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The Barcode Podcast is presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward-thinking consumer brands with a range of commercial insurance products and risk management services designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage companies. Learn more at titaniumcpg.com

Today on The Barcode Podcast, we’re talking to Steven Blustein of PrideBites. Who wants to share more photos than a pet-parent? Almost nobody! – which is why this was such a great market for Steven Blustein to enter. Steven began working as a tax accountant on weekdays and ended up selling his college mascot dog toys at tailgates on the weekends.

What started as a few friends selling dog toys at USC, grew into a huge operation. The product they had was different. It was customizable, made with foam, and the people loved it. The team learned a lot from trade shows and before you knew it, they were featured on Shark Tank.

Steven walks us through the preparation for Shark Tank, and more importantly- what took place after. What happens when your 15 minutes of fame is over? Steven has learned a lot from tough-love over the years and has experienced the ups and downs of starting a business. He shares life lessons surrounding making selfless choices, how to get refocused, and what it’s like to evolve over the years. He shares some of the darker moments in his career journey and the importance of lifelong learning.

Continued below…

WATCH THE INTERVIEW:

TAKEAWAYS FROM THIS EPISODE

Family can impact your view of entrepreneurship. Steven talks about the tough-love he received from his grandpa and how his mom would say, “Money doesn’t sleep.” His family definitely helped shape his entrepreneurial-spirit. 

Success can come from ignorance and confidence. It can be a gift not knowing everything at the beginning. If you have a capable product and have ignorance and confidence – you can find success. If you knew everything the whole time, you may not ever have started.

“…We happened to get on this show called Shark Tank.” Steven and his team had to get prepared to be featured on Shark Tank (Season 7). They raised a million dollars in 72 hours.

What happened after the Shark Tank buzz is where the business was born. How do we become a legit business after the glitz and glam?

Tough love is valuable. You may not like it at the time but this can really help you grow.

Do one thing really well. You can end up being unfocused and you need to take a step back to pick one thing to focus on. “Find your lane.”

Be willing to evolve. Find ways to be a lifelong learner. Steven shares how he has changed over the years, now as a parent. He views time-management differently and uses reading and meditation more regularly.

There will be unexpected things on your journey. Steven talks about navigating his business through something unexpected like COVID-19.

Success is about seizing opportunities. Sometimes these are more blatant opportunities, and other times not as evident. Are you looking for ways to seize these opened or cracked doors?

 LINKS

The Barcode Podcast is brought to you by Titanium CPG Insurance.

Check out PrideBites

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

BEN                                             Welcome to The Barcode Podcast. My name is Ben Ponder, I’m your host. I’m really glad you’ve joined us today. I’ve got Steven Blustein of PrideBites in the studio. We’re going to talk about pets and mass customization and all kinds of really interesting derivatives of consumer-packaged goods in what made deceptively, at first, appear to be a conversation about the pet space or pet toys, but it’s actually about much more than that. So, we’ll get into that in just a second.

                                                      I want to remind everybody that The Barcode Podcast is presented by Titanium CPG Insurance. Titanium protects forward-thinking consumer brands with a range of insurance products and risk management services that are designed specifically for natural and organic food and beverage brands. You can learn more online at titaniumcpg.com.

Steven, welcome to the studio, man. So good to see you. It’s been a while.

STEVEN                                    You, too, man. Yeah.

BEN                                             Glad to see you. I understand that you have recently welcomed a new baby to the family. So, congratulations.

STEVEN                                    Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

BEN                                             We’ll talk about fatherhood and how that impacts entrepreneurship and all the things, how you achieve the elusive work life balance and all that kind of good stuff. But let’s start off with your best meal ever.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. My best meal ever. I’ve been to China many, many times.

BEN                                             As we’ll discuss for work. I’m sure you go for fun, too, but that’s part of understanding the supply chain, part. Yeah?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It’s been a huge part of my life. I’ve studied the language actually for a long time, too. I think my best meal ever was in China. It was the first time where I had all of my vendors around. They were my family members. Now, I’ve spent so much time with them. They’ve seen us evolve in such a unique way, and table is covered, there’s 30 people around. My mom and my aunt are actually there. They’ve been to China for the first time.

BEN                                             Where in China are you at this point? Is it a restaurant?

STEVEN                                    Yeah, restaurants, hotel restaurant. White tablecloth-type scenario in China and a massive Lazy Susan, just the biggest Lazy Susan you’ve ever seen. Just one dish after one dish after one dish. To me, food is such a big part of my life. I’m a foodie with my wife. It’s a big, big thing for us. I think the experience was just more than anything.

BEN                                             Was it a form of dimsum?

STEVEN                                    A more dish style, like real Chinese dishes or authentic Chinese dishes, at least, in southern China or more about the food itself and less about the sauce. So, a lot of really natural flavors, and maybe something needed a little bit more salt on sometimes. The experience of being there and knowing now that I can just now communicate and understand the culture in a different way, and what the experiences of everyone walking in a room and cheering everybody, and by the end of it being so much like a solid family, I think that just goes back to being with my mom and my aunt there, I think, to see that as well is such a cool experience.

BEN                                             I’m sure they were really proud of you in that moment, too. So, southern China, so is it Cantonese?

STEVEN                                    Yes.

BEN                                             As you traveled to China, have you had to pick up a little Cantonese and a little Mandarin as well?

STEVEN                                    Cantonese is very, very hard. So no, I haven’t picked Cantonese.

BEN                                             From my understanding, it’s all very, very hard.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I always talk about, if you know language and you’re willing to be consistent and put the work in, you can do it. I think the willingness to learn and to do it, and once you do it, there’s just a lot of memorization, and you can get them.

BEN                                             Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really good. I think it’s really cool that it brought all these parts of your life and family and history together. It’s your work and your mom and grandma or your aunt, you said. It’s like these crossroads’ moments, I think, if you look back on even in several years and be like that was a really important moment for me, personally.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Because I think as an entrepreneur, every single way, I think you want to feel the achievement and feel that story getting better. My family is a long line of entrepreneurs. My grandfather started in the import tool business, one of the first ones that went over to Japan right after the bomb dropped and started importing back tools. I’ve always wanted to have an international business. I remember my mom telling me stories of her going overseas. He took her out of school when she was 18 and took around the world to all these different factories. I remember her telling me the stories and especially going to China and seeing this thing.

                                                      So, I think just having it all together right before my son was born, the experience my aunt who’s been such a pivotal part of my life and a big part of PrideBites as well. So, just I know maybe talking about the food is more or less what you’re looking for, but the experience itself to me was so awesome.

BEN                                             No, it’s all of it. It’s all of it to me. So, you mentioned your grandfather, and I think that’s really interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. To what extent do you feel like your entrepreneurial path is impacted? Maybe let me ask it this way. Is there a genetic component to entrepreneurship and/or is it more of a nature versus nurture argument, where you saw entrepreneurship in your family and in your life, if it maybe didn’t always necessarily make it appealing, but at least felt normal-ish? Were you impacted by growing up in that family of entrepreneurs?

STEVEN                                    Yeah, of course. It was always tough love. When I used to go back and see my grandfather, he just asked me like, “How old are you?” I said, “24, grandpa.” He said, “How are you doing?” I said, “I imported my first container. I’m really excited about that.” He’d be like, “I was 24, I’d imported about four containers at that point.”

                                                      I think that was that grow that hunger.

BEN                                             That’s right. I swam across the Pacific myself dragging.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, exactly. I walked 10 hours to school every day. My mom woke us up Saturdays and Sundays and told us money doesn’t sleep. We would be out of the house so early, whether we had a job or not. We’d go to find a job because we didn’t know what to do at that early of the day. It definitely shaped me. It definitely shaped who I am and why I still burn at both ends. I’m just that type of person.

BEN                                             Right. There’s a personality element to it, too, but it was also just, from a really early age, the expectation was the water that you swim and the air that you breathe.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It’s like go figure it out. I remember my grandfather shut down one of his factories in the late ’90s. I remember walking through there when I was a kid and seeing the toolboxes being made and everything, and I loved that. I loved every element of that. When I actually got more interested in business, he was out of that phase of his life. I think my mother was really just the driver of don’t be complacent in life. I think that idea, if you’re an entrepreneur, is super important because at the beginning, you don’t know what you’re doing.

BEN                                             At all.

STEVEN                                    You just need to know that you need to stay busy, and as more focused and focused and focused as you get just means you are becoming a better entrepreneur. Naturally that time get toned in, I think, in my opinion. Yeah. I think coming from the family of all entrepreneurs, everybody being in the real estate business, and making a job, I remember calling my mom for the first time and telling her, “Hey, I’m not going to be a tax accountant anymore. I’m going to quit my job and go to China.” She’s like you’re not going to take the CPA? You’re not going to finish taking the CPA? Fast two parts. What are you doing? This is crazy.”

BEN                                             All that schooling. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think it’s just that overall journey.

BEN                                             So, that was going to be my next question. So, thank you for that beautiful segue. You were in the world of accounting and finance, which is always pretty interesting to me. I’ve met a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of entrepreneurs in the CPG space, who have a background there, which again stereotypically you think of an accountant as more risk averse. “I need to make sure I’ve got all the savings in place.” I’ve met a lot of people with an accounting background who go out on a limb and they try something. Was it difficult for you to go? Obviously, there’s maybe a little bit of family pressure, like, “Are you sure about this?” At the time, was there a lot of second guessing of yourself around that decision?

