The Rapid Growth of DTC Medicine With Shani Bocian

Shani Bocian is the Co-founder and CEO of Allermi, a personalized DTC allergy medicine. She founded the company with her father, an Allergy and Immunology Professor at Stanford University, who had been developing a comprehensive allergy medication. Since Allermi’s launch, Shani has raised over $4.7 million and grew the company over 1,000% in 2023.

Apple Podcasts
Player FM
Amazon Music
Tune In

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Shani Bocian’s inspiration to start Allermi
  • Why personalized DTC medicine is the future of pharmaceuticals
  • How Allermi bypasses insurance to provide customized, accessible care
  • The principles of a credible consumer health company
  • Shani talks about building a nine-figure e-commerce store
  • Generating customer loyalty through free trials and referral programs
  • What obstacles has Shani faced scaling her brand?
  • How Shani’s family’s background in pathology and immunology shaped her career
  • Entrepreneurship: a personal and professional balancing act

In this episode…

Millions of people suffer from allergies, yet many medications only target one symptom, and consumers must browse an open market to determine the most effective treatment for their symptoms. Personalized DTC medicine has emerged as an alternative to traditional treatments, allowing consumers more autonomy over their healthcare journeys. How can DTC healthcare companies target customers with precision?

After suffering from chronic allergies for years, DTC entrepreneur Shani Bocian recognized a more effective way to treat symptoms and achieve long-term relief. By developing a single formula that incorporates multiple medications, companies can target customers with diverse needs. When building a consumer base, Shani says to differentiate yourself from mass-market brands by showcasing credibility and emphasizing customization. Customer retention and loyalty are integral to sustaining a DTC medicine brand, so you can offer free trials and employ subscription models and referral programs to drive sales and growth.

In today’s Up Arrow Podcast episode, William Harris hosts Shani Bocian, the Co-founder and CEO of Allermi, to talk about the rise of DTC medicine. Shani explains how she built a nine-figure e-commerce store, how Allermi provides personalized and accessible healthcare, and the obstacles she faced scaling her brand.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is a performance-driven e-commerce marketing agency focused on finding the best opportunities for you to grow and scale your business.

Our paid search, social, and programmatic services have proven to increase traffic and ROAS, allowing you to make more money efficiently.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris, featuring top business leaders sharing strategies and resources to get to the next level. Now, let's get started with the show.

William Harris  0:15  

Hey everyone, I'm William Harris. I'm the founder and CEO of Elumynt and the host of the Up Arrow Podcast where I feature the best minds in e-commerce help you scale from 10 million to 100 million and beyond and help you apparel your business and your life. Today, I have Shani Bocian, the visionary founder and CEO of Allermi, a personalized DTC allergy medicine based in San Francisco. Inspired by the work of her father, Robert Bocian, a professor of allergy Immunology at Stanford University and her own battle with allergies. Shani has now raised over 4.7 million and in 2023, her company Allermi grew over 1,000% We're going to unpack the lessons she's learned about building in the rapidly growing space of personalized DTC medicine. Shani, welcome to the show.

Shani Bocian  1:00  

Thanks so much for having me. excited to have you here. And

William Harris  1:04  

I do want to call out, you were introduced to me by Savannah Boyer over at Kitt caster, that's a great company, if people are looking to get on podcast, things like that. I've worked with them a lot and highly recommend them. Awesome. I do want to make sure I announce our sponsorship, and then we're gonna dig into the good stuff here. This episode is brought to you by Elumynt Elumynt is an award winning advertising agency optimizing e-commerce campaigns around profit. In fact, we've helped 13 of our customers get acquired with the largest one selling for nearly 800,000,001 That I peeled recently. You can learn more on our which is spelled e l u m That said, all the good stuff, we're talking personalized DTC medicine. But before we get into the details there, I want to know more about your journey. What inspired you to start Allermi? Why Why was this the company that you said we need this in the world?

Shani Bocian  2:04  

It's a great question. I've struggled with nasal congestion and nasal allergies and rhinitis, which means nasal inflammation. My basically my entire life since I can remember since I was a small kid, I've had a runny nose, stuffy nose, itching, sneezing, I was the kid who always had a tissue in my pocket. And I'm definitely not alone there. This is a condition that affects 10s of millions, if not over 100 million Americans. And it's incredibly common and can be very chronic and is much more than just the sniffles or, you know, an allergy attack here and there. I'm very lucky because my dad is an allergist, like you mentioned, and he invented a nasal spray protocol that he's been using for his patients for the last 30 years. And it was something that I always used. And if I didn't use it, I had symptoms. And if I used it regularly, I was symptom free. And it was really a game changer for my health and my well being. So when I started to learn more about this condition and learn more about the benefits of nasal breathing, and understood that Nasal Breathing is actually one of the most important pillars of our physical and mental health. I mean it it affects cognitive function and respiratory health and immune defense and so many other things we can talk about more later. Oh, yeah, well, let's definitely chat about that more. But you know, when I started to realize, you know, the importance of being able to have a healthy nasal airway, but then also, how many people don't, I realized that what my dad had been doing in his clinic for three decades was something that we could make accessible to rhinitis and allergy sufferers everywhere, at a really affordable price and make it super accessible so that I can order it online and get a consultation from a great physician online, and just get some relief that they can use safely every day. So that was really the inspiration behind building this business.

William Harris  4:02  

I love it. It is so special. Like you said this is a connection that you share even with your dad. That's fun. I do want to get into the nasal breathing. I think that'd be a fun topic here towards the back of the podcast. Let's talk about DTC medicine. Personalized DTC medicine. And why is this the future of medicine?

