually putting in all the work. And I could sense in all of our meetings that she was the one doing all the work, and the one that was invested really in Mixhers. But maybe at her position wasn't getting the credit that she was due. So I sensed that, asked her if she would come over and jump all in on Mixhers. And she did. And I created a little drama in doing that. And I didn't care because I knew that Mixhers needed Kara. And that was when? June, 2020?

Kara Atkisson: Yep.

Jess Toolson: June, 2020. We both were like, "Let's go all in. What is Mixhers? What are we doing?"

Scott Meiklejohn: Yeah. I'd love to talk a bit about that because here's one of my favorite quotes that you said earlier. It was, so probably around this time, "We don't have a ton of money, but we can provide a feeling." And I've looked at the Mixhers side itself and I've sensed that feeling. But I'd love to hear in your own words, what is that feeling that Mixhers gives off?

Jess Toolson: Yeah. So something really important to Mixhers is that we can create a sense of belonging for free. We don't have the biggest budget. We don't have a huge team. We don't have a massive HQ. There's just so many things that we could focus on that we're not, but what we love to focus on is what we are. And what we are is that we're a safe space. We provide connection, we provide community and we can provide belonging for women. And all of that is free. And Mixhers can provide that without a massive budget.

Jess Toolson: And so that's something that brings us to the core in our decision making for Mixhers, as we're trying to make improvements to the company. Because we're always trying to improve, there's always room to improve. But what decisions need to be made that still keep us at our core of like community and happiness and joy and empowerment for women in their health journey.

Kara Atkisson: Yep. People are always surprised when they hear how big our team is, how small our team is. We're a team of 18 and not all of them are even full time employees. We're doing big things over here. So we do a good job of making ourselves look like we're a bigger team than we are.

Scott Meiklejohn: Speaking of looking at yourself and seeing ways you can improve, Kara, let's go to, what is it like summer 2021? And you're looking at your current subscription program and the tech stack you got going on. And I know you have to go to Jess with a question that's a little daunting, but something you need to happen. So what was that conversation about?

Kara Atkisson: Oh, I knew in my core somewhere that we needed to switch off of our WordPress WooCommerce tech stack that we had. It just wasn't going to be scalable, and I was learning that as we were redesigning our website. And I'm like, this is just not going to fly. It was just janky. That's the only wordage. It just wasn't right. Wasn't smooth. And I'm like, we might have to do this switch, which was just completely overwhelming. Anytime I had the thought, we would just be like, nope, let's figure it out. Let's figure it out. Until we finally made the decision, like, it's time. If we're going to scale we need a functioning website that can have great conversion rates. And we feel comfortable driving traffic there and spending money on traffic there. So we made the decision to go to Shopify.

Kara Atkisson: And then after that decision was made, we had to pretty much redo our tech stack because of the integrations. So we needed a new subscription company. And to migrate all of our Woo subscription subscribers over to what we ended up choosing, which was Recharge. And so that was a whole journey on its own. And it definitely, definitely paid off.

Jess Toolson: She had to go on a whole journey also, convincing me that we should do this. So she did all the demos and decision making for the benefits of the company. And then she also had to like do all the demos and conversations and heart to hearts with me because being the CEO, I was like, "Kara, to me, this sounds like there's a chance we'll wake up and we'll have lost all of our subscribers." And sorry, how many subscribers did we have at that time?

Kara Atkisson: We had 9,000 active subscribers that we brought over, and I had to reassure her, and I was kind of reassuring myself at the same time because I was like, I've never done this before, or anything really close to it. So she's like, "Are you sure we're not going to lose our customers?" I'm like-

Jess Toolson: Yes, sure.

Kara Atkisson: But no. We're not sure, but we're really going to try not to.

Jess Toolson: And Kara's being so humble. But I would like to bring up that she did all of this alone. We had gotten quite a few proposals from agencies and some people that could kind of just take this project on. And at the time it wasn't something that was in our budget. It was something that like, of course we're in agreement now that this transition should happen, but these proposals, we can't afford.

Jess Toolson: So what Kara is being so humble about is that she also then tackled the project on her own with a UX designer.

