This week we sat down with Patrick Keshishian, co-founder of FREY, a clothing care startup that recently closed its latest $2.4 million funding round, to talk about their re-order model.

October 26, 2018

Can you tell us a little about your company and role?

First of all, thank you for having us. It’s an absolute pleasure being a part of this illustrious Insiders group. I am Patrick, and we are FREY — a one-stop shop for clothing care products that are designed to be better for you, the environment and your clothes. We offer unique scented products ranging from detergents and dryer sheets, to wrinkle releasers, nomad fresheners, and stain removers. The laundry detergent industry as a whole has been pretty stagnant in the sense that the bottles, scents, and marketing behind them has not shifted much from even 15 years ago. Our team, led by co-founders Erin Frey, Leif Frey, Aidan Porter and myself, decided to tackle this industry by bringing unique and convenient packaging designs, and formulations that are designed to be better for you in general. Combine that with our philanthropy efforts and that pretty much sums us up.

As a start-up you’re dealt with many tasks and having an amazing team like ours, we pretty much gave each other autonomy to sort of tackle tasks based off of who we thought would be best for that particular project/role. One of my main roles is that of running our community and customer outreach- essentially knowing what customers are saying about FREY, what they think about the products, what they like/don’t like, and trying to understand what the next best product offering will be. All of this is accomplished by relentlessly communicating with the end user. Luckily for us, we are a B2C, so through our social media channels and personal emails to each and every customer, we are able to gather all of this data. Our amazing customers give us their honest feedback which allows us to really focus on not only what our customers really want/need but more so what they really think about FREY and what they would change. In order to accomplish this, we have to get quite creative with ways to communicate.

 

What is your biggest challenge right now?

We are at the center of this unique transition from actually two sides. One being this huge shift in how products are being purchased in general, meaning how quickly and conveniently can companies get their customers their needs without the customer having to really even think about it. The second being this incredible shift in what we call this “conscious consumer” — meaning consumers who are really paying attention to the products they are purchasing and what those products contain. So to answer your questions, our biggest challenge is how can we be the company that gets you FREY quickly, without you running out or having to go through the entire purchasing process again. Although we have a subscription model in place that works great, we are currently looking into various technologies to find quicker and more convenient alternatives (e.g. SMS re-ordering, one-click email reordering, we’ve even brainstormed on weight-calculators that weigh the detergent and re-order automatically once it gets too low).

 

So is “convenience” the central component of the FREY story?

We’re not just in the business of selling laundry detergent. We’re in the business of creating an amazing, fun, easy laundry experience for our user, and helping them view the “chore” in a totally different way. Shaving used to simply be a chore. Now, people self-identify by what razor brand they use. The ease of use/re-ordering is a big part of this experience, and this perception shift. So we’re doubling-down on making it as seamless and easy as possible for the user. The other reason this is so important for us is from a defensive position as well. The hypothetical yet very real scenario would be that you go to do your laundry, and you realize you’re out of detergent. Within, give or take a 3-mile radius, you can find a convenience store that sells detergent. So there is a very real chance that we lose the customer because of this convenience factor, regardless of the fact that they are extremely loyal to us. Again, touching back on my point above, with this huge shift in ecommerce and with Amazon and other incredible companies getting people used to purchasing their home goods online, we want to be at the forefront of this change. And we want to do it with a unique product. In addition, we work with some incredible philanthropic organizations to help tackle issues that are important to us. One of them being washing the clothes of low income families, so you know that with every purchase of FREY, a portion of your money is going towards a great cause.

 

How does your re-order process work?

The first thing, long ago, was simply “you might be running out of FREY” email reminders. The next was our subscription roll-out. We are currently working on a builder that takes our customer through a quick questionnaire. It asks the customer a series of 3-5 questions, giving us an idea of how many times they do laundry per week and a few other important pieces of information. With this information we set up a subscription service that predicts the timing of when you will approximately run out of laundry, and then have the product shipped before you actually do run out. We’re also developing an SMS re-ordering system congruently with this, although that’s a bigger project. The emails were an easy, obvious hit. The subscriptions even more so (laundry is a pretty regular chore for most people, so if your new detergent comes in without you needing to re-order, it’s a beautiful experience). The builder I mentioned is in somewhat a beta version right now; we have not actually fully advertised it to our customers because we are in the process of building the technology out for it. We are hoping to have this fully up and running in the next month or so.

