S2 E11: Michael De Santis, Doris Dev & Canopy: Retention starts on the factory floor


On this episode of Retention Chronicles, we’re joined by Michael De Santis, Director of Business Operations at Doris Dev, a full suite product development agency, and is a member of the founding team at Canopy, a no mist and no water diffuser brand. Michael, Mariah, and Noah chat through;

  • product inception and design,
  • eco-friendly packaging,
  • fulfillment,
  • product testing,
  • thinking about retention even when you're developing your product,
  • building customer loyalty with samplers, and more!

Be sure to subscribe to our pod to stay up-to-date and checkout Malomo, the leading order tracking platform for Shopify brands.

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This transcript was completed by an automated system, please forgive any grammatical errors.


brands, product, canopy, people, supply chain, super, retention, launch, humidifier, packaging, set, side, 3pl, doris dev, agency, business, point, customers, industrial design, thoughtful


Noah Rahimzadeh, Michael De Santis, Mariah Parsons

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:05

Hey retention pros. I'm Notre Dame's today and I lead partnerships here at Malomo. I'm super pumped to continue to chat with ecosystem experts alongside Mariah you all already know and love, say hi Mariah,

Mariah Parsons 00:16

Hey everyone, as you probably no retention Chronicles likes to bring in some of the best retention focus brands in the Shopify ecosystem.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:24

But we don't just feature grants. We also feature some great thought leaders in the Shopify ecosystem that served us brands.

Mariah Parsons 00:31

And because we always want these conversations to be fun, you'll hear us talk to our guests about what they're excited about, and let's help them get to where they are today.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:39

We hope you'll stick around to learn and laugh.

Mariah Parsons 00:42

Retention Chronicles is sponsored by Malomo a shipment in order tracking platform improving the post purchase experience, be sure to subscribe and check out all of our episodes at Bo malomo.com.

Noah Rahimzadeh 00:59

Hey, everyone, welcome back to retention Chronicles. Super excited for today's ecosystem episode with Michael DeSantis. From Doris Dev, Miko will will give a more formal introduction here in a second. But I'm really excited for the conversation. We haven't had a product focused agency on yet so should be a really unique perspective. And Michael was also running point at one of the new brands that we brought on called canopy so he brings the brand experience along with the agency experience, which we love. Yeah, and with that, Michael, I'd love to pass it off to you for a quick intro.

Michael De Santis 01:38

Oh, yeah. Thanks so much for having me. So DeSantis I am the Director of Business Operations here at doors dev on the founding team at canopy. Yeah, I can go into a little bit more detail about Doris and canopy. Doris is a full stack Product Development Agency for hire we, you know, you can kind of think of us essentially as like an outsourced VP of product for brands. I think in general. You know, the kind of the inception of doors Dev was building product as a is a black box for most people, when they step into to launching their own DTC brand. And our two co founders came from a company called quirky where they set up tons of supply chains in conjunction with a team in Hong Kong. Once Corky folded, they kind of both went their separate ways, startup supply chains for a company called Raiden. And a company called Gobi and realized that this was a templatized process that we could really build out and you know, help support other brands in bringing new product to life. But when we first launched we were primarily focused on setting up supply chains and in the interim, we've in the in the time since we've launched we've also expanded into supporting on the industrial design side of things so you know taking product concept from somebody's head and building something beautiful that can then we can then hand off to our supply chain, supply chain team to go get manufactured. And we also support on the free and ops side of things as well. So for some of our most of our clients, we help support on input and on the fulfillment side of things we can help set you up in a three PL and manage that inbound experience as well as shipping out to 10 customer so really everything from inception of product all the way through fulfillment and customer and including industrial design, design, engineering, mechanical, electrical engineering, supply chains, etc. So all sorts of fun stuff on that side of things and kind of with those chops, I mean you know, a handful of agencies have pulled the trigger on this now taking whatever their core expertise is and applying that to launching their own product brand. So we started work on canopy in 2019 Lucas who's the head of product of doors Devin, the CO CEO of canopy came up with this idea after watching his girlfriend like scrub for humidifier every single weekend like taking an hour white vinegar cute. The whole nine and he the reason she was using it also was for like skincare not for not because she was sick, or anything like that and kind of took those two insights and was like we can redesign a humidifier to make it super make it look a lot nicer, right a lot of humidifiers on the market are very much just an appliance make it a lot easier to clean and position it in the beauty wellness space. And that was really like the key insight and unlock on the canopy side of things. We launched that that brand in October October first of 2020. Sir coming up on two years in a couple of days. So that's really exciting. So that team has grown I think we have about eight full time people on the canopy team right now. We have have about 30 to 35 people on the doorstep side of things. offices in New York and Hong Kong. And yeah, I mean, one other thing I don't know if we recovered off on when we initially spoke no. But we also incubated another brand called factored quality, which launched this year as well, which is a managed services SAS platform for booking quality control inspectors anywhere in the world. So think about it like flex port, you can go in, give us all your factory details information, we can run Factory audits in line inspections, pre shipment, inspections, compliance testing, etc. So really just like helping to support brands that are, you know, graduating from Doris Dev and or just other DTC ecosystem who are looking for support on getting kind of boots on the ground in China or wherever their their manufacturing goods, because you can't really back in the day, back in the heyday, you could just fly over to China during production and watch somebody there to do it for you. Right.

Noah Rahimzadeh 06:05

Wow. There's tons.

Mariah Parsons 06:08

Like, so impressed like my head is spinning here. You talk about everything that you do that yourself does, it's I can't wait to dive in.

