Every big hit story starts with a simple one. Jim Dorey’s success in working with two big retailers in the US started with him sitting in a corner of a small grocery store. Exposed to “people from all walks of life”, Jim became mindful and empathetic of people that come into the store and took the lessons he learned in building his life and his success.
Equipped with discipline, lessons he learned early in his life, and the privilege of getting into Harvard Business School in an executive management program, Jim made his way up to being the president of PriceRite from being a Procurement Manager in Wakefern. He shares that it was self-discipline and a positive mindset that paved the way for him. Being able to recognize his mistakes and learn from other successful people’s mistakes led him to write his book, Just Keep Swimming.
It’s a lesson-filled and inspiring episode as you’d hear Kunle and Jim talk about Jim’s journey to success, efficient resource allocation, and distribution, getting your CPG brand or FMCG noticed, and tips on establishing a capital stack for entrepreneurs. They also talk about building connections, radiating positive energy to people, gratitude, as well as learning from others’ mistakes.
Here is a summary of some of the most important points made:
On today’s interview, Kunle and Jim discuss:
Q: What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
A: Keep moving forward.
Q: Are you a morning person?
Q: What’s your daily morning routine like?
A: Put a smile on my face before my feet hit the floor and then go.
Q: Are you into sports?
Q: What’s your favorite team?
A: No favorite team. I love NCAA college football and college basketball.
Q: Why college and why not the NFL and NBA?
A: The leagues got political here a few years ago. You couldn’t watch a game and enjoy it. When I watch it, I want to enjoy it. In the college aspect of it, it’s kids that are working. Some of them are going to be millionaires but a lot of them are just doing it because they love the game. It’s competitive and you can watch ten games. I’m better when I’m not personally connected to the team because I get upset and angry when I see them do poorly.
Q: What are two things can’t you live without?
A: My family and coffee.
Q: What book are you reading or listening to?
A: It’s funny, it’s the Bible in a Year, I’m listening to it. I probably should have done this a long time ago but it’s pretty insightful. I’ve heard a lot of the stories but to hear him again is helpful.
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On this episode, we’re going to be talking about CPG brands, getting into grocery stores, the principles, how to prep your brand, how to pitch your brand, how to raise capital, and how to keep your brand in grocery stores. This is a great episode you do not want to miss.
Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast. The 2X eCommerce is a podcast dedicated to digital commerce insights for retail and eCommerce teams. Each week, on this podcast, I interview an eCommerce expert, a founder of a digital-native consumer brand, or a representative from a best-in-class eCommerce SaaS platform to help you grow.
Their remit is to enable you to provide data to provide their stories, to provide their insight, and to provide their experience that has delivered the growth of metrics such as conversions, average order value, repeat customers, your audience size, and ultimately your gross merchant value. My purpose here in this podcast is to help you sell more sustainably as a commerce brand, build out your brand, grow from a marketing perspective, and fulfill your company’s mission and purpose.
On this episode, you’re about to read a podcast I had with Jim Dorey. I met Jim Dorey in October 2022. I flew out to California in October 2022 for a weekend to join The Think Billions event, which is hosted by Howard Panes, we call him Howie Panes. He built a billion-dollar brand, exited that, and built another brand worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the fitness space. He’s still running that and then he’s doing another mission-driven food and beverage brand. He’s a mutual friend.
Jim Dorey’s expertise is in distribution. He’s worked for retailers and two big grocery stores under his belt and he understands distribution. He’s also written a book. In this episode, we go through the principles of getting your eCommerce brand, your CPG brand particularly, CPG brand or FMCG brands, Fast-Moving Consumer Product brands, onto retail stores and keeping them in retail stores. It’s one thing getting to retail stores and it’s another thing staying in retail stores.
He gives us his formula for that and what he’s seeing with regard to thriving brands. He shows us a lot of stories of what brands are doing. He talks about connection and he talks about stories. I don’t want to go too deep. You have to read this episode, for sure. He also gives us his key principles for being in the industry for well twenty years on success in life. What are the principles of success in life? That’s what his book is about, which is Just Keep Swimming.
This convo, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was heartwarming. It’s one of those episodes you record where it feels like a nice conversation. Just Keep Swimming is his book. Enjoy this conversation. Why should you read this conversation? If you are looking to move your CPG brand to grocery stores and you want to know how it works and you want to get some principles to success along with that, read this one. Enjoy my interview with Jim and I shall catch you on the other side. Cheers.