STEVEN                                    I’m never second guessing of myself.

BEN                                             You knew it.

STEVEN                                    I think that may be one thing that I really did learn from my grandfather. He said, he used to tell me to like, “Go look at yourself in the mirror in the morning until you love yourself.” I have all the of confidence. I have a quote on my computer that he used to say that says, “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure to see.” That to me is an important thing to have. You always have to believe in yourself if you’re capable and you have a, I always say, a decent product. If you’re super capable, you’re going to get there. You just got to endure it. Ignorance just comes as a part of it.

BEN                                             Right. So, the ignorance and confidence part of it is, I think of it as this blissful naivety, that a lot of times, entrepreneurship does require a little bit of ignorance because if you knew all that you know today, it would be really hard. You’re like, “Steven, I’m not sure we should do this,” kind of thing because you know how challenging it is, you know what you’re going to go through. That’s where I think a lot of times, you have younger startup founders, and they don’t know everything. But that can be a gift at the same time because you have that confidence that like, “I’ll figure it out.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It’s always funny to me. I met with somebody just before here, I was giving him some advice like a new founder and like, “I was the founder that had too much confidence and wanted to do it all myself.” Over time we pivoted to make it work. Even through all of that I think if I don’t remain that confident, I couldn’t have got there, right? But I think at the same time your ability to drop your ego and become a lifetime learner is the most invaluable thing that I think, honestly, changed me.

                                                      You mentioned Tucker earlier, and my relationship with him has really shaped me I think as an entrepreneur and learning a lot from him along the way. I think that’s something that he pushed to me is like, “Don’t stop learning, continue to get better, continue to evolve, figure it out.” I knew I have all these resources, and I think putting it together made that decision. Yeah, if you know what you know ahead of time, you wouldn’t do it. That’s definitely my story 100%.

BEN                                             That’s right. But you did it. Now, you jumped into the pool, now swim. When you first started PrideBites, what was it, and why did you start it? What did you think it was going to be at that moment?

STEVEN                                    We wanted to make college mascot dog toys. One of our buddies had a dog and went to Kansas. One of my other co-founders went to Kansas and loved their dogs. I had a dog as well.

BEN                                             Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

STEVEN                                    Rock Chalk Jayhawk, true and true, man. I actually was there in 2008, so I’m like a fan. So, we knew that all the other dog toys in the market that time sucked. We were huge Jayhawk fans. We wanted a Jayhawk dog toy. So, we’re like, “Let’s go get them. This is a big market for me. Licensed dog toys, I think, could be a big market.” At the time, I was taking one corporate tax class to finish up my masters. I met a Chinese foreign exchange student in the gym. He was walking around super confident, really didn’t speak a lot of English, but like knew everybody. I was like trying to do things. He kind of found me there and met with him and figured out what he was interested in.

BEN                                             What a lot of American students don’t understand is the kids who are here from other countries like China, a lot of times they were really big deals. They were the cream of the crop. So, that confidence came from somewhere.

STEVEN                                    Right, yeah. Basically, underlying that in this thing, it’s like, yes, you should definitely be focused on these foreign exchange students who’ve given to these colleges because there’s a lot of people in China that are competing for these roles, specifically there as well.

BEN                                             Absolutely, yeah.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, it was one guy wanted to make mascot dog toys, got introduced to this guy who, at that time, I didn’t understand how well connected he was, but somebody who was well connected. I knew the stories of my grandfather and building a business. So, I just thought it would be fun to get involved in it. It’s the way it was.

BEN                                             It’s as far as you thought ahead about it.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. We weren’t thinking like, “How do I scale this or how do I”… It was just, “I want to start a business. I’ve always wanted to start a business, and I’m going to do it.” I called my three best buddies. We started a business.

BEN                                             That’s awesome. So, at the time, you thought college mascot dog toys that are sold via e-commerce, right?

STEVEN                                    Yeah.

BEN                                             That’s the vision for it.

STEVEN                                    We didn’t even think e-commerce.

BEN                                             You didn’t even think e-commerce. Just you thought you were going to be campus bookstore kind of things.

STEVEN                                    We hadn’t thought of that. I think we thought like pet stores, there’s a lot of them. We made business plans, a bunch of them. Just like textbook. I’m in my college course business plan.

BEN                                             That’s right. That’s the era where people still made some business plans, but they were going out of vogue a little bit at that point.

STEVEN                                    We made a ton. I remember working on eight different revisions and sending them out and thinking how it happened and mapping out geography. So, we were pretty thoughtful about it.

BEN                                             That’s good. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    But didn’t understand. We didn’t look and do a bunch of research into it, which is even better. Started by getting the USC license. We had all moved out to California. We were walking and going to USC tailgates, selling them to see how people liked them. Bought 2,000 USC Trojan dog toys because it was the largest school that would allow independent licensing.

BEN                                             So that meaning there wasn’t a broker between you and the university?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. The license has a bunch of big brokerage houses that you have to go get certain ones, and it’s super fragmented. So, we got that one because we thought, “Hey, this is the biggest one. There’s a ton of USC people. We’re all now living out here, and let’s try it.” So, we bought 2,000 dog toys, all USC. We would go with our dogs to the USC tailgates, and we would sell dog toys to a bunch of drunk people.

BEN                                             Okay, perfect.

STEVEN                                    We sold a lot of them. We went back and got a ton of feedback. Each week we come back, people would be like, “Oh my god. Those are the dog toy guys.”

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    So, here I am on one side, I’m a tax accountant 6:30 to 8:30 PM every single day, basically. I was the youngest guy by 20 years in that place. The owner of the place brought me and literally, just dropped a bunch of tax returns on my desk.

BEN                                             Put you through the grinder. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    Then I was leaving on Saturdays, having the best time of my life around all these drunk college students, selling dog toys. It was just such a different life.

BEN                                             You’re like every day could be a tailgate party?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I didn’t know any better. What I knew is that I knew the product was good. I knew the product was good. It was different from what was out there. It looked different. Every other dog toy looked like a dog toy. Ours was like the USC Trojan mascot head. It was “Whoa, that thing on the shelf is crazy.” Now, we were also crazy. It was $24 at the time, one dog toy. That would take two limbs to rip up.

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    But it’s good enough.

BEN                                             The target customer was drunk and wealthy enough to be at USC. So, you’re like, “$24. They’d probably paid $24 for a burrito somewhere.”

STEVEN                                    Exactly. Whatever it was. This is us. We were just energetic that they just bought toys from us.

BEN                                             That’s right, absolutely.

STEVEN                                    We were going to do that. We were going to do whatever it took to make it work. It was our modern-day kick starter.

BEN                                             So, you have this friend who was connected in China on the manufacturing side. So, you just said you designed a dog toy pencil sketch or Adobe or whatever you used, and send it off, ordered some of it, and got it back, and then kept going. So, you sell some. This is fun. People are paying money for it. Was there an epiphany at that point, like, “Hey, I think we’re really onto something?” Then, assuming you had that epiphany, what did you do next?

STEVEN                                    So, we started going to trade shows. We had met a distributor of mine along the way. A close friend of mine called Uncle Ed. He said, “Why are you making just this? You need to be making all dog toys. That’s a bigger market than licensed dog toys. It’s hard to get the license.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “There’s this trade show this time of year. You should go. Go see if you can team up and see if you can get there somehow.”

BEN                                             Which trade show was it?

STEVEN                                    It was a SuperZoo. SuperZoo is one of the largest pet trade shows every year in Las Vegas. We got a booth. We got together, got a booth and had made a bunch of designs for all the product, and creating 24 different SKUs of dog toys of all different kinds and whatnot, and had a bunch of different designs. I think our selling point was like, “Hey, differentiate. Don’t have the same dog toys on your shelf. Find what mix and match. Get them in here.”

                                                      Ultimately, the product was good, the toy itself was good, the construction was good. The design was good. We sent over 60 prototypes over the years and tested so many. What we’re doing, when I go back and think about it, just make five SKUs and own those five SKUs. We had to make 36 SKUs, I think, at first. People only bought five of them or four of them, whatever it was.

BEN                                             How did you pick the 36? Do you have a brainstorming session?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think we got together and we’re, like, “What are the coolest cute items we can find? What kind of designer that we can figure out from the streets, if you can draw this for us,” and who happened to be a close friend.

BEN                                             It’s a really interesting thing, too, because at that time, you were doing a lot of, like you said, Grandpa or people. On one level, it could be a great honor. On another level, it could be a voodoo doll type thing where it’s like, “I hate my boss. I’m going to make a dog toy that looks like my boss so that my dog can chew it up” that type of thing?

STEVEN                                    At that point, we’re just doing static dog toys.

BEN                                             There was no customization.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. After that show, Pet Business Magazine picked us up as being the best new dog toy of the year. That gave us enough leverage.

BEN                                             What did they see in it at that point? What was different at that stage because you hadn’t gotten to the customization part of it? What did they see in your dog toy that was so much different or better than the others on the market?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It was a foam-based dog toy. We targeted the $9.99 market. It was not indestructible but very interactive. It flowed squeak. It was foam based. It was different from cotton. Everything out there was cotton. So, it was enough to say like, “Wow, no one has done this in the time that it has. So, let’s call attention to it.” The PrideBites is a great product. If your dog is not a shredder, and even if it is, it’s a great product.