Michael De Santis 06:18

Yeah, it's exciting stuff. Unique seat for

Noah Rahimzadeh 06:22

sure. And it's, I'm a little nervous myself now, because like, I don't know much about product development at all, which is one of the reasons I was super excited to have you on. And I do think it's a gap right for like a lot of our customers to your point, like we're seeing a lot of our top marketing agencies spin out their own brands, and their expertise is really solid on the marketing side. Or I would imagine a lot of them are going to need some help on, you know, the product side and in iterating on the businesses that they're either acquiring or are starting from scratch. So I think it's a really interesting dynamic. My first question that came to mind was now that canopies a few years, and you kind of talked about the headcount in each canopy and Doris, have you and the founders of doors gone back to doors now full time, or what's the intersection between?

Michael De Santis 07:18

Yeah, so I think like in the lead up to launching canopy, I was probably 75% on canopy and that probably lasted, you know, almost a full year, post launch of the business. In the time, since that my time is probably shrunk down to closer to 25%. Justin Lucas, split time, probably a little bit more evenly. But at the end of the day, these things oscillate and vary. And, you know, prepping for q4 right now, on the canopy side of things is is a little bit more intensive. But we're still all three of us are kind of split across both teams at this moment in time. And, you know, I at this point, especially like on the canopy side of things, and on the doorstep side of things we've hired in people to really start executing on on really specific things. So we can be involved in strategy and growing these businesses from a tactical perspective and less like needing to be in the weeds on the executional side of things. But that doesn't mean we don't still get our hands dirty when we need to. Right. Right.

Noah Rahimzadeh 08:19

Right. Right. Cool. That's good to know. Okay, so I kind of want to, if it's okay with you, I would love to like give you a product idea. And just like have you walk the audience through. Like, how you would think about you know, from start to finish bringing this product to life. Yeah. And I'm just going to use one of my one of my very good friends shout out to Josh. Josh is just started selling a, this is gonna sound weird, but it's I think it's a cool idea. It's like a wall mounted, cat scratcher. It's like a thing that a crash can a cat can come like, it's on the wall, it looks cool. They can come play with it, they can, you know, rob them, scratch their backs, that sort of thing. And so he went through like this whole, he went through like, a warehouse that, you know, overseas, I think maybe even Alibaba or something. But just if we took that example and said, like, we want to create this ourselves from scratch, how would you? How would you? What would you even start with? Like, from a consulting standpoint? Do you do anything upfront to make sure that, you know, it's viable, that you even want to take the time to do it and then all the way to like, fulfillment, I guess, and we'll obviously talk about, you know, what happens once it's actually in market as well? A little later.

Michael De Santis 09:48

Of course. Yeah, I mean, I guess I'll start with the leg a little bit inside baseball, which is I think, worth noting so you know doorsteps of a bootstrap business. When we first launched or stepped the game All here was to find partners that had won the capital and to the skills and expertise to bring product to market. Anybody who works in any sort of design field will tell you there's so much work that gets done and executed on and never sees the actual light of day. And kind of given the work that we do in physical product, we needed to partner with businesses and brands that were going to be able to bring product from concept all the way through to execution and ideally find success. The way that we've grown doorstep as a business is through word of mouth almost exclusively, like we don't do outbound marketing, we don't have a press team. We just put good work work out there and good work, you know, good things come back to us. And I think that, you know, we can talk about retention. And you know, I think that's part of the retention piece on the doorstep side of things. There are a bunch of ways to get product, there are a handful of ways to get product made, maybe not a bunch. And I think it all depends on like level of complexity, and what you're trying to do with your business at the end of the day, right? If you're looking to launch, you know, you get a Jungle Scout account or something and you want to launch a niche brand on Amazon, and you're just trying to have a side hustle like doors Dev is not going to be a great fit. I think that's that's agree that, you know, if that's the goal, I think there's a ton of opportunity for you to like, do that hustle, work, go, go on Alibaba, find potential suppliers and, you know, figure out ways to find an off the shelf product that you can make some minor customizations to in working with a factory overseas, and, you know, get that imported. If you're thinking that you're going to be moving a decent amount of volume, and you want a partner to help you lead you through the process, there are trading companies that you can work with as well. Those will generally be businesses that are US based that have, you know, a deep manufacturing base overseas, they'll be the manufacturer of record, they'll go find the supplier for you, they'll set up the supply chain, they will then mark up the cost of goods sold. That's how they make money. You don't own that supply chain, they essentially own it, you have to keep ordering through them in perpetuity unless you go and stand up your own supply chain and set up a relationship directly with a manufacturing partner.

Noah Rahimzadeh 12:21

So that's true, what do you most of your customers do? Or maybe your maybe your?

Michael De Santis 12:26

Yeah, so that's that's the next piece of the puzzle, right? I think like the the goal of doors that I have, at the end of the day was to build a system that we could, you know, help brands through this initial process. And then when they when they're ready when they've gone out and they've raised enough money and they've hired any appropriate internal product people, the supply chain is theirs to own and operate, right, we're not, we don't want to insert ourselves in the middle in perpetuity, where we're marking up cost of goods sold, etc. What we're doing is we're setting up supply chains for scale for brands that you know, have a high growth intent or high growth potential, who, you know, maybe they're they're opening orders only 5000 units, but two years down the line, they're placing, you know, 25,000 100,000 unit purchase orders, because they've been able to scale their business. And as a result, they're not continuing to pay that markup on cost of goods sold that you would if you're going through a trading company, it's not uncommon to start down that path with a trading company. And once you find product market fit and to invest in actually standing up your own supply chain. So the I'll say like the cat scratch,

