Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

426: Marvelous with Jeni Barcelos

June 9th, 2022

Jeni Barcelos is the Co-Founder and CEO of Marvelous, the world's most beautiful all-in-one teaching platform.

Chad talks with Jeni about what makes Marvelous different from other teaching platforms out there, the importance of elevating women to leadership positions, and why applying for and getting accepted into an accelerator program was the right path for the company.

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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Jeni Barcelos, the Co-Founder, and CEO of Marvelous, the world's most beautiful all-in-one teaching platform. Jeni, thank you so much for joining me.

JENI: Thank you for having me, Chad. I'm excited to be here and excited for our conversation.

CHAD: So I'm really excited to dig into more about Marvelous as well. So why don't we start there? What makes Marvelous different than other teaching platforms that are out there?

JENI: Marvelous is different in that we prioritize design, I would say more than any other competitive platform. And we also prioritize live events in a way that I think is pretty unique. So we started in the wellness space. We primarily are serving wellness creators, although all kinds of other creators use our tool as well.

So we specifically built Marvelous with the goal of serving their unique needs, which involves a lot of teaching live classes and having a really great community space where students and clients can build relationships with each other. And then, because our audience has a particular design aesthetic and is non-technical, we've created the tool in a way that makes it really easy to make something look beautiful very quickly and simply.

CHAD: So what caused you to differentiate yourself based on design?

JENI: I think just personal preference and aesthetic, to be honest. As we were building the platform, I realized very quickly that people were choosing of the big reasons people were choosing us was because of the simple nature of the user interface and because of the design that it produced. And so we decided really early to prioritize that. And I would say it's also just I care deeply about design, and I don't like the idea of using tools that make that an afterthought.

And so I thought if I'm going to use it, and I do, I mean, we definitely dogfood our own platform and teach our own courses, we run our own communities there, I want it to look beautiful. [laughs] I want it to be a place that people enjoy spending time. We all spend more time, I think, than we want looking at screens. And so when you are going to engage in that practice and engage with other people on the internet, I think it's really nice to do it in a space that feels welcoming, and gentle, and beautiful.

CHAD: So you have a co-founder, Sandy. Are either of you designers or have a background in design?

JENI: Nope, not at all. Although I was one course away from minoring in art history in school. [laughter] No, I'm a lawyer. So I'm the opposite of a designer, although I think there's a part of me that thinks of myself as an artist. I wish that were my identity.

CHAD: So, given the importance of design that you discovered, how did you go about executing on that?

JENI: Hiring really great people, I would say, and having a really critical eye. And so, there's a tremendous amount of feedback that goes into our process. And now we have a head of brand in our company, and she can hold space for that design across both marketing and within product. So that hire, I think, has been critical for us to be able to maintain that as a priority.

CHAD: Where were you in the product life-cycle and business stage where you were able to hire really great people?

JENI: I would say within the last two years. So we are one of these startups that was in the right place at the right time when COVID hit. So luckily and unluckily, maybe we grew really fast in the wake of the pandemic, the beginning of the pandemic. And so that positioned us to hire pretty rapidly over the last two years. And that's when we really had the resources and the capacity to bring in that level of talent.

I'll say our creative director was working with us for many years before that but just in a part-time capacity so, you know, running her own agency. And we were hiring her out as we could because we were bootstrapped. And so it wasn't until we reached a certain level of growth where we could bring her on as a permanent fixture in the company.

CHAD: Yeah, that's often a way that I hear from founders to help get things off the grounds, particularly if you know of someone and would love to work with them and you know what they can produce, but you just can't afford to bring them on full-time as a member of the team at that point. Contracting with them, working with them part-time can be a great way to get that started. So let's rewind even further and tell me about the fateful day where you and Sandy first met each other.

JENI: Yeah, so we first met in Colorado Springs at an entrepreneurship event. And it was for an online program we had both been in that was teaching us how to start a SaaS company. And we are two of the only people that had actually done it and gotten to paying customers within six months, which was a pretty audacious goal, I would say to go from being non-technical and having no experience in the startup world to having a product or at least an MVP with paying customers within six months and no funding.

