How This Plant Based Ramen Brand Built A Community of Thousands Prior to Launching — Podcasts (2022)

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan grew up enjoying the vast noodle offerings from their Taiwanese and Thai upbringing. Together they launched immi, a ramen brand that paid homage to their favorite foods while using high-quality ingredients that are nutritious and 100% plant based. In this episode of Shopify Masters, the two Kevins share how they built a community of thousands prior to launching, and how they overcame a 6-figure inventory setback.

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Show Notes

How two Asian American founders merged their tech background with their culinary heritage 

Felix: The idea for the business came from pain points you were experiencing within your family. Tell us about that. 

KLee: KChan and I both grew up in Asian food families. My grandparents are farmers in Taiwan where they grow something called a rose apple.

KChan: My grandmother actually owned a hawker noodle stall in Thailand for 40 years. My dad ended up opening a noodle shop down in LA. So definitely both food family-based business backgrounds.

KLee: Both of our parents immigrated to the US actually so we wouldn’t be in the food industry, which is pretty ironic. Over the past few years, as we’ve grown older and as our families have grown older, we’ve seen them suffer through chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. A few years ago we started chatting about what a “better for you” food brand would look like to help address some of those health issues. Since we had grown up in Asian food families, it became a natural extension for us to start thinking about the Asian food space and why there wasn’t a leading “better for you” brand. That’s how the genesis started.

Founders of immi, Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan sit at a dinning table enjoying bowls of various noodles.
Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan both combined their tech industry experience and infinity towards noodles to create immi’s products. immi

Felix: So you both have backgrounds in the food industry. Did you also have that business background? 

KLee: KChan and I actually spent the past decade in the tech industry. Part of this was because our families immigrated here and didn’t want us to grow up working in the food industry. We met 10 years ago at a mobile gaming company. We were both product managers there. We were the only two PMs who would go get noodles for breakfast together. That was how we bonded and got to know each other. We did take slightly different career paths. After that experience, I stayed in product management for a little longer at an education tech company. Shortly after I moved into early stage venture capital, investing mostly very, very early, usually when it’s just two founders in a garage in consumer tech software. Then most recently I was leading food and beverage investing at a firm called Pera Ventures.

KChan: Similar to KLee, I did not have a personal background in food and was not equipped to move into food, but did have a lot of exposure in building consumer products. I spent the last decade at a variety of tech companies. KLee mentioned we worked at a mobile gaming company together. Later I went to a healthcare startup called Amino, where we were trying to solve how to provide consumers with higher quality healthcare for lower costs. After that I went to a startup you may have heard of called Facebook–now Meta–where I was leading product for the newly formed video creators team before teaming up with KLee to work on immi.

KLee: KChan and I have often thought long and hard about our career journey and how we ended up where we are today. KChan and I both started in the finance industry, and then we both moved into mobile gaming. It’s interesting because after those experiences, which arguably maybe were a little bit more perhaps finance or even just personal driven, we both started caring a lot more about working at mission-driven companies. That’s one of the reasons why I went into education tech and KChan went into healthcare. Even at those companies, we kept thinking about scale and impact. That’s one of the reasons. I was just a product manager on an app in a broader education tech company, KChan was working as a product manager at a health tech company, trying to address a huge healthcare problem.

Both of us then from there tried to go the opposite direction, working on scale. That’s why I was in venture capital. I was thinking, “the highest leverage thing I could be doing is investing in companies that are building good things for the world.” KChan was at Facebook trying to understand how to impact millions of consumers at any given time. After these experiences, we came to realize that something that we could do that could blend both that mission and that scale was work on immi. That’s our high leverage impact to the world where we can build a product that’s healthier, but at scale.

The case for speed over iteration: Quicker consumer feedback

Felix: How much of your expertise in other industries were you able to transfer to this business?

KChan: I could definitely comment on the product side. One of the unique things about building products and tech in particular is that you’re expected to be wrong a fairly significant number of times. The number one mantra is to move fast. Get products out to people and get feedback so you know whether or not you’re heading in the right direction. We took that to heart with immi. It was about getting products spun up as fast as possible and getting it into the hands of real customers. One of the things we did in the early days is we made noodles in our own kitchen and went around town to various friends and family and asked people to taste our product. In the early days, people were like, this is horrible.

