Dianna Allen - From Writing About Garage Doors to Building Two Successful Businesses
How do you start a business from your mom’s kitchen? What effect does a supportive partner have on growing a company? And how do you juggle two wildly different businesses that both need your attention?
[00:00:00] Heeeeeey folks! Today, I'm speaking with Dianna Allen. Dianna is the founder of two businesses: Terra, a lifestyle shop that focuses on scented candles and Inventora, an app that helps businesses who hand make products track their inventory. I first heard about Dianna earlier this year, or perhaps it was last year, when my girlfriend mentioned some girl who said she was starting a candle shop and was tweeting about her journey publicly.
[00:00:48] A bunch of time passed. And then recently my girlfriend said, Hey, remember this girl I mentioned, who started her own candle shop? I think it has really taken off. She even has a spinoff business now. So I was intrigued. I quickly found out that Dianna’s story is so inspiring and that's why I wanted to get her on the podcast.
[00:01:05] In our conversation, we chat about how Dianna went from writing about garage doors to starting and growing two successful businesses; how a combination of hard work and good timing propelled her businesses forward; how she and her boyfriend worked together and split their time between the businesses; and much more. Enjoy the show!
[00:01:23] Peter Akkies: Hey, Dianna, welcome to the show.
[00:01:26] Dianna Allen: Thank you so much for having me, Peter.
[00:01:28] Peter Akkies: So people can't see this people who are listening, but, um, you just told me that you are sitting in a conference room and I thought your two businesses were pretty new. So the fact that you're in a conference room already, um, suggest to me that your business must be doing very well or both of them must be doing very well. Do you have a big office yet?
[00:01:44] Dianna Allen: So I am actually in a shared office. I share it with a realtor, which is really fun. Cause we're in two totally different businesses. So we kind of like, we have like this different gossip about what's going on in our own worlds. Um, but it's really fun to collaborate in that sense. Um, but I just have my desk in there and then she has her desk.
[00:02:03] And then because I run Inventora with Jeremy, sometimes he'll pop in and we'll share my desk. So it's still very small.
[00:02:11] Peter Akkies: But you have a legit business address that you can put on your cards or whatever for people. So now that's a. That's cool. I'm looking forward to this stage of my business, where I have like a legit address. It's not like my home address.
[00:02:23] Dianna Allen: Yeah. It's like, it's a game changer sometimes I'm still not used to it. And maybe like a few weeks will go by and I'm like, oh my gosh, I have a mailbox here. I need to go check that.
[00:02:34] Peter Akkies: and make sure you don't forget that. No, that is important. So, so you've got two businesses, right? Terra and Inventora. Now, which one came first?
[00:02:43] Dianna Allen: Yeah, So Terra came first. Um, Terra was born technically like last week of 2019. So I had just returned home from traveling. Um, so it was holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and I actually hadn't been home for about two and a half years until that point. Um, so, so that season, I was just kinda like, you know, what. I haven't seen my mom in a while. Let me, let me just return home.
[00:03:10] It's like a good point to just go back for the holiday. So I came back home and at that time I was a freelance graphic designer. So. I specialize in product packaging. So my main client at the time was a shampoo company. And I did like his labels for all of his shampoo scents, um, and various other products that he released.
[00:03:31] But I had this like dying need to create my own thing. And it wasn't just from working with him. I kind of have wanted to do that for some time. Um, I previously had some hobby, um, making like soaps and bath bombs, but that was like years and years ago. And in the back of my head, I always wanted to make candles.
[00:03:52] And even when I was traveling, I still wanted to make candles, but trying to do that and traveling. That's just not possible. So I came home and I kind of was just like, what do I want to do with my life? Like graphic design is fun. I enjoy it. I feel like I'm good at it, but there's just like something eating at me to do something else.
[00:04:15] And that's when I was kind of like, I, you know what? I still want to make candles. Let me, let me try to make candles. And I didn't really know. Where to start with that. I've never made a candle before. I just knew I liked them. I knew, I dunno, you could make a business out of it. right.
[00:04:30] So I just did a bunch of research and I just kind of like thought up what my brands ideally would be.
[00:04:37] And I based it around, um, my inspiration of nature things I've seen while traveling, um, things that are unique to other countries and just like bringing all that into a candle. And I just went to work. I guess I just did a bunch of research and I made my first candle and I, when I lit it, I was like, okay, this actually smells good. And my house is not on fire. And the rest is kind of history from there.
[00:05:07] Peter Akkies: okay, but hold on, hold on. We cannot gloss over this. We need to unpack that a little bit.
[00:05:12] Dianna Allen: Definitely.
[00:05:13] Peter Akkies: Yeah, but actually first I'm kind of curious, because you said you were traveling for two and a half years and you picked a great time to stop traveling like several months before COVID hits. So I just want to congratulate you on that.
[00:05:23] Um, my girlfriend and I were planning to do long-term travel starting in 2020. And so obviously that didn't happen. So yeah, we're just doing some shorter trips now. I mean, by short, I mean like a month at a time. Um, yeah, were you working as a digital nomad, then you were doing graphic design sort of while on the road.
[00:05:40] Should I think of it that way?
[00:05:42] Dianna Allen: Yeah. So I kind of fell into what you call a digital nomad accidentally. Um, when I initially wanted to travel, so this was in 2017. At the time I was living in Chicago and I was going through what I like to call a quarter-life crisis. Um,
[00:06:02] Peter Akkies: Familiar.
[00:06:03] Dianna Allen: Just just a lot of things are changing and the thing is I'm not from Chicago.
[00:06:08] So I was at a point where I had this decision where it was, do I return home, which is five hours south, or do I continue living in Chicago or do I just move somewhere else? And then I kind of was thinking on the move somewhere else, idea. And then I was just kind of like, why don't I just travel though?
[00:06:29] So initially I just, um, sold all my things and saved a lot of money. Like I just, I remember like working and working and just saving all I could, so I could just travel until my money ran out, basically. Um, so that's where it all started, but then I went to Southeast Asia first and everything was great.
[00:06:50] But I noticed my bank account was dwindling, which of course naturally I'm just like living off my savings. Right. And then that's when I kind of looked into what I could do online and just make a quick buck basically. Um, uh, at the time I loved writing, um, SEO blog posts caught my eye saw that was like a need.