Kara Atkisson: And a developer.

Jess Toolson: And a developer. Like, not agency resources, not a pass off, it was like hand in hand Kara driving the project and she dominated it.

Kara Atkisson: Thank you.

Jess Toolson: And immediately we saw huge results from making the change.

Kara Atkisson: Yeah. It was like 4,000 extra subscribers in the first couple of months. It was pretty wild to see immediate growth from just having a better website, and having a smooth process for our subscribers.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love to hear that. Yeah. I can only imagine the terror of knowing you're going to have to migrate thousands of subscribers. And of course, yeah, that fear would play with me too of, what's going to happen if they just disappear? We're going to be screwed. So happy you guys came to Recharge though. So happy to see you guys scaling so effectively, it's just been awesome to see. Let's talk a bit about that growth. What do you attribute, I know you mentioned the community, the feeling, but what do you attribute a lot of that growth to whether it's influencer marketing, whether it's word of mouth, what do you find really drives the growth for you guys?

Kara Atkisson: Something that I love about Mixhers, it's so nice to work here because whatever effort we put in to spreading the word, I feel like it's just amplified. We'll do something and it is such a viral product, like a product that takes away period pain. It's such a viral product that we put some money in, we do something. And it just seems to come back in folds. So we're grateful for that. And that's our word of mouth.

Jess Toolson: Some people are ready to feel better. Honestly, it's what it is. Women are at a point where they're like, no more. I am not okay with this. And then they're quickly willing to purchase Mixhers because they hear about something that can provide hope, and they hear, thankfully now, from the thousands and thousands of women that love Her Time specifically that it works. So women are so ready to buy Mixhers products. They're just ready for the change, honestly.

Kara Atkisson: Yeah. But the things that we've done, influencer marketing, we've grown our affiliate program. We've grown our product line. We have now launched, we have nine great products that help women with different areas of their health. And we've just been listening to our community, listening to what they struggle with. And a lot of these products that we have launched, they're not out there. We don't have competitors for several of our products. So it's kind of just, yes, opening up different channels to grow the company.

Jess Toolson: And a fun to transition that we've seen honestly, within the last six months, not because we have a long history of Mixhers, but it's been really fun to transition the last six months into Mixhers having our own powerhouse voice.

Jess Toolson: We used to have to rely really heavily on our affiliates and that influencer marketing, which we love. And we're so grateful for women that have used their voice to help us grow Mixhers, and to normalize period conversations alongside us. But it's been really nice to also fill this transition of, Mixhers has a voice that's very powerful and very loud, and people are listening to just us. And we're seeing that transition in ourselves. It used to be that we were like 80% influencer marketing revenue, and that's heavily transitioned. Which is, we still are so grateful for influencer marketing, and we still do a lot to develop relationships and to keep those relationships. But it's fun to know that as a brand we're building momentum as well.

Scott Meiklejohn: I loved hearing about, in a previous conversation we were talking about the influencer marketing, but really just talking about opening up and being vulnerable. And how, I was going to say, maybe it feels a little different now, I know it wasn't. There is still so much more we can do. But Jess, you opened up about your own struggle and then how that helped you find Mixhers and founding it. And then just you shared how moving it is to see other people say like, me too. I'm also going through this. I don't want to have shame anymore about this. What's it like for you, as the founder, to hear those stories?

Jess Toolson: Oh, well it, first of all, when we launched Mixhers, it was like pulling teeth trying to get some of the first to talk about their periods on their social media. Because like Kara said, we don't have competitors out there yet. Which we don't run a fear based company, we're ready to just keep doing our own thing and being unique in certain ways. But in the beginning, Scotty, it was really hard for us to get women to turn their camera in selfie mode and record stories talking about their periods. What happened though, was a handful of women ran full speed at it. I shared my story with them. I told them why Mixhers, why Her Time, and they were like, "Great, my audience needs to hear this too. And I'm sick of feeling this way so I'll put my voice behind it."

Jess Toolson: And it really, it was amazing to see how, even like you say a viral product, also viral energy. It's like all of a sudden, instead of us trying to beg for people to talk about Mixhers, it changed. And now they're coming to us to talk about Mixhers because they want to jump in and change the conversations around period health too.