Jim, welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation because it was over two months ago we last saw in person. Welcome to the 2X eCommerce Podcast.
Thanks so much, Kunle. I love your show. I love what you do. I love the audience that you reach. I’m super excited to give time and to be heard, for sure.
Thank you. I appreciate it. I want to dig into who Jim is. People have read the introduction but, in your opinion, who’s Jim Dorey? What was your childhood like? What do you think were the key memories that formed who Jim Dorey today is? It’s an open-ended question.
It’s funny. I think about it all the time, the moments that break us, shape us, make us, and all these things that happen as a kid. I grew up not too far from New York City in Northern New Jersey. I’m the youngest of five kids. We were a working-class family. I spent a lot of years in a family grocery corner store where I got exposure to a lot of people from all walks of Earth at a young age.
I was smart enough to listen and hear these lessons every day and some of them were older folks that would come in and spend time there. I would laugh and say, “Are you solving the world’s problems today?” That helped me early on to get a street education. From there, I went through some of the state schools and public schools. I ended up eventually working in sales and marketing. One of the things that I talk about is having discipline every day. I work out every morning, early. Over 25 years ago, I met a group early in the morning at the gym that I would go to and one of them ended up being the president of a large food company.
After 5 or 6 years of knowing me personally, he said, “I want you to come and join us.” That was a company called Wakefern Food, which is about a $17 billion supermarket business. I spent almost twenty years there which brings me to today’s career. I run 25 stores. We’re over $1 billion in US sales. I get the opportunity to work with thousands of associates every day and try to take care of families.
Incredible. Humble beginnings and good connections. What I picked up was discipline, a routine, and trust, and this is the outcome. Let’s go back into Wakefern Food. How long were you there for? What did you do there in the capacity of sales?
The career was almost twenty years. When I came in, it was real estate so helping to find new locations and negotiate leases so we could build new stores. Through there, I went into different divisions helping to run the frozen foods and dairy food divisions. I eventually went into one of the subsidiaries called PriceRite Marketplace. I moved up through various positions there becoming the president. Over 6 or 7 years ago, it was a 60-store chain. We have supermarkets in lower-income areas throughout the East Coast of New Jersey. Over a year and a half ago, I moved to a related company, which is Inserra Supermarkets. I’m running a bit of a bigger chain for a beautiful family-owned company.
What’s been the difference, from a point of view of your experience, in working for Price Rite, which is a multi-billion dollar company, and Inserra, which is a family-run business? They’re two sizes.
What’s funny is one side was a little more corporate, a lot of structures, a lot of meetings, and a lot of multiple sign-offs. You then come to today’s group where you have a family that’s involved in it and they give you decision-making rights so it’s a lot more on-the-go and moving. At the end of the day, the thing that’s the most the same anywhere I’ve been or anywhere you go is you’re dealing with people every day.
You’re trying to do the right thing for your team, show them that you appreciate them, respect them, give them room to grow, make great decisions, and have fun as you do it. There are too many meetings that you walk into with a lot of people and everybody’s got this real serious look on their faces. I always look around and say, “What if we all walked in smiling? Would that change how this meeting’s going to go?” I try and bring that every day.
You’ve been in the retail industry for well over twenty years now. speaking of customers, you talked about satisfying customers, how do you think shopping behavior has evolved from over twenty years back to today? What key trends or shifts have you seen and how do you see this panning out over the next few years?
It’s amazing how many things have changed. Probably over the last 6 or 7 years, the speed of change has been off the charts but it’s also amazing how many things are still the same.On some ends of it, we’re running physical supermarkets but we also offer online pickup and delivery to your door. On one end, you have customers who are going to make that trip to the store, they’re going to pick up meat, seafood, cheese, butter, vegetables, and produce.
On the other end of it, you’re competing with huge companies like Amazon, Walmart, Target, and just about anybody else. I always used to say that over fifteen years ago, at least in this market, if you wanted to buy a gallon of milk, you had to go to a grocery store or a supermarket. At this age of the game, you could shop at your door, you could get it at a gas station, or you could get it at a convenience store.