[00:07:13] So I got into freelance. Um, freelance SEO writing for a little bit and it paid. Okay. But I was kind of like, okay, now I'm kind of bored of writing because it wasn't things I wanted to write about. Like, I remember I had one client and he wanted me to write about garage doors because that was what his business was around.
[00:07:35] And I was like, okay, this is cool. You're paying me. But this is really boring. Um, and that's when I actually switched into graphic design because I had graphic design skills, but I just made the move to, you know, practice it, become better at it and actually target, um, the product packaging aspect of it.
[00:07:57] And so that's kind of how I made the move into that. And then that paid me much better. So then that's when I was kind of like, okay, I can keep doing this. Like I can continue traveling.
[00:08:09] Peter Akkies: Yeah.
[00:08:09] you can. And also it probably more creative work to do graphic design, right. Then,
[00:08:14] Dianna Allen: Yeah,
[00:08:14] Peter Akkies: you know, posts on what someone else wants you to write about.
[00:08:17] Dianna Allen: definitely. Yeah. Cause people would approach me as the graphic designer and they'd basically say like, this is my idea and I would be the one who actually brought it to life though.
[00:08:29] Peter Akkies: And at some point, so you got back and you decided that you're going to make your very first candle. Um, now you made your candle. It was, it was not a failure. What next? What was the next step? Did you tell yourself? Okay, now I'm going to buy high quantities of raw materials, and then I'm going to start an Instagram page. Like what were the next steps?
[00:08:48] Dianna Allen: So when I decided that I wanted to pursue the candle making business, um, I actually didn't have a lot of money because I returned home. I slowed down on work just because I just went back to my mom's house and I was kind of just like, I don't really need to be like, Like, I don't need my cost of living to be the same as it was as I was traveling, basically.
[00:09:13] Um, so I didn't have a lot of money to put into my candle business and I just tried to think very strategically. Of how I can progress it without, you know, spending too much of my effort or spending too much of my money. And I thought about pre-orders. So that's what I started with. I basically just started my brand.
[00:09:34] I started an Instagram and I let people know, um, this is what I will be selling. Um, my shop officially opens in one month. Um, I gave myself like 30 days and I just put pre-order listings up. I only had two candles at the time. Um, just so I could like manage it really. Cause I did— I just didn't know where to start. right.
[00:09:57] And I didn't know how I could manage multiple things. Um, so I felt two was very tolerable. Um, and people pre-ordered, which helped me manage the cashflow, um, because I didn't have money to put into it when the pre-orders came through, they essentially were paying for their own supplies so that I could sell them the candles.
[00:10:19] Peter Akkies: Right. Very smart. You know, it's funny because, um, so your business, I imagine at this point it was mostly online, right? People, you know, putting orders that you didn't have a physical space where people could come look at your products, right.
[00:10:33] Dianna Allen: Correct. Yeah, it was all online. And on top of it. Um, so I'm originally from the city of St. Louis, which is a city, um, it's flourishing, but I was living with my mom who actually lives two hours south of St. Louis out in the middle of nowhere. So I definitely didn't have anyone around me.
[00:10:54] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, no, but it's, it's great that you were able to, you know, establish a brand online and do the pre-orders and what it reminded me of. So I sell digital products, right? So courses on productivity. And it's very common in the space of sort of online courses also to do like a pre-order thing.
[00:11:10] So it's kind of an interesting business model where you're basically telling people I'm going to be creating this thing. You can already buy it and then I will make it, which has up and downsides, right? Like it's cool because people, people are like voting with their dollars and basically saying, this is a great idea.
[00:11:24] You should do this. And when you’re, you know, newly starting a business, or you thought of a new product that you want to offer this different from what you offered before. You may not be sure if there's demand. So it's a nice way to test the market. At the same time, now you're in this place where people are paying you money, and then you've got to do the work. So, so what were those 30 days? Like once the pre-orders started coming in,
[00:11:42] Dianna Allen: So within the 30 days, um, I would say my first pre-order came, it actually came on the first day because I did tweet about it and the tweet kind of unexpectedly just popped off. Um, I basically just said what I was doing. And I said that I'm giving myself 30 days and I had put $100 into this. And I guess people really liked that like ambitious,
[00:12:08] Peter Akkies: They related
[00:12:09] Dianna Allen: Yeah. So it kind of just went around and I had a pre-order pretty quickly, which was really funny because someone actually replied to my tweet and they said, where can I buy? And I was like oh my gosh, I didn't actually expect anyone to bite this quickly. And I didn't even have a website yet. So.
[00:12:29] Peter Akkies: You’re like ummm, here.
[00:12:31] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[00:12:31] If we're talking about the 30 days of that, the first thing I did was went together, the website so that someone could actually buy.
[00:12:38] Um, but after that, I actually switched my focus to Instagram because I know Instagram is a very digital or sorry, visual experience, and a lot of products sell very well on there because of that. So I initially made the move to start building my audience on Instagram. Really intentionally seek out those in my study.
[00:13:02] So I kinda did my hashtag research, um, went through the locations and just like interacted with anyone who I could potentially think would be my customer and a few more pre-orders came. And then it came to the point where I think two weeks passed and I was kinda like, okay, I'm sitting on. Um, I think at that point it was just like a couple hundred dollars.
[00:13:23] And I was like, let me buy the supplies and actually make this like first batch of candles. And so what I did was using the funds that I had received from pre-orders. I ordered all the supplies that I could, and I just made, um, the candles that were pre-ordered and then I had some extra ones. So that way, when those pre-orders were gone, there were still candles available to buy on my website.
[00:13:50] Peter Akkies: So that was a bit of a risk.
[00:13:52] Dianna Allen: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So thankfully there wasn't a lot of money to where I was like exploding with all these supplies around, but it worked out like it was, it was like the right amount.
[00:14:05] Peter Akkies: Yeah. And so, and so just on timeline, right? We're we're recording, you know, October 2021. And this was when exactly what were you doing? This.
[00:14:13] Dianna Allen: So This.
[00:14:14] was basically December 2019, January 2020.
[00:14:19] Peter Akkies: Okay. So, so, you know, not even two years ago, um, now your, your business is to the point where you've hired an employee, you've you, you sort of have a, can we call it a spinoff business? Can we,can we call it that?