Shani Bocian  4:29

You know, when you I mean, let's talk about in the case of allergy, you have symptoms, you have a stuffy nose you have runny nose, it's not going away. Something you're dealing with a lot and it's starting to become bothersome and annoying and difficult and your sleep is starting to get impacted and can't breathe. What do you do? I mean, the first thing people do is they go to the drugstore you go to Target or Walgreens and you go into the cold and allergy aisle and you see 60 7080 different products that are colorful and vibrant and there's hundreds No hundreds of different packages on the shelves. And it's incredibly overwhelming. And they're all promising to do the same thing. But they all have different active ingredients, you have no idea what's going to do what and what's good for you and what's bad for you. Some of them take weeks to start working, others work right away, but you can only take them for a few days at a time. It's a total jumble and a confusing mess. And so people shouldn't have to self treat, they shouldn't have to go to the drugstore and try and figure out what will work for them. There shouldn't be this level of confusion and misunderstanding and potential dangers around medications that you pick off the shelf. You know, some people go to the doctor for the symptoms. And the benefit of that is that your doctor can examine you and make sure there's nothing else going on. But ultimately at the doctor will just send you back to the drugstore with a little bit more of a specific shopping list of what to buy, you know, by a nasal steroid by an oral decongestant by an oral and histamine. And it's still confusing and cumbersome and expensive and inconvenient to just deal with this whole process. And so, you know, other areas in healthcare have seen this, like we've seen in the dermatology space, the same thing, you know, people would go to the drugstore, and they'd buy all kinds of ingredients, and they wouldn't work. And so they try and go to the dermatologist, and the dermatologist would prescribe a bunch of different medications, and you have to use them one after the other. And so we saw this influx of companies that were trying to really modernize dermatology care and make things more convenient by combining meds into one formula, shipping them right to your house, you can get online consultations. And so same and allergy and same in so many areas of healthcare, like let's use the internet to make healthcare more accessible, let's put experts on one side of the the line and patients in need on the other side of the line and make it really affordable, and then ship medications right to your house. So that whole process of going to the drugstore going to the doctor, trial and error or failing can be cut out.

William Harris  6:48  

Yeah, you know, in speaking from my own personal experience, I've got three kids 1310 and eight and getting into the doctor for anything lately is hard. The dermatologist as to you brought that one up, I want to say it's like six months to get into a good dermatologist right now, it's hard to get into a good doctor in and of itself. And so when you're suffering, like you said, what do you do we self treat, as we self treat by seeing what we can find on the internet. And likely we're gonna find some really bad remedy that was, you know, by some influencer or something like that, that has no clue what they should be saying. And so we go we go to the store, we get something that was very well marketed right colors. And that doesn't lead to the right results versus, hey, we want results, we want them now we can't wait to get into the doctor. But we do want something like this. And so I think that makes a lot of sense. Yeah,

Shani Bocian  7:39

and I think an allergy specifically, you know, in the last decade really, or maybe the last two decades, allergies becomes more chronic than it has ever been. I mean, when a lot of these medications that you see on shelves went on to the market allergies were something that were more sporadic, you know, you've got some sniffles during your allergy season in the spring. But now, whatever the causes, whether it's, you know, rising temperatures, or increased pollution, or the American diet or whatever it might be, we don't know, we're seeing allergies at a level that are so chronic, at epidemic levels, and the medications that are on the shelves really haven't caught up. And so we have this whole population of people, 10s of millions of people who have these chronic symptoms, but don't have medications accessible to them, that will actually give them full symptom relief. And that will be safe for them to use everyday for as long as they need them, which for many people is for the rest of their lives until someone invents a cure for allergy. And the market hasn't caught up. And so I think in this industry, in particular, to be kind of at the forefront of innovating new solutions is really important.

William Harris  8:49

I think it's wise for you to say that and like you said, this is not just allergy, this is anything within healthcare right now where there's this need. And something else that you called out as a really good benefit was being handicapped by insurance payers, oftentimes, and so being able to provide let's say, quick health care is good, but being able to provide affordable healthcare is great than as well. Like, how does this benefit just DTC medicine in general? How is this able to kind of get around some of those loopholes or roadblocks?

Shani Bocian  9:23  

Yeah, I mean, when you when you pay with insurance, you're restricted to entities and medications that your insurance covers. And in some instances, that's an incredibly important thing, especially if you need to purchase medications that come with a really high price tag and you need to you know, be able to have them covered by your insurance carrier, like, for example, an EpiPen, which if you pay cash can be 1000s of dollars. But if you have it covered by insurance that costs can go way down. When you're dealing with medications that can be priced affordably from the outset like Allermi, for example, which is $35 a month to be able to buy bypass insurance and be able to offer something personalized and customized and online that's much more convenient and not have to kind of fit into the boxes that insurance requires, ends up saving people a lot of money. In the incidence of allergy in particular, you know, if you go to see a physician, or you go to see an allergist, you know, you need a referral from a primary care provider, you need to meet your deductible. When the when the allergist, eventually prescribes medications, oftentimes, they're just things you buy at the drugstore anyway, but sometimes they're covered by insurance and oftentimes not. And then you have to file a claim and get a prior off and a step at it. And it can be really complicated. And it ends up just adding time and complexity and potentially expense to your whole treatment regimen. And so to be able to offer something affordable, that's cash pay, we don't even have to think about insurance, you don't have to submit your insurance card, you don't have to contest a bill, like there's nothing that adds to the complexity of the process, it actually helps kind of make the whole process more accessible and better medication more accessible. You don't have to have good insurance to get top notch medications.

William Harris  11:04

Well, I think that's brilliant. And I think, you know, we could wait for legislation to change things. I think sometimes there's the push for that. And there's nothing wrong with improving the laws and things like that around stuff. But the thing that I love about what you're doing is that this is saying, but I see a problem. Let's take it in our own hands, let's out innovate this problem. This is a problem that can be solved without having to wait for somebody else to solve it. And I think that that's one of the things that I really appreciate about what you're doing. Yeah,

Shani Bocian  11:32  

thank you.

