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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Overnight success is a fairy tail

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I’m sure you have watched the news before and heard them refer to a business or and individual as an “overnight success”, or seen a business explode with growth after being on Oprah. Well, I’m here to tell you that overnight success stories only exist in an imaginary world.

True success comes with hard work, long work weeks, sleepless nights, and genuine passion for what you do. To some degree my company Bearded Brothers has experienced success, but I wouldn’t by any means say we have arrived, in fact we still have crap-tons of work to do. After being in business we have managed to get our product into 250 stores across the US, but that leaves thousands of retail locations untapped. We still have our work cut out for us.

One of my favorite stories of overnight success is the game Angry Birds, by Rovio. When I first purchased this addictive game for .99 in the App Store I seriously thought to myself that they were an overnight success. Just because I had never heard of Rovio before didn’t mean they were not hard at work cranking out game after game for eight years! In fact they created 52 games in eight years before creating the game Angry Birds.

The food processor that gave Bearded Brothers their start. The motor would constantly overheat in the middle of making batches of energy bars.

The food processor that gave Bearded Brothers their start. The motor would constantly overheat in the middle of making batches.

Every company has a story of their journey. Nobody woke up one day and decided it was time to make it big. For Bearded Brothers our story starts off with a 14 Cup Cuisinart Food Processor that overheated constantly when we made our energy bars. We also had a wooden mold that we used to form and cut the bars that eventually fell apart from washing it in hot water every day. It was also a beast to clean and was perhaps the most arduous part of our production process.

Even though we have always had a great product, we have had to work hard to get the product into peoples mouths. We continually send out free product for events such as races, rock climbing events and disc golf events. We attend demos regularly in the stores that sell our product. Success is coming at the cost of hustling every day!

So, forget the romanticized notion of overnight success. If overnight success existed I would have become a star photographer years ago, but photography was something I didn’t stick with. Even Ansel Adams’ career spanned five decades; over that time he continually perfected his craft. Adams never felt like he arrived either, he continued to work hard at what he did because he was passionate about it.

If success is something you truly desire, my advice to you is find something you are passionate about and pursue it, because your overnight success journey is going to take years and is going to be full of trials. Even if you do “arrive” you are going to work harder than you ever have before.

If overnight success meant we all got to live lush easy lives, Entrepreneur wouldn’t have published an article on how to cope with “overnight success.” Even success itself hosts a myriad of challenges.

A beard for a baby

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WIlderness Beard

Everybody loves beards, but even more than that, people love babies! For that reason I have decided to participate in A Beard for a Baby.

From now until December 1, I will be growing my beard to help raise adoption funds for the Hoffman’s. This is where I need your help.

I need 10 people to commit to pledging $10 a month for every month I don’t shave. June-November. That would bring your total donation to $60. My beard length is already the longest it has ever been, so it should be pretty impressive at the end of the six months.

One time donations are also welcome. In effort to up the stakes, I will shave my beard down to a tiny stubble (at the end of the growth period) for anybody that donates $100 or more!

To join the cause and support my growth, please visit the support a beard page. Simply enter my name and YOUR email address for monthly donations of $10, or select the one time donation option and enter my name.

Also, today is my birthday, so your donation would make an excellent gift!

If you decided to donate please comment here or send me an email through the contact form letting me know.

Day 1 of A beard for a baby.

Day 1 of A beard for a baby.

15 Reasons to start your business TODAY

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1. Job security is a falsehood

Lets get something straight; there is now such thing as job security? I worked a government job for six years and saw plenty of lay offs during that time. My dad worked for a company for 25 years only to see his retirement (invested in stock) disappear when the company came to a near halt. He just happened to be the only one in the plant to keep his job. He was transferred to a new plant in Mexico, and three years later the company was bought up. He didn’t stick around to see what happened. It just goes to show; job security really does not exist. It doesn’t matter how secure you think your job is, it can disappear in the blink of an eye.

2. There is never a perfect time

For years I worked a traditional 9 to 5 job, hating every minute of it. I kept waiting for the perfect time to break into the world of freelance, but the truth is, that time was never going to come. Like many people, I was waiting for the stars and moon to align at some magical moment where it was crystal clear; this is the moment to start your business. Well, give it up, that moment is never going to occur. You will always sit around waiting for it, so get up and do something! Now is the time to launch your business.

3. Raising Capital has never been easier

With websites like Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites it has never been easier to raise the startup capital needed to launch your new idea. As long as you have a great product, service, or idea you have a good chance at having a successful project, just as long as you invest plenty of time into the project.

4. Starting a business creates jobs, many times over

Okay, it may seem obvious. You start a business, you hire employees, it creates job. But in reality this happens many times over. Once you start a business you are going to in turn boost cash flow for other companies you are purchasing from, thus causing them to grow and hire more staff. And who knows, one of your team members might move on to start another venture and repeat what you have done.

