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In today’s episode, we sit down with Asha Dillon, founder of Leadr, a pioneering brand in the pet wellness industry. Asha shares her journey from corporate product development to entrepreneurship, highlighting the importance of identifying market trends, infusing innovation into product development, and embracing sustainable practices. Join us as we explore the challenges and triumphs of building a business with purpose and passion.

In today’s episode,  you’ll learn:

  • Identify Market Trends: Recognising shifts in consumer behaviour and market demands is crucial for business success.
  • Transitioning to Entrepreneurship: Starting a business requires humility, perseverance, and adaptability, especially when transitioning from corporate roles.
  • Innovation in Product Development: Prioritize science-backed ingredients and innovative formulations to create effective products that address market needs.
  • Adapting Marketing Strategies: Utilize both organic and paid marketing channels, adapting strategies to resonate with the target audience.
  • Sustainable Practices: Incorporating sustainable practices, such as eco-friendly packaging, not only aligns with consumer values but also fosters brand loyalty.
  • Patience in Product Development: Patience and perseverance are essential in overcoming challenges during product development, ensuring the final product meets quality standards.

Links from the show:


Asha Dillon: Especially in regard to product development and innovation people will always deter you to do something that’s easier and simpler, especially if it’s easier for them. And if you really believe in what you’re doing, you’ve got to have a lot of grit and perseverance to make it come to life.

Dahna Borg: Hi, and welcome to the bright minds of e-commerce podcast. I’m Dahna founder of bright red marketing, and after helping so many businesses in the e-commerce space over the years, I wanted to bring you the best advice Australian experts in e-commerce and e-commerce store owners had to offer. If you want relatable stories and actionable advice and the latest Facebook advertising strategies, you’re in the right place. so let’s get into today’s episode.

Today. We’re here with Asher Dillon from Leadr. Welcome Asher.

Asha Dillon: Hi. Thank you. Happy to be here.

Dahna Borg: So good to have you on the show. So can you tell us how Leadr came to be?

Asha Dillon: Yeah. So , I’d worked in the vitamin industry for almost 10 years. So working for big sort of ASX listed companies such as Blackmore’s and a company called H and H that owns Swiss vitamins. And sort of spent a lot of time primarily in product development and innovation, which was really around looking at sort of innovations in raw material trends.

Things like that. You know, there was a phase where fish oil was all the rage. And then there was a phase where ash one ashwagandha was really popular. They’re sort of applying those. Innovation and trends into product development and developing product that people will essentially want to buy. So looking at what the demand is and then making sure we have, you know, really good quality product to sell them.

And it wasn’t until Sort of the end of my time working in the human supplement industry that I felt really frustrated by some of the brands that I was working for. I didn’t think they were being very innovative. It was very corporate, very bureaucratic. Innovation was very slow. And they just weren’t.

Really giving us briefs for new products or anything that I was really passionate about or found interesting. I just felt like I was developing the same products over and over again. And I’ve brought around 70 products out to market that many Australians would regularly use. So I’ve done like a breadth of product, but I sort of was uninspired.

And I’ve always been a huge animal lover. I had five dogs growing up and horses and cats lived on a property, so was very passionate about animals. And it wasn’t really until about two years ago where I noticed that a lot of my friends were buying dogs instead of having babies.


Dahna Borg: Trend. It’s a trend. It’s a trend. It’s a

Asha Dillon: such a trend and they were sort of asking me like, Oh, my dog has really bad anxiety or my dog’s allergic to every single protein.

He has diarrhea all the time. What can I give him? And it wasn’t really until that point, which is quite funny because obviously working in the vitamin industry, you’d assume that I would think about, you know, animal nutrition and animal wellness and things like that. But it wasn’t until that point where I was like, Oh, this is really interesting.

It’s the generation of fur babies where animals are almost becoming, you know, like a little mini human as part of the family, but also due to sort of changes in their own nutrition and their diet and lifestyle changes, dogs, and cats are pretty unhealthy these days. And they were really suffering similar issues to us, whether it was, you know, IBS or poor gut health, food intolerances stress and anxiety, joint problems, joint pain, things like that.

