About this episode

My guest this week is Ryan Lewendon, partner at the Law Firm Giannuzzi Lewendon.

We will be talking about all things CPG…and Ryan’s experience in this space is immense! He has worked on deals with Vitamin Water, Pirate’s Booty, Pretzel Crisps, Siggy’s Yogurt, Vita Coco, Essential Water, and even Schmidt’s Naturals which you might remember from our interview with Jaime Schmidt shortly after she sold her brand to Unilever.

All that to say, Ryan knows a thing or two about the CPG space and that is the knowledge sharing that is going to take place today. This entire episode is all about the CPG…so let’s get started!

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • How plant-based diets are changing from being something you do to survive to now thrive.
  • Ryan shares how people are looking to unwind particularly in the pandemic, but wanting to avoid the after effect of alcohol.
  • Ryan shares how he thinks the next big trend is going to be personalized wellness, as more people are looking for efficacy in multifactor products that will get them the most for their money.
  • How using data and analysis to develop products that are narrowly tailored to the consumers.
  • Ryan shares how the next generation of targeted ads are going to be more personal to the consumer through the amount of data that is collected online.
  • Ryan explains the importance of launching your company from a strong foundation and the things you need and don’t need when starting a CPG company.
  • How founders should build a team that compliments their weaknesses.
  • How you should build contracts slowly to avoid a little mistake could cripple your business and reputation.
  • Ryan shares how Founder burnout is real and maintaining a work life balance is important to avoid this.
  • Ryan explains that founders should remind themselves of why they started their business when times are hard.
  • How founding a company is a marathon not a sprint.
  • Ryan explains why it is important to do a self diagnostic about the company before selling it, as you can fix problems to be more desirable to buyers.
  • Understand why it is important to Identify the founder's involvement to help a smooth transition.
  • How you can identify who you want to buy your company.
  • Ryan explains what makes a brand a high target value for an acquisition.

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Episode transcript

James McKinney: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The Startup Story, and this is NOT your normal episode. This week, we will be talking all things related to CPG.

  • Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story. *

[00:33]

James McKinney: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The Startup Story. Before we jump into this week's episode I have to ask you a single question: how valuable would it be to have direct access to some of the past guests that I've had on my show to learn exactly how they executed certain strategies to grow their business? I have to believe it would be extremely helpful to your entrepreneurial journey. As someone who has access to these founders, I can tell you first hand it is very helpful, and I want to make it available to you. In fact, that is the experience and knowledge sharing that is delivered to you each quarter when you become a Grindology member. Grindology is an entrepreneurial subscription box that ships every quarter full of resources to help fuel your grind and your hustle.

Now, you might be asking what's included in a Grindology shipment? Well first and foremost, every single Grindology shipment will include a copy of the Grindology tactical manual. Every single issue of Grindology will be chock full of real tactics from real business builders, not journalists. Within the pages of the Grindology tactical manual we will be delivering to you tactics and strategies that you can integrate into your business immediately. How great would it be to receive real Facebook ad strategies from those who are doing it? Wouldn't it be helpful if a successful founder laid out specific user acquisition strategies that they use to grow their business? Well, those are the types of tactics that will be found in each issue of Grindology. Like I said, real tactics from real business builders.

In addition to the Grindology tactical manual, each shipment delivers two bags of uniquely crafted coffee specifically roasted for you, the founder, the hustler, the entrepreneur, maker, and creator. Each shipment also includes an exclusive mug that speaks to the unique nature that is you, the entrepreneur. Everything about Grindology is about helping to fuel your grind. In fact, that is exactly why our friends at Design Pickle have partnered with us for our first box. Yep, our homies at Design Pickle are hooking up one lucky subscriber with one full year of unlimited graphic design services. That is a $12,000 prize. Like I said earlier, everything I do is about helping you in your entrepreneurial journey so visit grindology.com to learn more. Our Q1 box and the chance to win the Design Pickle package valued at close to $12,000 is an exclusive shipment so make sure to secure your box today at grindology.com. We'll always include a link in the show notes so that you have easy access to grindology.com. Now let's jump into this week's episode.

