“Call Me CEO” is your master-class on innovation, creativity, leadership, and finding YOUR perfect balance between motherhood and entrepreneurship.

When Leslie Danford was faced with a career upheaval during the pandemic, she did not simply wait for new opportunities to arise; she created her own. Her story is one of resilience, innovation, and the ever-challenging balance between professional and personal life. Leslie’s journey is not just about transforming a passion for nutrition into a profitable business; it is also about being a mother and an entrepreneur in the face of adversity.

Leslie’s upbringing was marked by a scientific approach to nutrition, thanks to her father. Food was not merely about taste but about fulfilling the body’s needs. This perspective would later become the cornerstone of Vitaminis—a company aimed at offering clean, nutritious options for families. As a mother herself, Leslie understood the struggles of ensuring a balanced diet for her children, especially during the challenging times of a global health crisis. It was this understanding that led to the birth of Vitaminis.

The path to creating a tangible product is fraught with obstacles, and Leslie’s experience was no different. Her initial research involved candid conversations with friends and family, laying the groundwork for what would become a market research strategy. The formulation of a health-conscious beverage was a daunting task, compounded by the difficulties of finding a manufacturer willing to take on a new, unproven product during the pandemic. Yet, Leslie persevered, driven by the conviction that her vision was both necessary and possible.

In the midst of her entrepreneurial endeavors, Leslie did not lose sight of the importance of self-care. She openly discusses the guilt that can accompany stepping away from work, especially for mothers. But she also emphasizes the significance of such breaks for mental health and productivity. This balance, she believes, is crucial not only for the success of her business but also for her role as a mother.

Leslie’s story also sheds light on the strategic aspects of entrepreneurship. The shift from online startup to retail success was not immediate. It involved reevaluating the efficacy of social media advertising, which had become prohibitively expensive. The solution lay in leveraging both an online presence and a physical retail space through innovative strategies such as strategic sampling and QR codes. These tactics not only enhanced brand visibility but also transformed one-time buyers into loyal subscribers.

Leslie’s candid account of the challenges faced in getting her products into retail stores is a testament to the importance of grit and personal connections. Her journey from being rejected by a major retailer to eventually gaining recognition as a high-growth brand underscores the value of persistence. It is a reminder that each rejection is not the end but a step towards eventual success.

Moreover, Leslie’s utilization of email marketing as a tool for product sales and customer interaction is another aspect of her multifaceted approach to business. Collecting emails through in-store sampling enabled her to build a direct line of communication with potential customers, a strategy that proved crucial in the expansion of her brand.

In conclusion, Leslie Danford’s story on Call Me CEO is a rich tapestry woven from threads of passion, entrepreneurship, and motherhood. Her journey from a nutrition-savvy upbringing to creating Vitamini’s and scaling it into a retail phenomenon is filled with lessons for anyone looking to turn their dreams into realities. It is a narrative that combines the scientific with the entrepreneurial, the personal with the professional, and the challenges with the triumphs. Leslie’s story is not just about crafting family health innovations; it is about crafting a life that encompasses the full spectrum of her ambitions and values.


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Leslie’s Website: https://vitaminisbrand.com/

Giveaways: https://vitaminisbrand.com/pages/a-special-discount 

Camille’s Website: https://camillewalker.co/call-me-ceo-podcast/ 


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    Leslie: 00:00

    That is not my experience, like it's not about working hard, it's about sort of taking whatever the circumstances are and just like continuing on in some way, which is really like not rocket science, it's not even that, it's not special, it's just you just have to do it, you just have to keep doing. That's all it is it is so.

    Camille: 00:32

    You want to make an impact. You're thinking about starting a business, sharing your voice. How do women do it that handle motherhood, family and still chase after those dreams? We'll listen each week as we dive into the stories of women who know. This is Call Me CEO. Welcome back everyone to Call Me CEO. This is Camille Walker, your host, and here we celebrate women, especially mothers, developing businesses that are changing the world, and that is certainly the case here with Leslie Danford, who is the CEO and founder of Vitamini's, which is all about helping you get the nutrition you need without all the added junk. She is a mother of four in Chicago, and thank you so much for being on the show today. Yeah, thanks for having me Now. I'd love to hear what started your passion with Vitamini's and creating a product that is so beneficial.

    Leslie: 01:23

    Absolutely. So I really have always been passionate about nutrition. I think it goes back to my childhood. My mom actually traveled, for work was not around a lot of the time during the week. This is in the 80s. We didn't have cell phones or anything, and so my dad was on point for making meals and he's a scientist, not a foodie and so it was always like we need our protein, we need our vegetable, like we need these vitamins, and that's still how I think about it. So I hate. When I think about it now I'm like, yeah, that's probably where it started.


