REMIX SERIES 05: STORY OF A BRAND
Run a marathon? I can do that. Start a company? I can do that. Wear a different crazy patterned shirt to work every day? I can do that. Stephen Lease is the king of "I can do that" and in this part 1 episode of the Story of a Brand podcast, he talks with host Ramon Vela about how everyone should be taught some fundamental lessons if they're just starting out and interested in launching their own venture.
THE EPISODE IN A VERY SMALL NUTSHELL:
Lesson #1: Problem solving
Literally, that’s all entrepreneurship is. Putting out fires. And often having to put them out in creative ways. Like, oh you don’t have a fire extinguisher or blanket on hand? Use one of the mixers you definitely have in the bar. Orange juice can smother flames*, pour it on out. Just don’t accidentally grab the vodka.
*This is not scientific. Please do not try to put out a fire with OJ.
When Stephen Lease and his fellow co-founders, Ben Abell and Keri Blunt, decided to start goodr, they had very little experience. Seriously. SDL had five failed start-ups under his belt, Ben was a lawyer, and Keri was an actress. They like to claim that without the internet, they probably couldn’t have started goodr. Because Google was their friend when they hit their biggest obstacle: finding a manufacturer. How the eff does one do that?!? They emailed 130 manufacturers off of a search. Only 40 got back to them. Of those, around 10 spoke English well enough to work with. Out of the 10, only 3 agreed to actually sample what they wanted. And ONE was head and shoulders above the others in terms of quality and the vision the three co-founders had for goodr.
The first order was 1,800 units. Tiny, by manufacturing standards. Like, a UPS truck can handle that. No need to go freight ship and risk getting stuck in a canal… (too soon?). But it was a start. And the problem they faced of literally not knowing anything was solved. Even Jon Snow eventually learned something**.
Lesson #2: Be OK with failure
Ramon asked SDL if there was a moment when he and his co-founders thought, “we might end up closing.” Actually, he phrased the question far better than that. What was a “sitting in a bathtub in a fetal position moment?”
While Carl has spent plenty of time in a bathtub, it wasn’t due to fear of failure. It was mostly due to too many shots. But anyway, you can’t be afraid of failure. SDL wants to clarify that this philosophy is NOT living without fear. It’s simply being ok with the concept that you might fail. He mentioned that while there wasn’t really a full rock-bottom moment when starting out, there was a time when they had to really consider if what they were doing was sustainable.
For a while, the pattern went like this: Spend whatever cash they had on inventory. Immediately sell out. Tell customers to wait. Spend whatever cash they had on inventory. Immediately sell out. And so on… Sure, that doesn’t seem like a terrible problem to have, what with FOMO and all. But there were some potential big accounts that were lost early on because the inventory just couldn’t keep up with the demand. So, in Spring 2017, there was a moment when looking to sell a part of the company was an option on the table, because they just couldn’t keep going on the cycle they were in.
Lesson #3: Have a growth mindset
When you’re OK with failure, you tend to be open to many more creative problem solving solutions. Like asking for advice. God forbid.
Things can turn around pretty quickly once you take ego out of the equation. It’s like that extra variable that you can’t solve for and prevents you from actually solving the problem and you think you can just cancel it out but then you end up with an impossible fraction and then somehow the Batman symbol ends up in the equation as an extra variable and you’re like WHAT?!? CURSE YOU MATH!!!!!! So SDL went seeking advice. Specifically, from the founder of Shinesty (if you don’t know them, check ‘em out. If Carl wore underwear, he’d exclusively wear their ball hammocks. Though he takes issue with the fact they don’t offer a flamingo feathers pair). He was advised to think of the very best terms he could think of and go back to the manufacturer to say, if they can accommodate those terms, then he could increase the product order significantly. This advice was invaluable because it helped jump start a complete shift and within a matter of a week the fate of goodr turned around. The manufacturer immediately agreed to the terms, the bank gave them a line of credit, and they were able to afford a huge shipment to come in. Which they sold out of IN A DAY. But it’s ok. Because they finally had the cash to continue purchasing larger shipments of products. At that moment, they could breathe and SDL stopped his main consulting gig a month later because he knew, they could do this.
Recommendations for people just starting out
Get as much experience as you can -- Volunteer to do stuff, meet people, look for the opportunities because you probably won’t be given everything or anything.
Sharpen your axe -- Always remember our friend Abraham Lincoln and how if someone tasked him with 8 hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend 6 of those sharpening the axe.
Go to college -- SDL is a strong believer that you can be successful at pretty much anything even if you don’t go, but what else are you going to do between ages 18 and 22? Plus, it’s fun. Learn, experience, and meet a ton of people. You’re not going to have that opportunity later in life in the same way.
COMING UP: PART II OF STORY OF A BRAND
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This episode of CULTURE goodr REMIX series was provided by the Story of a Brand Podcast.