Noah Rahimzadeh 13:40

just probably

Michael De Santis 13:44

the best thing for doors, but maybe we just use canopy as an example. Yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 13:47


Michael De Santis 13:49

So, you know, at the end of the day, what we're looking for if we're doing everything end to end, you know, industrial design through supply chain setup into freight, and freight and ops. You know, we're looking for we're looking for a number of things. One, we're looking to understand what the capital structure of the businesses, how much money have they raised, do they have the money that they need to invest, to stand up a supply chain and then have enough money to launch a website, build a brand, and spend the marketing dollars to keep the business rolling, that's super important to us, you know, kind of harkening back to that we want any any brand that we work with, we want to see them be successful, we want to make sure that they're going to have like a long lifespan and support them in standing up a supply chain that can scale with them. To I think it's like we we are in a position and you know, we have been historically to say no to things if we don't think it's going to be a good fit for us whether it's you know, product category that we're not super familiar with. We don't do wet chemistry. We don't do apparel, right? We really focus on like durable goods canopy is a great example in injection molded plastic part with with fan, there's some electrical components involved. In that case, we'd be looking for a brief from the client saying, hey, here are all the key characteristics, here's what here's the kind of target market, we're looking to go after, here's our target landed costs, here's the key constraints that we've we're aware of whether that's, you know, relevant compliance testing, or, in the case of a humidifier, say we needed to be able to humidify space up to 500 square feet, right. So there are, you know, kind of design constraints and engineering constraints, and we're looking to have those at least somewhat defined prior to kicking off an engagement. So that way, we can have a clearer picture and path forward, we're also looking for, you know, target minimum order quantities, somewhere in the 1500 to 2500. Range, obviously, the more the better, because you're going to be able to push price down on the factory side of things. But that's kind of the low end of what we're looking for in terms of what people are looking to execute on. And at the end of the day, you're making a big capital investment to set up a supply chain. So once we have all those those key characteristics defined, what we'll do is we'll step into the industrial design phase, we'll bring in the design team, we'll have a kickoff meeting, really kind of blue sky, the project and say, here's where we're, here's where you're finding inspiration, here's where we're finding inspiration doesn't even have to be the same category of products, it could be a sculpture that you like, or something. We just worked with the soft services team, they just launched a product actually on Tuesday. That was inspired by like, some some sculptural art that we then took and turned into a physical product. And it's beautiful. It's called Therap lush, I think. So, you know, once we do that blue sky work, then we're going to start to lay out a handful of different concept path paths forward, we're going to narrow that down and then refine until we get to something that is ready to be basically handed off to the engineering team. So that way, we can start to really think about okay, now we have this beautiful product in three dimensions, right? We know what it looks like, but how does it actually get made? And, you know, there's a natural tension between design and engineering, right? I think. There there's a, there's design in theory, and then there's like design, functional design in practice, and how do you get product made at the end of the day is always an interesting challenge. So once we get to the end of industrial design, it gets handed off to the engineering team. And then we're kicking that tech pack over to the team in Hong Kong as well. And we're going out and we're sourcing, we're reaching out to a bunch of different manufacturing partners trying to figure out who would be a good fit, figuring out what sample cost timing MOQ is look like what estimated tooling costs look like at that point. And then we'll while the engineering team is working in conjunction with some of these factories, we are getting samples, reviewing the samples working towards making a decision about who the best manufacturing partner is going to be. From there, we'll kick off tooling, if it's relevant, if you have an injection molded plastic part, you essentially need to build a fixture that you can inject the plastic into. And so that'll get kicked off that man. And during that process, we're gonna get multiple samples off of that tool, make sure that the product coming off the line is, you know, of the spec and quality that we're looking for. And we're ultimately trying to achieve. And once we go through that process, you know, a few rounds of sampling, we're kicking off, you know, ideally kicking off a purchase order and starting mass production. Setting up supply chains for EECOM packaging for most of our, for most of our customers as well. And on the canopy side of things, we've I think we're on our fifth iteration of packaging at this point. So packaging is low key tricky, and I everybody underwrites how complicated packaging is actually going to end up being. And yeah, then finished goods get packed, packed into their ecom shippers put on a container and sent to a three PL, now you've got a product and market in general, that that whole process takes it's about two months of industrial design, and then five to seven months of you know, setting up the supply chain and getting finished goods. So a lot of people, we have a lot of conversations where it's like, hey, I want new, like, you know, I had a conversation last week. I want new product in market in December, and I want it to be fully custom and I'm like, unfortunately, that's not going to happen. Yeah, it's definitely a matter of like the people who are new to the product development process, I think, underestimate the amount of time energy and effort that it takes underestimate the cost that goes into the whole process. And but at the end of the day, right when when we go through that process, now we have a supply chain set up, all you need to do is email the supplier and say, Hey, we need to get the ball rolling on a second purchase order. A lot of clients are continue to work with us, we manage their supply chains in an ongoing fashion. And then ideally are helping them stand up new supply chains for new product as the business grows. And then eventually people sadly graduated from doorstep and internal products, people and everything should be running smoothly at that point.

Mariah Parsons 20:36

That's it right? Yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 20:40

Oh, my God is fascinating. We never we never get the inside scoop on like everything leading up right. Like most of the time, you know, we're not even we're even beyond the first set of customers we're pretension focus. So yeah, this is like two steps removed from us.