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    People love the product.

BEN                                             Because that’s a very satisfying thing for dogs.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. The way that it yields in the dog’s mouth and the fact that they can carry it, it’s super light, it’s functional. It has a squeaker inside. All of it makes for a good product. So, we were onto something with that product in terms of how to figure out how to launch it across a bunch of SKUs. We didn’t figure that out.

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    But Pet Business Magazine awarded us the best new dog toy. The companies that came before us, if you’re a pet owner, were like Kong and JW Pet, these massive companies. Here we were, a little old PrideBites, not even having our stuff together, got the award.

BEN                                             That’s awesome.

STEVEN                                    I think that leverage us into saying like, “Okay, you have this now. Go make use of it.” We called every store. I think by the end of that year, we were in about 2,200 stores.

BEN                                             Really fast.

STEVEN                                    Super-fast. Just us shipping out the door.

BEN                                             You’re just on the phone because at that stage and that scale, you can’t get on an airplane and visit every one of those stores.

STEVEN                                    No. We had no money.

BEN                                             That’s right, yeah.

STEVEN                                    So, store by store, whatever we could do, go pick up a box of toys, an hour away from where we were in LA at that time, and take them to a store because they wanted 100 toys, lose money more than you can imagine on gas and everything else to get there, but you’re figuring out.

BEN                                             You’re compartmentalizing the tax accountant in your mind. You’re like, “No, no.”

STEVEN                                    That’s right. They told me I couldn’t do it. I’m not taking this. Just keep going ahead.

BEN                                             Okay, so then. So, the business starts to take off, at what point did the idea for this kind of mass customization thing pop into your minds?

STEVEN                                    We got one retailer who’s at Pet Planet that was sold through our distributor. There was a 40-store chain and they said to us, “Hey, we like your product. It’s has this 2D format. Can we customize it with our logo, and we’ll buy 2000 of them?” Like, “Okay, that’s great. You’ll really buy 2000 right now of this? We can’t even sell 10 to a store. You’ll buy 2,000?” He’s like, “Yeah.” “Okay, great.” Then sat down, we said like, “Can we do this?” I kept going. My Chinese business partner and co-founder at the time was living in Sacramento. I would just go back and forth, driving LA to Sacramento, and meet with him and say like, “What can we do?”

BEN                                             It’s not a short drive.

STEVEN                                    No. It’s horrible. But it gave me a ton of time to think. I think it’s really challenging to do mass customization in China because so much of it was having to change the minds of so many people over there.

BEN                                             Traditional manufacturing is set up to produce the same thing at scale, to turn on the machine and make the same thing, a gazillion times.

STEVEN                                    100%.

BEN                                             You’re moving from analog processes to digital processes. You’re moving from these kind of major tooling and equipment changes to really fast on the fly tweaks. It’s a capital shift, it’s a mindset shift. It’s a process shift for everybody.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I mean you nailed it. I think your experiences can speak to that perfectly. We had 277,000 units produced last year, over 900 orders. Those were all custom different types of orders.

BEN                                             Wow. So, you really had to convince these manufacturers to really gamble with you that there’s a market for this, and then to say, “You got to be patient as we scale this up.” It’s going to require just a rethinking of everything about how you make products.

STEVEN                                    We’ve pivoted. So, we thought we were, at one point, perfectly equipped to handle direct consumer. What we realized we can do mass customization for consumer, but it’s just not what we’re focused at. It’s not what we’re making us the most money.

BEN                                             Just to clarify for the listeners and viewers. There was a point where you were actually trying to get to encourage people, this is part of your business model, to do a one-off effectively like, “Hey, my girlfriend or boyfriend or whatever, I want to do a dog toy that looks… I’ll send in a picture and here you go, that sort of thing. I’m going to produce a dog toy that looks that.” That’s a one-off thing. You tried that for a while. How did you discover that that wasn’t the business model for you?

STEVEN                                    That’s right. We met you, I came to SKU, and I’ve gotten to SKU. At that time, we were pitching SKU. Our past was a dog toy company. We had been pretty successful. We had sold up, in one year, we’re doing $400,000 of sales of dog toys to stores, mom and pop pet stores.

BEN                                             Which is great, yeah.

STEVEN                                    It was great, yeah. That was our first year. We had good traction and people started to really like us. We didn’t understand the concept of how to sell in store, and how to build stores up.

BEN                                             Merchandising and all that.

STEVEN                                    My mentor now he always talks me about Crossing the Chasm and what stage the different customers are meaningful to you, and how much time to put into those specific customers, the foundational customers. So ultimately, we were in direct wholesale business. We moved because we saw our capabilities opening up in China. So, we almost got too excited. We’re almost like, “Let’s go try this.”

BEN                                             We could be ahead of everything.

STEVEN                                    Exactly. We’re going to create the tablet before everybody sees it.

BEN                                             Well, this is also in the peak Teespring phase two, which, again, they were attracting a lot of venture capital.

STEVEN                                    Zazzle.

BEN                                             The theory was it’s about t-shirts, but it’s not really about t-shirts. It’s like we’re going to create this distributed manufacturing infrastructure. We’re going to be able to make everything, that sort of thing. So, I’m sure that was a little bit in the air at the time, too, for you guys. It’s like, “Hey, we can be a part of this.”

STEVEN                                    Absolutely because we were small. We had figured it out. Customization, a big level, when you had to be something like build an operation, like build a sign or how to build something like Zazzle, these types of things. We thought, “Hey, we can be in America. We’ve convinced all these factories to give it a shot.” They don’t really do this. We just need to figure out how to get it overseas. So, that almost impeded too much of our focus. What happened along the same time is we happen to get on this show called Shark Tank.

BEN                                             It’s a little show. That’s right.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. We had to build and get ready, and prepare, so we didn’t get slaughtered. We were hand drawing dogs. The only thing during that time, it’s just like make it work. Make it work.

BEN                                             Right. Obviously, that was a really important and pivotal moment for you because you, at least, recognized so this was early Shark Tank. What season is this of Shark Tank that you guys were on?

STEVEN                                    We’re season seven, I think, yeah. Season seven. Yeah.

BEN                                             Again, not first season, but pretty early on in the Shark Tank phenomenon. There was, at least, enough data to say, “Look, we’re going on this show. Maybe we get investment, maybe we don’t get investment, but here’s what we know will happen. This is going to be a big PR spike. Particularly, for a direct-to-consumer company, we’re going to get crushed with page views and hopefully, orders.” The worst-case scenario for you is the site crashes and people can’t order the thing or it’s a yearlong wait for them to get their whatever customized dog toy. So, you knew that going in. You knew, “We have to prepare our infrastructure to handle this.” How long did it take you and your team to wrap your minds around what was going to be required on that front?

STEVEN                                    I think thinking about it in even a step forward. So, all the credit goes to my co-founder, my business partner, Sean Knecht. He wanted us to be on that show. He pushed me to do it when I didn’t want to do it. From when I was young, I always was a pitch guy. I was in a youth group, where I was international Vice President and traveled the world, giving leadership talks.

BEN                                             You were very comfortable in your own skin and on stage and all that kind of stuff.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. So, I was there. But I didn’t want to do that because I felt like it was cheating my way in business of success type of thing.

BEN                                             Interesting.

STEVEN                                    I don’t know what it was. It was kind of a complex I had for myself. I think that also goes to talk about how ego within new founders and dropping your ego, how important it is and getting to that level, but that’s a different conversation.

BEN                                             We’ll go down that one a little bit. That’s good.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. But Sean really encouraged us to go on the show. Our preparation was super key. After filming, going through the process, we can talk about that, too. It was sometime in March it was South by Southwest. I was with my wife going to a free show, Third Eye Blind was at the Whole Foods. That was the first concert we’ve both ever been to, so we wanted to go.

BEN                                             That’s a pretty funny picture. The Third Eye Blind.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It was awesome. Yeah, exactly. The ’90s

BEN                                             I’m on top of the whole thing.

STEVEN                                    Awesome ’90s rock. We had $3,000 left in our bank account. We didn’t know how we were going to go to work on Monday. I was talking with my wife. I said, “We might have to shut down.”

BEN                                             Those are the real moments of entrepreneurship. That’s like, “I’m just going to go drown my sorrows in some ’90s rock from it because I don’t know what I’m going to do on Monday.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It was gut wrenching because I wanted it so bad. I looked at my phone and it was a letter from Shark Tank, an email from Shark Tank. It said, “Hey, you’re going to air in three weeks.” In 72 hours, we raised a million dollars. It was the biggest kick in my gut to the biggest thrill, and then “How am I going to do it?”

BEN                                             In 72 hours, raised a million dollars?

STEVEN                                    Yeah.

BEN                                             So, when people found out that you were going on Shark Tank, they were like, “Hey, I want to be a part of this rocket ship,” type of thing.

STEVEN                                    Remember, we were so scared about telling people, which is so ridiculous now that I think about it. The show does a really good job at saying how important it is to keep quiet, and you do keep quiet. If you tell an investor, ABC is not going to find out. You know what I mean?

