From the first hire to funding and beyond; The challenges of starting and scaling a business.
Hosted by Marcus Colombano of Pineapple SF beneath the redwood groves of Camp Navarro, I joined a talented group of founders, including Adam Vollmer of Faraday Bikes, Caleb Light of Power Practical, and Lauren Fennema of Confidants to discuss topics including the highs and lows of starting a business, the evolution of crowdfunding, cultivating passionate communities around a brand, and crafting the right sales channel mix.
“Each business has a unique purpose and needs to reach a unique audience…How do you connect these purposes with a market, with a customer, and raise awareness for a product that’s not known?”
– Marcus Colombano, Pineapple
Startups come in an array of sizes and structures, with unique mission statements and prospective customers, but many share common challenges like defining market fit, differentiation of product or service, supply chain, and talent retention. Direct to consumer brands are popping up across a wide range of industries, but they share similar challenges with more traditional, wholesale-focused brands.
“If you’re a direct [to consumer] brand, you need to have margins built into your pricing structure because you’re paying for marketing somewhere”
– Adam Vollmer, Faraday Bikes
Brands that sell mostly or entirely direct to consumer have to be crafty and creative about building brand awareness, acquiring new customers, and re-engaging with existing ones. Without retailers to rely on, direct to consumer brands must meet the customer where they are both on and offline.
On the flip side, savvy brands who rely on wholesale channels for a significant chunk of their revenue are increasingly seeking out innovative, value-add retailers who can communicate their brand story to new customers and help them scale into new markets.
At Foghorn Labs, we work with a wide range of business owners, from first-time founders to serial entrepreneurs. Some of our brand partners are well-established brands who generate $20 to $60 million in annual revenue and are looking to grow their direct to consumer channel. Others are recent Kickstarter grads who are trying to find the right mix of wholesale and direct that will give their new brand the best chance at sustainable growth.
A common thread we see among successful entrepreneurs is a love and appreciation of the journey rather than a myopic focus on the destination. Small business success is elusive and most companies pivot multiple times before finding their path. Enjoy the ride, be open to new directions, and make sure to continue evolving throughout. What you learn and who you meet along the way will make you a more valuable and well-rounded professional, regardless of how successful your endeavor becomes.