Michael De Santis 20:57

I mean, I think it's actually really, it's really interesting because even though we sit very far apart from like, A, where we live in, you know, meeting these brands and integrating with them, the the, like, the end goal is actually the exact same thing, right, like retention starts on the factory floor. As far as we're concerned, right, you're not going to be able to retain customers, if good product is not coming off the line and arriving in customers hands, they're not going to come back to you for product number two, or three or four, they're not going to subscribe for whatever your subscription model looks like. If the initial experience with the product isn't great. It's the first impression and you know, if you're if you build this beautiful brand, and you set customer expectations really high for what they're going to receive, and then you get something that doesn't meet those expectations. I have a story. I just I just want to know if TaylorMade golf clubs.

Noah Rahimzadeh 21:52

Nice I have I bought I got the Pink's looking at the tailor made

Michael De Santis 21:59

tailor made sells super excited about it. I'm like, wow, it's time I think my golf might set of clubs were from 1999 like

Noah Rahimzadeh 22:07

to say man.

Michael De Santis 22:11

They arrived in, like the shittiest corrugated box with like, just these on not thoughtful foam inserts. And like, my excitement level on that. And like, I'm still very excited. I have my new set of golf clubs, but like, expectations were missed set in my mind, it would have been better. Yeah. It could have been so much better. And I think like being thoughtful about that entire experience is super important, especially if you're a digitally native brand at the end of the day is like delivering high quality product and the physical experience of receiving the product are very important.

Noah Rahimzadeh 22:48

Absolutely. I'm I'm curious. We actually just had Are you familiar with whiplash

Michael De Santis 22:53

there? Uh, yeah, I am. Yep. They're,

Noah Rahimzadeh 22:56

they're a great three PL partner of ours. And we were actually on multiple calls with them just yesterday. So this is Top of Mind. I'm curious. Like, what is the what is the intersection between what you how you think about packaging? And then what a three PL can can add to that experience? Yeah, yeah, for them customer.

Michael De Santis 23:17

So I think that as far as that goes, we are constantly working with clients to help minimize costs domestically, right? If you're producing, like so many people sell like starter kits of something. Even canopy, it's a starter kit, right, we have the humidifier, we have the adapter and cord to plug it into the wall, we have a set of aroma kits, we have a filter right? Now if you were to assemble that domestically, at a three PL it's going to get relatively expensive, because they're charging you want to pick and pack bases. Every single country has additional cost. So we're really looking to do a couple of things on the packaging development side of things. One, we're trying to optimize for space. Like thankfully over the course of the last two weeks freight costs have like really come down, which is exciting. Last year, they were $20,000 I think I saw a quote last week for six 6k which is very exciting.

Noah Rahimzadeh 24:20

That's that's quite a difference.

Michael De Santis 24:25

One, one major thing we're doing is we're optimizing for space, right? We want to have the smallest possible box that can keep product protected. Because you're talking about saving saving costs one on the freight side of things to on the storage side of things and three on the outbound fulfillment side of things. So there's the implications of optimizing your packaging are super important. And then on the other. The other thing that we're really thinking about is how can we kit as much as possible abroad, where it's going to be a lot cheaper to put that those kits together? Just lower labor costs, etc. Now, obviously, you know, if you're working with a three PL you're expecting them to run special projects where you're like, hey, I need you to take this out of the box, put this in it, etc.

Noah Rahimzadeh 25:14

What last told us yesterday that they literally put bikes together for make bikes?

Michael De Santis 25:24

Of course I mean, there's, I've definitely definitely asked through pls do a lot of crazy things back in the day like I read and we were like, You need to open up all these returns and polish these suitcases and put them back in bags so that we can, you know, like three bales down to help out. I wouldn't say we're like diametrically opposed, I think that we have a union with three peels that is we're trying to make everything operationally efficient. And I think good fruit peels are focused on operational efficiency as well. And at the end of the day, they would rather have people who have high volume products were moving a lot in and out of the warehouse than people who are just doing a lot of kidding. For kidding sake.

Noah Rahimzadeh 26:06

Yeah. That's cool. Yeah, that's I like I didn't even I'd never have thought about the idea that like when a three PL gets which I'm new to the three PL Game Two totally. So I'm still figuring all that out. And yesterday's sessions with them were were really helpful. But I didn't think about the fact that like there is also packaging work that's done before the package even arrives to them. And so it makes a lot of sense that you'd be optimizing for efficiency, with you mentioned, like three or four factors that you think about that all that all makes sense. I'm wondering, is there any with the big push on like, eco friendliness? Do you think about that at all, when you're manufacturing products? And or is that more like I want to get here?

Michael De Santis 26:52

No, no, absolutely. I mean, I mean, I think that, at this point, it's table stakes, right? Wherever there's opportunity to take an Ico Ben, you want to take it. The like, there, we work with a bunch of brands that have really heavy products, right. And heavy products means corrugate fails, when it's getting shipped. There's a type of testing you can do called ISDA testing that will basically run your package through a bunch of like, hilarious scenarios, like getting drops 100 times and, you know, heat testing, cold testing, et cetera, to make sure that vibration testing so that we can have a really high level of confidence that product is not going to get destroyed in transit. So, you know, back in the day, everybody just put foam in, it was super easy to protect, it's super easy to protect anything if you put a bunch of foam in it. But obviously, no customer wants to open a box that's filled with foam like that gives you an icky feeling as a consumer at this point. So being really thoughtful about, you know, the types of corrugated inserts, you can create how you can experiment with like, kind of some frontier stuff, some it's the super high cost right now, but I think it's really interesting. There are mycelium inserts. So you can basically make a mold and grow these mushroom inserts to put in your, your packaging, which is fully biodegradable, not super scalable at the moment, but definitely very cool for brands that are trying to do something special. But I think like at the end of the day, minimizing plastic is a prerogative of every single brand that we're working with at least single use plastic, right? Like it's to make product in plastic. It's it's just the issue of making sure that you have as little plastic in your packaging as possible.

