Overcoming hardship and building strong businesses

Can you really start a business from your kitchen table? The answer to this question is at the core of Chuckling Goat, multi-million pound company run by Shann Nix Jones. Chuckling Goat LTD is a family business which achieved explosive million-pound success just four years after its humble beginnings on her farmhouse kitchen table. 

Shann is an internationally recognised expert on gut health, and the author of three best selling books on the subject. 

I had the pleasure to sit down with Shann virtually and interview her for the Make an Impact show, and her story truly resonated with me, so much so that I wanted to outline a few of the core takeaways to inspire anyone with a great idea, a strong mission, and little resources – because yes, you can start any business from your kitchen table.  “When I started my business, I didn’t know anything about social media” Shann recalled. “With the first money I made, I contacted a social media trainer. She said ‘Oh, you know, I only go and train in big companies’. I said ‘Okay, I know. But how much would it cost me for one hour of your time?’”

She hired her for that one hour, and what she told her was very simple: “it is all about engagement”. It’s the call and response, the so-called back and forth: “Because of that, I’ve let that principle drive our business as we grow.” How does this manifest in the different areas of her business? It all starts from the user journey.

We do not sell through any outside retailers, We do not sell through any third parties, we sell directly to the end-user. 

These days, there are end-users in 61 countries around the globe, yet she still sells directly, and she is in direct contact with them by email, phone, and live chat, showing the importance of that user nurturing experience: “my nutritionist can answer a question in 23 seconds on the website, this way I continue to get useful information from my clients.”

She admits being able to answer questions and find a solution (and at times not being able to) has helped Chuckling Goat develop new products, new solutions and improve their formulations. 

“Once we created a complete prebiotic powder that has 18 different sources of prebiotic fiber in it. That would never have occurred to me, but that’s what the customers wanted” she explains “the customers are demanding it and I’m alright, here you go. I’ll do it. That’s, that’s how our business has grown.”

Putting your customer first is a matter of ego

It’s truly a humble mindset to get your ego to step out of the way, “I just want to make sure that I know is going to serve my people” she shrugged. 

Just like myself, she is a massive fan of research and surveys: “it was interesting to see that there’s always at least one answer to a question that you wouldn’t expect.” As business owners, she explains, we think we understand the behaviors of our people, but sometimes it’s hard – with the communication that you have, you want them to be as honest and blunt as possible. Yet, it can come from anywhere: “sometimes it happens in one live chat, where you find some gold or in one question that you weren’t expecting to answer.”

Stepping away from the ego is crucial to better serve your people, and beat something she calls the Iitis.Iitis is a disease and a lot of people have it. 

It’s easy to diagnose, all you have to do is go to emails that you’ve sent, and read through them: “look at the word that begins most of your sentences. If that word is I, you have itis and you need to flip your I-to-you ratio so that at least three-quarters of your sentences begin with the word you.”

This is what they drum into their nutritionists, and it’s all the copy on the Chuckling Goat website: “If you’re beginning with the word you, you are addressing your customers favorite topic”. 

This may feel like the oldest lesson in the book, but I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that it’s not about you, it’s about your customer. It’s not about what you want to say about your business: 

If I say…you have eczema. You’ve had eczema for a long time because steroids don’t work, you’ve probably gone to all the doctors, and you’ve probably taken all the cures which don’t work. I have something that can help you.

“Now I’m talking their language, they don’t care about me and my business, they care about how it can help them” she continues. Once you make that switch, and you focus on what the customer needs to hear, not what you want to say ”you’re cooking with bear fat” (which it’s how they say in Texas, where she is from). 

Lessons in resilience

When it comes to starting a small business and scaling it fast, a few key lessons come to mind.

  • Put your customer first, not just in your mind, but in your website copy, in your messaging and values
  • Pay attention to what your customers say, and do not miss out on valuable feedback
  • Think outside the box to make the most of every single opportunity that comes your way

Shann Jones likes to see herself as a tree.

“Trees are very rooted, and those roots are my values. They grow down as much as they grow up, and they grow from those values”.

“I don’t want to create in my business is sappy growth, where I’m shooting up and getting too big, and I can’t sustain it.” 

Also, trees function best with other trees, as they like to be in a forest: “They have a mycelium network where they’re passing information and nutrients back and forth.”

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