There are many different channels to serve the need. You have to look at how you take care of the customer and make them want to come into your store and then cultivate them as a customer whether their preferences. Some days they want to order at their door in an hour. On other days, they want to do a large piece and then pick it up. On other days, they want to come into the store and stroll for the experience. You need to deliver on every end of it. There’s a little bit of change but the same history of it.
A lot of readers of this show are running or part of operations that are like digital-native CPG brands and some might be general products but they’re still selling to a consumer market. Given how fluid and how easy it is, this is all about convenience from what you said, how do they efficiently allocate resources from a distribution standpoint to cater to at least 70% or 80% of their customers’ needs and meeting them wherever they are now in 2023?
Kunle, the most important thing you talk about is meeting them where they are. Many times you hear about brands, retailers, or online that want to deliver in a certain way and the customers are going to drive the way they want. Anytime we’re looking at a promotion, a product, or pricing and we’re trying to change the way people are behaving, you got to also consider what they want. Are you meeting the need? Is it something that has a purpose? That’s going to help that success so much more.
I give credit to everybody who’s reading that’s building a brand, starting a brand, or trying to create something because that’s what’s making the world spin right now and it’s making many great stories. I always have such respect for anybody that puts themself out there. There are probably a lot of failures before you get the big hit but keep pushing, for sure.
For digital native brands, what will be the first step? By digital-native, let’s say you’re selling on your Shopify store or you’re selling on Amazon. If you want to meet customers where they are, how would you do it, Jim, if you are a founder reading this podcast?
The first is I’d get out there and scramble. You got to get some volume going and get some momentum going. As they used to always say, “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.” When you got a little bit of momentum and you have people and you’re making sales and you’re moving product, everybody wants a piece of it.
As a retailer, if we see somebody that’s selling millions of units on TikTok, we want to learn more about it and say, “Is there a way to tie into it?” If they go like MrBeast who started his candy bar, it blew up because he had such a following. As a traditional retailer, you want to understand, “Can I tap into that audience too?” That’s a part of it, being online, connecting with other people, and trying to do the same things as you.
When I wrote Just Keep Swimming, it was about learning from my experience and sharing it with others. There are people that have made mistakes over years and years and then they had some big hits. If you can learn anything from them earlier on and try and help you get things going better and get more momentum more quickly, that’s going to compound immensely so be out there with that.
There are also these networking groups that have resources. You’re working on packaging and you may have somebody who you think is great but you might run into a contact who puts you in touch with someone who can do it for a third of the price and being cost-conscious is going to be critical to making it happen and continuing to reach out is important.
It’s having a purpose and being true to what your brand is. We talked a little bit about how a personal brand and building a CPG brand had so much in common. If you’re not authentic, you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have a reason, you’re not true to what you say you’re going to do, and you’re not different from what’s out there, it’s hard to be the next great one.
There’s a lot to unpack there but I picked up on purpose, connecting with customers and the market, and having that story. What brands do you think are doing it well, building that momentum, having that following, and then scaling that following through channels such as offline distribution or bricks and mortar?
I said MrBeast. You talk about somebody who has millions and millions of followers, mostly a younger crowd. Somebody like a Target or Walmart sees that and says, “If we can have something that wants to bring that crowd in that we’re probably underserving right now to come into our stores, that’s a home run.”
I’ll give you a couple of examples of some smaller and newer ones that I talk about but their purpose is so clear that any customer that hears her story is going to want to support them. One is Collettey’s cookies. This is a young lady that we met through LinkedIn and online connections, which I’m a big fan of as you know. Colette was born with Down Syndrome, she put herself through school, went on a lot of job interviews, and has a great personality. Every interview, they’d say, “You’re great. We like you but you’re not the right fit.” Baking was always a hobby of hers.
Over time, she said, “I’m going to start my own business.” She started this business selling cookies door to door to some grocery stores and then doing some online, which she’s doing well with. Through a mutual contact, we met and now we’ve got her into our stores. She’s probably in almost 100 retail stores at this point. Her message is to change the world one cookie at a time. She’s hiring people with disabilities to make this product, which is fantastic. To me, that’s a connection that any parent, any family, or any good person is going to want to be a part of. The cookies are delicious so she’s going ti blow up.
Another example you and I talked about, Kunle, is our friend, Howie P, with Mighty Yum. Lunchables, for everybody who doesn’t know, is a kid’s snack that’s in the dairy section in the US at least, and it’s something that you eat on the go. Howie P and Mark, his partner, wanted to change and improve how people eat on the go so they came up with this plant-based Mighty Yum product with fantastic packaging.