Mariah Parsons 28:50

Yeah, I actually just had to look up like corrugated inserts mean. So it's like when it fits in the box, like perfectly it has a little indent. It's really cool. Yeah, I love the two that you said. Oh, wait, go ahead. Go ahead.

Michael De Santis 29:04

I was gonna say and then you're looking like an apple. Right? And like people really don't they don't want to like throw out the packaging. Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure everybody has like a laptop box in their closet. And I just don't feel good about throwing this away for whatever reason.

Mariah Parsons 29:19

You're so right. I'm so glad that you mentioned that because I think that is an extremely relatable voice. Yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 29:26

That literally just happened to me. Like my girlfriend, Ashley was like, What are we doing with this? You know, she doesn't want any clutter at all. And I'm like, I don't know. But like, just leave it there.

Mariah Parsons 29:37

I don't know what it makes me feel better. Yeah, I feel like I always played the game of like, oh, I use it later. Or like if I like return the product or whatever. Like if I'm shipping. I'm such okay, this is such a tangent, but I don't care. I'm gonna go on it anyways, like if I get a nice package, I will save the box to like, send to other people if I'm like sending something or my family or friends returns okay you guys are nodding your heads you also do that okay yeah for for good chunk of time I was like oh my god oh my like crazy doing this but it works because it does make you feel better like it goes back into the experience of what you're saying like you don't want to throw it out because like single use plastic you feel like terrible about right like and the helium inserts you were saying

Michael De Santis 30:23

like mycelium inserts Oh mycelium

Mariah Parsons 30:25

I was picturing like balloons

Michael De Santis 30:30

Yeah, no, it's mushrooms. Okay, yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 30:34

That are like to protect that that are like a protecting agent basically. Yeah, yeah. Wow.

Mariah Parsons 30:41

Oh my god. I'm gonna wow, I really I'm gonna like do a deep dive into this now because that's that's like a mushroom in a box.

Michael De Santis 30:48

There's a Ecovative that does it like I don't know if you guys have ever during COVID Somebody gave me like a mushroom grow kit. And like it's just like this mycelium brick that you like spray with like God you make these mycelium bricks that are you know the same as like a Korean Korean answer. Again, not super scalable at this moment in time. That I think is super cool.

Noah Rahimzadeh 31:12

That is cool. That's awesome. Wow. I knew this would be a good one. So much. This is wild. That's awesome. Yeah, I do I definitely do the same thing. Mariah mostly though with like, bags like Lululemon bags are normally when I packaged gifts in to be honest with you. I always save those.

Mariah Parsons 31:33

Yeah. That's a good, that's a good add on right there. No.

Noah Rahimzadeh 31:38

Another question. I was thinking when you when you were sort of talking about the whole process. I'm so happy walked us through that. Because I would imagine like a lot of, you know, for us, and a lot of our listeners probably don't realize how much goes into it. What, what should brands be doing in like that interim period, while they're waiting for the product to be ready, like, are they normally fundraising? Are they normally like evangelizing their brand and starting their marketing outreach? Are they you know, like, what, what have you seen them do? And what would you recommend the brands do when they're in that sort of holding period?

Michael De Santis 32:10

I think it depends, like, if you're talking to pre a brand, that's pre launch, at the end of the day, if you're engaging with a tourist, if you've you've already raised that like pre seed round of funding, you're probably you've probably already kicked off branding work. Ideally, like, if we're doing industrial design, you'd have like a logo and a color palette figured out by the time we're getting vulnerable link. And then you're getting the process started on designing and developing the website, getting everything set up. Operationally, if you're gonna manage your own three PL make sure that that's all tight, make sure you understand what the tech stacks gonna look like, on your side of things, I think, you know, on the canopy side of things, this is super true, the tech stack that we started with, it's not the tech stack that we have today. Right. And like even, you know, launching with you guys on the canopy side of things like my mind is super exciting change to the business super interesting opportunity for us. And honestly, like a no brainer. I think the the thing is, is like when you're first evaluating your tech stack, though, you need to be thoughtful, and you need to stay scrappy. I think that a lot of brands, and I think everybody's feeling this now, but people like to spend when they have the money. And, you know, fundraising is a lot harder to do today than it was a year ago. So being super thoughtful, and staying scrappy, I think is key. And in thinking about where what are the highest impact areas, the tech stack that you want to invest money in today, where you want to end up in the future. And like, you know, maybe that's starting with something super simple on the referral side of things or on the review side of things and knowing that you're going to eventually graduate to something that's a little bit more sophisticated and complicated. That's going to give you the ability to do more things, whether that be on the retention side of things or the loyalty side of things. So I think it's really a matter of like, during during that interim phase, there's a ton of work that's going on. And ideally, we're just giving you peace of mind on on the product side of things. And yeah, syncing up with you on a week over week basis. I guess the other thing you're doing is like lining up agency partners that you need to execute post launch, right. So find your find your email agency, find your paid search, your paid your digital media agency, whatever that looks like. And build up a deep bench of creative so that way you can test and move quickly. And then if you're already in market and you have if you and you have customers, there are a couple of interesting things you could do. I think one you can get. I you know, I shortened the process a little bit to make it a bit more palatable. There's obviously a lot of detail and what goes on. There's, you know, production validation testing is when we're doing a preprint auction run to get, you know, a handful of sample units make sure that the mass production process is going to be firing on all cylinders, when we're actually trying to produce a few 1000 units or 10s of 1000s of units of something. You know, I think there's an interesting opportunity there to seed some of your, you know, what some of your biggest customers and say like, Hey, we want to give you this. Give us some feedback, right? Yeah, great way to build loyalty. It's a great way to build evangelists for the brand. What we do is we kind of, on the canopy side of things, we have like an SMS list, which we kind of refer to as canopy VIP, right? So we're teasing them with stuff a lot earlier on, than we are the rest of the customer base. So I think it's kind of like priming them. They're seeding influencers, getting the PR team to start pitching the product out to different publications. So that way, when we do have launch at splashy, right, and we have things that we can point to, on the press side of things, and then ideally, behind that clicks into place, the email side of things start spending on you know, Facebook, Instagram, Google, tik, Tok Pinterest, wherever you're finding success and kind of scale and do it. Yeah, I think it's a little different, depending on if you're in market, or if you're if you're pre launch. Right.