    So that's always been my passion. I really believe like what you put in your body will really impact the results that you get not just not getting sick, but actually having energy, being able to pursue your goals, being a better mother, coworker, friend, whatever. So I had that passion in my personal life. I was working in the consumer products industry, but I actually worked for quite a few years in the alcoholic beverage industry and we saw all this research coming in about, like nutrition and better for you and nutrient density, and I thought, yes, like this is great, this is so important because of my personal ambitions and passions. But I knew in that industry. We were never going to do anything with it.


    So that went on for several years. And then it took getting laid off. During the pandemic I'd moved into the hospitality industry, got laid off and was looking for a job for a few months but no one was hiring and I was home with the kids because I was out of work, kids were out of school, and and I was home with the kids because I was out of work, kids were out of school and I was back into the mode of trying to make sure everyone was getting their nutritional needs met and our immune systems were ready for the pandemic germ fighting and it all sort of came together for me. So that's really when it started, wow.

    Camille: 02:56

    Well, can we just back up a little bit to your dad being a scientist and looking at food as like building blocks of health. I love that. I feel like that's such a healthy way for us to develop a relationship with food, and so abnormal too, where it's like you're probably right and I don't.

    Leslie: 03:11

    I never thought about that, but I do think, like with a lot of the food hangups out there, and especially like women, I somehow dodged that just through this. This like way I was brought up and, trust me, there's many.

    Camille: 03:25

    Have you read the book? Lessons in chemistry? Yes, yes, I did. Okay, if any of you are listening and haven't read that book, there was actually a TV series that was made from the book. It was one of the top selling books of 2022, I believe and it is all about a scientist who becomes a mother and teaches nutrition in a lab form, and so it's almost like you were a real life person of that book.

    Leslie: 03:52

    Yeah, it's, it's true. My husband makes fun of me because he's he is a foodie, so he's all about flavors and everything has to go together. And it's like and he just jokes, because when we met I would eat like, for dinner I'd have like a grapefruit and like some lunch meat. I'm like, okay, I have my protein, or whatever. He's like, what are you eating? I'm just checking all the boxes.



    That is so fascinating. What would you say is the best lesson that you learned from your dad teaching you about nutrition that way?

    Leslie: 04:21

    You know I think it was the idea that food is in service to your body. It's like it is fuel. You know you have certain needs and the food is there to fulfill the needs. So like, know the needs and then plug it in the right places and like it's. You know, we also ate McDonald's once in a while and whatever. So it's not necessarily that you have to be perfect in everything, but rather, if you can get those needs met, there's room for other things as well.

    Camille: 04:51

    Even better. I feel like that's an even healthier approach, because it's not all it has to be done in the kitchen. It has to look this specific way, but more of moderation and really looking at the building blocks of nutrition, like what are you missing in that pyramid? Or whatever you might say. Oh, I just love that so much Is your. Was your dad an influence in developing your product?

    Leslie: 05:11

    You know, in that sense he was because that's like how he kind of set that foundation that led me there, but developing the actual product not as much. I lean more on my family, like my kids and my husband and friends and my parents do buy it and use it now, but it was kind of a little bit after the fact. But I think it was more just like the influence of the thinking process.

    Camille: 05:35

    Yeah, okay. So you're in the middle of the pandemic. You have some time on your hands. Yes, what was it that gave you that final kick to think that this was a go? I mean, vitamins are not new, so how did you and I feel like that is a hangup that a lot of us entrepreneurs can have is, I'm not reinventing the wheel, this is something that's been around for a while. What was it that gave you the gumption and the bravery to go forward with it?

    Leslie: 06:01

    So I have a couple thoughts on that. One is I have always just been dissatisfied with the options out there. So when I was pregnant I took multivitamins, like prenatal multivitamins, but they just make me nauseous, like you have to make sure you eat a snack and it's like all this rigmarole and it just felt like a chore. And then also gummies came out. You know I guess it's been several years now, but like they were kind of new, everyone was doing the gummy thing but that felt wrong because it's like so much sugar. And then our dentist actually had a plaque on their um desk that said please do not take or give your kids gummy vitamins really just don't there's.


    Yeah, because they're saying every single day, if it's first thing in the morning, it sits on their teeth or your teeth, and if it's the end of the night, it sits on your teeth and it's just, it's creating a candy habit, almost. Um, so I it's not. I didn't think of it as like another one of the things that there's a lot of already. It was it's more of a better format in the sense that there's no added sugar. Um, it's tasty, easy. You know, it's like a little shot of juice. So it's literally just two ounces. You can mix it in a smoothie, you can drink it straight Easier to digest, easier on your stomach than a pill.


    So I didn't think of it. I honestly and it's funny looking now I understand it's like extremely competitive. I didn't think of that at the time. I thought. I thought of it as like a very different way of approaching the thought, the problem that I didn't see out there, cause at the time I was, I was like, okay, I got to make sure everyone's getting their vitamins. Like we can't, we can't do pills for everyone, I don't want to do gummies, like what else is there? And I didn't see any clean, like functional foods.