You got a couple of people behind it who have built billion-dollar brands but they’re true to their purpose. They’re passionate, both of them and their whole team, about helping kids to eat better and helping families to eat better. When you get that behind and you get all those ingredients, it takes off and explodes. You have some other examples but those are a couple, to me, that are going to change things and they’re clear on their purpose so people want to support them.
Howie P was on the show. He’s an incredible person. I met him and you in person in October 2022 at The Think Billion event. Mighty Yum is amazing, I follow them on Instagram and they’re set to change the world and give children, where it all starts, a good start in life with better shopping options. It’s similar to what we’re doing at Octillion. That’s a huge scale with a pin focus, which is children, and convenient meals, which I find fascinating and incredible. I get what you’re talking about with regard to the stories. Having these stories that speak to good people, people who want to stand behind your story, people like the David and Goliath story all the time and standing by it.
Do you have any guidelines for readers on how to craft your story? We all have stories behind us but we don’t know how to tell them. What separates good from great is that great brands do have that ability to tell the story in the most articulate and emotional way that gets people connected to the brands long-term and they keep telling their story. The story keeps changing and that helps with retention.
It’s such a good point. The fact is you got to keep telling your story. You’ve heard it a million times but to the rest of the world, it’s the first time they’re hearing it. It’s hard to reach that audience. The fact is it’s got to be something real and you believe in. You put in the best ingredients that you possibly can. Are you trying to solve a problem by making a great value for the customer, whoever that customer is? Are you willing to grind it and maybe not make as much as you want early on to build the volume?
Are you clear on where you want it to be? What is the success if you’re starting your brand today? Some people have some healthy products that they want to help people to eat better and that’s all they want to do and they want to get it into as many hands as they can and they don’t care if they ever make a dollar. They’re going to be a nonprofit and that’s their belief and that’s great for them. You got other people that say, “I want to build it up to a million cases a month, and then I want to sell it to somebody huge and cash out.” That’s great too. You need to be clear on it.
It’s okay to understand that as it goes along, the answer may change. You may start and say, “I want to help the world.” You may say, “If I cash out for $1 billion, I can help you even more people.” It’s being clear on that, always checking yourself, and having people around you whether it’s a team of your own or a sounding board, your own personal board of directors, that can keep you in check and can ask you hard questions. When you’re running it and you’re the main person and you start to grow it, you tend to get a lot of people around you who let you make all the decisions.
At a certain point, you’re going to need people to tell you, “You’re a little bit off track,” or at least to check you and make you think about it. That’s important because the people who don’t get that great pushback tend to go on one track that maybe is not the best way to get there. You got to be open to taking advice from as many people as you can. You don’t have to always follow that advice but hearing as much as you can so you could put it against what you know is a great way to succeed as well.
Perspective is important and we only have so much visibility from our view or a certain angle, which speaks to this advisory board you’re alluding to. What personalities or expertise at a minimum should entrepreneurs have around them so their ideas are tested and then they take more informed decisions? How would you design that council around you?
It’s great and it’s going to be different for everybody. I had the privilege to go to Harvard Business School in an executive management program called the Advanced Management Program. In that, I was already an adult and an executive with children. My company sent me to live at Harvard for two months. You go into a living group with 150 executives from all over the world with all different experiences, some of them ran huge utilities, some of them ran banks, and some of them were entrepreneurs.
From there, those are a group of people that we talked about, how do you build your own board? Some of them may be in a different business from you but you like the way that they carry themselves. Some of them are financially savvy and you say, “That’s a resource for me.” Some of them are good and grounded people and you say, “They make me feel good when I’m around and I like the way they speak.” Those are some of the people. It’s going to be a collection.
I like to look at my network of people the same way. I’m constantly making connections whether it’s LinkedIn, online, or through business. I love to learn people’s stories, hear about what they do, and then I like to connect them with people who I think could help each other. I have a couple of great friends and you are one of them, if I meet somebody who I think could have something in common, connect with them, and see what happens.
Sometimes it’s a matter of growing that ring but from that, it becomes the board, and then it’s content that you can grab everywhere. I talk about it now, you think between you the podcasts that are out there and YouTube classes. You could take a class from a Stanford professor for free right now. You should take every resource that you can and spend all your time.
