We tried a new e-commerce startup that sells organic and natural products with a $59 annual membership — here’s the verdict
- Public Goods is a new online store that specializes in essentials like food, household, and personal care products.
- It uses both an annual membership program like Costco’s and a private-label model where each product category offers pretty much one choice.
- The company’s tagline is “It’s all good,” meaning that each product is natural, organic, and/or sustainable.
- We ordered a smattering of Public Goods products to see if that was true.
Public Goods is part of a new breed of online shopping startup.
This time, the equation is Costco + Brandless = Public Goods.
The relatively new online store specializes in essentials like food, household, and personal care products, all with slick, Instagram-friendly branding. It requires a membership, which costs $59 a year. (Costco’s membership costs $60 a year.)
“Our membership model, it allows us to deliver that quality without compromise but still being accessibly priced,” Morgan Hirsh, Public Goods’ CEO and founder, told Business Insider.
It also fits the mold of recent online shopping startups like Brandless, which launched a shop that offers natural, organic, and sustainable own-label goods that are priced in $3 increments. Public Goods offers a similar focus, but without the specific price target.
“Hitting a specific price point is less important for us, it’s just hitting quality,” Hirsh said. “And for us … quality means that it’s healthy for people and healthy for the planet.”
Products on Public Goods range in price from $1 — for four razor blade refills — to $45 for a large bath sheet.
The strategy has seemed to work in the year that Public Goods has been shipping products to customers, starting with personal care and expanding into food.
“80% of people who try us repeat,” Hirsh said.
Public Goods took an atypical road to get to where it is today. Instead of a splashy, VC-backed round of funding, Hirsh and his co-founders went first to friends and family and then launched a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2017. It blasted past its goal and raised $686,748 from 10,260 backers.
In the fall of 2018, it ran another Kickstarter, raising $410,676 from 5,239 backers. At the same time, the company raised $3 million in seed funding from angel investors.
We decided to take advantage of Public Goods’ free 30-day trial and ordered a smattering of products to see what it’s like:
Ordering on Public Goods’ website was easy and sleek, supported by Shopify’s simple interface.
Navigating around the site and placing items into my cart was easy and quite fun.
With the stellar reviews written by customers on most of the products featured on the site, I had high hopes that I was going to love the products I was buying.
One snag: there’s no way to cancel a membership on the website, and you have to email customer service to do so.
I did not want to get charged just for this review, so I emailed right after I placed my order. It was cancelled soon after, a rep confirmed to me.
But I still had to email. A button would be better.