[00:14:30] Dianna Allen: Yeah, that's definitely what it is.
[00:14:33] Peter Akkies: So, so tell me a little bit about how that happened. Your, your candle business grew over time, right?
[00:14:40] Um, and at some point you had the idea of, wait a second, I want to start this other business. How? Why? How, how?
[00:14:46] Dianna Allen: So what had ended up happening? Terra was growing and growing. And it got to the point where, like you said, um, I became full time. I was able to hire an employee and in the middle of this, because all of that was growing. That means everything on the backend was growing. So that means my supplies. I was housing was just taking over, um, In between the first year of Terra's growth, I had actually moved from my mom's kitchen.
[00:15:16] That's basically where the production was. My mom's kitchen. I moved into my boyfriend's living room for production, and then we moved into a much larger apartment and I kind of took over. Like three-fourths of that apartment, just housing supplies. And at the time I was kind of like, okay, this is, this is just a lot, like everything is in boxes.
[00:15:41] Um, I know what each box is, but I wish I didn't have to look at it every day and try to figure out what's inside it. What's. Um, and that's when I kind of began my search to find an inventory system. And ideally what I was looking for was something that could automatically calculate what I use. So if I were to make 50 candles that it knew what was in one of those candles, and it would automatically deduct times 50 of the supplies used.
[00:16:13] Right. So it was just like a very automated process, except to my surprise. There was just nothing good out there. Um, I only found one system that could have possibly done what I'm looking for, but I will be honest. It's branding was just not good. It looked like it was from the nineties. And when I did attempt to use it, it told me to download an ebook so I could learn how to use the system and that alone, I was like, I just don't have time for this. I do not have time to read a book to learn how to use your system. So that's when the frustrations just really poured out.
[00:16:52] And at the time I was living with my boyfriend, Jeremy, who today is still my boyfriend. Um, but he heard all these frustrations daily. So he knew my issues with inventory, how I was looking for an inventory system, how I was tracking on spreadsheets and how I was just like, I wanted to do this. Like I just wanted to do what my spreadsheets are doing. But I hate using spreadsheets. And so Jeremy, like I think over a weekend, he was like, okay, let's just like hack together a system for you to use for Terra.
[00:17:23] And we did it and we basically just collaborated on it. He was just kind of like, what, what functionality do you want to do? And I told him, like, I wanted to do X, Y, and Z. I want it to look like this because I'm very visual person. I don't know. And he has to be like a very like user-friendly streamlined process for me.
[00:17:42] So we basically made the base of Inventora that weekend. And this was in November 2020. So it was holiday season. Things were crazy. And I was just kind of using it, keeping it to myself at that time. And then when holidays ended, so we're into 2021. Um, I kinda was just talking about it on Terra’s Instagram. I—usually what I do on Terra’s Instagram is I will map out my day just so people get a behind the scenes look at what's going on. And I think I said something like, oh, tracking my inventory today. And I tagged, oh, no Inventora didn't even have like a thing, uh, Instagram handle yet. So I just said tracking my inventory.
[00:18:27] And someone reached out and said, what are you using? And I explained like, oh, it's just something we made, but it works. And then more and more people came in my inbox also asking. And so I kind of just approached Jeremy that day and I said, We have to make this available to the public. Like I just gave him no choice.
[00:18:47] I said, we are, we're opening this up and this is going to be a thing for other people to use. And he was just kinda like, um, okay. And so I think of the next couple of days, we, we kinda tweaked the branding, made it more general, Um,
[00:19:03] because it was kind of just designed for me, but I was like, you know what, like someone making soaps could use the someone doing that could use this.
[00:19:11] So we made it more general. Um, and then we just made it available for the public. And I think within that first week we had like 300 signups. So it was like very incredible.
[00:19:25] Peter Akkies: No. I mean, that's a ton. So, so first of all, that's a very supportive boyfriend you got there, letting use like three quarters of his apartment for your storage of inventory. And then, you know, oh, you have a business problem and let me just whip something up. Is he, um, is he like a software engineer or.
[00:19:41] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[00:19:41] So I don't know. I feel like everything in this journey, the timing has just always been a blessing. Like how you touch point on how, when I, I stopped traveling, it was right before COVID. Well, he actually had just exited a company at that time, so he had free time to whip together a system. And next thing we know that's his full-time job today.
[00:20:05] Peter Akkies: Yeah, no, I mean, that's, that's very exciting. So I'm very curious, um, to hear about how you split your time between the two businesses, um, And also how you split time between the different types of work that you do. Cause I can imagine, um, are you still making the candles yourself, let's let's
[00:20:23] Dianna Allen: I am. Yeah. So. I'm making them.
[00:20:26] Peter Akkies: Yeah. So that's like, you know, manual work that you're doing. Um, but at the same time, you know, you're, you, you've got this other business going on. That's like a software product. Right. And you've got to probably do some planning. So there's very different modes of work. So why don't we start off by, um, saying this, do you have a fixed schedule for your week?
[00:20:44] Anything where you're saying Mondays and Tuesdays are for Terra Wednesdays and Thursdays are for inventory. Is it something like that? Is it more ad hoc?
[00:20:52] Dianna Allen: So in my head, I definitely have a schedule. So the reason actually, why I have an office. Um, it's not even a separate the two, but it's because there's just a lot of admin work that comes to running Terra, even though it's a very hands-on handcrafted business, there's still a lot of stuff I have to do on the backend on my computer.
[00:21:15] So that was initially the reason why I have an office, so I couldn't get out of my house and just be able to separate. Those two aspects of Terra. Um, because what I found myself doing is when I create the candles, this is downstairs in my basement and it's really good to block out the world down there because it's only Terra things down there.
[00:21:36] However, whenever I would like, let's say, edit my Shopify or do anything. On the backend. I would go upstairs. I would sit at a desk or I'd set out like the bar in my kitchen and just get very comfortable. And then I'd find myself like, oh, I'm going to eat dinner or, oh, I'm going to do this because now all of a sudden I'm in my house. Right.
[00:21:57] Um, so that was the first reason why I got an office. But then because I had the office and Inventora was taking out or taking off what I found myself doing. Basically saying like, okay, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will go to the office. I will do all the admin work I need to do for Terra. And I'll do all the things I need to do for Inventora.