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    So, we really didn’t tell a bunch. We told a group and kept them going, saying “There’s could be good news coming.” You talk about things that I think I’m always big on saying that whatever you do, your story has to be better because it has to be more believing. You have to keep the lust going. So, each part of our way, there was things that hit that I think has propelled us forward. Shark Tank was that validation moment that everybody loved that show. I could remember from day one, everyone’s like, “You should apply to Shark Tank.” I just had it in my head.

BEN                                             Even if you’re really big, they’ll say, “Have you thought about going on Shark Tank?” They’ll say that to people who probably should be a shark on Shark Tank.

STEVEN                                    Right. Exactly.

BEN                                             I don’t think they need it at this point, but okay.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. We needed that, I think, from a moral standpoint of switching, coming through SKU and trying to build up. We were just a bunch of college friends. It wasn’t really a business at that point. We didn’t know what each of us should have done and the roles. It was just so much learning. You know what? The focus was just stay afloat.

                                                      I heard so many horror stories about people who got on the show and just got murdered from the impact of it, and the impact was real. Everything we researched and everything that we thought, that moment was real. Then six months afterwards, that traffic dies.

BEN                                             Crickets.

STEVEN                                    Crickets, man. So many crickets. Then you’re sitting around thinking like, “Okay, I just more than doubled in three months. What am I going to do now?” That’s when our business was really born, I think, because getting out of Shark Tank, I think, is what makes you a better entrepreneur than going into Shark Tank.

BEN                                             That’s really insightful.

STEVEN                                    Everybody talks about preparing for the show. It’s just work. You’re willing to do the work, you’re willing to start the business. So, it’s a fun experience going on the show. I loved the experience, fun to be on that stage. Really just getting out of it, and how to build the supply chain afterwards and to transition the company into something that grows is more meaningful to me than anything.

BEN                                             That’s right. Yeah. It’s not chasing after the glitz and the glamour anymore. It’s like, okay. Now, we have to just be a legit business that is going to scale and make money and return capital to our investors, hopefully, and do all the things that are regular business, that your grandpa’s business had to do anyway, without any kind of notoriety or celebrity that came along with it.

STEVEN                                    Right. It needed a lot of me to become a real CEO, I needed that time. I had some awesome advisors and people that helped out along the way. My personality, of course, needed tough love. I can remember some things Alan Blake, who’s a CEO, had an exit here in town from a company called GloFish, an awesome mentor of mine. Even him providing some tough love statements at the time I just didn’t like. It’s just like head on.

BEN                                             Yeah. That’s the nature of tough love.

STEVEN                                    It’s what I needed.

BEN                                             But it’s also one of those things, too, that sometimes I tell people, “I want to be a friend or mentor who can be brutally honest with you” because as an entrepreneur, what happens if you become a successful entrepreneur? Then, particularly, people who become really, really rich and famous, successful entrepreneurs, everyone in their life, everyone in their sphere of their circle of friends, and that sort of thing, is either directly or indirectly on their payroll. So, it creates these weird incentives for everybody to tell you that every word, every utterance that comes out of your mouth is genius. So, you need the people in your life who are like, “Yeah, Steven, I’ve known you for a long time. That’s a stupid idea.” You’re like, “What? Nobody’s told me that was a stupid idea. I thought everything I thought was a really great idea.” You’re like, “Not that one.” Having that tough love in that moment can actually be really formative for you.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think the people that who I have been fortunate to be able to come and to contact with here on this journey, I think, has been awesome. I’ve been fortunate to be able to get a couple of mistakes in with them and being able to keep me going along. I think, like I said before, decent idea really want it. Can you get there? Now, knowing that we do have a real model and knowing how we make money and knowing the business sense of things, you laugh about what you did before.

BEN                                             Sure, yeah. But you learn from it. So, when did you go, “We really shouldn’t be doing this direct-to-consumer thing?”

STEVEN                                    I think the first time we really did it coming through Shark Tank. So right after Shark Tank, we actually did the most we’ve ever done in sales, like that next month on the B2B side. Because all these businesses were like, “We need this. Pet is growing so fast. We have no way to enter this market here these guys that know ultra-customization.” These minimums are actually really low. On a B2B level, you can go buy 50 customized things, however you want it. You know what I mean?

BEN                                             Which goes back to your first real customer then, too. They’re like, “Hey, can I get my pet store logo on this toy?” You really enabled those small to medium-sized businesses or even pet stores to say, “Yeah, I’d like to make my own.”

STEVEN                                    Absolutely. I think as we get super, super focused, it’s the resellers. It’s the people that have a couple of products. I’ve done really well. It’s the lifestyle brands that are really building that are seeing this because pet lovers are a different breed.

BEN                                             Yeah. They’re all in.

STEVEN                                    Oh, man, they are in. If you’ve ever been to a pet show and see some of these dogs that are spray painted and nail polished, they’re spending more than I can imagine.

BEN                                             I referred to it’s the macro trend of the humanization of pets.

STEVEN                                    Yes, absolutely.

BEN                                             People spend as much money. Again, go back 50 years, and your dog slept on the back porch and you fed them scraps and that sort of thing. Now, your dog has arguably a better life than maybe some of the other people in your family.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Absolutely, right. I mean, pet parents, we don’t refer them as dog owners.

BEN                                             That’s right. Pet parents.

STEVEN                                    That’s right. Your fur babies. This is the market we live in nowadays. I think, we were onto something in that dorm room. We were onto something.

BEN                                             That’s right. We were.

STEVEN                                    We knew that pet was growing, pet was a big space. How can we get a percentage of the market? That’s how we did all the initial forecast was percentage of market shares within the space and how we carve that route. Now, we found ourselves turning Shark Tank. We love the Internet and website building. My team was great, so much that we were trying to fit a model of a $40 check out into something that was never going to work.

BEN                                             Because it was too much work per order.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Too many touches. Too many touches. Could we do it? Yeah, we can do anything. I mean, anything custom? Yeah, we can do anything custom. But it wasn’t that. What we were seeing that was actually the biggest opportunity is just that there is a big market for these massive brands to enter into pet, on both sides for them to either resell products on their own. For them, like a brand who wants to expand their merchandise line, like a Subaru. For brands who want to promote to a dog loving audience. All those things we just thought about as we need to help brands forge an emotional connection with pet owners.

BEN                                             That’s right. That’s a really great insight.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think, when you’re too unfocused, what you need to do is just step back and find that one thing that you’re doing and do it amazingly well. It wasn’t all this manufacturing and these other things that like, “Yeah, I’ve become really good at that.” That’s not this business. That’s not what’s going to make this business work. It’s only weighing me down.

BEN                                             Right. Again, it gets back to that product market fit, where you’re trying a lot of things. You’re running a lot of parallel experiments. Then you say, “Wow! That thing really worked. It worked at scale. We actually made money on it. We should maybe try doing more of that.” Then you double down on it and you’re like, “When I double down on it, it worked even better.” Then you may have discovered your true business at that point.

STEVEN                                    Right. You said something to me when I first walked in here that was super valuable. How do I describe what you do in the most basic sense of the word? Like healthy Mexican food. That didn’t exist. Each market, you have to evaluate whether it’s worth it. Fortunately, my small market of B2B custom pet products is $1 billions of me to be able to go after because the alternative is not differentiating. If you’re a retail store nowadays, or you are a brand, you better be doing everything you can to keep things mixed up because you have Amazon guys that are just after you.

BEN                                             That’s right. It can clone replicate, knock off your thing in a matter of days, sometimes hours.

STEVEN                                    Right. You know what? The person who you’re going to be most viral, talk about the most, is the pet parent with their dog because that’s the most emotion, full sale, it’s just provoking so much of pet.

BEN                                             That’s right. They’re so proud.

STEVEN                                    Exactly. So fortunately, the story always got better. Revenue always continued to grow. Along the way, we were able to finally get our learnings by meeting good people and keeping us super focused. I think, I always said, “Even the people that you meet, you may not disagree with along the way, you never know when that could come back around.” Some investors that we had at the beginning when we went through our SKU accelerator, we didn’t do so well with, and then later on became awesome investors and awesome mentors to us. There’s always a place for somebody along the journey. We’re on this thing because when I saw you today, I think it’s a sense of like you’re proud of everybody who is in the same journey as you are.

BEN                                             Absolutely, there’s a kinship and a camaraderie there.

STEVEN                                    Exactly. So, I think getting through, letting it go after the direct consumer model was challenging because it was our baby, it was closing a chapter. It was the best thing that ever happened because the momentum just started going forward. So, you can’t have that.

BEN                                             But you did have to make a pretty significant shift. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you simply changed your website. It means that your entire sales model shifted. I think you’re like, “Now, we’re a B2B company. Everything had been effectively channeled probably at that point through Facebook and Google and some other things like that, and all these other earned media opportunities. Then, now you’ve got to say, “How do I develop a relationship with the right person at Subaru,” right? And make sure that becomes a key account.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, Absolutely.

BEN                                             That’s a really different business.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think the accounting background is what helped me the most there. So, it wasn’t that the direct consumer business was all fluff. It’s just that you’re spending so much money places that there was no thought of bottom line at all. You’re out here pitching in Shark Tank. If you’re not really going to raise the right amount of money and go after that market, you’re not going to win. The sock guys that put your dog’s face all over socks won. That’s a simple one product customization. No choice to it. Give me a Heller, give me a dog’s face.