So I sort of went to market to look at what was available, what I could recommend to my friends, you know, as a qualified nutritionist and a vitamin product developer, I was often asked what people should use and what products were good quality. And then I sort of realized that none of the products on the market would specify the dose of any of the active ingredients in them.

And the, the labels were, you know, pretty basic and the ingredients were pretty basic. So I

was sort of

Dahna Borg: Cause there’s not a lot of like regulation around the pet food industry as a whole anyway, is there?

Asha Dillon: Yeah, yeah, correct. I’d say that pet vitamins is like pretty in its infancy. And then in regard to pet food, yeah, there’s sort of, you know, it’s regulated by a certain body, but if it’s natural, it’s sort of, , unregulated, so to speak. So yeah, that was the big shock to me because I, I’d come from, developing nutraceuticals and pharmaceutical products as well for humans in GMP grade facilities and coming with this real expertise in very premium quality vitamin product development and sort of.

Looking at the pet vitamin industry. I like to think I’ve brought some of that finesse into the industry to provide, you know, my dog has loved my life. I’m very careful what I give him in regard to food, in regard to treats, even dental sticks. There’s so many products that I avoid. So I wanted to be able to.

Build a brand where people could take care of their pets and make them as healthy as humanly possible, we say, and our approach to that is creating these very easy to give, delicious vitamin chews using human grade science backed ingredients that is really built upon and around efficacy, and that’s something we’re really proud of.

Our bestseller Settle, most people see results within 24 to 48 hours, which is our stress and anxiety supplement. So yeah, of course, depending on the supplement. So with out fetch, which is our joint health supplement that can take, you know, six weeks of daily use to get results, which makes sense because joints, you know, we’re not like an overnight thing to fix and support.

So, yeah, I think what we’re really proud of, what we’re doing is saying our mission come to life and really have thousands of customers who send us photos of their pets. Or call us and tell us stories about how our supplements have improved their life, which makes sort of all the hard work worthwhile for sure.

Dahna Borg: I love that. I mean, obviously you’ve made this transition. How did you find that transition in terms of starting to run your own business? And obviously I assume pet nutrition is different to human nutrition. Like how did you find that transition?

Asha Dillon: Yeah. So I would say there’s nothing more humbling than starting your own business because you go into it thinking. You know, you have to be really confident to take that leap to quit your job. You know, when I was getting paid really well, I had quite a senior role as well. Um, So you have to be in almost like the headspace of going, like amping yourself up to be like, I can do this. I’m going to build this brand. I’m going to change the world in order to even take that leap in the first place. I don’t think many people. Yeah. Have a startup and especially not in their twenties. So then once you do start the business, you’re really brought back down to earth because you’re essentially on your own, you’re doing everything, you know, the amount of manual labor that I have done in this business is, pretty incredible considering I’m quite small.

But yeah, I think. It is really thrilling. I think the highs are really high and the lows are really low. And I think people do underestimate the amount of time and effort that it takes. From a mental and physical point of view as well, especially when working in a product based business, you know, and dealing with stock and inventory and warehouses and packing orders and all those sorts of things.

So pretty incredible experience in the sense that you learn more than you ever thought you possibly could. And, you know, my background is really science, like I’m a qualified nutritionist and I’ve worked in product development. So research and science. And natural medicine is really my background and then starting a business.

I now have to know everything there is to know about marketing. So it’s, yeah, it’s essentially getting five to 10 free uni degrees in a very short period of time.

Dahna Borg: Yeah. And to be fair, you learn more running a business than you do in a marketing degree at uni because I’ve done both.

Asha Dillon: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Dahna Borg: what did you sort of do marketing wise to bring this product to market?

Asha Dillon: Yeah. So we didn’t do any paid marketing for the first three months. Um, That was primarily because we didn’t really know what to do to be brutally honest. I think when this is what I always tell people, like when you launch a new brand or a startup or, you know, a new business idea, it’s all really based on sort of your hypothesis of what you think.