William Harris  11:33  

So who, what other DTC medicine companies inspire you, when you were looking at forming Allermi? Where was there research that you did, or things that you looked at? You said, I like what they're doing. They're doing a great job. And here's why are some of those companies?

Shani Bocian  11:49  

Yeah, most of those companies are in the dermatology space, I think dermatology was really at the forefront of custom personalized medicines, where someone with acne or rosacea or signs of aging, or eczema, or whatever the skin condition can submit a photo of their skin online to a physician. And then the dermatologists will look at it, analyze and see what various conditions they have, maybe they have one, maybe they have multiple, and then prescribe a single formula that contains all the medications they need, compounded or mixed into a single cream or lotion. And then with one easy step, you apply your medication at night, and you get everything you need. And then with time, your skin changes and you can submit progress photos, you can get formula changes. And so there are several companies that were doing that kind of in the 2000 10s to that in the early 2020s. That really kind of also expanded in popularity with COVID when people were home and weren't going to see the dermatologist because they were, you know, on lockdown and and so you know, companies like apostrophe, which is now part of hims cure ology, muesli. There are several companies that were innovating on that front, and creating all of these incredible custom medications. And, you know, when I started subscribing to these myself, I was like, that's what my dad's doing in his clinic. But at a really small scale, you know, he's doing the exact same thing. He's taking multiple medications, he's compounding them into one formula, he's changing the formulas based on people's progress, like, that's exactly what urology is doing. And they have a $200 million a year business like, wow, there's real potential here for to, you know, to bring what my dad is doing in the four walls of his practice, and make it accessible to everybody and really create a large commercial opportunity. And so those were real, that was really the space that inspired us the most, when starting Allermi, and now there are so many more, that aren't even necessarily compounding, but they're taking medications, they're making them more accessible, they're putting them online, they're using telemedicine to bring the cost down and make things more accessible to people. And I think a lot of the medications that were probably only available to people, if you went and saw a specialist are now accessible to anyone anywhere in the country, whether you've got insurance or not. One of

William Harris  14:07

the things that's interesting about that is the idea that technology has gotten to a point where we have the ability to do some of these things, right, where you can take a photo that is high enough quality, everybody has a phone that's able to do that, where even 20 years ago, that wasn't the thing. So even if you had this idea, you couldn't have made that happen. But now you can. And I think about even LiDAR, right, and some of the other technology that's in the phones now that's even beyond just the photo itself, but like the depth that's there. I remember when I was in nursing, one of the things that I kept thinking about was, hopefully there would be like a camera that would be able to take pictures of a patient's back. So they're laying in bed and you roll them over and you want to make sure that you understand, are there any potential for pressure points or things like that, right pressure ulcers and stuff and you're like, Oh, we're I think we're getting to the point where scans could actually scale In the back and see that there's decreased oxygenation to these particular things. And it's like, hey, yeah, you need to, you know, maybe put some type of a bandage or something here to start preventing this because it's approaching there. Wow. I'm excited to see where the technology's going with this, right? I love this.

Shani Bocian  15:16


William Harris  15:17

Yeah. There's only so much time in the day, but I, this the technology is catching up and somebody will. What about? What about cure ology, or or apostrophe? What about their marketing? Or let's say the way that they ran the business inspired you because I want to help people who are running other businesses, and maybe they're not even running a DTC medicine, e-commerce business, but they're just running e-commerce in general. Were there certain things that these businesses were doing that you thought that's inspired? And I want to be able to use that in my own business?

Shani Bocian  15:52

Yeah, I think that both of them really were successful in achieving, like a beautiful consumer brand that also was, came off as really credible and expert driven, which I think is exactly kind of a sweet spot that you have to create when you're building a consumer health company, as you know, what are my customers going to want to see. So obviously, like a beautiful brand is important and distinguishing yourself from the competitive incumbents in the in the market, like for in our case, like flow, nice and Afrin, were the two that we wanted to say, okay, like, these are good brands, but we're elevated were a different product from those, like, let's create a brand that distinguishes ourselves from those competitive players. But then on top of that, we're just as safe as they are and just as evidence based and just as credible, and you know, founded and developed by board certified specialists and experts. And and so I think creating messaging and and ad creatives and website copy, and brand characteristics that speak to those goals, were were two things, what were what those two companies and then others as well had done really well. And so I think when we created the Allermi brand, and even I mean, of course, today, every piece of content that we put out, and every copy addition to our website, has to maintain those characteristics of this is new and fresh and novel, but it's also highly medical, highly credible, highly evidence based.

William Harris  17:30  

That's a tough blend, right to come up with something that's new, but also feels backed.

Shani Bocian  17:35  

I think so because I think it's like you can create a beautiful brand. But, and but coming off as credible. And being an attractive, clean brand, I think is a tough balance to strike, like you said. And there's certainly some brands out there that are healthcare brands where you look at them and you don't initially realize that they're prescribing medication, you think maybe this is like a lifestyle brand or beauty brand or something like skincare non medicalized. And to me, like, if I'm a consumer, if I'm in the shoes of the consumer, and I'm trying a new medication, I'd want to make sure that what I'm using is is very much backed by science and driven by experts and highly credible. And so I think that's important. Yeah,

William Harris  18:16  

you know, and I can even say, in my own life, I've used a few of these brands, and a couple that come to mind that that have have drawn me in with their same thing. Like they have the good marketing, but they they good branding and positioning, but they're also incredible. VIOME is one, which is for, you know, the gut microbiome, and I've used that for a while. And I definitely feel that it has improved my, my gut microbiome there as well. I'm genetic here I haven't used, but they are a customer of ours, that I've really appreciated. They're they're doing basically genetic testing to help you get the right medication for your hypertension, which I think is another thing that I'm very excited about is just like where genetics plays a role in this, right?

