How Laundry Sauce Scaled to Eight Figures Without Employees


Ian Blair, Founder and CEO of Laundry Sauce

Ian Blair is the Founder and CEO of Laundry Sauce, a fast-growing DTC brand creating designer laundry detergent pods. A seasoned entrepreneur passionate about SaaS and internet marketing, Ian started his ecommerce journey selling golf balls on eBay. Leveraging his background in inbound marketing, SEO, and paid media, he has transformed Laundry Sauce into a thriving enterprise, scaling the brand to eight figures in two years. Ian is also a Partner and board member at Fast Lane Drive, a members-only exotic car club, and the CEO of BuildFire, a mobile app development platform that has powered creative professionals and developers to build over 10,000 mobile apps.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Ian Blair shares insights on scaling with paid media
  • The story behind Laundry Sauce’s creation and achieving eight-figure sales in two years
  • Building a successful ecommerce business with agencies instead of employees
  • What challenges did Ian face managing agencies for CRO and paid media?
  • Ecommerce business growth and optimization strategies
  • Branding and design as potent marketing tools

In this episode…

Running an ecommerce business can be intimidating, especially when you want to keep the overhead low by starting off without a team of workers. Thankfully, there are strategies to accelerate the growth of these one-person, nonemployer ventures. How can brands navigate this business model successfully?

Having scaled his designer laundry detergent to eight figures in under two years without employees, serial entrepreneur Ian Blair provides a deep dive into his key strategy: paid media. Ian prioritized a scalable growth engine for his high-margin, subscription-oriented business, harnessing the power of paid media and agencies instead of hiring workers. By using agencies for various business tasks, such as CRO and email marketing, he acquired the expertise needed for his venture’s growth while cutting costs. His approach is grounded in leveraging branding and design to create a unique platform for marketing and learning from associates who run thriving ecommerce businesses. However, the journey hasn’t been without obstacles. Emphasizing the role of a perfect execution plan in bringing an unconventional idea to life, Ian shares how he navigated the challenges of managing agencies for his CRO and paid media strategy.

In this episode of the Minds of Ecommerce podcast, Raphael Paulin-Daigle welcomes Ian Blair, the Founder and CEO of Laundry Sauce, as they discuss how to scale a business fast without employees. They explore Laundry Sauce’s paid media strategy, how to manage agencies effectively, the importance of branding and design in marketing, and the challenges Ian faced growing his business.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by SplitBase.

At SplitBase, we design, test, and manage high-converting landing pages and on-site experiences for fashion, luxury, and lifestyle e-commerce brands. Our optimization program pinpoints exactly where your store is losing money most, and then we help you fix that.

The result? Increased conversions and profits for our clients.

With our team of conversion optimization specialists, performance marketers, and conversion-focused designers, we've got your back when it comes to testing and optimization.

Request a proposal on SplitBase.com today, and learn how we can help you get the most out of your marketing spend.

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Episode Transcript

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 0:06  

Welcome to the Minds of Ecommerce podcast, where you'll learn one key strategy that made leading ecommerce companies grow exponentially. We cut the bullshit and keep the meat in a 15-minute episode, founders and executives take us through a deep dive of a strategy, so you get to learn and grow your online sales. In the last episode, you heard from Andrew Case, the Co-founder of NoonBrew, and we talked about how to win with UGC at scale, super interesting conversation, so highly recommend you check it out. Now, today on episode number 37. Get ready Ian Blair is the Founder and CEO of Laundry Sauce, a really really cool brand. Now this is a direct consumer ecommerce brand that makes incredible smelling high performance laundry detergent pods. They've done a lot of things right. They've scaled super quickly. And today we're actually going to talk about that scaling. Because LS managed to scale really fast using paid media but with no employees. So we're gonna dissect that and talk about, you know, some of the mistakes but also how he's actually been able to do it. Now. I'm your host Raphael Paulin-Daigle, and I'm the founder of SplitBase. This is Minds of Ecommerce. Now this episode is also brought to you by SplitBase,  we help leading direct to consumer brands such as Dr. Squatch, HyperIce and Amica, AB test, design, build and manage high-converting landing pages. And on-site experiences, we generate a combined 100 million dollars in additional revenue for our clients every single year. Now, where are our optimization programs, pinpoints where your store is losing money most and then we help you fix it. And as a result, well then you get increased conversions ao V and of course, improve marketing efficiency. So if you want to scale your ecommerce brand profitably, word of wants to call and you can do so by requesting a proposal on split bass.com today, and you'll learn how you can get that how we can help you help how we can help you get the most out of your marketing today. All right, Ian, welcome to the show.

