Plus: Sabeena Ladha on her viral Shark Tank appearance
Nora and Scott chat with Sabeena Ladha, the founder and CEO of Deux, a vegan and gluten-free cookie dough that can be eaten raw or baked. Sabeena talks about her upbringing as a first-generation immigrant of Pakistani and Indian descent, and why she was inspired to make a healthier alternative to junk food. She also spills the tea about her experience on Shark Tank, and her decision to respond to critics. Presented by Grayscale.
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Fact Checker: Holly Van Leuven
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer
Full transcript for this episode below.
Nora Ali: From Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.
Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business. Nora, have you ever tried Deux?
Nora Ali: Scott, I wish I could, but I am allergic to nuts. So I can't eat, I think, any of their products, but you know what? Maybe that's a product for the future, is a nut-free version.
Scott Rogowsky: Well, more for me, Nora. I've tasted this dough, Deux. I've seen Hot Shots! Part Deux, and I've eaten Deux, and yes, they're spelled the same way, but they're pronounced differently, okay? I've also had a lot of edible cookie dough in my life. I think the craze started in New York with a place called DŌ. Do you remember this place?
Nora Ali: Yes.
Scott Rogowsky: "D-Ō?" It's [in the] West Village.
Nora Ali: I've had that.
Scott Rogowsky: You've had that. That's like the old fashioned, definitely not good for you, raw, edible cookie dough.
Nora Ali: It's not enhanced, that one.
Scott Rogowsky: It's enhanced with 5,000 grams of sugar. It was some of the sweetest things I've ever had in my life, is that dough. But this Deux, "D-E-U-X," I was actually gifted a jar of this dough from a friend of mine who implied that it was like, maybe magic dough, maybe had some THC or CBD or something about it. And she couldn't have it, so she gave me it, and I tried it and it tasted good, but I definitely didn't experience any hallucinogenic side effects. Because it doesn't, so my friend was mistaken, but it's a good marketing tactic, I think, to make it kind of mysterious. Maybe let the purchaser...leave it up to their imagination about what it actually does or what's in it, besides tasting good, which it does.
Nora Ali: Well, people love it, influencers and regular people alike. And they've been super successful, great word of mouth, and I think we both really enjoyed this conversation. Sabeena is incredibly impressive. One of the more impressive founders I've spoken to, so let's get to it. Sabeena Ladha is the founder of Deux, a new good-for-you raw cookie dough made up of healthy ingredients like oats, almond butter, and flaxseed, and enhanced with vitamins like zinc and vitamin C. Deux attributes much of its instant success to its strong online traction, and celebs and loyal customers consistently post unsponsored support for its products on social media. Deux made over $1 million in sales in 2021 and is now available in select Whole Foods, specialty markets, and is launching in Target this month. We'll get to our conversation with Sabeena after this quick break.
Scott Rogowsky: You and I, and Nora, I would assume, have a lot in common, and that is, we like food. And we like desserts. And I think a lot of people listening might have this in common as well, but not everybody works in the food industry. Not everybody starts their own food business, cookie business. You did. So we want to get to the bottom of this, because I just never thought growing up, eating junk food all the time and cookies and snacks, that, "Oh, I can make a career in this." It just never occurred to me. But how did that occur to you?
Sabeena Ladha: It's funny, it was my first job out of college. So dating way back, my dad owned a gas station in Fort Worth, Texas, so we moved from Chicago to Texas when I was like five years old. When my mom and dad immigrated here, my mom went to nursing school and my dad didn't really have an education, so he worked odd jobs. He was a taxi driver, he worked in a deli, and so he saved up and his version of the American Dream was buying this gas station in Fort Worth. And I spent every single weekend in that gas station. Every Saturday and Sunday, he worked 24/7, so we would be there. I would sit behind the cash register collecting change for customers, and I would get to pick two snacks. And that's the food that I grew up on. That's what we ate, and in the nineties, I don't think people really knew how bad it was for you. Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner, and Oreos for breakfast, and Sour Punch Straws for snacks was fine. No one looked at the back of—
Scott Rogowsky: Complete breakfast.
Sabeena Ladha: I know.
Scott Rogowsky: That's a complete meal.
