More than 20 euros for gummy bears – at first glance it seems absurd, but Bears with Benefits has grown into a multi-million dollar company. In the OMR podcast, the two founders talk about their success, why they have now sold their company and why, despite the great success in stationary retail, they preferred to build a D2C brand.
Naturally, Marlena Hien could have relied on extensive market research. But it was her 16-year-old sister who finally decided to start her own company. Because she had ordered gummy bears from the United States. Marlena Hien’s sister had seen advertisements on social networks, in which mega-influencer Kylie Jenner promotes gummy bears, which are supposed to make the hair more beautiful. The fact that the order would cost her $60 including tax didn’t stop her. She wanted to try them. “And then I thought, Okay, there’s something about this,” says Marlena Hien.
Marlena Hien has made a career in a marketing agency. But in 2018, she founded Bears with Benefits with former colleague Laurence Saunier (we’ve already featured the company here). The two also want to bring the American trend to Germany. So they too are developing gummy bears with special ingredients. Food supplements in the form of teddy bears are intended to prevent hair loss, make the skin more beautiful or help during menopause. In just four years, the company went from zero to around 15 million euros in sales and aroused the interest of other beauty companies as well. A few weeks ago, the French supplier Havea took over the Munich company, apparently for an average double-digit amount in the millions.
Bears with Benefits Wins Douglas Competition
Female founders are even rarer than males. Rarer still, however, are female founders who build a million-dollar company without investors. Marlena Hien and Laurence Saunier have done it. In the OMR podcast, the two tell how they started with a few thousand euros of seed capital – and with sales on Amazon. “Oddly enough, we were listed relatively quickly before Haribo for the keyword gummy bears,” says Marlena Hien. Because the products of the founders of Bears with Benefits were not only looked at, but also bought very often.
And then it all happened very quickly. Because in 2018 the two won a contest at the Douglas beauty group. From now on, vitamin gummy bears can be found in the Düsseldorf shop. Drugstores dm and Rossmann also soon included Bears with Benefits in their ranges. It seems that the two founders had established themselves in the trade with their vitamin teddy bears. But that’s not enough for Laurence Saunier and Marlena Hien. “We are still on the shelves with our products. The area is still growing. But we knew that to make the leap, it had to be D2C,” says Marlena Hien (you can find out more about the secret of successful D2C brands here).
Even the founders now want to invest
You want to build a direct-to-consumer brand with Bears with Benefits. In 2020 they start their own online store. Today, about 80 percent of their sales are made through it. “Our main client is the classic multitasking mom in daily stress,” says Laurence Saunier. And that’s probably one of the reasons why she and Marlena Hien built their company without money from investors. Because in the scene, still dominated by men, many would have pushed them away when they learned of the idea, the two tell in the OMR podcast. This is one reason why they now want to invest in other founders after the sale. Marlena Hien says: “We have experienced firsthand what it can be like to sit on the other side of the table. And we’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to not be taken seriously by men with a product for women. And of course we want to change that.”
In the OMR podcast, the two founders also talk about why they lost a million euros last year after years of profits, why they’re thankful they didn’t appear on the TV show “The Lion’s Den” – and what science says its jellies say .
OMR podcast topics with Marlena Hien and Laurence Saunier at a glance:
- How Bears with Benefits Became an Amazon Best Seller (00:03:45)
- Role models from the US and the no-overdraft business structure (00:13:50)
- Why Marlena Hien and Laurence Saunier opted for a D2C strategy despite their success in retail (00:22:30)
- These marketing channels were used by the creators of Bears with Benefits – and why Tiktok hasn’t played a role in a long time (00:28:30)
- Marlen Hain and Laurence Saunier on the fear of imitation products (00:37:30)
- The reasons for the sale to Havea (00:43:30)
- How the founders will continue after the multi-million dollar exit (00:53:00)