Founders share ways to get your foot in the door.
4 min read
1. Deliver the goods.
“I sent a fruit basket full of bee-pollinated items and a bunch of our Beekeeper’s Naturals Propolis Spray to the Whole Foods Canada office, along with a long note about why I started a company that practices sustainable beekeeping to create clean, natural remedies. It got me an email in response, and though I still had to send a lot of follow-ups after that, I finally got someone on the phone. After that call, Whole Foods took us on.” — Carly Stein, founder and CEO, Beekeeper’s Naturals
2. Save your pennies.
“Our dream was to sell our CBD products in mass retailers like CVS, but we didn’t have the right contacts there. We found a conference that would give us access to a lot of these retailers and buyers, but we could barely afford the travel, let alone the thousands of dollars for tickets. But we decided to find the budget — those face-to-face meetings would be our only opportunity to sell our vision. It worked: Once retailers decided they wanted to sell CBD, we were one of the first brands they called.” — Kerrigan Behrens, cofounder and co-CEO, Sagely
3. Manipulate fate.
“I wanted to get my nonalcoholic beverages in front of a big industry player, so I cased out a couple of places I knew he frequented and chatted up the bartenders there, convincing them to carry my product for a week and use my cocktail napkins as a promo. Everywhere he went, he was being offered Kin drinks or seeing my logo at his favorite venues. A week later, I asked two warm leads to introduce me within 24 hours of the other, and then I emailed him myself, as if I was experiencing the same serendipity he was. In the end, he suggested we meet immediately, I got the deal, and he became a mentor.” — Jen Batchelor, cofounder and CEO, Kin
4. Just ask!
“No title at a company should ever be out of reach to any person. Our fears or lack of confidence create the idea we are not worthy of talking to a CEO. When I reached out to my first big investor, I called him directly. We are all human; why can’t we all have human connection? Don’t complicate it. If you want something, go get it. It really is that simple.” — Jon Blanchard, CEO, BLVD
5. Activate your network.
“When I first had the idea for Flex, I made a list of all of the things I didn’t know how to do: regulatory, supply chain, fundraising, etc. I then created an email list of all my contacts and started a monthly email where I told people about my mission and vision, and included one specific ask, usually for a meeting with someone with one of those specialties. It was shocking to see how quickly I connected with experts in all the areas I was seeking help with. Five years later, I still work with several people whom I met during that time.” — Lauren Schulte Wang, founder and CEO, The Flex Company
6. Seek advice.
“In 2015 I was ready to scale Slice, a pizza delivery app, and knew I needed to surround myself with the best leadership possible. I looked up who was involved in the early days of Seamless and found Wiley Cerilli’s Twitter handle and reached out. To his credit, he responded, and within a day or two, I was at his office. He ended up investing, joined my board, and the rest is history.” — Ilir Sela, founder and CEO, Slice