#NewtoNext, Aila, Katie Webb
October 8, 2021 | Inspiration
Katie Webb wanted a pre-workout supplement with healthy ingredients instead of the traditional brands packed with caffeine and artificial additives. Like so many entrepreneurs, when Katie couldn’t find a product to do the trick, she created her own.
After experimenting with different superfoods in the kitchen, a solution and business idea brewed. Aila is an active nutrition brand specializing in energy-boosting mixes made from plant-based ingredients, including turmeric, monk fruit, and beetroot.
Katie knew there was a market for the product. In addition to her job in advertising sales, she taught fitness classes around New York City and heard the same feedback from the women in her classes.
Katie decided to leave her full-time job in February 2020 and channeled her marketing and sales superpowers in Aila exclusively.
With nothing to lose, she entered the 2020 Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition and was named a finalist. Although she didn’t win, Katie’s perseverance and determination propelled Aila to new levels. Read on for our check in with her one year later.
Watch the entire conversation here.
Enthuse Foundation (EF): So, tell me about the past year and how Aila has grown?
Katie Webb, Founder, Aila (KW): We’ve been rapidly growing, which is exciting. We relaunched in June with new packaging, a new website, and five new products. We made significant headway with some new retail partners, including Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie. We are so fortunate. Retail is very different not only because of COVID but also because of how the world and technology have evolved. For example, you used to walk in your neighborhood store or a local mom and pop shop and say, ‘Hey, here’s my product, is your store manager here?’ You absolutely can’t do that anymore. You need persistence and to get in front of as many people as possible, even if it’s virtually.
EF: That’s amazing and extremely impressive. How do you make your Pitch Deck stand out, so those companies want to include Aila in their offerings?
KW: Whether it is a cold e-mail or applying to a Pitch Competition, I believe less is more. In addition to sales, I have a marketing background. When I first started pitching and sending around my deck, I found myself adding a lot of fluff. Something you might include in an advertisement for consumers but not necessarily investors. It is essential to be clear, direct, and straightforward. Tell what your product/company is, who your customers are and what’ve you done to reach them. And then, from there, how you’re going to scale. As an e-commerce brand, that’s the structure we use.
EF: Ok, once you send a deck or an e-mail and get a response asking you to move forward. How do you handle pitching virtually, and what tips can you provide to others?
KW: We had done a couple of pitches pre-COVID in person, but many of the pitches I do now are over Zoom. Something people should be mindful of is body language. Your viewers can’t necessarily read your body language, and you can’t read their body language on a computer screen. So, pay attention to the voice’s vibrato and show enthusiasm, whether that’s talking with your hands or smiling while you present. Smiling raises your endorphin levels while you’re speaking. It can make all the difference, rather than reading your slides off your deck or off your screen. I think I pay even more attention to that now versus standing up in front of a group.
EF: Excellent point. I haven’t heard body language be mentioned as much in a virtual presentation, but you are right.
KW: It depends on your style, too. I’ve never liked memorizing pitches. I want to feel like I’m talking to people. I came from 10 years in sales, so maybe that’s it. I compare the concept of smiling while pitching to having a phone job interview. The advice I received was to walk around the room and smile while you’re talking. It just changes how people receive you. Also, if I try to memorize things and someone throws a question at me, I’m like, ‘What was I supposed to say next?’ So, keeping it a little lighter has always worked for me.
EF: Unfortunately, you didn’t win last year’s Pitch Competition. How do you keep moving forward, whether it is a retailer not getting back to you or not getting an investment?
KW: I think the key is to stay consistent and keep people updated on your progress. I use a lot of strategies that I used in my previous roles. I try to put effort into making every follow-up thoughtful. For example, I’ll write, ‘Oh, I saw you guys just launched its brand. I’m a big fan. I’ve been using them for whatever.’ Or ‘Aila just got this press I thought you would enjoy.’ Consistency, creativity, and persistence are vital for opening those doors. I say, ‘what do you have to lose?’ They say no, and ideally, they tell you why. Mark it down to experience and keep moving. The word no is something that I was very used to and in my ten years in advertising sales, so I just let it roll off.
EF: Well, that consistency has undoubtedly paid off with significant partnerships. What’s next for you?
KW: I’m getting married next year! When I got engaged, there was a lot of press around 2022 being the wedding boom and suggesting everyone getting married should do everything early. So, I did. Now I can focus on my other love, Aila.
Conclusion: Want to be a successful entrepreneur? Here’s the secret – be persistent and have a thick skin. Katie was used to hearing “no” and getting rejections from her ten years in advertising sales. She has maintained that mentality with her business securing retail partnerships with three well-known brands. Take Katie’s advice and once you ask yourself, ‘what do I have to lose?’ enter the Enthuse Foundation Pitch Competition.
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