Kara Atkisson: I had someone email me yesterday. This is so many. Yesterday, that I had reached out to two years ago asking her to post about us. And she was like, "I didn't even see this. I'm so sorry. Can I work with you guys?" I'm like, "Let's see what we can do."

Scott Meiklejohn: Yeah, yeah.

Jess Toolson: But yeah, it makes me cry when, A, influencers, we've changed their lives, but it makes me cry because we do have interactions with women, with teenagers, with people crying over what Mixhers has done for them. And it's very rewarding. And it fuels us to also keep going because it's very hard work as well.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love to hear that. I love to hear people opening up and feeling safer. This is coming out in March. It is Women's History month. And then you mentioned it before, this team of 18 badass women. I'd love to talk about what stands out about your culture the most? Because it is, like you said, predominantly women at your company, right?

Jess Toolson: Oh yeah. Yep.

Scott Meiklejohn: So yeah, maybe from both of you, what's the thing that stands out most about working in this company of empowering women?

Jess Toolson: Yeah. Something that stands out very immediately to me is we've had a very successful 2021. And an easy assumption for people to make when they hear about our success is that, oh, you must have a team that has so much experience. And that's one of my most favorite things to tell people is like, we run a very young team. For most, this is a first job, or they've come off from an internship and entered into Mixhers. But what that tells me is that we have a team of women that are like, no one can tell us no. No goal is too big. There's no dream that's too big, because they don't come from other environments that are like, work environments that are like, no, I don't like that idea. No we're not going for that goal, it doesn't make sense.

Jess Toolson: We're over here like, why not? Why not us? Why can't we succeed? Why can't we do it our way? And that's something I love is that we just have a gritty goal driven team and a hungry young team. And I don't mean young as in like they're not talented, like very talented, very willing to learn team. And I think that's a huge part of our success. And just so, you know Scotty, Mixhers is my first job too. So it's fun because we don't have all these previous experiences to be like, oh, we should be doing this. It's like, hey, we'll learn as we go. And, I don't know. How do you feel about that?

Kara Atkisson: Yeah. I don't have much to add. We have gotten very lucky in our hiring, and who we've been able to find and bring on. Because each employee is crucial when we are this small and this early in our company. We don't have room for someone to come and throw off our culture, productivity, everything. And we have gotten lucky and we've figured out our process there. But we have brave, strong women here that do hard things. And I'm so proud of all of them, and what we can accomplish together.

Scott Meiklejohn: I love that. I do not mean this question to sound cringy at all, but I had asked it previously and I absolutely adored your answers. So I'd love to ask it again. Which women in your own lives have inspired you, whether it's in your career or your life, but which women stand out the most that have inspired you?

Kara Atkisson: I'll go first. I have an entrepreneurial mother. She started a quilting business.

Jess Toolson: She's so cute. She's so cute.

Kara Atkisson: She is so cute. She started a quilting business when I was young, probably eight. And I got kicked out of my bedroom to make room for her massive sewing machine that she bought. It was a long arm quilting machine. And so I shared a room for like four years after that because the sewing machine took up my space. And I saw her working her butt off all the time and still is. So that's mine.

Jess Toolson: Yeah. You do have a darling mom. I feel like this is so cliche, but I'm actually also going to share my mother, but for a little bit of a different reason. My mom, I grew up in a home where my mom was a stay at home mom. She was there full time. She wasn't running a business. However, there's been many things that my mother taught me in my childhood that have really helped me in growing Mixhers. And I think what my mom did for me and my childhood and upbringing, was that my mom instilled the confidence in me to really believe in me being capable of doing anything.

Jess Toolson: She also, I know you said a woman, but I feel like I have to also throw in there my parents. They did a really good job, and this is something that we feel regularly over at Mixhers, is my parents did a really good job of raising me to know what respect feels like, and what I should demand in treatment from others. And the only reason I bring that up is because we have a lot of people rooting for us. And that is so amazing. We feel very supported at Mixhers.

