Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

Starting a business can be exhausting, exciting and exhilarating–all at the same time. This is precisely why it’s refreshing to hear words of encouragement from those who have done it before–and succeeded. We spoke with entrepreneurs we admire to cull the single best bit of startup advice they could muster–and the experiences that led to it. They’re simple mottoes, to be sure, but their impact can be tremendous.

“Don’t think, do.”
So said a stranger to Jeff Curran, founder and CEO of Curran Catalog, a high-end home furnishings company in Seattle, more than 20 years ago.

The two men were sitting next to each other on a cross-country flight, and Curran, then 25, had just broken into the catalog business. They got to talking, and Curran spilled his idea for a startup while his neighbor interjected with devil’s-advocate questions. When the plane landed and the two rose to claim their bags from the overhead bins, the stranger finally opened up his can of insight. Those three words inspired Curran to pour $15,000 of his own cash into launching his company, which has grown into a profitable B2B and B2C brand.

“After that plane flight, I’m sitting in the bathroom at my parents’ house and I pick up [a financial] magazine, and this guy was on the cover,” remembers Curran, now 47. Turns out the man was mutual-fund maven Mario Gabelli.

Curran still lives by Gabelli’s advice. Earlier this year, after learning about profit margins in the high-end car-accessories business, Curran Catalog launched a new product line: designer flooring for collector and European automobiles. “There is such a thing as overthinking a big decision,” Curran says. “Sometimes you just have to get it done.”

“Let your customers lead the way.”
Anupy Singla never intended to build her business around this philosophy, but the more she looks back on the history of Indian as Apple Pie, her Chicago-based Indian food-products business, the more she credits customers with driving her strategy.

 
Exhibit A: When Facebook followers complained they were having trouble finding certain Indian spices, Singla equipped her company to buy those spices from manufacturers and offer them for sale. Exhibit B: After friends and neighbors asked her to show them around Chicago’s Little India, Singla began hosting intimate tours of the shops on Devon Avenue for $50 per person. Even her Spice Tiffin, a modernized version of a traditional Indian storage container for spices, went to market at the behest of customers.

“The point of view for this company is to make Indian food easy and accessible,” says Singla, who was born in Chandigarh, India, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was a child. “If customers are saying they want certain things, it’s up to me to give them what they want.”

Singla’s ultimate goal is to sell her products in retail stores across the country. Until then, however, she plans to leverage her responsive customer base to test-market products and see what sticks. “If something isn’t right,” she says, “they’ll let me know.”

 

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Winery Exchange CEO Byck sees growth in private-label wines

 

Peter Byck, co-founder, president and CEO of Winery Exchange, a full-service provider of private-label wine, beer and spirit brands for retailers, told an audience of students, faculty and wine industry professionals at the University of California, Davis (UCD), last week that private-label wine brands comprise 50% of the retail wine market in the United Kingdom. While private-label wines may not grow to that level in the United States anytime soon (they currently total 5%), Byck believes the potential U.S. market could reach 25%.

Byck’s talk, presented through the UCD Robert Mondavi Institute and the Department of Viticulture and Enology, was the eighth annual presentation in the Walt Klenz Lectureship Series sponsored by Treasury Wine Estates (formerly Beringer Blass Wine Estates) in honor of former Beringer CEO Walt Klenz. Klenz, who introduced Byck, said the lecture series is intended to present business-related topics at UCD to familiarize students with the many facets of the wine business. Beginning in 2013, the series will expand to two lectures per year, held in spring and fall. In his introduction, Klenz said, “Winery Exchange is a new type of wine company that is looking at the wine business in a different way, building intellectual capital instead of asset-based capital.”

The theme of Byck’s talk was “Entrepreneurship in the Wine Industry—Balancing Risk and Reward in an Ever-Changing Market.” Byck discussed business lessons learned during the course of his career and tied them to highlights in the Winery Exchange’s company history, which began in 1999 in Novato, Calif., where it remains headquartered. The company was founded with the intent of blending extensive industry experience with cutting-edge business practices. The company now has international offices in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Spain, managing more than 100 brands and 300 products. Winery Exchange produces products in 22 countries on five continents and ships products to 16 countries on four continents.

Byck is a UCD graduate in computer science and math; he holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. Previously Byck was a consultant for Southcorp Wines of Australia and was VP of strategic and business development at Golden State Vintners. He discussed how Winery Exchange has had to adjust its business model during its short history and adapt to market conditions.
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