So we were 2 of maybe 5 or 6 people out of 550 in the program who did that. So we automatically kind of gravitated towards each other. And we were two of the only women also in the program. So we met at that event and got to know each other over the course of a number of days and retreated together. And then we just started really being accountability partners to one another as we were each building our own companies independently. And then that went on for another year, year and a half before Sandy joined my company.

CHAD: Okay, so you were already working on Marvelous?

JENI: Yeah. It had a different name at the time, but yes, I was six months into it when I met her.

CHAD: How did you convince her to do that?

JENI: We were actually growing...for a solo founder, we were growing to the point that I couldn't manage the company really on my own anymore. And so I applied to an accelerator just because I felt like I had other kinds of career experience but had, again, zero background in tech startups. And so, I came from teaching at a law school and building and scaling a nonprofit. And my background was in politics prior to that. So I had no idea what I was doing. Like, I didn't know what I didn't know, and so that thought scared me. And I just wanted to go immerse myself in an environment where I could ask a lot of questions and have access to resources and mentorships.

So anyway, I applied to an accelerator and got accepted contingent on having a team and having co-founders. And I was like, [laughs] well, that's why I need to come here because I don't know how to do that. Like, I don't know how I would do that. And so I reached out to Sandy because I mean, she had been more closely involved in the company than anyone else because we were constantly working together online and going on Zoom and helping each other build our companies.

She knew more than anyone else really what was involved. And she was always commenting how she wished she had started [chuckles] a company like this because it's just in the sector. Her background is in clinical wellness, and Marvelous really was serving yoga and wellness teachers. And so I said, "Well, why don't you come on board? I need to have at least one co-founder." Well, I was told I needed to have two, but I convinced them actually to accept me into the program with just one. So Sandy and I went into the accelerator together.

CHAD: I feel like that's a great sign that you were able to convince them to bend the rule. [laughs]

JENI: Yeah, I mean, I think that's actually my MO in life. So I also applied and got into graduate school at Yale without taking the GRE. So I have a history of these kinds of convincing arguments, I guess.

CHAD: [laughs]

JENI: And I'm a lawyer, right? So I was made for this. [chuckles]

CHAD: Yes. You sound like a very enjoyable person, though. So I find it hard to believe that you're... [laughs] No, I'm kidding.

JENI: I'm a human rights lawyer. So the only person I've ever represented in court was a pod of killer whales. So I'm a human rights and environmental attorney. So I'm not a corporate attorney by any means.

CHAD: So some people might describe going after things, bending the rules as ambition. And I was reading some of the things that you've written, so I'm not pulling this out of thin air. But I know that you talked before about how sometimes ambition, particularly from female-identifying people, can be seen as a problem. Why is that?

JENI: I mean, the short answer to that is the patriarchy of which we're all a part. Both men and women and non-binary people are all impacted greatly by the patriarchy. I mean, I think it's how girls are socialized. So that's a whole, I think, a whole other podcast conversation to have. But I mean, just even recently, I have a young daughter, and she was told not to raise her hand as much in school because she was so eager and raises her hand for every question that's asked. And that's unacceptable to me. But I was also told those things.

And I think just men and women are judged very differently in our culture, and that's just a fact of life. I mean, just look at, I mean, this is maybe opening up a can of worms. But if you just look at the way the Elizabeth Holmes trial played out versus so many other startup stories, and yes, there are differences, but it's really common in our culture to villainize female ambition and to look at it as problematic.

CHAD: Yeah, you're absolutely right that this is a whole podcast topic in and of itself, but I think it's an important one. But I'm curious; it can feel angering and powerless when something like that happens at school or in a system where it's very hard to control it or change it. But when it comes to your own company, you are in charge. So what have you done to try to make this different at Marvelous?

JENI: Well, I would say elevating women to leadership positions to the extent that we've been able, I mean, we're definitely a female-run company. We make decisions. Also, just even the way we provide benefits and salaries, it's in my mind done from a more holistic standpoint than I would say a lot of other small startups are doing. We prioritize people and their families and try to treat people like human beings versus just kind of pawns in our scheme to build a company, I would say. It's not perfect.