You got to put time aside whether you’re reading or listening to expand and learn. Some of these podcasters end up becoming a part of your council even though you don’t even know them because some of their advice starts to guide you on what you want to do. It’s a different collection for everybody and a well-rounded group is certainly going to benefit you.
The message there is don’t do it on your own. It takes a village and building that village. A follow-up question on there, do you ever bring your advisors together in the same room to brainstorm on a topic if possible, especially when they’re in different industries or even different parts of the world?
Not so much in person but we will jump on a Zoom call from time to time because of location and everyone’s time differences, schedules, etc. When possible, anytime I can get in a room with a few of the people that I respect and spend some time with, sometimes it’s talking about life and where you are, and sometimes it’s talking about a business issue, that’s always time well spent and it’s necessary too.
Sometimes if you’re living in your factory, your plant, or your office and you’re grinding all day fixed on one thing, you need an hour or two to get out where you talk about different topics. You may think you don’t have time to do that but the time that it’s going to give you back to clear your mind and meditate and get yourself grounded usually is going to pay off tenfold.
My next question is a bit left-field. Are you a swimmer?
Not really, that’s the ironic part.
You know where this is going.
Your book is called Just Keep Swimming. I’ve spoken to a few personal folks who’ve read the book and they’ve said it’s incredible. I’m about to order the Kindle version.
It’s available on Amazon.com in terms of the hard cover and the paper box. I’m going to get the Kindle. I’m going to be in the States in December 2022 so I’ll make sure I get a copy. Just Keep Swimming: Towards Success, Fulfillment, & Happiness. Why Just Keep Swimming? Why did you write this book?
Thanks for getting it. Thanks to anybody who picks it up. If I help one person to make things better for themselves, it’s worth the effort. I’ve gotten enough feedback to know that was a success. The reason I wrote Just Keep Swimming is to keep moving forward always, always onward, and always upward. We’re going to have all kinds of challenges. You’re going to have setbacks.
Sometimes you’re going to be on a great run and it’s going to go well forever but there are going to be things that set you back or there are going to be challenges ahead of you and you got to move forward. Far too many people are stuck in neutral thinking about a plan. They’re crafting this perfect plan to build their business or do something with their life or create a charity or whatever it is but they’re waiting to get the plan 100% developed and, a year later, they never have gone anywhere. To me, take that 80% plan and charge forward and craft it as you go to get it where you need to be. It’s about moving forward that way.
Writing down all these thoughts for over 6 or 7 years, I got a lot of experience and you learn a lot of hard lessons. Like with your children, if you can try and show them one thing to help them avoid pain, it’s a great thing. If they can be convinced that when you say, “A flame is hot. Don’t put your hand in there.” If you can avoid them burning their hand one time, it’s fantastic. A lot of times, as we know, there’s no other way. They’re going to put their hand in there anyway and say, “You’re right.” Maybe they take the next advice. That was the whole part of it.
I’m fortunate to know a lot of people doing well and are successful. When I wrote the book, even my wife, I didn’t even tell her I was doing it. She said, “You have a book, why didn’t you tell me about it?” I said, “I thought I would show you rather than tell you.” We could all talk about what we’re going to do but put it out there. A bunch of my friends said, “I’ve been thinking about writing a book forever. What do you do? How did you do it?” I said, “Listen closely because I’m going to tell you how I did it.”
Go for it.
I got started. I started today. Go ahead, start writing it. Don’t say you want to do it. It’s like when you talk about, “I want to play in the World Cup in soccer.” If you did, you’d be out on the field 24/7 training and outworking everybody else. To say, “I want to do it,” and sit back and watch it on TV and say, “Wouldn’t that be great?” You don’t want to do it. That’s something you dream about doing.
A dream is just a dream, it’s just a thought. A thought is just a dream and you need to take action. In chapter one, you talked about building the right mindset. It’s evident that the right mindset is getting started and setting goals. Are there any other elements of orientating yourself in the right mindset which will be set for success? What patterns have you established from that perspective?
It’s definitely about discipline. Anybody you meet who’s done well over time, you see the success they have and you say, “I want to be there.” You don’t see all the setbacks that they had and all the hard work that they put in. You need to be constant and consistent. Talk about continual improvement, every day, getting a little bit better at it. Mindset-wise, to me, it’s a positive force that you have to be and bring that energy every day.