Shani Bocian  19:02

That's real precision medicine, using genetics to determine I mean, that's the definition of precision medicine, we use the word precision or precise or personalized medicine at Allermi, kind of lightly and that, you know we pick the right ingredients for someone based off their symptoms and their severity and their medical history. But using genetic testing to determine the right medication is a whole new level. That's really cool.

William Harris  19:23  

I think it's I think it's right there. And, you know, another thing that I talked about I remember when I was first graduated nursing school was probably in my lifetime, we would see where instead of going to your primary care physician, you'll go to your geneticist and the geneticists would be the one that would kind of say, here's what you should use based on your genetic profile and stuff like that. And I think that there's some some element of truth to that probably still today.

Shani Bocian  19:48  

I love that my aunt is a geneticist, and she's a professor of genetics at UC Irvine, but she's been there for like 40 years, and I'm gonna have to talk to her about that. That's really cool. I

William Harris  19:59  

like it. So talking about building the next nine figure e-commerce store, right? Like that's the goal is to go to nine and beyond what are the keys that you think are necessary that you've put into your company or plan to put into your company to be able to create this business?

Shani Bocian  20:18

I think for us, we're dealing in the Chronic Disease space where people need regular resupply of their medication in order to stay symptom free. And so putting the right tools in place to encourage people to retain is probably the number one priority for us. Retention is what drives our top line. And especially with our model, because we're currently offering a free trial for the first order, and so we're not making revenue on the first order. And then we have to make pay back with retained customers and repeat orders. And so figuring out the best way to kind of keep people on board, whether that's, you know, encouraging them to change their formula, if it's not working for them, or offering really good medical support, or enabling them to adjust their subscription cadence in the way that works best for them, and doesn't kind of just fit whatever we set out for them, but actually enables them to really like US Army in the way that serves them best. I think that's going to be the real key to our major growth. And then I also think, you know, keeping this profitable this profit, excuse me, keeping this product priced competitively against competitors is also going to be really important for us because we're dealing with a disease that has a mass base. And, you know, we're dealing with like 100 million people experienced rhinitis, and they're spending 15 to $20 billion on nasal spray every year. And because it's something you have to buy regularly, it has to it has to be affordable. And so I think the pricing strategy has to be something that has mass market appeal, because we're really trying to be the number one player in the nasal spray market and be the solution for everybody who has nasal symptoms. So I think our pricing strategy is also going to play a role in allowing us to grow to the potential that we believe this company has. And then I think really, those are the two there and then I think just targeting the right people, you know, I mean with a lot, there's a good subset of of nasal sufferers of allergy sufferers who don't need Allermi, who are fine taking Claritin, or Zyrtec, or maybe using Flonase, once every several months, and you know, they have the same bottle in their cabinet for years. And that's not the target customer that we're looking for. And so I think improving our target and constantly and aiming to really locate the customer who is a chronic sufferer who needs safe and effective daily medication over the long term will also be the unlock to really significant growth. So I think it's a combination of those three things. Yeah,

William Harris  23:00  

speaking of targeting the right people, I think that's another thing that you had mentioned to me, in our pre call as being very important towards being able to build that nine figure brand is knowing exactly who your target niche is, and going after that, right, where it's like, not trying to be everything for everybody. But saying yes, is the very clear thing that we have to find that we're gonna solve,

Shani Bocian  23:20  

right? I mean, when you, I think you have so much more potential when you can admit that we're not for everybody, you know, like we're not, there's probably 20 to 30% of rhinitis and allergy sufferers who never should don't need our me like, they just don't need it. They're not our target customer, they're way more mild than the kind of target that we're serving. And it would be a waste for us to try and appeal to these people, you know, maybe they'd sign up for the free trial and then never need us again, after the first order, they'd keep their bottle for three years, and it would be fine. That's not the type of customer we want to acquire and not the customer that we think is best served by our model. And so I think once you can admit like this isn't for everybody. We really have a niche focus that you can actually acquire people more efficiently, and build a more loyal brand and following when you actually really identify who exactly your product is for.

William Harris  24:14  

Yeah, you talked about doing the free trial. And I think that's massive. In the SAS world software as a service, we often talk about getting somebody to the Wow, as quickly as possible, the very first time that they log in to start trialing your software, you need to get them to say, Wow, I get it before they leave. Because if they leave that session, they're very likely not coming back and you're never going to get them even finish their trial, let alone do anything there. But so giving them this free trial of the medicine, I think it gives people that ability to go, wow, I get it. And now you've got them hooked kind of like a drug dealer, but not in the wrong context. But it's like now they're hooked cuz they're like I get it. This makes sense. And now I understand how this works. And so yeah, I want to continue to invest in you. So you're, you're looking at this from the long term play versus the short term placing, I just want to that customer, and then help them. And by helping them, they're going to want to reward me with ongoing business. Exactly.

Shani Bocian  25:14  

Yes, it's such a long game for us with this model, because you're not profitable with that first order. I mean, you're covering the cost of cogs, you're paying for customer acquisition, we have a doctor's visit that we're covered. So there's a lot of cost involved in acquiring a patient. But the goal is that we've targeted well enough that we found a patient who after that free trial is like, wow, my, my life has drastically improved. Now that I've implemented this medication into my daily routine, I want to stay on board. And so it's, it's cash intensive at the beginning. But the trailing retention is so good that in the long run, we end up caught like making the investment back on that patient several times over.