[00:22:15] So that is mentally what's going on in my head. However, I will
[00:22:20] Peter Akkies: In practice.
[00:22:21] Dianna Allen: Yeah, exactly. However I've noticed things do overlap. Um, When I'm at home, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I still do some Inventora things at home. Um, yeah, it's, it's hard to manage, but I kind of just do whatever is prioritized, um, or work on what needs to be finished that day. Basically.
[00:22:46] Peter Akkies: Yeah, it really resonates with me that you said that you find yourself at home and you know, there's a couch it's comfortable and you know, you get into like a different mode or you're like, let's cook something because now I've basically been working from home for like three and a half years now or something like that.
[00:23:01] And it just was very funny when the pandemic hit and suddenly a lot of people are working from home and like, join the club. Welcome. Like, this is nice. Um, but you do get that. It’s very difficult to have that one space where you’re relaxing, where you're like hanging out with friends where, you know, or family come over or whatever, it's also your workspace.
[00:23:18] It's also close to your bedroom. Like it does become difficult to separate those things. So I totally understand why you got an office. How did you do that on a whim or was that very much a strategic thing where you're like, okay, like a month for now, I want to have an office. Let me have a, uh, you know, a plan here or did you just sort of like randomly talk to someone and it happened.
[00:23:39] Dianna Allen: I actually saw in my city, a coworking space, beginning to open and. I dunno. I think it was the branding that caught my eye because I noticed it was targeting female owned businesses. And I was just kinda like, at that time, this was earlier this year, I think March 2020. So we're a year into COVID. Right.
[00:24:02] And I just remember being like, I really want some friends. Like, I don't really know anyone. I feel like I'm running my business alone. At that point. I was running alone. I didn't hire anyone yet. Um, But I was just kind of like this coworking space sounds amazing. So that was kind of what drew me into it.
[00:24:22] I didn't really think about the office space at the time until I saw that. And then once I took a tour and I met a few other people who would be working out of the space, I was just kind of like, okay, let's do this. And because, um, I got in pretty early, I think there was like discounted rates. So that's when I decided to do a shared.
[00:24:41] Peter Akkies: right? Yeah. So it sounds like another good timing on your part where something happened for you at the right time. Um, that's, that's very lucky and lovely. It does make a big difference, right? Being around people. I find myself, you know, often just going to like a cafe to work, just, you know, just so that I'm not at home staring at the same thing where I spent like all the rest of my time. Um, yeah.
[00:25:05] So, so I wanna dig a little deeper on your schedule. So there's the, there's the theoretical schedule. There's there's the, in reality it doesn't work, um, a hundred percent, as you mapped it out. Um, to be, but when you schedule your day, right? Do, do you have any kind of plan where you say, this is what I'm going to work on today? Is that something you decided every morning? It was just sort of, you show up at the office and then you're like, okay, what has my attention, what am I going to work on?
[00:25:32] Dianna Allen: Yeah, so usually I keep a running list. So I keep a running list for Terra. I keep a running list for Inventora and some things are like day dedicated. So for example, When are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I will actually do more hands-on things with Terra. Whereas Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will dedicate more time to like blog posts with Inventora cause I'm in the office.
[00:25:58] Um, so there are certain things that just align on specific days. However, usually because I have the running. Um, there's deadlines associated with things and I'll kind of just like take a glance at what needs to be prioritized that morning. Um, so I do every, every day start off with just running through my list and mentally pulling aside what needs to be the focus for the day and seeing what can get pushed to tomorrow.
[00:26:23] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Where does this list live? Your running list.
[00:26:26] Dianna Allen: Uh, lots and lots of places, which is not something I would recommend. honestly, it's like half in my head half in Notion, but thankfully I feel I'm being held accountable because I do have employees in both businesses and I do work alongside Jeremy and inventory. So even though my to-do lists are all over the place and I do know where to find them, but because I communicate with multiple people daily, it helps pull everything together.
[00:26:58] Peter Akkies: Right. So let's talk about that a little bit then. Cause you, you have employees, which I want to talk about, but you also work together with Jeremy, your boyfriend. And, um, I saw a tweet, um, about some venture capitalists who didn't like this. And I would very much like to hear this, this story.
[00:27:16] Dianna Allen: Yes. Okay. So it sh it was just a very interesting experience. Um, I am totally new to this VC world. So going into this, just, I just don't know what to expect. Right. And there were people we talked to, so we talked to a handful of investors and a lot
[00:27:36] Peter Akkies: This is for Inventora? Or for Terra?
[00:27:38] Dianna Allen: Correct, correct Inventora. We talked to a handful of people and a lot of the meetings went very well. And they were like, oh, like they were, they just thought it was so cool that we were able to work together and not drive each other crazy. And I was like, Yeah, it is pretty cool. Actually, it's very fun. However, Some there's maybe two other people who read into that and they were kind of like, are you guys married?
[00:28:00] And we were like, no, we're not married. And personally, I don't think that that has to reflect on business. Um, and they were just like, what happens if you guys bring up? And we just kind of looked at each other and we're just like, oh my gosh, like this, this is probably if I'm being honest, the last of our concerns, because we have a house together.
[00:28:23] Now we have animals together. Like there's more, there's so much more than just Inventora. If we were to break up. And the fact people were kind of like digging at us, trying to. Tell like expose our future plans if we were to break up. And I just, I honestly just found it offensive and obviously they were just not aligned with us either.
[00:28:44] So it's just a blessing in disguise. Yeah.
[00:28:47] It's just, it's honestly just good. It don't work out. Cause I probably would just like despise them through This process and they probably would try to like get in the middle of things too much. Um, but I dunno, it was just an interesting experience hearing this from people and just how forward people can be.
[00:29:03] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, I guess some people that like, I want to give you money. You better tell me everything about you
[00:29:10] Dianna Allen: I, yeah.
[00:29:11] I mean, by all means, I, I understand why they ask those things and like, I'm not trying to be naive to the situation, but it, to me, it is just a very personal topic
[00:29:21] Peter Akkies: It does. It does feel uncomfortable. Yeah.
[00:29:24] Dianna Allen: know. I just got a little touchy.