My guest this week is Ryan Lewendon, partner at the law firm Giannuzzi Lewendon. Now, before you start scrolling to another episode because you really don't want to hear from a lawyer, let me tee this one up for you. See, I get hit up a ton by lawyers and coaches to be on the show, and I mean a ton. I always say no though because The Startup Story of both of those doesn't really appeal to me. But when Ryan's publicist hit me up she emailed me telling me the value of interviewing this person long before she revealed that he was an attorney, so I was interested, I was already hooked.

That said, we will not be discussing Ryan's journey to starting his law firm. We will be talking about all things CPG, and Ryan's experience in this space is immense. He has worked on deals with Vitamin Water, Pirates Booty, Pretzel Crisps, Siggi's Yogurt, Vita Coco, Essential Water, and even Schmidt's Naturals which you might remember for our interview with Jaime Schmidt shortly after she sold her brand to Unilever. All that to say Ryan knows a thing or two about the CPG space and that is the knowledge sharing that is going to take place today. This entire episode is all about the CPG, so let's get started.

[04:04]

James McKinney: You have a ton of expertise in the CPG space. You represented some of the most incredible brands out there. And so when it comes to helping my entrepreneurial audience understand what are some trends that you see, I really can't think of a better expert than someone like yourself to understand where we've been and what we're going to see. So can you share with my audience what are some trends we're going to see in the CPG space?

[04:27]

Ryan Lewendon: Yeah, absolutely. Sure thing, James, and thanks for having me. The first trend I talk about in the year ahead is plant based. That should like, plant based the trend should come as no surprise to everyone. It's something that for years has been sort of gaining into the public consciousness. Beyond Meats IPO and now Oatly's IPO has certainly sort of brought to the forefront of business as well as people's dinner plans. Although, I will say in the past couple years plant based, the thoughts around plant based, has sort of shifted from something you do just to survive to something you can do to really thrive.

So you've got athletes out there like Tom Brady and Chris Paul who've adopted these plant based diets, and are crediting it to rejuvenating their athletic careers. So people are sort of, first they're looking at these diets as something that can really be beneficial to them in terms of elongating their life or elongating their athletic careers, or really improving where they are. And then you've also got a lot of products out there, a lot of innovation out there, that's developing new and better ways, better tasting ways and better functioning ways to get plant based.

There's companies like KOYA which is plant based, protein shakes, smoothies, other drinkable sort of athletic based benefits, but it's all plant based. Before your options were like Muscle Milk which was dairy based, or a whey protein or an animal protein. This is a plant based alternative that tastes great and has no sort of animal products in it whatsoever. You also have things like companies like From the Ground Up, where they've taken traditional plant based form factors like grains and rice for things like tortilla chips and pretzels, and they've replaced it with cauliflower and butternut squash, and generally better for you plant based products. You're finding this proliferation of the plant based sort of product offerings that are becoming better for you, different form factors, and still great tasting. So I think there's a lot of room to run there on that trend for the upcoming year.

[06:41]

James McKinney: That's interesting. What else are you seeing?

[06:43]

Ryan Lewendon: One of my personal areas of interest is better for you imbibing. So the pandemic, it has obviously given everybody sort of a reason to have a beverage or something to unwind at the end of the day while we've been working from home and trying to relax from home. You've seen it. Everyone is reaching for a wine glass, working out with the wine bottles. Imbibing has been sort of more of a part of our lives in some ways than it has been pre pandemic. But I've also found that the pandemic sort of exacerbated some of the trends. While people are looking to unwind and imbibe, they're also looking for ways to keep themselves healthier and safer while they're doing so.

Looking for things like products that might be imbibing but also sort of have benefits. It might be probiotic, it might be a better product, it might be lower calorie, lower sugar. Those are trends that have sort of been trending for the past couple of years, but I think were accelerated by the pandemic where people are equally as worried about imbibing as they are about their health and keeping their immunity up. You've got a company like Flying Embers which offers an array of products like hard kombucha, probiotic seltzer. They came out with a beer that's low calorie, low carb, low sugar, but also infused with ashwagandha and some other functional type mushrooms to sort of enhance that imbibing experience. People want that sort of multi factor experience from imbibing these days.