    So that's one thing but the other thing about like getting up the nerve to do it. I think it's an important thing to talk about, because I did not like one day say, okay, I'm gonna start a company now. It was like so incremental. So I started job searching, didn't find a job for a couple months. So I was like, oh, maybe I should like tinker with this idea that I've had like bubbling up and this problem that I'm having. So I like just tinkered and did a little more tinkering. I think if at that time I'd said I'd known the total scope of the time and the investment and the change, I don't, it would have been too scary. Yeah, We'll just do this a little bit and I'll see a little bit more and just see what happens.

    Camille: 08:18

    Totally. Ignorance is bliss sometimes, when you don't realize what you're signing up for or even, like you said, the competition that was out there, where you are looking to fill a need that you had, and I feel like that's such a genuine place to start a business and, honestly, from what I've seen, the most successful way to build a business where it comes from a genuine need of your own and then you're filling this space in the market that it has a gap. So I think that it's great that you started that way.


    Thanks, so would you say, yeah, it's true, it's true. So tell us a little bit more. For people who aren't familiar with your product, give us a description of exactly what it is and the product line so that if especially for those who aren't watching this on video which you can, by the way, it's on YouTube If you are not watching it can you give a description of what it is that you created and also the form that it comes in.

    Leslie: 09:10

    Yeah. So vitamin E's vision, so like the long-term, is to be a platform of functional foods and beverages that are all mini, mighty, tasty, so just like easy, convenient, clean, all natural, no added sugar, but like foods, real foods, and beverages that deliver extra nutritional value as opposed to like something artificial. But our first two products are these little juice shots two and a half ounces, so like a little bit bigger than a five hour energy. And we have the immune support one. So it's orange pineapple juice with as much vitamin C as three oranges, as much zinc as four avocados and as much magnesium as five cups of spinach, but it just tastes like juice. And then the other one is gut health, which is fiber and probiotics as much fiber as a cup of broccoli and as much probiotics as two cups of yogurt, and like a berry juice with banana puree. And they're shelf stable, no strong flavors, just very clean. Like the immune support. Chattel only has seven ingredients in it. It's basically just juice and vitamins.

    Camille: 10:08

    Wow, that's really surprising that it's shelf stable. It doesn't have to be refrigerated.

    Leslie: 10:12

    Yeah, that was a really important factor because when I launched the product it was during the pandemic time I knew I had to do e-commerce, and so there was that like in order to do e-commerce, you kind of have to do that or that's really the only way to make it economically viable. But also I thought as a mom myself, I do not want to have to worry about ice packs, refrigeration, expiration dates, Like I want to be able to throw something in my purse, throw something in a lunchbox, get it on subscription, like you can put it in the fridge. But I knew it had to be shelf stable. But I also knew we didn't want any preservatives or chemicals. So we ended up doing what's called the hot fill process. You basically heat it up, kill the bad germs, seal it up and then it's shelf stable.

    Camille: 10:57

    Wow, and what I mean? There are so many steps to this that I'm sure it took a long time to sort out. But how did you go through the process of figuring that out and finding a manufacturer who would do that kind of process?

    Leslie: 11:10

    Yeah, it does. It takes a lot and I think it's good to talk about because I think from the outside it might look like oh well, she worked in beverages, so she must have just known what to do. Definitely not, I had no idea. I mean, I'm alcohol, which is just so different, completely different.


    So I started in the very beginning when I had the idea. I started with just talking to friends and family, but I did it in a very like structured way. So I wrote up an interview guide and I interviewed, I think, 50 friends and family Like what are some challenges you face with your nutrition? What do you like about the products out there? What don't you like? It was almost like market research, but I took notes and I was like really treating it like a research project. I took all of that along with what I needed and thought made sense and I found, through a community of consumer startups, founders asking for recommendations, networking that kind of thing found a beverage formulator, food scientists, like a single person who could help me take my vision and make it into a product that would work. So it was like I knew I wanted no added sugar. I knew I wanted shelf stable. I knew how to clean, tastes good and that kind of thing. And then he helped me kind of make that into something that could be produced.


    So that process resulted in basically a recipe and then I had to take that recipe and someone actually make it. For me that actually turned out to be one of the hardest parts, because what I didn't realize is most companies that make shots are fresh pressed juice. So you probably seen, like the ginger shots and stuff, so you can either make fresh pressed juice shots or you make shelf stable drinks, which are usually like eight or 12 ounce bottles, and the companies that can actually do both like do the shelf stable process on a tiny bottle is very, very few. So there was this big filtering process calling so many different companies, and then once I even had the shortlist of companies that could do it, then it was like convincing them to do it. So it probably took six months to just work through that, getting it to like a company that could actually produce it in wood.

    Camille: 13:24

    Wow, yeah, I can only imagine I mean even just describing it the way that you are now and having talked to people who have had to hunt through different manufacturers, and I would imagine this is is it done in the United States? Yes, oh, yeah, definitely Okay, and that too is a challenge, especially during the pandemic, where a lot of manufacturers were closed or didn't have the manpower. So how I mean I'm? I have so many questions, but that sounds like it was a labor. Did you ever? What did you do when it got hard? Cause that that's a lot of running around.

