Thoughts from a food entrepreneur
This article was written by KRAVE’s Mr. Sebastiani and has been re-published with his permission.
Over the course of rapidly building KRAVE and eventually selling to The Hershey Company, I’ve learned a number of simple, but sure-fire lessons, and wanted to share my Top 10 Thoughts on what it took for the team to achieve success. While I am not one to climb onto a soapbox and pretend that I have all the answers, I think these thoughts and lessons are applicable to any entrepreneur or emerging brand.
1. Relentless Hours….and Lovin’ It. You’d better be prepared to work your butt off, because one thing you can count on, is that your competition will. Too often we undermine the simple reality that the quantity of effort put into your business makes a material difference. You need to be prepared to ‘leave everything you got on the field of play.’
2. Blindingly Obvious Differentiation. Your product’s differentiation must be blatantly clear to the common consumer – otherwise it’s all too easy to get lost in the sea of confusion. You have no more than twenty seconds to grab the attention of a buyer when sharing your vision, so make it bold and impactful.
3. Cash. While on the one hand, it’s critical to be prepared to bootstrap your young company for as long as you can to preserve your equity, on the other you must make sure there is sufficient capital when the ‘hockey-stick’ trajectory begins.
4. No Win Is Too Small. Every win is a win! You must become a ‘spin doctor’ and scream to the marketplace when your brand experiences a victory. In large part, the marketplace as a whole is often fearful and hesitant to take risks on new brands, and so properly positioning these positive data points mitigates the risk borne by a buyer/media/investor.
5. The Team. Pick your team wisely. If you’re the founder, make sure the early team complements your leadership style and talent scope. There’s not enough time to have overlapping skill sets, and it’s key to hire a team with the talent you need. And don’t be afraid to pay what it takes to bring the right talent onboard! This is not an area in your business to cut corners.
6. Stay Hungry. I’ve found that I have an insatiable appetite for growth and success, and am never quite satisfied. The drive of ‘enough is never enough’ can be lonely and exhausting, but time and time again it has been proven to me that it pays off.
7. Relentless Focus. Choose who you are and what you are — and remain steadfast with your focus. Being stretched in too many areas can lead to the failure of an entire venture.
8. Question Everything. Challenge the status quo in the marketplace and take risks. Every industry norm, consumer habit, buyer assumption, etc is ready for improvement. Developing the skill to ‘see the vision of innovation; begins challenging the norm every day. Complacency is the enemy of the entrepreneur and emerging brand.
9. Agility. Small companies can beat large established companies by being agile and nimble. Embrace the unknown, welcome fear as a friend — and TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
10. Remain Willing. Take that first step, and don’t worry too much about the length of the journey. The hardest part about running a marathon is taking that initial stride. Show up at the start-line, push the fear to the side, and enjoy the race!
I hope you all find these thoughts beneficial. It’s been crucial for me to remain humble, as my career and life have progressed, so I urge you to share some of your top tips or lessons learned with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you and continue the conversation.