In addition to functional alcohol, people are looking for no and low ABV ways to unwind. So that might be something sessionable, meaning that you can drink a lot of them without having a ton of alcohol in there, like a company like Haus. Or something like with no alcohol like a Hop Wtr or something like a Kin that's got no alcohol in it but has adaptogens or other things like ashwagandha or gaba or kava that are meant to sort of give you a relaxing mood without sort of the hangover from the alcohol.

[08:54]

James McKinney: You know it's interesting, just the idea of a healthier drink. Drinking in and of itself is not usually categorized as healthy in any way, shape, or form. Yet we're trying to solve that problem. That's what I love about entrepreneurship is that someone out there thought I want to keep on drinking, how do I make this healthy? And I love it. So what's the last trend you're seeing in the CPG scene?

[09:19]

Ryan Lewendon: Yeah. And just the last point on the healthiness, I don't think any of the imbibing stuff is healthy, but it's healthier for you. People are looking for degrees of how can I do less harm to myself, how can I minimize the after effects of the good time that I'm having. But yeah, I think look, people want more bang for their buck out of everything, and that would take me in some ways to the sort of last trend. This trend is a macro trend, I think is going to be one of the biggest and most far reaching for the years ahead, and that's personalized wellness.

Over the past years, everybody is looking like I said more bang for your buck out of your product. People are looking for efficacy. They want CBD in your deodorant to relax you while also sort of helping you smell good after a workout. You want multi factor things. And people realized as they're sort of getting more into bio hacking that they're considering their own genome, their biome, and how that interacts with different products. Consumers have become aware that not all one size products fit everyone the same or react to everyone the same, so there have become lots more products out there that are more narrowly tailored to people. That might be from taking a blood glucose monitor to help develop a line of supplements, which is going to help you recover from workout better.

It might be something like a company like No Beauty which is unitizing your geography, a test about what your lifestyle is like, and then a genome test to help develop and pair the best types of skincare regime for you. So there's people are using data and analysis, macro and micro data, to help develop more target, more efficacious products to consumers. That's really filling a desire from the consumer end. But as that technology improves I think that proliferation of products is going to expand. 20 years from now basically everything we consume will have some aspect of it that is more narrowly tailored to our specific biome and the way we process things.

[11:36]

James McKinney: It's amazing when you think about data and how it's used. Last week we had Elizabeth Grojean, the founder of Baloo Living, who knew she wanted to create an ecommerce channel but didn't know what she wanted to sell. So she leveraged the data that Amazon provides to show what our search quantities and what's hot, how many providers are there. She was able to identify weighted blankets as an opportunity, and she's blown up since. When I think of our Facebook ads, the amount of data Facebook has that we can now cater our advertising to. And then I think of something like 23 and Me which is gathering your DNA, and it's a data set. I wonder when we have all these various data sets, the things that we can accomplish. Because when I think of the idea of tailored products, whether it be thee CBD deodorant or whether it be a certain allergenic free element of cookie or whatever the case may be, if we have access to what population are experiencing these allergies, we can then create products based on the solution. It's almost like this Amazon, 23 and Me, and then with Facebook knowing who to market to, it can get extremely tailored and extremely precise.

[12:50]

Ryan Lewendon: Oh yeah. I mean first, I think 23 and Me I think in a lot of ways is going to be the backbone of that sort of personalized or intelligent wellness, just because it's the biggest data base that we've got out there sort of DNA gathering. But yeah, as that expands and as that sort of grows, this is going to be the next generation of targeted ads. "Hey James, we've heard that you digest sunflower… you don't digest it that well. Here's an alternative for you that'll get you the same prebiotic effect but without all the digestion issues." That's sort of that next generation of targeted ads. The more data companies can gather on us and the more sort of granular they can get, the more sort of targeted they can give us. And from a consumer, it does mean sort of more efficacious product offerings, and maybe a little bit less searching and a little less discovery for certain products and getting to that end result that you're looking for a little bit quicker.

