The FryAway Story: How They Created a New Product Category | EP. #111
Creating a new product category can be a daunting task, but it also has the potential to bring massive success. In the 111th episode of The E-Comm Show, Andrew Maff sits down with Laura Lady from FryAway. FryAway is a revolutionary plant-based product that effortlessly converts liquid cooking oil into a solid form, making it convenient to dispose of along with household organic waste.
Listen to this episode as Laura shares the story behind FryAway's creation, the challenges they faced in establishing a new product category, and their innovative marketing strategies that helped them gain traction quickly.
If you enjoyed the show, please rate, review, and SUBSCRIBE!
Have an e-commerce marketing question you'd like Andrew to cover in an upcoming episode? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Maff and Laura Lady
For close to 20 years, Laura Lady worked on some of the world’s most loved consumer goods and kids' entertainment brands, transforming strategies and ideas into products and experiences which have delighted consumers from ages 0-99.
Working in both global and regional roles, she have mobilized complex organizations to think differently, inspired her teams to dream big, and constantly pushed herself to break down barriers and forge new paths.
While toys were her joy, food is her nirvana. And so in the past 2 years she decided to dream big and forge a new path. Laura set out on an entrepreneurial journey that would meld her professional and personal passions into a range of products that would take the guesswork and mess out of proper cooking oil disposal: FryAway.
FryAway is a 100% plant-based nontoxic powder that magically transforms used cooking oil into a solid for easy and safe disposal with household trash or organic waste. With FryAway, we are taking the mess out of frying and creating a planet-friendly frying culture!
Andrew Maff 01:05
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. As usual, I'm your host Andrew Maff and today I'm joined by the amazing Laura Lady who is the founder and CEO of Fry Away Laura, how you doing right for good show.
Laura Lady 01:17
I'm ready. And thanks for that amazing description.
Andrew Maff 01:22
Pump it up every time super excited. Love this product. Love the idea. Love the story so much to get into. I always like to do the usual pretend that no one knows who you are. So if you wouldn't mind giving us a little bit of your background a little bit, obviously more about Friday, and we'll take it from there. Okay,
Of course. So I am probably in terms of background, I'm a bit of an unlikely entrepreneur, I spent 20 years working in the toy industry, I worked in marketing and product development at Fisher Price at Mattel at Lego. I think what a lot of people don't know about the toy industry is that it is very, very entrepreneurial. So even though it's a corporate environment, because you're constantly innovating, coming up with ideas, and really following an idea from, you know, from source all the way to fruition, you do get to touch all of the different aspects of what it is to create a monster product. So that was my professional backgrounds. And from a personal standpoint, I am a major foodie. And I know a lot of people say they're foodies, but I'm really, really a foodie. I dream about food, I think about food all day. I love cooking. I love eating, I love feeding people. And that's pretty much what encompasses my personal life. So I'm moving into Friday away, it really was just a marriage of my professional career, which I just I had a passion for building brands and creating products, and my personal passion for food and spending a lot of time in the kitchen.
Andrew Maff 03:01
Gotcha. So how did you come up with Fry Away?
Laura Lady 03:05
I think you know, it's like a lot of of of products that come to life, it comes out of necessity. During COVID I was cooking with with my my pod with my pot of friends and my family. And we were in a farmhouse on a septic tank in an area that I didn't know very well. And had just cooked up a big batch of Japanese fried chicken of chicken cut agate. And I'm left with this big pot of oil. And I knew I couldn't pour it down the drain. Why? Because you're not supposed to. But to if you do that on a septic tank, you can pretty much say goodbye to your plumbing. And being that it was COVID I had no idea where the closest recycling facility is, which for a large amount of oil is really what you should be doing right. You know, most people Pour oil into a bottle or a jar and and hopefully take it to a collection place. But otherwise it ends up in the trash. And then in a landfill. And it was just one of those moments where I thought okay, there's gotta be a better way. And I started experimenting and came up with with fry away as a product.
Andrew Maff 04:21
And so this was all stemming from the time of COVID.
