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This Entrepreneur Discovered a Multimillion-Dollar Business Idea When He Got Stranded in the Gobi Desert

Matt Scanlan, co-founder and CEO of Naadam Cashmere, takes us on his wild journey from an unemployed tourist in Mongolia to the head of a multimillion-dollar company.

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Matt Scanlan, co-founder and CEO of Naadam Cashmere, takes us on his wild journey from an unemployed tourist sitting in dive bar to the head honcho of a multimillion-dollar company. Don't miss this harrowing tale filled with goat milk vodka cocktails, motorcycle rides and a bold business plan set on the dusty stage of the Gobi Desert.

Matt Scanlan
  • [00:00:00] Millennials Discover Multimillion-Dollar Venture
  • [00:06:01] Stranded in the Gobi Desert Without a Plan
  • [00:11:30] Goat's Milk Vodka and the Kindness of Strangers
  • [00:18:20] Raising Raw Materials Costs to Lower Bottom Line
  • [00:26:37] Matt Scanlan Says, "Don't Fake It ‘Til You Make It"
  • [00:33:21] Coming Soon for Naadam Cashmere

Related: How to Protect Your Company's Most Valuable Asset

Discover more about segments and guests below ...

[00:00:00] Millennials Discover Multimillion-Dollar Venture

When a couple of 20-something travelers got stranded in a rural corner of Mongolia, they discovered a business prospect that would change their lives and disrupt a millennia old industry. Returning a few short years later with $3 million cash in an unprotected SUV, Naadam Cashmere co-founder and CEO Matt Scanlan and his business partner bet big on cashmere (100 tons of raw materials, big). We learn how the audacious entrepreneur went from a perpetually troubled student to textile mogul.

[00:06:01] Stranded in the Gobi Desert Without a Plan

Scanlan ditched his sterile New York City office to journey more than 6,000 miles around the world to Mongolia. He had no travel plan, not even a place to hang his hat after a grueling 38-hour flight. A chance encounter at a local bar led to a morning drive to "the countryside." After nearly a full day of driving, the car broke down. Scanlan and his travel mates found themselves stranded in the belly of the Gobi Desert. 

[00:11:30] Goat's Milk Vodka and the Kindness of Strangers

Scanlan and his Naadam Cashmere co-founder, Diederik Rijsemus, were marooned in a rural Outer Mongolia village. As the two travelers sipped fermented goat's milk, they began to grasp the reality of their situation; it would be nearly a month before they could return to the city. They had no extra clothing, no food and no cash. The weeks passed, and Scanlan and Rijsemus became increasingly aware of the economic disparity between the goat herders and cashmere buyers. They realized that in order to make a significant impact on the nomadic community that selflessly cared for them, they would need to shatter the traditional supply chain and jettison the greedy middlemen. Listen in as Scanlan describes the overwhelming and transformative experience.

[00:18:20] Raising Raw Materials Costs to Lower Bottom Line

With a Toyota Land Cruiser loaded floor to ceiling with $3 million in cold hard cash, Scanlan and Rijsemus set off to buy 100 tons of cashmere in the Gobi Desert. After bribing local auctioneers to raise the bidding price of the raw material, they were able to cut out traders, increase the profits of herders by approximately 40 percent, save consumers money on a luxury product and still manage to turn a profit. Scanlan explains how Naadam's savvy and sustainable supply chain catapulted the company to over $8 million in revenue by the close of year two. Plus, find out why Scanlan and Rijsemus feel the name Naadam, which literally translates to "games," perfectly encapsulates their brand.

[00:26:37] Matt Scanlan Says, "Don't Fake it ‘Til You Make It"

Explosive business growth inherently involves a steep learning curve. Scanlan echoes this sentiment as he recounts the most costly mistakes he made while launching Naadam Cashmere. Find out why Scanlan no longer subscribes to the "fake it until you make it" philosophy and shares his single most important lesson: Know when you should ask for help.

[00:33:21] Coming Soon for Naadam Cashmere

What's next for Naadam Cashmere? Scanlan divulges his long-term goals for the disruptive company, and outlines details of the heavy expansion to come within the next year. Learn how a strong value proposition and brand identity could make Naadam a household name.

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