In EP 65 of The Wild Womn Hotline, we are joined by Whitney Eckis, Founder and CEO of Eckis Marketing, who sat down to chat with us about how to navigate the scrappy start-up space of launching and growing a new brand.
If you’re new to Whitney, she started her career perfecting the practices of growing brands and businesses in the digital space. At the vibrant age of 22, she became the Founder and CEO of Eckis Marketing, a creative communications agency based out of San Diego, CA.
Under Whitney’s leadership, Eckis Marketing has elevated brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Red Bull North America, Soul Cycle, CLEARSTEM Skincare, Sonix, SOUL CBD, Kendra Scott, and many others and continues to help brands elevate their business in the digital space. Her work has been featured in Entrepreneur, ESPN Radio, Forbes, and Modern Luxury.
As a serial entrepreneur, Whitney has her hands in five businesses today but the one that is currently shining the brightest? Get Supr, an instant coffee brand fused with hemp so good you won’t believe it’s instant – for those seeking energy sans the jitters.
Her sharp eye for the digital landscape combined with her entrepreneurial spirit makes her the go-to girl you call up when you are ready to dream big.
Whether it is digital marketing, a product-based venture, or learning how to juggle multiple businesses, Whitney has the serial influence to get it done.
Here’s a preview of the convo Whitney and I had in this episode of The Wild Womn Hotline.
Tristan Thibodeau is the founder of Wild Womn Haus and is a brand strategist for entrepreneurs in the wellness, beauty, and lifestyle brand industries.
She specializes in helping companies create and maintain their image. She works with market research, industry analysis, and consumer trends to offer strategic insights for brands so that they can enhance their marketing efforts and grow their bottom line.
Whitney Eckis is the Founder and CEO of Eckis Marketing, a creative communications agency based out of San Diego, CA. As a serial entrepreneur, Whitney has perfected the art of growing brands and businesses in the digital space.
Under Whitney’s leadership, Eckis Marketing has elevated brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Red Bull North America, Soul Cycle, CLEARSTEM Skincare, Sonix, SOUL CBD, Kendra Scott, and many others and continues to help brands elevate their business in the digital space. Her work has been featured in Entrepreneur, ESPN Radio, Forbes, and Modern Luxury.
Connect with Whitney and the Eckis Marketing team:
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: right, Whitney, I was sharing before we started recording how I always try to have conversations with my guest experts that they haven’t had anywhere else, and I am really excited to dive in today to talk to you about what can we as brand owners be doing. If we have our site set on big scale, and by that I mean are we going to need funding from investors at any point in the future If we wanna get our brand into big retailers, what are the sorts of things that we need to be doing from a brand perspective in terms of, are we talking about community size?
Are we talking about market placement? Like what are the different things that we’re talking about here? But before we get into. Why do you love what you do? Like what lights you up the most? Give us a little spiel about marketing and everything that you do with the agency.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Yeah, so I mean, I definitely did not set out to be like a serial entrepreneur or like an investor.[00:01:00]
Um, it honestly kind of happened and it was mainly because I was like, you know, what, what am I doing? How can I make more money? How can I. Really sink my teeth into these brands that excite me without just making them, you know, a class a client, um, part of, you know, part of the agency. So I really got into marketing when I was in college.
I worked with Red Bull and they really kind of groomed me up for a social media kind of marketing brain and really, really kind of, again, trained me to have this brand eye. To really understand what it took for a brand to really be fully like encompassing of everything and what that looks like and that premium experience and how to really engage your consumers.
So from there I went into hospitality and um, From that point, I started kind of freelancing and the freelancing turned into the agency. And when I was in, when I was working in the agency, I really wanted to expand into brands that excited me. [00:02:00] And I was, I had a lot of hospitality, which was like bars, restaurants, hotels.
But I was really interested in like the. Beverage category. I was really interested in like health and wellness. I was interested in these like super sexy brands that were, you know, from San Diego, like Liquid iv, copari, cool, sun bum, like these really fun, fun brands. And I just remember being like, how do I get to be a part of this?
Like, without going out in like cold pitching myself to all these different brands. And you know, what, what does that look like? Basically over the last couple years I started offering my services and started really kind of exploring different investment opportunities from SWAT equity to, you know, fractional C M O to consulting, to just actually offering up straight up capital as an angel investor.
And it’s just been a very, very fun experience. It’s been something. I have learned so much just by [00:03:00] expanding my horizons and, you know, jumping off the side of a cliff and diving head deep into something that I hadn’t, I knew nothing about. And, um, the biggest, the biggest and most awesome opportunity was.
I had the ability to acquire a company in 2020 called getup, and it’s a hemp infused instant coffee. We acquired it, we reformulated it, rebranded it, and then launched it. And today it’s one of our biggest case studies for what the agency can do, but also for what we can do as a brand. Um, and what I can do in the sense of how do I actually, you.
