Tidy is bootstrapped. I've taken no external investment. I've not borrowed from friends and family. I've put in as little money as possible to get it off the ground.
I believe building a "sustainable business" isn't just about products being made in a sustainable way (as Tidy solid shampoo bars are), but that the business itself needs to be sustainable too. It should, ideally, pay for itself.
Focusing on that forces startup founders, like me, to think about how to generate income as early as possible in their journey. To find product market fit as soon as possible.
But it also means that at Tidy there is currently zero marketing budget.
The income I've had from sales of Tidy solid shampoo bars to date has all been ploughed back into the infrastructure needed to run the business and into buying the ingredients, equipment and packaging needed to make and ship more shampoo.
Which left me with a conundrum: how do I grow my business when very few people know Tidy exists and I've no money to spend to try and change that? Or put another way: how do I grow my business enough to generate the income I need to be able to afford to start paying for marketing?
It was thinking about that challenge that lead me to introduce the Tidy "first 100" club.
There are broadly speaking two routes to growth:
- acquire more customers
- retain existing customers.
The Tidy first 100 club is designed to double down on rewarding folks who are in the second group: retained customers.
While few people have heard of Tidy shampoo bars for men, some have. Some of those folks have bought and tried Tidy shampoo. And some of them have even returned and ordered more.
Those people, I realised, are the most valuable people in the world to Tidy. They've heard of Tidy, they've bought into what I'm trying to achieve with the brand by buying a solid shampoo bar for men, and they've come back for more.
They took a risk and dived in. They are Tidy's early adopters.
I realised that if I wanted to grow Tidy I would need to really look after these early enthusiasts. If I could keep them coming back for more, their loyalty would allow me to generate enough income to invest in the marketing I need to acquire additional customers in the future.
I also wanted a way to thank them. It's a rare, brave person who tries a new unknown product, especially a product like shampoo. It's just so much easier to stick with what you know.
First 100 club membership, I hope, is a good first pass at saying thank you to those trailblazers. It's a club for the first one hundred customers who order from us and then came back and order again.
Each member of the first 100 club gets a personal discount code that gives them 15% off at Tidy for life. It's a discount code that they can use as many times as they like, and one they are welcome to share with friends and family who they think would also like Tidy solid shampoo.
If I ever change Tidy pricing, it will still apply. If I introduce new products, it will be valid for them too. For as long as Tidy exists, members of the first 100 club will be able to use their discount for anything and everything that Tidy sells.
Over time the first 100 club may evolve to include exclusive content, additional offers, future product previews, or even the chance to influence the future direction of the company. But it will only ever have 100 members.
I'd like it to evolve. I'd like to continue to find ways of thanking Tidy's first 100 repeat customers who have voted with their wallets and have chosen to back what Tidy stands for.
Our first members have their codes, several have used them already and I'm glad to say that their feedback about the concept has been great.
As for growing Tidy; filling the club is currently my focus.
Which means focusing on retention over acquisition right now.
That's, I think, a good thing.