Noah Rahimzadeh 36:23

I think that's, that's also very, like, interesting, just based on I actually had that question written down is, is, but I have a ton. Is our most of the brands that you work on, like net new entrepreneurs that come to you with a product, and then they have to like go get funding? And I'm curious about how you would get funding before you have, you know, validation that one, you've done this before, or one a, you know, you have a product that we're and to another, like Top of Mind question, because we partner with a lot of those, those agency types that you sort of walk through, like, is that? Is there a well, one, you know, do you have preferred agency partners that you help sort of point your clients to? And is there a world in which you start to do some of that growth? That growth stuff down the road at Doris?

Michael De Santis 37:18

So I don't think that. Yeah, I think we'll ever do growth stuff. I think that if anything, like we'll use doorstep as a vehicle to launch more canopies in the world, and hiring people who are deep experts in specific things, right, I think that that's kind of the, in my mind, that's the beauty of working with agency partners, right? Like, they have deep near narrow expertise and what you're hiring them to execute on. And I would rather trust the people that do it day in day out, then, you know, become, you know, I'm an armchair digital advertiser, for sure, don't get me wrong, I spent some money on Facebook. And I'm definitely not as good as, as our agency partners. And we for sure have have, you know, preferred agency partners, especially after building relationships on the canopy side of things. And I always refer clients into them, because they've done a great job for us. As far as like agency partners that are good fits for us, like, you know, potentially help helping support each other in building, you know, getting new business, brand new branding shops are kind of one of the key pieces, just because branding shops are the only people that are having conversations with pre launch brands as early as we are. It's really like us in them. So that's super interesting. And then the the other piece of the question was,

Noah Rahimzadeh 38:42

it was around fundraising. Thanks for staying with me. I know a lot.

Michael De Santis 38:47

Oh, so I, the I guess it was kind of like, what's the breakdown of brands? So I would say it's 5050. Right? We have brands that are, you know, have been in market who are now looking to do some product innovation work, they know, they've, they've got product market fit with product number one, they've got some momentum, they've raised a little bit more money, they've proven out the concept and now they want to start to expand the line. And that's always that's always fun to work with. And then you know, some of them are even much more mature than that, right? Like, you know, they're, they're deep on their journey already. They've been in market for five to 10 years, but they're looking for an innovation partner to come in and really be thoughtful around how to how to expand the product line. And then the you know, the other 50% is people who are, you know, potentially launching a business for the first time maybe the second time, generally those are people who have a background in either, you know, they were on the founding team or first 10 employees at you know, some of the legends of DTC whether that be a Warby or a casper or you know, in a way glossier and then, you know, a fair amount of other people who, you know, maybe they're, they just got their MBA, right, like the X consultant types who are looking to kind of dive into their own business. Basically people who have a good profile that investors would be be interested in getting into bed with, so to speak. So I think that that those are those two cohorts of people on the, you know, the pre launch side of things are pretty common as far as the types of people that we're working with. And yeah, I mean, it's, it's hard to raise money right now. So

Noah Rahimzadeh 40:24

we got Yeah, yeah, we're feeling that on the SAS side as well, for sure. How? I'd love to, I'd love to hear if you can talk a little bit about like, how much brands should expect to spend when there are new companies when they're building a product for the first time. But also more on at a higher level? Like, how much should they think about raising, right? Because to your point, like, there's the product is one thing, and it's a huge expense, expenditure, maybe the biggest, but then you have to, like, invest in a whole tech stack. And you've got to build out your storefront. Gotta hire all these agencies or hire internally. So like, typically, is there a number that you're like, bare minimum, you need a million dollars? Fair? You know?