Sabeena Ladha: No one looked at back nutrition labels. So anyway, I grew up around all that kind of food and him owning that gas station, and then my first job out of college was at PepsiCo. So it was at Frito-Lay, which is in Dallas, in Plano, and I was on the Lays brand. So I literally started out my career selling potato chips for a living. I thought I left it for good, and I thought I was never going back to that industry, and here we are. So, you know...
Nora Ali: And there was a period of time where you worked in venture capital, you worked in consulting, and you were brought back to the food industry. And you've said in the past, Sabeena, that Deux is sort of this culmination of your career. And you realize in retrospect that everything ladders up to what you're doing now. So how did each moment in your career lead up to this point in building Deux?
Sabeena Ladha: Looking back, when I would make those jumps, I was really uncertain and I almost was more worried about how my resume would look, because it didn't look linear, right? There was Frito-Lay, I was in Big CPG, and then I was at McKinsey and consulting for a couple years, and then I was in venture capital. It was a little all over the place and I was really insecure about it. I was like, "My resume looks like a shitshow. I'm not going to get hired anywhere." But now looking back on it, to your point, Big CPG taught me gold-standard marketing. As much as I didn't love the red tape or that sort of thing, in Big CPG, what they're very good at is brand-building and consumer insights. And that was the first exposure I had to that, in understanding truly consumer problems to solve, how to speak to consumers, and then how to take that and turn it into big, amazing marketing campaigns. And so that I kind of credit, we get a lot of credit on Deux for our marketing, but I kind of credit that to learning it at Big CPG, and how to manage a P&L. That's one thing as a founder that's constant give or take, and learning how to do that early on was super valuable. At McKinsey, the skill set that I think that I learned the most was how to solve a problem. McKinsey, you work on some clients for four weeks, you work on some clients for 16 weeks, but it doesn't go longer than that, and you essentially, if you think about it, if you're working on a client for only four weeks, you essentially have to take a fast track and understand the industry, the team, the problem, the solution option. You have to understand so much in such a short amount of time, and figure out how to solve that problem in a structured way, and learn how to think in a structured way. And it's not easy, but once you go through two years, I joke that two years at McKinsey is like 10 years at any other company, because you just have to do it so fast. And then in venture, that was the first time that I ever was exposed to startups. I had always been kind of entrepreneurial at Pepsi, and even at McKinsey I worked on the digital practice, which was newer, and we were kind of building, but I had never been an entrepreneur and I hadn't been exposed to founders, and I never really understood what that meant. And in venture, I credit that a ton to, it was the first time that I didn't feel like a misfit in an organization. I think at Pepsi and at McKinsey, I felt a little out of place. And I knew I was a little rough around the edges. I like to break rules. I didn't fit in perfectly. And in venture, I was like, "Oh, okay. This feels right." It was my first exposure from zero to one, and it essentially taught me the playbook of how to test a concept and bring it to life, which was Deux. Deux was a test, Deux was a COVID test, and it turned into this huge thing. But I'd say venture was that kind of exposure too.
Scott Rogowsky: The inverse to Nora's question. She asked, "Did all these things ladder up to where you are?" Had you not had that background, had you not had all those experiences, would you be making Deux today?
Sabeena Ladha: I think I would, but I would be doing it in a much more ineffective way. I feel like most entrepreneurs would probably say this. They probably had a dozen ideas that either they kind of fell off, or they tested and it didn't work, or they've thought about being an entrepreneur before. So I think I would've ended up here, but I don't think it would've been at this fast-paced growth that we're experiencing, and just the insanity that has been this year and a half for Deux and this rocket ship that I'm trying to hang onto. I don't think it would've been that, because I don't think I would've gotten what I call, they're kind of like shortcuts, right? Something that it might take another entrepreneur who's new to food, for example, a couple weeks to solve, I can either solve it quicker or I can call someone, like a mentor or advisor or someone in the industry, because I have this network of food people where I can solve it in a quicker way. The goal of operating is minimizing mistakes, and when you do make mistakes or you have problems to solve, recovering quickly. And so I think I would've probably made more mistakes and I would've probably recovered in a slower manner if I didn't have those experiences.
Nora Ali: Let's take a very quick break. More with Sabeena when we come back. Sabeena, you learned a lot in your previous roles to help you operate more efficiently in starting Deux, but let's get into the specifics of Deux, starting at the beginning. I think one of the most valuable lessons in your story is from the super early days where you used to take orders via DMs on Instagram and accept payment on Venmo. I think that is so cool. And you put the product out into the world before it was a full-fledged business. It was a good way to test product market fit, essentially, getting feedback from consumers, seeing what demand looked like, without having to spend a ton of capital. So what did you learn from that experience? Because I think it's such a valuable lesson in that.
