In the Social Spotlight: Sarah Skidmore from On the Grind

on the grind

Caffeinating the social media world

This month, we have one of our favourite clients (what? No we don’t have favourites…) telling us all about how they’ve gone from start-up subscription box, to an exciting Kiwi business to keep your eager eyes on.

People say that starting a business can be one of the hardest things you could do, however I would argue that it’s the sticking with it, planning/growing the business, and the endless hours of passion/work put into running a business that is the real challenge. It is also very rewarding.

At On the Grind we’ve found social media to be one of the best tools to help our business grow and reach the goals we’ve set over the last year.

In early 2017 we had an idea – a monthly subscription model featuring specialty coffee, freshly roasted by Artisan Roasters from all around New Zealand. By October 2017 we were sending out the first dispatch of coffee to our first, eager customers.

Luckily for us, at a similar time to our business launch, our friend Morgan had launched Hyped. We sat down for a meeting with Morgan to discuss our business idea and to pick her brains around small start-ups, budgets and marketing. With fresh motivation we began investigating a number of advertising options, including chasing contacts in print media, setting up interviews/photoshoots with Coffee Roasters and writing pitches for interest stories. All of which came to no end or were going to cost a small fortune. It became quite clear that social media was the answer to our marketing ambitions, being a small start-up with limited budget, wanting to target like-minded yo-pros.

We got carried away with Influencers!

My feeling from our experience with Social Media Influencers is go big or go home and I mean this in two ways.

  • Go big by partnering with a wide range of the key Influencer names that fit into your target market, so that your desired customers are hearing/seeing your brand and product everywhere!


  • Invest in a big name in the influencer world that has a large following, can provide statistics on their interactions, follower engagement, and sales success (perhaps through a personalised code at checkout) etc.

When we got started with Social Media advertising, we got very swept up in the idea of Influencer marketing and often moved too quickly on setting up collaborations. These usually only cost us product as we were working with ‘smaller’ accounts, but in hindsight we acknowledge we often hadn’t thought the partnership through, hadn’t considered the Influencers following and whether the demographic fit our target market, and the partnerships were inconsistent – more often than not resulting in little to no sales.

We matured a little over time and decided to invest some budget into partnering with a bigger name in the social scene, with a following more suited to our audience. We even negotiated them down significantly on price and felt very chuffed with ourselves. The partnership was to last 3 months and included 3 Instagram stories. After the first story (which explained our business concept in more detail) we made a bunch of sales in the first hour. We were pumped! However, in the following months we were lucky to even get a picture added to the stories with our business name tagged, in amongst an array of other promoted content. We found ourselves in an overly saturated market, where we couldn’t keep up or stand out from big brands.

Moral of the story is Influencer marketing can be incredible for a small business or start up if you are willing to put quite an investment into it. My advice is to take your time, do the research, ask for the statistics to ensure you will get the best out of a partnership, have a structured marketing plan for Influencer collaborations, have an official agreement and be clear of your expectations – with yourself and the promoter. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for more out of a collaboration but be aware that if you are negotiating down on price and asking for too much the quality of the collaboration could suffer for it.

So what has worked for us?

To date, On the Grind has had the most success with Facebook Ads as a marketing tool. As we are not social media experts, we enlisted the help of Hyped to create structured plans focused around a number of key events or holidays with the aim to push our product at these times.

The perfect example of this is our recent Christmas campaign. We were fortunate to have gained some insight into what worked and didn’t work from the 2017 campaign, so began planning by looking at our sales of gift subscriptions and discovered that a number of buyers from Christmas 2017 were overseas, buying for Kiwi family and friends. Therefore, the focus of our 2018 campaign was targeting ex-pat Kiwis living overseas, wanting to avoid expensive shipping costs and Christmas delivery delays – we’ve never had so much success and our subscription numbers compared to the 2017 season increased by 244%! Morgan from Hyped was the expert behind the Ad campaigns – editing video content (which is a must for drawing your customer in), creating new imagery, setting up the funnels and managing the budget and audience engagement on each phase, so we were well informed to make adjustments if need be.

While we have seen great results from our Facebook campaigns, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes. We’re talking hours spent creating consistent content for the gram and eDM campaigns, setting up projects with NZ brands to maximise all opportunities, creating relevant blog content, managing SEO, and monitoring Google ads to name a few. All of this pulled together is a recipe for success and the key message is consistency!

Let’s get creative!

I think one of my best pieces of advice is to get creative, especially if you are a start-up with limited budget!

On the Grind teams up with NZ Artists to design our packaging, so early on we took advantage of these partnerships. Our first featured Artist was Flox, an Auckland stencil artist with quite a following of supportive Kiwi’s online. We decided to tap into her reach on social media by running an Ad campaign on Flox’s Facebook page that we provided the budget for. The great thing about this arrangement was that Flox had her own team setting up the ad content and we were able to piggy-back on their campaign – meaning we got positive exposure and significantly more reach than what we had on our ‘start-up’ social channels.

Another example of this ‘piggy-backing’ technique was when On the Grind was invited to feature at the NZ Coffee Festival 2018. We jumped at this opportunity despite the festival being only a few months after we launched. Budget wise this event was a challenge, so we decided to maximise the opportunity. We offered the organisers a 1 year On the Grind subscription to give away as part of their massive advertising campaign – again our brand was featured on their social channels, paid for by their budget and it ended up being the main feature of an Auckland Live eDM promotional campaign! We also negotiated the data from the eDM campaigns which featured our giveaway, this meant we could start targeting a wider audience in our own eDM campaigns, post festival.

There are always opportunities to get more bang for your buck, you just have to ask, but it helps to go into it prepared. This means knowing what you want, what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re working with, what aligns with your brand or product, and who you are trying to target.

Where are we now?

Now, at the beginning of our second year, we want to shift our focus to creating longer-term strategic plans, with more consistent, monthly social media campaigns at the forefront of our advertising. I am also beginning the Facebook Ads that Sell course that Hyped has carefully curated to assist novices such as myself. We are hoping this will help us work with Hyped on our social campaigns, with more understanding and better planning in place – upskilling and education is key for growth as a start-up.

Last but not least, we have just launched another project (probably our biggest yet), where we have got creative forming a 2-3 month campaign with one of New Zealand’s fastest growing food subscription boxes – WOOP! We are very excited to be learning from the best in the subscription marketing world, piggy-backing yet again on their incredible resources and getting our brand out there to some of the most subscription savvy customers in the game!

Sarah Skidmore
On the Grind
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’d like an analysis of how your social media strategy is going, and how it can be improved, we offer FREE Social Media Audit’s to all New Zealand businesses. You can get yours here:


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