    Leslie: 13:57

    Yeah, well, it's interesting. I mean the pandemic timing in some ways worked in my favor, because some manufacturers I mean if you think about what a manufacturer is doing they have these giant machines, they've spent millions of dollars building and they have to keep them busy, and if business is slow they're suddenly more open to taking on a new brand. So it actually kind of worked in my favor in that regard. Um, but you know, it's funny people look at like entrepreneurs. They say to me like oh you, you must have like had so much grit or like all these like really great characteristics that make me just keep going. But the reality is I had spent a good chunk of my own money on this you.


    You know I paid the food scientist, I had the recipe. It would have been really hard to just say at that point like eh, I'm just going to stop.

    Camille: 14:46

    You know what I mean.

    Leslie: 14:47

    So you kind of put yourself in a position. That is not something I thought about, because even now I've invested years and a lot of my own money. I now have investors Like I got to make this work. I mean, that's where incentives come to play, I guess. But on the harder days, what I ended up doing and this is actually a great life lesson for me, because I don't think I'm naturally good at this my tendency is to just push, push, push all the time. But when you have your own business, you could push, push, push 24-7. So I had to strategically take breaks. So, instead of quitting, it was like come, take the day off, I'm gonna take the afternoon off, I'm going to, you know, have lunch with some friends and just like that like kind of regenerative work, and then just come back to it and just like, do the next thing, like whatever I could think of. Just taking one step usually leads you to something else.

    Camille: 15:35

    Yes, that piece that you just shared, I think is so important because, as a business owner, there's always more that can be done. So it's really up to you to create those boundaries for your mental health and to take a break and to pause so that you have the energy to keep going. And that can be a huge lesson, especially for entrepreneurs, because typically your mind is busy and thinking about so many different ideas or the next shiny thing, or you know new ways of marketing or whatever it is, so that's actually a really impressive skill to learn.

    Leslie: 16:08

    Totally. I mean, I'm still working on it. But the other aspect too is like I don't know if this is true for other people, but for me because it's just me there's almost like this guilt about stopping, you know. Or it's like, well, if I'm not pushing things forward and doing things, like who's going to do it? But you have to remind yourself like if you don't take those breaks, you know like you need the break to do better in the work. So that's been hard, and it's hard as a mom too. So as a mom and in your business, it's really hard to make time for yourself and not feel guilty, at least for me.

    Camille: 16:41

    Yeah, no, actually that was the question that that came to mind. I thought, OK, if it's just you, how are you making time for mom stuff and how are you making time for you? Like, what are some tips that you could give us with that?

    Leslie: 16:53

    Yeah. So on the parenting side, what I had to do and I think this is like a misconception I think when people think you own your own business, it's like almost like they're picturing like this hobby, where you're kind of like a stay-at-home mom but you're just like have this hobby business. If you want to do your own business, you have to treat it like a real business. So line up the childcare, continue the, whatever you would do if you worked a corporate nine to five, like outsource what you need to outsource, coordinate the carpools so you carve out that time. I think that has to be done. And so you know, making that mental shift of like yes, it's your own business and no, it's not huge yet, but if you want it to be huge you have to like really treat it like a real thing. I think was really important. Part of this is just like making sure to kind of prioritize it in that way?

    Camille: 17:45

    Yeah, what are some ways that you have found to rejuvenate for yourself? I know you mentioned like lunch with friends or different things like that, but do you have any rituals that help you to keep going?

    Leslie: 18:00

    So a few things. I really do believe in the nutrition. So that is something I try to make sure I'm always taking my vitamins, drinking my vitamin E's, eating healthy meals. I sometimes get really caught up in work and like forget to eat lunch. So it's like, yeah, do it and make it, make it a good one. That really helps in getting sleep. So some of that is kind of basic, but it sounds basic but it makes a huge difference, right?


    Um, I really do like connecting with people and so sometimes I think for me that tendency might be like oh, I don't have time, I don't have time to get lunch, I don't have time to join this networking call, I don't have time to take this call with this other entrepreneur. It's not that important. But I have to fight myself on that because every conversation I take something away. I'm able to share something, I learned something. I feel better afterwards, like more connected, especially the solo entrepreneur. It's like just me here in this little office all the time. So really like making the making time for the social connections. And then I'm a big workout person, like that's my other thing is sometimes it's like, whatever all else fails, I'll just like go for a run or go to yoga or something just to kind of like take my mind off. Things regenerate and I always, always feel better.


    Even if I don't feel like working out, I'll do it, and then afterwards I'll be like, oh, I'm glad.



    I've never once been like I shouldn't have done that. You know, like you always feel better. You never regret a workout when you're done, not once. Yeah, yeah, that's so real. I would love to hear, as you were in that production you have your resources. Now you have the manufacturing what were some of the best practices that you developed for getting your product into the market?



