Today we meet Lindzi Shanks, CO-CEO and CO-Founder of XO Marshmallow. What began as cute and sweet gifts for friends has quickly grown into a full-fledged business, as people responded to the gourmet marshmallows with enthusiasm and XO Marshmallow now has a team of 15 to keep up with demand. How has the company leveraged the visual nature of their product through social media? How have they adapted physical marshmallow-themed cafes to complement their ecommerce operations? Let’s find out!
My name is Lindzi Shanks; I am the CO-CEO and CO-Founder of XO Marshmallow. I currently handle all of our marketing, branding, and social media — in addition to transitional owner responsibilities. This is my second business — I actually met my business partner while running my first shop, The Trendy Sparrow, an adorable ecommerce clothing boutique. Before that, I was in school where I received a master’s in psychology from the University of Chicago. XO has been my full-time (and only) business since 2018.
XO Marshmallow is a gourmet marshmallow company with the world’s 1st marshmallow cafe and wonderland. We opened our online shop in 2015 and our physical store in the summer of 2017. My business partner began making marshmallows on her last year of law school as gifts for the holidays—the recipients loved them so much she continued to play around with the idea. What started as her making mallows in a tiny vintage mixer while I ran the shipping side of things has evolved into a team of 15 that helps run the day-to-day operations.
We are currently working on ramping up our production and team to keep up with demand—that involves looking for a bigger production facility. Our goals are to become THE company that people think of when they think about marshmallows — that means growing our ecommerce side and adding new cafes in the future.
Right now our biggest challenge is access to capital. Even though our business is profitable and has had “hockey stick” growth since we opened—finding access to traditional capital is difficult for 2 young women. Lack of access to capital does make it difficult to front-load growth to accelerate the process—but we’ve combated it by focusing on profitability and incremental growth. Our followers and customers really motivate us, they’re vocal about what they want and how fast they want us to grow.
For us, Instagram is a big driver of our business. Since our food product is so visual, we find that showcasing our product in a more visual way leads to that mouth-watering response and ecom conversions.
Don’t underestimate the value of a team. You might be worried about adding someone new because you can’t afford it—but if you are strategic about who you add and when, they will quickly pay for themselves and you will be able to focus on growth.
Yes! I’m a huge fan of the book “Move” by Patty Azzarello for growth and strategy, and “Girl Code” by Cara Alwill Leyba for motivation. I also love the Shopify Masters podcast and Entreprenistas podcast.
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