And of course, backed by, your research and market insights and things like that, what you think people will love, why you think they will love it and how to convey that message to them, so to speak, is the way that I, think about it. So I think for the first few months, we weren’t really keen to put too much money into marketing.

We really wanted to see how the brand resonated with people organically. And sort of, you know, we did a lot of Instagram posts, know, we spent a lot of time on our website, a lot of investment behind the website as well. So I think it wasn’t until the, maybe the third month that we started actually having a paid ad strategy and that’s really when the brand took off.

So, you know, of course, launching a brand new brand, unless you have a celebrity co founder or, you know, a huge influencer or someone in the early days. The one thing that I am conscious of is like, how is anybody going to know who we are? How is anybody going to find you? Unless your friend tells you about or you see an ad or see something on social media, you know, you can’t expect people to come flocking to your website on launch day.

Um. So, yeah, we’re definitely more refined and, you know, the business is really young. We’re only 10 months old, so we’re constantly learning and we’re constantly testing and trying new things. But I think what’s really worked for us is having the time in market now to really have repeat customers come back and repurchase because the products are working and then that sort of natural word of mouth referral as well.

Dahna Borg: Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, I run Facebook ads. And I think the way that you did it is the best way to do it. There’s nothing worse than having a branch that’s a day old and they’re like, let’s run Facebook ads. And you’re like, you kind of need to take it to market first see what happens, get some organic traction, see what’s happening.

And then go from there. So I think you’ve made very good decisions. it’s obviously working very well for you.

What help with your facebook and instagram ads remember you can always book in a free strategy forward slash free dash strategy dash session we’ll run through all of your ads see what’s working and what’s not and no sales pitch i promise. So let’s get back to today’s episode.

Is there anything that you would do differently now, knowing what you know over the last 10 months around your marketing?

Asha Dillon: Around marketing. Um, I mean, I think that I would, in hindsight, have put more effort behind the organic channels. I think it is really, it is a really interesting time to have a direct to consumer brand and to have a new brand unless you have a lot of capital behind you. And the reason that I say that is I think we’ve had a really weird period over the last four years.

Consumers. Yeah, I know for me personally I’m an avid consumer. I love to shop and I love to shop online and that makes me a better marketer and a better founder because I can put my mind into the headspace of the consumer. Which definitely helps and I think everybody’s just really fatigued and I think that there’s a lack of like there’s a breadth of product on the market, but there’s really a lack of quality.

And I think that tick tock is something that we haven’t really spent much time doing, but something we’re really going to focus on and I think just looking at ways to organically grow your brand and organically get hype is really important and something I wish I’d focused on earlier. So we, you know, really grew our brand and scaled quickly for getting to a point of meaningful revenue through paid ads and in part through PR.

yeah, I think that there’s just so much more that we can do and could have done organically because even. I even say like Instagram and, you know, organic Instagram of such a pay to play platform. Whereas TikTok is one of the last ones where you can just be, a nobody, so to speak, and launch your first video.

And, if the algorithm’s in your favor or if it’s, you know, something that seems to be shareable, it can go viral and, you can suddenly a content creator. So yeah, it’s a pretty incredible opportunity and it feels like one of the last, to be honest.

Dahna Borg: yeah. I mean, there’s still a little bit of room to do it on Instagram, but your Facebook page isn’t going to make you go viral. Your Facebook page is there so that you can run ads off it.

Asha Dillon: And even like just thinking about Facebook, like I have Facebook, but I don’t have the app on my phone anymore. And I’ve forgotten my password. So it’s there are a lot of millennial consumers, which is our target market who aren’t even on Facebook anymore. And, you know, you as a brand, you want to reach customers where they are.

So, for us, Facebook has worked really well with a certain demographic in the market. However, yeah, we, I don’t feel we’re marketing where our customers are in its totality yet. And there’s a lot of opportunity there.

Dahna Borg: Just as a side note, please remember your password because you need to make sure you have access to your ad account.