    It's been a journey, a journey of trial and error. It just I think the truth of it like I could be like, oh, I had this great strategy, but really you try things and then you see what works and you see what doesn't work. So when I started, it was a pandemic. So the only choice I had was e-commerce. It just had to be that.


    So I launched my website um, you know, by the means brandcom, and I was selling on their subscriptions and whatever and I launched on Amazon and I did that for about 18 months and at the end of 18 months oh and, by the way, at that time, because everyone was selling online, the price of social media advertising was so expensive. It was the number that I remember is $6 a click.

    Camille: 20:19

    So not a purchase, a click.

    Leslie: 20:21

    Yeah, that was off the table.


    So after 18 months I took a step back and I looked and I was like this is great. I had like some great customers, many subscriptions, a lot of good feedback, but it was so small and I built it all up with like sampling, so it was like one customer here, one customer there. But at the end of 18 months it was like a microscopic company and so my choice then was like what can I do? I have to take this. It has to get bigger. Like it's not a viable operation unless I can get bigger for a number of reasons. So that pushed me to explore retail and when I first launched the company I didn't know if people were ever going to go back to the grocery store. I was like you know this, maybe the pandemic is like the end of grocery store. Well, it's not.


    Yes, thank goodness, yeah Right, everyone loves to go to the grocery store, and especially for food and beverage. Like people want to see it and it gives some credibility and they can, you know, like look at it and feel it. So, um, I went down that path and what I found now that was now it's been another 18 months of being online and retail. I'm seeing how the two work together. So in retail, I do a lot of sampling.


    We sell single bottles and this is like a lower price point. You just buy one thing, so it's a lot easier to try it right Like, oh, I'll try it If you like it. There's a QR code so you can come to our website, drop your email and then maybe get a 12-pack because you'd already tried one. Now you know you like it and sign up for a subscription. Or maybe you're not sure you join our email list and then we tell you more about the product over time side to do that. So I'm now very definitely sure about this omni-channel dynamic, growing retail, growing digital alongside of it and likewise driving some digital customers into retailers that might be nearby, and so that's kind of now where we are. Now I need to expand that. So it was sort of a journey. You know what I mean.

    Camille: 22:17

    Yeah, was it hard to get into stores. What was that process like?

    Leslie: 22:21

    Oh yes, that's another great story. Yeah, so I applied. I'll just use one retailer, my, my major retailer, as an example. I applied to this retailer and you I could tell the same story about across several cause I applied to several. Okay, this retailer I applied to through their headquarters on the website. Vitamin E is like a great. It is whatever. Fill out the application.


    No, we don't want you rejected you know I get the rejection and I was like, oh, but this is so perfect for them, like we really got to get in here. So I went to my network on LinkedIn. I was like who do I know at the company? Like how can I kind of get a second look, or whatever. And I ended up making connection with someone at the company. He was great, but he was like sorry, you know great to meet you, but like I can't help you. So it would have been really easy to give up at that point. I think I did give up for like a week. I was like, ah, forget it, you know.


    But then I a week went by and I was like, no, I really need to get into this retailer. So I went to the local store of the retailer in my neighborhood and I walked in there and I met the manager and he was like, oh, interesting, I brought the samples and everything. He's like, oh, this is interesting. Yeah, maybe. And I think it took six more visits so I would do my grocery shopping there. So I kind of go and shop and be like, oh hey, here again, just grocery shopping there. So I kind of go and shop and be like, oh hey, here again, whatever. It kind of worked it, work it, work it. Finally he was like, okay, fine, let's give it a try. So I got a placement at this one retailer, one like store, and I was sure I'm like I got to make this successful. So I went in there, did all sampling, I was like making sure it was moving and people were liking it. So then that manager was like, oh, people are liking it. So I said, hey, would you mind like telling your Chicago area cohort, like the 10 stores in this area, about it and see if they would like it? So he sent this note hey, there's this brand that's doing really well. I thought you might want to check it out. Of course, no one replies. So I follow up with them like I don't know how many more times. Like hey, did you see that email? Like well, I actually went to some of the stores and started bugging them. Finally they took it on. So now it's in like 11 stores out of this chain, which is 70.


    Um, and I got an email back from headquarters and they're like oh, oh, we pulled a report and we saw that vitamin use was like popping as a high growth brand. Yes, okay, would you like to be in the chain? So then I got full chain. But oh my gosh, I mean it's this great story but, like, at any given point in there, it felt like a complete failure. It felt like like beating my head. It was humiliating, honestly, to kind of keep coming back and back and back. But but then you look back and you're like it worked. So I think it's a really, really good lesson, because I could tell that, like I said, I could tell that story about so many retailers Some of them I'm in the rejection process right now and it's like how can I reassess, how can I come back, how can I like turn this into something to do, you know.

    Camille: 25:19

    I love that, your approach now that you've had proof of concept that you've done it and you've seen success from it, and you can look back at it now and say at any one point in that I would have thought it was a failure. But now I know. Okay, I'm just in the part of the process of rejection, but it doesn't mean the story is over.