Architect a brand, take it to market, launch it, and then allow it to grow and move on to its next phase. So that’s been really exciting. Um, and that’s kind of what I do, a brand builder. And I, I just love working with amazing people and I love working with amazing concepts and like you said, really finding different white space and in the market today to expand and create new business opportu.
[00:04:00] And I mean,
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: just the way that you navigate brand building is so on Pulse and it’s so, like you said, cool, these cool brands. You just understand, I can’t even, I can’t even wrap the word culture around it cause that just seems too ambiguous. But you know how to speak to the target audience that a brand is positioning itself for which.
Yes, it’s part of brand building, but it’s also something that is almost intuitive. It’s a very like empathic people skill to be able to understand, get inside that brain of somebody that you’re wanting to connect with or that you’re wanting this brand to be for. Do you think Red Bull played a role in that?
Because their marketing style is so like growth marketing off the wall, craziness, very on pulse in terms of what people are gonna be paying attention to and looking for. Or have you always just kind of been somebody that can really get inside the brain of others and connect really well? [00:05:00] Cause that’s a huge component of being a skilled branding
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: expert.
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s definitely an even mix of all three. I think that the, the empathic side just comes from owning an agency. You know, I have, there’s so many things within my own personal journey that have led up into this moment, but I’ve learned how to read people and read consumers just based on the work that I’ve done with my, with all of the clients within the agency.
And it’s funny because like one of our biggest testimonials for the agency is, We’re so small and we’re so lean and we’re so mighty that these brands actually see our team as an extension of their own internal marketing team because we are so hands-on and we are so encompassed within the brand that it’s, it’s offered up both.
It’s, it’s both a blessing and a curse and in so many elements, but, but that is something too, where it’s like, I’ve learned that I’ve learned to become a people person through these [00:06:00] experiences. Now, in terms of like the brand? Yeah. Red Bull. I’ll never forget we went to this two day intensive where we literally sat through what brand, what Red Bull was, and to just to just kind of paint the picture.
I was not a paid employee of Red Bull. I was a brand manager that was about a sophomore, junior in college, and they were treating me like I was one of the team members. I was going and working, you know, and helping out with on sales. You know, accounts, I was working with athletes, I was hosting events, I was working on social media.
I was working to drive awareness for any campaign that was coming up. Like I was treated so much like an employee that their biggest thing was to ingrain the Red Bull way into my brain. So that from every point on when my journey in Red Bull, I would know the brand and the heartbeat of the brand. And I think that specific training, Basically kind of opened me up to every other brand [00:07:00] thereafter of needing to know what is the heartbeat?
What are we doing here? How do I, how do I understand the consumer? How do I understand, you know, the benefit of the product or what we’re doing? And so that kind of played into it as well as, again, working with all these different people, I was able to just kind of, Learn from experience. And it wasn’t just a natural talent, like I’m creative, but I was never like that intuitive when it came, when it came to branding or when it came to marketing.
It just kind of, sort of was built over time and it’s, it’s been, it’s, yeah. It’s, that’s pretty much it. Yeah. And I,
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: I, what you’re talking about is something. So many business owners don’t necessarily understand until they get to a certain scale of business where they need to bring on subcontractors, employees to act on their behalf, to literally take the brand and distill it out into the world.
And one of the hardest things about. [00:08:00] Building out all of these functions of brand within the business, within the company’s ecosystem is putting an ROI behind these actions. So it’s, when you’re talking about culture, when you’re talking about the heartbeat, these things are all ethereal, they’re all abstract.
They’re something that requires story, obviously something that requires training, right. But when you have those things in place, that’s when you get those cult brands like the Red Bulls, that not only does everybody know the product, but they know the energy of the brand. It’s off the wall. It is a relentless, it’s, you know, you can just feel it.
You can feel the persona of the brand from an ROI perspective and just from being an agency owner and having worked with so many. Is that one of the biggest pieces that you feel can push a business to the next level in terms of having the whole team on board with the heartbeat, with the persona of the brand?
Is that something that drives r o roi or is that also something that just kind of [00:09:00] helps the company run better? Like how do you see, I guess, culture and internal branding, for lack of a better word, is what we’re talking about playing a role in the r o ROI for those sorts of efforts?
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Sure. That’s a super good question.
I think that, you know, okay, so historically marketing has become, It’s changed, right? And it will continue to change and will continue to evolve through the next several generations. Right now we’re living in a time where consumers don’t play to big corporate household names anymore. Consumers are wanting these.