We were like, “okay, let’s cross shirataki off our list of ways we’re going to make this product.” That’s how we landed on the product that we have today. It was a lot of trial and error, and moving as fast as possible and getting real customer feedback that was largely transferable. The coding bits and the food manufacturing are completely unrelated, but the higher level things were extremely valuable.

KLee: We both have community building backgrounds in the sense that previously I had also built the world’s largest product management community when I was still working as a product manager. KChan, when he was at Facebook, was really helping to build products that would help creators manage their communities. That was this meta layer that we wanted to bring into immi where even during our year of RND, we actually built this private community of thousands of people who, by the time we launched, were pretty fanatical about the product and wanted to evangelize it to others. This community has been a cornerstone of how we think about new product development or getting feedback on designs of our packaging, or even thinking about the nutrition of our product. That is something we brought from our previous experiences.

Felix: So you rely on your community heavily for both return customers, but also product feedback. How do you gather all this feedback? 

KLee: The first thing to call out is, a lot of people think that getting email subscribers and phone numbers is building community. That’s not true. That’s definitely one piece of the puzzle–that piece of the puzzle is the acquisition side of getting people in. A true community is very different from an audience in that community members are engaged with each other. It’s not just a one-way relationship or even a two-way relationship between the brand and the audience. It’s a three-way relationship where it’s brand, audience, and then the audience speaking to other members of the audience. For us, we were pretty deliberate in the early days of picking Facebook groups as our medium of our community, because KChan and I did a lot of demand testing before we even built the product.

“It’s a three-way relationship where it’s brand, audience, and then the audience speaking to other members of the audience.”

In the early days, we realized that our audience who was interested in this low-carb, high protein instant ramen tended to be 35 to 65-year old females. We knew from our mobile gaming days that a lot of that core audience did live on Facebook and some on Instagram, but mostly on Facebook. That’s why we chose that medium to begin with. Once we figured that out, we would take people on our email list and we had a drip sequence and all the calls to action were to join our Facebook group. We knew we would have an opportunity to build in public, share a lot of behind the scenes in a very non-transactional way–which sometimes email does feel transactional.

Then in that community, people could also get to meet each other. We would often tag people on comments. We would get to talk to people one-on-one, get to know their interests, and then we would match them with other people. If you join our community, there’s people posting new recipes, new bowls, different ways that they’ve prepared immi. We know how different people like to prepare it in different ways, so we’re able to connect them to each other and they can chat together in the threads.

How authenticity won over an unfamiliar demographic

Felix: So you don’t fit your target demographic–35-60 year old women. How did you go about figuring out what kind of content would identify with this demographic?

KLee: In the early days we tried to cater to that audience that was older females interested in health and wellness. Part of it was in the pre-launch phase. It doesn’t matter who the audience is, most of the time they are going to be interested in behind the scenes, where we would literally take photos of us traveling to a blender or mixing things in our living room. That’s always going to be interesting content. Post-launch we actually had this moment where we were trying to cater a lot of our organic channels to post health tips, things that we thought this audience would resonate with. We realized over time this felt really inauthentic to who we were as founders and our experiences growing up.

This is us being very vulnerable about what actually happened. Three months after we launched, we looked at our content and said, “you know what? This is just not who we are.” We went back to our roots. KChan and I grew up as Asian Americans in America. We had these unique experiences straddling both our Asian heritage and our American upbringing. We wanted to share a lot about those experiences, the different Asian food and the Asian culture we grew up with as these third culture kids. We started reorienting a lot of our content to our audience. That changed the direction of the business. Now it feels a lot more authentic. People love our brand because they love following our story as individuals and how we started this. It’s definitely felt a lot better now.

Three hands using chopsticks picking up noodles out of bowl.
Prior to launching immi build a community of thousands to better understand their target market and to connect to potential customers. immi

Felix: Was it a difficult decision to stick to your authentics selves, rather than going with what you thought would be profitable or identify with that target audience? 