Michael De Santis 41:13

Yeah, I mean, that's what we're looking for, at the end of the day is somebody who's raised a million dollars, that can vary up and down, depending on complexity of the product, is really hard for me to say how much money you need to set up a supply chain. without, like, the vary between, you know, something super simple, like, if you're talking about launching a silicone bowl brand, like, you know, not much money is the answer. If you're if you're talking about launching something that's, you know, complicated with multiple different functions, with a ton of electronics embedded into it, and connectivity to an app, you know, talking about a million dollars isn't even close enough to launch a business because you're not gonna be able to share, maybe you can set up the supply chain, and do all the engineering and industrial design work and pay for tooling tooling is super expensive. And, you know, do all those things, but like, now, do you have enough money to, to sell things go out and market and actually spend the marketing dollars, extensively gonna be a very expensive product, like, that's where the challenge comes into play. And again, like you can do this in Super scrappy ways, if you really want to, you can definitely go down the Alibaba route. And people are successful in doing those things. You can go down the Kickstarter route to and like, get proof of concept. If you're really passionate about an idea and like, people, people are going to be skeptical no matter what product you want to launch at the end of the day, right? Like, people were very skeptical, skeptical about launching a humidifier in the beauty and wellness space. And now we're canopies killing it over there. So, you know, I think the a million dollars is where I would kind of set set the bar, I think that there's still opportunity to collaborate if you've, you know, raised a half a million or 750k. But I would say anything less than that, then we're starting to teeter on like, store staff probably isn't the best fit for for product development, there's probably other, you know, lower cost options or that that are going to be more well suited to the budget that you have to work with.

Noah Rahimzadeh 43:21

Cool. That is very, yeah, very interesting. I just threw out the million. It's like a round number. So that was the number. Yeah. That's great. Okay, so I want to I know that you said earlier, you talked a little bit about how, you know, even though we're sort of two different, massively different parts of like, the brand lifecycle and the customer lifecycle, but we're thinking about retention in similar ways. Beyond just packaging, are there any other things that you think about from a retention standpoint? You know, early on and, and production?

Michael De Santis 44:02

I mean, I think that there are interesting levers you can pull on the product side of things, I do think that this is, this is something that like, you know, we can only lead a horse to water. One thing that I saw, that I think is super cool. I am always like I have I have a skincare routine. And every time I run out of something at night, I'm like, Oh, I'll reorder that tomorrow or I'll go pick it up tomorrow and then two weeks later, I've still haven't gotten it and every night I'm like, god dammit Why don't live so I think that there's interesting things that you can do on like the the QR code side of things like for physical product, or it's like a quick reorder like on your, you know, your skincare product or whatever that is, because I probably have I'm probably like listening to a podcast or something. But I'm not pulling out I'm not going to your website right away. And if I had An easier way to just like quick checkout, I think that would be a really interesting way to just retain customers and keep them coming back on the actual product side of things. I also think

Noah Rahimzadeh 45:09

like before you got to the next that seems like you said Malema is a no brainer. We agree. The QR on the packaging seems like a no brainer, like why would every consumable brand not not have that

Michael De Santis 45:22

of course, of course, and like people have just become super used to using it, we canopy actually uses bridge for QR codes and canopy has a disposable filter, right? Or a consumable filter every six weeks or so you need to replace the filter inside of your canopy. I think that having a this is like, this is like an aspirational goal for I think a lot of brands but having a product that needs something to keep working is also a really nice unlock. I think that's like a dirty, dirty little secret trick of the trade. Right? If you like, you can't use an old school vacuum without a vacuum bag, right? Like you can't. If you if you sell somebody a permanent skincare palm like the Thera plush that I mentioned before, you have to buy refills in order to get value out of it. And now you have this like permanent thing on your counter, you kind of like, don't want it to go to waste. With a humidifier. You have something sitting on your bedside, if you don't, if you're not replenishing the filter. You're not, you know, you can't use it. So it's kind of like if you can, that's like a little a little dirty secret. Maybe we did a catch all. force retention

Noah Rahimzadeh 46:36

almost. Yeah, we did a podcast with one of our top marketing agencies, electric, and our buddy Brandon over there. The whole theme of the podcast ended up being every brand can be a subscription brand. Like, it doesn't matter if you I think as example, Mariah was like, it doesn't matter if you sell pools, like we have a brand who sells pools and they figured out a subscription.

Mariah Parsons 47:00

Yeah. And if you're curious like that subscription was like a cleaning service. Like, if you just get creative with it, there's ways to set up your business model to favor retention, like you're saying with like filters are a replaceable, replaceable part. Yeah,

Michael De Santis 47:16

of course. I mean, there's a, I just listened to a podcast recently that was talking about, there's this whole private equity initiative, they're gobbling up all of the car washes all over the country and rolling them up and selling subscriptions for Wait, like, basically the cost of one wash plus 20%. And then maybe people use it, maybe they don't on board longer. And it's like, you know, any car washes can be a subscription business, really?

Mariah Parsons 47:45

Yeah. Yeah. I also want to add to it the QR codes. i Yeah, it's weird that it's not more practiced. But it is also so user friendly to like anyone can use it. Like, that's one thing that I think. So one of those things where it's like, oh, it should be table stakes. But it's interesting that it's not. And it's just because I think a lot of brands don't use it. But if you're on the earlier side to using it to it stands out because you're like, Wow, this is so easy. Because you just scan the QR code, and then you can check out right there.

Michael De Santis 48:16

It's so easy that my parents don't get confused about it.

Mariah Parsons 48:20

That's the point I was trying to make. Thank you.

Noah Rahimzadeh 48:26

I think you might have had one more than you were gonna say before I have rudely interrupted.

Michael De Santis 48:30

Oh, no, that was I was just gonna talk about the filter for canopy I think that's at the end of the day. Right? Those are, those are piece of the puzzle on the agency side of things. It's like, do good work. Right. Like that's, I think that's it's as simple as that. If you're an agency partner who genuinely cares, and the people who are staff on an account genuinely care about the success of an engagement, especially for like a company like Doris dev are embedded with our clients for for years, oftentimes, right. I've worked at branding agencies in the past and I always felt like such a mercenary. Like you get in, you do two months, and you're out. And like, everybody's a little bitter at the end of it. Whereas like, the goal of doors dive is like foster deep meaningful relationships, have skin in the game really care about the success of these brands, you know, talk to people like you guys to be able to then recommend into clients to say like, Hey, have you guys thought about this, like you really should be. Because at the end of the day, the more of these businesses grow, the more opportunity that we then have to help set up new supply chains and build new products and do really cool and interesting and innovative things. So yeah, I don't know it's a fun little little circle.

