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Andy Hayes on Subscription Boxes, Community, and Email Marketing

by Tara Gentile
money & life

Andy Hayes on Subscription Boxes, Community, and Email Marketing

Today, I want to share with you a conversation I recently had on the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast.

Tara: Hey everyone. Welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.

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Today, I’ll talk to my friend, Andy Hayes, founder of Plum Deluxe, a subscription tea service that helps people create moments that matter. I spoke with Andy about the windy road he took to finally find the business idea that would work, what he’s learned about growing a business with a physical product, and the unusual way he’s finding new subscribers. Andy Hayes, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.

Tara: All right. So let’s dive right in. When you first told me about the idea behind Plum Deluxe, you told me about your vision for helping people find affordable luxury. What does affordable luxury mean to you today?

Andy: Juicy question to start. I feel like it’s changed a lot for me, and that in turn has helped me be a better teacher of that to other people. So for me, what does affordable luxury mean to me? To me, it’s a very individual concept, and to me, it’s the things in your life, the experiences, the objects that do not require a large amount of time or money to make you feel really good, and so for some people, that may be a walk in the park, more time with your grandchildren, or for other people, it might be frozen yogurt, House of Cards on Netflix, etc. So it’s a very individual thing, but to me, it’s a small amount of effort equals a delicious reward.

Tara: Ooh, that’s awesome. I love the personalized aspect of it, too.

Andy: Well, absolutely, because otherwise, it doesn’t feel very luxurious I don’t think.

Tara: That’s a good a point. So why, I think you’ve basically already answered this, but I want to dig a little further. Why actually pursue luxury? I think it’s something that we think of as beyond the necessities, so why put attention to it? Why pursue it?

Andy: Well, I feel like our lives have so many challenges to them, you know, building a career, building a portfolio or book of work. I know a lot of people listening to this call have their own businesses, and that’s a whole endeavor into itself. Raising children is a big piece of work. So if our lives have so many big kind of seemingly heavy things to them, not to say that, you know, any of those things are heavy, but it’s just there’s a lot to take in and a lot to hold, then we owe it to ourselves to take care of ourself.

To take good care of ourselves, so that we can show up fully in all those things, and to me, luxury represents the things that sort of really make you feel like you’re able to take on the world. They are the things that as we say in the cliché, make you feel like a million bucks, and you know, I think we owe it to ourselves those things. I think in today’s culture, luxury has a very specific connotation, and it’s not necessarily a good one, and we need to change our tunes a bit on that, and remind ourselves, and this is … if you’re hearing this, this is a reminder for you, that whatever you feel like a little luxury is in your life, you deserve it.

You can have it. It’s totally okay, and even if your definition of the thing that really makes you feel good is kind of weird or different or strange, that’s totally cool. Like rock on with it. You know, I … nobody’s going to judge.

Tara: Nice. I love kind of thinking of you as a spokesperson for luxury for everyone, not just, you know, the rich or the famous.

Andy: Thanks. I like that.

Tara: Yeah.

Andy: I like that. I had someone else also told me they felt like I was a spokesperson for helping people to slow down.

Tara: Oh, nice.

Andy: And I feel like that kind of goes hand-in-hand. I think Plum Deluxe is a great place to stop for a moment, and it’s in those spaces that you can get a feel for the things that are really important to you and what they look like and how you can make room for them.

Tara: I love that. So tell us a little bit more about Plum Deluxe. What is your business?

Andy: Plum Deluxe. Well, the business of Plum Deluxe is actually a purveyor of premium loose leaf tea. All organic, all free trade, free of artificial chemicals, sweeteners, etc. That is our business, per se, but I think, as I like to tell people, we’re more in the business of helping people create moments that matter, and that ties right into that thing about slowing down. So if you think about tea, tea is often paired with a lot of very slow, thoughtful moments.

You know, catching up with an old friend. Mothers and daughters getting together, you know, for thoughtful conversation. Slowing down and trying to take in everything that’s happened at the end of a busy day, and so that’s why, if you go to the Plum Deluxe website, under our logo, it doesn’t say, you know, organic tea, you know, oh my God, you know, get all of it before it’s gone. It says making moments matter, because that’s what I feel like our mission truly is try to help people create those moments, and the tea is just how we actually pay ourselves along that path.