 

What obstacles have you encountered in your re-ordering model so far?

In supply chain you are always sorting out some operational issue. We had brief moments where we would run out of inventory back when we were bootstrapped. This causes a chain reaction of issues where you not only can’t fulfill incoming orders, but now you are delaying existing customers orders and subscriptions. Having to allocate finances properly to keep a lean inventory where we are not overstocking products was a very big obstacle for us. And this is expected as you grow. Finding the right balance between just the right amount of inventory and fulfilling orders on time is always a tough task. Of course as we continue to grow we will again look for new technologies and platforms to implement to help us overcome this, but so far we have done a great job after that one instance. The best way to overcome inventory issues is to allow constant communication between our team and fulfillers; we are working tirelessly to implement a culture that does not shy away from communication. We are working on patching all of the holes necessary as we grow so these holes don’t get deeper and deeper, eventually causing a serious issue. More importantly, we’re taking a leadership role to really let our employees know that we stand by them for any issues that arise. At the end of the day, all of our problems and solution are a team effort. So it’s very important to implement this team culture and make sure our goals are clear and concise.

 

Where will FREY be in five years?

Our goal is to bring unique clothing care products to the market and upend the industry. Very similar to how Harry’s and Warby Parker did. There is a huge shift going on with the emergence of technology and products. Our goal is to mesh these two and make sure we are a proven company that delivers exceptional products while always delivering top quality customer service. Honestly, this has been the best experience of my life and I think I could speak on behalf of our entire team as well. There aren’t many people that can say they work with their friends on a daily basis; we are all just incredibly dedicated to this company and the fact that we have each other’s backs, which really increases our chances of creating an incredible company. If you’re passionate about something go out there and pursue it, there are plenty of resources that will help you. Most importantly, you will learn an incredible amount doing so. Be very open-minded, and most importantly, do not fear feedback. We are an example of a company that really thrives off of feedback. From our internal team to our customers — we are constantly asking for feedback. It is the only proven way to get better. and remember, Jeff Bezos once said’ “When you think about the things that you will regret when you’re eighty, they’re almost always the things that you did not do. They’re acts of omission. Very rarely are you going to regret something that you did that failed and didn’t work.”

This week we sat down with Patrick Keshishian, co-founder of FREY, a clothing care startup that recently closed its latest $2.4 million funding round, to talk about their re-order model.

October 26, 2018

Can you tell us a little about your company and role?

First of all, thank you for having us. It’s an absolute pleasure being a part of this illustrious Insiders group. I am Patrick, and we are FREY — a one-stop shop for clothing care products that are designed to be better for you, the environment and your clothes. We offer unique scented products ranging from detergents and dryer sheets, to wrinkle releasers, nomad fresheners, and stain removers. The laundry detergent industry as a whole has been pretty stagnant in the sense that the bottles, scents, and marketing behind them has not shifted much from even 15 years ago. Our team, led by co-founders Erin Frey, Leif Frey, Aidan Porter and myself, decided to tackle this industry by bringing unique and convenient packaging designs, and formulations that are designed to be better for you in general. Combine that with our philanthropy efforts and that pretty much sums us up.

As a start-up you’re dealt with many tasks and having an amazing team like ours, we pretty much gave each other autonomy to sort of tackle tasks based off of who we thought would be best for that particular project/role. One of my main roles is that of running our community and customer outreach- essentially knowing what customers are saying about FREY, what they think about the products, what they like/don’t like, and trying to understand what the next best product offering will be. All of this is accomplished by relentlessly communicating with the end user. Luckily for us, we are a B2C, so through our social media channels and personal emails to each and every customer, we are able to gather all of this data. Our amazing customers give us their honest feedback which allows us to really focus on not only what our customers really want/need but more so what they really think about FREY and what they would change. In order to accomplish this, we have to get quite creative with ways to communicate.

 

What is your biggest challenge right now?

We are at the center of this unique transition from actually two sides. One being this huge shift in how products are being purchased in general, meaning how quickly and conveniently can companies get their customers their needs without the customer having to really even think about it. The second being this incredible shift in what we call this “conscious consumer” — meaning consumers who are really paying attention to the products they are purchasing and what those products contain. So to answer your questions, our biggest challenge is how can we be the company that gets you FREY quickly, without you running out or having to go through the entire purchasing process again. Although we have a subscription model in place that works great, we are currently looking into various technologies to find quicker and more convenient alternatives (e.g. SMS re-ordering, one-click email reordering, we’ve even brainstormed on weight-calculators that weigh the detergent and re-order automatically once it gets too low).

