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Funleys-Logo_2.jpgThis is the first in a new series that spotlights startups and entrepreneurs at work. Every couple of weeks or so, I will select a small business and provide its owner(s) with a list of questions about their business, their reason for starting it, their vision of success, and how they use SEO, blogging and social media in their marketing. I'll present their answers along with commentary about what I think they're doing right and how they might improve their online marketing efforts.

This week, the spotlight shines on Funley's Delicious, an all-natural snack food business based in Westwood, Calif., and its owners, Ashley and Shawn Mendel, whom I met at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. What I find most compelling about Funley's is that its business model is perfectly tailored for social media marketing. Funley's doesn't just sell all-natural snacks, it markets a totally fun experience for the Funley's community. The products are simply something to snack on while you're having fun.

Without further ado, let the Q&A begin . . .

What compelled you to start your company?
Frustration in both our careers, craving ownership in what we did for a living, and ultimately being able to make a difference and effect change. We actually started on a whim here in Los Angeles with very little thought or planning. Our first product line, Stix in the Mud, is a family recipe, and we started by making it in our kitchen and selling it around town to friends and as gifts for about six months. The feedback was fantastic, giving us the gumption to actually take it to market, and so was born the Funley's Delicious brand.

What made you believe you would succeed?
Honestly? A great deal of "why not us?" Sheer will, passion, drive and determination don't cost anything. These are the key ingredients. You must have those to begin with, or you'll just give up before getting off the ground. We never give up, and have learned that it's about the delicate balance of staying true to your goals, but being flexible enough to listen and learn. We learn every day how to be better, stronger and smarter.

How do you define success?
Most companies determine success by a number. Obviously that's critical, or there's no business, but beyond that, we have very simple criteria for success:

  • Success is the ability to fail and recover.
  • Success is listening, learning, and making necessary changes.
  • Most importantly, success is getting to do what you love everyday, and having a ton of fun while doing it.
What makes your business unique?
Funley's Delicious is the All Natural, quality/better-for-your family snack brand for kids ages 4-94. Everything Funley's makes is a twist on the familiar. We're about to introduce some new innovative All Natural snack lines to round out our offerings. Our current line, Stix in the Mud, is a hybrid chocolate candy/cookie which makes it unique against our competition in the premium chocolate set, and of course being all natural, nothing artificial, no trans fat, and no preservatives makes it stand out against the competition.

How do you use the internet for marketing and sales?
We have a website www.funleys.com. We do not currently sell on our site, but we are actively working on it. Until then we are available through the good folks at Amazon.com.

Do you have a business blog? If so, how do you use it to promote your business?
No blog yet. The idea of having one is exciting but we want it to be organic to our brand voice and it must be written from the Funley's Family point of view. We're currently working on some exciting digital media marketing strategies with some fantastic collaborators. Stay tuned.

From Mikal: Funley's would be wise to launch a blog sooner rather than later. Its business model and brand are ideal for tapping the power of social media marketing, and the core component of any such marketing effort is a company blog. As I have been telling my clients for years (and Chris Brogan also points this out), a blog can become your home base from which you can support numerous social media outposts.

Do you use social networking sites, like Facebook, and social media platforms, like Twitter, to promote your business? If so, how?
We do use Facebook and Twitter. Recently we went on QVC (sold out in 4 minutes!) and utilized social media to get the word out. It was truly thrilling to get re-tweeted, and Facebook has been key to spreading the broadcast beyond our network of followers. We plan to increase our social media presence and we've got some exciting digital media plans in the works to coincide with some new product launches coming soon.

From Mikal: Funley's launched its Facebook Page in April of 2009, and as of today has just 172 fans who have posted 10 items on the company's wall, while Funley's itself has posted just 14 status updates in the last year. Simply stated, these are surprisingly low numbers for a brand that prioritizes fun.

Part of the problem with attracting more fans may be due to the fact that:
  1. Funley's fan page provides no compelling reason to become a fan, and
  2. Funley's own website doesn't provide a link to its fan page. Posting compelling and relevant status updates at least three to four times per week should increase awareness of the Funley's brand and its playful approach to business and deliciousness. Encouraging website visitors by placing a Find us on Facebook badge in a more obvious location on the site should help, too.
Launching a blog, as suggested above, would help Funley's keep its Facebook page active and up-to-date, assuming of course the blog was fed to Facebook and Ashley and Shawn updated the blog regularly. With a slightly larger investment, Funley's could leverage the power of Facebook apps to engage customers, current and prospective, in even more fun activities.

What do you think about your website?
The current site is our phase one launch site. We've gotten huge compliments on its creativity and uniqueness within the food space. Phase two is in the works and a full Web 2.0 version allowing for better communication, content updating and social/viral media integration. We are even working on phase three already, which will have even more interactivity and entertainment value which we plan to go live around the end of the year.

From Mikal: I visited Funleys.com and was quite impressed with the visual design, which is true to Funley's business model and brand. One look at the site, and you think "fun." However, I found its navigation scheme, use of Flash, and overall usability less impressive. As Funley's plans phases two and three to improve the site, they may want to consider the following:

  • Visitors first land on a page where they must click a link to enter the site. This extra step strikes me as an obstacle to entry.
  • When a visitor clicks the link to enter the site, a new window opens. Some visitors may find that a bit intrusive.
  • The site is built in Flash, which takes considerable time to load, costs almost twice as much to maintain when compared to HTML and a CMS-driven site and isn't scalable. To make matters worse, Flash isn't search engine friendly. Rotating images and other elements powered by a simple Javascript could be incorporated on the site to make certain areas more fun and interactive.
  • The site really should have its own store or at least a link to online stores that carry the product. If Shawn hadn't told me that Amazon.com carries Funley's products, I would never have known just by visiting the site. A "Buy on Amazon" link prominently displayed on Funleys.com would be a valuable addition.

You call yourselves 'Funpreneurs.' What exactly does that mean and how has that helped your business?
We made up the term '"Funpreneur'" to describe ourselves because we try to weave fun into everything we do as a company. "Fun" is in our brand name for a reason; it's what we want to experience everyday, and also the experience we want to give consumers. Starting a business is hard work and takes incredible commitment to succeed. Having fun helps us weather the inevitable storms.

From Mikal: Thanks to Funpreneurs Ashley and Shawn Mendel for treating us to their insights and vision. . . and their fun!

Know a business or a startup that could benefit from this type of profile and review? Send your ideas to mikal@belicove.com.

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