But I really think that so much of what goes on around kind of the women in tech stories so much of that and the women in fundraising stories has to do with women or non-binary people really having to prove themselves to a degree that is unrealistic in order to have the same treatment or the same opportunities as white men. So we are obviously very acutely aware of that. And so, in our own company, we're still very small but always trying to elevate the opportunities that women and people of color have in our company.

CHAD: And as you said, this permeates. It's systemic. And so, what might you do when you have a male manager with the best of intentions in a female-led company? I'm of the opinion that it's not enough to just assume that, oh, well, in that environment, this stuff won't happen because it is so ingrained. So are there other things that we can do as founders, as people, and leaders, as a company to create an environment where it's better for everybody?

JENI: I definitely don't have all the answers for this. But I would say we've put a lot of attention into coming up with core values that we really strongly affirm and reaffirm in the company and make sure that everyone is aware of those. I also just I'm constantly watching what's going on and noticing subtle cues when people start to pull back from contributing or some voices are much louder than others; just trying to notice that and not wait for something to be brought to my attention.

I think so much of it is also the culture, and it's hard in a situation like ours where we're a fully remote team with people across the world with their own different, you know, they're bringing their own cultures and their own values to the company. I mean, it's definitely hard. It's harder than I ever would have expected to get people on the same page.

And, I don't know, I don't have really good advice other than to say the founders should really agree on the core values. And then, those core values should be shared constantly. And I think it starts with the founder or the co-founder and the leadership team holding everyone to those values and standards.

CHAD: So as someone who, like you said earlier, you're not a software developer, you're not a designer, yet you are working on this idea and bringing it out into the world. How did you manage to do that? What did the very early steps look like for you?

JENI: So I started a company when I was essentially on maternity leave. I naively thought that that would be like a fun, little hobby project for me to start a tech company. Partly because I was spinning off what had really been a research project that was funded and incubated at a major university. I was spinning that off into a nonprofit with another co-founder, another lawyer. And I spent a great deal of time and energy fundraising and was constantly going and having meetings or drinks or dinner with people or even flying out to different foundations and meeting with donors.

And I was like, this is for me who...I have a body of work and have developed expertise as a climate change expert. And that word is problematic but, you know, someone who knows quite a lot about climate change in the law, edited one of the major textbooks in the area, taught some of the first curriculum on energy and the environment. I was constantly having to just go out and raise money all the time and mostly from people who had cashed out of tech companies.

So I was in Seattle at the time, you know, Microsoft and Amazon. There are a lot of people with significant wealth, and those are the people that are donating to organizations. And so I just thought I'm as smart and capable as these people. Like, why don't I have a revenue source that helps to fund the work that I want to do in the world? Which was a lot of human rights law and environmental law that's really underfunded really at that intersection of climate change and human rights.

And so I thought, well, I'm on maternity leave. I'm really interested in the wellness industry. I see it really being broken. I had gone through yoga teacher training like right at the tail end of law school just for my own mental health and wellbeing. And I just saw all of these friends and colleagues of mine struggling, and I just thought something wasn't quite right. So the first thing I did was I decided I'm going to try to build something to help them. And I set out to interview 75 yoga studio owners or managers in North America and did some research on the biggest markets at the time.

CHAD: Why 75?

JENI: Because I just thought that was a good number. If I talked to 75 people, I'd be able to have some good information. And I will say I had just come off of a couple of major projects where I had put together a big international conference in my field in climate justice. And I had also put together sort of a retreat of leaders in the field of scenario planning around that.

So I had really learned a lot and elevated my real career at the time by reaching out to people who I thought were thought leaders and experts in the field across different disciplines and having really honest, frank conversations and interviews with them. And I had been able to essentially tease out an entire field of work for myself from doing that.

So I brought my research and academic skills to bear, which was like, if I talk to enough people, I'm going to start to find some patterns. And I was curious, like, I couldn't quite understand. This wellness industry had been growing for over a decade at that point. It was this massive industry, and yet no one I knew who worked in the industry made any money. And I thought that was really weird. And I'm like, why is all the money going to apparel companies or a couple of big brands? Something is really broken in this model. I don't think the hadn't really arrived to wellness at that point.