 

So is “convenience” the central component of the FREY story?

We’re not just in the business of selling laundry detergent. We’re in the business of creating an amazing, fun, easy laundry experience for our user, and helping them view the “chore” in a totally different way. Shaving used to simply be a chore. Now, people self-identify by what razor brand they use. The ease of use/re-ordering is a big part of this experience, and this perception shift. So we’re doubling-down on making it as seamless and easy as possible for the user. The other reason this is so important for us is from a defensive position as well. The hypothetical yet very real scenario would be that you go to do your laundry, and you realize you’re out of detergent. Within, give or take a 3-mile radius, you can find a convenience store that sells detergent. So there is a very real chance that we lose the customer because of this convenience factor, regardless of the fact that they are extremely loyal to us. Again, touching back on my point above, with this huge shift in ecommerce and with Amazon and other incredible companies getting people used to purchasing their home goods online, we want to be at the forefront of this change. And we want to do it with a unique product. In addition, we work with some incredible philanthropic organizations to help tackle issues that are important to us. One of them being washing the clothes of low income families, so you know that with every purchase of FREY, a portion of your money is going towards a great cause.

 

How does your re-order process work?

The first thing, long ago, was simply “you might be running out of FREY” email reminders. The next was our subscription roll-out. We are currently working on a builder that takes our customer through a quick questionnaire. It asks the customer a series of 3-5 questions, giving us an idea of how many times they do laundry per week and a few other important pieces of information. With this information we set up a subscription service that predicts the timing of when you will approximately run out of laundry, and then have the product shipped before you actually do run out. We’re also developing an SMS re-ordering system congruently with this, although that’s a bigger project. The emails were an easy, obvious hit. The subscriptions even more so (laundry is a pretty regular chore for most people, so if your new detergent comes in without you needing to re-order, it’s a beautiful experience). The builder I mentioned is in somewhat a beta version right now; we have not actually fully advertised it to our customers because we are in the process of building the technology out for it. We are hoping to have this fully up and running in the next month or so.

 

What obstacles have you encountered in your re-ordering model so far?

In supply chain you are always sorting out some operational issue. We had brief moments where we would run out of inventory back when we were bootstrapped. This causes a chain reaction of issues where you not only can’t fulfill incoming orders, but now you are delaying existing customers orders and subscriptions. Having to allocate finances properly to keep a lean inventory where we are not overstocking products was a very big obstacle for us. And this is expected as you grow. Finding the right balance between just the right amount of inventory and fulfilling orders on time is always a tough task. Of course as we continue to grow we will again look for new technologies and platforms to implement to help us overcome this, but so far we have done a great job after that one instance. The best way to overcome inventory issues is to allow constant communication between our team and fulfillers; we are working tirelessly to implement a culture that does not shy away from communication. We are working on patching all of the holes necessary as we grow so these holes don’t get deeper and deeper, eventually causing a serious issue. More importantly, we’re taking a leadership role to really let our employees know that we stand by them for any issues that arise. At the end of the day, all of our problems and solution are a team effort. So it’s very important to implement this team culture and make sure our goals are clear and concise.

 

Where will FREY be in five years?

Our goal is to bring unique clothing care products to the market and upend the industry. Very similar to how Harry’s and Warby Parker did. There is a huge shift going on with the emergence of technology and products. Our goal is to mesh these two and make sure we are a proven company that delivers exceptional products while always delivering top quality customer service. Honestly, this has been the best experience of my life and I think I could speak on behalf of our entire team as well. There aren’t many people that can say they work with their friends on a daily basis; we are all just incredibly dedicated to this company and the fact that we have each other’s backs, which really increases our chances of creating an incredible company. If you’re passionate about something go out there and pursue it, there are plenty of resources that will help you. Most importantly, you will learn an incredible amount doing so. Be very open-minded, and most importantly, do not fear feedback. We are an example of a company that really thrives off of feedback. From our internal team to our customers — we are constantly asking for feedback. It is the only proven way to get better. and remember, Jeff Bezos once said’ “When you think about the things that you will regret when you’re eighty, they’re almost always the things that you did not do. They’re acts of omission. Very rarely are you going to regret something that you did that failed and didn’t work.”

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