Noah Rahimzadeh 49:42

I love that mindset. We I'm gonna go back to whiplash just for a second. We don't have like, we don't have an integration today. We don't share revenue back and forth or anything like that. But in my opinion, like our team can become so much more strategic by recommending you know, ads Soleri offerings, whether they're technology or physical, service service offerings, that, you know, we don't necessarily directly benefit from making that recommendation. But we're now like a more strategic consultant for our clients, they trust us more. So, over time, it's just a great way to like build the relationship, even though you may not be getting a whole lot of like monetary or tangible value out of it, right. But it's super important to take

Michael De Santis 50:29

that opinion. And there's like, the whole social proof aspect of it too, right. Like, I found, I think I found you guys because I was at a happy hour. And I bumped into Nick Sharma, and I was like, I'm having like, an issue with aftership. And I was like, why are you guys using aftership?

Noah Rahimzadeh 50:49

First of all, I should stop you right there.

Michael De Santis 50:53

So it's like, you know, the social proof aspect is super important. And then, you know, you meet people in the ecosystem, other people are using your platform or your service. And then, you know, the whole flywheel stays in motion ideally,

Noah Rahimzadeh 51:07

right? Yeah. I am such a huge fan of that Sharma has a great, great partner of ours. And Nick is awesome. But I think the challenge is like, you know, I think I heard you mentioned that on the call that you had with our sales team initially. But then like, most of the time, you're not gonna get that level of feedback. So you never know. But it's so right like this. That's just to say that social proof is so much more impactful than we could ever measure or a match, to be honest. All right, let's wrap up a couple like rapid fire. We didn't do this at the beginning. But I always love to ask, what are one or two things in your personal life, Michael, that you're excited about right now?

Michael De Santis 51:48

Well, I I'll say I just moved back recently from South Florida. I was uh, I exited New York briefly during COVID And like many did, like many did, and I you know, spent a good 18 months in South Florida where it's summer all year round, and it's just varying intensities of summer. So what I'm personally very excited about I grew up in the Northeast falls by far the best season I I'll fight anybody who says differently. And I am very much enjoying the fact that we are in peak fall and I can finally like wear light jackets again. That is currently what I'm most excited about.

Mariah Parsons 52:29

That's a great spot to be in honestly, I love.

Michael De Santis 52:33

I bought a leather jacket right before COVID started and then was just locked inside. And I'm like, I haven't been able to go now I can find

Noah Rahimzadeh 52:41

so exciting. Little fall in the Northeast is pretty incredible. Like, it feels like Mariah for us in Indianapolis like follows like two weeks.

Mariah Parsons 52:53

It's not the same. Yeah, I'm from New Jersey, and so also northeast. And so yeah, it's all it's so much better. Yeah.

Noah Rahimzadeh 53:04

Well, we before we started recording, I mentioned Happy Hour next Wednesday in New York. So if you're free, if any of our lives. I don't know if you're gonna get this out before then. Right. But

Mariah Parsons 53:13

before New York? No.

Noah Rahimzadeh 53:16

Well, that'd be there for for thread for a tenant's conference. And before the conference starts on Thursday, we're doing a happy hour in like midtown area. So Michael, I will send you the details for that. Last question. Obviously, you've had an incredible career, like, unlike many of the people that we've had on the podcast, like I said before, so what's like one tip or trick or, or some piece of advice that is sort of guided you throughout your career so far,

Michael De Santis 53:47

I think the thing that is most salient to me is, and I it's advice that I feel like you can't really heed until you go through it and make the decision. But that is to say, like, don't fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, like no one, no one to cut and run. I have definitely found myself in situations or going down paths or working on projects and you know, felt pressure to get something across the finish line, even though it may not have been the right fit anymore, whether that be professionally or from a project perspective. Maybe things have shifted and changed and you kind of just need to take a step back and, and rethink where you're at what you're doing, why you're doing it. And I think it's super hard once you've already invested a ton of time, energy and effort into something to get to kind of cut and run. So I think that is that is my my biggest piece of advice to anyone.

Mariah Parsons 54:43

That's a great piece of advice.

Noah Rahimzadeh 54:45

I just heard this podcast I think it was like a Motley Fool episode where they had this. They had a rider on who just read a book. I just looked it up. I think it's the power of knowing when to walk away. It Is this like subtitle and the title is quit read that. It is it was such a fascinating podcast like I'm, I'm for sure gonna get the book because all we hear is like, you know, be persistent stay at it. And they're like definitely time for you shouldn't do that. Yeah, definitely. Exactly. Her whole point was like, if you've ever quit at anything, you probably should have done it a lot sooner. Like there are probably things right now that you're thinking about quitting that you probably should. So that's incredible advice. We've heard a lot of like kind of similar stuff that is well outside anything we've heard so far. So love it. Love that. Yeah. Well, thanks, man. It was great having you on and hopefully we can see each other in person next week. Yeah, I'll

Michael De Santis 55:51

definitely see you guys next week. And yeah, I really appreciate you. I mean, honestly, a lot of fun. Love the loves of gumbo.

Mariah Parsons 55:56

Yay. We love hearing that. Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Michael.