Brand Voice and Category Choice
Episode 36
January 12, 2021

Brand Voice and Category Choice

with Benjamin Witte, Founder and CEO of Recess

Benjamin Witte is the Founder and CEO of Recess. Recess is a consumer wellness and lifestyle brand, creating products and experiences designed to help people feel calm, balanced, and inspired despite an increasingly stressful world. In this episode, Ben shares with us his journey from growing up in Laguna Beach, to attending Boston University, to working with a few tech startups in San Francisco, which led him to discover his passion for entrepreneurship, design, and customer experience. We talk about some things to consider when building a brand, how to find founder market fit, and why it's important to market feelings rather than ingredients.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How growing up in Laguna Beach, CA with a strong, supportive family led to an early confidence in creating and developing ideas, such as a documentary he made about local skimboarders that made him some money and planted seeds of entrepreneurship in his teens
  • How his time at Boston University was an important experience that led him to the world of Silicon Valley and startups in San Francisco
  • Why he felt empowered at a startup he joined right out of college that didn’t make it, but that provided lots of opportunities to learn and recognize that he had a knack for seeing trends before they hit
  • How his time at AdRoll, back when it was brand new, really helped him see the inside of a company as it scales successfully and, after working his way up in the company, helped him realize that he should go start something himself
  • What it means to find “founder market fit”
  • How he learned that a great idea is one thing, but being able to execute it authentically is what really matters 
  • How becoming a consumer of CBD oil and seeing the value of the product started to spark the idea for Recess and why CBD has the potential to be its own category in the market, as common as caffeine for example
  • What led him to New York where he worked with a couple of friends on ideas that eventually led him to founding Recess and why they launched direct to consumer first
  • Why brand voice is so important and how they have accomplished that beautifully at Recess, creating a feeling and a story that is fun, refreshing, and relevant to their audience
  • What’s next for Recess, why they are set up to become a leader in their category and how regulations around CBD are a part of how their company is growing when, where, and how

To Find Out More:


“You can be in a space and have a good idea, but ideas are worthless. It's about the execution of it.”

“I was empowered to recognize that start ups are started by anyone, and it's actually being ‘inexperienced’ that can be like a competitive advantage.”

“If I was going to go start my own company, I wanted it to be a kind of a consumer brand or experience of some kind.”

"Pay attention to what you pay attention to."

“I believe in the idea of ‘founder market fit’. Most startups fail. Right? And so to have a chance at success, you want to focus on things that play to your strengths.”

“I think that creating a brand or a startup is like producing a movie in terms of bringing the pieces and the team and different talent together to create something.”

“The way to think about CBD is as a compound no more interesting than caffeine, just a commoditized functional ingredient that will serve alongside other functional ingredients such as adaptogens, things like magnesium and nootropics, at the base of an emerge of the next big category in the beverage and supplement and even food industry focused on relaxation.”

“It's not like vitamin C, it's like caffeine. And caffeine is about the feeling. And so you want to build the brand not around the ingredient, but around the feeling.”

“So I think the first thing to do as an entrepreneur is just like break things down into their components. The first principle is thinking, basically. Like go ask why a lot.”

“I think in entrepreneurship your market matters a lot.” 

“I think in business, you're either creating a category or you're going into an existing category and trying to capture market share. And those are like two very different things. I think recognizing what you're doing is very important.”

“And so the business plan of Recess has been to navigate this period of regulatory uncertainty to arrive at the other side is like the category leading brand best positioned to scale.”

“There's just no question in my mind that this category that's developing over the coming years is going to be a massive category. And I think Recess is very well positioned to lead it.”

“I think the most important thing in marketing is your brand voice. Because once your brand has to exist digitally, you need to be able to engage with your customers and community every single day, whether that's through Instagram or through email or podcasts.”

“I think another secret to entrepreneurship is identifying undervalued talent and bringing together the people that can help you actually execute.”

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