[13:55]

James McKinney: That's unbelievable. I love data, absolutely love it. So for those who are in agreement with you that these are some incredible opportunities in the CPG space, or maybe for the listener who is already moving on a CPG brand, what are some advice or tips or tactics you would give to those who are pursuing a startup in the CPG space?

[14:16]

Ryan Lewendon: You know, so my practice is built working with companies at every stage of the lifecycle. I've taken a lot of companies basically from when they were just starting to all the way, every step of the way through their sale of the company. So I've seen companies, a lot of successful companies like Vitamin Water and Pirate's Booty, and Happy Baby sort of start and finish. Just from that experience there's a number of things almost everybody can do to set themselves up for success when you're a startup. The first is launching from a strong foundation. There's things, identifying the things you need for your company and the things you don't. almost universally if you're in CPG you're going to need to own your recipe, you're going to need to own your trademark, you're going to need to own your trade dress.

Almost universally there's some things you won't need, like you won't need to own your own manufacturing facility. You won't need to own your own distributor to distribute your products. A lot of that stuff can be outsourced and is outsourced, and the market is outsourced. So knowing what you need and what you don't need, and the stuff that you do need making sure you have it. When you go to your co packer and you develop your product and you love it, having some delineation that oh this is my recipe, I get to own it, I get to keep it, I get to take it, it's not the manufacturers that I'm just sort of borrowing or licensing. Just making sure you have those things buttoned down, the foundation and bedrock of your brand. When a conglomerate goes to buy you or you do an IPO, people are going to be concerned about your IP, your sort of supply chain, distribution network, manufacturing plans and your marketing plans. Having all that and owning it, and having it sort of from the get go will set you up for success later on.

Some of those things if you don't have it, it's better off when you're early to just start over and restart. If you go out and you love a name, you go out to look at the trademark and there's somebody else with that trademark that's close to it, you're not going to be able to get it, find something else. Develop another name. When you're starting out, find something that is strong and that you can launch on, and you can build on. You can bring investors in and they can sort of carry on all the way through.

The second thing is to build around your weaknesses early on. Almost every founder comes from one product area. Like you're either a finance person or a marking person or an opportunities person. And they have that set of sort of strands that they absolutely know up and down, and then they have a lot of weaknesses because they don't have a lot of experience there. The marketing person probably doesn't know ops or finance as well as marketing obviously, and vice versa. So find a team of advisors to put around you. Whether that's your early employees or whether that's advisors, board advisors or lawyers or consultants or even manufacturing partners, distribution partners, find somebody who really knows what they're doing and that subset of your business better than you and almost anybody else, and partner with them, develop to sure off those issues. Because putting people around you that complement your weaknesses, and fill in your weaknesses, early on will help you avoid lots and lots of missteps early.

That's the third thing. When you're starting out you want to contract as carefully as you can. When you're small, the little mistakes have big complications on it. When you're small, a small misstep can be crippling to your business. When you're big and you have sort of lots of volume, and you have lots of cash behind you, and you have a cache and you have a reputation, you have consumer loyalty, make a little mistake here or there and it gets swept under the rug. When you're small and you're trying to prove yourself, one misstep, letting one account down, raising money telling them you're going to do XYZ and not being able to deliver, all that stuff can be detrimental and sometimes fatal to your company. So contract very carefully with the people you put around yourself, the people you promise equity to. The people that you bring in initially to help you make the product or distribute it. Just be very careful about what you agree on early on. You have the least leverage then and has the most impact, the far reaching impact, on the company later on. So just enter into those very thoughtfully. The obvious inclination when you're starting out is to rush as fast as you can, but you've got to build those contracts very, very carefully and thoughtfully.