Really relatable brands to come to the forefront, and they want to feel like they’re actually buying from someone that they know. Right? So when we look at, you know, the proctors and gambles and we looked at all the, we look at all these old school, like I always use Tide. I don’t like Tide as always, like my, my first go-to brand, but it’s that big, bright orange that always sat on my mom’s washer machine, right?[00:10:00]
When I think of Tide, we’re not moving forward with brands like that anymore, and they have a very robust internal and external brand identity as well as I’m sure all the employees live and breathe that tide, whatever their mission. I couldn’t even tell you what their mission is, but whatever. You know, and.
But I think now that what we’re seeing is we’re also seeing a parallel of that same internal and external brand identity and mission. But it’s coming down to a, to more of those smaller base brands that build that cult following. For example, I always like, I always use, uh, recess. It’s like a magnesium infused, you know, beverage.
There’s also, I think they also dabbled in C b D there for a little bit, but I, their branding and their quote following was all built off just kind of a joke. Like they, they launched their social media and it was animated, you know, CGI, images of their can with all these different personalities and that was.
Just something [00:11:00] where I think so many people, it was so different and people just naturally gravitated toward it. And obviously they had a lot of money, they had a lot of funding. They were backed by some pretty big names. But long story short, like there was, it was just kind of this shift, it was this polarizing shift in brand identity where their whole, their whole brand was to make you feel like you’re taking a recess, you’re taking a break, you’re calming down.
So I think when we look at like as a brand, like what’s the r o I. The R ROI here is not only connecting with your consumer, but your consumer’s also now gonna be reaching for you over everyone else. And again, that’s that parallel to like Tide, right? Tide was trusted. It was this huge brand. People used to trust these huge businesses because of the validity of what the brand stood for and how much they were doing.
And. Where they were at and just being that household name. Now we build up this trust with the fact that we can relate to it. You know, gen Z doesn’t necessarily want to buy into a big brand. They wanna buy into a brand that’s either giving back, it’s [00:12:00] relatable to them. They know the person behind it, and there’s a whole different level of trust and identity.
So I think, again, like when we’re talking about if you’re sitting as an entrepreneur and you’re looking at your brand, What are your core values? What’s the internal and external, you know, messaging and vision? And also too, what is that going to do for your consumer? How is your consumer going to choose you over anything else?
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: can scrappy startups, or how can people that maybe don’t have as much funding? Cuz the com with recess, right? We’re talking about Yes, they had funding. They had a lot of capital behind. That gives you a lot of creative freedom with the ways that you market. Right. But for people that are more in the scrappy, even gorilla stages where it’s like, I just need to get noticed.
Yeah. How can we, how can the small business owner who’s maybe DIYing right now and can’t necessarily make an investment into an agency yet, How can they get really creative with reaching their consumer in a way that feels relatable and [00:13:00] natural, but that also doesn’t necessarily sacrifice the credibility of the brand.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many ways to get scrappy. Um, I would say, you know, let’s just use good super for an example, right? So we launched with a $36. Box of coffee with 10 stick packs, that’s a pretty, pretty pricey box of coffee.
And one of the biggest things that we just started going after was our community. You know, I mean, I think, again, if you’re looking at, if you’re, if you have this business, you also have access to so many free. Ways to get in front of your consumer. Now those things take time and obviously there’s a certain amount of effort that has to go into it, but your social media is your biggest key here, especially when we’re talking about low overhead or low spend, right?
You don’t need to go out and start spending up a bunch of paid advertising money. But I think for us, like we just start having fun. Like we launched this brand and obviously it was like a passion project of mine right in. We [00:14:00] started building out everything in 2020 and then launched in 2021, but. We were just posting like dumb Instagram content about how it feels when you drink too much coffee and you start getting the jitters and your body completely freaks out.
And then we started, you know, people started relating to that. People started coming and being like, what is this? Like what, what are you guys talking about? Cause like everyone could relate to that. So rather or not, it’s like a luxury product or it’s something that, you know, it’s maybe a little bit more dialed down.
You have a lower price point. Find where that relatability is and kind of dive into it with identifying how your consumers are going to take it, and social media is the best way to test and play with that. Right. The other thing too is like, you know, we were super open to sending our product to people and getting like real-time responses or asking them what they felt like after they tried it.
Same thing with like, you know, Would you wanna post about us? You know, we’re a startup, we’re, you know, privately funded, which was by me. Like, I’m not rolling in the toe like I was. I was [00:15:00] utilizing every different, you know, resource I had. But we just started to kind of find ways of engaging our community and building that community.
And then before you know it, things like popup grocer, urban Outfitters, like they reached out to. Like they wanted to see kind of what was going on. And again, there was, there’s a lot of aspects of getup that obviously made it something where, you know, we, we had that attractive attractiveness to us, but also like we were just kind of playing up to our own strengths.