I came up with the idea to start doing this at the end of 2013, and so it was a long time ago. So I was just like, I'm going to talk to as many people as I can who are running businesses in the major metropolitan areas that are big yoga centers and just see what I can figure out. And so that's what really started it. And then, the idea for what was then called Namastream and is now called Marvelous came from those conversations. And it wasn't long; it was maybe six weeks into the research that I really started, there were three or four ideas that I thought, well, here are product ideas that could really make a difference.

And so what I did is I sent out about 200 cold emails, and I had 74 interviews from that. And then I agreed to create a report like a white paper because, again, this is what I knew how to do as an academic is like I'm going to do a bunch of interviews, and then I'm going to write a report about it. And I'm going to share it with people. So I agreed to share the research with everyone who agreed to an interview. And so I think that's part of why they agreed to talk to me.

So yeah, so that's where the idea came from. And then again, I had no background in tech. I watched some trainings on how to do UX design, I think, like YouTube videos and stuff, and then I just did it. And I made the first prototype like a clickable prototype in Keynote because I knew how to use Keynote.

CHAD: Yeah, that's so great. Talking to people, using whatever tool you're comfortable with, Keynote, PowerPoint, that kind of thing to do clickable prototypes that's the exact kind of thing I encourage, we encourage our thoughtbot early-stage founders to do. So you were spot on. I don't know if you realized it at the time. But that's really great. What problem did those 74 or some strong subset of them have that streaming helped them with?

JENI: It was really interesting because there were a couple of studios. There were two studios at the time in Southern California that were doing this, and the bigger studios in these other major cities knew that. And so because there were so few, they were very well known way back. I mean, most of those conversations were in 2014 that I was having. Some of the studios, I mean, one of them is still a major company now.

You know, most studios had like 2,000 members. Like, a studio that I would interview had 2,000 customers on their list, like, possible customers. Some of those were people who were drop-ins or punch cards or whatever. And then the studios that were streaming had like 30,000 customers. And so that was starting to be known. And people had no idea how to do any of that themselves.

And so the problem that we are solving was when I would interview studios in the Boston area because that was one of the metropolitan areas I targeted; there were certain days out of the year that for snow closures like the studio would just lose all their revenue that day. In the south, there were studios that were impacted by hurricanes that were trying to figure out...and I'm a climate change lawyer, so I see this trend. I was looking at it from a disaster response scenario planning lens which was this is only going to get worse. I had no idea about the pandemic.

CHAD: Little did you know. [laughs]

JENI: Right? [laughs] I just thought like, wow, okay, the hurricanes are increasing in severity and duration. That's not going to change. Sea level rise is happening. Storms are becoming more unpredictable. Like, places that are cold are getting colder and have more snow on average. So all these people were complaining about lost revenue for these cataclysmic weather events. I just thought that as being a huge opportunity for a solution. So that was one reason why this idea really stood out to me.

And then also just knowing that...this actually goes back again to my own story. I used to work for Al Gore. I was one of the people that led his environmental outreach on his presidential campaign when I was a teenager. And then I ended up being one of the first people trained to give the climate presentation that he made famous in An Inconvenient Truth.

And so, I had been developing presentation materials in my legal and academic career that I was sharing with that organization. And I had to figure out how to record myself and then try to get it on a thumb drive and then send it to Nashville so they could watch it and learn how to present the slides that I was making.

And so I actually had this very different use case where I was like, it was really hard. I was on the board of another nonprofit that was bringing together environmental leaders once a year to learn new training materials and then go back out across the world to disseminate them. Again, the same thing. I was like; there is going to be such a need for some kind of streaming tool that's accessible by whoever wants to use it to be able to share knowledge and information. So both as a business tool, but it also kind of scratched this other itch that I had seen in my previous career, like, the career I thought I was taking a short break from.

And so I just was like, this is the future. And I had moved during this time across the country for my husband's job and had a new baby. And I missed my own yoga teacher. And so I thought, like, wow, I'm in North Carolina in this small town, and I really miss the Seattle community. And I miss my teachers there. I wish I could take these classes.