Ian Blair 02:04

Excited to do this.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 02:06

Yeah, always excited to chat with you. Yeah, awesome. Well, as you know, this podcast is all about going deep. And we're gonna dissect, you know, one key growth strategy, so our listeners can get as much value as possible right away. Now, just for people to get context. I mean, I'm very familiar with your brand. Obviously, we we've worked together for a couple of years. But you know, just for people to get context for how long have you been working on laundry sauce.

Ian Blair 02:30

So I came up with the idea for laundry sauce, and like, I think November of 2019. And we launched it October 2021. I think I started actively working on the idea, maybe a month or two after I came up with it. So it was about a year and a half to actually launch it. So we've been selling for just over two years. And that scaled super fast it took us about a year and a half to hit an eight figure run rate. And, you know, largely that's due to the fact that I think it's a you know, rock solid idea. But you know, additionally, we've worked with a lot of, you know, really great partners along the way that have experienced building eight figure nine figure brands. And I think we just did things right to begin with. Totally, and maybe again, just let's add more context, before we dive into the topic. What are some highlights of those, you know, two or three years? Yeah, well, first, let's start with kind of the background and how I came up with idea My background is I think it'll kind of put all the pieces together and first off for anyone that's wondering laundry sauce is essentially like a designer laundry detergent. What we've done is taken high end fragrances that you'd see in Designer cologne like Tom Ford le labo, Dolce and Gabbana, like we actually worked with the same fragrance team that makes those fragrances so we brought fine fragrance to laundry created really innovative packaging, an elevated experience. And really what we want to do is take laundry from mature to a self care routine and something that you're actually looking forward to doing. It's I think we've created this new phenomenon where people when they get laundry, laundry sauce delivered in the mail, they're excited to post about it on social media, they're excited to do their laundry like I mean honestly, every time you wash a new fragrance, I'm excited to do my laundry. So let's let's take a step back on my background. So my first company is a b2b SaaS company where we make it so people can build mobile apps and no coding required that company is called built fire started that when I was in college, and you know, SAS has always been a very sexy business for a lot of people, you know, scale that business, you know, built over 10,000 mobile apps. And, you know, my true passion just lives making money on the internet. Like when I was in high school, I was selling golf balls on eBay, like I was doing lemonade stands when I was like 12 years old. So I've just been an entrepreneur like since day one. And throughout, you know, building my SAS company, and even before that, I really learned internet marketing, online marketing, and I just always been fascinated by people paying you on the internet. So I always wanted to do an ecommerce company and I just wanted I think like what's game theory optimal in order to have a ecommerce company that can scale really fast? Like, what are the characteristics of really fast scaling ecommerce companies? Like what are the pitfalls I should avoid? Unfortunately, I had several friends, I had eight figure plus ecommerce businesses, and I was able to learn from them before I ever came up with the idea for laundry sauce. And I'll give you like an example. Like if you run a mountain bike store, you have like 1000s of SKUs. Or, you know, if you're selling other people's stuff, it's not your own brand. And you're just like in the business of being a retailer, or you're selling certain products that require like heavy ecommerce website customization. I don't like the example of the Vistaprint. That's not an easy business to run. So it's like, what can you have is a low SKU count as possible, relatively simple business for you to get to leverage all this existing infrastructure? Because there's no returns? Yeah, exactly. You don't want to do clothing because like return the sizing, like that's a pain in the ass inventory management is really difficult. So, you know, what, you know, the idea that I had is like, what's a non discretionary consumer good, where you can ply brand, you know, highlight time value, subscription oriented, high margin, you know, seeking a feed the marketing machine. And idea for laundry sauce came to me, I feel like I checked a lot of those boxes, and I just quite literally want to remove a box from point A to point B.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 6:50

I love it. And then you've actually been able to scale a, you know, to eight figures without any employees. So tell us more about that. Because I think that's pretty unconventional to get to that point with no employees?