We were really good at marketing. We had new idea, what it was like to be a product-based business and all the craziness that that took on. But we knew how to market and we knew to have, how to have a brand voice and how to build a community. We just hit the gas pedal there and it helped us to launch and grow.
And I think again, like as a business owner, like play to your strengths. Like I think the biggest, biggest lesson that I’ve ever had to learn in being an entrepreneur is like, I suck at 95% of [00:16:00] everything and I’m really, really good at 5%. And if I could, if I can just focus in on that 5% that I’m really, really good at.
I can find other avenues and other people to help bring up that 95%. And so again, with getup, like we were, I mean we, it all obviously too that, I mean the startup process has all obviously been slower. We don’t have all this funding behind us, but we’re able to play and we’re able to move and we’re able to grow at our own rate.
And it’s been successful from my own version of what I think successful is for the brand.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: I have so many people that are listening that are in that stage of, okay, I have a great product. I have a great service. I have a community around it. They are loyal, they are avid consumers, but I’m stuck at this size and I feel like you’re such a wonderful person to speak into.
What should we be looking at next, or where should we be considering moving in order to, [00:17:00] yeah, maybe open up for retail opportunities or maybe approach somebody for investing so that we have more capital behind us. We can do more with what we have, right? From where you’re at with your brand. Mm-hmm. Ready to scale, ready to grow, what are the things that you are looking at that might be helpful for somebody in the same position to hear from you?
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Yeah, so I mean, our biggest thing was the obstacle of being. Hemp infuse instant coffee, right? So we actually launched our second sku, which is just our signature instant coffee to help move around and navigate a lot of the red tape that comes with the hemp infusion. And. We honestly spent so much money trying to be a direct to consumer brand, so we tried all the digital marketing.
We tried a bunch of different loopholes. We tried really pushing and pushing and pushing as hard as we could. On the internet [00:18:00] to make it super grow and to scale that way. Um, it wasn’t going to work unless we had subs, a substantial amount more of money. And even then it wasn’t promised because of the legality and basically the different regulations that they have on hemp, especially ingestible.
So we were like, okay, what can we do here? Number one, I’m already running an agency. My bandwidth was already starting to kind of really start to burn up and I wasn’t able to put my full time into being like the c e O and running production and moving through all the logistic parts of Get Super. So the first things first was like, okay, we need to build a team here and we need to build a team of people that care and that understand the market and then understand the product.
So we brought on our C C E O, Nicolette Bago, um, Gosh, I, I’m like, I think we officially [00:19:00] announced it like last month or January, but it’s been like a long time coming and obviously we’ve, we’ve been doing a lot of due diligence there. But anyway, so we, we brought on a C E O. She’s an incredible, incredible cannabis activist.
Um, she comes with a long line of experience going into retail and basically we sat down and said, okay, look, this is what we’ve done with the brand thus far. This is where we need to go. And we feel like the brand is actually retail ready. And it is, the box was actually created to sit on shelves, on the shelves of sprouts.
That’s my next manifest that I’m calling in right now. Um, and from there we were like, okay, cool. Now who can we hire to start brokering this deals? You know, who can we hire? And start looking at to come on with us and you know, maybe we don’t have a lot of money to offer them. Maybe there’s some commission, maybe there’s some things that where we can get flexible.
But we found an incredible contact where basically her whole job is working within the beverage category to. Broker these deals for retail [00:20:00] and you know, I mean, we found her through another brand, but there’s also so many opportunities on things like LinkedIn and there’s different networking groups.
Like for example, the naturally, there’s this amazing organization called, um, down here, the, the chapter’s called Naturally San Diego, but there’s like naturally boulder. There’s like naturally. I wanna say there’s a naturally New York I, I can’t remember, but basically it’s all these different c p G brands that come together and network, and so they have all these different resources for you, from retailers to brokers, to manufacturing, to legal.
Everything like that, that they bring to the table. And so all these resources, like we’ve just been literally using and trying to look to and trying to implement into our own strategy. And again, like we’re not, you know, funded or backed by some crazy big VC or private equity. Like everything’s just been self-funded from us thus far.
And so when we look at like, what the next, you know, what the next pivot [00:21:00] was for getup to continue to build and grow the brand it was going into. And we did have to be a little bit scrappy about it, but again, we were able to say, okay, if we’re getting this kind of attention from Urban Outfitters, we’re getting this kind of a attention from popup grocer and you know, show fields and different brands like that.
We can move into retail and we can do this even though we’ve never done something like this before. I think again, and this might just be my marketing brain, The ability to pivot your brand is huge. And the ability to know and stop and say, is this working, is this not, is also major. Um, it’s just something that you have to be able to learn how to let go of and embrace a new adventure like constantly.