So for all of those reasons, I saw this as being a trend that wasn't going away, and that was only going to be more in need. And it was really early adopters at that point, like definitely not 74 studios telling me they needed this. But it was a big enough chunk of early adopters that I thought this is when you get to make something new that changes the industry.

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CHAD: So you have the clickable prototype, and you feel like this is something here. What was the next step for you?

JENI: So I went back to everyone that had validated that idea, and I tried to sell it to them. [laughs] I had people PayPal.Me money in order to build it. I said, "You can become a founding customer, and you'll get access for a year included and with a payment." I think I was charging people; I don't know, a couple of thousand dollars. I don't even remember. It was a long time ago. It was under $2,000. "So you can get in now. You'll have a 20% discount on anything we make forever.

If you want to participate, you can be in this founding member circle with me. And as it's getting developed, you can provide feedback and help to shape exactly what it becomes." So I had enough people throw some money into the pot PayPal.Me money. I also had no idea how to take money from anyone. It was sort of like pre-Stripe being a normal thing. So I just had random people PayPal.Me money. And I took the money, and I hired a developer to build a prototype.

CHAD: How did you find that developer?

JENI: That was hard. So through this entrepreneurship course that I ended up meeting Sandy in, there was somebody who was a classmate, sort of like a mentor-level classmate who had done the course before who was an engineer at Microsoft. So I asked him to help me. I reached out and asked him to. And if I hadn't reached out to him, I would have reached out to other developers that I knew, just people in my extended circle of friends and stuff.

CHAD: So how long did it take from that point to get a product that people could actually use for their classes?

JENI: Early use, I would say like four months. So it was very, very, very beta. It's humiliating what it was.

CHAD: It should be. It should be humiliating.

JENI: Yeah, it should be. So it was like kind of a WordPress plugin. It was basically a glorified WordPress plugin, and that took about four months. And so I onboarded our early adopters who had given me the money, the checks, the PayPal money. That was the beginning of the summer that year. And I said, "You're the only people that are going to have access to it for the first three months," and that was part of the deal.

So I really worked around the clock helping them, working with my developer to solve any problems that were coming up, making changes. And then, in September, about three months later, I just figured out how to run Facebook ads. [laughs] So I just made up Facebook ads that ran to a one-on-one demo and let people book one-on-one demos with me through Facebook ads.

CHAD: So in those early days, if you had to do it over again, is there a lesson you learned that you might do it differently?

JENI: I don't think so, honestly. I feel like that first year; I feel pretty good about everything that I did. I mean, obviously, it would have been great to have someone like Sandy come in early on. But, I mean, I needed to figure some stuff out that I didn't need another person around to figure out, I guess. And I guess now, in like 2022, we're having this conversation. I wish I had dumped money into Facebook ads to have more demos because they were so cheap. [laughter]

CHAD: Right. Right.

JENI: It was so cheap for me to run ads. It was the golden days of online advertising, I guess. So I was probably paying like 40 cents a lead or something. [laughs] So yeah, maybe that. Because I was very much not wanting to put my own money into it. Like, once I raised the money to fund the prototype, I think I maybe in that first year put in like seven grand or something, but by the end of the year, I paid myself back.

CHAD: That's great.

JENI: I could have maybe put in a little more money. But I didn't know if it was going to work. Like, I wasn't really willing for...again, I wanted something that was very validated. And I expected fully to be going back to my career as soon as I got this thing launched. I was like, oh, this is just like a side hustle. This is going to be passive income. I did not understand that building a software company was not at all passive. I think I really bought into this idea that, like, oh, it's the internet. It will be passive income.

CHAD: When did it become clear to you that it wasn't?

JENI: Oh, I mean, I would say, you know, so I had a moment to go back to work, not my exact same job but to do work in my field between one month and two months after I launched and started running ads. I turned down a really incredible job offer, and I think that's when I knew it.

I was like, if I take a job, if I go back to work full-time...and I have the kind of career that's all-encompassing, and I sort of, whatever, I'm going to give 150% to whatever I'm doing. And so I knew that this thing would kind of die, but it was taking off. And so, I think I knew at that point I had to make a choice.

CHAD: And is that when you decided to apply to the accelerator?