[00:29:26] Peter Akkies: No. Totally, totally get that. So, so what is it actually like to work together? Does it, does it work well? Does it, um, he ever in a position where you're like, okay, I'd go do work outside of the house for a little bit now to get some alone time, because that's definitely what my girlfriend and I have quite a lot of the time, so. And we don’t even work together.
[00:29:44] Dianna Allen: So say just being in the same room together
[00:29:48] it was just kind of
[00:29:49] Peter Akkies: sometimes. It's nice to have, uh, have some space.
[00:29:53] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[00:29:53] no, I definitely agree. Um, thankfully me and Jeremy, um, well, there's two things I would say. As a reason why we work well together. So we often work in different areas of the house. So we kind of have our dedicated workdays, like nine to five, but we don't really see each other much throughout that time, other than eating lunch, or if we just have like a question for each other, other than that, we're like very respectful of each other's time and we try to leave each other alone during the workday.
[00:30:25] Um, and then also if we are working next to each other, cause it does happen. Um, we work on such different things. So I tackled the marketing side of inventory where he does the, uh, engineering side of it. So they're just like two totally different worlds. And I think that's why we work very well together because our problems don't necessarily conflict with each other.
[00:30:52] Peter Akkies: Yeah. You're not both working on the same feature at the same time and like constantly have to interrupt each other. Yeah. No, that makes a ton of sense. Yeah. And so do you guys have like meetings with each other? Do you like put a meeting on your calendar where you're like, okay, strategy, time, discuss what feature to build next or does it happen informally over.
[00:31:11] Dianna Allen: sometimes we don't, we don't ever have any scheduled meetings together, um, to answer that just straight forward, but there have been times where I will just like approach him and I'll be like, okay. Inventora. And then we'll just like jump right into it. Like, that's just like the signifier that I'm like, okay, let's talk, let's talk business.
[00:31:33] But Inventora does come up very, very frequently throughout our day. And at this point it's honestly just normal conversation and we just. Tackle it and talk about it. Um, however, touching back on meetings, we did hire our first employee a few weeks ago, who is handling our creative content marketing, just because I do still run Terra and I need help on the marketing side.
[00:32:01] Like I just need to work alongside someone on this. Um, how, since she works remotely, we actually do have a daily standing meeting with.
[00:32:13] Peter Akkies: Interesting. Interesting. What do you do in the daily standing meeting?
[00:32:16] Dianna Allen: So we call it our daily standup, and it's just like 10, 15 minutes. We have it scheduled at the same time every morning and it's the start to her day. So it's about nine in the morning for her and we just hop on and we kind of just go in a circle, all three of us. Um, usually Jeremy and I are on the same screen and we just kind of say what we worked on yesterday and what our plan is for today. And we just kind of leave it at that. And if people need feedback, then we will talk about it.
[00:32:46] Peter Akkies: right. Very simple. So it's just a sort of accountability thing, right? Like what's
[00:32:50] Dianna Allen: Definitely.
[00:32:51] Peter Akkies: Cool. So I'm curious about your hiring process. So you said that for both businesses, um, you have hired one employee each, is that.
[00:33:02] Dianna Allen: Yes,
[00:33:02] Peter Akkies: Yeah. So, you know, I've never hired someone for a business. Like I, you know, I've sort of, I'm paying basically freelancers and I guess, you know, I like I have bookkeepers, but they don't, they don't work for me in the sense of, for my business, you know?
[00:33:17] Um, I do think it seems a little bit more intense when you actually hire someone, because at that point it's like a longer term relationship that you
[00:33:25] Dianna Allen: Oh, it's scary.
[00:33:27] Peter Akkies: a core part of your business. Yeah. Did you do a lot of research ahead of time? Like what should you do when you're hiring someone or, um, you know, which questions should you ask or did you kind of just like tweet about this and see what happens?
[00:33:41] Dianna Allen: So I will say for both businesses, the hiring process was very different. Um, first was Terra. So I hired in Terra first and this was may of this year, 2021. And I felt like I was drowning. Like, I, I really did need help. And I just kind of had the mentality though. Oh, I've gotten this far. I can just keep going.
[00:34:06] Everything will be fine. And it wasn't until my friends, someone I've known literally my entire life since we were kids. And she, she was returning home from college and she messaged me asking if I needed an assistant. And I was just kinda like, oh, are you serious? Like, this is so out of the blue. And she said, Yeah. I'm going to come home. She's like explaining that she's taking a break from college and she is just kind of on the job hunt right now. And when she said that, I was just kinda like, you know what, let's sit
[00:34:41] Peter Akkies: Actually, yes.
[00:34:44] Dianna Allen: So that's honestly how that one went. And thankfully, I mean, I did give her a real interview process because, you know, letting someone into your business is a very personal thing. It's scary. Um, so I just treated her as if I would have treated anyone I was hiring and it worked out and she has been with me for about five months.
[00:35:07] Peter Akkies: That’s very exciting. And what about for Inventora? Cause you said it was very different.
[00:35:12] Dianna Allen: Oh, Yeah.
[00:35:13] So what Terra, it just kind of like fell into my lap, basically. Like that's how that happened. Um, with Inventora, I acknowledged it this time around, so I knew I just didn't have as much time or resources that I wanted to allocate to marketing and. Acknowledged it this time. And I said, we need to hire someone.
[00:35:38] Um, this was when we had actually just finished our funding around. So we had the funds to support this idea And we just put up a listing. Um, we put it on our website and then I think we put it on some like remote job boards. And we just went through your like typical interview process in that.
[00:36:01] Peter Akkies: And you've mentioned now that this is, you know, you've mentioned the word remote a couple of times. So I'm curious, where are you specifically looking for someone who works remotely or would it have been totally fine? If it was someone who came and sat with you in the office over there?
[00:36:18] Dianna Allen: So I think we actually lucked out because I really wanted someone who actually we could meet face to face just because. I am a very, like, I don't know how to explain it. My personality is just very warm and welcoming and I just. Hanging around people being around people. And if I'm going to work with someone, I would really, really love to get to know them.
[00:36:44] And so that was initially my mindset going into the hiring process was if they are located near us, that would be amazing. However, I am not going to sacrifice any potential candidates just because they don't live by us. So we did open it to wherever. Um, and through word of mouth, someone in our town knew someone living in LA looking for this type of role.