KChan: It actually wasn’t that difficult of a decision. There was a part of us who thought that maybe we would alienate some customers, but when it came down to brass tacks, we realized the same type of people who would want to eat this product are also the same type of people who would be interested in our stories. There was a lot of alignment there. The thing with content and media these days and given the stage we were at, there’s just so much information and we were such a young company. We always knew that if the metrics got worse or if people gave us feedback that it wasn’t resonating, we could pivot. It wasn’t one of those decisions that was intractable.

KLee: We’ve actually noticed when we do user interviews and talk with our customers, we ask them, “how did you hear about immi or how did you discover immi?” We found that it’s almost seen as cool to be cultured these days. There’s a lot of media around Asian American culture. There’s TV shows where Squid Games is number one or Korean dramas, or we have the first Asian Marvel superhero.

We see a lot of our non-Asian customers saying, “yeah, I was watching this Korean drama on Netflix and they were eating ramen in the show and it got me curious because I’ve never tried it. I went online, searched for healthier ramen, and that’s how they discovered immi.” There’s a lot of macro tailwinds happening, but the audience are seeking this stuff out and it allows us to be authentic and still appeal to them.

KChan: We also really wanted to make it a point to make sure we were having fun with building immi. The direction our content was going initially when it was inauthentic, felt very draining, to be completely frank. We were like, screw it, let’s just do what feels fun. It became a lot more enjoyable. The authenticity and fun has come back into running this business, and that’s going to give us a lot more longevity.

KLee: It even ties to the core mission where we want to create foods that basically embolden people to play by their own rules in life. That’s a very specific language, because like KChan mentioned, we’re very close friends and we just wanted to have fun while building this. Obviously we’re going to keep growing and going to be smart about building it, but we did this because it was something we wanted to exist in the world. And people told us it couldn’t be done, but we just played around in our own kitchens, made sure that we enjoyed the process, and that’s how it happened. And we think that everyone deserves that chance to really just play by their own rules and still have fun along the way and be authentic to themselves.

How to scale your social following without losing your voice

Felix: What content have you incorporated into your community that has encouraged engagement within your community? 

KLee: In the early days, it felt more like a one-way conversation where we were still in this pre-launch phase. We didn’t even have this product out and people wanted to join because they wanted to follow our journey. That’s a common thing you’re going to see with most brand building today–people want to be a part of this journey. They want to see what’s going on behind the scenes and know that there’s real people building this brand. When we started out people were always like, “oh, did you put a lot of thought into your content pillars and have this whole content strategy?” No, we didn’t. We’d get together, and we’d be sitting in our living room and we’d be like, “hey, why don’t we take a photo of this noodle bowl that we made for lunch and post it?”

When we were traveling to LA to meet with suppliers, we would go to a noodle restaurant and be like, “hey, we just found this really cool udon place, here’s a bowl and here’s a photo of the kitchen.” It really was just sharing our life and how we were taking steps in our life to educate ourselves towards building this brand. As we got closer to launch we started doing a lot more polls. We would ask people, “hey, just curious, what do you think about this iteration of packaging design? We would love any thoughts, any feedback.” People bought into the process where they felt like their opinion mattered. It did matter, because we took into account all their feedback. We would structure pretty comprehensive surveys. As previous PMs we have some of that UX experience. A lot of their feedback influenced the product. When they see that happen, they buy in even more.

KChan: There’s definitely something really important that KLee hit on there. He mentioned that in the early days we were posting stuff into the channel. It was more or less going into a void. It was just like us talking to each other in the Facebook group. Over time we created a safe space for us to post dumb things that we thought were interesting. Now what you’re seeing in the community has been set by that precedent of creative expression. You get customers who are posting meme videos with immi ramen. People are cooking immi with weird things like elk steaks. The other day, someone made sushi rolls using immi ramen. Last week, someone made a ramen breakfast burrito and it looked delicious.