William Harris  25:55  

You've also told me that you guys invest a lot in content in good content. Something that a previous guest of mine, Michael Siegel, over a deco created said is that he almost invests in more for the content after the purchase than he did before the purchase, where it's how to use the products that he's sending you how to reuse them in different ways and their decorations throughout your home. So you get it, you're like, okay, great, I use it one time now what I do with it, and I think that that creates a really good lifetime value, are you guys investing in like a lot of post purchase content, then as well,

Shani Bocian  26:29  

I think we could probably always do more. It's really important, especially with nasal spray, because taking it correctly, it's so crucial for getting good results. I mean, if your head is positioned in the wrong way, or you sniff it up the wrong way, or you don't take it with the right cadence or schedule, you can really like it can, it can be really unpleasant or you just won't get efficacious results. And so I think that part of that kind of retention game that I was talking about earlier, is in the kind of post purchase flow of am I taking this correctly? Am I taking this at the right times? Am I taking it with the right frequency? Is this the right formula for me? Or do I need a change? Oh, there's this whole team of allergist here sitting here waiting to help me with any of my questions, do I know that they exist and that I can take advantage of their services? So I think you know, it's something we've started to do and have done a pretty good job at but I think that's an area we can definitely continue to improve on.

William Harris  27:25  

What about social virality? And community I look at things like Stanley mugs, and I have a 13 year old a 10 year old. And you know, this is something that you absolutely have to have. If you're in junior high, you have to have a sailing bug. And so there's some social virality that happens there. Are you guys using anything within like community building to help increase people wanting to share and help other people? Cuz I feel like that's the thing we'd like to help people. If we find a solution, we want to help them is there some way that using that to help propel your business forward to

Shani Bocian  27:59  

Yes, so we just launched a referral program right around the holidays, we use an app called I think it's called Social snowball, where we offer our patients a link. And if they share their link with family or friends that end up and the person signs up, the patient can earn a reward or a gift. So that kind of encourages people to help spread the word, especially if there's some kind of incentive for them. But we've had a ton of organic referrals, allergies run in families. So you'll often see like husband and wife or parents and child or siblings who sign up together, or who refer one another. And we'll see. Physicians and you know, out people bring Alamy to their doctors, and the doctor will reach out to us and want to get Allermi to their other patients. And so there's definitely I think because the product is so evidence based and works so well. There's kind of this organic referral, like the beginnings of of that, that I think we can continue to invest in more and more. But we did just launch this program, we're where we do send people referral links, and they can use that. But yeah, we also have a Facebook group. And I think the the building of like watching that grow and watching people engage with one another has been really fulfilling and fun. You know, where you you create a space for people who are experiencing the same problem. And they're all experimenting with the solution that we offer. And so they're sharing tips and advice and pain points and success stories and you see who likes what and who you know, who responds to what, and it's really cool to see these spaces built. And I think that's definitely something we can invest in more as the organic referral strategy and the social community aspect of all of this. Yeah.

William Harris  29:45  

Are there any roadblocks that you've run into as you've been building this business that you thought, Hmm, that's interesting. I didn't know that. Maybe, maybe ads are harder because you're talking about medical stuff or things like that.

Shani Bocian  29:59  

That's a good question. Then I think, I think it goes back to the retention play, which is, you know, we are investing quite a bit at the outset to acquire customers and then cover the cost in the beginning so that they can try this medication for free. I think a lot of that had to do with okay, that's what cure ology, did, they offered a free trial, it obviously worked incredibly well for them. Also, Big Pharma, you know, you'll get a sample of a medication from your doctor before you choose to go pick up your prescription. And so I think we created this model based off of that, but as I said, like it's cash intensive in the beginning. And it also may impact the type of customer who signs up, I mean, someone who's who signs up for a free trial might be dif really different from someone who invest in purchasing at full price at the beginning. And maybe that customer who's willing to pay full price is someone who's more within our target market, rather than someone who sees something available for free. And it's like, oh, I guess I'll try that, like, no harm, no foul. So I think like, that's been kind of working out the the cost benefit analysis of that has been challenging and interesting, and something that we need to continue investing in testing. And it's a long testing game, too, because what you want to measure is, you know, if I charged full price at the beginning, acquisition costs will go up, but maybe the trailing retention will be much better in six months, those customers who paid full price at the beginning, are retaining longer, and like we're able to, to make CAC payback quicker on them. But maybe it's the opposite, you know, maybe and so it's there's a lot of hypotheses around pricing and offer ad that I think just weren't obvious at the beginning. And that have been kind of really interesting challenges to work through during this journey. I liked

William Harris  31:43  

that. And those are, those are the fun ones to work through as you continue to build because you get more data. And so you can learn things quicker. What has been your best source of acquisition? So when you think about the best way that you've grown the business, I mean, 1,000% growth in a year, that's not something that most businesses are doing? How did you guys achieve that?

Shani Bocian  32:04  

We really wanted to prove out scalability and mass market appeal here. And so we did a lot of work on meta and on tick tock and found that we were able to acquire customers affordably and efficiently and that they were retaining with us and that, you know, we could build this from a very tiny pilot program into a, you know, 1010s of 1000s of customer user base in a short amount of time. And we used, you know, paid social to do a lot of that, but we did see a growing organic adoption, population of patients who came to us from those referrals I was speaking about earlier, who came to us from their doctors who learned about lmao, our colleagues of our allergists, and and I think, you know, it's just, it's proven that there's a market for this. And it's proven that people love our solution. I mean, in the year that we've been on the market, that you're year and a half we've been on the market, we've accumulated over 3005 star reviews. And I think that like this, we spent this last year that we were kind of our first official year on the market, proving this solution works, proving that people stick with it, proving that we can acquire them affordably and proving that there's scalability here. So I think, you know, we'll see, I think things are priorities will change in year two, it'll turn more towards efficiency and profitability, and less about rapid growth and proof of concept and more about creating sustainable scalability. But that was really kind of the goals that drove our accomplishments in year one. Yeah,