Asha Dillon: And I, I know, yeah, yeah, no,

Dahna Borg: You don’t want to lose that.

Asha Dillon: automatically signed in.

Dahna Borg: Fantastic.

Asha Dillon: personal one, I have no idea

where that is.

Dahna Borg: Um,

I also love the ethos of your like sustainability and your packaging and those sorts of things. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and the challenges you had, why that was important to you?

Asha Dillon: Yeah, so I think when I sat down to really sort of ideate and think about what the dream pet supplement brand would look like, there were quite a few non negotiables for me. I think that when I really thought about what that would look like, one of the things that I was super conscious of, which I think I’ve mentioned twice now, is just that there’s a breadth of product in the market and making sure that whatever we’re bringing, whatever one brings out really has a lot of intent behind it and isn’t something of low quality, you know, I think the days of drop shipping are thankfully over.

And now the brands that really succeed are the ones who are actually innovating and creating products from scratch, like I did. And also having, you know, a set of values around the brand. So like our ethos of. Launching our products with sustainable packaging. And we’ve got like a long way to go.

There’s so much we can improve upon as technology improves upon as well in the area. But yeah, I was really conscious of my time at my previous vitamin companies, just saying how much, how many units they sold is pretty crazy if you


Dahna Borg: It’d be insane.

Asha Dillon: Yeah, I try and picture it just of plastic tubs.

I even would go to, you know, the warehouse and just see tens, if not hundreds of thousands of plastic tubs coming off the machinery. So I think for me, I just was super conscious that. People weren’t really valuing their plastic tub of fish oil. They were putting it in the back of their pantry.

They were taking it for three days and then finding it 18 months Leadr and being like, Oh, that’s right. I was on a wellness kick and I was meant to be taking fish oil every day. And I, you know, I’m guilty of that as well. And I work in the industry and I’m a nutritionist, but I really wanted to create a product.

In a packaging sense that had value behind it and was something that people would repurpose, reuse that looked really beautiful, that they would put on their kitchen counter or you know, in their bookshelf because it looked nice and it was premium quality and it was reusable and you could keep it forever, that it wouldn’t get shoved in the back of the pantry.

And I think, you know, what we are doing is really special in regard to, you know, dogs and cats are just the best things in the entire world. So people we’re noticing are putting their Leadr tins out and proud and taking Instagram photos of it. And their dogs recognizing the tin and knowing that it’s supplement time.

And, you know, that’s what we really wanted to do. The category was really fraught with friction in regard to the format. So most of the pet supplements on the market come in the form of tablets, capsules, and powders. And that was something that I was super conscious of. Which was not bringing one of those formats out to market, because given my background, I know compliance is the key thing in regard to taking supplements and also giving them to your, pet.

So, yeah, making sure that we really considered, you know, having this, this reusable treat tin, we call it, you know, obviously it’s more sustainable than shipping out a plastic tub every month, but also would help people to remember to give their dogs their vitamins because you’ve got to give it to them every day for it to work.

Dahna Borg: yeah, exactly. I love that you’ve not made it as a pill because I know that giving dogs pills and tablets is hard, but giving it to a cat is a different story.

Asha Dillon: Yeah. Yeah. And there was honestly, the product development process was so difficult. It took me such a long time to make the chewable chew treat. And there were so many times, I think it took me maybe eight or nine months, there was so many times where my manufacturer was like, let’s just do a powder.

And I was like, there were moments where I considered it as well, just to get to market faster. And I’m so grateful that I was patient. And really stuck to, the format that I thought would resonate better with consumers and be a better experience for the animals. Because now what we’ve resulted in is a really innovative product.

It’s really different to what’s out there. It’s a cleaner supplement, chew on the market. And, you know, we get customer videos and photos of dogs sitting and waiting for their Leadr vitamin in the morning. And that’s really what we wanted. So I think that’s a good lesson, especially in regard to product development and innovation people will always deter you to do something that’s easier and simpler, especially if it’s easier for them.

And if you really believe in what you’re doing, like you’ve got to have a lot of grit and perseverance to make it come to life, essentially.