The fourth thing to do is honestly practice balance. So going back to moving as fast as you can as a founder, you're kind of moving at the speed of commerce, you're running on all cylinders at all time, and that is the founder life but burnout is real. Founder burnout is real. Like I said, I've worked with over 1,000 companies, from start to different stages of life cycle to finish, and this story is a marathon; it's not a sprint. Most founders don't sell their companies within five years. Most of them sell their companies within five to 10 years for more. So you want to make sure that you are maintaining yourself, internally, emotionally, physically, as well as growing the business. So taking time out to meditate, reflect, get your exercise in, that's all as important as sort of doing your sales calls and doing your initial investor pitches, and bringing all those things in. you've got to prioritize it so that you don't burn out.

And then the last thing almost all startups can do to sort of position themselves for success is take the time out every once in a while to remember why you're hear. Almost every founder started because of some passion, some matter that told them I'm going to quit my job, I'm going to take this risk, I'm going to mortgage my house, I'm going to move across the country, I'm going to take this risk to do something disruptive in this world, and there some motivation behind that and why you made that decision. And it's so easy while you're going through that startup life. It's a life of a lot of "no's". You're going to hear a lot of no before you hear yes. It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to take lots of advice from people that aren't doing what you've done, and say this is the way to do it, this is the way everybody does it, this is market. Lots of people say that in founding, "this is what market is." Well, if you're trying to disrupt things, why do you want to do what everybody else is doing? So taking time to remember why you're here, why you started that, resetting yourself on that passion that got you up out of bed and into this journey, making sure you sort of align with that every once in a while will keep you sort of on the right path.

[21:13]

James McKinney: I love it, and you're absolutely right. It is a true marathon. Unfortunately, the media headlines will have you believing it's a Field of Dreams model where if you build it they will come, and you can create an idea and sell within the first three years, and it's just not true. I think a lot of people, they jump into this marathon very much like it's a sprint and you're done within 18 months. But at the same time, as a founder we are very optimistic about what our startup is going to be. Our startup is going to be the disruptor of the industry. Our startup is going to be the next insert brand here, Apple, Google, whatever the case may be, Uber, Tesla. We're going to be huge, right? And so a lot of times we start with an exit in mind already. Whether that exit be a sale or whether it be an IPO, partially because when we're pitching to venture VCs want to know what is the exit plan. In their mind, that's where the money comes from, so it's like great.

Let me step back. That's not all ventures. Steve Jurvetson I had on the show, one of the early investors of Tesla and SpaceX says that is a question he never asks because more times than not people are playing the short game, and for him if you have an answer for an exit in 7 to 10 years, then your idea is not big enough and I'm not interested. I love his perspective. He's like don't come to me with an exit plan within 5 to 10 years; I'm looking at something that's 25 or 30 years down the road. That's how big and audacious your problem and solution is. But for our founders who are in this CPG space, because that's what we're focusing on for this episode, what would you suggest to them from a preparation now, and the beginning for a future exit whenever that may be?

[23:05]

Ryan Lewendon: Yeah, that's a great question. There's a few things to do here, James, that almost everybody in CPG can do. So first, when you're preparing to sell your brand, let's say you're two years out or more, one thing you want to start thinking about is making sure you've got enough runway to carry through the sale. Because look, not only do you want to sell the company, you want to sell it successfully and you want to sell it as a big win for you and your current shareholders, and your current investors, and all that. And one of the biggest defeats in terms of doing that for yourself is running out of money along the way through a sale. So make sure you are well enough capitalized.

Companies that have sort of runway for a year, 18 months, like when they're negotiating a sale they don't have to make concessions. They don't get taken advantage of. The leverage of the buyer doesn't impose on them. It's a lot of times when people are looking at a sale they say okay, I'm at a sale, I'm not going to need more money, I'll just stop all the fundraising side, I'll focus on the sale. And they get really low on cash reserves, and when you're at the closing table and you're coasting on fumes, and the buyer wants to sort of add a couple clauses, sometimes you have to take those. So first thing is make sure you've got enough runway to carry you through the sale, and ideally if the sale doesn't go through to continue on sort of next steps for the company. Re-up, re-plan, regroup and then go back out there.