Tara: I love that, because, so I’m a big fan of thinking of products as tools. We buy products to help us accomplish something, and often, especially people who sell physical goods kind of get caught up in that, because they don’t see what it is that their product helps someone accomplish. All they see is the product, and so I love hearing from you that you see tea as really being a tool for helping people accomplish those moments that matter.

Andy: And it took me awhile to figure it out, so I, you know, I don’t want to overlook that statement that you just made that it’s easy to get yourself lost in that. I mean, I came at it from a different angle. I had Plum Deluxe before the tea, and I tried a lot of different things to see what fit, and having a physical product for me worked the best, because it’s physical.

People actually have an experience with it. You know, they taste it, they see it, they smell it, they, you know, can meet other customers in our Facebook group, so there’s, you know, the conversation. So for me, that’s what worked best, but I came to that along a journey. It didn’t … you know, I would love to say I was so genius that I was like, oh, you know, this is, you know, we’re about moments, and you know, the tea’s how it all works. That all came together, but it took a long time. Like, you know, five years.

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Tara: Yeah.

Andy: So …

Tara: I’m really glad you pointed that out, so let’s actually hear a little bit more about your journey, because I think, you know, the different things that you’ve been doing in online business are really interesting. You had a travel blog for awhile, Plum Deluxe started and was maybe something a little bit different, and then you’ve evolved into the tea. Can you tell us what that journey actually looked like?

Andy: Oh my goodness, we’re going to need three episodes for this. Okay, so I used to be in IT corporate software, and was really burnt out and seeking a change, really wanted, I had experienced two or three different corporate mergers. Each time, I ended up on the shorter end of the stick.

I didn’t lose my job, but I just found myself in a worse and worse work environment, and so I decided I was going to take control of my future, and I left, and the thing that I started, that you mentioned, travel, that was where I started, because I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Edinburgh’s a big tourism town, and I kind of ended up in there, and travel, the thing that I was talking about when I was in travel was I wanted to understand why we were better versions of ourselves when we were on vacation.

Tara: Ooh.

Andy: That is the thing that started it all. I wanted to understand that, and when I started to get my head around it, I learned, and I realized that to be in the travel business, you needed to travel all of the time, or hire people to travel for you, and it just doesn’t, it just didn’t really, wasn’t clicking for me.

Tara: Mmhmm.

Andy: I had a lot of early success. You know, I was blogging and kind of in the social media things really early, and so I did have a lot of visual success in terms of followers, you know, page views, things that I don’t think mean a whole lot, but as a business, it was not very stable.

It was just, yeah, not … it was very unstable. So that’s when the brand came in, because I felt like I had started and not really done that step, and that’s something that I knew how to do really well was creating brands. It was part of my old work in the IT space. So I stopped and kind of got myself around Plum Deluxe, and the whole, you know, affordable luxury, life’s little luxuries thing, and so that really established me as a footprint, and I said okay, you know, I kind of have an idea about what I stand for.

I stand for moments. I stand for slowing down and finding things that are important to you. I stand for understanding how to be the best version of yourself. I stand, you know, I was really trying to find the right words for it, but I knew what I stood for, you know, and I think that part of having a good brand, especially if you’re an artisan or a small business, is knowing what you stand for, whether it’s you state your values or you have a great tagline or mission statement, but you know, I think of it as like what do you stand for? Like what do you want to be known for?

When you die and the business is left behind, what are people going to say about it? What do you want people to say about it? So I was getting my feet around that, and I still was this elusive what is the business model that supports this thing? This site, this structure that’s trying to talk to people about moments? And let’s see, what did … I think I started out first with affiliates and selling other people’s stuff, and I found out that to make that successful, you needed to have just a crappola ton of traffic.

Listen to the full episode on Profit. Power. Pursuit.

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Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile is a creativeLIVE instructor, business strategist, and the creator of the Customer Perspective Process.