And it sucks and it’s terrifying. But also too, like that is the only way your brand is going to scale is to be able to look at all the moving factors and know what the best avenue is, even if it means you have to. Kind of, you know, set on fire, whatever you’ve already built and move in a different [00:22:00] direction.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: I specialize in mostly beauty and wellness brands. Mm-hmm. We always get some people that are just attracted to energy that we have and they’re like, we wanna work with you. I’m like, hell yeses come on board. But mostly in beauty and wellness. Right. And just with how many brands went DTC in the last couple years?
Especially utilizing, like, leveraging the shit out of TikTok and how many new DTC brands we saw. The direct to consumer space is tricky and it’s getting harder and harder day by day, and I think it’s so interesting that you guys went down that road and then had the foresight or had the ability to say, Hey, like.
This is not working. Instead of just throwing money at this, let’s restructure, let’s, let’s reformulate the way that this business is gonna operate. And my first question around that has to do with bringing on an external c e O, which is something I don’t think I’ve talked about on the show before and would love your perspective on it.
And the reason I’m asking is because I have so many people I’ve worked with that are like, [00:23:00] I don’t want to do this role forever. I want to be in my business, I wanna help grow it. I want. Blabbity, blah, but I don’t wanna be the one that’s moving all the chess pieces all the time, right? Or that’s moving the company in a specific direction.
Um, whether it’s creatively exhausting to them, whether it’s just not their skillset. I can speak to me personally. I am much better as the face of the brand than I am as the C of the.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Right, 100%.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: I brought my husband in to be my honorary CEO to help me with all of these things because I’m such,
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: you know what CEOs are over, sorry.
The c the position of CEO is so glorified. It’s, but it’s bullshit.
It’s not fun. It is not a
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: fun, no, it’s not. And I’m curious if bringing on, bringing in outside. Bringing somebody from the outside into your C-suite for get super, um, what was that process like? [00:24:00] How did it feel in terms of you owning the company and then bringing somebody else in to basically not man the ship, but more or less be like, this is the direction that we need to go in, right?
Mm-hmm. How was that for you emotionally, but then also from a business standpoint? What, what has that done for you? In terms of business? Yeah. Mental capacity, all the things.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Sure. So, I mean, it’s still like fairly new, right? Like we, we are still kind of navigating our own partnership, which is interesting cause I’ve, I’ve always done everything so solo.
I’ve never really taken on partners. I’ve really never extended equity. I’ve never extended anything like that before. But the one thing I’m learning is, You know, I used to hold, we can talk about the emotional part first. I used to hold so much shame inside of my own business for not being good at managing so many moving parts and for things to fall through the cracks, or just for me trying to attempt to do things I’ve never done before.
And I used to think that I was such a bad business owner. Like I used to think like, [00:25:00] I, well I’m, I’m like this. None of this comes, none of this shit comes naturally to me. Why am I like, why does it seem like everyone else has this all together? And. When I had that realization, um, you know, of like, if I want this brand to succeed, it cannot be scaled off me alone.
That’s when I really kind of decided, okay, it’s time to really investigate what opportunities are out there. Um, and I mean there was definitely a point in time where the company was, you know, looking at being evaluated to be sold for what it was. And again, that was more so that it could go into the right hands and flourish and be the brand that I wanted to be.
And you know, also too, coming to that recognition of I am a brand builder. Am I the one that needs to be seated as the c e o in running the data, data day operations? Not necessarily. I can do it, but I, it’s not what I love. It’s not what I dream of at night. So when the conversation started happening between Nicolette and I, [00:26:00] it was very much so a process of, Hey, you know, we’ve, her and our second partner John, really, were like, we value what you’ve done.
We value what you, what you’ve built, and we’re not quite ready to want you to walk away from that because there’s still so much more to build and we’re okay to build it, but we still want you on board. And when that conversation was had, especially with both of their background, it was. From my, from my perspective, it made sense and it really was giving it super, the legs it deserved, as well as the time and intention and attention that it also deserved.
And again, this is still a new, you know, this is still a new phase for us. It’s not like we’re going into this and it’s, oh my God, it’s been butterflies and rainbows and it’s awesome. You know? I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of learnings and I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of personality, you know.
Exchanges and things like that that are gonna happen where we’re gonna have to learn from each other. But I think [00:27:00] looking at it, again, you have to look at kind of what’s best for the brand, you know? And if anyone’s out there that’s listening, that’s thinking about it, like evaluate what you want your first off, evaluate what you want your life to look like, like you can be.
I think that’s also something that the agency showed me. I’ve spent the last five, almost six years, building this agency alone and. When I finally sat down and started looking at the ways of which why I was not scaling, it was simply because I could not be in every single place at once. And that’s not a successful business model.