Laura Lady 04:25
Pretty much I think, you know, they're the, the seed of the idea. And I would say that it was more of the connection happened many years earlier. And I've talked about this as well before where I was actually again, at dinner party with friends. We had been cooking in the kitchen and we're sitting down to eat our meal. And this was something kind of a weekend ritual. And the topic of that weekend was fat Burks of massive fat burger had been discovered in East London sewers. And for those people who don't know what a fat burger is As it's basically a massive agglomeration of fat and wastes, so, boil gets poured down the drain a lot of households do it, restaurants do it. And that acts as the glue for all of the other waste that ends up in our sewers. So when when all of that starts collecting, it creates a massive blockage, really of monstrous proportions. This particular fabric that was discovered in London was the size of I think, to London double decker buses. And, yeah, so if you can imagine, we spent the evening taught, and it's not great dinner conversation, it's pretty disgusting, but we were eating and, you know, just I was horrified and fascinated at tears, you know, falling down my face, crying, you know, laughing because we're talking about all the disgusting things like dentures and hair and, you know, old toys and stuff that have been unearthed in this fabric. And the worst part about it is that it has to be removed by hand. So, you know, an unfortunate team of individuals has to go down in the sewer, and literally chip away at this thing. So anyway, I developed a fascination went into a rabbit hole, just trying to figure out, you know, what are these things? How are they formed, and realize that we are the reason that these things exist. And it's because we pour oil down the drain. So, you know, I think all those events kind of connected for me, and that's where I developed flyaway as a solution to both of those problems.
Andrew Maff 06:41
That is a crazy story. I didn't know they could get that big, I don't even really know what they were. That's Okay, interesting. So, right away, I know, it's a essentially a packet that after you cook with something, you can add it to your food, it kind of solidifies it for the most part, so that you can dispose of it properly. Correct.
Laura Lady 07:00
It is so fry away is a plant based powder. It's 100%, plant based and non toxic, and you basically stir it into oil while it's still hot. So right after you're done frying or cooking in the water started. And as it cools down, it converts it into solid organic ways. So you can toss it away into the trash. Or if you have access to compost, you can also compost it. The reality is that as as that solid organic waste, it will biodegrade in as little as 30 days. So there's no reason to clog up landfills with a plastic bottle that's going to take you know, upwards of 450 years to decompose. You could recycle it, why throw it in a landfill or a glass jar, you know, a lot of people put their own glass jar that's never going to decompose. So Fry was really developed as a way to take the guesswork out of disposing of your cooking oil responsibly. And also just making it convenient and easy. And honestly kind of fun, because the whole process is really magical.
Andrew Maff 08:12
Crazy. It's such a cool concept. So the interesting thing, too, that I realized is so you started this, more or less around COVID time, it's only 2023 You've already surpassed a seven figure business. So this was clearly a hole in the market. So we all know, obviously we're on Shark Tank, and I'm sure that helped. But what what aspects do you think have really helped kind of scale this business as quickly as you have?
Laura Lady 08:37
Um, it has it has scaled faster than I ever imagined. Something like this could I mean, when I started fry away, again, it really started as something that I needed myself. And I thought alright, well as long as I need this, surely there's someone else out there who might need it too. So I didn't spend a ton of time or money on doing market research or you know, trying to figure out what whether there was product market fit or anything like that or said no, I'm willing to take the risk and launch this thing. And I did it on a shoestring budget. I think when all of a sudden done, I invested about $15,000 of my own money to start the company. I started out in my garage and started slowly I launched on our own website on friday.co. And if you've seen the Shark Tank episode and and seeing my response to how that performs, it was very slow. You know, you don't just launch a Shopify website and have people flocking to it. And so shortly after I launched on Amazon, and that's where, you know, one Amazon is is a fantastic discoverability platform for new products. There's a lot of impulse shop thing that happens there, because people just easily add things to their cart. But, you know, there's also an ecosystem there where you can advertise and you know, the amount of effort that you put into your own listing is what's going to pay off. So if you put the effort into writing the right copy and having the right pictures, and really explaining to people why they need your product, then ultimately that's going to help, you know, boost and grow your business. So Amazon has been a tremendous piece of the business and it it keeps growing. Both you know, just from a new new buyer, a new consumer perspective, but also from a Subscribe and Save perspective, we have a healthy subscribe, subscription business. And what's also really helps to boost fry we're from the beginning was that I focused on PR, you know, this is a product that did not exist, and people didn't know about it, people didn't even know they needed it. Right. And so I when I tell people what the product is like this light bulb goes off, I'm gonna go, Oh, my God, I need this. I can't tell you how many times people tell me, you know, I have this jar sitting next to my stove, or I have gallons of oil sitting in my basement. Now I can actually do something with it. So the PR aspect was important just to educate people about the product and why it would be it would be beneficial. We started growing pretty quickly thereafter, scaling into retail. We started doing some independent specialty retail, which is small potatoes, but it's nice to start getting a read. But our biggest launch was into Kroger. Last year, we launched about 1200 stores. And fast forward a year later, we are launching 3000 Walmart stores next week. And by the end of this year, we'll be in about 7000 stores across the country.