    Leslie: 25:37

    Totally. That is one thing I think with entrepreneurship that I I I didn't get it before I was in it. So you hear like grit, you need grit, and I thought that meant you just have to work hard. That is not my experience. Like it's not about working hard, it's about sort of taking whatever the circumstances are and just like continuing on in some way, which is really like not rocket science, it's not even that, it's not special, it's just you just have to do it, you just have to keep doing.

    Camille: 26:08

    That's all it is, honestly, but I feel like that is so rare, like I don't feel like that's something that people any person, could pick up tomorrow and just do taking that rejection and being like I'm going to show up again next week anyway, or I'm going to show up and go three more days down to another store, like that really does require gumption and grit Like it does.


    That is what it is, because it's showing up again and again, not knowing what the answer is going to be, and that's a really rare characteristic to develop.

    Leslie: 26:39

    Oh yeah, maybe you're right. It's true, it's the uncertainty Cause. You don't know, like, is this time going to be the another rejection or is it going to work?

    Camille: 26:46

    You just keep yeah, so with you. Well, congratulations for being that person. I mean, I think you really. I know you're being so humble, but I'm listening to this story and thinking would I have given up? Like, would I have kept going?


    I think that that's really like you deserve a round of applause and I really mean that because that is hard, especially when it's just you, like you don't have a sales team or people that are next to you, like buddy, buddy, like let's go to this store together. It's like it was you right there, like putting that on your back and saying I'm going in again, Like that is really cool.

    Leslie: 27:21

    But honestly that's been like a lot of personal development for me, because when I first started the business I was like, oh, I don't know, Is this going to work? What do people?


    think about it I remember when I announced it on my social media networks, being so nervous like oh, it's dumb or whatever. But what I've come to realize is it really is, they say, kind of like believing in yourself, and I think that kind of sounds idealistic, because that makes it sound like you actually think everything's perfect all the time or you think it's great. I don't think it's necessarily that. It's sort of like being able to live with that uncertainty, like okay, people might not like it, that's okay, you know, I might get rejected, that's okay, and just kind of like talking yourself out of that. It's almost like an anxiety management. It's like you just can't get caught up in it.

    Camille: 28:07

    Yes, oh my gosh, I was just starting to read a book. One of the number one books right now in Audible is called the Anxious Generation and it's all about how kids, unfortunately, are growing up in a time where they have a lot of self-doubt and anxiety, and a lot of these kids have grown up in that pandemic atmosphere of is the world ending? I mean, that is a different set of cards than I was given and I think that building that resiliency and your children seeing that in you has got to be such a cool lesson that you're teaching them. And what has the response been from your kids and your family?

    Leslie: 28:46

    They are so sweet, my kids are so sweet, like when we go to the store they'll be like oh, look, mom, or whatever I mean, of course, sometimes my older son is 10. Sometimes he thinks it's embarrassing. You know, if I'm like, oh, you know, tell your friend about vitamin E, he's like mom, stop the vitamin E. But I think it's cool that they can see something tangible that I'm doing. All my previous work, I mean in the alcohol industry, that's obviously kind of, you know, like, bring your kids too much into that. And then you know, prior to that I was in management consulting like no one could even tell you what that means.


    Um so, like you know, it's nice to have something that's very tangible, you can see and that they understand, so that's great. I think I probably could tell them more about the behind the scenes, you know, like the getting rejected and coming back and that kind of.

    Camille: 29:35


    Leslie: 29:36

    That I think just happens and no one knows. But maybe I could turn more of that into like stories for them A hundred percent.

    Camille: 29:42

    And as they're getting older too, I think those kinds of resilient stories will ring true to them as they start putting themselves out there more you know, as they get older, which happens more and more and you realize how terrifying it is. So I am really excited for you for that reason, for them to see that legacy that started with your parents and is now trickling into your story. I think that's really beautiful.

    Leslie: 30:05

    I didn't think about it that way.

    Camille: 30:06

    Yeah, would you say, looking back at where you started and where you are now. I mean, it's still a new company and you're still growing. What is a lesson you've learned through building this company and taking that, that, those brave steps forward? What would you say to someone who's starting at the beginning?

    Leslie: 30:27

    I would say, like don't get too hung up on what's going to happen, the big picture and I mean it's ironic because, yes, you want to think about the big picture, but when it comes to starting a company, just think about that next little thing. You know, like for me it was like huh, I wonder what my friends think about this idea. Or like I'm just going to hire this one food scientist to just see if he can make this work, not committing to starting a company, I'm just going to see if it could work, you know. Or like I'm just going to produce a few, couple thousand bottles just to see if it'll sell, and we can go from there. Like if you break it down like that, it removes a lot of the barriers that you might have to trying it and it does add up. Like, even for someone who might be in the idea stage, I think even carving out 15 minutes every other day to think about or just conceptualize what you want to do will add up to something over time.