To build something around just solely you. Number one, it causes burn down. Number two, it’s just not possible. It’s not, and it’s, and if it will only keep you at a certain level of growth. So again, I had this realization with the agency. That also kind of led into get super and from that position, you know, we decided, hey, we’re gonna go into this as a partnership.
We’re going to walk together through this. We’re gonna make this, you know, thing amazing and grow it to the full [00:28:00] capacity, the fullest capacity we could grow it to and move forward in that. And that we all are gonna have our own roles within, with our individual strengths. And that’s currently where we’re at.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: love it. It’s badass. I kind of wanna stay on this brand slash ROI slash investment train and dive into mea. Can you tell me more about how you discovered that brand? Give everybody a little, a little elevator pitch of what it is. Yeah. And then why you were so, I mean, you’re an angel investor in it, so, or an investor in it. So I’m really curious from.
Marketing background, but also just everything you did with getup. Why was this a good opportunity for you and what are you hoping to do as an investor through it?
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Yeah.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: Huge goofy smile,
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: everybody. I’m like laughing. So first off, I’m, I’m laughing because Mela has been, One of the biggest challenges of my life, but also one of the most fulfilling, awesome [00:29:00] projects that have, that has ever come to me.
So first things first, like I met Dom through my boyfriend. They were really, really good friends in college. Dom is just an entrepreneur through and through, has had businesses since. I don’t even know how old he, I mean, he’s just been, he’s just been that entrepreneurial. He, um, He came to me originally and it was really just me and him and I think, and there was maybe one other employee, uh, on the Mela team, and he’s like, Hey, I’m starting a canned watermelon water beverage company and I need marketing.
And I was like, okay, like cool, you’re a startup, but like let’s chat more. We started kind of working together on just some like low level marketing foundational stuff, and then basically he was like, okay, I love you, you love me, I want you to come on as a fractional C M O, and I was like, sick, let’s do it.
So we basically kind of built up Mela over the last, over the course of the last year. And he’s just been such a [00:30:00] go-getter. They are pretty much almost available all over the country now. Um, I mean, he is in, he’s in Whole Foods Air One Sprouts. He’s pretty much everywhere, and it’s been really, really fun.
It’s been really crazy. My role as fractional C M O has basically come to a close, but I’m still an investor in the brand and I still get to dabble and consult with them, which is so exciting and so fun. But just working on. Project. It was really interesting. It really taught me a lot about the how quickly a brand can grow.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brand in the beverage category. Grow as fast and as hard as Mela did grow, or it has been continues to grow. They, they still, it’s like they’re opening up new accounts every single day. It’s absolutely wild. Their sales team just crushes and they all come kind of from that sales background.
But in terms of like it being challenging, there’s been, you know, I already have two other [00:31:00] babies under my belt and so really looking at from an investment standpoint, how much I was able to give to Mel. And what the future looks like with Mela was really difficult because there’s so much opportunity and there was so much that I could have moved into a role with them full-time and basically kind of chose not to at the moment, but it’s been something where as an investor, It really has set the tone of what I wanna do and how I wanna work with brands.
So, for example, there’s so many different ways we can invest in brands, right? We talked about angel investing, talked about, you know, sweat equity, um, fra you know, being a fractional, having a fractional role or anything like that. And mellow was something too where. I really gave it my heart and soul and obviously I earned my equity and now I’m kind of getting to sit back and just watch the brand rock and roll.
And it’s been, it’s been really exciting and fun. So again, that was another brand that required a lot of, you know, kind of being the brand [00:32:00] architect at first. And we definitely did. And it’s, it’s been something that’s just been really, really special to. And their, their
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: marketing is so cool, and I’m, well, I’m curious from your perspective.
Thank you. Yeah, no, it is so cool. I, I love the way that they, I, the energy that they give off the, it’s just Cali Life. It’s just that, you know, it’s just amazing. Cali Life is what I get off of it, but also because it blew up so quickly and we can say it blew up so quickly from the standpoint of by the time it started to get a little momentum to the time that.
To where it is now. It happened very quickly, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes and there’s so much grunt work and blood, sweat, and tears that goes on behind the scenes before you quote unquote blow up. Yeah. And because you were there from basically the, the beginning stages of this brand growing, Do you think that it was a, a white space opportunity that this product came in and filled and that’s why it took off?
Do you think it’s [00:33:00] because, uh, it, it’s genuinely a better product than something like a coconut water or an electrolyte water? Like what do you think it was it just the marketing itself and the lifestyle that it was selling? Like if you had to encapsulate it, what would you say blew up this
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: brand? I mean, multiple things.