Sabeena Ladha: It's funny, because a lot of founders want to go raise money, but it's just the environment we're in where it's glamorized to raise money. So you write this beautiful deck and you probably have some brand agency put together a deck, and you don't have a product yet. You just have the idea and you go raise $5 million of seed funding to start your startup. And that is, it's almost like a crutch and it's almost the default now, whereas if you do it in a scrappy way, you learn so much more than you would just by having the $5 million and then being like, "Okay, now what do I do with it?" There are a million lessons that I learned when I was doing that, but you learn about the product. You can send out NPS surveys, you can talk to consumers, you can even...I was making it, literally, my mixer used to be right behind me and I would make it here in my kitchen. You learn about the consistency, and for me it was how you need to mix the product. It's very finicky. It sounds easy: "Throw everything in a mixer and mix it." But there's actually a little bit of art to it too, and it's not just following a recipe. So you have all of this opportunity to collect feedback early on, whereas if someone had just handed me $5 million and I were to go do it, I think I would've wasted a lot of cash versus figuring out, to your point, product market fit. Do people even want this product? And if they do, how do they want it? And food is very taste oriented and that is difficult. So figuring out, "Does this taste too healthy? Is it too sweet for the people who are health people?" Those are these nuances that, you're never going to please everyone, but to please the most amount of people, that's the goal. So being able to collect all that feedback, that was super invaluable.
Scott Rogowsky: You use the ethos from the tech world, which you learned in your previous experiences: the move fast, break things model, right? Which works, I guess if you're building an app and you want to get out an MVP, you throw it together and boom, you can show investors or show some beta users. How does that work with food? Because we're talking about taste, right? How quickly can you move? You want this to taste good. So I understand the packaging at the beginning wasn't clearly where it ended up...
Sabeena Ladha: It was hideous. It was so ugly. It was so bad. I'm like fully embarrassed by it.
Scott Rogowsky: You're supposed to be embarrassed by your first attempt at that, right? But really, that MVP model of cookie dough, has the recipe evolved since then? Have you adjusted the flavor profiles, and how do you decide, because listen, let's talk about the fact that Deux is differentiated because it's this healthy alternative to the traditional cookie doughs, right? So you're adding adaptogens, you're adding enhanced ingredients. How do you know how much ashwagandha to put in or how much aloe vera to put in to make it healthful and not to overkill the flavors, right? Like you said, there's an art to it.
Sabeena Ladha: It's funny because the MVP model is very difficult in consumer products, because consumer products are so brand oriented, from beauty, to skincare, to food. They are so dependent on brand that it's hard to do that test, but to your point on flavor profiles, essentially what we do is we launch digitally first, and we test the product, and then if it does well, then we'll take it to retail. That's our version of iteration. If it doesn't do well on DTC, we won't sell it into retail and we've produced a minimum quantity of it, so we can just sell through it and never bring it back. So with the cookie dough, obviously took a bunch of iterations, with our drip product, we found a co-packer, it actually didn't take a lot of iterations. We only made 3,000 jars of it, put it up, saw people liked it, did an NPS survey, we were able to collect the feedback in a short period of time, we were able to see if people repeated, because that's really important for food. And once it passed the tests, then it's ready for retail and we can produce it at scale. And we'll do these blanket POs of producing the product. Being able to work with partners who are nimble and take that chance with you, and you're like, "Hey, I'm testing this online. If it does well, I promise you it'll be a $10 million SKU. You just have to trust me." I think building that relationship is really important. And then, to your point on the flavor preferences, with the cookie dough product, we play with our sugars a little bit, we play with, there's little things you can do with cocoa powder or even cinnamon, and adding different extracts. We did it with birthday cake. People said the almond extract was way too high and almond extract is very polarizing, so we took it down 25% and then the next iteration we sent them all 20% off and we were like, "Try this version, see if you like it better." And it did a ton better. So I think being able to be open to that feedback and know...I'm too close to it. I eat the damn product every day, so I can't make decisions on that. I need to find out from other people. So making sure you keep your eyes open and you're not just like, "This is the recipe forever." I don't think it's the recipe forever. And working with our naturopathic doctor, she actually works at Erewhon here in Los Angeles, which is a health food store. And she helps us with understanding that dosing and making sure it's safe if you want to consume the whole jar, but it's still effective if you're just having one or two cookies. We do know that people buy flavor-forward and function...they buy for the flavor, but they pay for the function and the health benefits. So we do know there's a hierarchy there: Make it taste fucking good, and then make it healthy. I think often with health foods that's switched. It's like, make it really, really healthy, and then hope it tastes good, or hope it meets people's palates. But this girl grew up in Texas, so if it doesn't taste like...I grew up on literally the standard American diet and fast food and junk food, so I need it to taste good. Taste is king and then secondary is—
Nora Ali: It's like a nice surprise that it's good for you.