A package of Black Garlic Chicken flavored ramen by immi.
For immi’s team it’s all about having fun along the way and sharing the wins and memes with their community. immi

Felix: How do you stay constant in your mission to just have fun as you scale? I can imagine the temptation to do what seems to be working well for others is still there as you’re growing. 

KLee: A lot of brands feel this pressure–even individuals. A prime example, if you go on Twitter, and find someone who’s growing from the first zero to their first 10,000 followers, they’re a lot more vulnerable and transparent. You notice this shift from 10,000 to 100,000 followers where they start to curate a lot further. This is common with most social platforms. That’s why Facebook and Instagram have become very curated over time. We do have to think about this stuff, we have to present a cohesive brand. We recently brought on co-creative directors to help with this.

That Facebook community is still that safe space where we can see our goofy selves and our goofy selves still blend through. If you look at our post-purchase emails, there’s literally GIFs of us jumping and high-fiving each other and throwing broth in the air as a celebration. There’s always going to be opportunities for our authentic selves to shine through. We just need to spend some more time thinking about how to make that more cohesive across all of our channels. 

How a three-way dialogue with customers can open the door to success

Felix: You mentioned that there’s actually a three way dialogue–a component of audience to audience communication. How have you encouraged this kind of communication? 

KLee: We did actually. A lot of times it’s going to come down to understanding. A community ultimately is made up of a bunch of individuals and you have to get to know everyone on an individual level. At a certain scale it’s very, very difficult, but in the early days, we treated each of those people as if they were extended team members. We would get to know their interests. We have this long introduction thread where everyone who comes in introduces themselves, where they’re from, why they love ramen. You get to know these people over time. There’s this guy–Mike Nielsen–in our group who makes these awesome videos of immi, where it’s very meme-like and funny. When you have multiple conversations with him in these threads you get to know him as a person over time.

Whenever I see another community member mentioning something related to that, I’d tag Mike. I’ll be like, “hey, I think you two would get along.” Then they start talking to each other. We have another guy–John Henley–who’ll take immi and use them in different use cases. He makes trail mix out of immi. We have another lady–Barbara Chen–who makes sushi using immi. Instead of rice, she uses our noodles. We’ll pair up creative matches, who use immi in different ways. We’ll be like, “hey, you two should chat, because you guys are coming up with these really interesting creative recipes.”

Felix: So you get to know your audience, then introduce them to each other. That’s essentially how it works? 

KLee: There’s more sophisticated ways. When I used to run my product management community, I had a spreadsheet where I would track every single individual, what their interests were, what they were working on, what industries their products were in. I would just look for opportunities to connect with people in their DMs. Be like, “hey, Tom, you should connect with Stacy here because you’re both working on this product.” We don’t do that in the Facebook community, that can feel a little too CRM-like. But I think we just have so much pattern recognition. These people have believed in us since day one, so we have known a lot of them at this point. 

Felix: You mentioned that a key component to your success was to release products quickly. Can you speak to that? What learnings would you want other entrepreneurs to know about, in order to have success with rapid product development? 

KChan: On the product side, the very first thing that we did was we wanted to see if people would be interested in buying this product. I used to work at Facebook, and I had a bunch of ad credits that they give for free. We spun up a fake website with a fake product, and checkout flow. We put some ads on the website to see if, one, people would buy this and two, if we could get someone to buy this at a very high price point, because we had no idea how much it would cost to make this product. Through that experiment, we ended up learning that there were actually a good number of people who were very interested in this product and they were willing to pay. People actually put in their credit cards and checked out.

We went to a few and were like, “hey, this doesn’t exist yet, we’re going to refund you.” Some people said just hang on to it until the product launches. Consider it an early investment. That was an example of us trying to move really fast and not getting too hung up on trying to make this before we validated, which was, does someone want to buy this? After that we decided, “okay, we know people want to buy this, let’s see if it’s even possible to do this.” We went on YouTube, read a bunch of research reports on how to create a low-carb plant-based ramen. We had to Google translate Chinese and Japanese research reports and patents to see what existed out there. To see if it was even possible before we started trying to find a kitchen or mass producing.

