female founder feature: ali kaminetsky founder + ceo, modern picnic
IF YOU’RE LIKE US, YOU BRING YOUR LUNCH EVERYDAY (OKAY FINE, TRY TO BRING YOUR LUNCH EVERYDAY) TO HELP YOU EAT A BIT HEALTHIER AND SAVE SOME SERIOUS CASH-O-LA (NEW YORKERS WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU). WHICH MEANS, YOU KNOW THAT THE STRUGGLE IS REAL WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF YOU SHOULD RE-USE THAT LULULEMON BAG FOR THE 1000X, OR GRAB A PLASTIC BAG FROM YOUR LATEST TRIP TO CVS, OR JUST TOSS YOUR TUPPERWARE IN YOUR WORK BAG AND HOPE FOR THE BEST. BUT THANKS TO ali kaminetsky, founder + ceo of modern picnic, THAT STRUGGLE IS no more(!!!). WHY?! BECAUSE THIS SELF-FUNDED BADA$ has invented the chicest lunchbox-solution we’ve ever laid eyes on. not only is her product beautiful but the utility and versatility is, in our opinion, unparalleled in the industry. HER CLASSIC LUNCHER LAUNCHED HER BRAND AND SHE HAS SINCE EXPANDED TO INCLUDE OTHER INSULATED, VEGAN LEATHER ACCESSORIES FOR ALL YOUR LUNCHING (AND DINNER-ING, AND TBH DAILY HANDBAG NEEDS).
Tell us the story of how you got started. What gave you the idea and how did you come up with the name?
I had just graduated from college, and moved into the city to start my job at Macy’s where I was doing buying for them. From the start I was bringing my lunch to work every day because of how much faster, healthier, and cheaper it was (especially as a recent grad). However, I did not have a chic or functional way to do so. I was carrying my lunch in paper, plastic or old shopping bags. When I went online to buy myself a lunchbox, I saw tons of options for little kids and men but nothing for women who wanted to both look and feel their best. From there, the idea to start Modern Picnic was born. I actually came up with the name the day I came up with the idea, secured the domain immediately, and the rest is history.
You have the idea for MP – now what? What were the main things you did that took you from idea to launching a product? Talk to us about those activities, and how you decided to go MP full time – was that an easy decision?
It took me just under two years from idea formation to actually launching the company. I came up with the idea in September of 2016 and launched on May 1, 2018. I was only 22 when I had the idea and had absolutely zero prior experiences, skill sets, connections, or any idea how to turn this idea into a reality. The first thing I did was just start talking to anyone and everyone to learn from them, and get their advice. From there, I began developing a tech pack for our first product, the luncher. Leaving Macy’s to pursue Modern Picnic full time was absolutely terrifying. Working at Macy’s was my dream job, and was something I had worked so hard to get to, so to leave this amazing place, and stable pay check, was not an easy decision but one that I have never once regretted.
You’ve self-funded this entire business (!!!) Talk to us about that decision and why you took that path instead of raising VC money. Is there anything you’ve learned about where not to put your money as a self funded entrepreneur?
As a bootstrapped company, you have to be extra cognizant and careful about where you are spending your money. While we are very proud of how far we have gotten by being self-funded, we feel that we need to raise in order to take Modern Picnic to the next level. I certainly do not come from a Finance background, so am trying to do everything i can do edecutate myself on the process – i.e. networking calls, attending events and panels centered around funding, and doing my own research online.
you’ve been in business for under 2 years and already have such an amazing following! talk to us about organic growth and what marketing channels / other channels have contributed the most to that?
we really try to utilize all of the channels to maximize visibility and awareness on the brand. that means not just focusing on our instagram but also channels such as twitter, pinterest, linkedin, facebook, email and of course, our website. we also do quite a bit of ppc advertising and have seen success promoting via google, facebook and instagram ads which have all contributed to our organic growth.
We love using Planoly to plan our our Instagram feed, and Tailwind for Pinterest planning and optimization. Everything else is really organized and planned through Google Docs!
you do amazing instagram marketing! For entrepreneurs just learning how to instagram market, what are your best tips + tricks? Is there a sweet spot “spend” on ads or “type of ad” that works the best for you? How do you build the target audience for your ads?
Well first of all – thank you! We were working with an amazing freelancer to help us with our instagram marketing at first. He was able to teach us the ground work, and basics, on PPC Advertising.
If you are not an expert, I highly recommend working with one to learn more. This will ensure you are optimizing ad spend, and not wasting any money on low performing ads.
All of our ads are run through Google Ads, and Facebook Ads Manager. We have a team that monitors the account on a daily basis to make sure we are optimizing ad spend, and targeting the right people!
you recently launched an ambassador program. What are the first steps someone looking to launch this should take + how should they grow it?
Our ambassador program and welcoming in 150+ amazing women from around the country, is definitely something I am most proud of with Modern Picnic. Before we launched the program, we were getting quite a bit of inquiries from different women asking if we had a program or not. So once we decided to actually begin creating the program, the first step we took was asking if they would get on a call with us so we could learn more about what they would want to see from a program. We don’t look at, or measure, our Ambassador Program as a ROI rather it is the heart of our company. It is all about the community that is being built, and the connections that are being made. We reward our ambassadors on a Tier system…meaning, the more they sell, the more we gift!
My advice would be to talk to your community and see what they would want! Because after all, at the end of the day, the ambassador program is for them and to make it as fulfilling as possible.
You created a ‘first of its kind’ product with a lot of competition – talk to us about how you differentiate yourself. Why does a woman buy MP over another lunchbox?
We saw tons of lunchboxes on the market for little kids and for men, but nothing for women who wanted to both look and feel their best. Our lunch bags are designed so you can bring them from work, to the gym, to the dinner and anywhere in between, and no one would ever have to know what was inside.
you recently launched the tote in addition to your luncher and snacker lines. Talk to us about how the idea for that product came about and what the design process was like? When you launch a ‘new’ product, how do you grow that product without cannibalizing your other lines?
We wanted to create a product for all types of women! The snacker is perfect for the girl who just wants to bring snacks with her. The luncher is for the girl who brings her lunch with her, and the tote is for the girl who wants to bring her breakfast, luncher + maybe even dinner with her all in one. Although all products fall under one umbrella, we feel they are different enough that they will not cannibalize each other, but instead complement each other.
You’re giving your best friend a blankbox. How do you fill it?
Of course with MP products ☺
QUICK FIRE WITH ALI KAMINETSKY
where are you from: Greenwich, CT
favorite NYC restaurant: Loving Pastis right now
what we’ll find in your luncher: GG Crackers, some kind of bar and fruit
favorite “me-time” activity: Love going to work out classes
favorite brand: Too many amazing ones to choose from!
best gift you’ve ever received: My best friends recently got me and Eberjay robe + pajama set and I swear I have not been able to take it off since. Softest set ever.