First off, the watermelon. Water category. So basically it’s not, I mean, we call watermelon water for the sake of calling it coconut water, but basically all it is, is we go into an actual core of the watermelon, pull out that juicy core, and basically that is what is inside of the can of. You know me, we don’t use the RINs, we don’t use any of that gross stuff.
Like it’s strictly straight out of the cores of the watermelons. So the taste of it is really, really good. We have a pineapple, there’s a ginger, and then there’s also a passion fruit flavor, which is kind of interesting because the only other competitor that we’ve really seen come to market is W T R M L N Water.
Um, [00:34:00] and they were. You know, they’re, they’re kind of in that, they’re, they’re basically our only competitor. They, and, but they’re also the only other watermelon water that’s sitting next to, you know, the harmless harvest and the, the Vida Coco and stuff like that. So there was white space for us. And being that we were able to sell in these really badass, cool looking slim cans and offer four different flavors, I think that, you know, the market was naturally open to us.
And there’s a lot of people that don’t necessarily like coconut. But they’re also not trying to grab a fruit juice that’s jacked up with sugar, so, I think that that was probably what we saw there. Now, on the backend, I think this thing blew up because of Dom and the sales team. I have to 1000%. I’ve never seen a more dedicated team, especially in a startup, and I’ve never seen someone be able to.
Ignite people and be a strong leader like Dom has. [00:35:00] And I think that, again, you know, that goes with everything, right? You’re only as good as the people that are working with you. And so I think with Dom, he was able to just kind of build out this dream team of people that he truly valued and loved and really kind of showed them in full transparency the process like, this is not gonna be easy.
Like you will be working every hour of the day. But let me tell you, if we do it this way, it’s going to pay off this much faster. And it has everything from his investors to just the people that are literally boots on the ground for him. Everyone has, and it’s kind of funny, it totally reminds me of the Red Bull kind of party or train, but.
Everyone has the same vision and everyone’s on board, you know, and again, Dom has done a really, really great job at leading the charge for that. And I don’t think that someone that wasn’t as sure as he is in what he means at the end of this or what the end goal looks like, could do the same thing as he could.[00:36:00]
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: Charismatic leader.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Yeah. Right. Passionate, charismatic, smart as hell s fuck leader.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: What are the things that you do to breathe life into the brand and get everybody on the same page? Does your team have that? Vibrancy that you’re talking about with all these other companies?
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: I guess marketing has been something where I’ve had to learn firsthand how to step up as a leader, and there’s a very big difference from being a marketing strategist to being an actual leader of a business.
And it’s definitely test. You know, it’s definitely tested me a lot in who I am, in my character and who I am as a boss, but also who I am as someone that is also showing up and making sure, you know, I’m the operator and what’s going on and what’s happening. I think for my team, the biggest thing is that.
I invest so deeply in people, and it’s also, again, it could be a, a blessing and a curse for me, but I see so much [00:37:00] opportunity in people. I see so much ability to grow, and sometimes that’s not always wanted, and sometimes that’s not always taken on by the person, right? Like, we can see opportunity in people and that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily wanting that same opportunity for themselves, but for for eckes.
Our vision is really just to create the life that you want to be living while you’re working. You know, what do you wanna do? Do you wanna make more money? Do you wanna work with really cool brands? Do you want, you know, to work Monday and Friday from home and you know, have unlimited time off? Great. Like, what do you want?
And I’ve always kind of been that leader where it’s never been, I’m telling you what to do. It’s more or less of, here’s your opportunity and you get to take advantage of this. And if you. You know, take advantage of it to the fullest capacity. Fuck yeah, great. Run it. If you don’t, you’re [00:38:00] probably not gonna have a place on this team, because everyone here is giving their heart and soul into what they’re doing.
And it’s not just them giving it to the agency, it’s them giving it to their clients. It’s them giving it to their own career. It’s them wanting to personally and professionally develop themselves. But also too, it’s them learning along the. Every single girl that has worked for me, with the exception of one, has started as an intern.
And that was because I bootstrapped the agency and did not have the capital to afford to pay some of the best marketers in the world with top salaries. But I knew my brain and I knew my clients, and I knew that I could train them if they wanted to be trained. And again, not everyone wanted that here at ES and I, it was a big learning curve, but the.
That we’ve cultivated and the culture that we’ve cultivated now is so pressing of how do you want your life to look and what ways can we adjust that and what ways can we offer that to you [00:39:00] within certain means? But also, where do you wanna take this? Because you’re also driving the ship. I can’t manage 15 clients, you guys.
So what are you seeing and what is working, what is not? And how fulfilled are you in your day-to-day job in day-to-day job? And that’s more or less the energy and kind of company culture of eco marketing. And again, like it’s been. It’s been really interesting to kind of swap hats from someone that’s seeing a team and working alongside of a team and supporting a team to someone that is having a team and has that responsibility of that team and making sure that you’re taking it after their, their wellbeing and their livelihood.