    Yeah, I love that advice. Even the little steps add up, and that's really really good advice, because I think it's easy to get lost in what's going to be the story of where I am six months from now or a year from now, and you really can't predict those kinds of things sometimes as much as we would like to. One of the questions that I get a lot when especially around product development, is how to move the product, and I know, before we started this conversation, you had mentioned that email was a really good tool for you. I'd love for you to share with the audience how you've been able to utilize email for sales.



    Yeah. So getting the product to move is so important because I think it's easy to think oh, I'm in retail, you know I made it. But in reality, getting on the shelf it's like the beginning, because if your product's not selling which takes a lot of effort then they're just going to ask you to leave you know so and I think, a lot of companies too.


    I've heard horror stories and try to learn from these stories of like they land a really huge account really early on and the product doesn't move and they get knocked out and it can wipe out their whole business because of all that investment that they made. So this is where I do think my background in alcohol industry did help me. We always said in the industry, liquid to lips like people need to taste beverages to want to buy them, because even if it's healthy, even if there's all these other reasons someone might want to buy, it has to taste good, right. So sampling, I knew, would be the ticket and it really has been for vitamin E. So sampling in stores is very important. Um, so we, you know, pour out little tastes and then people try it and then they can either buy a bottle right there and or drop their email. So we collect emails at those samplings and that's a really great place to do it because you have a QR code right on the table. You're talking about what they're tasting, grab their email at the same time. So that is one way. I also mentioned the QR code on the bottle and the reason email is so important is in again. This is something I've kind of learned from my background previously.


    It takes somebody usually I think it's seven interactions with a brand to buy it, and some of these interactions are not even conscious. You know like you might think, oh, I just saw this brand and I bought it. Well, you probably saw maybe you saw your friend holding it or you drove by an ad and it starts to get into your psyche. But it takes seven times. And the nice thing about email is if we can capture their email on that first interaction, then we can talk to them seven times, you can tell them more, we can send them a recipe, we can share an article about how great magnesium is, and then they might build up the desire to buy it over time. So you don't know with social media if you're going to get them seven times. You definitely weren't going to get them seven samplings. That would be so hard. So that's like the easiest way that I've found.

    Camille: 34:12

    Yeah. So for people who maybe can't be in a grocery store but are doing wanting to get people's emails, just doing e-commerce, what's been the best way for you to do that?

    Leslie: 34:23

    It's a tougher one. I've had a few. I'm still testing on that one because we do get a lot through retail and through the physical product. But other ways that we tried some are partnerships, like giveaways or like collaborations. You know where it might be a few different brands pooling together something to capture emails. So I've done that. We also did last fall. This worked pretty well, so we're going to do it again.


    An online summit, like a conference basically, where we brought in different experts and in the fall it was called Nourish and Flourish by Vitamin E. So it was a summit about all the natural ways to nourish your body and all the benefits and we had nutritionists and holistic doctors and different speakers your body and all the benefits. And we had nutritionists and holistic doctors and different speakers, and then every speaker kind of promoted the event to their audience. So the total audience promotion across everybody's emails was a hundred thousand promoting, and then we got several hundred people sign up and then, once they were signed up, we had their email and we could tell them and that actually side benefit created all this content like video clips, transcripts of the interviews, all this great content that we could use on our blog and in social. So online summits has been a big one and, yes, sampling outside of retail is the one that I'm thinking of. So we've done a lot of pop-up samplings at, like, outdoor fitness classes or whatever, but again that's like that in-person collection.

    Camille: 35:56

    Right, oh, I love that. That's a benefit for sure. I love that you said liquid to lips, actually having them experience and taste, because that's the sell point. If they taste it and they're like, ooh, this is delicious and it's good for me, that's a double score. I can't wait to try mine. I have it coming in the mail and I cannot wait to try it, so that's really exciting. Yeah Well, switching gears a little bit as we're wrapping up, what is something that you are reading, writing? Oh my gosh. Reading, watching or listening to there we go, yes, so it's funny when you mentioned this.

    Leslie: 36:30

    I reading and listening to to me are kind of the same. Because I'm a big like I'll do the reading and then the audio. I kind of like stop at a chapter and then jump to that chapter. But someone told me with audible on Amazon, you can actually seamlessly go between your Kindle and your audio. I'm like I gotta figure that out. But right now I am reading and listening to this book called the Women by Kristen Hanna that just came out. I just finished that one.

    Camille: 36:54

    Oh my gosh, it's so good, I'm so good.

    Leslie: 36:56

    I'm like three quarters, but I love it because I love these historical fiction books, because it makes you appreciate how far things have evolved. This particular book is about, like, the role of women in Vietnam. So, you know, just to think back about like where we were then and where we are now in terms of equality and opportunity, and I love that and I just love stories about people that kind of are strong and find their way.