[00:37:16] And she's from this area. So she's working remotely in LA right now, but she's actually visiting for an entire month in November. So just in a few weeks and we'll actually get to meet her, um, and work with her in office for a few days. So I think that's really exciting that we're able to do both of those things.
[00:37:37] Peter Akkies: Yeah, no, I mean, it's interesting to me because I guess the way that I think about it is I'm so used to working, you know, online or remotely now that like, for me, I would just want the absolute best candidate and like, but I also get what you're saying about when you meet someone face to face and, you know, the whole of COVID was basically a reminder of how important it is to like meet people face to face and really get an understanding of their vibe.
[00:38:00] Right. So I guess you get the best of both worlds.
[00:38:03] Dianna Allen: definitely. Yeah.
[00:38:05] Peter Akkies: Yeah. And so do you feel that there's some more responsibility on you now that you've got employees? Does that change the way that you approach the business? Um, do you feel that, you know, do you do anything differently now?
[00:38:19] Dianna Allen: So this is something I'm actually still navigating. Um, we hired in Inventora, we hired our creative content marketer, honestly, I think just three weeks ago. So she's like just fresh out of onboarding and kind of starting to do her own thing now. And I've actually this past week haven't been talking to Jeremy about how do I, you know, really designate my time now, because before I knew I had to split Terra and Inventora, I knew I had my days in my head.
[00:38:54] But now, because we have an employee who, who works directly underneath me with marketing, I do have to talk to her daily. And so this is where I'm starting to figure out. Okay. But how do I split inventory and terrible. On a day-to-day basis now, rather than just like segmenting two days to Inventora. Um, so what I'm trying to do, and this is like so hard as honestly just waking up earlier, just because it gives me more hours in the day. Um, but this is, this is still a work in progress. And granted, I just started diving into this a few days ago, so we'll, we'll see how it goes.
[00:39:38] Peter Akkies: Yeah. And I will say, that does not strike me as the most sustainable tactic to wake up early. I mean, if you also go to sleep earlier, it works. If you cut down on the sleep, not necessarily the best way
[00:39:48] Dianna Allen: Yeah, definitely.
[00:39:50] Peter Akkies: Yeah. So, so you're very much in the figuring it out phase, but, but I think that that's pretty exciting to me, honestly, that sounds like a fun, fun part of business growth to be in. Right. Um, and this brings me to a question, which I'm sure you're not going to have a simple answer to, but how do you prioritize between your two businesses? Like, I'm sure you don't think of one as like, this one is more important than the other, but what if they both need your attention?
[00:40:14] Dianna Allen: So I think this is where, um, delegation comes into play. Because for example, right now, with Terra, we're working on our biggest wholesale order of the year. It’s one thousand candles and it's just very, very time consuming and it takes a lot out of you to pour each of those candles. Um, So that is, what's on my plate with Terra right now, and it's very demanding, highly prioritize.
[00:40:42] And what I'm doing is I'm just making sure I have my employee on top of it, as much as she can. Um, that way I can free up some time to work on Inventora, to work on. What's prioritized there. Um, And even vice versa. So whenever I need to handle things with Terra, I just need to make sure our employee with Inventora is able to take care of what's on my plate for the day.
[00:41:09] Peter Akkies: So you're becoming more and more of a manager. Is that something that you, I just sat about this or is it kind of enjoyable?
[00:41:16] Dianna Allen: I guess you could say, I have a love, hate relationship with it. Um, I will, I won't say I'm disappointed because if I'm being honest, I was always the person in school who hated group work. But when it came down to doing it, I always was like, okay, you're going to do this and you're going to do that and I'll do this.
[00:41:39] So I was really good at. Keeping people in line, but together, you know, um, so I'm not upset about it whatsoever because I don't want it to be the other way around. I don't want someone telling me what to do. Um, but I really do enjoy everything I've done so far. Like I really do enjoy the hands-on aspect of Terra.
[00:42:01] I really love marketing with Inventora. So even though I'm stepping away from it a little bit, I still, I'm still, I'm doing things that basically fill my fix with it.
[00:42:11] Peter Akkies: Yeah.
[00:42:12] no, totally. Um, so. What happens to them if they both need your attention, but what do you do if both this, this, this needs your attention? Do you just kind of like split your day? Or do you say Jeremy, you do all of the Inventora stuff. Like I need to focus on Terra today. How does that work?
[00:42:29] Dianna Allen: I feel like, what if, so the thing is this just hasn't happened, but I think when it comes down to it, if, if this were to happen, what I would probably do. Actually choose Inventora just because I have gone through, I've gone through running Terra for almost two years now and something I've learned with Terra.
[00:42:52] It can always wait until tomorrow. Um, I've gone through a lot of ups and downs, a lot of stresses with Terra and something I've already accepted is if something is so demanding or stressing me out, it can still always just wait one more day. Um, whereas with Inventora, I guess I just haven't worked with Inventora enough to really decide how important is this, you know, so right now, everything is very important.
[00:43:20] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Is that perhaps also something to do with the fact that you've got people backing Inventora, whereas Terra's is like your own thing. From what I understand,
[00:43:28] Dianna Allen: I definitely think there is some, some like subconscious level to what we're doing with Inventora, just because I do want it to grow as quick as possible in that sense. So that way. You know, like we owe people money essentially. So that way the quicker grows the less, I have to worry about that. So that is definitely an added factor.
[00:43:52] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Did you spend a lot of time thinking about whether you wanted to take money from other people?
[00:43:57] Dianna Allen: Oh, yeah, definitely. Um, so when we went into Inventora, it was just me and Jeremy just hacking away, having a good time. We still having a good time. Um, but it was like very, very casual back then. Jeremy wasn't even working full time on it. Um, I wasn't putting in nearly as many hours as I am today with it.
[00:44:17] So it was just very, very like side projects, like, and it got to the point where Jeremy was like, I really want to take this on, like, I w I want to work on this full time. And I was like, and Inventora is growing. And I think we should definitely like put in all that we can into it. So it came to that point where we kind of were like, Now, how do we grow this faster?
[00:44:40] Because we knew if we raised money, we could hire an employee, which would help my side of it. Um, and it would just open a lot of avenues for us to go down. Um, however, Jeremy actually has been in the VC world before, and he actually just exited a company due to. I don't, I don't want to say like negative VC related reasons.