Um, And so for me that’s also been a, you know, a huge challenge and a huge blessing. It’s taught me a lot of who I am and as a person and my character, and obviously has showed me every fault within myself. Um, but I, you know, I look at my girls today [00:40:00] and I think that. They have the same, they have the same energy and they have the same want.
It might look different from day to day. Obviously each one of our girls has, I’m like looking at ’em now in the office, like each one of them have their own different talents. They have their own different likes. They have their own different niches that they lean into, and I think that’s what makes us one of the strongest agencies is that I’m not just hiring a bunch of Whitney, I guesses I’m hiring.
The Diane R. Rodriguez is I’m hiring the Paige Pablos. I’m hiring, you know, the Sarah Schmidtz and Mackenzie Moores, the girls that have and bring so much to the table that are so much different than from my own skillset. And so I think that’s where our strength truly lies as a marketing agency.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: Winnie? I. I just appreciate you coming on so much because the multiple pots that you’ve had your hands in over the years gives such a robust like perspective of navigating business, not just as the [00:41:00] c e O, but as a, fractional. C M O, like stepping in in that capacity, stepping in as an angel investor, stepping in as part of the team rather than the c e o. And then being the c e O of your own company. You’ve really mastered, from what I can tell, the ability to kind of find where you will best be of service. In whatever it is that you’re interested in, in whatever it is that you find opportunity in.
And that’s a skill whether you’ve had that or whether you’ve taught yourself that, and for people to be able to hear that from you and to hear how your brain works in terms of navigating your strengths and your weaknesses, not only lets you shine as an expert, but also shows people like, yes, you can be an incredibly strong, empowered, confident female entrepreneur.
You can be a boss. You can do all of these things, but it doesn’t mean you have to literally do all the. Yeah, you can zoom in on where your talent lies and then get really creative and think from a problem solving standpoint, I wanna be [00:42:00] involved in this, but that role is not quite my role. What can I do differently?
Yeah. And also just looking at brand. As culture and as something that is literally a heartbeat that runs through everything that you do on a day-to-day basis. From sales to aesthetics, to product development, to everything that heartbeat has to be there. So for everybody listening, is there anything else that you want to send people on their way with in terms of mindset or things to be considerate of when you are focused on growth, but maybe hitting your cap or hitting
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: your upper limit?
You can grow and you can expand and you can scale without burning yourself out. And I think that that’s again, been such, I’m preaching this to myself because there’s so much opportunity out there. And once you start finding, like you said, where you best thrive in the lane that you best thrive in, there’s gonna be double that amount of opportunity.
So be smart about how you’re spending your time and who you’re spending your time with and what that [00:43:00] looks like. And you know, really evaluate too, what do I want my life to look like? You know, I got to sleep in till like eight o’clock this morning, which never happens, and I was like, I like, I literally woke up this morning.
I’m like, I’m just so grateful. Like for that, I’m so grateful. And it’s not like I’m not busier than hell. Like I, I am, there’s a lot of things on my plate right now, but like there’s also this freedom of the way that I’ve been able to structure my life. And again, it’s taken five years to be able to figure out how to do that, but.
You know, be smart. You don’t have to scan, you don’t have to do all the things and burn yourself out. You can find out what you do really, really well and be able to create a life around that that you know, fills you up. Amazing.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: We’ll just mic drop it there. Whitney, thank you so much for coming on. I adored this conversation.
You are absolutely lovely and wonderful and all of the incredible things. Where can people come hang out with you? Where should they go? Follow you guys, so many things you’re doing. Where’s the
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: best [00:44:00] place to start? You know, I’m gonna point everyone in my TikTok because. My TikTok, I feel like, is so raw and unhinged and just like, I had some girl walk up the other day and she goes, I, I love that you make fun of like yourself in the agency and like all the shit going on on your TikTok.
And I’m like, That’s awesome. I’m glad that like everyone thinks of me as that, but you know what, no, go find. You guys can follow me wherever you guys wanna follow me. My, my all my handles are just Whitney Atki. You can follow the agency, ATUs Marketing, you can follow Get super and get 10% email@example.com just by signing up for email and s m s and um, yeah, I mean you can listen to obviously this podcast and I have my podcast under the Influence Podcast, so give it a listen and thank you so much, you know, for having me on.
You know, I love the questions. I, I love how deep we got and I’m, I’m always here. If you guys have any questions, slide into my dms. I love it.
HOST: Tristan Thibodeau: Slide, slide, slide. All [00:45:00] right. Thank you so much, Whitney. This has been awesome.
GUEST: Whitney Eckis: Thank you so much, Tristan.