Another thing you can do to help put in success for selling your brand in the future is do a diagnostic. Do a self diagnostic about the company, look for any issues, look for any loose ends, and tie those up ahead of time. It is one thing, a lot of founders think I'm going to sell my company, the buyer is going to take these problems, they'll fix them, it'll be someone else's problem, it'll be fine. And that very may well be the case, but if you have issues in your supply chain and your trademark, in your company in general, a lot of times the buyers will deduct that from purchase price. They will penalize you for some of those issues. Or sometimes depending on what the problem is, it might scare them away completely.

So do a presale diagnostic. Go in, look at your company top to bottom. Look at my work force. Look at my IP. Look at my agreements with my distributors, my brokers, my manufacturers. Make sure that like my top executives are all sort of aligned and incentivized with the company. Make sure all that is tight. Because what you're really doing with CPG companies, you're selling kind of a bundle of assets. Your workforce, your IP, your actual inventory, but also your distribution network. And each layer of that has got to be sort of in great shape in order to complete a sale. So taking two years ahead of time, focusing on those issues, taking the time out of your schedule to do that, that's going to put you in a much better position for success later on down the road.

[26:18]

James McKinney: I love it, love it.

[26:20]

Ryan Lewendon: Third thing you can do to really set yourself up for success is identify what you want your role to be going forward as the founder. A lot of founders think hey look, I want my role to be on a beach somewhere far away from the company after I sell, and that's totally fine if that's the case. But a lot of times a company when they buy you are going to need to know that. They're going to want to know that and the attractiveness of buying the company or not is going to depend a lot of times on what the founder's involvement is going to be. Especially big companies, they're not great at moving quick and a lot of times they might want you to stay on for 18 months at a minimum to sort of help transition things. So you have to decide before you get down the sale process what do I want from the rest of my life. Can I keep doing this for five years? Am I interested in sort of being the innovation arm at a big conglomerate? Do I want out of this completely? Decide who you want to be after you exit in relation to your brand, and sort of map that out. That's going to help you do the last thing you can do that will put you for success, and that's identify the perfect potential partner.

That's before you process. That's before you do a process, before you start speaking to people. Start identifying in your mind the perfect potential partner to sell your business to. Is it a multinational conglomerate? Is it a smaller sort of… a company that loves to grow profitable companies? Is it a company that has got lots of internal sort of beneficial social programs? What would be the best fit for your brand, your product, from your brand ethos and the type of product, and workforce? And start developing that separately in your mind. Then, when you're closer to sale you can take those categories or that makeup of your perfect potential sort of sale partner and you can look, and you can say well who is out there that identifies with these things? Who is out there that could be the match? That's going to help you identify people that could be a seamless, easy transition both from sort of a philosophical standpoint of the brand, but also sort of a nuts and bolts product side of the brand. If you already have that thought out, it's going to help you sort of parse through all the potential bad suitors. Because when you go to sell your brand, the distraction of selling your brand and running your brand at the same time is the mess, right? If you can sort of parse through the potential dead ends a lot easier, it's going to help that process exponentially.

[29:05]

Ryan Lewendon: Oh my goodness, what value. I'm going to ask a bonus question if you will, one that I know sometimes a lot of founders we hear about following the roadmap of someone ahead of us. We hear about follow the blueprint that another brand has set before us. But when it comes to entrepreneurship, man, it's such a squirrely journey. It is the smallest of variables can change the game greatly. I'm asking a question where I know there truly is no answer to, but from your experience what are some metrics that a CPG brand needs to be cognizant of to even be appealing for an acquisition? And I ask this question from the standpoint of… and again, I know there's no right answer to this, but there's ideas that can help our listeners understand. Is it distribution, how many stores are you in, how many countries are you selling to, what are your other channels? Is it the brand equity decision, how much brand equity do you have in the space and how do you measure that? Is it how much of the supply chain do you own internally, are you cooking it yourself versus an external? What are the things, from your experience, again your experience with the brand you've helped go through from beginning to exit, what are some things that will make a brand of high target value for an acquisition?