BEN                                             Digital print.

STEVEN                                    Slap it on it. So, we had to go towards our competitive advantage. Our competitive advantage is that we design and customize the best pet products. We’ve worked with the best brands in pet. We’ve worked with real pet companies. We made them products that won Best Product of the Year award in the pet space. So, we had to continue to go back and say, “What do we do best. Is there a market to make a lot of money in this space?” Fortunately, along the way is there wasn’t a lot of competition. If not, any. So, my dad always says to me, or he said to me something when I was little is like, “Hit them where they ain’t.” Something that simple is just what gave us the ability to take the time is we weren’t in the Mexican food market. If I was, I’d be smoked, right?

BEN                                             That’s right. Yeah. You got to find your lane and really go hard after it.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. For me, this is my seventh year in the journey. I feel like it’s only been three because it’s been a completely new model.

BEN                                             Yeah. Because it’s like the real graduate school for entrepreneurship and then you’re like, “Okay, now, I understand how this works. Let’s do this.”

STEVEN                                    It’s the journey of taking it, but huge losses of Shark Tank through profitability. I mean this is what I’ve wanted to do. You asked my mindset going through Shark Tank. Yeah, I loved it, but again there was always that sense of like, “Okay, this show is making me bigger than I am.” Being able to make the real decisions with my co-founder Sean and making the hard decisions, moving each of us into roles that we didn’t want to be in and doing whatever it was to be selfless for the company brought it out, and all the co-founders. We actually are down to only two of the original co-founders that were there because they were also selfless actually.

                                                      It takes you a lot, especially at a young age, I started the business at 23-years-old. So, this has been my journey, my MBA through it all, learning that, “Hey, my grandfather’s journey of creating this big business is not just so easy, as I know I just: “Hey, we’re going to go out and then go to China, buy some stuff and come back and try to make it right.” This just doesn’t work like that.

BEN                                             Well, I always say to people that starting a business is the best MBA you could possibly ask for. The best way to learn it is by actually doing it with real dollars. It will form you in ways that you don’t anticipate. So, there’s a lot of things there that are really interesting and insightful to me. I want to go back to a thing that you said in passing, which is, you and your co-founders had to make some selfless choices. Among those include the fact that only two of you, and originally, there were four or five of you.

STEVEN                                    Four of us.

BEN                                             Four of you. Yeah. So, there were four of you. Is it possible to move on to the next chapter of your life and of the life of the company in a way that is healthy, that is not acrimonious or accusatory and all the things? Again, because being a co-founder with somebody has a lot of similarities to getting married to that person. You may or may not have realized what you were signing up for, but you’re in a thing pretty deep together. There’s emotions involved in it. There’s ego. There’s a lot of factors there. Then there’s, as you’re successful, real money involved in it, too. How did you navigate your way through these college buddy relationships through probably some really tough conversations?

STEVEN                                    Yeah, for sure. Super hard, especially, loyalty to me is everything. If you know me at my core, I would be there for any of my friends, any day of the week. My friends are family. I thought about that my whole life. So much so that I started business with all of them. So, you never want to do anything that affects your friends. I definitely feel that a sense of you failed, if somebody is not still with you. I think it’s not a failure. It’s just like you’re just not experienced at that time, wherever it is, at least if you’re a college startup, and how we transformed.

                                                      I think the first thing is, if the co-founders are not there anymore doesn’t mean they’re not smart. It doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t crucial to the business at the point that it was. All those things I think are the first thing to think about. You may say some bad things to each other along the way, that’s just because you both don’t know what you’re doing in that moment. But in reality, I think getting to there is knowing that the business evolved. Is hyper focused. If you can both see that, that it’s the best decision on behalf of the business, no matter how mad somebody is, it’s just over.

                                                      Now, I think one thing that I’ve also learned along the way is you should do it the right way. You shouldn’t lie to people. You shouldn’t mistrust people. You should be very open with it and come forward.

BEN                                             Yeah. Play the long game because you want to preserve these relationships.

STEVEN                                    That’s right. I met with a very good CEO and talented entrepreneur here in town, named Sam Goodner, a long time ago, when I was in SKU. It was an incubation station at the time. He said to me, “How many founders you have?” I said “Four. First four founders.” “You will not have four founders at the end of this.” I was like, “I’m going to prove you wrong, man.” My grandfather always said it to me, too, like “You have too many founders.” Somehow, we ended up with less founders, but not in the way because we do it the wrong way.

BEN                                             They weren’t right. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    I think that just tells you about the evolution of a business. I was a very convincing person. It may not have been at every stage, the best thing for everybody.

BEN                                             You’re enthusiastic about it, I’m sure, yeah.

STEVEN                                    I was enthusiastic, man. I was driven to get you involved and feel the pain that I was feeling type of thing. I think I’ve also obviously evolved from that, too. Yeah, I think the biggest thing to think about is that whoever contributed at that time was an impact for some reason. You had them there at that time. I’m super appreciative of both Sam Lampe, who’s doing awesome stuff now; and Ting Liu, also the same that my co-founders that started with us, and wasn’t for Ting, I wouldn’t have learned China. I would know nothing about the culture. Gave me the biggest crash course that I could ever have. Sam was right there in terms of our building of it, transitioning, understanding and ultimately realizing that it wasn’t the right fit at that point for him, and has gone on to do awesome stuff.

                                                      As you know, it’s okay for things not to work. There’s always something brighter on the other side if you’re a talented person, and you work hard and you’re a good person. I think the same way about how it happened with us is super happy, appreciative of their time, and still the closest friends. You’re going to go through your time where you’re not the closest. That’s okay, too. Over time, things change. I think that’s how it works.

BEN                                             That’s good. So, on that subject of over time things change, you started this as a 23-year-old graduate student in that world and coming out of college life. Now, you’re married. You’re a dad. How have you changed over those last years? Have you learned to be a family guy along with being an entrepreneur? Because again, stereotypically, you’re going to do the startup thing, you’re going to burn the candle at both ends. You’re going to sleep in the office if you have to. I know you guys have a very dog friendly office. So, there’s lots of dogs.

STEVEN                                    Semi dog bed.

BEN                                             That’s right. Yes. Sleep on the dog bed, if you have to. You can’t always do that when you have a family. How have you grown and evolved and thought about your own transition or evolution on that front?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. You want to work less. You want to do with your family more. I love being an entrepreneur. It defines me. Love PrideBites and my PrideBites family, but there’s nothing like going home in the afternoon and then putting blinders on, it’s just me and my son. I think that’s an awesome time. Going through the experience, in my opinion and becoming a first-time father or parent is a lot like entrepreneurship where people say like, “It’s so hard. You’re going to be so tired. You’re this.” You just have to manage and figure it out and whatever, make it work.

BEN                                             That’s right. I don’t know how to do this, but I guess I got to try.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I’ve changed a lot of diapers, man and jumped in. Just do my part as much as possible. I think, the way that it’s changed me is it makes me think more about my time, how efficient I am with my time. I’m doing a lot more planning ahead of time.

BEN                                             Trying to work smarter, yeah.

STEVEN                                    Trying to work smarter. I’m really delegating now. This is a big thing for me in my life. I love it.

BEN                                             Yeah. Trusting others saying, allowing other people to do things that they’re really gifted at.

STEVEN                                    Right. Letting other people make answers instead of me. That was my transition from 23 to now. Coming into this, seeing my grandfather manage a business was like with iron fist. “I’m going to do it my way. That was the way it worked.”

BEN                                             That was that era. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    My co-founder Sean, he’s put up a lot with me, but he’s seen the transition, hopefully, of me going through that, too. I think maybe my meeting of Tucker really made me become more of a lifetime learner, know that I can do more of myself or get out there and try to figure it out more. Started reading a ton. I think that’s a huge transformation in my personal life to becoming where I am now because I was able to be exposed to better minds than me. I read a ton of stuff.

BEN                                             Joining a lot of conversations. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    Exactly. Mindfulness like these types of emotional intelligence is a big thing, I think. Making sure if you’re a young CEO that started in college, that you’re willing to evolve and not just be one person. I think if you can do that, then you’ll be able to build an experience that most people don’t. One that, yeah, you went into it, not knowing what you’re doing, and you figure it out. Then you ultimately find something because if you work hard, then the idea is halfway decent, right.

BEN                                             Eventually. It’s going to break your way.

STEVEN                                    I hope.

BEN                                             Eventually. It may take decades. Who knows? But I recognize that when I met you earlier on in your journey, and I saw that in you really at an early stage. You really were very proactive about seeking out mentors and advice and really having that learner’s mentality and acknowledging even though you were a confident guy, you were still trying to just be a vacuum cleaner for knowledge and information and things like that, and really distilling that and saying, “How can this make me better?” I think that that’s a really important posture to take. You’re doing that, obviously, in conversations over coffee, but you’re also doing it in terms of setting aside time to read.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think building on yourself is important. Even now when I’m with my son more, too, if I’m going out something, I’m listening to some audio book or trying to make the most of my capability, I think, at that time, too. I want my team to feel like they can go to me for anything. So, I want to be ahead of them. I want to know the market better. I want to know the numbers in and out. I want to just try to be a better CEO, constantly and, know where I’m not. If there’s risks in the company or people are not happy, or we have to let people go, that’s a failure on me, not on anybody else. I need also be tuned to that, too.