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah. It's like, "Oh, didn't even know..." The best compliment is, "This doesn't even taste like it's good for you." Or "This doesn't even taste gluten free." It's like, "Yes, that's exactly what I want people to think."
Scott Rogowsky: But it does taste expensive, because you are putting in these ingredients, and you said people are willing to pay for it. You're pricing dough at $15, I know these stores price differently. Erewhon is just absurdly expensive—for those who don't live in Los Angeles, it's comically expensive. I bought a pint of strawberries and that woman at the register said, "I'm obligated to tell you these cost $20." For the strawberries. I said "$20?"
Sabeena Ladha: "I'm obligated to tell you." I'm dead.
Scott Rogowsky: Because they don't have the prices out there, and then you walk up to the front, like "$20 for strawberries?" So tell me how that pricing works, because you have to cover the cost of your ingredients, and then you ship it out to these retailers, distributors, but how do you land on that number, $15?
Sabeena Ladha: Pricing is a fun game in food, especially now that literally every other week it's like "Our ingredient costs are going up. Our packaging costs are going up." It's wild. So it's interesting. We're cheaper in store than online. We're at Whole Foods, we're at $9.99, online we're $15. And I'm going to give you a little peek into that, is because we have to cold ship. So we have to bake in a lot of those cold shipping costs into the cost of the product. It's two-day shipping, there's ice packs, there's liners that are expensive, and that all adds up, and we don't want to make it a shipping cost because we've done conversion rate tests and we know that when you add the shipping cost, people will drop off, right? People are actually more willing to pay the premium price online because of the convenience, right? And because retail's like the wild, wild west. You're not sitting on a shelf with a bunch of competitive products that are priced differently or priced lower, you're sitting online and they're on your website and they're being sold on your experience, and your brand, and the functional benefits, and the health benefits, and the convenience of it arriving to your door, or if you're going to gift it, right? So you can take a different pricing approach, but it will be probably a little bit more of a struggle when we're national. So we're in Whole Foods right now in the Southern Pacific region. And then we're in a ton of retailers in New York and Chicago and Dallas. But the second we turn on a national retailer—we're launching at Target in a couple weeks—it will be a little trickier, because we might have some kind of leakage from DTC to retail. But it's cheaper for us to operate in retail because you can literally send pallets and truckfuls of, just a refrigerated or frozen truck, and send it to retail. So it is actually cheaper because you don't have the two-day UPS, you don't have all that extra stuff.
Nora Ali: Especially for a premium product where the price might feel a little bit high, I imagine word of mouth is really important for you guys. And you mentioned NPS a couple of times, and that's of course Net Promoter Score, which asks consumers, "How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend on a scale of one to 10?" I would guess that your NPS is pretty high, because even early on, your customers were posting unsponsored, promotional content in support of the brand, in support of you. And since you've grown, you've also gotten influencers and celebrities, like Kristin Cavallari, who have begun doing the same as well. How important is word of mouth for your brand to stand from the other brands out there? And why do you think these people have really latched onto the brand such that they promote it unsponsored sometimes?
Sabeena Ladha: All the time, our number one revenue source is seeding. It's literally gifting to influencers, celebrities, people in the space. It's kind of interesting—there are the brands or the products that are gifted and people feel obligated to post, or they feel like they need to be paid to post. And then there are the brands and like the PR boxes that you get and that you're just excited about. A great example of that is, do you know the beauty brand Summer Fridays?
Nora Ali: Yes.