Ian Blair

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I first off, you got to kind of pick your growth engine, I knew I wanted to be paid media, largely because that's like the most scalable growth engine there is like you'd spend money or $1 on ads and make more than $1, you're in pretty good shape, you know, obviously margin dependent and, you know, returning customer dependent, and so forth. But, you know, the general concept is pretty fascinating. So, and then with these advertising API's, like when you have 1000s of transactions, you're feeding back data to the algorithm to say, these are the types of customers that I want, you know, versus, for example, in b2b You might be generating leads was good leads, or the sales team actually gonna close and what happened, it goes to this rep, or that rep, if I want to scale revenue, I need more reps. Like, I just want to eliminate all those choke points where you have, you typically run into when you're trying to scale a business, you know, fortunately, you get a tremendous amount of leverage with E commerce, like if we're doing a million a month or 2 million a month, like my day to day really doesn't change it just see a different number on my Shopify app. And you know, especially when you have a three PL that handles all your fulfillment, like, you know, oh, hey, it's Black Friday, not my problem, I don't need to fulfill 1000s of orders, you know, that's on them. It's like literally a physical server in real life where they have to go manage the $15 an hour workers to, you know, put your box in another box. So you get just a tremendous amount of leverage with this business model in general, you know, to say that we've had the flow of success without having people like that would be, you know, inaccurate. So it's just more or less the economic relationship I've had with the people that have helped them build laundry sauce has largely been agencies. And what I love about agencies is you can essentially buy an outcome, they're world class at this one thing. Splitface is world class that CRO so let's, you know, go work with the best CRO company. And when you work with a agency, you're getting a whole team of people for less than the cost, and then it would cost you for like a you know, a solid employee. Right, and you're getting a, you know, in your case, a designer, developer, QA strategists, you get someone to review all the analytics. So it's like that same principle, but across like, all these other, you know, components of the business, like you need someone to do email marketing, you need someone to do your social media, you need someone to run your paid media. And it's, it's a bit, you know, modular, because it's a lot easier to replace an agency than it is an employee, certainly. And, you know, what I love about agencies is like, at the end of each month, they're always justifying why you should continue paying them with a presentation, like, here's the business impact that we've had, here's what we've done for you. You don't get that with employees. And I've had that with my, you know, software company where, you know, we've had, you know, over 50 employees in that business and, you know, you don't have employees trying to justify why they should you should keep paying their salary each month. Oh, yeah.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 9:28

That's such a good point. And it's so funny because what you're describing, I think, is a lot of entrepreneurs dreams, right? Like that's what they want like to have an eight-figure ecommerce business with no employees, just agencies. So I think like, it sounds good, obviously, on paper and not just on paper because you've done it, but so many people don't actually manage to do it. Why is that? You think it's a good point. So you do have to have a solid idea. Like if the product doesn't work, you know, if it's not scalable, like I do think Laundry sauce was a good idea, just straight up, but there's a lot of good ideas, and it really comes down to execution.

Ian Blair 10:26

And, you know, there's always like unconventional ideas that do well, like manscape, like, oh, let's make a raise of your balls. Interesting. Well, you know, turns out, they're, you know, 350 or 300, or $400 million, your business, something like that. Yep. So, um, you know, you have to start with a good foundation, where the unit economics line up to, like a solid market opportunity. And then you, as a founder, you have to be the visionary, you have to be able to paint the picture to, you know, bring other people on board, like, I've always been one to have co founders. And, you know, get them bought into the vision, because I just think you can always do better as a team. And then you know, businesses always cost money to start, you know, you might be able to bootstrap some businesses, you know, because they might cost me 2550 grand launch, but some businesses are just a lot more expensive. So now, if you get into the realm of having to be able to convince investors to back your idea, and you know, you kind of do it in little increments, like, before we even launched, like we'd raised, you know, half a million dollars in pre-seed money before we sold any, and, you know, then you raise that money, and then you can start selling, you're like, oh, we have traction. Interesting. All right, well, we should go raise more money. All right, I got more traction house, you know, continue that path. And that's generally how it goes, you're building a business. So out of the founder, it's about, you know, painting the vision and getting all these different alliances on board, you know, to build this, whether it's the agencies, whether it's the co founders, you know, if you do have employees, investors, and you're kind of trying to shepherd that, in a way. And yeah, so

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 11:36

I'm curious, obviously, like building such a business without any team members, and just with agencies. Again, it sounds great, but I'm sure there are some challenges involved as well. Yeah. As you gone through this over the years, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in doing? So?