Dahna Borg: Do you have any advice for people going through that process? Because I feel like, I mean, a nine month process is a really long process. And I’m really glad that you stuck to your guns because it sounds like it’s really paying off for you. But I know that can be really hard to persevere through that.

Have you got any advice for people in a similar boat?

Asha Dillon: Yeah, so nine months is actually incredibly short for a vitamin product development. I think that setting expectations that it can take one to two years to develop a product, whether that’s skincare or vitamins or, you know, clothing or whatever it is, especially when it’s innovation I think even the Spanx, It was a long time ago now, but it took her like years to develop the first spanx underwear.

And you’re thinking like, it’s just shape where surely that’s like,

Dahna Borg: Well, it is now. Cause you can just have what she did and change a little thing.

Asha Dillon: Yeah, yeah, exactly. But when you, you know, creating something from scratch, you’ve got to do a lot of testing, a lot of trial and error, and it does take time. I would definitely consult a professional. So a lot of. People who have started, health and wellness brands or beauty brands are marketers who come in and see, a great brand identity differentiation or consumer segment that’s untouched, or they want to disrupt some sort of market or area.

And I haven’t met many other founders who are product development founders. And I think that when you are not an expert in product development, you’re really at the mercy of your manufacturer. And what they say seems like law. So I think just. Consulting someone who, you know, has worked in product development or has worked in the industry who can provide some sort of insight and context is really important because, if I was to go now and develop, you know, a new paint color with Dulux or something,

and I like went to the the paint manufacturer. I could be completely led astray. They could be like, no, it has to be eggshell white. We don’t make. Pure white it just doesn’t exist and may would be like, okay, I don’t know anything about paint. You’re the manufacturer, you’d know.

Dahna Borg: have to trust you.

Asha Dillon: Yeah, I say that happened a lot.

So I think it’s just getting a diversified set of opinions and consulting an expert, even if it costs you, you know. 10 grand or whatever to work with the product development specialist. It’s definitely worth it because you might end up with a game changing product in the end because you


Dahna Borg: No, I love that. And I think that’s really good advice. Cause I feel like when you’re starting a business, so many people are just winging it the whole way.

Asha Dillon: Yeah.

Dahna Borg: they’ve got an idea, they’ve got something and they’re just like, I’m just going to learn as I go. And I think really getting some experts on board early in the things that you need help with is really helpful.

Asha Dillon: Yeah. And even from a profit margin point of view, there’s a really successful fellow female founder who works in the beauty wellness space that I have a relationship with. And I remember asking her years ago about when she first developed her range and she was like to me, I just. Started this in my kitchen with no business experience.

I didn’t think about what the gross profit margin had to be. And so suddenly, you know, years later, 15 years later whatever, it is, she’s got a really popular brand, but she’s now having to redo sort of her formula and her product development on her, hero products because

she didn’t do it properly from the beginning, so to speak. So, you know, that, that’s a nice story because she created something in her kitchen, you know, that’s a really organic, beautiful story, but like fundamentally business is, about profit and creating profitable business and making sure, you know, you can grow and keep the lights on and reinvest into your company and.

Scale a brand. So yeah, I think it’s really hard to have, the passion side, which is more creative and let’s do it, you know, the best way possible. And then also have that other side, which is why I think co founder relationships work quite well, which is, you know, a different sort of mindset or frame of mind to sort of balance it out.

Dahna Borg: Yeah, very much. So, uh, we’ve covered a lot today, but is there any kind of top e commerce tips that you’d like to share before we wrap up?

Asha Dillon: I would say that what we’re finding is working really well for us is using video UGC and really sort of amplifying much as we can. So we’re using an app, I think it’s called pronounced Tolstoy on our product pages, we actually have a set of five videos of customers or content creators using our products and feeding it to their dogs.

Thanks. Bye. Bye. And that’s something that took us maybe six months to implement into our website, but I think it’s really important, especially today to reiterate the social proof and the trust for people. Like I know for me, you know, as a dog owner, as you know, a dog mom, I am super careful what I feed my dog and I would be super careful about buying something for him online.