William Harris  33:43  

I think you're right on the money about where that growth comes from, in that idea of, you know, sometimes growth is going to be a little bit less profitable in the beginning. And then you can begin to fine tune the profitability towards the back half of that. But in the initial, you just got to prove this out. And there's no replacement for just having a great product. And I think that's something that you called out that I think is worth going there that it's you have to have a product that does what it says it's going to do. And if you do, then people are gonna stick around. So you've got this LTV that's building up over time, and it becomes easier and easier to acquire people. But you've also got that that again, going back to like a social virality or a viral coefficient of one to one person telling somebody else that they know that suffering and and that's, that's unmatched. I liked that you said, advertising played a big role in this though I think a lot of people in the medical community can sometimes be afraid of getting into social ads. there for a while it was very hard to advertise a lot of products in social ads. Have you found a lot of roadblocks or issues with advertising on meta or tic tock? No,

Shani Bocian  34:54

I mean, in the beginning, there were a couple of hurdles. You have to be legitscript certified, you have to make sure that you're adhering To policies around claims, obviously, you have to adhere to like FDA restrictions around around advertising. But since then, since we've kind of worked out those kinks in the beginning, it's been really smooth. And I think it's way more commonplace. Now. I mean, every medical brand is advertising on social now, Big Pharma brands, I get ads for Allegra, and Claritin, which are, you know, Johnson and Johnson and Merck and GSK. Companies. So, from big pharma, to your small pharmaceutical companies, to your digital health companies, everybody's advertising everywhere, and it's just, I mean, I know people talk about the US is, I think, one of the few countries that allows direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals, which people can dislike that and, you know, be against that and think, you know, there's no place for pharmaceutical advertising in the consumer world, but I think I disagree, because it gives us the ownership and the ability to make our own informed choices about what's out there, in, in this in, in medicine, and what options are available to us. And then we can learn about medications and bring them to our doctors and our experts for their counsel and advice. And we can do our own research. And, you know, I think part of that is educating people in how to how to actually interpret studies and how to be able to determine something that's snake oil versus something that's legitimate, but I think, you know, it's advertising within medicine and healthcare is is new, but um, you know, unpaid social, but it's something that I think we're just at the beginnings of, yeah,

William Harris  36:42

I'm with you. And the idea of giving people the options and letting them be able to make their own informed decisions. That's, that should be one of the holy grails of anything is just let's get the information to people and let them be able to, to learn and grow and make their own decisions with that information. Yeah.

Shani Bocian  36:58

And then it's up to the company to be responsible with the claims that they're making.

William Harris  37:02

Absolutely. Responsibility, I think it'd be. Yeah,

Shani Bocian  37:06  

totally. I think also, like, you know, we've seen farmer ads on television for decades. Like I remember being a kid and you see, like the ad of the woman running in the field, and she's playing with her kids, and it's in slomo. And then it's an it's an ad for an allergy medication. Like I remember those. And so I don't really think an ad on social is that different from the ads we used to see in TV and magazine, it's just a different avenue and channel, but it's the same idea. So maybe it seems really new. And people are like, Oh, my God, like pharma medication is being advertised on social but like, we've been getting these ads for decades.

William Harris  37:39  

Yeah, yeah, totally with you. Any other pieces of advice that you would give to e-commerce Store owners and growing and building their business before we transition into the who is Shani Bocian? Um,

Shani Bocian  37:56  

I think we've really put a big emphasis on customer service at our company, and offering really white glove service where we handhold our customers, like, I've set a policy that we get back to people within a day, we, if that I mean, ideally, a few hours if it's during business hours, and if a patient messages in the evening, they get replied to the next morning, I mean, I think it is of the utmost importance to be communicative and responsive to customer inquiries, because there's nothing more frustrating when you're a consumer. And then when you have a problem, and you reach out and you don't hear back for five days, or you hear back with a response that's dismissive or unsatisfactory. And so it's definitely a fine balance. I mean, you have to stand by your policies and make them very clear. And you know, if people are requesting refunds, when refunds aren't available, you know, you have to stick with, you know, the policies you've set for your company, or you can run yourself into the ground. But I think at the same time, responding to people with compassion, and kindness, and patience, and then also just getting back to them as soon as possible is incredibly important. And I mean, when you read through the reviews on our made, a lot of people highlight the excellent customer service. And that's something I always want to maintain. And always keep a priority number one, reminds

William Harris  39:16  

you of something Jeff Bezos said about shipping, and I could be misquoting it, but along the lines of nobody's going to ask for, you know, longer shipping for the most part that's kind of like in the future, we're not going to have people saying I really wish we had like one month shipping option. It's the same thing for response times. And we're not going to get to a point where people are looking for longer response times, we're going to only have a future where people want fast, faster and faster response times faster, but still intelligent response times. Right, totally.

Shani Bocian  39:45  

consumer expectations, I think thanks a lot to Amazon are really high. Like we had a patient we've had to in the past few weeks, we had one who he wrote us a message and we were landed eight hours later, because he wrote towards the end of the business day, I think we responded early the next morning. And then when he left review, he said, You know, I wish that this company got back to me faster. I was like, Oh, my God, like, eight, eight hour response time. I don't know. Like, that's to me, that seems pretty good. I felt like that was within our goals. You know, he wrote at the end of the business day, but you know, I think people's expectations are so high. And then, you know, we had someone else who wrote to us, and he sent three messages within 19 minutes. And when he hadn't heard back from us, at the end of the 19 minute period, he canceled because he was dissatisfied. And so I think people maybe assume that the mess emails are live chats, and that there's someone kind of always awake on the other end there to respond immediately. And so I think, yeah, customer expectations for good service have changed and are changing rapidly. And it's up to us to keep up with them. So our customers stay happy.

