Last Thursday and Friday I spent over 16-hours on Zoom. Now, ordinarily, that would be the start of a “woe is me” type article, but not in this case. I feel blessed that I was able to do so. Yes, my butt was a bit tired of sitting. Fortunately, my wife saved the day with a quick purchase on Amazon of a seat cushion.
Why was I “blessed” to have spent that many hours staring at little boxes of faces on a computer screen? Because those boxes were filled with the people that make this industry amazing.
The Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute became a virtual event last week. Thanks to the efforts of Gary and his team, Carlene, Lisa, Alex, Julie, Antonio, and others, our community was able to still have one of its most important gatherings of the year.
At this weird moment in time, to have so many of the industry’s entrepreneurs, investors, and sages come together was vital. It was an opportunity to share what is known while simultaneously accepting that we are all dealing with not knowing, with uncertainty.
I took away a few new tidbits and confirmed others, some of which I’d like to share below:
- No doubt, the Natural Products Industry is the best place to ride out this storm.
- As Andy Whitman says, “Cash is king,” and the king’s reign is going to last for a long time.
- Founders must know their numbers like the back of their hands. It is all about cash flow and waterfalls.
- You better have a strong “Why”. You’ll need it to have the necessary perseverance, and your consumers must understand it if you want them to buy.
- We’ll need to rethink how we drive discovery and trial. Finding creative ways to move closer to where the problem solved is most pronounced, or the need filled most acute will be a must.
- You must be both DTC and BTB eComm enabled. There is a seed change here, and it presents a democratized opportunity for young brands.
- Branding is the activity of aligning what consumers believe about you and what you want them to believe. Therefore, storytelling is everything. Consumers eat stories, so yours better be compelling.
- Capital-efficiency is the new velocity. The ratio of capital to revenue will be the single most significant predictor of long term viability.
- The funding gap between friends and family and institutional money is a real challenge for our industry. We need to recruit more active angels.
- Retail and eCommerce are not two different channels. They are part of the consumer continuum, and leveraging both effectively will be crucial.
- The ability to innovate, test, fail fast, and adjust is a must.
- The unicorns shouldn’t be celebrated, the tardigrades should. The industry should be championing entrepreneurs who build nimble, capital-efficient, resilient brands, and not just those who have a big exit.
I could keep adding bullet points, but I think these are the ones that provide the most immediate and actionable insight. My two days at HEI inspired me. I am not going to bullshit you, things are tough. Yet, at the same time, I feel like the bandaid has been ripped off, and overdue changes have arrived. I am excited by what that means long term for this industry. Again, my sincerest thanks to Gary and the team. Bringing this event to us at this moment in time, using a word that he and I would understand, was a mitzvah.
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Elliot Begoun is the Founder of TIG, a 1:1 customized program focused on helping emerging natural product brands grow. TIG works with its entrepreneurs to build nimble, capital-efficient, resilient brands, tardigrades not unicorns. Catch him at FoodBytes, the Hirshberg Entrepreneurship Institute, the Natural Products Business School, and find his articles in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and New Hope.