Sunday, October 1, 2023

Once a million-dollar sole proprietorship, Sol Orwell has a new goal for his food site: nine-figure sales

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Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Sol Orwell led the way in the one-man business trend of one million dollars, building, a health information site he founded in 2011, to annual sales of more than $1 million with a small team of contractors.

But million dollar sole proprietorships don’t remain static. (You can read about the company’s early history “A young entrepreneur’s passion to hack his diet leads to a seven-figure business”.). While many founders go deep into refining boutique solopreneur businesses without ever adding employees, others ultimately choose to go the traditional route and scale. Orwell, based in Toronto, takes a hybrid approach. He recently relaunched his site after tripling the size of his virtual team to about 25 people, with a mix of contractors and employees, and now forecasts revenue of about $2 million by 2022. His goal is to get the company up and running. to a nine-figure turnover.

“It’s important to have work that really excites you, especially given the Great Resignation,” Orwell says. “My mission is to build a business that I am truly proud of.” sells nutritional information, such as the supplement guides, through a subscription model that costs $19 per month or $144 discounted per year. Prior to the relaunch, he and his team organized the site around specific nutrients, such as vitamin D. Now, the information is embedded in the health challenges that drive people to search the Internet for nutrition-based solutions, with 25 categories (such as “cardiovascular”). covering 65-80 health issues (such as “high blood pressure”).The site also provides insight into “results”.

“People don’t care about vitamin D,” he says. “They care about ‘I have high blood pressure’.”

Orwell decided to relaunch the site after a rough patch with the company in 2019. “We were a little lost,” Orwell says. “This is one of the conundrums of the one-man approach. Frankly, it was communication from our side, about the mission and vision. We reset everything in mid-2019. We started moving towards the holocracy approach and full financial transparency.” (Holocracy is a management system based on agile networks of people who organize themselves. By full transparency, he means that he shares data such as income and expenses with his team on a monthly basis.)

Things started to improve. Then Covid struck. “Covid has destroyed us,” Orwell says. “Personal trainers, a huge customer segment, were destroyed.”

Orwell and his team redoubled their search engine optimization and marketing efforts through their customer relationship management (CRM) software. They also assigned a customer success partner to each customer. “From the moment someone buys something, we want to make sure they don’t start churning,” he says.

This approach has worked and the company now serves more than 10,000 customers. While a change in the Google algorithm hit traffic hard at one point, it has needed a major revival. In addition to the many customer reviews on Trustpilot, one of the things that visitors flock to is the way organizes information. If someone searches for “migraines,” they will find answers to common sub-questions, such as “Does not enough sleep trigger migraines?” as well as a list of relevant studies on migraines.

“Instead of visitors having to find it in 20 different blog posts, we’re putting it all in one place,” he says.

To scale up, Orwell had to double its investment in researchers. 75% of his salary is made up of researchers, mostly experts such as MDs and Ph.Ds.

With a view to creating an attractive work environment, he runs the company on a four-day work week and introduces benefits such as four months of paid paternity leave. He has also introduced a six-month maternity leave that covers team members regardless of the outcome of the pregnancy. On a monthly basis, the company provides 20% of its pre-tax profits to employees.

What Examine doesn’t offer is unlimited vacation. “We’re not trying to pay lip service to corporate benefits,” Orwell says. “Companies say that you can take unlimited vacations. How many follow it?”

With things buzzing, Orwell plans to grow the company to 40 employees within a year — a goal he’ll seemingly have no trouble achieving. Although Orwell has made the company more complex, he still runs it using lean digital methods, such as communicating via Slack, rather than having many formal meetings, an approach that many people like. Another draw is the Employee Handbook he made public. “480 people have applied for five positions,” he says.

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