Finding the product sample sweet spot with Marie Chevrier’s Sampler

With her mega-growth tech company, Sampler, Marie Chevrier has refashioned the business of product sampling for over 100 clients, including The Body Shop, Kiss My Face, and Back to Nature. Here's her story.

Marie Chevrier Sampler logoWhat inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

I was working as a marketing consultant for consumer packaged-good companies when I recognized the issues that come with traditional sampling. It was during this time that I noticed a need in the market for a tool that could help marketers distribute product samples in a more targeted and measurable way. Brands were dispensing samples but not getting any data back—who’s receiving the sample? Are they using it? Did they convert into purchasers? When Sampler began, there were only two employees and a minimal roster of brands. We have since garnered attention from major brands, such as The Body Shop, and are running independent stand alone campaigns. Two years and 100 clients later, I definitely see the impact Sampler can have on the product-sampling industry. So now I’m aiming high; my hope is for Sampler to become the world’s leading product-sampling CRM.

What do you see for your future?

Sampler is growing rapidly, and we intend to continue expanding as we bring on more major clients and replace traditional sampling methods. We have just launched an analytics dashboard that will continue to evolve its insight capabilities for our clients. Our SaaS will one day make a valuable stand-alone tool of its own, but for now we are taking a hands-on approach to ensure the success of our clients.

What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our business. Whether it’s developing a more sophisticated user experience or compiling deeper data, there will always be challenges that we work hard to overcome. With these challenges, though, comes limitless opportunity. Retailers are excited about Sampler because it is a turnkey tool for them to work with shopper marketing teams on omni-channel strategies. In turn, these strategies can help them gather more consumer data, drive awareness for key categories or new products, and measure ROI on shopper marketing dollars. We are able to customize each campaign, and our growing client base continues to give us new opportunities to push product sampling innovation even further. The possibilities are endless.

Marie-2How can we help your business?

We want to spread the word about Sampler’s capabilities, and for CPG companies to understand how our SaaS can help their business. Educating readers about our mission to revolutionize traditional sampling will aid in fueling awareness and growth for our company.

Where did you grow up? How is where you came from material to your identity as an entrepreneur?

I was born in a small town outside of Montreal called Hudson. My family always encouraged my sister and me to work hard in everything that we do. I remember getting my first job at about 11 years old and running my own babysitting business with 10 families as clients just a few years later. I always have been really driven, but I never thought my career would end up in technology. I guess I just fell into tech and loved it! It’s challenging and constantly changing, which makes it a lot more interesting!

Tell us a story about a success in your business? A mistake you overcame?

A success: Early on, I made sure that I funded the company through the support of clients. I really lived by the philosophy of “selling before we build” and it really helped us invest in the right features, those that clients were truly willing to pay for.

A mistake: In our first year, I didn’t plan for dead times like the Christmas holiday when literally no client is at their desk buying. It’s important to prepare in advance for seasonalities that might be low, and to optimize time spent on getting the most out of our high seasons.

PhoneWhat picture is on your phone’s home screen?

A picture of my 3 best friends, myself, and my friend’s daughter. I’m so blessed to have such a great support system—that picture makes me smile every time.

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

Working as an entrepreneur has been an incredible journey that has allowed me to invest my time and money into something I truly believe in. Choosing an entrepreneurial path is not for the faint of heart, but the satisfaction of seeing my vision come to life makes all of the hard work and early mornings worth it.

What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?

When I started Sampler, I wanted to build a solution that would redefine the product sampling industry. In order to do that, I’ve always focused in on listening to our client’s needs. Even when I’m really busy, I make time for interfacing with clients and understanding why they love our product or the features they’d be interested in seeing added. That’s been a very good strategy for making sure we’re always thinking about the next step for our product.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

As an entrepreneur you’re not always going to get it right on the first try, and things aren’t always going to work out the way you planned. I would say my entrepreneurial superpower is relentless determination—I’ve always believed that you get what you put in. It’s all about taking meetings, pitching ideas, and keeping things going even when times are hard.

Marie Chevrier Sampler groupshotWho is the entrepreneur you admire most right now?

Lately, my grandma and grandpa. We lost my grandpa almost 2 years ago now and I really wish I could have told him how inspiring he’s been to me.

Why your grandparents?

They started a couple of businesses in their lifetime: one of them was a taxi business and the other a convenience store. Looking back, I don’t think I realized how much responsibility they had on their shoulders. They managed to do this while simultaneously raising 6 kids and keeping a loving marriage alive. It’s incredible.

What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?

In the startup world there’s a lot of competition; trying to cut through the noise and stand out is a vitality. The upside of being a female entrepreneur in the tech world is that I’m able to bring a different perspective to the industry, while giving women a voice in a male-dominated sector. On the other hand, the detriment is evident—it can be intimidating to be the only woman in the room, and stereotyping is unfortunately prevalent. At the end of the day, it’s incredible to have the opportunity every day to pull other women up with you and encourage females to work in the tech industry. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to offer positions to some amazing women on my team.

Marie Chevrier Sampler employeesDo you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?

Entrepreneurs all share some common traits—they’re go-getters who weren’t satisfied with the status quo and are striving for change. I think male entrepreneurs may face different challenges or approach challenges in different ways. But ultimately the goal to create a successful and sustainable business is the same.

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

“Common sense is the skill you’ll use most often in a startup. Hire for instinct and judgment, not experience.” An old boss shared this wisdom with me when he hired me for a job that I felt I was incredibly unqualified for. I’ve used this logic ever since for hiring and it really helped me realize that I don’t need to know absolutely everything about everything.

How do we keep up with Sampler and you?

On Twitter: @thesamplerapp and @mariechevy; on Facebook: @Sampler; and on LinkedIn: Sampler.

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