How I Grew My Startup From My Kitchen to a Multimillion-Dollar Business
In 2017, only 38 percent of small businesses reported revenue growth, according to Statista. And that's the strongest growth rate seen all decade. Most small companies stay small because growing a business is hard.
Trust me; I've spent the past 13 years growing my business, hint. But it's not impossible. My company began in 2005 as just me playing around in my kitchen with fruit and water. Today, it's a multimillion-dollar business. During that journey, I learned five key lessons about growing a business.
1. Have a mission.
Let's face it; nobody grows up dreaming of selling bottled water. But my business is not just about that. Our mission is to make America healthier. That's what attracts the ambitious and driven people who work for me, as well as those who buy our products.
Take the time to develop a clear and simple purpose and vision for your business. If people feel like they're part of something important, it provides the impetus for growth.
2. Oil the machine.
To grow, you need to be able to scale what you do efficiently. I invested in technology to automate and enhance areas like inventory management and consumer insights. I also began to hire people for key back-end roles and improved how we ran projects.
Investing in systems, people and processes to keep all the basic elements of your business running smoothly will ensure you're ready to take advantage when the conditions for growth are ripe.
3. Gamble with what you have.
Our core customers are fiercely loyal, and I knew we could do more with them. Against the advice of our investors, we set up our own online shop so customers could buy products directly from us. The result was more profit, as we had cut out the retailers and added a new subscription-based revenue model. In less than two years, direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales made up one-third of our business.
Main revenue growth strategy for 40 percent of small businesses is improving existing customer experience and retention, according to a survey by Wasp Barcode Technologies. The people who currently pay for your product or service represent your clearest path to growth, so figure out how you can do more for them.
4. Expand your horizons.
A bonus of selling DTC is that you suddenly have a lot more data about your audience. We discovered that many of our core customers worked at big tech companies that provided healthy drinks and snacks as employee benefits. After contacting these organizations, our products are now stocked in the fridges at Apple, Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as hospitals and college campuses across the country.
How can you reach your target customers in bigger, better ways? Expanding your horizons beyond the typical way your product or service is sold or marketed can have a major impact on growth.
5. Do something different.
Last year, we started producing fruit-based sunscreens. Adding a cosmetic product to our range of beverages has given us a new revenue stream, while also allowing us to access new markets and discover a fresh audience for our original products.
Diversification is not only a smart way to grow a company, but it also makes your business stronger and less vulnerable to market shifts. Sure, it's a risk, but if your timing is right and you ensure your new product or service fits with your overall mission, doing something different is a way of overcoming barriers to growth in your existing market.
Grow away from the day-to-day.
Growth doesn't happen by accident. You have to plan for it and be ready to take any opportunities when they happen. That usually means taking a step back from some of the day-to-day needs of a startup like developing products, working with suppliers and meeting wholesalers.
To ensure you're focused on growth, try and spend at least a couple of hours a week on the above growth strategies. Work on your business as well as in your business, and you'll grow way beyond your kitchen table origins.