    Camille: 37:23

    Yes, women is actually number one in Audible right now, and that's how I heard about it. I didn't and I didn't realize that it was the same author of the Nightingale. Oh yeah, once you listen to the very end of the book, the author actually does a postscript where she talks about how she had the idea to write this book back in the 90s but felt like she didn't have enough research to give it justice for the sacrifice that these women gave in the Vietnam War and that she really wanted to do justice to these women and how unappreciated and unacknowledged they were for their sacrifice in the war and really tell a story that gave that story in a beautiful way, but also, like you said, the progression of the equality and just even the acknowledgement Like it is such a good book.


    So if you love historical fiction hands down such a good one. I actually tagged her in a story and I was like, Ooh, I wish I would love to get her on the podcast. That's like my secret wish right now, which is a big wish, but you never know. So, yeah, I love that book.

    Leslie: 38:26

    That's awesome. I've read I think I've read all of her books. They're all really good. There's another good one called the Four Winds that I read last year, which is in the Great Depression, about like a woman and her kids, like fleeing West or whatever in the gold rush time. And then the Great Alone is another really good one, about a girl in Alaska. I think that's her too, but anyways, yeah, so that's great, very cool.



    I love it. Well, very cool. Okay, and then your motherhood moment. What's a moment that you would like to share?

    Leslie: 38:56

    Yes, you know, I, when I, when I saw this question that you asked, the first thing came to mind I love when my kids, when I kind of witnessed my kids being nice to each other when they don't know I'm watching yes, one day my son stubbed his toe, my seven-year-old stubbed his toe and my two-year-old daughter came up to him and she's patting him on the back and sort of like comforting him and I thought that is makes me so proud, you know. Or like when one of my older, my 10-year-old, will sometimes help my eight-year-old with homework, and when I hear him doing it not always, but when I hear him doing it kindly and, like you know, encouraging him, it just makes me so proud. So I like to kind of catch those things. And then I like, when I do catch it, I like to kind of like follow up with them after and be like I saw what you did. That was so sweet.

    Camille: 39:42

    Oh, I love that Especially. Oh my gosh, as a two-year-old, for her to have that.

    Leslie: 39:53

    That's so sweet.

    Camille: 39:53

    I was like I didn't I didn't know two-year-old had that level of ability. I will say it's really fascinating to see siblings with each other and this last week we were at it was our spring break and I saw my 15-year-old teaching my seven-year-old how to tie his shoe and it was such I just loved it. I pulled out my camera secretly, like recording it, and it was so sweet because it's just, you love to see the bond that they share and especially when it's removed from you, that to see that compassion that they can have for each other in between the craziness Cause we know that that exists Two seconds after they're fighting and before they fight back Totally.


    Oh well, this has been so wonderful. I feel like I have learned so much from your journey and being so authentic and candid with the journey that you've had, and I really appreciate that and I cannot wait to try your products. And good news for everyone listening we are actually going to be the benefits beneficiaries of a giveaway. So, Leslie, go ahead and tell them what your plan is for the giveaway.

    Leslie: 40:53

    Yes, so we will happily give away a 12 pack of vitamin E's to one of your listeners and also a shaker tumbler which basically you can use to make your smoothies, and it has like the little ball in it I don't know if you guys have seen those from vitamin E's, so I'm happy to give those away to your listeners that want to drop their emails in our email list.

    Camille: 41:16

    Awesome. So we'll go ahead and put the link in the show notes below where you can go and drop your email in on their website and you'll have the chance to win a 12 pack, which I want to win one. I'm so excited to give it a try. Where can we find your products in store and online?



    Yeah, so online vitaminiesbrandcom that's my favorite place for people to come because we can directly know you, but we're also on Amazon and we just launched on Walmart marketplace. So if you already do, subscribe and save, or your Walmart marketplace shopper, we're there too. And then in brick and mortar stores we're at fresh time farmer's Market here in the Midwest, and also the Fruitful Yield, which is a Chicago area retailer, and we're in active conversations with lots more retailers, so I'm really hoping to have a bigger footprint soon you will.

    Camille: 42:02

    I know you will. Well, this has been so awesome. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thanks for having me. You're welcome.


    Thank you so much for tuning in to this week's episode. If you are interested in learning about the value pack that you can win from Vitamini's, make sure that you check out the link below. When this airs, you will have one week to put in your email address to win a sample pack of 12, which is awesome. Also, for those of you who have been asking about my group coaching program that is kicking off in June, so if you are interested, please reach out to me. It's going to be a networking mastermind where we are working on brain performance psychology mixed with best practices for running your business, as well as networking and masterminding with some incredible women in business to help you propel yourself into goals you can stick with and the ultimate dream of making your business and life balance what you want it to be.


    Thank you so much for tuning in and I will see you next week. Hey, ceos, thank you so much for spending your time with me. If you found this episode inspiring or helpful, please let me know in a comment and a five star review. You could have the chance of being a featured review on an upcoming episode. Continue the conversation on Instagram at callmeCEOPodcast, and remember you are the boss.

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