Andrew Maff 12:15
Okay, so it sounds like a majority of your online business was coming from Amazon. But it seems like retail is about to pretty much eclipse that
Laura Lady 12:24
retails growing growing strong. Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew Maff 12:29
I mean, it makes a lot of sense, right? It's definitely one of those products where if you're at a grocery store, or even you know, as time goes on, I guess Bed Bath and Beyond is gone. But if you're at a you know, some kind of kitchen that store like style store, like that's definitely one of those like, oh, that's like a quick like, grab kind of thing. It makes a ton of sense. What so before you start getting into retail and everything, what was your marketing strategy online?
Laura Lady 12:56
Um, man, it's been, it's been one of those things of trying everything and just trying to see where the traction actually is. In terms of online strategy, I'd say first and foremost has been always and this is kind of more behind the scenes, but just making sure that I'm never out of inventory. And that's, that can get stressful at times, because it's gonna happen. But I think that's been key to our success, just making sure that we're always available we're always on. And other key aspects of our success has been customer service. Um, you know, we do get a lot of inquiries, we do get a lot of engagement. And I personally take the time to respond to most things that come through. And I think that, that, that's appreciated, it's helped us build a community. And it's also helped to build a solid base of advocates for the brands that talk about us share, you know, share Friday with their family and friends by Friday, always gifts. So Friday has, I'd say largely grown organically, just by word of mouth, because people get so excited when they try it. And they actually see how it works, that they tell everybody about it. So that's, you know, something that you can't truly control. But it is at the end of the day, it is about building that that community and that loyalty to the product and to the brand. In terms of of Amazon, I think because it's it's a category that really didn't exist before. It's been, oh, it's been a lot of trial by you know, trial by error of trying to figure out what works and what doesn't And, and being a leader in the category also comes with its perils, because you then have a lot of followers and copycats that come out of the woodwork. So, yeah, so, um, but it's all good. You know, it's, I think we I am ecstatic with with how the last two years have gone. And I'm excited to keep innovating and keep introducing new products and, and to keep growing fry away.
Andrew Maff 15:30
Nice. So you were obviously working at some pretty reputable companies. So at what point were you like, you know what this is doing well enough, I'm doing this I'm making the jump and I'm going out on my own
Laura Lady 15:45
it I probably spent about nine months well, me think about this, I spent about a year working on Friday developing the product, developing the branding and website all the you know, all the the basics, the foundation of the brand. And I was doing that, you know, in parallel with with working. I think probably about six months after I launched is when I realized, okay, this is actually a full time thing now, which is, you know, thinking back really fast. And that's kind of been what the whole trajectory for Friday has been. It's been on hyperspeed we, you know, I launched in July, August of 2021. And within two months, I was cashflow positive. So yeah, I know you're shaking your head. It's crazy.
Andrew Maff 16:46
I mean, it's so unheard of, do you think that's because it was essentially, it's more or less a new category? It's a completely differentiated product, you basically have no competition? Or do you think it came from the marketing initiatives that you had in place?
Laura Lady 17:03
I definitely a combination of things. I like to believe that I've had some input in in driving this forward. And I'm not a newbie, right? Like I have 20 years of Industry Marketing and Sales and Operations experience experience under my belt. So as far as being a new entrepreneur, I did know what I was doing at least at least the basics, right? Yes, it was a new category, but the foundation was there. I would say that the novelty of it. Definitely is I mean, that's absolutely what is driven. It was an unmet need. And I think it's still, you know, something that if you if you were to read through a lot of the comments on our social media, they're largely negative. And which is which I find really interesting because you've got kind of the naysayers that come out of the woodwork who just don't really understand the product, but it's not because they don't, they don't understand this because they don't fry so they don't actually know what the issue is, you know, if you don't know what it is to have to pour oil out of out of a pot and into a jar with like, you've got to have ninja skills to not get it all over your counter. But you're not going to see a need for the product. But they do take the time to make sure that I know that that they don't see a need for the product.