There are a lot of people you run into who have a look on their faces and they’re grumpy all the time. They may be great and you may do business with them but you’re going to be more drawn to the person that’s a little more upbeat and who’s got that positive energy. When you bring that to other people, that ends up bringing more opportunities to you.
I talk about it all the time to younger people that I meet and try and share advice wherever I can. Some want it and some don’t and that’s okay. I said, “You want to make as many fans of Kunle as you can.” You’re going to meet people all along the way. If you can always make a good impression, always do your work, and always help and go above and beyond, there’s going to be a room one day where they’re talking about an opportunity.
You don’t know who’s in the room because you don’t get to choose, you don’t know what the opportunity is, and you don’t even know that the conversation’s happening. The more people that are in that room that are fans of yours and have seen your great work and your great attitude, that’s going to bring you opportunities.
Every day, you’re working on that and making it happen. Over time, it compounds more and more opportunities. You got to want to put in the work. On any given day, it’s easy to kick back and not do it. Sometimes you need a day of rest and that’s fine. Over time, if you’re putting in an extra hour of productivity, an extra two hours, you’re making an extra 10 calls, or you’re putting out an extra 5 emails to promote, or you’re reaching out to one more connection. You take that body of work and you get to be older like me and it’s a lot of years of adding up. You got more years of work than everybody around you. Even if you’re not fantastic at it, you’re going to get ahead.
A big idea I picked up from there was likability and networking not in a sleazy way but genuinely connecting with people so they’re you’re own advocate and then hard work. You’ve got to put in the work on a regular basis.
If I could add to your point, and I should have been more clear, which was excellent, is that the sleazy way, you got to net worth people for no purpose for yourself. If you see good people and you think they could help each other or you know of a resource or an article that you read that might help somebody who’s working on something, sharing it with them and not looking for anything in return, that’s the body of work, that’s the network that you’re going to have. People know, “You’ve helped me 6 or 7 times and you never asked anything in return.”
There’s a gentleman who I have huge respect for, Anthony Gordon, who is huge in many aspects. When I start a call with him, he usually starts off the call by saying, “How can I help you today? What can I do for you?” Most times, I don’t have any ask but that’s his outlook on everybody he talks to and it’s a great outlook.
They’re value-driven relationships and it’s things you say to yourself. From a mindfulness standpoint, do you lean on any mindfulness practice to help with mindset?
I never have strict meditation but sometimes when I’m exercising in my head, it’s funny because when I was younger, I’d say, “What are the other executives at my level doing? Are they here this morning doing this work?” That was like a motivation for me. I laugh because I said it’s a little crazy to have that in your mind but it was something that made me work harder. It’s not like meditation but I’ll get to the beach and I’ll try a little bit of fishing. I never catch anything.
I’ll see somebody walking away and the question is, “Did you catch anything?” I always say, “Yeah, peace of mind.” Being by the water, hearing the sound, and getting fresh air, that’s my time. Even when I’m driving because I do spend time in the car, I have some podcasts on or something that I’m learning from. It’s also setting your tone for where you’re going to end up. If you’re in traffic, you’re getting crazy, yelling, screaming, beeping horn, and then you shoot into the next meeting, you’re going to bring that with you. You got to bring that.
One line that I created that I live every day now is I want to put a smile on my face before I put my feet on the floor. Every day, when I wake up, I open my eyes and remind myself, “I got to smile.” I’m going to get out of bed, my family might only see me for those few minutes before I get the day started, and I want them to see the good that I’m bringing also. They don’t get the grumpy me and the rest of the world gets to see the upbeat me, it’s not fair.
I like that a lot from the perspective of the first thing you do in the morning, smiling. It’s a deliberate and intentional thing to do. I’ll steal that from you, for sure.
You’re smiling all the time anyway.
Thank you. The other thing I picked up from that is mindfulness is slowing down and listening to yourself. I had the flu or something.
Thank you. I went out for a run and I’ll focus in on my breathing and that in itself is a meditative state, when you’re focusing on your breathing, in and out, and clearing that mind, which is important. A lot of us that live in busy cities where you just don’t have the time or are parents, we’re jumping from one thing to another. We just don’t have the time.