Jess Toolson: But we run into, frequently, situations that are actually really tough. And we get discredited because we're a team of 18 women, and doesn't mean everyone doesn't respect us, it doesn't mean that we're out there to be like, everyone hates us, we're going to prove ourselves. It's not even that we're running this on anger, but we have experiences that are tough to get through. And I have to go back to my upbringing and being able to recognize, this isn't respect. This isn't what myself, nor this incredible team should feel like in business. So, we won't allow this type of treatment. And it comes from that upbringing of my parents helping me know what respect should feel like.

Kara Atkisson: Jess has kicked people out of our office before.

Jess Toolson: I actually have, I actually have.

Scott Meiklejohn: You've mentioned Kara, yeah. You mentioned that the mama bear energy comes out. The protective over the brand, over the people.

Jess Toolson: I really do. And it takes a lot to get me to be spicy. But man, you disrespect these incredible women in here, and nothing triggers me faster. I'll do it for my kids and I'll do it of the team here.

Kara Atkisson: She goes, do we have a problem here?

Jess Toolson: And I'm like, it's funny because, Scotty, I'm not even really spicy. I'm not confrontational, but I feel like we're women on a mission. And there is no reason to not take us seriously. And some, on some occasions, people don't. And so I will be the first to let people head to the door and they can go and do business elsewhere.

Scott Meiklejohn: Don't get in our way. Stay out of our way if you're going to try block us. Yeah.

Jess Toolson: Exactly. Exactly. Sometimes people don't take all this pink seriously, but they for sure should.

Scott Meiklejohn: They do after, do we have a problem here? They basically do. Well, we're running a little short on time here, but I just wanted to give you guys a moment. What's next for Mixhers? What are you guys doing for the rest of 2022? Do you have any products or launches on the horizon?

Kara Atkisson: We have big goals for 2022. We're very, very excited. Last year we branched into doing a bunch of events. We did community events. And this year we're kind of taking that to the next level and we are trying to get to these women face to face and throw parties. And so that's a big part of what we're doing in 2022 is getting to more people. We really believe in our current product lineup, and we are adding a couple more fun things that we are really, really excited to, but they really are. They're additions to what is incredible that we want in people's hands.

Jess Toolson: And honestly, Scotty, it's like I feel like we should have this huge reveal of what we're doing in 2022, but I'm happy to tell you we're doing more of what we've been doing. Things we've been doing in 2021 are working, and we just want to them bigger, and more, and just repeat what's working and why, if it's not broke, don't fix it. You know?

Scott Meiklejohn: Yeah. Sticking with that process, keeping the momentum going. Yeah. I love to hear it.

Jess Toolson: And I mean, we do have things that we have to quickly pivot from and make improvements, but there are elements of the community that just work and that's what fuels us all. And it really, it's inspiring for us to all keep going. So that's where we're keeping our focus is on our honest, on our loyal consumers.

Kara Atkisson: Yeah. Also, who knows what we'll really end up doing because we did some big projects in 2021 that we were not expecting. And so we're excited to see what the year brings us. We're planning as much as we can.

Jess Toolson: Episode 2.0, we might be like, Scotty, remember that question you asked about 2022. And we're like, well, we're the same. Well, guess what? Jess made Kara do a website 4.0 in 2022.

Scott Meiklejohn: Here's what we ended up doing. We're now in the moon. It's great. Yeah, exactly.

Jess Toolson: But Scotty, with Recharge, we have massive goals for numbers of subscribers for 2022, and they're big, lofty goals that we really are committing ourselves to achieving.

Scott Meiklejohn: Well, I've known you guys just a very little time, but I feel confident to say you guys are going to smash those goals. It's going to be a great year for you guys.

Kara Atkisson: Thank you.

Jess Toolson: Virtual high five, Scotty.

Scott Meiklejohn: Well, we wanted to thank you guys so much for joining us on Hit Subscribe, and we wish you both and all of Mixhers, the best of luck for 2022.

Kara Atkisson: Thank you.

Jess Toolson: Thanks Scotty.

Scott Meiklejohn: We want to thank Jess and Kara for joining us. If you're interested in Mixhers, check out mixhers.com. And if you're looking for more of our episodes, check us out rechargepayments.com/hitsubscribe.

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