JENI: No, it was like another nine months of growing it on my own before I applied to the accelerator. And I just kept doing what I was doing, and it was working. But I was doing things that didn't scale, so that was the problem. And so I didn't know, I mean, there's only so many one-on-one demos that the founder can do before you start to realize [laughs] you need to make some changes because I was doing them around the clock.

And then, at some point, I switched to webinars. I taught myself how to do webinars. And so then I was trying to do demos to multiple people at a time, but also, I didn't understand email marketing. I didn't understand copywriting. I was figuring everything out myself as I went, and I was burning out. So that's when I decided, like, oh, not everyone does this. I can't grow Microsoft or Amazon by doing this. I can't become that company. So obviously, I need to figure out how to scale. So that was when I decided to apply to the accelerator.

CHAD: Why apply to an accelerator as opposed to start fundraising, for example?

JENI: Oh my God. Well, so the whole reason I did this was so that I didn't have to go out for drinks with people and ask them for money. [laughter] I mean, I was not interested in that at all. And then I soon realized that that's what happens when you join an accelerator [laughs] is you basically just start learning to fundraise. But I didn't know that. I knew nothing. And so, I knew nothing about startups. I knew nothing about anything like this. I literally had no idea.

So the idea of going and sending emails to wealthy people to go have a drink with them was actually the last thing I was willing to do. And I don't think any VC fund would have met with me. I didn't even really know what that was. Like, I had no idea. So it didn't strike me as something that there was a lot of money that somebody would pour into it. That, honestly, wasn't even an option to me in my mind at that time.

CHAD: How did the accelerator help you?

JENI: It helped me bring on a co-founder, which I would say was invaluable. [chuckles] And I learned a lot. I mean, I'm a person who's super curious and asks lots of questions. And so there was always somebody I could ask questions to, which was great, saved me a lot of time. And I also got to be in a cohort with other founders and see how they were growing their companies. So if you've never been around that stuff before, it's super helpful, I think, to just learn what other people are doing, like what other models there are, what other teams look like.

And I also realized, like, we were one of the only companies that had any revenue. I had no idea how we compared to anything else. And so I realized, oh, we're growing, and we're making money, and we're profitable. And it's really different than what a lot of other people are doing. So I knew that there was something to it also. I knew that we were really onto something. And then I will also say that fast forward a number of years, and our leader, one of the directors of our accelerator, I ended up hiring him to be our Chief Product Officer. So that was also very fortuitous [chuckles] and really an amazing story and outcome as well.

CHAD: Did you end up raising money coming out of the accelerator?

JENI: Nope. We soft circled around and had an opportunity to take an additional tranche from the accelerator, and we walked away from that at the time. And it was a really hard decision. Mostly because Sandy is Canadian, I don't know if that was made obvious, and I'm American. And we never envisioned, building a remote company still in 2016 was not normal. And there was no way we were going to be in the same place. And the potential investors we were talking to, one of them in particular, was pretty adamant that we needed to be in person and have an actual office set up. And that was not negotiable for us.

And so we had been doing this fine. I mean, we were fine building a company together. And our first developer was in Asia, and then our designer at the time was in another part of the United States. So I was like, why would we do that? Why would we spend money and have to buy things like a fax machine and chairs? Why would we do that?

CHAD: [laughs]

JENI: That doesn't make any sense. And so that was one kind of red flag for me. And then also in the accelerator, I pitched to tons of people because you're sort of pitching, but also it's kind of practice. And I don't know how much of that was actual pitching. And I don't know how many of those investors were actually considering making investments, or they were just being nice and giving you their time and feedback.

But I pitched a ton, and the only people that we had soft circled were women. And I just had some negative experiences with some of the investors that we had pitched to, which that's also another podcast episode. And I was really bothered by, in particular, one conversation that I had. It was like a situation where someone said something really inappropriate to me, and I just absolutely did not want to do that. So that all factored in.

CHAD: Have you ever taken any investment?

JENI: Yeah. So this year, we have...because we have a situation where it makes sense to pour fuel on made sense from a marketing standpoint to pour some money in. So we've just taken a small investment from angels, and we may take a little more as well. We're open-minded, I would say, right now about fundraising.