Sabeena Ladha: So we partnered with them, and people are just so excited to get their products that they will post for free, because they just want Summer Fridays’ products. And so the goal has always been to make Deux something that influencers are so excited to get that they'll post it, and they feel a connection to the brand, and they just love the product that much that they'll post it. And that has been our number one revenue driver since the beginning. And it's the reason our customer acquisition cost is so low. Whereas on previous brands I've worked on or consulted with, Facebook was 50% of their media spend, and then one iOS change and that kind of fucks everything up. So if you've got a product that people are proud of and kind of wear as a badge, going back to Erewhon, right? When you have an Erewhon green juice, it's kind of like a badge, or it used to be the Starbucks cup, 10 years ago when you had the Starbucks cup, it was like a badge. So it's almost like this digital badge, which, grateful that people love the product so much and are so invested in the brand that they want to share.
Nora Ali: And we'll talk more about Shark Tank momentarily, but I love that you told Mr. Wonderful, "With all due respect, you are not our target customer."
Sabeena Ladha: Oh my God. That was controversial.
Nora Ali: I enjoyed it, personally.
Scott Rogowsky: Well, you've certainly got personality and it's helping grow your business. We're going to take a quick break with Sabeena, but more about Deux when we come back. Much ado about everything. The story of Deux—it's a young company, it's grown tremendously. You launched officially October 2020 online. You hit your two-month revenue target within one week. By January 2021, you've grown 600% in sales in just six months. We're talking about the role of the internet and all this social media, but let's get into the Shark Tank episode, because this was a big moment.
Sabeena Ladha: Shark Tank episode...I like PTSD.
Scott Rogowsky: Do you?
Sabeena Ladha: No, I'm just kidding. I don't, I don't at all. I did, I was traumatized, and you talk to a psychiatrist afterward. You have to like meet with a psychiatrist after you film. Yeah. It's like a thing.
Scott Rogowsky: I want to get into the behind the scenes, because I know a few people who've appeared on the show and look, at the end of the day, it's a television show, right? It's there to entertain; even when deals are made on the show, I know that some of those deals break down off camera.
Sabeena Ladha: Most.
Scott Rogowsky: Most of them don't get made, they do the due diligence and all that. So at the end of the day, they're just trying to put on a fun show. You came on—tell us about that experience, and first of all, how does one get on Shark Tank? The application of it all; why you wanted to go on the show?
Sabeena Ladha: It's a gnarly process. It is no joke. I've had a ton of people reach out to me being like, "You know, I'm considering applying" or like "I got reached out to by a producer" or whatever they say, my advice is always "Think twice if you want to spend"...because it's a lot of time. I probably spent a hundred hours total on the application, on doing videos with a producer. You spend a lot of time on it, and that's a hundred hours I could have spent on the business, right? Especially being a solo founder, it's hard, right? You have to make that choice. I kind of went into it with no expectations. If I get cut, then fine, because you can get cut at any point in time throughout the process. If it doesn't, the business is doing well without it, I don't necessarily need it. My business is not dying if I don't go on the show. It's kind of scary—even when you film, you're not guaranteed to air. But to your point, Scott, it's for good TV. It is literally reality TV, and I think that's a disconnect that a lot of viewers absolutely don't put together, right? I didn't before, and I've seen episodes of Shark Tank. They think it's real, right? They think you are really, really trying to get money from these investors and your business will fail if you don't. And then the other thing is, even when you film, founders don't make that connection either. I think me making that connection early on of, "I'm trying to film a really good, fun episode. A deal would be great, but I really want to make good TV." That was a little bit of the mindset I had, too, you know?
Scott Rogowsky: So you came in looking for 10% at a $3 million valuation; Robert offered $300,000 for 15%, you were quibbling over a few percentage points, and you ultimately pulled out of the deal, but you were okay with that. You were basically like, "Look, I have my number and if I don't get that, then I'm good." And ultimately, just being on the show is great exposure for the company. So many brands and companies have gone viral, even if they don't get...The deal's secondary, right? Just being on the show, you have a memorable moment and you did have a memorable moment because of how you were dressed, is what the internet made a big deal about. But you're great on camera, you're a good personality, and it made for a good television, like you said, so you left not feeling totally broken up about it. You were okay, ultimately.