Ian Blair 11:55

I mean, we've certainly rotated through our a fair number of agencies over the years. I mean, typically, I feel like it's taken us to get. Yeah, and we've gone to two or three agencies for a particular, you know, use case like you guys, were the second agency for CRO I've worked with one before, you know, but what is nice about that is you do establish a benchmark, and then I go to split base, and like, alright, well, you guys gotta beat this. And then, you know, every agency is always saying that they can beat another agency. I think, you know, one of the things that doesn't make a big difference is like the people you interact with an interface with on a day-to-day basis, like at the agency like is, typically you'll have an account manager, and that is almost like your employee like you, you do have to manage them a little bit. I mean, they are a lot more self-managing in general than an employee, but you do, you have to have like constant feedback loops. And it's not just like, set it and forget it. But if you do have tight feedback loops with your data, then everyone knows like, if they're doing good or bad, like that's the one thing I love about e commerce, you can't really hide because everything is so real time metric driven, versus, you know, traditional businesses where you have sales teams, like there's these all these lag periods from when you spend money in market when you make money. And just be able to report on all that, like with E commerce, it's so much of a standardized infrastructure, like if you're built on Shopify, you can add all these apps in and you just got about you get great real time data. And most people know whether or not they're doing good or not like on the CRO side, it's we put this test out and we make more money or less money, is that a winning test? Losing test? Alright, and then how many winning tests do we produce at the end of this month? And like, everyone kind of knows whether or not they're doing good or not? Totally.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 13:34

Now, I want to talk a bit about paid media, because you guys have primarily scaled through that. And obviously, you're spending a ton on the topic of paid media. Now, tell us a bit more like, have you guys, what have you guys done differently that's made you so successful at scaling so quickly? And did you have like a paid media background in order to kind of know what you're doing? Or was it all really because of the agencies you hired?

Ian Blair 14:00

I mean, I definitely have a background in inbound marketing, SEO, paid media and so forth. I think what made us unique was and when most people look at us, they'll think that we're very brand-forward. And we have been from the beginning. And our first one of our first outside investors is a company called Raindrop and their premier marketing and branding agency. They're responsible for the branding behind Dr. Squatch, which we all know has had, you know, massive multi-100-million dollar year success. They're actually filming the Superbowl commercial for Dr. Squash when they saw some of the creative their team and produce for us. They were like, Okay, we got to get their money back and invest. So having someone like raindrop early on helped shape the brand, I think it was quite useful.

And, you know, the brand is really like the platform in which you get to build all your marketing off of like, I'll give some, you know, like extreme examples, like take, for example, liquid death, right? They've created a very, very unique brand persona that allows them to do so many things that other people Can like one of their ads, they're literally waterboarding someone like, Saudi or awkwafina, I can't do that, you know, they can even get away with it. So when you design, like our brand is what it didn't just, it's not just happenstance. It's all by design. And it allows us to speak to our customers in a particular way that is different than other brands. So, you know, really, I think viewing your brand is a platform for you know, what voice, we're going to create that as you allow us to do certain types of marketing that performs quite well, right. You know, liquid death, I think created a platform to create viral videos that no other water brand can do, because they're just boring and unexcited.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 15:39

Yeah, big time. I'm actually curious as well, um, obviously, when it comes to scaling so quickly, with paid media, there's also going to be some challenges where like, you know, most brands, at one point really feel like they hit a plateau. Did you feel at one point where like, you felt like you hit that plateau? And you really couldn't move past it? And if so, how did you actually go past it?

