BlogHer U: Productizing -- How Online Can Become a Product Line with Alicia DiRago, Jadah Sellner, and Tara Sophia Mohr


Sharing Each Panelist's Story

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big women's leadership program

{Lost due to tech malfunction - we will review tape and add later}

Jadah Sellner, Simple Green Smoothies

I started Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram first, taking pictures of our smoothies each morning. We got a great following; then Facebook. Then our first product -- a free 30-day juice challenge to get everyone to make one smoothie a day, creating a healthy habit. That had great response, so we developed a site and newsletter to support that. I believe in putting your best product out there for free, so people feel comfortable with and devoted to you, and then offer them your product.

Alicia DiRago, WhimseyBox

I send craft boxes for adults. I was a chemical engineer. When we moved, I didn't want to do that again. But I wanted new friends, and I loved crafting. So I devised a plan to meet women in cafes, give them craft lessons, they'd pay me, and I'd get friends! I started a blog to support that and then most of my audience wasn't local and they wanted a way to play, so I created Whimseybox. I wrote to bloggers and asked if I could send to them to have them let me know what they think. Some of them wrote about it, so we had a waitlist. Moving from online to product is a lot of work, and it was quick and dirty until I had proven that this was a thing people would buy. Then I applied to an accelerator program and went through intense mentorship and pitching. I got investment. My family relocated to Boulder and we're outgrowing even our new office, all in less than two years.

Finding Product/Market Fit

Tara: The match between what you want to offer and what your audience wants. It's a huge piece of work to find that magic. I got on the phone with my readers. I still do it, 15 minutes, every few months. I learn so much every time. I get great blog content and product ideas. I don't ask for specific product feedback , but about their lives. It's not that effective to survey people about actual products. It's hard for humans to predict what they will buy. Instead: What's the biggest challenge in your life? If we were meeting for coffee what would you want to talk about it? My job is to interpret what people are struggling with. The phrase "playing big" came from a survey.

Jadah Sellner quote

Jadah: Ask what is your dream solution for the struggle? It's a good thing to incorporate to readers so we know they get them.

Alicia: We survey once a month as well and meet to talk through what's working/not working.

MVP - Minimum Buyable Product

Alicia: MVP means you have to get something out there. It's not your best work, it's under your brand! It's uncomfortable! You can't put out your optimum product on day one. You don't even know what it is yet. As an entrepreneur, sometimes I fall in love with my own ideas, and then sometimes I fall out of them. I gave myself 60 days to do WhimseyBox as quickly as possible before I talked myself out of it and didn't do it.

Jadah: We launched our first ebook for $5 on January 31; it took us 2 weeks to create.


Jadah: I'm passionate about community building but I'm also an introvert. The power of an introvert is that you listen a lot. I'm always listening. To activate, make sure you're working with the right community. Who's the person you're always talking to in your community? Who's in your dream audience? Find one person to talk to, or you'll dilute your message and your brand. I'm passionate about working with moms. So even though our audience is diverse, when I'm talking in email I'm talking to one rockstar mom. Figure out, who do you want to help? Craft your product around helping that person. You can't solve everyone's problems.

Figure out who you want to work with, solve their problems, give them tons of free valuable product so they trust and want to work with you, then invite them to go a step further with you with a paid product.

Question: If you have a blog and want to start a product do you have to create a space separate from your blog or can you marry products to your blog?

Tara: If you don't have to don't build infrastructure. You're still testing your product at first.

Alicia: Desirable to incorporate into existing brand.

Question: Kim Watson, How did you get phone numbers of your readers?

Tara: Emailed my subscriber list and made clear it was not marketing or sales call, asked for phone numbers.

Question: The word passion has come up so much already. How do you balance passion with what the data points to? Should we only focus on the 20% of our posts that people really love?

Jadah: From Family Sponge, which was very general, I knew I wanted to write a green smoothie ebook for moms, a very specific product, to see if it would take off and it did. So create a specific product idea to bring them in. Need to find the sweet spot where you're excited about it AND they're excited about it.

Question: Buffy, Boomer Grandparents. I have the idea for the product and I don't know how to make it a product. How do I do an ebook that has workbooks, for example?

Alicia: Ask! Ask online, ask your connections, for what you want. Be persistent.

Question: Can you tell me more about partnership? How do you balance?

Jadah: I have a 50/50 partnership -- she creates the pretty and I do the marketing/branding, we've expanded that as we've developed teams. It's been a blessing to have a partner.

Alicia: I started by myself and brought in a tech cofounder 6 months later, gave up a significant equity stake in the business. We knew each other from startup scene. At the accelerator, they told me I couldn't do this alone, so I FB messaged him. What a godsend.