Building a creator brand takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Doing it while your founder is still in college, meanwhile, presents its own set of challenges, but the team at Noah Schnapp’s tbh is figuring it out and excelling at it.
We chatted with the hazelnut spread company’s CEO Elena Guberman to discuss the unique learning experience and steps she’s taken to ensure the company succeeds.
Alexis Benveniste: Would you call tbh a creator brand?
Elena Guberman: Our origin story is a little unique. Noah Schnapp is involved with the company, and the origin of tbh is fundamentally his idea. We launched out of a venture studio alongside Noah. And what we’re finding right now, in full transparency, is that while this was Noah’s concept, a lot of his audience isn’t exactly our consumer. I think I would call us an influencer-led brand or a celebrity-led brand.
AB: When did you join the tbh team?
EG: I joined the team about three months pre-launch, but not during the brand’s iteration and R&D.
AB: How does the team at tbh make sure Noah’s vision is integrated into the brand?
EG: Noah was 15 when he first started talking to our venture studio, and the venture studio had a thesis of redefining wealth and putting money toward more purpose-driven causes. So they wanted to work with him rather than giving him a brand and saying, “This is your company, and this is your brand.” They wanted to identify something that truly resonated with him and that he truly loved.
I think it’s always going to be a work in progress because celebrities or influencers are also doing other things.
Noah is in college and he has “Stranger Things” season five to film. He has a life outside of tbh, whereas tbh is my full-time job. So it’s really been a moving target. We’ve had to adjust to the realities of his life, but for me, what I see is a product, tbh, that has legs to stand on. It tastes absolutely delicious. Everyone loves it. The reception has been great. We are expanding. We’re getting great customer feedback. And for me that can stand alone if Noah is busy at school.
AB: Why hazelnut spread? Tell me more.
EG: It took a little bit [of time to determine what he wanted the company to be]. He loved Nutella and ate it every day but found out that it has some pretty poor ingredients. It’s hilarious because that’s what he loved as a 16-year-old when we were iterating this. A lot of non-influencer led brands come from some kind of passion. What we were trying to get at — even though he’s a celebrity — is what is your passion? What will make you excited and motivated to stay involved with this company outside of a contractual obligation? The origins definitely came from Noah, and originally, when we launched in November 2021, we were very much digitally-native. We launched online with a Shopify platform and leveraged Noah’s community to establish our community and our fans.
AB: And what did your first days look like?
EG: They brought me onboard as someone with deep CPG experience. My background is in operations and supply chain, but they brought me on board because I started my entire career in natural and organic products. My thought was that we had to meet Nutella where they are, which is on the shelf. Nutella is not a digitally-native brand, and we can still be digitally-native. But at the end of the day, if that is our target, we have to be next to them in the supermarket.
AB: Who did you hire first?
EG: When I joined, we already had a bit of a marketing arm and a marketing person. Our venture studio is very marketing-heavy because they work with celebrities and high net worth individuals. When I joined, my first hire was a salesperson. We have an EVP of Sales who is not currently in-house, but he does give tbh the majority of his time, and he is essentially a part of our company like a full-time employee. And because retail takes such a long time and has such a long lifecycle until it comes into fruition, we brought him on pretty much right after launch. Only now are we starting to see the fruits of our labor, and the ball is starting to roll down that hill. But because retail was such a long cycle, that was our first hire.
AB: What do you think are factors that are necessary for a creator brand to succeed?
EG: I think in every celebrity or influencer-led brand, it’s just about being able to be malleable. And I think for us, myself and the venture studio are both very okay with continuing to improve our communication. For me, it’s always been about communication irrelevant of brand or industry. I think that sometimes humans just don’t understand each other and it leads to a lot of problems. And here, it’s just been a continuous understanding that we have to improve or tweak — consistently making sure that as a team, we are including Noah in all our communication. All of us are going through our own personal lives, and understanding that has been really helpful to us growing as a team and as a brand.
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