The struggle is real. If you could put your phone down for half an hour and not think about the text, the social media, and the messages, and you’re disconnecting, it’s powerful but it’s so hard to do. You got many people pulling at you and many responsibilities. It could be ten minutes and that could serve your purpose.
Any other big ideas from the book you’d like to share with us? There’s a chapter educated to get in with a plan, season each and every day, and less stress is more success. Why is less stress more success? With this hostile culture we’re in, everybody is trying to share how many hours of sleep they got and how many hours of the grind, particularly when you’re in your 20s and 30s. Is this a post-40 reality or would you say a 20-year-old person should not stress?
I don’t think anybody is at their best self when they’re stressed. Think about the physical and mental changes that happened to you when you’re in a stressful situation and you’re not going to be reacting your best way. Your breathing is going to change and your speaking is going to change. Early on, I learned this. You get in front of a board meeting and when you’re waiting for your turn, your heart starts to go, you feel it up in your chest, and you’re tightening.
Through some work with some people who helped me to be more mindful of it, it was like, “Take control of your heart rate. Take control of your body.” I used to say that sSometimes it would be stressful getting in front of a board meeting but in my prior company, we would recognize people who had 30 or 40 years of service. They’d come to the board and they’d say thank you and it was nice.
I said one day, “To them, it’s a privilege to come here. It took them 40 years to get in front of this board to be addressed and you could see how much they appreciated it. I should appreciate every single opportunity I get to do it and not look at it as an opportunity to show what I’m capable of and show people who I am every single time.” When you take that stress out of it, it becomes much more powerful. You then take that energy and put it into something that’s going to drive you.
I love the framing of gratitude. You’re reframing a stressful situation and finding the good in it to change your entire perspective, which is deeply mindful in itself. We’re about to wrap up. I want go back to distribution. A lot of readers want to get some final tips. I personally want to get some final tips on how to get distribution. How do you talk to retail buyers? How do you get their attention? They’re inundated with a lot of new products. How do you stand out? What’s the importance of packaging? What about your personality? What’s the best way to cut through that noise and speak to people like you to get more distribution?
You’re asking for a friend.
I’m asking for a friend.
There are many great resources, a couple of them. First of all, every entrepreneur that I’ve met is super helpful and are looking to help others. If you reach out, go online, and make all of these connections, that’s one thing. Incubators that are out there, there are some phenomenal ones and Big Idea Ventures is one. Andrew Ive is a great guy who started a business. They were mostly food-related startups and a lot of plant-based stuff. They have these cohorts every two times a year and now they have them in five different cities around the world and you get a chance to pitch your idea.
Also, it’s talking to the broker world. A lot of the food brokers that are out there are the ones that will get you into a large retail chain. Some of them, it’s like anything else, you got to find the right ones. Some of them are looking for every penny for themselves. There are some great ones that will take the time to tell you, “Here’s what you’re going to need to do before you can think about getting on the shelves, and here’s what it’s going to take.” Sometimes it’s an investment.
There’s all of those resources that if you start building that network of it, you’re going to find people that are going to help you. Obviously, it starts with having a great product. If your product has no need and there’s no market for it, all the great resources in the world won’t help you there. Even that being said, they may help you with your next idea.
We talked about Howie P’s first $1 billion company. He said he had over 30 failures of startups before he got to that hit. You got to be willing to put that in. I came from the world of sales, and one day I learned the statistic that most customers are going to say no eight times before they say yes but most salespeople will only ask three times. If you do the math and you never can’t pass three and it takes to get to number nine to get that yes, you got to be persistent. The noes are part of it. I used to think early on, “One more no gets me that much closer to that yes.” You got to have that mindset in your head if you’re going to build something great.
It’s good. Those networks are important and getting through those networks. The final question I have is let’s say you’ve built your business online, you’ve got your first order for a bricks-and-mortar distribution deal, you’re launching into 70 or 100 stores, and then you’re like, “There’s not enough cash in the bank to fulfill this order for the retailers.” Retailers want speed and agility, they want you to get into the stores. What would your advice be from a capital stack standpoint to entrepreneurs in order to fulfill their retail purchase orders?
Your point is great because it takes all that work to finally get that order. You don’t want to disappoint the first one. You got to have that backing. There are all kinds of equity out there, there are all kinds of venture capitals, and there are all kinds of people who look for startups and maybe they’re going to take a piece of it. For some of these accelerators, Factory LLC is another one. There’s this gentleman who built a couple of $1 billion brands. You come in and pitch your idea. They help twelve companies at a time and they give them every resource they need including financing to get ready to launch.