Sabeena Ladha: I was depressed for like a week. And also, the $3 million valuation is interesting. Because I had just raised at a $6 million cap. So I already was going in with half the valuation and people don't put that together. Like "She just raised a million dollars at a $6 million valuation gap. She's going in at a $3 million valuation. It's already a haircut, had 1.5 negotiations with Robert." And it's interesting, though, right afterwards, I had a ton of founders who had been on the show tell me "Don't Google yourself." And of course I air on a Friday night, Saturday morning, I'm in bed, my phone is about to hit my face, and I'm on Reddit. I'm like, "What are people saying about me on Reddit?" And it's just stressful. People are assholes. Let me just tell you that. And the stuff about the business, it didn't bother me. I don't know why. Maybe I have thicker skin on that side, I'm just like, "Great, you can say whatever you want about the business. We did $1.2 million in our first year." Whatever. So say what you want. It was the personal stuff that really got to me, right? It was like, "She shouldn't have worn that outfit." It was the, "I can't believe she negotiated." Where I was like, "We negotiated 1.5 times and everyone negotiates on that show." "Can't believe she disrespected Mr. Wonderful and told him that he wasn't the target consumer." And I was like, "Look, I'm trying to bring a little bit of sass to this."
Nora Ali: Yes.
Sabeena Ladha: I'm trying to make it spicy. Let me keep it spicy. It was all of that stuff that, now I'm laughing about it, but at the time I was like, "Holy shit, I'm really unlikeable. I guess I should have thought about what I wore." I loved my outfit, but I was like, "Maybe I shouldn't have worn that." You just start to have all these thoughts of like, "Fuck, people really hate me." But then, to your point, Scott, about...you can use the show however you want to use the show. You can be on the show and then that's it, you were on Shark Tank, or you can turn it into something, and luckily, I did this TikTok, again, kind of being a little sassy, and it took off. And that viral TikTok is really a reason that people discovered us. TikTok is where our consumer is; Shark Tank might be a little bit of an older consumer, but our Gen Z, millennial female consumer is on TikTok. So she found us, and largely I would say the comments on that TikTok were like, "Your suit was fucking amazing. Your outfit was great. You're such a boss." And I actually think it probably brought a younger viewer too. Because then people went and watched the show. Because they wanted to see what it was about. So I was like, "You're welcome. We brought you a younger viewer to Shark Tank." But yeah, it was a little bit of a tumultuous thing that ended up now being...it really was beneficial to the brand and it allowed us to tell a brand story about feminism, and about empowering women, and why we shouldn't care what a female wears, because you would've never talked about if a man were wearing cutoff shorts and a cutoff shirt, nobody would've cared.
Nora Ali: People wear the strangest things on that show. Why would they comment on your cute suit? It's crazy. But it sounds like you had a very good attitude and approach to it overall. It was a memorable episode. You made it fun. You made it interesting. But I think more broadly speaking, one of the maybe softer challenges of entrepreneurship, I think, is party chatter, social chatter. You're associated, your identity becomes the thing that you're building. I was listening on another interview where you said you were introduced at a party as the founder of Deux.
Sabeena Ladha: I was like, "I do more than just cookie dough."
Nora Ali: Yeah, I'm a human too. But the thing is if someone recognizes the brand, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I love Deux. You started Deux,? That's amazing." That feels super validating in the moment. But if someone doesn't know Deux, they're like, "Oh, so you make cookie dough for a living?"
Sabeena Ladha: Literally, I feel stupid. They're like, "Oh, you make cookies." And I'm like, "Actually it's cookie dough."
Nora Ali: And it's healthy. Thank you.
Sabeena Ladha: It sounds kind of stupid when I have to explain it.
Nora Ali: Totally, totally. And it's just a lot of whiplash and ups and downs. So I wonder, does that kind of thing stress you out? Do you find it hard to separate your identity from Deux and from your career?