Ian Blair 16:03

I mean, we haven't, we haven't hit too many plateaus. I mean, largely, because, you know, the product, product expansion as an ecommerce business, like helps a lot with improving your unit economics, like improving LTV, improving margin, and so forth. And we just started off with pods. And then it was like eight months later, we added in dryer sheets, and we launched another fragrance. And then we started adding, you know, scent booster fabric softener candles, fine fragrance. And like every time we've added more products, it's just been more stuff to sell people, which kind of, you know, helps improve the unit economics. And then I think over time, we just learn more about our customers. And you know what marketing messages are resonating. And we've just like, taken those feedback loops and incorporated them. And it's just tended to improve things like after you do CRO for over a year, your website is better, right. And the I just I think we're still so early on. I mean, we're just we've just been selling for over two years. So we're still rapidly learning and there's all these still like low-hanging fruit, I think probably gets a bit more difficult as the business gets more mature, and you've tested a lot of things, but I still look at our business and think like, wow, we still have so much stuff to do. So I think that's it, it just kind of depends on what part of the lifecycle you're at in your business.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 17:19

Love it. Well,  you won't get bored. I have a feeling. I'm now I always like to ask like, if you I know laundry sauce, only about two years old. But if you had to restart this entire business all over again, what would you do differently?

Ian Blair 17:26

Good question. Start with agencies that I work with now. That would probably have saved me a little bit of headache. So yeah, I mean, it's, you know, hindsight is always 2020 I think there's definitely, you know, there's media partnerships that we spend money on that didn't really pencil out, you know, I wish I would have, you know, kept that money in the core channels like meta and you know, Tik Tok, and Google, and so forth. So I think, you know, maybe wasted a little bit of money on, you know, marketing that didn't really pencil out. So I wish I can have that capital back to reinvest it in other areas. And then, yeah, just the learning experience of, you know, you understand, like what an agency can do at a world class level versus, you know, one that can just see you having to skip that learning cycle, but then the day, we've made it here, and we're gonna keep pushing, sweet, awesome. Now, if you know, there's one person or a couple people that you look up to, as an entrepreneur for these people, but obviously, you're a very successful entrepreneur, but who does someone like you look up to? Well, one of the one guy always had, you know, or it's been a coach for several years, the guy Dan Martell, you know, he'd run. Yeah, so near fellow Canadian. Yeah, I certainly look up to him. I mean, I think he sets a great example, because it's not just succeeding, a business is succeeding and all these other areas of life, I tend to look at, you know, brands as benchmarks of success. Like, I love what Liquid Death has done. You manscaped is, you know, they've had a huge amount of success. Dr. Squatch, you know, cuts, I think they've crushed it. So, I kind of look at these DTC brands that have achieved a certain level of success that, you know, I want to aspire to so I mean, they respect the whole team is that, you know, brought those things to life and made those things work. You know, more so than just like particular like individuals, but yeah, I mean, Dan, Dan, would be one of our role models for sure.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 19:38

Amazing. I have to say the same without Dan, I probably wouldn't be here doing this podcast. He's the one who's pushed me outside of my comfort zone. More times than I can count. But hey, Ian, that was fantastic. Thank you so much for being here. Now if people want to learn more about Laundry Sauce and yourself, where should they go? What should they type in their address bar?

Ian Blair 19:57

Yeah, laundrysauce.com or @laundrysauce on Instagram. And if you want to see more about my life, it's @ianblair44 on Instagram.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle 20:06

Awesome. Well, we've been talking to Ian, who's the founder of Laundry Sauce. Now. Ian, thank you so much for being here. And we'll chat soon.

Ian Blair 20:16

Thanks for having me.

Raphael Paulin-Daigle  20:25  

All right. Well, that's it for today's episode. And thank you so much for tuning in. Now, if you like what you've heard, and you don't want to miss any of the new episodes that are about to come out, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. And well bonus points if you also leave a review in the iTunes Store, or wherever you're listening to this. Now, if you're working on an ecommerce store that does over a million dollars in revenue, and you need help with conversion optimization or landing pages, well, I've got some good news because there's a pretty good chance we can help with that. Go to splitbase.com To learn more, or even to request a proposal. If you have any guest requests, questions, or comments, tweet me at Rpaulindaigle, and I'll be super happy to hear from you. And again, thanks again for listening. This is Minds of Ecommerce.