5. You have an idea, and it solves a problem

Chances are you are fully capable of providing a service somebody wants. Or you have solved a problem in an existing industry. You would be doing the world an injustice by not bringing your product or service to market. If your idea has met your own need, chances are it will meet the needs of masses.

6. Independent Freedom

Ahh freedom! Say goodbye to two weeks paid vacation and 12 paid Holidays a year. If you own your own business, you set your own schedule! Granted, this isn’t a cakewalk. You are going to have to hustle, and might even forgo some vacation days in the start. But in the long run you control your own schedule, and life becomes more flexible. Want to live in Colorado for the summer? Need your mornings free to train for a triathlon? Well, you’re the boss, do what you want!

7. Empower others

By starting your own business you are going to inspire others to do the same. Others will also ask you for help when they are starting their business. It’s a wonderful opportunity for you to develop your leadership skills and help the economy grow through the power of influence.

8. Create your own destiny

No longer do you have to slave away for “the man” and hope you get a promotion and a raise. If you run your own business you control how much you make. Keep in mind, you might not make as much as you would like to start, but who ever said starting a business was easy and wouldn’t require some sacrifice?

9. It becomes a platform to promote your personal convictions

I’m a huge advocate for sustainability and organic farming. These values can be seen in my business. Likewise your business can become a megaphone for whatever cause you truly believe in. There has been an increase in the number of companies that are tied in to a social cause. That isn’t for everybody, but owning your own business helps you reach more people with whatever message you want to proclaim.

10. Everybody else is afraid

Lets face it, many people are afraid to start their own business. Don’t be that person. Jump on in – the water is fine! And while everybody else is still dipping their toes in the water you are swimming ahead, leaving the would-be competition in your wake (if there is even a wake left by the time they catch up).

11. You will never work harder, and be more successful

Hate your current job? Well you can kiss a promotion goodbye. Chances are if you are stuck in a job you hate you will never succeed. I speak from experience (8 years of it). But once you find something you are truly passionate about, you will work harder than you ever have, and that hard work, persistence and dedication will equate to success. Hard work, boring work, and monotonous work will no longer be drudgery when it is focused on building something you care about with all your being.

12. People love a good story

Take Sweat Leaf Tea for example. Although owned by Coca-Cola now, they have a story to tell. They started out making tea in a garage with pillowcases. Similarly Clif bar started out of a disdain for the only other energy bar available at the time. It was started in the founders’ mother’s kitchen. People latch onto stories and want to support it because it’s human. Perhaps we all have a bit of entrepreneur in us just waiting to come out.

13. You are only getting older

This ties back into, “there is never a perfect time.” Stop saying, I will start my business when I’m ___ years old or have ___ years of experience. Start now! Experience doesn’t matter…..

14. Experience doesn’t matter

Yeah, I said it twice, and I will say it again, “Experience doesn’t matter”. When I launched Bearded Brothers, neither Chris or I knew jack about food manufacturing, distributors, gross profit margin, or what was even required by the FDA and local health department, but we didn’t let that stop us. We learned what we needed to do to launch, and continued to learn as we went along. We are still learning today. Don’t use lack of experience as an excuse; if you care enough you will learn what has to be done.

15. You want to do this

If you have read this far chances are you really want to start your own business, or already have. So, do what you want to do. Life is short, and if running your own business is your true hearts desire, then go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you fail! And if you do, it’s not the end of the world, just pick yourself back up and start something else.

Every business needs a competitor

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The two competing energy bar companies in Austin!

The two competing energy bar companies in Austin!

You have probably heard it said, competition is good for business. Well I completely agree, and I have several reasons for why this is true.

1. Competitors inspire you to greatness. Right when Bearded Brothers was in the middle of the planning stages (an organic, raw, vegan energy bar company) another LOCAL, raw, vegan energy bar popped up in town. My first reaction was, “NOOOOO”. How can this be? I had been working hard for the past couple months nailing down suppliers, looking for kitchen space, and developing the brand. And now there was already a local competitor on the scene.

They weren’t the first either. Prior to Thunderbird Energetica was Baraka Bar. They were closer to the product we were planning to offer, but seemed to be going by the wayside. Sure enough, by the time we launched they were nowhere to be found. But Thunderbird was already growing fast and already had been in negotiations with Whole Foods before we landed our first retail account.

What this did was inspire us to step up our game. The flavors of bars we had been thinking of were mediocre and our branding was pretty lame. The flavors Thunderbird offered sounded appealing, so much so I rushed to their first store just to pick up a bar and try one for myself. Knowing we had another local company to compete with in addition to the already crowded energy bar market prompted us to step up our game, develop better flavors, and think outside the box with our branding.