Andrew Maff 18:37
Of course they do. You don't know you succeeded until you've got haters, right and they're commenting on everything that's when you know
Laura Lady 18:46
that we've got our fair share of those. But we have we have many more people that love and support us and and that's what keeps me moving forward.
Andrew Maff 18:59
So obviously you were on Shark Tank, I'm sure that had a lot to do with your initial trajectory in the first couple years and
Laura Lady 19:07
it has I mean, I our my Shark Tank episode aired this past January so we were already a year, a year and a half into into our our journey. What Shark Tank has done has been just a tremendous awareness boost right a lot of people watch that show 6 million people watch that show every week. And not to mention the episodes that then stream on Hulu and on ABC and the reruns on CNBC. So it's it is a tremendous awareness boost. That's that's pretty much ongoing. So that has helped a lot and it's really publicity that as a small company you just couldn't possibly afford. You know to pay for. Yeah, we're not, we're doing well. But we're not big enough to be able to run national, you know, TV campaigns. That'll be That'll be the day when we can actually start doing that sort of thing. But yeah, Shark Tank has been has been fantastic in that sense. And from a personal perspective, it was, it was great for me learn a great learning experience. It was it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
Andrew Maff 20:29
Yeah. And I saw obviously, congratulations, you got to deal with Mark and Lori, which is awesome. However, I also know, from interviewing many different other Shark Tank businesses, that doesn't always come through. Did you? Is that still in the works? Did you guys close everything? Like how did that end? Are you still working with them? Like, what's that look like? What you can tell me?
Laura Lady 20:50
Yeah, no, I mean, we we actually are not working together. And I guess I guess I can, I can say that. Now. I think we just came to a point where we decided that it wasn't the best path forward for for either of us. So
Andrew Maff 21:10
we happens a lot. Yeah. Got the publicity, though. So yes, that you don't need it. Did you even did you continue to look for funding? Or at this point? Are you just like, I don't need it anymore. I got sales from,
Laura Lady 21:23
ya know what happens? And I think part of you know, going back to talking about strategy. From the beginning, my strategy has always been to really grow the company sustainably. I don't want to do too much too soon. So we've been in terms of retail rollouts. You know, I think we could, if we wanted to, we could be growing a lot faster, we could be rolling out to a lot more stores. But it's not, it's not the right thing to do. You don't want to roll out to retail and not be able to support it. Because it's just going to be a short term, a short term Boost, which is not what we're here for, you know, we're in it for the long haul. So we want to be able to grow sustainably with the best retail partners that we can. And so that's where we are. So yeah, funding is not something that I have sought. I imagine that at some point, we will get there, especially as we grow into other verticals. And as we launch new products, because there are other products in the pipeline. But it's not something that I'm ready to do right now. I think we have we have a little bit more growth behind us before we we go down that route.
Andrew Maff 22:38
Don't blame me plus hold on to that equity as long as you can.
Laura Lady 22:44
Pay for it.
Andrew Maff 22:45
Exactly. Laura, I really appreciate having you on the show. I don't want to take up too much your time. I know you're probably very busy. I'd love to give you the opportunity to let everyone know where they can find out more about you and of course more about Fry Away.
Thank you. No, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me on the show. You can find Fry Away on our website on fryaway.co and on Amazon. But we are also available in stores across the country Kroger Walmart Meijer, Publix, you can actually check out our store locator on our website and I encourage everyone to support their local stores so shop local.
Andrew Maff 23:27
Love it. Laura, thank you so much for your time everyone who tuned in of course thank you as well please make sure you do the usual rate review subscribe all that fun stuff on whichever podcast platform you prefer or head over theecommshow.com to check out all of our previous episodes. But as usual, thank you all for joining and we will see you all next time.
Thank you for tuning in to The E-Comm Show head over to theecommshow.com to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or on the BlueTuskr YouTube channel. The E-Comm Show is brought to you by BlueTusker, a full service digital marketing company specifically for e-commerce sellers looking to accelerate their growth. Go to bluetuskr.com Now for more information. Make sure to tune in next week for another amazing episode of The E-Comm Show.