Persistence: The best asset a founder can have when creating a product from scratch

Felix: At the very beginning you were making it in your kitchen and testing it on your friends and family. Tell us about the kind of product you were creating back then. 

KChan: When we first started off, we didn’t actually know how to cook. We can cook eggs, but a lot of what we’ve learned culinary-wise has come over the course of running immi. The first thing was basically learning about the options that are currently out there in terms of making a product. That’s how we landed on shirataki. It was the obvious low-carb noodle answer because it already exists in the market. We asked ourselves, “could we make it better?” We went down that route, and got a lot of people to try it. It was like almost unanimous hatred towards the product. It’s definitely an acquired taste. We quickly crossed that out. 

Then we were like, “okay, that’s not going to work.” We have to make it a traditional salad noodle that’s sheeted, cut, and then cooked. We canvased every single low-carb keto website to look at recipes that people make online to see the list of ingredients that we could play with. We ended up with a list of hundreds of different ingredients that were on the protein side and low-carb. Then we had to find ingredients that would bind and hold everything together. We went through the spreadsheet and made permutations of every single ingredient, and then bought a stand mixer and we just made noodles. We did this for days–if not months– testing every single permutation to see what would work, until we finally landed on something that worked. 

Three different bows of ramen on a yellow table with a hand holding chopsticks in the frame.
There’s definitely moments where the immi team felt like they couldn’t have worked through a problem, but with time comes confidence to keep trying and adapting. immi

Felix: Did you always believe you’d figure out something that worked, or was there a point where you doubted that you’d ever figure it out? 

KChan: I’d be lying if I said that didn’t cross our minds. At that point we had already quit our jobs and were going to make this work. It has to be possible to make something work. We always knew that there were versions of a product that were like, okay, that would work. For us, it was like seeking the next better option. Every experiment we ran, we found something that was slightly better than the last. Over time, our confidence grew where we were like, “okay, we know we have something to fall back on, but let’s keep going.” We think we can get a formulation and a recipe that will work even better.

How to bounce back from a six-figure loss in product inventory

Felix: You had some problems finding someone who could replicate your homemade recipe at scale. Talk to us about that experience. 

KChan: That was a very interesting experience. It was probably one of the major setbacks in the early days. We had this formulation that we loved and we had never worked with a manufacturer before, so we had no idea whether or not it would work. If we wanted to produce great ramen, we had to go to Asia because that’s where all the delicious ramen brands are. We found a factory and shipped a few thousand dollars of our special flour blend that we had come up with in our own kitchen. Once it landed there, it was seized by customs in Taiwan for having an ingredient that they didn’t recognize, but is allowable and popular in the United States. They destroyed a couple thousand dollars worth of merchandise.

Felix: And you had a manufacturer this time that was willing to work with those ingredients?

KChan: Yeah. We had picked up the phone and dialed a bunch of folks to see who would be willing to take a risk on a startup. Someone had agreed to do it. We shipped them a small parcel, a small box of the product, and they were able to make a small batch. We were like, “okay, cool, let’s send you guys a big container worth.” And that’s what got seized.

Felix: How did you overcome that? 

KChan: That was definitely a very challenging moment. We looked at each other like, “what do we do now?” We were pretty stuck. We turned to a bunch of our advisors, folks who are really experienced with supply chains in different products. They told us not to go international. It’s going to create a ton of problems and headaches. You’re going to spend a lot of money. It’s incredibly risky. They’re right. International supply chains are pretty hard and much riskier–and we had experienced that firsthand. We ended up pivoting to produce a different type of noodle, which is a lot less popular. It’s not that type of ramen you’re familiar with, that you grew up eating, and it’s also not the ramen that we sell today. We ended up manufacturing it locally, and that was the first product that we launched at the beginning of 2021. The product ended up being a lot less tasty and much more expensive to make.

Needless to say, when we launched that product, in the spirit of getting to market fast and getting real feedback, people didn’t like it, to be completely honest. At that point we had spent over six figures in inventory and nearly eight months in lost time. We felt stuck. We were like, “oh God, what do we do now?” We ended up deciding to listen to our gut and revisit Asia. We had to completely reformulate our product to meet Asian standards and we wanted to take the risk. We thought that the difficulty was totally worth it for a much better product. We ended up finding a great partner to help us manufacture our product and it’s what we’re selling today. Customer reviews have gone up significantly, people are much happier with it. That entire experience enforces our internal mantra of playing by our own rules.