BEN                                             The buck does stop with you.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think you just continue to have both a mindset, like where is this going for you? Is it really worth it for me? I’ve had those moments a lot with PrideBites to figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve always come back because it is something, I feel like I can scale. It is that thing that I built that don’t feel like there’s this anywhere around me. I can take my time. I can grow it into that family-run business that I wanted to be now. I think it’s okay, too, that if your journey starts out and you think I’m going to be a VC-backed business, and you don’t end up there, that’s completely cool. I can tell you something that I’ve learned along the way that companies that are not VC-backed businesses make some money, too along the way.

BEN                                             They can, yeah. So that’s why I joke with people. So, sometimes the startup communities, the term lifestyle businesses used with a subtle pejorative slant to it. Every business is a lifestyle business. It’s really a matter of what kind of lifestyle you want.

STEVEN                                    That’s right.

BEN                                             There are a lot of a lot of air quotes lifestyle businesses that are really lucrative and really profitable. They’ve had some pretty good life for that lifestyle. That’s not something that should be looked down upon like, “You didn’t raise all the VC.” No, if that’s the path you need to go down, cool, but it’s not necessarily the right path for everybody.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I’ve been involved in some things. I’ve had that success, and that’s really fun. I think having on this side, too, is I don’t know. Kobe Bryant’s passing was a big impact on me.

BEN                                             Of course, yeah.

STEVEN                                    I was a huge fan of his and watched his entire life as I was growing up. He always said that the dream is the journey. I love to work, man. That’s who I am. I don’t know any different. When I took my time away to spend with the baby the first three weeks and just focused on him and coming back, I always woke up 5:00, 6:00 in the morning to go workout. My consistency in getting the work done has never been the problem. I don’t feel right if I’m not in that type of role.

BEN                                             Right. Your personality is such that you can’t just be, “I’m just going to be lazy.” It just like, “I’m going to do something. I might as well do something worthwhile.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. So, I think, the transition goes, as you become first-time father is just the thinking I have now when I’m on my own with him is just so focused. I feel like it’s a lot more meaningful, asking a lot better questions of the business and things that there. I think, just truly finding what’s important for me there and who I want to do it around. I think that’s also important.

BEN                                             That’s right. No, that’s really, really good stuff. What has been the darkest moment for you in your entrepreneurial journey and how did you get through it?

STEVEN                                    The darkest moment in our entrepreneurial journey. The changing of our co-founders, definitely, was. Also, it wasn’t just that. 2018, we got down to, basically, me and my other co-founder on the team.

BEN                                             You just pared it down, pared it down. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    We’ve been fortunate, since day one, we’ve had an amazing designer, Dvir Nahmany, who’s been a part of our team, is now the VP of Design. He deservedly should be a co-founder of our business. So, that’s something that’s really important. I think just the transition of people. I kept hearing A team, like hire A team, hire A team. It’s not that I don’t think any of those people are A team. They’re rock stars, actually, but maybe not specifically for the company or the role that we needed.

BEN                                             For this business at this stage.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, exactly, exactly. That’s because also I didn’t give them the tools, that was my failure. I didn’t plan correctly those types of things. Yeah, I hold every person so close. I think, letting somebody go or transitioning somebody, I feel like it is a failure on my part.

BEN                                             It’s also, for most people, I know for me, it’s the worst part of business.

STEVEN                                    Horrible.

BEN                                             It’s bad for everybody. It’s like, “You had to let somebody go.” So, it’s a bad day for them. Well, if you have a heart, it’s a terrible day for you, too.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Even in our case, it wasn’t letting them go. In some cases, it was just a move on.

BEN                                             A mutual parting of the way for this activity.

STEVEN                                    Exactly. Yeah. But just then going back and saying, “What do you want? What do I want with my life at these stages?” Having those moments, especially, even when they’re tough, the things that are not working in your business and you know that you have to switch it up or change something. There was a time transitioning out of direct to consumer. You asked me in terms of how long it took. Well, it was about a two-and-a-half-year journey. We just changed the website now in January. We made that decision back in the end of 2017.

BEN                                             Yeah, that’s not overnight.

STEVEN                                    No.

BEN                                             Again, it’s like, “Yeah, let’s just do this pivot.” 24 hours later, no. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    Because also you don’t want the factories to think that you’re closing up because we had a real business growing on this other side that was growing by over 30% a year.

BEN                                             That’s right. You’re going to do a parallel process there.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Alongside of not having people on the team and letting them all go because we thought that there’s a different direction. So much of it was like, “Oh, man, we let people down. How do we keep the business alive?” Okay. Now, that we have the business alive, how do we now put it in the best place? How do we go from putting ads on Facebook to hiring and training people well? If it’s not your skill level, you got to go find the people who can help you get there.

STEVEN                                    We found a guy that was in SKU with us, a mentor, named Hank Feir.

BEN                                             Yeah, I love Hank.

STEVEN                                    I love Hank. I love Hank. His personality jives with me. He’s done really well with us and focused our business completely and made some really harsh criticisms at the very beginning. I think, not at the beginning, but not immediately did we accept it, but we accepted it over time, and allowed us to get through there along with Rick Lundbom really, too, making some harsh directional changes for us.

So, I think good people, we’re super lucky to be around really good people. Maybe just hit the bottom saying, “I don’t know how else to tell this story” convinced me to move a different direction.

BEN                                             Yeah. To loosen your grip on certain parts of it. So, then on the flip side, for you, what’s been the summit, so far, in your entrepreneurial journey? What has been the moment? Again, it’s not that you arrived necessarily but you’re like, “This is awesome.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. So, I don’t think I’ve reached it yet, in my opinion.

BEN                                             Totally. So, let’s say that there’s a fog, there’s a low cloud cover. You’re still on the trail. Hopefully, there’s a much bigger summit ahead of you. To this point, you’ve been on a trail with peaks and valleys, and that’s your thing. Not necessarily because I sold x units or I made this much money or something, but is there a moment that you’re like, “This is good.” I think sometimes it’s the old Chariots of Fire, the main character there says, “I feel God’s pleasure when I run” kind of thing. You know what I’m saying, where you’re just like, “I’m doing what I was made to do. This is good.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Every time I get on a plane and go overseas, I have I a chill moment where I’m super thankful that I get to experience different cultures, unlike any. I got guys I talk to over there daily that we’ve transitioned from living in dorm rooms to what we now have in China. Our setup in China is unbelievable. So, hard for me to describe to people. When I take everybody there, their mouths dropped to the floor. It’s just because it’s a unique set of people and the personalities. I think I’m most proud of the team that we put together now.

                                                      I think, here back in the States to complement them, we have amazing people, too. Seeing them all interact now and watching it go from losing $1 million a year Shark Tank to now reaching profitability and approaching profitability. That’s a big thing to us. Knowing that we’re not just creating a business and just trying to grow revenue without any focus, we now are really making money. Contribution margin is having a huge impact. So, seeing us become more of a business like, monthly closes and the things that we never had.

BEN                                             That’s right. You’re being professional about this.

STEVEN                                    Right. I always ask people, very successful people, and I’ll ask you the same thing is, when did you know? When was the moment that you knew that you were successful? What was that turning point? Because I always like, in my head, have all these feelings and where we’re at, and where I’ve come on this journey, and where we’re headed. If could look back now, and 20, 30 years from now, what moment in my life is going to be that significant?

BEN                                             Yeah. Well, I know for me, it was not necessarily successful, again to your points. I don’t know what is success. I take more pleasure in the kids that we are raising and all this kind of stuff, too. I do know, for me, part of my journey, I was probably in my mid 30s before I owned my identity as an entrepreneur. I think I probably just thought I was a crappy employee and that sort of thing. Then I realized it’s probably because I’m not in the right role in general. I really am wired in a different way. I think that self-acceptance or owning an identity around, like “Okay, this is really what I’m gifted at. This other thing, I’m just not very good at.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Being honest with yourself is a moment of true realization, right?

BEN                                             Absolutely. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    I think seeing on the room and looking at like, “Hey, we were a dog toy starting company in college, that was just trying to figure it out to, hey, we have a real operation here now.” It’s fun to see more and more businesses understand what we do and getting in the door and being creative, and I just love it all.

BEN                                             Yeah. Well, because now you’re actually as this, in this B2B business model, you’re really instrumental in the success of these other businesses now, too. They’re making their customers happy and their employees happy and this sort of thing. You’re really the wind in their sails. That’s a really good place to be.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I think, we go back to the emotional connection with a pet owner. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing a pet owner that happy as they sit with their dog because the dog is so happy. I think seeing the full connection, as we now look over this, what we know is we want to get really good at creating and designing product, and helping these brands go on a different level. I think one of the big elements that are not there is the design part. Anyone can give out a pet product.

BEN                                             You think about just the swag at your typical convention or something like that. You’re like, “Okay. You want to pin with my company’s name on it. Okay.”

STEVEN                                    Right. I think that’s for us, too, something that’s super important now is how do we define ourself moving forward? So, you hit on a good point. A lot of people think of us like that. It’s just like swag. That will be a big business. Swag is a big business.

BEN                                             It is.