2. You can also learn from their growth. Having started about the same time as Thunderbird we have been able to watch them grow. Although we don’t know all the intimate details of the growing pangs they experienced we were able to learn a lot through their own blog, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We had a good idea of what a sustainable growth rate would be by watching them. We also read about the story of Clif Bar in the book Raising the Bar. The growth Clif was able to achieve was truly inspiring, and even more inspiring was the passing up of a $120MM sale of the company. Watching others grow helps combat doubts lingering in the back of the mind. But, be careful not to let your competitor’s growth increase doubts or discourage you because you are growing slower.

Remember every company grows at different rates, and just because one company is growing faster doesn’t mean they are better off. It may be easy to have a grass is greener mentality, but you never know how far in debt a competitor might be, or how much equity they have sold, etc. In my opinion you are better off to grow slower, have little to zero debt, and give away very little, if any equity. Look at Clif Bar, the company is 100% owned by two individuals.

3. Your competition becomes a measuring stick to tell why your product is the best. For example, Thunderbird’s products are raw, vegan, and mostly organic. But we wanted our products to be different. All of our bars are 100% organic (or close to it). We also created a bar larger than most on the market to provide more calories and simple carbs to fuel active individuals. Additionally we sought out to disclose which ingredients were not truly raw (heated above 115 degrees). Both Thunderbird and Bearded Brothers offer compostable wrappers, but our bars offer a resealable pouch (so you can eat half the bar now and save the rest for later), something no other energy bar offers. All of these things essentially become key selling points to the product.

4. Competitors can inspire each other to transform the entire industry. When we first launched Bearded Brothers we had no idea compostable wrappers were an option in the bar category, even though we had seen a few other food companies use compostable packaging. Part of our reasoning behind the resalable pouches was to encourage reuse.

Being a company that is advocating sustainability we couldn’t pass up the possibility of switching to a compostable wrapper, but we also wanted to maintain the resalable pouch that many of our customers liked. After a lot of searching we found a company that was able to produce the compostable package for us with the resalable feature. We became the first consumer packaged good to offer a product that was resealable and compostable. But without companies like Thunderbird and Boulder Valley Chips, we would likely still be using our natural kraft packages that we started with.

Our hope is that other companies will follow in the footsteps of Thunderbird and us.

5. Competition keeps you on your toes. Without competition in the market you aren’t likely to provide great services and products to your customers. Think about cable and phone companies; most towns only have a couple of options, some only have one. The result is horrible service! If you have ever tried to dispute a bill or call about a disruption in services you know what I mean.

Having a competitor means you have to always be on our A game. You have to care about your customers, respond to their emails, engage them in meaningful ways, and provide them with products that are superior to the rest of the market.

So don’t let your competition scare you. Let them inspire you to become better. Also, be yourself! To quote Ben Folds, “There is always someone cooler than you”. If you aren’t being yourself you will never be cool to anybody. It can be tempting to become something you are not just to grow your company, but your customers want you to be genuine – that will win over cool factor any day. If you focus on what you do best as a company the growth will follow naturally (and at a sustainable rate).

Don’t waste your time with a business plan

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No Business Plan

Say no to business plans!

Are you in the process of starting a business or thinking about it? One of my best pieces of advice to you is don’t waste your time on a business plan.

This defies common logic, but after all, a business plan is just a giant guess. The financials are a guess, the projections are a guess, the rate of growth is a guess, and it rarely ever pans out how you plan it.

When I started Bearded Brothers I projected I would start paying myself within 6 months, that never happened. It took two years before I was able to take a salary. The rate of stores I thought we would acquire per month was also far fetched.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to just jump right out there and start a business without doing any research or knowing anything about the market. I’m simply saying book sized business plans are a frivolous endeavor. Most people that write their plan simply write it and never return to it.

Your time is better spent refining your brand, perfecting your product and actual action steps to make your business go live. Time wasted scribbling down your guess work is only going to delay your launch and slow you down.

I do believe there are a hand full of key things you should be aware of before you launch.

Profit Margin
Do some basic industry research to make sure you are selling your product for enough money to keep the doors of your business open. Also, don’t confuse markup with Gross Profit Margin. I made this mistake early on. Markup is rarely used. Gross Profit Margin will let you know how much money you have left to operate your business (for every dollar you make) after you pay for materials and production.

Overall Industry
Make sure you have a basic knowledge of the overall industry. How big is the market? Will you even be able to become a key player?

Product
Make sure you have an excellent product. Does your product address a need that isn’t currently met by the market? If so, you stand a much greater chance of success. Branding is also key to having a successful product or service. If you have an awesome product growth will come organically.

Time
Many people will tell you it’s going to take you twice as long to get your business started as you think. I would say, “double that”. And, do the same to the amount of time you think it’s going to take you to get paid. You need time to launch a product or service, so make sure you are ready to live lean until the time comes you can actually pay yourself.

MVG
No business is complete without at least having a mission, a vision, and a set of goals to work towards. Without these you have no purpose. Technically these are part of a business plan, but you don’t need to spend endless hours slaving over the. Keep them simple, but keep them real.