If you got the money behind you and you finally get that order, my advice is to be in every one of those stores if it’s possible. Ask, “Can I do demos? Can I stand by where I’m going to display it and give it out?” Get people to try it. One of our supermarkets might have 60,000 items in there today and they all have a purpose. Because you’re excited because Kunle brought his new brand in, the rest of the world didn’t notice. Those 60,000 items are still there.
If you’re in some little spot on a shelf somewhere, how are you going to make it stand out? Get some people in there sampling it, talking about it, and telling your story. Customers are people too and they want to root for somebody. If you can make a few connections and you know how it spreads, there are many talented people with social media and they reach there. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to hype it up.
If I know a brand is going to come in and they’re going to go over and above and they’re personally invested in it, I’m going to give them more of a chance. It’s not going to be a number that I look at after four months and say, “We only sold 50 cases. They’re out the door.” You can improve your chances by being a real face behind it. Those buyers, the majority of them are good people that want to see you succeed.
Jim, being in the retail industry yourself and running stores, how do you make decisions on what brands to stay with, which is pretty? They’re moving off the shelves. Also, what to take off? What’s the decision-making psyche? It’s for readers to get some perspective on what to do and what not to do.
Customers are going to tell you. If it’s selling, it’s staying for the most part. Sometimes the manufacturer or the person who created the item makes a shift and wants to change it. It ends up being about volume at the end of the day. To run the stores and deliver, it’s expensive to keep that inventory coming in. If the customers are picking it up, you get to have realistic expectations too. What does success look like for your brand?
If you’re like a specialty type of tofu-based jerky or whatever item it is, your expectation might be, “Two cases per store per week is going to be successful.” If you’re an Oreo cookie flavor, you may need 100 cases per store per week to be successful. Setting that up early on and the financials behind it is going to be what it is.
From your partners or retailers, it’s building that expectation too. Also, if you can get that online presence and you’re selling a lot and if you’re in other retailers, sometimes retailers are like kids, they don’t want it until somebody else has it. If we see something on the shelf at Walmart, we’re more likely to say, “We should be considering that.” I hope that helps.
That makes a lot of sense. I’m going to wrap up with our lightning round, they’re a line of questions that are evergreen.
I hope I can move quickly enough.
If you could use one single sentence to answer each question I ask, it would be great. Ready when you are.
What advice would you give yourself five years ago?
Keep moving forward.
Are you a morning person?
What’s your daily morning routine like?
Put a smile on my face before my feet hit the floor and then go.
Are you into sports?
If yes, what’s your favorite team?
No favorite team. I love NCAA college football and college basketball.
Why college and why not the NFL and NBA?
The leagues got political here a few years ago. You couldn’t watch a game and enjoy it. When I watch it, I want to enjoy it. In the college aspect of it, it’s kids that are working. Some of them are going to be millionaires but a lot of them are just doing it because they love the game. It’s competitive and you can watch ten games. I’m better when I’m not personally connected to the team because I get upset and angry when I see them do poorly.
It’s the purity there. What are two things can’t you live without?
My family and coffee.
What book are you reading or listening to?
It’s funny, it’s the Bible in a Year, I’m listening to it. I probably should have done this a long time ago but it’s pretty insightful. I’ve heard a lot of the stories but to hear him again is helpful.
It’s never too late. I have a son and he’s been coming back to me with challenges he’s facing in school. A lot of the time, it’s like a bible story. I tell him about Daniel in the lion’s den and how that turned out. It’s interesting how my mom used to sit me down and tell me to read passages in the bible.
You’ve become your parents.
I am a parent. Jim, it’s an absolute pleasure having you on the 2X eCommerce Podcast show. For people who want to find out more about you, I will be linking up to your LinkedIn profile and Instagram from the show notes. We’re also going to be linking up to your book, Just Keep Swimming. For folks reading, this is an amazing book, and get a copy. We’ll link it, Just Keep Swimming: Towards Success, Happiness, & Fulfillment. There is a lot of wisdom from Jim on here. Jim, thank you so much for coming on the 2X eCommerce Podcast.
It’s been too much fun, Kunle. Thank you so much. I appreciate everybody’s time.