STEVEN                                    Slowly, slowly, are people realizing but where we really like to focus is on the brands that sell a product. If you use sell a product to make money and you are in a bunch of categories. If you’re in pet, you should call us tomorrow because we should show you how you will make a lot of money. Every one of our brands that come with us, they reorder, and they reorder, and they reorder. We have customers now for five years that have ordered $2,500 to start and now are ordering well over $40,000. So, we don’t need anything else we have to show you.

BEN                                             You don’t have to start huge. That’s right.

STEVEN                                    You just make the leap, and you see how good the pet consumer is. For a lot of brands and specifically CPG brands, it’s a great opportunity because now we’ve done a lot more in the swag business, but we’re seeing that swag business actually turning to meaningful merchandising businesses for people.

BEN                                             That’s right. Now, that’s good, too. It’s not just advertising specialties as well. It’s really how do I extend my brand that has a presence in these other categories to really address this adjacent market.

STEVEN                                    Especially now that more and more brand. It’s start off with a brand directed factory supply chains, then launch your store concept and build your store concept, slowly migrate into more things. So, building that pet consumer, 100 million pet owners in the United States, who are well educated, who spent a ton of money and are incredibly viral. Why wouldn’t you want that consumer?

BEN                                             That’s right. They want to share the photos of their dog or cat or whatever it is.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, a million and a half times. Go look at Buc-ee’s store and go look at how many times our pet products are hash tagged on Buc-ee’s. I’s shocking. It took those moments for us to realize like, wow, there’s a lot of companies out here to work with. I think getting that transition and getting the footing on how to organize it, how to attack it, that’s why I know now here’s my climax in terms of the business and starting to look through it. I’m really thinking about it in a different way. I’m making good questions about how do we want to model our sales team, how do we want to adjust, how do we want to incentivize.

BEN                                             Yeah. Well, I think, you had a little throwaway comment a little bit ago, and that was at the peak of, “We’re on Shark Tank. Go, go, go, this is all so exciting. We’re losing $1 million.” I think that’s a really important point for people because there’s this success theater that happens that it’s like, “Oh, you’re on network television or you have this many followers on Instagram,” or whatever other metric it is, fundamentally, if you’re losing $1 million, that’s going to put you in a really hard spot. There are a lot of businesses out there that maybe they don’t have the same following on social media or whatever the thing is, and they’re making money. Sometimes they’re making a lot of money.

                                                      There’s this kind of interesting unsexy business models. That’s one thing I really love about consumer-packaged goods is you make a thing. If you price it right, you sell it for more than you made the thing for. You make money every time. It’s not a weird convoluted business model, where “I’m going to give you my product for free and hopefully, somebody else is going to pay for that product, for the access to your data around the product or whatever.” So again, a lot of technology business models or media business models, but this is a very direct with your hard-earned money, you’re spending it. I think that there is something to be said for, that by taking a step back, I see a lot of CPG founders, who, deep down, really just want to be famous. I think that’s one reason why the Shark Tank phenomenon is there, because it’s like, “I can be a big deal,” which is, again, I think it’s a natural human impulse to be known.

                                                      We want to be known, we want to be loved in whatever format or form that takes, but the reality is in the same way that what you see on Instagram may or may not be that person’s reality. What you see from a business perspective, if somebody has a big booth at the trade show, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the most profitable business at all. It might be that the smart person is the one who has the smallest booth, and it’s humble and whatever else, but they’re making $1 million that year instead of losing $1 million.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. Every single dollar that’s ever been given to me is a cherished thing because I know how hard it is to work for that dollar, and I know in terms of the investment how important it is. I think you never want to think of it lightly. I laughed because I can’t believe I did that. It’s ridiculous that I lost that much money in a year and just like, “Where did it go? I don’t even know.” Just kept the lights on basically. It was a growth moment for me, personally. I think that will strongly pay off at the end of the day. I think having the moment to realize in the book, Onward, or the book of Starbucks CEO, he talks about-

BEN                                             Howard Schultz.

STEVEN                                    Howard Schultz. Yeah, sorry. I was having a moment. Howard Schultz talks about him coming back off the board of Starbucks and resuming his role as CEO.

BEN                                             Because he left and then he came back.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, he left and came back.

BEN                                             Things weren’t going well.

STEVEN                                    Correct. They went really well. He took a board role, and they started going bad, he then came back. He said he shut down Starbucks for a period of time. They lost 6 million bucks for him to do that in the four hours or something to shut them all down and retrain all his employees and go back to the basics. I think if you are in the position like we were, I mean, you’re a bunch of college founders who found a way, and you found your way into a business that was a real business. You need to really define who you are because you have so many different things going on at one time. That moment is the hardest moment because no one believes in you. You may have belief because it may be built up on something else, but you’re unsure of how am I going to really make money for people because I’m losing so much money. Then when you start seeing it and our system was not so easy, the accounting on our company, because it was all highly custom, was very involved.

BEN                                             Highly custom, highly international.

STEVEN                                    Correct.

BEN                                             All of the things here. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    The reason why we were able to turn the corner actually is because we were a non-inventory business. You give me an order, and I’m going to go produce it. We’ve been that business since day one. When we weren’t successful is when we tried to become a business that was an inventory backed business, and we couldn’t access the funds.

BEN                                             Interesting. Interesting. Yeah, because the cash flow management gets really complicated there.

STEVEN                                    Hugely complicated. I’ve always been able to go find some money to make it work whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but it allowed me to get through. It allowed us to see a good thing because, yeah, we have super healthy margins now. That’s even going through the turbulent times, as you can say. From Coronavirus, I would have never imagined this in a million years. All of a sudden, I can’t ship anything out of China. My whole team is on lockdown.

BEN                                             Plus trade tariffs.

STEVEN                                    Plus trade tariffs and everything. We’ve been able to figure it out. The business has endured. There’s a number of reasons as to why that happens. But I think having a super capable team, that is okay to be nimble at any given time.

BEN                                             You’ve surrounded yourself with smart people, who are creative problem solvers. Okay, guys, guess what? Here’s the problem today. We have a major virus that has effectively shut down a whole continent.

STEVEN                                    That’s right. There’s nothing we can do. Our team was super poised through this. Poised doing great following up, managed it all. There’s only very few amount of orders that we’re going to have to cancel at the end of the day because of this. We’re to see that there’s no revenue earned on shift revenue in February. Now, it’s all coming back online. So, we hope to ship a lot right now. You deal with it because the business is good business. There’s always going to be something like that.

BEN                                             What you do know is that there will be unexpected things that come your way.

STEVEN                                    Correct.

BEN                                             Now, you mentioned earlier today, you’re talking with another founder, an early stage founder. What are the kinds of things that you find yourself, typically, talking about with, and maybe they’re college age, maybe they’re older, but someone who’s a less experienced founder? What are the lessons that you find yourself repeating in those kind of coffee conversations?

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I said at the very beginning, that’s focus consistency grit. I typically tell them read Hard Thing About Hard Things. There’s this chapter in there called the CEO psychology.

BEN                                             Ben Horowitz.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, Ben Horowitz, exactly. I read that early on, and the chapter on CEO psychology, I think, is one of the best things for a young CEO to read because, yeah, this journey is super lonely. Super lonely. If you go through it, where some people are with you from the beginning and other people are not, and you’re the one having to really pilot that, you become super lonely.

BEN                                             Which can have a toxic effect on your psychology.

STEVEN                                    That’s correct.

BEN                                             When you feel like it’s, “Nobody is with me. I’m all alone. Nobody believes in me. It’s me versus the world,” you can get into some really bad habits of thinking there.

STEVEN                                    Absolutely. Or maybe sell yourself down.

BEN                                             Yeah. “I can’t do it.” You get kind of Eeyore about the whole thing. It’s like, “That was so stupid. Why did I ever get myself or my family or my investors into this in the first place?”

STEVEN                                    Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s so much goes on to you. I think, just trying to stay levelheaded. I think, mindfulness is something that I would have laughed at. If you told me about it when I was 23 years old, I meditate every morning. I deep breathe. That’s a big part of my day.

BEN                                             Yeah. Because there’s a lot that’s going to come at you. You better start off centered. If you’re off at the beginning, you’re going to get way off by the end of the day.

STEVEN                                    If you lose $1 million in one year, you should really have to prove to people how you’re going to make it back. That goes for me, too.

BEN                                             Yeah. That’s right.

STEVEN                                    Right. I think through that process of just stay focused on the business. I said something to one of my employees yesterday, it’s amazing. I said to her, “When you walk through those doors, this is my sanctuary, where nothing is touching me for the day, and I just get to focus on making it better. When you have all this other stuff going on around you, especially as an early-phase entrepreneur, no matter what it is, when you walk in that meeting, drop everything else because you’re going to ruin that one chance that you had to be good at that. Also realize that not every meeting you go into, when you’re an entrepreneur, you have to swing for the fences. You think when you’re young, that you’re going to walk into a meeting and someone’s going to write you a check for $1 million.”

BEN                                             You really do.

STEVEN                                    It’s amazing. I thought that every time.

BEN                                             Or you think you’re going to stand upon the stage, give a great pitch, and then all these wealthy people are going to line up with their checkbooks out. Physically, taking checkbooks out. I’m like, “How can I write you a very large check right now?” That’s not how it works.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. No. We remain scrappy at that process. I’m glad you say that because I think for everybody to listen to, that’s a hugely important thing.