William Harris  40:51  

Yeah, 100% agree with you. Let's dig into the who is Shani Bocian detection of this. I understand this was a family business to a point you said right, like just getting into allergies and things like that. You talked about your your grandpa being a refugee, take me through a little bit more of like this family business of allergy and kind of how that's helped shape you.

Shani Bocian  41:20  

Yeah, so my grandfather was a refugee, he came to this country with very little, and put himself through medical school and became one of the leading pathologists in the country, you know, through the, through the 60s 70s, and 80s. And I think that really kind of, you know, he, he was an entrepreneur in a way because he launched labs and hospitals and his own practices. And so I think, you know, the definition of entrepreneur, you know, think of starting a small business, but for someone to come with nothing and build up from the ground and, and create all of these incredible entities is, is certainly entrepreneurial. And so I think it kind of runs in the blood. And then my dad, you know, also became a physician and more of a scientist and clinician than business person. You know, he's been at the same institutions for three, three and a half decades. And, but he's an incredible, compassionate and beloved doctor, with a brilliant mind. He has an MD PhD, and he's kind of the genius behind the Allermi formulas. And he, you know, he had been treating patients with rhinitis for about 30 years, and he invented this nasal spray, had an aid, his name is Dr. Robert Bhushan, and people in the Bay Area called his nasal spray potions potion, because it was like a magic potion, it works so well. But he never thought to sell it or commercialize it, it was just something that he gave to his patients after they came in for a visit. And he would give them the instructions on how to make it after their, you know, by this and by that, and they'll prescribe this and you mix that and you know, you did at home over the kitchen sink and a tablespoon of this and a teaspoon of that. Yeah, he was giving away this kind of trade secret for 30 years, and people loved it. And never, he never really thought to commodify it and sell it. So wasn't really until I came around. And I think kind of I inherited some of my grandfather's entrepreneurial spirit where it's like, let's build something. And, and that's when I went to my dad was like, you have something that's not only, you know, incredibly effective and safe and evidence based and works so well. But like people will purchase this and we can build a business that can change our lives with this product. And so that was when, you know, I teamed up with my dad and we kind of created the foundation for Allermi.

William Harris  43:42  

I love it. And you didn't just acquire a little inherit a little bit of your grandfather's entrepreneurial desires, from what I understand you started lots of businesses when you were a kid as well, what were some of the businesses?

Shani Bocian  43:58

Um, well, I had a cupcake company where I'd bake cupcakes and sell them at school for people's birthdays. That was a lot of fun. I always had like a lemonade stand or I'd wash people's car like offered to do their dishes for money. I really was like obsessed with doing dishes as a little kid and I'm talking like five, six years old. I'd be like, if you give me $5 I'll do your dishes. I don't remember if anyone took me up on that. But yeah, our dog walking in the neighborhood. I think I just always found it really kind of satisfying and interesting to be able to earn like little bits of money for a skill or a service that I could offer. It was just kind of always in my spirit. And so I ended up kind of pushing that to the side and pursuing a career in education. I got my master's in education. I was teaching and researching. But I was coming home dissatisfied from my job every single day. And then you know, when I like started to really think about my dad's product I would Come home and I'd call my dad and we'd go over papers together and I'd mix up news, I'd buy nasal spray bottles on Amazon and mix up his formulas and my sink and try and figure out, you know, how we could do this. And it became like a daily activity and everyone I talked to, I told them about it. And like the my passion for what I'd been doing in the education world was dwindling as this became my new obsession. And it really got to a point where my parents were like, come home, you're deeply unhappy, and your role as a teacher. But you talk about this thing every day, like come home and start it like Enough Enough talking about it, like, let's do it. So they were so incredibly supportive. They were my first investors, they let me and my boyfriend at the time, who's now my husband live in their house, no rent, and just so supportive and encouraging the biggest backers and supporters of any and they believe in this so much. So that's been really incredible. Yeah, sounds

William Harris  45:56  

like nobody was surprised that you ended up becoming an entrepreneur. And you highlighted something that I really appreciate, which is, a lot of times we talked about becoming well rounded. And it's like, well, we have to work on all the things that we're not good at. And there's a definitely a time and place for that. Right. Like if you're a jerk, please work on not being a jerk. Like there are things that we need to work on. But there's something special about saying, but what is the thing that you're also really good at you are naturally gifted at it's like, lean into that it's like you found something that you were naturally passionate about gifted in and you're like, I want to lean into this, I'm gifted in entrepreneurial. entrepreneurism, right. And you're, you're passionate about, like allergies and helping to solve that. And so it's like, you lean into that, versus trying to push into something that isn't maybe as natural for you. Yeah,

Shani Bocian  46:42  

and also, like, understand what you're bad at, like, I was a bad teacher, I loved my students, it was so fun hanging out with them in the classroom, like high school kids are my favorite age, all I wanted to do is hang out with them and talk about their problems and help them solve their boyfriend girlfriend issues and whatever. But greeting and conveying novel ideas and facts and assignments and creating lesson plans. Like I was terrible at it. And it was, I mean, I had fun with the kids. And they, you know, they liked me, because my classes chill, and I gave everyone an A and you know, took them on field trips, what I felt like I was a terribly would not have passed, like any standardized tests coming out of my class. And that's not what they needed, like I was you know, they these kids need to be able to learn and get into school and I was not able to offer them that the the tools or the ability to do that beyond just like having a an adult friend who they could trust. And so maybe I should have gone into like social work or counseling or something like that. But I think also just realizing like, I'm not good at this, stop trying to force it, it's making you miserable. Do something that you actually kind of has skills and and could be good at is a much better use of your life.