Sabeena Ladha: I literally just posted on my Instagram, because we had an event last night, and I wore a hot pink dress because the brand color is a hot pink. And I literally put on my stories, I was like, "I guess I have to wear hot pink for the rest of my life." Like until I sell this business, I have to wear hot pink. And I think that's why—I've had a couple founder friends who've exited successfully. And they said the two years after their exit were the hardest two years of their life. Mentally, from a mental health perspective, because you're so associated with this brand. It is your life. And then they both had amazing, massive exits. And they're like, "Yeah, now who am I? I'm not this company anymore." Having those boundaries is really difficult, but one of my New Year's resolutions was, "I want to be more than that." I want people to know that I'm more than that. So "How do I do that?" is the question. And it takes a huge toll on your mental health, too, because your self-worth then is on your daily sales, right? If we have a bad sales day on Shopify, my worth is down here. I think part of it too is, it's this roller coaster, and how do you operate more even-keeled, right? Things that used to get me so high don't get me as high anymore, right? And then things that used to make me depressed in bed and anxious don't get me as low anymore. So it's almost like learning that stoicism, and that I think in its nature allows you to pull yourself away from it. So you're not attributing all of your worth to this one thing.
Scott Rogowsky: You know, I actually tried Deux. I was given a jar from a friend of mine. She's like, "I got this cookie dough. It's enhanced cookie dough. It's edible." She was basically inferring that it has like marijuana, THC in it. And so I was like, "Okay, I'll try this." And I'm like, "Nothing's happening," it's good. But I'm looking at the ingredients, I'm like, "I don't see anything about THC or edibles...I think this is just regular...I think it's just cookie dough." But the enhanced cookie dough, is that an intentional play on things, are you trying to maybe make this seem like it's got some properties here that could be psychoactive? Because it worked on her. She assumed that this was...
Sabeena Ladha: That's hilarious. No, it's funny, on TikTok we've gotten that question of, "So does this have weed in it, or...?" And we're like, "No, it doesn't." We debated going a bunch of different ways on how to describe that it is enhanced with functional ingredients, and functional was the other viable option. And functional is the worst word. Who wants to eat something called functional? That sounds so boring. Functional cookie dough? Let me just suck all the fun out of cookie dough and call it functional. So we went with enhanced. The key is now educating people on...One of our investors is the founder of a company called Super Coffee, and they get kind of like a similar question. They're like "Super Coffee? What makes it super?" And so we get "What makes it enhanced?" And now they're a massive business. They have distribution everywhere. And he was like, "You just have to educate the consumer on it." But yeah...
Scott Rogowsky: That's not the worst thing if people mistake it for. "Oh, okay," you know...
Sabeena Ladha: It does have a little bit of mushrooms. It's not that kind of mushroom. Just not that kind of mushrooms.
Nora Ali: The other kind.
Scott Rogowsky: Now it's time for Quizness Casual.
Sabeena Ladha: Oh my God. I'm so bad at trivia.
Scott Rogowsky: The Business Casual quiz. The enhanced quiz. This is our enhanced Business Casual quiz, and these questions are all about healthy-ish snacks. So it's in your realm, all right? We're not asking about the War of 1812 here, okay? Qumero numero uno, which of the following better-for-you ice cream brands recently changed its recipe after consecutive years of declining sales: Arctic Zero, Halo Top, So Delicious, or Enlightened?
Sabeena Ladha: Wow.
Nora Ali: I mean, Halo Top had a big moment a few years ago, right?
Sabeena Ladha: That's what I'm thinking. Maybe they started declining? I think they were bought, so maybe they started declining. So changed a little bit of their recipe. Arctic Zero, I had that one and it was a little diety for me. Arctic Zero has not a lot of calories, like no calories to the point where you're like, "What am I eating?"
Nora Ali: It tastes like chalk.
Sabeena Ladha: I would probably go...I would probably go...Yeah, literally. No, I do think Halo Top, since it had its moment and it could be declining—
Nora Ali: If you're feeling it, I'm feeling it. Shall we lock it in?
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah. Lock it in.
Nora Ali: Halo Top, Scott.
Scott Rogowsky: Halo. I can see your halo, halo, halo. I can see you getting this right? Yes. After sales soar to a staggering $373 million in 2017, Halo Top has seen declines each of the past four calendar years, struggling to keep up with the original demand. But the new recipe with ultra-filtered milk aims to make it a little creamier. It is called ice cream, you know?
Sabeena Ladha: People are gonna go into non-dairy route.
Scott Rogowsky: Right. Right. Okay.
Nora Ali: Nailed it.
Scott Rogowsky: Next question. Which of the following healthy snack companies does not sell cookies: Lesser Evil, Hu Kitchen, Siete Foods, or Tia Lupita?
Sabeena Ladha: Tia Lupita. My friend started Tia Lupita.
Scott Rogowsky: Really?