BEN                                             Yeah. All you’re trying to do is to get coffee with those people.

STEVEN                                    That’s correct.

BEN                                             You’re going to get a lot of coffees. A lot of those coffees are going to go nowhere. But on occasion, some of them might be like, “Hey, that was a really interesting coffee. We should get coffee again.”

STEVEN                                    That’s right.

BEN                                             Then you continue to have the conversation, and they’re going to ask you. So, if you memorize your script as it were, and you did a great job of speaking on stage, but then you get coffee with the person who’s actually going to write the check, and you can’t talk about your business in a coherent intelligent way, they’re not writing you a check.

STEVEN                                    No. Even when you’ve met with them 100 times, and you think the check is coming tomorrow, and you feel very confident that, that could be coming tomorrow, and you’ve told everybody that it’s coming tomorrow, it may not come tomorrow. If it doesn’t, just we’re good.

BEN                                             Your spouse is saying, “Hey, I thought that check was coming.”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. A lot of those hidden pressures, right.

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    I don’t want to say that the same time with, actually, if the business is not good either, and you’re also doing poorly, like close it down, step away from it, and it’s okay to lose some. I lost some early in college, and I raised money that was stupid, and this is what it is.

BEN                                             You’ve got to acknowledge it. You guys say, “Is there a path forward here?” If there’s not a realistic probability of success, and you can’t pivot to a thing in a reasonable timeframe, then you’ve got to make some of those hard calls.

STEVEN                                    Absolutely. Sometimes that means looking at your business very critical here and what you are so passionate about and your whole team is working on may not be the thing that’s going to actually make you money at the end of the day. So I think that going through that has helped me a lot, helped our team a lot because I think really the reason why we were doing so well now is so many more people are involved and have their hands in it, and are able to leave their mark. I think at the beginning, you may be scared in your situation, I give a lot of credit to them, that they were willing to let other people come in and let… This is about the business, it’s about the growth of the business, and just bring in the best people we can and let it work.

                                                      I think the job of the CEO is to guide and to continue to keep the attitude positive, keep things going great.

BEN                                             Yeah. That’s really important.

STEVEN                                    You have to understand how each member of your team works. That’s where I’m finding the most fun at this point is like, okay, it’s working this way. It is working. It’s working really well. Can we adjust this person here maybe or get him focused on something a little bit different, and would it make it a whole much better? That’s so fun.

BEN                                             Being an expert and a student of your people and your team and saying, “Hey, I see this in you. You’re really good at this.”

STEVEN                                    That’s a hugely important thing. Imagine, you can think the same, too. I think something that you’ve done incredibly well is you’ve made other people really good. I don’t know if you remember this, but I remember the one of the first times we had a conversation, it was about you being an educator. It was a transition period. One of the things I thought you’d be so great as, is you were listening and taking it all, and you were trying to dial in what each person, how can I be beneficial for them or what can I do for them. You were genuine about it. You know what I mean? I think that was a huge thing in terms of entering a crowd that was a challenging crowd right.

                                                      In terms of us at the beginning and recognizing that I think even though I had to drop the extreme confidence at some point, at least, the showing of extreme confidence. I’ve kept every note from every conversation I’ve had with those mentors along the way. I’ve always gone back. We were talking a little bit about our Shark Tank preparation at the very beginning. Again, your preparation, if you’re a young startup or a young startup CEO, if you are not so prepared, what are you doing? You’re literally wasting your time. I think from our case, we were always there. So, it allowed us to be able to hit all these bumps and figure it out.

BEN                                             Right. Yeah. That’s right. You should listen to Hamilton, the Hamilton soundtrack, or something like that. It’s like, yeah, one shot man. It’s go time, and be this.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. I’ve heard that a million times with my co-founder. He absolutely loves Hamilton. I can thank him for that. Yeah, I 100% agree. You just have to be more dialed in, more prepared, especially as a young CEO.

BEN                                             Yeah. I was talking about this actually with my oldest daughter recently. We were chatting about some stuff. I told her I was out. Sometimes, to your point, reading, reflecting, listening, for me, sometimes, it’s working out in the yard or things where I have some space to think. I was thinking about that really success is, fundamentally, about seizing the opportunities that are presented to you. Sometimes, those are obvious overwhelming, like your teed-up opportunities. Sometimes, there are little cracks in the door. You’re like, “Did you recognize that the door was cracked open? Did you figure out a way to walk through that door?”

                                                      So, I think that that’s a big part of growing as an entrepreneur, growing as a person is learning to recognize those opportunities and to seize them, to take those steps that you need and to not be like, “The door wasn’t flung wide open for me, so I decided not to walk through it.” You’re like, “Was there any light showing through there? Did you move it two more inches open? Did you make the most of it?”

STEVEN                                    Yeah. My original co-founders always say to me like, “You had this sign on his computer. You create your own luck.” I think that brings something out in terms that I focus on, but also I think it’s, when I was in college, I had my graduate tax professor. I took every tax class, and you told him the Socratic method. Basically, he had to retire because he was too hard on students.

BEN                                             Interrogations.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. It was just too much.

BEN                                             Yeah. Just have a big spotlight on you. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    We always write up these cases, these tax cases, we had to summarize them. He was always, “No, less words, less words, less words.” It was always, how do we condense it.

BEN                                             Focus, focus, focus.

STEVEN                                    Yeah, exactly. He used to say to me one time when I walked in, I said, “You know what? I’ve done everything. I’ve stayed up.” I used to study my ass off, man, 17-hour days, no different what I do now. Maybe a little different since I’ve been a father. He said to me like, “If you’re stuck, you’re point end. Go put your flag in the ground where point B is. You know where that is? Okay. You got more work to do.”

                                                      My thought process whenever now we bring somebody, I think, also onto our team is how capable are you? If you are capable and you’re a smart person, this business should be easy. That’s how you make money, right?

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    So, if that is the case, then the role that you’re in should be able to be accomplished because you’re capable of doing it. I think that’s the same thing with us now is like, “Okay, we got to this point.” We’ve had five years of great growth. We have lost some numbers. Our track record is crazy. In a pet space, that looks like a SaaS platform.

BEN                                             That’s right.

STEVEN                                    It’s really hilarious to me.

BEN                                             It’s super fun. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    Yeah. But it’s working. Now, how can we make the right decisions? I say that to myself every day, make good decisions, tried to get everybody and think about things that we’re not thinking about, and then try to have mind share together to keep moving it forward. So, in terms of where we are, we feel like we have so much more to go. Being able to learn from people that have done it and people going out there, and seen really cool things in a bunch of different industries is awesome for us to see because we allowed to continue to learn and incorporate into our business into the way that we do things.

BEN                                             Yeah. You don’t have to only listen to other pet entrepreneurs. You don’t have to only listen to people who are doing customization of toys or whatever. No, you can really pick up some stuff from a wide variety of different entrepreneurs and sources.

STEVEN                                    I listened to enough pet people. You know what I mean?

BEN                                             Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

STEVEN                                    I’ve learned the industry. It doesn’t mean I can’t keep learning. I’m always keep learning that space. Yeah, but some of these other great entrepreneurs and other segments are doing things that are so cool. We’re learning in different ways. What you said earlier to me is again transitioning in the focus offered of who you really are and what your real mission is and what your real values are. These are all things you can really learn from other people because they’re incorporating different ways. CPG is a space that is not only becoming explosive in terms of scale, but it’s also allows the creativity of a real entrepreneur, of a real idea to come to life.

                                                      I think, Austin is literally the epicenter right now. Everyone talks to me about this. It’s cool to be on this side because I feel like I’m good to go and interview people who have created awesome brands and see it go through. We’re now working with TOMS and Buc-ee’s and watching them really scale and being there with them. It’s cool. It’s cool to be a part of that journey with them and see how it all happens because you can incorporate so much of what you know.

BEN                                             Absolutely. You get a little bit of the behind-the-scenes access to “Wow, that’s how you did that.”

STEVEN                                    That’s right.

BEN                                             Yeah. That there’s a lot of work and discipline and focus that went into that. So, that’s good. Well, Steven Blustein, CEO of PrideBites. It’s been just a delightful and insightful conversation. It’s been great to catch up with you. I’m really happy to see how you guys have encountered, certainly, some obstacles along the way, but you found your way over them, around them, and pivoted and re-imagined yourselves as a group and then individually, over the last few years. I’m excited to see what’s ahead and where that next summit is that you’re headed to.

STEVEN                                    Thank you. Appreciate it. Yeah, it’s fun, and it’s awesome to do it around people that you can continue to live your story through. So, thanks for having me on and great to be here.

BEN                                             Thanks again listening, for watching. I’m going to remind everybody that if you go to barcodestartup.com, you can view, listen to, and/or read this episode. So, whatever learning modality works best for you, we’ve got that one queued up and ready to go. So, our objective here at Barcode is to equip emerging consumer brands. Hopefully, these conversations are doing that for you.

                                                      If they are, please, please subscribe, share, rate, review, text your friends and say, hey, if you’re not listening to this stuff, if you haven’t heard what Steven Blustein said about some of the myths around what actually makes a real entrepreneur versus having a successful business that you’ve dug deeper and figured out like, “This is really how we run a profitable, successful focused business.” Well, again, if you’re getting insights out of these conversations, please just tell your friends. We look forward to hearing from you next time.

 


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