Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
I first discovered DEUX last fall when one of my favorite Instagram follows posted about the brand’s launch. Functional, vegan, gluten free, good-for-you cookie dough? Sold.
After ordering DEUX and trying it for myself, I was elated to find that ‘quality’ was the first of many descriptors I’d use for the brand (indulgent, insanely delicious, and this-can’t-be-healthy are a few others). DEUX founders Scout Brisson and Sabeena Ladha are Quality Makers through and through -- so much so that they were both able to quit their corporate jobs one week (!!) after officially launching DEUX as a side hustle. Meet the founders introducing hedonistic health through their rocketship of a brand, DEUX…
Starting off with your backgrounds, what were you up to before DEUX?
Scout: I was an athlete in high school and learned early on what it meant to have a nutritious diet to fuel my body. I went on to be a rower in college at MIT, and living in that pressure cooker environment was intense. I faced a lot of athletic pressure and emerged not with the mentality of fueling my body for races or the everyday, but instead counting calories, trying to shrink myself, and worrying about body image. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder after my freshman year.
Through my recovery process, I started tapping more into wholesome, nutritious food -- and reconnected with the idea that food should fuel my body and feel good both physically and mentally. I started playing around in my kitchen with nut butters and oat flours, so when Sabeena called me and we started concepting the idea of DEUX, it was super exciting to make this product that stood for all of the values that I had learned, unlearned, and relearned in life: food should make us feel good, food should taste good, food should be satisfying, and it shouldn’t be filled with crap.
Sabeena: Interestingly enough, I’d say I have the opposite experience with food. I grew up in a small town in Texas called Euless. My parents are both immigrants, and my sisters and I grew up on the Standard American Diet: Kraft mac and cheese for dinner, Oreos for breakfast -- all of the iconic packaged foods. In the 90s, especially with immigrant parents, I don’t think they knew that was bad for you.
My first job out of college was at PepsiCo, on the Lays brand selling potato chips. At the same time, I was teaching myself a lifestyle of wellness -- I had a blog back in 2011 (before blogs were cool), and I used to test different health and wellness fads. At the same time, our sales goal at work was to sell more pounds of potato chips in the U.S, which was at odds with my personal lifestyle. I worked to make a little dent of better-for-you foods in big CPG brands, but it’s much more difficult when you’re a small fish versus now with DEUX, where we’re able to build the entire brand on this good-for-you concept.
What’s the story behind DEUX?
Sabeena: At the beginning of Covid I was taking fist fulls of supplements to keep me healthy, and I called Scout and was like, “wouldn’t it be great if we could have a Famous Amos cookie that has all of my immunity vitamins, and I could take it as a snack or dessert?!” She laughed and was like, “I could probably make that!”
We both worked in Venture Capital, so we researched the market to see if there was anyone else doing this, and then last fall we tested the idea by dropping limited quantities of cookie dough on Instagram. We started selling out in 20 minutes, so we told ourselves if we meet a sales goal by December, we’ll quit our jobs to do this full time. The first week of our launch in October, we ended up beating all of those sales goals. We quit our jobs, went full time -- it’s been a rocketship ever since, and we’ve been holding on tightly!
When you launched on Instagram, how did you start attracting followers?
Sabeena: First, I’d say influencers were a big component to our following. Influencers who are passionate about a brand will just shout it from the rooftops. Often when we gift influencers the product, they loooove it and will, unprompted, post about it several times. Your product speaks volumes if someone wants to share it and talk about it organically.
Second is our content. We get a ton of compliments on our content because a lot of food and beverage brands just focus on their product -- and we could post cookies and cookie dough all day, and consumers would maybe follow us, maybe not, because it’s not that interesting. We try to integrate pop culture, design, fashion, memes -- things people actually want to laugh at or see. We’re trying to not just be in our own heads and our own space so that people stay engaged.
What about the DTC space do you love?
Sabeena: First is the concept of marketplaces, where you bring multiple like-minded brands together. In the old DTC world, it was a brand on its own and you could only shop on a brand’s website, but now it’s a lot more collaborative, which brings me to my second trend. Tools like Coop Commerce that are aiding with cross selling and cross promoting for awareness and learning are really exciting as well.
Scout: The other thing I love is the ability to talk to consumers. I often reach out and text people to ask about their experience and feedback. People have a lot of love for the product, and we have a “feel good folder” where we keep screenshots of consumer feedback and influencer videos and people who want to invest in our business -- it’s been really cool to have that direct channel of communication.
What were non-negotiables in making sure you were achieving the most quality product possible?
Scout: From a product standpoint, it’s all about clean ingredients, which make our product accessible to varying diets. We have high standards for a simple ingredient list: high quality ingredients, no preservatives, and no fillers to make sure we’re producing a clean product. We take that to the next level with the functions that we’ve added in: we curate the vitamins and supplements that go into every product with a naturopathic doctor that we work with, so we make sure those work both from a taste and benefits standpoint.
Sabeena: From a brand perspective, we’re a bit Nordstrom-y, as we strongly believe that the consumer is always right. It’s an old school mentality, but I think it’s making a comeback: if people give us feedback about the product, we make sure that we’re taking it to heart. Your brand’s tentacles can only stretch so far without a good consumer foundation. Whether it’s via text or DM, we respond everywhere. Consumers are honestly surprised how responsive we are.
Where do you see things going? What’s the dream for the next few years?
Sabeena: On the product side, expanding into new categories is exciting. Right now we’re starting with cookie dough, but having this platform of rethinking junk food is truly where we want to go. We talk about hedonistic health a lot, which is making healthy things pleasurable, and that’s often at odds. Most of the time when you have something healthy, it tastes like cardboard or kale and you just want something delicious. The ultimate vision is to rethink junk food.
Scout: And we want our consumers enjoying our products from 9 am to 9 pm, though people are already doing that with our cookie dough! Whether we’re re-thinking donuts and pop tarts, we’re encompassing everything from breakfast to snacks and dessert. The possibilities are endless.
Sabeena: That’s a way to meet mainstream America, too. We’re currently in stores in LA, we over index in New York / Northeast, and we’re starting to get into Chicago, Dallas, and D.C. via Foxtrot Markets. We really want to figure out how to make DEUX as accessible to as many people as possible -- including in the middle of the country. We don’t just want to be this coastal, elite brand. Obviously that comes with a little bit of time and information, so we’re working to educate and build awareness with consumers so we can reach both the LA Erewhon consumer, but also folks in Texas, Idaho, Indiana, and beyond.
Scout: We’re not supposed to say! But...mine is Chocolate Chip.
Sabeena: I have two flavors for different things. Brownie if I’m having wine and watching reality TV at night and want something indulgent. For snacking throughout the day, I’ll have a bite of Peanut Butter because it feels like I’m having a bite of a protein bar, so right after lunch, before a workout if I need a pick-me-up.
Thanks for reading our interview with Scout and Sabeena! Have a founder you’d like for us to interview? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.