Felix: What ultimately ended up happening with that six figures of lost inventory? 

KChan: It ended up being a combination of both. Mad respect for KLee for figuring out ways to get rid of as much inventory as we could before donating. We donated the rest. 

KLee: To be fair, we definitely had a contingent of folks who were following low-carb keto lifestyles who were just like, hair on fire problem, they wanted a noodle, and they liked the product a lot. We were able to find pockets of these customers.

Felix: Functionality was more important than the taste.

KLee: Exactly. To them, they still actually enjoyed the taste. In fact, even today, now that we have this new version, many of those customers still email us or message us saying, “hey, will you ever sell the existing product?” It’s pretty shocking and funny. There’s always going to be customers out there, you just have to find the right pockets of folks.

How coaching can help you build an effective business partnership 

Felix: What does your decision making process look like these days? How do you maintain speed, while not compromising quality assurance processes? 

KLee: I used to work with a coach. KChan and I actually work with the same coach, but I had a lot of deep insecurities and anxiety around the fact that I never knew if I was making the right decision. I was scared all the time, because I was like, “oh my God, startups are basically uncertainty generating machines.” I’m always worried that we’re going to make a decision that’s going to kill the company somehow. Our coach used to be a gamer and me and KChan are of course gamers. In games, there’s something called fog of war, which is when you first start on a map, you don’t see the whole map, you see the area right around you. Then everything else is covered in fog.

As you take a step in a certain direction, that fog of war then unveils a little bit further. Our coach was just like, “Look, man, you and KChan, you guys have been close friends, you guys have worked together, you guys have certain skill sets, and you just have to trust that you’re not going to know the answer, you can’t see all the fog of war unveiled. You have to trust that when you do unveil that next piece, you’ll know how to handle it. You’ll know how to handle that next step together.” That’s what startups are. You see what happens, what the next problem is, and as long as you trust in your problem solving capabilities, you can figure out that next problem. That actually relieved a lot of that anxiety for me. And I think KChan is actually a much better strategic thinker because he plays chess all the time. I’ll let him address the decision-making side.

KChan: From my perspective, one of the most beneficial things in terms of being able to move and take risks while still mitigating the downsides for us has been this partnership between KLee and I. Oftentimes we discuss and debate and we get into small arguments about what’s the best way to proceed. At the end of the day, we come out with a more multifaceted view, because I cover mostly product and ops, KLee drives sales and marketing. We both want what’s best for the company and we look at a decision and we’re like, “is this going to bankrupt us?” If the answer is no, we just move forward. Even if it’s the wrong decision, we don’t come from a place of judgment or blame. We don’t ever look at each other and say, “oh, KChan, you screwed this up.”

It’s always, “okay, what are the learnings?” Then, “how are we going to fix this?” That takes a huge burden off of the decision-making process for both of us. Even as we’ve grown bigger, our decision-making framework has always been the same. Put together a case, consult with each other, debate it. Is this going to end the business? If not, move forward and then figure out how to get to an answer faster. We want to unveil as much of the fog of war as possible.

Three packets of immi ramen in different flavors against a white background.
For the Kevins, not shying away from disagreements allowed them to work through discussions and understand different perspectives when problem solving together. immi

Felix: Was the website designed in-house? What went into the build of the website? 

KLee: We worked with a branding agency in the early days of building this brand. Most branding agencies will have the capability to do both the visual design as well as the website development. Because KChan and I came from the tech industry, we cared a lot about things like site speed and CRO. We wanted specialists. We wanted the branding agency to do what they do best, which is more unlike the branding architecture and the visual design. We also wanted to pair them with a dev agency that we knew could build very fast, seamless websites that were CRO oriented. It ended up being a combination of the two where the branding and design agency effectively took a first pass at scoping out the different sections of the website to ensure that we were still on brand. Then our dev agency would be able to push back here and there, and provide their insights around CRO. We came to this healthy combination, and that’s what our website is today.