[00:45:10] Um, but it just wasn't a good experience as to why he had to exit his company. And it was because there was investors involved. So we definitely weighed our decisions and to whether we should take money or if we should just keep bootstrapping this on our own. And then ultimately it just came down to what do we have to lose?
[00:45:34] Um, I had Terra, Terra was running itself at this point. Jeremy is an engineer. I mean, he can dive into Inventora full time and see what happens or he can just get another job, like we were safe. So that's when we decided, you know what, let's just raise money and just see what we can do.
[00:45:55] Peter Akkies: And it still feels like the right decision.
[00:45:57] Dianna Allen: Definitely. Yeah. Like it, it honestly just alleviated so much on my side because I do run both of them, both of the businesses. Um, and the second we started raising funds, I already knew, okay, these phones are going straight to an employee. And once we hired an employee, granted, I have been working with her a lot in the past few weeks, just because she's onboarding, I'm getting her familiar with everything.
[00:46:25] It is a lot on my plate to tackle, like from the start. But I know this effort I'm putting in now is just going to lead to her, working on her own later, which will just like free up everyone's time, basically.
[00:46:38] Peter Akkies: Sure. It's an investment, right?
[00:46:40] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[00:46:40] Peter Akkies: Yeah. I'm so well, I'm really curious about the long-term implications of you running these two businesses now. So, and that's related to your goal-setting, which I'm curious whether you have any kind of process for that. The way I think about this is when I make decisions about where do I want to take my business?
[00:46:58] You know, do I want to start a new activity or make a new product? Yeah. Is that kind of have a lifestyle in mind that I really, really enjoy. Um, so for example, I liked just being able to travel whenever I want for like a long period of time, you know, at least like a month or something like that without that really being an issue.
[00:47:12] And so when you have some of those things in mind about the kind of lifestyle that you want to have, um, it kind of, I don't want to, I mean, it does constrain which decisions you can make. Right. Um, and if I hear your situation where. Kind of managing two businesses. You're doing a lot of the work yourself.
[00:47:31] Both businesses are growing, particularly, it sounds like Inventora is growing. Maybe at some point you'll need to hire even more employees and you'll need to be doing even more management. And there'll be a lot more maybe also admin, legal work. I don't know. Those things tend to sort of also grow. So curious (a), whether you have a certain lifestyle in mind and you're like, I definitely don't want it to get to the point where I'm X and (b), if you have some kind of goal setting process where you're like, huh, this is really where I would. You know, either of the companies or both to be like to be at a year from now or two years from now. So, so you're going in a specific direction. Is that the case?
[00:48:06] Dianna Allen: Yeah. So when it comes to goal setting, I will say I'm definitely more defined with this through Terra, just because I it's been almost two years, I've been in it longer. And Inventora is just such a new world to me, that the goal setting, I just don't really understand yet if I'm being honest. So basically the difference between the two is with Terra, I know. Oh, for me, it was a goal early on to double my revenue every month with Inventora doubling our revenue is just different because one it's reoccurring revenue. Um, so with that being said in my head, I'm already like, well, I already know 1000 will be here because we have it today. Whereas Terra, if I made 1000 in a month, it was kind of like, okay, but I still need to.
[00:49:02] Just as much to get that 1000 again. So the goal setting is very, very different. However, I would say, um, ultimately when it comes to having a lifestyle mind, I do see both businesses still very strong in that. And the only thing that is going to be hard with lifestyle I have in mind is because I also like to travel.
[00:49:26] Um, like we touched base on earlier. I was gone for nearly two years, however, um, Terra being very hands-on and the fact that I still make my candles, I think I just needed to get to a point with Terra where I have more than one employee. So that way I am able to take longer trips away. Um, I will say I kind of tested the waters already.
[00:49:50] Just seeing how my business would survive with me being gone almost three weeks. So back in August, we actually took a three week trip to Guatemala and I had my employee with Terra come. I think she came in just one more extra day, every week. So normally I have her two days a week. She was there three days a week.
[00:50:11] Just keeping everything under control. And honestly, everything was great. So I think if I were to, if I were to grow Terra more and more, I would just need the additional employees. And I'm still able to see everything at such a high level of what's going on, even though I'm away, that everything I think would still be fine.
[00:50:32] Um, so that's the only downside I can potentially see, not fitting into my lifestyle is just me. Pouring the candles itself. Um, otherwise I believe Terra can grow and everything works out.
[00:50:47] Peter Akkies: It sounds like everything is just going swimmingly. So I am also curious, were there any points in either business where you were like, oh shit, this went so poorly. What am I doing here? Or has it literally all been smooth sailing?
[00:51:02] Dianna Allen: No, there's definitely ups and downs. I will say Inventora is going very well. And my perspective, just because, like I said, I've never ran a business like this before. So touching base on again, It's just so new to me that everything we do with it, I'm like oh, this is an achievement. This is great. Our churn isn't a higher percentage or anything.
[00:51:25] And I just see everyone's feedback constantly talking about how great the system is. So I have a very, very positive experience with Inventora. I don't know how that'll change over the next year. Um, because we just finished our funding round about a month and a half ago. Um, I feel like we are going to start experimenting with new things over the next few months, and then maybe I'll have a totally different aspect of all of this.
[00:51:55] Um, But yeah, like that's inventory side of things I think are great and no downfalls yet. It was just what I needed an employee working beside me that I was just kind of like I'm drowning. Um, but we resolved that, um, as far as Terra there's ups and downs constantly with Terra, um, I don't know. Really what the difference is between the two businesses, but Terra is just like a roller coaster every single day.
[00:52:27] And it definitely brings me through my emotions, like weekly. Like it, it stresses me out, but I know what I'm doing with Terra is ultimately going to pay off. Um, and again, I also see the positive feedback throughout it all, and that definitely keeps me going because I'm like, people love this. People love what I'm doing.
[00:52:48] Um, and sometimes Jeremy just tells me, I'm thinking too hard and the things and that I should just like chill out and just not think so much about it. But I think because Terra is solely my own, I just have such a
[00:53:02] Peter Akkies: It's like your baby.
[00:53:04] Dianna Allen: it. Yeah, exactly.