So I completely empathize with that with potential customers fast as well. So having video content, showing dogs, eating it, showing them, loving it, you know, putting a face to somebody who’s bought it in the past and left a review, I think is really important, especially when you’re working in health and wellness or food and you’re, you have an e commerce brands because, you know, buying a dog laid online.

Is an easy sell, but buying something that your dog is going to ingest, you know, you have a bit of sort of apprehension around it. So whatever you can do to ease people’s potential reservations, I think is really key.

Dahna Borg: Yeah. I think that works across every industry. I mean, even like fashion and things like people like to see what things look like on real people. Cause you can’t, I mean, you can, but it’s much harder to Photoshop and edit those things to look perfect than on a real person. So I think it is really important to have that sort of organic video content around.

Asha Dillon: Yeah, definitely. And I think there’s a lot of mistrust as well. Like I even know for me as like a consumer in fashion, I won’t buy something if I see it on an influencer, cause I’m like, well, I don’t look like an influencer. I look like a normal person. So I’ll go into the tagged photos and say someone who looks like a little bit like me to see if the shape will suit me.

But yeah, I think definitely using real customers and real people is something that we’re going to see a lot more of in the future as well, especially in a commerce marketing,

Dahna Borg: 100%, 100%. We’ll just get into the last couple of little questions. Do you have a favorite podcast?

Asha Dillon: How I built this. Is my favorite by Guy Raz. I think it is. Yeah. I love that. Obviously being a startup founder myself, you know, hearing inspirational stories about other startup founders keeps me really inspired and motivated. So he interviewed some amazing people.

And then I think just with the time of year, I’m sort of getting more into mindfulness and wellness as well. Especially cause it’s been, you know, stressful year. So I’ve been listening to a little bit of Jay Shetty and things like that.

Dahna Borg: Yeah, lovely. Do you have a favorite business book?

Asha Dillon: Yes, “The hard thing about hard things” by Ben Horowitz. That’s a really great business book. He’s quite direct and straight to the point. I think there’s chapter called Nobody Cares, and it’s sort of about as a founder nobody cares about your problems. Just, yeah, get on with it. And I think that sort of frankness can be quite helpful at times because, you know, you have problems all day, every day, and just realizing that like, You know, nobody really cares. You shouldn’t even care that much. Don’t let it really affect you too much because problems exist and it’s just about working through them.

Dahna Borg: Yeah, I love that.

Do you have any strategies or habits that you follow each day to help you stay on track in business?

Asha Dillon: Yep. So I’m a wellness girly. my sort of things are more around that. I try to go to the gym each day. And the reason for that is that I find that I feel really, really stressed unfortunately um, building, you know, such an early stage business and, trying to scale it and growing really quickly.

So having an outlet that’s healthy, such as exercise is a really good way to release that stress and bring some endorphins in. And I think everybody says, you’ve got to eat well and drink water and go to the gym. But it is something that I didn’t do for a long time that I’ve reintroduced into my mind, and it makes me so much more organized.

It makes me so much better at decision making because I’ve had that outlet to sort of, you know, get that stress out. So it really, really is a game changer, I think, for any sort of founder or person who has a stressful job.

Dahna Borg: Yeah, I definitely agree with that one. And it’s a lesson I am very slowly learning myself, but we’re getting there. We’re getting there. And if people want to visit you and check out what you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to find you?

Asha Dillon: Yep. So our Instagram is Leadrpet, L E A D R P E T, and our website is Leadrpet. com. If people want to try the products, if they’ve got a dog or a cat, you can use the discount code Leadr20 which would get you 20 percent off your first order. Yeah, and then you’ll see us on TikTok a lot more in 2024

Dahna Borg: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show.

Asha Dillon: Thank you. Thanks so much.

Dahna Borg: Thanks for listening to the bright minds of e-commerce podcast. As always you’ll find the show forward slash episode 59. Thanks for listening.

Dahna Borg

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