KChan: The building of the website was actually relatively straightforward. There were a lot more adventures and misadventures between KLee and I on the branding piece. Just trying to figure out to take what’s in our brains and then relay that to our branding team who could then manifest it into an actual design, website, colors, language, and fonts. We’re not designers by trade. We’ve worked with designers, but when it’s a consumer product versus just tech UI, there was so much we hadn’t taken into consideration. There are many nights where we would have a late-night call and we were just like, “hmm, this doesn’t seem right.” I don’t know how to explain to the branding agency that we want something else that represents us and the ethos of immi and what we want to convey.

It was a lot of trial and error. If you look at some of our early designs, they’re very different from what we have now. I would say that that was probably the most challenging piece, not having a designer on our team and having to convey our thoughts to someone external.

What you do—and don’t—get from a celebrity endorsement

Felix: Have you done any testing with the website that has yielded surprising results? 

KLee: Yeah. The biggest difference was adding a lot of these celebrity testimonials, which is pretty obvious in hindsight. Luckily, I think in our previous round we got to know a bunch of interesting people who all basically just love the product, and you’ll see some of those names on our website today. But we definitely noticed a pretty significant conversion rate jump as soon as we embedded a lot of these testimonials. And it’s kind of natural. Social shopping is a big thing these days, where people want to know, whether through word of mouth or, that there is people they follow that love the product that will convince them to buy. So I think that was a big thing. We currently use a new shopping cart experience that definitely tries to upsell and cross-sell directly within the cart. So pretty obvious stuff, but I think that’s definitely helped on the AOV side too.

Felix: What is the process of A, getting the testimonial, and B, ironing out how it can be used from an advertising standpoint? 

KLee: It depends on the individual. With someone like Sami Udell, who’s a celebrity private chef for Jonas Brothers, Priyanka Chopra, Ludacris, and more, it was just blind luck. We knew someone who was like, “hey, I know this chef, Sami, who cooks for a bunch of celebrities. She’d probably be interested in trying this, because she cooks healthy food for all her clients.” We ended up shipping her some products. She sent us an email with that quote that she wrote, like, “I’ve eaten a lot of ramen and immi is amazing.” We followed up with her and we had this dialogue over email, then we got on a Zoom call and became friends with her. Now we text her all the time, she texts us. She’s always like, “oh my God, I just gave this to my dad or my grandpa and I talked to one of my clients about this.” It’s not any different than the way we built our own private community. It’s like, these are just people too. It never has to be transactional. You just be their friends.

Felix: What other apps do you use on the website that you would recommend to other entrepreneurs? 

KLee: Yeah. I think you’ll probably hear a lot of the same names from other podcast guests, but definitely Enquire Post Purchase Survey has been huge for us, especially with attribution issues. We do a lot of different marketing experiments. For example, we run paid TikTok campaigns. A lot of times people just don’t use these codes there, so post purchase helps a lot with more accurate attribution. CartHook, for post-purchase offers, just to get that AOV boost. We use Dovetail, which is an affiliate/influencer management platform. Elevar is great for helping to bring your Facebook IG ads manager, conversion attribution back up. We’ll of course use Gorgias for customer support, Klaviyo for email, Okendo for product reviews on the website. I suggest Okendo over some of the other review providers due to pricing. On the analytics side, we love Source Medium, as well as Nautilus Analytics. TaxJar for taxes. Archive app to help you automatically store. UgCS, that’s across social. GrowLTV for the cart, just to help you with cross-selling.

Felix: What is the most important area of focus for the business moving into the next year?

KChan: On the product side, for us it’s about creating more variety than the same three flavors. We plan to launch a bunch of other different ramen flavors, as well as different styles of noodles. Beyond that, it’s about, “how do we tap into the fun foods we loved eating while growing up as Asian Americans, and then sharing more of that with the world.”

KLee: We’re a very product and community led organization. A lot of KChan’s efforts are going to be super critical for the next year.

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