[30:41]

Ryan Lewendon: That's a great question, and obviously there's a lot of different factors and it differentiates. But here's a couple of factors that sort of I do think permeate throughout CPG. So from a financial aspect, I think the trends in the past few years in CPG have been both a focus on top line and bottom line. There was a time 10, 8 years ago you could sell your company if you had enough market share and enough velocity and growth top line. Nobody really worried about the bottom line. That has changed in the past couple of years and acquirers want either profitability to some extent, or they want some pathway to profitability. The times of sort of the big dollar amounts for companies that had never shown how they're going to make money, I think that's gone for now. The public markets might change that, but we can debate that on another show. At least in terms of CPG infrastructure and the market for sort of like selling to a CPG conglomerate, they want to see some type of profitability or some pathway to profitability.

But the second part is just like internal culture, your company culture. I would find that in CPG, especially better for you CPG, having a great team and a great company culture, and a company culture that sort of stands for something and where a great amount of people are motivated and aligned towards a common cause, and finding a way to sort of build that and develop that, that's something that almost every buyer is going to want to… is looking for, is going to be impressed by, and is going to be very meaningful to them when they acquire the company. More and more these days in CPG, when a conglomerate is buying a company they're also looking to buy the team. You're rarely seeing a brand bought and all the employees be sort of let go after the purchase. More and more these CPG conglomerates see a vertical, they see a team, they see the internal culture and see how it was built on a common cause, they try to keep that as much as possible and integrate that into the system. Because they know it's hard to replicate. A lot of founders in CPG, that's one of the things at least with my clients that I work with, I think they're really, really great at.

The third is just execution. An acquirer wants to see that you've had a plan and you've been able to execute on it. That's so simple and so pedantic, but it's also so difficult. When you're a disruptive brand, there's almost no way to forecast what you're doing whether it's on a big scale or a little scale. It's so hard because you're doing something that almost nobody has done before. But not saying you have to hit the mark exactly, but seeing a pattern where hey I had a vision for this, I had a plan about this, and I was able to just more or less hit the plan. That's something that's going to be impressive to a buyer community. That's something that's going to be impressive to a conglomerate.

I'll say one of my clients, Vitamin Water, their founder Michael Repole sat me down in his office in Whitestone, Queens I don't know like seven years ago when Vitamin Water probably had, Body Armor had almost no like portion of the sports drink market share. And he sat down, he said this is the presentation, this is what I'm going to do next year, this is what we're doing in the year after that, this is what we're doing the year after that, this is what we're doing the year after that. This is our product line, these are our line extensions, this is why accounts want us, this is why they'd rather sell our product than competitors. Literally not exactly the numbers, but almost everything he said, he did and came true. Mike Repole is an executor. He executes like almost nobody.

My friend Josh Zad, who owns Alfred Coffee and Calidad Beer, his execution, he went from having a business plan to a product, to completing a fundraise, to completing a launch in maybe like six months which in terms of time for launching CPG products is no amount of time. Because of that, he's developed so much faith and he's developed such a great fan base, and an internal following. Just being able to execute, to tell people you're going to do something. Maybe you don't do it the exact way you said you were going to, but you find a way to get comparably there, doing that over and over and over again is one of the things almost any founder, any CPG brand, can do over and above anything else that's going to breed success.

[35:38]

James McKinney: I love it. Thank you so much for joining us on The Startup Story.

[35:40]

Ryan Lewendon: Of course, James. Thanks so much for having me.

[35:43]

James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value that Ryan Lewendon brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. In fact, if you're in the CPG space it might be wise of you to reach out to Ryan to see if there's anything you might need to button up before your brand hits the big time. You can reach out to him via his firm's website at gllaw.us. If you've been around The Startup Story for any length of time, then you know how much emphasis I put on the idea that entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. So let's show up for Ryan Lewendon in a huge way by visiting gllaw.us, or sharing his firm's URL in a LinkedIn post. Based on how large the CPG market is, I'm pretty sure we're all connected to someone in a CPG space, and we all know how challenging brand awareness can be. So let's show up for Ryan in this way. And now for my personal ask.

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March 30 2021
CPG Industry Trends and Insights

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