[00:53:07] Peter Akkies: And so when you say there's ups and downs for Terra, what, whatever you literally talking about, like sales, or just like we talking about, like, you, you make a new product range and like nobody likes it or what, what kind of things.
[00:53:18] Dianna Allen: So it's really a handful of things. So one is exactly what you mentioned. Sometimes I do come up with new scents and I think they are phenomenal. And then I introduce it to the public. And for some reason that is my least selling one. And it's not to say that people don't like it. It's just, it doesn’t perform as what I expected it to. Um, so that happens, which I'm kind of like, well, that's a bummer. And sometimes I kind of also order my supplies now just because I have a lot of wiggle room, whereas when I started, so I mentioned how I started with only like a hundred dollars. Well, now Terra is at the point where there is a cushion in the bank account, and I am able to play with the supplies I buy and just kind of see what does, well, see what doesn't.
[00:54:04] But sometimes I have an excess of supplies because it doesn't perform well. And then I'm stuck figuring out how to get rid of this.
[00:54:12] Peter Akkies: Like what should I do with all this? Yeah. I'm curious. What kinds of supplies are we talking about? I did the—assume I know nothing about, you know, the actual production process.
[00:54:21] Dianna Allen: Yeah. So usually, um, the, the main supplies that I need to keep on hand is containers. Wax, wicks. Wicks are what you light on fire for the candle, and then the fragrance oils. So the sun, um, usually, uh, what was that like four or five things? 80% of that. Be accumulated in my garage. I will use it, but it's the fragrance oils that tend to stockpile.
[00:54:48] And I'm kind of like, okay, how do I get rid of this?
[00:54:51] Peter Akkies: What do I do with this? Yeah.
[00:54:52] Dianna Allen: And usually what I will do, which isn't the best solution, but it's how you can get rid of it. It's just running sales on that. Um, but running sales is kind of a tricky game to play because you don't ever want to come off as that brand, always running a sale.
[00:55:09] Peter Akkies: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:55:10] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[00:55:11] cause it kind of downplays, um, the rest of your products. You know, you're, you're constantly running sales on various things. Then the ones that are always normal price probably will just never sell because they know they can always find something cheaper in your store. Um, so running sales is tricky, but if I really, really want to get rid of something, that's what I'll do.
[00:55:32] I just try not to do it too much. Um, so that's like one downfall. Another downside has been, sometimes I'm in communications with. Basically, I do a lot of B2B selling. So, um, businesses will buy candles from me at a wholesale price and they'll redistribute it to their audience. And I have a lot of communications where there'll be talking to me about how they're interested in purchasing.
[00:56:01] Like 500 candles because they do buy in bulk. Um, and sometimes it's as low as 50, but sometimes it's as high as 500 or how I told you I'm working on a, a 1000 candle order right now. So there's just this huge variety of how big the order can be. And sometimes, you know, you get in talks with these high orders and then they either just like change their mind. Or sometimes they don't even like get back to you. And then that's really when I'm like, Oh, my gosh, like I'm, I'm losing it.
[00:56:36] Peter Akkies: yeah.
[00:56:37] Dianna Allen: But those, those are just some examples of the ups and downs of. I dunno, it's a variety of things. Really. Sometimes I put myself in events and the events don't work out and I put so much money into them and I barely make enough to cover my employees pay for those two days.
[00:56:56] Um, things like that. I mean, I try not to focus on the downside of things though. Cause overall Terra is doing this.
[00:57:04] Peter Akkies: Right. Do you think consciously about risk? Do you, do you like enjoy taking new risks? For example, are you like comfortable with failure? Is that just something that like, just do whatever sounds fun. So sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
[00:57:18] Dianna Allen: I think I am very comfortable with failure just because I have this mindset. Basically both my businesses started with nothing. Um, like they both started with just a little bit of effort and just like sharing the word to people. And I know if I were to lose everything at the end of the day, I could always start over because I don't think it takes much to start something.
[00:57:47] Peter Akkies: Yeah. And on that note, I kind of want, wanna, um, uh, end with some words of advice from you, for people who are either starting a first business or thinking of doing a second one, since you clearly know how to manage two of them, um, you, you seem pretty happy and chill to me. How do you manage to do all these things without feeling overly stressed or overwhelmed?
[00:58:13] Dianna Allen: Um, honestly, I give all the thanks to everyone I'm around. So, you know how I mentioned this coworking space just appeared and I kind of gravitated toward it because it was full of women owned businesses. Um, Every week, I'm surrounded by these women. I'm very inspired by them. I feel like I'm actually part of the community and their reason for my sanity, because I can just like lay out my frustrations and they get it.
[00:58:41] And even if they don't get it, they, they resonate in some way or another still. Um, or they just tell me their frustrations and I'm kind of like, okay, We're both just like, this is fine. This is just our week. Um, so that's one aspect. And then also the people I've brought into my businesses and just working alongside Jeremy.
[00:59:02] Jeremy is a great support. Um, the people who we work with also, they're just great people. And I think that's my best advice to give someone with starting a business. Even if you are doing it alone, it's all a matter of like who's surrounding you though. Who is your support system?
[00:59:22] Peter Akkies: I love that. I think that is a fantastic message. I'm trying to work on that myself, so thank you for the reminder. I really appreciate it. Um, so for people listening, if they want to check out either Terra or Inventora, where should they go?
[00:59:36] Dianna Allen: So Terra, you can, my best suggestion is finding me on Instagram, through Terra's account, which is instagram.com/terrasimply. And then Inventora, you can find at inventora.co. Um, other than those two things, if you want to find me I'm most active on Twitter. And that’s at @diannamallen.
[01:00:02] Peter Akkies: Good. Yeah. We'll make sure to put all of those in the, in the show notes and I will recommend your Twitter account particularly to people. It’s very enjoyable. Um, cause sometimes I feel that we're just sort of like watching you run your businesses, the ups and the downs get tweeted about
[01:00:15] Dianna Allen: Yeah.
[01:00:16] I say I am very, very vocal on Twitter. Um, it's my safe space.
[01:00:22] Peter Akkies: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, that's great. I think that's enjoyable. So thank you very much Dianna for coming on the show.
[01:00:28] Dianna Allen: Thank you so much, Peter.
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