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah. I love Tia Lupita. It's a really good hot sauce company, and they do not sell cookies. I have literally every single one of their products.
Scott Rogowsky: You would know. You would know, and you would probably tell your buddy, "Hey, stay out of my territory. It's my corner."
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah, no. I'm not trying to get into hot sauce.
Scott Rogowsky: I'm on the cookie corner here. Yeah. No, you're right. Tia Lupita, they have the hot sauce, they have the chips now, right? Cactus chips?
Sabeena Ladha: They have chips, they have cactus chips, they have cactus tortillas; it's a bomb brand. I'm obsessed with it.
Scott Rogowsky: Got to try that. I haven't heard of that, Nora, have you?
Nora Ali: No, I haven't.
Sabeena Ladha: He used to bring them to work. We used to work at Diamond Foods together, and when he would go to Mexico, he would bring the hot sauce from his mom. It was in this unlabeled sketchy jar, and he would bring it in a suitcase and bring it to us in the office. And I was like, "You need to make this, you need to commercialize it." And then he did.
Scott Rogowsky: Wow, you inspired him.
Nora Ali: Oh my gosh.
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah.
Scott Rogowsky: Amazing. All right, final question. You're two for two here. Which of the following is not a real product sold at LA's specialty health-focused grocery store that we all know and love, Erewhon? Not a real product, okay? So three of these are real, keep in mind. A: hyper-oxygenated water, B: banana flour, C: collagen honey, or D: activated almonds. Three of these are real.
Sabeena Ladha: The oxygenated water is definitely real because I think it's like $60. I've seen that. One bottle of water is like $60.
Nora Ali: What?
Sabeena Ladha: So that one's definitely real. Nora, have you heard of any of the other ones?
Nora Ali: No, but activated almonds? I want to know how they're activated. That doesn't sound real.
Sabeena Ladha: Collagen honey sounds normal to me. I don't know—
Nora Ali: That sounds normal.
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah that's...probably exists.
Nora Ali: Doesn't banana flour sound like a thing?
Sabeena Ladha: It kind of sounds like a thing.
Nora Ali: I've eaten dried bananas, like banana chips, you could definitely make that into a flour.
Sabeena Ladha: So we're going to say the activated...I mean, I also don't know what activated almonds are. Like what do you activate them with? I don't know. Charcoal? I'm going to say activated almonds.
Scott Rogowsky: So, activated almonds as being not the product that you can buy. Well, to put it simply, activated almonds are just regular almonds that have been soaked in water for 24 hours before being dried out again. It helps, I guess, activate, like sprouted flour, but you know what? It's a real thing, and it's sold at Erewhon, but you know what isn't? Collagen honey.
Sabeena Ladha: The one that we were like, "That sounds normal."
Scott Rogowsky: That sounds normal. You're right. It does. That's a credit to our question writers.
Sabeena Ladha: Yeah, that's a good one. That was a trick one.
Nora Ali: That's a good one.
Scott Rogowsky: That's a good one.
Nora Ali: Wow. We got schooled.
Scott Rogowsky: But you know what? You're a good one. You got two out of three right. That's a winner, baby, in our book. And more importantly, you're a winner in life. Congratulations on your success. It's really staggering and well deserved.
Sabeena Ladha: Thank you.
Scott Rogowsky: And I want some...I want some Deux.
Sabeena Ladha: I'll send you guys some; I'll send you our new cinnamon roll flavor.
Scott Rogowsky: Ooh.
Nora Ali: Thank you, Sabeena, for joining us on the podcast.
Sabeena Ladha: Oh my gosh. Thank you for having me.
Scott Rogowsky: We love hearing from our Business Casual listeners. So please hit us up. Send us an email at Business Casual, morningbrew.com or DM us on Twitter @bizcasualpod. That's B I Z casual pod, with your thoughts. Do you like cookie dough? Let me know.
Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website, businesscasual.fm, or give us a ring and leave us an old-fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from so we can hear from you in a future episode.
Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual is hyper oxygenated, activated, and enhanced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production, sound design, and mixing by Daniel Markus. Sarah Singer is our VP of Multimedia, Holly van Leuven is our fact checker. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or wherever you go for that ear dough. And we'd love it if you'd give us a great rating and a review.
Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.
Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.
Nora Ali: Keep it business.
Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual.