Why I Launched A Social Club For The Avocado
An unintentional success inspired by a handful of delicious failures, and one unapologetic love for avocado.
*If you’re reading this, The Avocado Club Instagram just reached 10,000 followers*
A 6-year-old passenger in the back of a faded turquoise Ford Taurus in Bayside, Queens I sat quietly in the backseat playing Pokemon on a classic GameBoy. Those were the days. My mother and older sister sitting in front eating what looked like brightly-colorful balls of rice out of a long plastic container. Sushi. “Want to try some?”, they asked..
Curious, hungry (and mildly cranky), they pass a piece to the back.
“What’s this green stuff?”
That was the first time I ever spat out avocado in the back of a Ford Taurus and trust me.. it will be the last.
Growing up in Queens, NY certainly had its benefits. There’s an undeniable passion for flavor and creativity plus living in a neighboring town to Flushing allowed for the easiest of access to quality cuisine typically unavailable to other parts of New York.
Soup dumplings anyone?
Inspired by two chef-restaurateur parents who met working in a kosher deli, I developed my unapologetic love for everything food at a young ripe age.
See what I did there? ☝️
I had (and still have) the best of both culinary worlds between both parents. My mother having a unique appreciation for international bites allowed my older sister and I to travel the globe through our forks, knives, chopsticks and (most of the time) hands at dinner each night while I watched my father build multiple restaurant empires with impressive ease, sensational flair and just a pinch of undeniable passion. In short, I like to think I was destined to dine..
I was struggling to kick off this portion of the article because I had trouble recalling exactly how many startups, side hustles and passion projects that I’ve been a part of over the years. Then I did the math. And I hate math.
To keep things simple, I’ve broken down each of them below and have included why I built/joined it, the concept overview, why each one failed and most importantly what lessons I learned from these super startup adventures that brought me to where I am right now. Starting from my very first determined dive.
Concept: Bring together educators of all ages, shapes and sizes to teach one another valuable skills from any available category.
Why I started it: I was a horrendous student who never completely synced up with modern education so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to learn by doing.
Why it failed: Not enough capital in the bar-mitzvah fund. Lack of web development skills. An oversaturated market (ever hear of YouTube?).
What I learned: How to work with a remote team (India to be precise). A basic understanding of logo design. What “escrow” means (and how painful each payment was to send). What it means to be a project manager. That I loved bringing people together.
Concept: A mobile dating application designed to be the only name in safe sexting…yeah.
Why I started it: To be completely honest, I was flirting via text with my girlfriend at the time and it became so intense that I was afraid of what would happen if that conversation would leak.
Why it failed: Chose the wrong development team to build the application. Was too concerned with the bells & whistles rather than core functionality. Wasted available capital on revisions for nonsensical tasks. Bought 1000 business cards assuming they would convert to 1000 new users. Ha.
What I learned: An introduction to mobile application UI and UX. How to brand a social network. How to build a social network. That users downloaded the app because they were fed up with modern online dating. That I myself am very fascinated with the concept of love and natural connection.
Campagna Motors - North America
Concept: This team of two wanted me to market the brand in the states using marketing techniques learned in college courses that I was falling asleep in. Social media. Business cards. A business plan.
Why I joined it: One night, a friend on my college tennis team calls me one evening to tell me that his family friend recently obtained the North American distribution rights for something called a T-Rex.
Turns out, this Montreal-based exotic motor vehicle manufacturer serves up a pretty intense-looking vehicle for $70K made special for the weekend speed demon who wants to make a serious statement. That’s how I describe it now. Back then, I was just a kid. And I wanted to get behind the wheel. Badly.
Why it failed: This was a classic example of falling for the sizzle and never EVER getting a bite of the steak. Zero capital. Zero strategy. Zero truth. I was duped. Super duped.
*I’m going to write up a separate article that dives much further into this venture and it will include everything from that phone call all the way to the test drive in Montreal.*
What I learned: Intro to business negotiation. How to properly design business cards. When in doubt, get it in writing. How to (sort of) drive a stick shift.
*And if you happen to be reading this on Medium instead of listening to the podcast version, you’ll see a nice photo of an avocado green T-Rex below..*
Concept: A mobile-based loyalty platform that allows users to earn loyalty points through their friends’ spending activity.
Why I joined it: Referred by a family member, I was asked to come on board a team of 2 in Brooklyn, NY as a Chief Marketing & Product Officer. I joined because I had experience in mobile apps (remember FlurtR?) and was still very fascinated with bringing people together in creative and valuable ways.
Why it failed: A loyalty startup that had ZERO loyalty. There was an immediate lack of trust and overall direction with this one. While the concept was promising, the strategy was not. Pitching to venture capitalists and incubators too early and focusing too much on where our next dollar was coming from rather than building a minimum viable product for merchant partners to use for free to collect useful data. I wanted the latter.
What I learned: I learned to trust my gut. I was never fully comfortable on this team simply because I didn’t feel like we were moving forward. At all. I knew this and though my GUT knew this, I followed along because I was legitimately interested in watching a business fail and being a part of that failure. Strange, I know.. but it was a great decision. I learned about equity, stock vesting and transaction fees. Oh, and also to ask for more than 3% of a ZERO revenue startup.
Concept: A social media agency for restaurants in New York City.
