CEO Karen Frame on Makeena’s quest of getting noticed and helping consumers lead better lives | The UnNoticed Entrepreneur — step into the spotlight.
By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur .
Karen Frame is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of . She’s also been an adjunct professor at Colorado University (CU). In the new episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, she talked about natural products and how she’s been building a game show for her products and using public relations and books to get noticed.
Makeena: A “Happy, Abundant Machine”
Makeena is a discovery hub that helps these “Better for you, better for the planet” brands connect with consumers no matter where the consumers shop — whether online or at a store. It could be Amazon, Thrive Market, the brand’s website, or a Kroger or Piggly Wiggly store.
What Makeena wants is for consumers to buy better.
They also collect this first-party data and provide it to brands. The goal is to help brands understand who the consumer is, where they’re shopping, and what’s in their basket. This way, they can become more efficient and effective with their marketing dollar.
“Makeena,” the word, means “happiness” in Swahili, “abundance” in Hawaiian, and “machine” in Arabic. This means that the company is a “happy, abundant machine.”
Makeena is a loyalty program for every brand on their platform. They want the consumer to engage and learn about the brand, what it’s doing, how they’re making the world a better place, and, obviously, about their different products.
The more the consumer engages with the brand, the more they earn. It could be cash, a free product, or it could be swag. The app is free for the consumer, and it’s on and .
With what they’re doing, Makeena aspires to build a community. They’re building a community of brands. They’re building a community of consumers. It’s all about people who really, truly care about living healthier lives on a cleaner planet.
Some of the Brands on Makeena
Ocean’s Halo is just one of those highly innovative brands on Makeena. Another is , which uses Heirloom Organic non-genetically modified organism (GMO) corn kernels. They were on , and Barbara Corcoran invested in them.
Makeena’s platform has an interesting variety of food, beverage, household, supplements, and beauty products that you would typically consider to be in the natural products industry. All of them have at least three attributes. It could be that they’re organic, or it could be that they’re fair trade, or it could be that they are using sustainable farming practices. The common thing is they’re all focused on being better.
Whilst they curate these brands, the interesting thing is they’re leaving it up to the consumer as to what is truly better for them. There could be a brand on there that does have sugar in it but is still organic. The idea is they’re trying not to force this on somebody. Rather, they at Makeena want people to be able to make educated choices about what they’re putting in and on their bodies.
They have very strict guidelines as to what they put on their shelves. Again, the brand can be anything and everything, but if a brand could get into Whole Foods Market or Natural Grocers , or even the healthier aisles at a store, that brand could get onto Makeena.
They also make sure that the brands on their platform can be bought. They have to be able to be distributed throughout the United States. Though they may not be in 1,000 or 5,000 stores, consumers should be able to buy them at least online. This goes back to the goal of Makeena to give consumers a choice.
Reaching Out to Brands
There are different ways Makeena get brands to come to them. One of which is through word of mouth.
With that, she started to get known in the industry as one of the early innovators.
Now, she and her team sponsor different groups like Naturally Boulder and Colorado Food Works . They’ve also launched a game show that focuses on getting their partner brands out there (Every episode is about a brand). They’re also publishing a weekly newsletter called “ Roots to Results “ on LinkedIn. They’ve got a ton of people signing up — people who have started to see the weekly newsletter with tips on how to market your consumer packaged goods (CPGs) effectively and efficiently.
Karen herself has also been on podcasts and she goes to trade shows. She recently went to Plant Based World Expo , Natural Products Expo West (sponsored by New Hope), and Natural Products Expo East . She’s walked at trade shows and met people at those events. When investors hold get-togethers, she also attends to meet a ton of brands. She’s also been on TV talking about their brands.
A lot is going on because to get the brands on board, the brands have to know and trust the founder, and they have to be part of this community. Now, these brands are learning about Makeena through Karen, her team, their newsletter on LinkedIn, and the different sponsorships that they do.
Karen’s Role as Makeena’s Founder
As Makeena’s founder, Karen is always looking for really great people to join her company on its vision and mission. She wants the right people in the right seats at the right time. Hopefully, those people will help Makeema glow.
For her, it doesn’t matter if it’s her or somebody else. But as the founder, she knows that brands need to know and trust her, then her team (they have about 14 people as of writing).
Once that happens — once they hit the chasm — she’s hopefully going to become less important, but to a certain extent. Because she knows that as the founder, she has to have that vision and mission in place. She has to ensure that they have great people.
Reaching Out to Consumers
As a hub with all these products, having no consumers on the platform will make brands eventually get tired of it. So to get consumers to come to Makeena, she does different things.
There are many opportunities out there; you just have to keep open to them. For example, as Karen mentioned, guesting on a podcast like The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is great. You can’t say yes to everybody, but you mostly have to say yes.
Karen acknowledges that Makeena’s shoppers are sticky. They love what the company is doing. They want to be able to go to the store, and instead of buying a Snickers bar, they buy a ; they buy Food for Life instead of Wonder Bread, which is so much less expensive. They want to be able to do that for themselves, their family, and the planet.
Another way they reach consumers is through a referral program built into their app. Brands love to share Makeena with their existing fan base. There are a lot of fans for every single brand that’s on their platform.
Makeena also has big partners they’re currently talking with, which will get their company and the app right in front of millions upon millions of consumers. They further work with influencers. They’ve done some interesting trials, and they know it makes a difference.
All this comes down to being really authentic. Karen founded the company because of her personal experience and her personal “why” — and that “why” is something that needs to shine. If you have a very authentic brand, people will come to it.
Once consumers download the Makeena app for free, they can search for products that, for instance, meet their dietary needs (e.g., gluten-free) or lifestyle preferences (e.g., vegan, not tested on animals). The platform will then show the consumers where they can buy the product. And, again, that could be anywhere because Makeena tries to meet the consumers where they’re already buying products.
Once they get the product in hand, they must scan the barcode and submit the receipt through the app. Then, they will either get points for doing things like that or actual cash that goes to their balance. When the balance reaches $20, they can cash out through PayPal or Venmo.
Consumers can also do other things at Makeena. They can take a photo of the display in the store and get points for that. They can share with their friends and get points for that. They can watch a video, try a recipe, and share it on Instagram — and all these things can earn them points. The total points can be converted to cash, swag, or free product (it’s up to the brand).
There’s a loyalty program for every brand on Makeena. For instance, a brand could even give consumers a trip to Hawaii if they want it.
However, the app is only currently available in America and Canada, but they have plans for a global rollout.
Getting Herself and Makeena Noticed
She’s been a lawyer for 33 years. She was a general counsel, and she taught at CU Boulder. She had her little world, but that world was different from being a founder. And even though she had been a founder before, she’d been a founder in the ’90s, and things were very different back then.
One of the people she met via Clubhouse said that she really to start getting out there because people aren’t going to learn about Makeena just because of Makeena. They’re going to learn about her initially. They’re going to learn how to trust and know her. And that’s going to help her move the needle on the company.
For her part, she just needs to be her authentic self. She was advised to tell everybody her story and why she was doing this. She has to be present, but pick one or two platforms to be present on.
Karen chose LinkedIn because she’s a lawyer and a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and she feels comfortable with the professionalism of that platform. Makeena is also on Instagram and TikTok, and they mostly talk about what Makeena can do for a consumer. It’s not about her.
There are a lot of influencers out there, and their Instagrams or TikTok is about them. Makeena’s accounts are about the brands they work with and how they can help consumers lead healthier lives on a cleaner planet.
To get noticed, it’s about getting out there and talking, being available, and being authentic about what you’re building.
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This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.