I have, in the last two years, taken a lot of meetings. So I've talked to lots of firms and lots of angels and get emails every day and so take a number of those meetings. So I've just tried to be really open-minded about it. So yeah, I would say I don't have such a negative association as what I had before. But I also would say my company is in a really different position now, and fundraising means something else to us.

CHAD: It sounds like you're in a little bit more control over the situation. And by working with individual angels probably, you're able to maintain that, I would guess.

JENI: Yeah. And it's definitely something where I think that there know, I don't think it's helpful to be closed off to fundraising because I see that there are absolutely opportunities especially to go into new markets where being bootstrapped isn't practical because of the cost to go into those markets. And so, if it's something that's heavily regulated, for example, it's not a feasible option. So allowing us to have options and actually to be able to think through those options is important to me.

CHAD: So now that you've done that, what's next for Marvelous? What's the next challenge you're ready to tackle?

JENI: I would say we had this tremendous growth early in the pandemic, which really kind of unearthed, not really unearthed, I mean, I knew it was there [laughs] but really publicly unearthed a lot of technical debt. And that's, I think, normal for bootstrapped companies as well who are growing slowly and up to a point that they're not anymore. And so we spent a solid 18 months, I would say. Up until the end of 2021, there was a solid 18 months of really rebuilding the platform from the ground up. And so we've done that, and now we're in growth mode.

We're focusing on letting people know that we exist because I think we're quite well known in the wellness industry and in the yoga space in particular, but we're not as well known outside of that in other creator niches. And so it's about brand awareness. It's about really showing up as thought leaders in the space as well. We do a lot of writing and a lot of blogging and podcasting. And in particular, we serve women and non-binary creators in a way that I think no one else does. And so it's about disseminating the information that we have and the teachings that we have and letting people know we exist, and we're a resource for them.

CHAD: Yeah. Well, like you said, you have a strong reputation, and you have those roots in the wellness space, but you've expanded beyond that. If someone's out there listening, what would make them a potential customer or an ideal customer for Marvelous?

JENI: So anyone who's teaching, training, or coaching online, the software is really industry agnostic. And so we're just, again, not as well known yet in those other spaces. But especially someone who's integrating any cohort-based learning, or really heavily integrating coaching and live streaming, or group programs, or one-on-ones into an online course or a membership, for example, Marvelous is really second to none with all of that. Because again, live streaming and the integration of live teaching with on-demand content was what we started with and what we are known for.

And so it's not an afterthought the way that I think a lot of online teaching platforms and edtech companies have slapped on live streaming as like, oh, now you can integrate with Zoom or whatever. And for us, we have an integration with Zoom that's not like anything else. And then we have other WebRTC-based live streaming options, and everything is very well thought out and makes it really easy for the end-user so for the students and clients to be able to use the tool, which I think our audience really cares about that it's easy for their clients.

CHAD: I'd be remiss, and since this is a podcast, if I didn't mention that you and Sandy have a podcast.

JENI: We sure do, yeah. Thank you so much. laughs]

CHAD: It's called the And She Spoke Podcast, and where can folks find it?

JENI: So obviously anywhere that they listen to podcasts, but our website for the podcast is So I would love it if you're interested in conversations about women in tech, female founders, women, money and power, online business resources, and training. And that's mostly what we talk about. We're doing a crypto series right now, sort of like exploring crypto and the intersection of women and crypto, so that's going to be coming out shortly as well.

CHAD: Cool. If folks want to try out Marvelous or find out more or get in touch with you, where are all the places that they can do that?

JENI: So our website is And we are @heymarvelous on Instagram. That's where we hang out the most. But we're also on TikTok, and Pinterest, and Facebook, and pretty much everywhere else as well. But Instagram, I would say, is the best place.

CHAD: That's great. Jeni, thanks so much for joining me and sharing your story and your advice. I'm sure people will really appreciate it.

JENI: Yeah, thank you so much for your time, Chad. I appreciate you having me.

CHAD: And you can subscribe to the show and find notes for this episode along with a complete transcript at If you have questions or comments, email us at And you can find me on Twitter at @cpytel.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.

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