William Harris  47:56  

Yeah, yeah, I'm with you. Um, so one of the things that I haven't talked about before on this podcast, you're the first one that I'm going to talk about this with is the actual reason for why the podcast is called Up Arrow. And I've got a reason for getting to this. But in mathematics, when you want to make numbers that are even larger than with exponentiation, you get into what's called Knuth, Up Arrow notation. And you can make massively massively big numbers. And that's what we use to actually get to Graham's number, which I believe to this day is still the largest number with a name Graham's number. But so I liked this because to me, it represented the idea of how to up arrow your business, right to like, basically, like, not just exponentially grow it, but like, just massively grow, but also not just your business, but your life too. So like your health, your relationships, whatever that's going on in there. Are there things that you're passionate about in your own life of up arrowing outside of growing your business, you're like, I like trying to improve these areas of my life to

Shani Bocian  49:01  

Yes, and I think it's easy when you're an entrepreneur, and you spend 16 hours a day sitting at the computer to neglect those things. But I think, you know, part of my goals for this year were to not neglect those things, and to and to realize that paying attention to the things that would improve other areas of my life would also probably help me improve the business and my leadership. So for example, like my physical health, like, you know, I can the lat, you know, linear deep into fundraising and your business is growing and you have all these new challenges. Like I said, like you can spend five days a week, sitting at the computer for 16 hours a day and your step count is like 1000 and you feel awful and your body hurts and lay just like lat and then on the weekends, you're just exhausted and I found myself getting into that cycle and so taking the time to like, actually exercise and get up and walk around and go outside and spend time walking the dogs and exercising with my husband things that actually gave me energy rather than took energy away ended up improving my productivity. So I think that's one area that I have really have to up arrow and like I'm trying to and working on it. And I think that, you know, the more attention that I pay to that the better quality of an entrepreneur I'll be in, the better Wi Fi, I'll be in just like more happier person. So that's one thing. I think also just like making sure not to neglect family time. I think we all work so hard building our businesses and they literally become like our family like this business is the child is the child that I am rearing, you know, it has to succeed. But then you're like, wait, I actually have parents and a spouse and dogs and children that I love and like they need my attention to and like a business is just a business. And ultimately, like what's life about, it's about people that you love and nurturing those relationships. And so, I think taking like those moments to realize that and, and to not get so embedded in the work, and to remember that there's life outside of that is, is really important. And an area that I also want to keep up arrowing

William Harris  51:17  

Oh, that's really good. And you know, a moment of let's just say, heart on your sleeve realness here. When entrepreneurs talk about, like how our businesses, our family, I know that sometimes there's memes that will go on about how it's like, you know, people just say that so that way, you'll work harder, you'll do this or whatever. And it's like, you know, the business isn't your family, or, you know, something along those lines, it's like, but the reality is, when you're the entrepreneur, when you're the founder, it does feel like it's your family, right. And every single one of those people on your team feel like they're your family, and you care about them, and to want nothing but the best for them. And it is hard to sometimes see the line between business and family and things like that. So I completely understand and respect that.

Shani Bocian  52:04  

And then also kind of just more like a theoretical sense. I feel like your actual business is like your child, like, I'm not talking about the people on your team being like your family. Like, I never say that to people. I'm never like, Oh, we're a family. No, like, we all work at the same place. But but your actual sucks, like if your business fails, it is like an extension of you, you know. And so I think so many entrepreneurs have that weight, and that fear and that guilt where they feel like this is an extension of myself. It's not just my job, like, this is my baby. And I think that can be great. You know, it can be important that you put your all and but it can also be really dangerous and harmful. And I think creating boundaries between us and our entrepreneurial endeavors is is really important.

William Harris  52:52  

Yeah, yeah, I fully agree with you there. Shani, it's been absolutely amazing. having you on the show here today. sharing your knowledge, sharing your wisdom with us. I really appreciate just how heartfelt you were about going in everything in the way that you've gone about building your business. If people want to follow you work with you, what are the best ways for them to get in touch?

Shani Bocian  53:15  

We are on Instagram @getallermi. You can email us at My email is I'm on LinkedIn under Shani Bocian Steinberg, and I welcome anybody to reach out.

William Harris  53:33  

Awesome, I appreciate it. And I think it's only fair to say to Quick disclaimer, I'm not a physician. Everything that I've said here today is medical advice. Talk to your actual doctor about that. If you have allergy stuff, talk to talk to me. Awesome. Thanks, Johnny. Thanks, everyone for joining in. Have a great day. Thank you.

Outro  53:55  

Thanks for listening to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

We think you'll also like...

The Joys and Challenges of Taking a Retail Brand Public as a Female CEO With Stephanie Pugliese

On this episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris welcomes Stephanie Pugliese, the former President of the Americas at Under Armour, to talk about how she became a respected CEO. Stephanie shares how to scale past $100 million in annual revenue, the role of authenticity in corporate settings, and how she balances her personal and professional life.

Using DTC Marketing Tactics To Grow Your Brand With Cindy Marshall

In this episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris welcomes Cindy Marshall, Founder and CEO of SHINE Strategy, to talk about DTC marketing strategies. Cindy discusses the SHINE roadmap, common challenges in the retail industry, and universal e-commerce branding advice.

The Future of Ecommerce With Shopify's President: Harley Finkelstein

In today’s special episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, the President of Shopify, Harley Finkelstein, joins William Harris to discuss how to prepare for the future of e-commerce. Harley discusses the role of cryptocurrency in Shopify’s ecosystem, provides advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and explores the evolution of entrepreneurship.