Be comfortable in your personal life. It’s extremely important that you have stability in your personal life when you’re starting a business. You need a supportive partner to make it work. It’s a lot harder to find the motivation and time to succeed when your personal life is up in the air.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chad Horstman, co-founder of GreenSupply.com and managing partner of Canal Partners.
Chad Horstman is the successful co-founder and former CEO of Yandy, an online lingerie store he sold after growing it to a 50 million dollars business. He is now a managing partner at the Scottsdale venture capital firm Canal Partners, and the founder of three companies; 3wishes.com, an online lingerie store, basketballnews.com, a premier NBA news website, and Green Supply, a CBD oil company that pivoted to selling masks and hand sanitizers to help fill the need for personal protective equipment after the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in rural Long Island. My dad was an accountant and my mom was a nurse. They grew up really poor, so they always made sure to teach me the value of a penny. When I wanted something, like a nintendo, I would often have to buy it myself. My brother and I would have lemonade stands and even invent our own special drinks. When we wanted to buy a Nintendo, we went door-to-door selling snacks until we had enough to buy it. Things like that got us excited about entrepreneurship without us even knowing what entrepreneurship was.
Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I think this is such an important quote, because a lot of people spend so much time worrying about things out of their control that it inhibits them from doing everything they can to fix the things they actually can control.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I really enjoy listening to the Mad Money podcast with Jim Cramer from CNBC. He has taught me a lot about investing strategy and the stock market. I use some of his tips when making my own investment decisions as well.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the pandemic began?
I started my career at an internet marketing agency before the internet was mainstream. Eventually, I decided I wanted to use the skills I learned to start my own online business. I researched what people were searching for and where there was a need and started a few different ecommerce businesses. The most successful one was a lingerie store called Yandy, so that’s where I focused my energy. By year 9, Yandy was doing nearly 50 million dollars in annual revenue and was acquired.
After retiring for several years, I felt the itch to be creative again. I joined Canal Partners, the successful Phoenix-based venture capital firm, as a managing partner. I also started three new businesses: 3wishes.com, basketballnews.com, and Green Supply.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the pandemic?
My partner on Green Supply, Josh Helmich, was in Asia during the early days of the pandemic, and he realized it would be coming to the United States at some point. We realized people would need an easy, affordable way to get high-quality masks and hand sanitizers, so we pivoted Green Supply away from CBD to the production and sales of those products. I had manufacturing connections from Yandy and Josh from the jewelry indusry, and we were able to get the operation moving efficiently very early on in the pandemic.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
The “aha” moment was when Josh came back and told me what he saw with the pandemic. Everything was closed and people were wearing masks. I’ve always been somewhat of a germaphobe, and with the pandemic coming, I wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to help as many people as possible. This wasn’t about making money for me. I told Josh I would be fine not taking a profit from Green Supply at all. I just wanted to help people stay healthy and in the beginning when masks were in short supply I did not take anything from the company.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going really well. We’ve sold over one million masks and 100,000 units of hand sanitizer and 600,000 masks. I’m grateful for how many people we’ve been able to help over the course of the pandemic.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s definitely my brother. He quit a quality job at Boeing to start Yandy with me. He ran all the operations and everything else while I focused on marketing. Without him, Yandy wouldn’t have been nearly as successful, and I am not in the position I am in today.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
One of the key bits of information that came out a few months into the pandemic is that the virus isn’t very transmissible by touch. When that news came out, our hand sanitizer sales fell sharply. So we really started focusing on selling high-quality filtration masks that were not in short supply such as the chinese KN95. Those sales have exploded, and they are going to continue to grow. We could end this pandemic tomorrow if everyone had a high filtration mask.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Building a strong team is everything. You have to be extremely careful with who you hire. They have to be smart, capable, honest, versatile, and most importantly, extremely passionate about what you are trying to build. If you end up making the wrong hire, you need to be quick to fire. Bad personnel decisions are the easiest way to stifle a company before it gets off the ground.
- Invest in inventory, but realize it will be taxed. When I started off with Yandy, I assumed I would be able to write inventory off on my taxes. I was very wrong. To be clear, inventory is very important and you should invest in it, but just understand that the profits you use to buy it will still be taxed as inventory is an asset.
- Find creative ways to market and advertise. If you do the same thing as all your competitors, how can you expect to have success? With Yandy, we were constantly advertising on new platforms or thinking of outside-the-box ways to drum up attention. Now, with Green Supply, we are advertising on newer platforms like Hulu to avoid being in the same places as all our competition.
- Don’t focus on too many things at once. When I first started Yandy, I had a few other online businesses. But I couldn’t have had the success I had with Yandy if I split my focus between all of them, so I made the decision to go all in with Yandy. Even now, although I own three different businesses, I hired CEOs to take over the day-to-day operations of each one, so they all have the best possible chance to succeed and stay focused.
- Be comfortable in your personal life. It’s extremely important that you have stability in your personal life when you’re starting a business. You need a supportive partner to make it work. It’s a lot harder to find the motivation and time to succeed when your personal life is up in the air.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
A few years ago, when I was retired, this pandemic would have really hurt me. It’s still tough at times. Health is wealth, and with a new baby my wife and I are being extra cautious. It’s kind of like home imprisonment. But I had a baby in the middle of all this. I have three businesses going. There’s a lot that’s keeping me busy and to be thankful for. Everyday I remind myself how lucky I am.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Everyone needs to be wearing a KN95 mask. We’re already wearing masks anyway, so we might as well be wearing the best masks. Using those disposable ones is better than nothing, but we can end this pandemic so much quicker if everyone wore a KN95 mask.
Beyond the pandemic, I’d like to end the two-party system. I think a lot of the problems in politics are caused by the two-party system. If we made the ballot a searchable database with every single citizen on it so anyone could run for office and be on the ballot, we’d be in a much better spot.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Right now, I’m not sure there’s a more interesting man in the world than Elon Musk. He’s doing everything. It would also be nice to pick the brain of the world’s richest man for a few hours.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find Green Supply at greensupply.com and on instagram @greensupplycom.