Eric Gower, founder of Breakaway Matcha, is an unconventional entrepreneur & CEO.
In a world that celebrates moving fast & breaking things, Eric's mantra is to slow down and enjoy life. And with 20% YoY growth for more than a decade, it seems to work. Breakaway Matcha isn't (just) about building a tea empire; it's about fostering genuine connections and enriching daily life.
Tune in to the latest episode of Subscription Radio to uncover the secret behind their thriving business: the power of word-of-mouth and tailored customer experiences.
02:17 - Creating Breakaway Matcha
05:20 - Pause Your Life
07:55 - Do Things That Don’t Scale
10:30 - Don’t Advertise
13:02 - How to Deal With Varying Levels of Subscriptions
15:38 - Adjust According to Customer’s Needs
23:53 - Be Content with Good Enough
27:18 - Learn From Other Subscriptions
30:39 - Toe the Line of Communication
33:22 - Give Customers Better Value
39:51 - Automation in Today’s World
42:31 - Blend Ambition with Contentedness
Links & Mentions
- Connect with Eric Gower on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Check out Breakaway Matcha
- Connect with Ben Fisher on LinkedIn or Twitter
- Check out Rodeo
Eric Gower is about as unorthodox as a founder can be. In 2010, he created Breakaway Matcha out of his own love for matcha tea. His goal wasn’t to create a huge company or break any records in profit margins. Breakaway Matcha doesn’t even rely on traditional advertising tactics to gain and retain customers. Instead, Eric’s goal with his company is to give consumers a chance to slow down and enjoy matcha tea as an experience, not just a product.
On this episode of Subscription Radio, Ben interviewed Eric about building an unconventional company, how to create a long-lasting subscription experience, and why good enough is more than enough.
Do Things That Don’t Scale
When it comes to online retail, people are trained to accept the bare minimum: plain boxes, nondescript packaging, and impersonal communication. But Eric wants his company to go beyond the bland and create a unique experience for his customers.
Eric writes notes by hand for each order, and every box is filled with branded tissue paper and packaging. These small touches may not seem like a lot, but customers notice when you take extra time to personalize their experience.
“When you open it up, that's when the nice part comes in. We just care. We take a lot of time putting the stuff in.” - Eric
Eric has noticed that people who start a business are often focused on the end game—building a massive company that generates a ton of revenue. But things that don’t scale, such as personalized notes and hand-wrapped packaging, will have a much greater impact on individual customers.
“It's kind of pre-suasion in a way. If your first impression is good, you're more likely to be positively receptive to the product.” - Eric
Eric isn’t looking to build bigger and better. He wants to give his customers a high-quality experience—even if that experience isn’t easy to scale.
Play the Long Game
Eric isn’t interested in high-level growth. Breakaway Matcha has maintained a consistent 20 percent growth scale throughout its existence, with a slight uptick during COVID. For Eric, small, steady growth is much more sustainable than a big boom.
Eric doesn’t even prioritize traditional advertising because word of mouth is their most effective marketing strategy. He lets the products—and the customers—speak for themselves.
“We're not that interested in super quick scale growth. It's so much more effective to let the customer make a cup for somebody who's enamored with it.” - Eric
Because of the company’s word-of-mouth marketing strategy, their return rates are extremely high. Their customers are all people who are long-term matcha drinkers with a lot of brand loyalty. Though it takes longer to build a customer base this way, for Eric, it’s totally worth the trouble.
Adjust According to Customer’s Needs
When Eric first started Breakaway Matcha, there was only one hyper-premium tea option. But as the company grew, a wider variety of customers began to materialize.
Eric could have stayed the course and only offered one kind of tea. Instead, he branched out into matcha for lattes, culinary applications, and cold brew matcha—which is now their highest seller.
“I wanted to give them the right macho for that milk. So, we sourced some really good stuff that was, I think, perfect for that. We call it the culinary reserve.” - Eric
Today, Breakaway Matcha offers 18 different types of matcha depending on your needs and preferences. They even have a quiz to help users determine which tea is right for them.
Eric doesn’t care whether his customers go for the high-quality teas or a cheaper blend. All he wants is for them to find the matcha that works for their needs—even if that means recommending a less expensive option.
“I'm constantly trying to talk people down about how much they spend. But you'd be amazed what that does for people. They're not used to companies trying to talk them down.” - Eric
Breakaway Matcha has a 75 percent return rate because Eric prioritizes his customer’s needs and adjusts to them. If you have your customer’s best interests at heart, they’ll come back to you again and again because they trust you to do right by them.
Toe the Line of Communication
In a subscription model, there’s a fine line between too much communication and not enough. How do you know where that line is? Eric looks directly to the source.
“I often will just ask people, ‘What works for you? What would be an ideal subscription?’ And they say, ‘I'll go through a hundred grams of macho every two months,’ and we can dial that in.” - Eric
Don’t make it difficult for your customers to find what they need. And if someone decides that your product isn’t right for them, don’t give them the runaround when they try to cancel, because that will turn them away from your company for life.
“It should be an easy cancel. I don't want them as a customer if they're not getting a lot of value out of it.” - Eric
Especially when it comes to online orders, clear communication is one of your most valuable tools. If you offer your customers a streamlined process to get the exact product they want when they want it, your customers will stay with you long-term.
Be Content with Good Enough
There’s always more you could be doing to grow your company and increase your revenue. But if you’re always moving the goalposts of success, you won’t ever be satisfied with what’s in front of you.
“Once you have your sweet spot, there are many philosophers that have said, ‘The secret to being happy is wanting what you already have,’” - Eric
And he’s taken that mindset to heart. Eric calls himself a “low-shooting founder,” but he’s more than content with the level of success his business has achieved.
Eric’s unique strategy is part of what makes Breakaway Matcha stand out from the crowd. His unorthodox mindset might not put him on a fastest-growing businesses listicle, but the care and personalization he puts into each person’s experience has created lifelong loyalty among his customers.