Why I started it: At the time, I had a full-time job as a Social Media Manager for a digital magazine brand in midtown Manhattan. It wasn’t enough for me. Though I’d be let go from that role later on, I was living (and still live) in Long Island City, Queens. Arguably the ultimate foodie region of NYC right now. There were and still are amazing flavors everywhere so I decided to build a service to service these businesses the best way I knew how. Through social media marketing and my unapologetic love for food.
Why it (I) failed: Finding the clients actually wasn’t the hard part here. I actually managed to get 3 during the 4 months that this startup lasted. The problem was that I lacked the energy and motivation to complete this work after I came home from my stressful AF job in Manhattan. I was tired. I wanted to order sushi and go to sleep.
What I learned: That true motivation comes from sh*t that you care about. In this instance, I cared about food. My culinary upbringing and passion for taste through storytelling. The benefits of offering value upfront. Before starting work with each client, I offered 1 month of free services to show them what i was made of. Gary Vaynerchuk says it best: “Jab. Jab. Jab. Right Hook.”
Turbo Tee Shop
Concept: An apparel brand focused on the video game community.
Why I started it: I became completely fascinated with Facebook Advertising. I was reading about its capabilities in articles, videos, books. Everywhere. I wanted to not only learn about it, but master it as well. Being an avid fan of the FIFA video game series (for those of your reading or listening who don’t know what FIFA is, it’s an absolutely enormously-popular video game culture that’s been growing into the 10's of millions since the early 90s). And for that reason alone, I thought it would an interesting experiment to create this brand, generate amazing content and target fans of this gaming lifestyle via Facebook Ads to generate sales. Good idea, right?
Why it failed: This super fun idea failed because I jumped the gun a bit too early. I built the site, designed the shirt collection and added branded social channels. And though I was targeting Facebook with advertising, the one part that was lacking most was the tracking itself. It wasn’t precise. I had absolutely ZERO idea how to track CPC, bounce rate and a handful of other digital buzzwords. I was building blindly (name for my book?).
What I learned: How to build around existing niche audiences. Understanding the relationship between website and social media. How to make a promo video. An intro to product photography.
During a rainy vacation in a very humid South Florida around December of 2017, I sat indoors staring outside waiting for better weather and thought to myself.. “Let’s start a new company. No. Let’s start a new brand. Nope. Let’s start a new project.” I wanted to keep it simple and not worry so much about finances, sales or operations. I simply wanted to create. And I loved avocados.
So I had a thought..
“Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I created an Instagram page dedicated solely to the avocado?”
That is exactly what I did.
I locked down a handle, wrote a bio, designed a logo for free using Canva and chose a domain name. The Avocado Club was born. But I had ZERO content.
“Sh*t”, I thought to myself..
I needed to create content and had absolutely ZERO idea where to start. I was a below-amateur iPhone photographer and (quite frankly) couldn’t even afford to regularly buy avocados to create my own recipes. Funny, I know. Seriously, stop laughing..
If I was going to build this community of avocado lovers, then I had to pull inspiration from (you guessed it!) an avocado-loving community. So that’s what I did..
I had a very rare moment of self-awareness. Instead of building my photography, cooking, baking and food styling skills, I decided to format the channel to act as a curator of amazing content from avocado ambassadors worldwide. A “regramming machine”, if you will.
At this point the weather wasn’t improving and I didn’t want to splash around in the cool, refreshing pool waters anyway (sigh).. So I jumped on Instagram and searched #avocado then started scrolling. Before long, I had bookmarked around 30–40 posts and planned on posting 3 per day. Why 3?
I wanted to test different posting times to see what times of each day generated the most engagement. And it actually worked. More on that in another article soon..
Now I couldn’t just steal this amazing, well-thought-out content and claim it as my own. No. The goal of this project was to bring together these “avo-content creators” and illustrate this content in a selfless, colorful and valuable way. With this mind, every single photo posted to the Instagram account (that was not taken by myself) is accompanied with full credit and a nifty 📸 emoji.
Towards the beginning of this article, I spoke a little about social media advertising. And because I still had little to ZERO experience with the platform, I knew that it was wise to hold off on this strategy for now. But I wanted to grow. More importantly, I wanted to grow the account to 10K followers. Why?
Documenting the (my) journey is incredibly important to me. One day, I’ll be much slower (mentally and physically) than I am now and I’d love to be able to look back at this “social” experiment in admiration. Most of all? I want to share this journey with my loved ones. Now that’s special.
So in short, I wanted to document and pay close attention to how I get there so that I can create content (like this!) and share it with those who find real value. And do it themselves.
To achieve my goal of 10K followers on Instagram, I did 3 things. About 100 times a day. For 6 months.
And I hate to get all marketing on you but I’ll be sharing those 3 things in a separate article & episode ;)
So here we are. Sunday July 29, 2018. The Avocado Club Instagram has surpassed 10,000 followers but that’s only the tip of the (avocado) toast. Since its launch in December 2017, we’ve collaborated with local restaurants, formed brand partnerships with avocado-based products and services, launched a podcast called Guac & Talk at now 12 episodes, set up an online shop and have a lot of very exciting new things on the way.
It’s easy to get excited about the future (believe me, we are) though I’m much more excited about what’s happening right now and how we can have a voice in the conversation or start one of our own.
To provide an answer to the title of this article, I wanted to create. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to eat avocados. I wanted to build a community. I wanted to learn. I wanted to teach. I wanted to inspire. And I wanted to share.
- Brandon, Founder & CEO