Jeremy Cortial of Yellowpop: “Create a strong brand Identity”

Be bold. Be recognizable. Your tone of voice, your colors, your visuals — everything should be on-brand in order to stay top of mind in a world full of diversions. Be the fun diversion. From the packaging to the dimmer that adjusts the brightness of the sign, everything at yellowpop is branded. We love when people send […]

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Be bold. Be recognizable. Your tone of voice, your colors, your visuals — everything should be on-brand in order to stay top of mind in a world full of diversions. Be the fun diversion. From the packaging to the dimmer that adjusts the brightness of the sign, everything at yellowpop is branded. We love when people send us photos of a yellowpop package waiting on their doorstep. Even your unboxing should be an extension of the brand.

Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.

Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?

In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Cortial of Yellowpop.

Yellowpop is a home decor brand that’s on a mission to change the way we decorate our homes. Instead of simply filling it with commodities, we want to inspire our community to think more about design and the role our products play in their lives. It’s your home. The objects inside of it should be a reflection of you. Our LED neon signs are designed to inspire boldness and bring joy. They speak to each person differently, and we love them because of the way they make us feel. At Yellowpop, our values are simple: Be bold, be bright, have fun. We believe everyone should have the chance to brighten their day with a neon sign. And we’re sharing the joy, one neon sign at a time. Together, with the global art and design community, we’re using the power of art to make the world a brighter place.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’ve launched my first company 7 years ago with Ruben, my current partner, in the coffee industry in London. We had an app called Drip which allowed you to buy coffee credits to be consumed in our network of 310 independent coffee shops, we had a small issue with our second round of funding and had to sell the business. I then moved to the real estate industry and launched and with three friends of mine. The idea was to become a one stop shop to sell your house in the UK — from renovating it and making it look awesome, to selling it. In parallel, I’ve also started a small business of LED neon sign which was a product that I discovered and used while decorating properties. The business quickly picked up and I asked my friend and former partner, Ruben to join me. That’s how yellowpop was born.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Our goal when we were decorating properties was to create this “wow” moment. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and a neon sign was perfect for that. The product wasn’t popular at first so we had to source different suppliers to finally find the right product/technology — LED neon signs.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

I think in our own story, it was the motivation of starting a company from nothing to becoming the 2nd biggest chain of coffee shops in London and not being able to keep growing it because of a funding issue was very frustrating. We always knew we’d do something together again, it was just a question of waiting for the right time and the right product. Serendipity.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are more and more “neon signs makers” in the market and a lot of brands try to copy what we do. But what matters for us is not the product we offer, it’s the vision behind it. We want people to buy a yellowpop product because they buy into the idea that their home is part of their life. Taking care of it and making it special has a direct impact on your mood and your wellbeing. The attention to detail in our product, the experience on our website, the artists and creative people we partner with, and our vision — All of this combined make us extremely strong and very unique.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

If you look at the Trustpilot review on our website, we have more than 580 reviews with a score of 5/5. The way people describe the product says everything about the goodness we bring to the world. Happiness, excitement, good vibes — People are obsessed with their signs and have a real emotional connection with them. That’s a massive success for us!

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Creativity. I think it’s important to always try to find the next thing, be innovative and curious. Being curious and innovative is part of our culture and it’s really important.
  • Persistence. We have had ups and down and the most important thing is to always be persistent and give your best to succeed. Funding is not a success on its own but that will definitely help us to become more successful.
  • Optimism. I always try to step back and be optimistic about every situation. It’s not always easy and some days are harder than others but every day we learn something new and we try to become better in what we do.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

I’d probably say going to business school is not something I’d do again if I had to do it. I’d go for something a bit more specific.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

As mentioned previously, we had to sell our first startup because of a funding situation. It’s not an easy situation to deal with, even more when you are convinced that what you are doing is the right thing and your company has massive potential (which I still believe).

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?

I always try to take each experience as a learning, I love the word “serendipity” because it defines quite well the success in the startup world. You try a lot of different things, you learn a lot and one day it works. Some people have to try harder than others but that’s the beauty of it. It’s a very cheesy thing to say but I really believe that if you believe in yourself you should never give up.

Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?

That really depends of the product, the most important for any founder, in my opinion, is to create a product that people want — and ideally are willing to pay for. Find people that love your product and learn from them to offer the best experience possible. Launch a product as soon as possible and iterate based on feedback.

You should try to bootstrap as much as possible, in my opinion, until you have a product exciting enough to attract investors under the right terms.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 — Seek out your vision and mission

Find your how and why. It’s very important to know why you are doing this and how you’re going to do it. From day one, we knew that we wanted to create a different brand. That the home decor space needed a fresh, exciting brand and a new, cool product. Admittedly, the concept was very abstract at first. Now we know from all the feedback we are getting, and the way our product is perceived, that we need to work hard to make sure everyone can have a bit of yellowpop joy on their wall.

2 -Build a community that loves what you do

Be as close as possible to your community, your followers, your clients. Speak to them. Ask for feedback. At yellowpop, our priority has always been customer happiness. Our Trustpilot reviews are, and will always be, the most important KPI to us. If a customer has a problem with their order (and occasionally, they do), make it right as fast as you can. Be proactive. Be problem solvers.

3 — Create a strong brand Identity

Be bold. Be recognizable. Your tone of voice, your colors, your visuals — everything should be on-brand in order to stay top of mind in a world full of diversions. Be the fun diversion. From the packaging to the dimmer that adjusts the brightness of the sign, everything at yellowpop is branded. We love when people send us photos of a yellowpop package waiting on their doorstep. Even your unboxing should be an extension of the brand.

4 — Never compromise quality

We are entering an era where people want to buy consciously. People care about the quality and the fact that your product will last. At yellowpop, our products are handcrafted with the highest quality materials. Each of our signs is tested for 48 hours to make sure that they work flawlessly. Quality is part of the user experience, and that’s something we care about a lot.

5 — Champion diversity and open-mindedness

From France to San Francisco, our team is full of people with unique and diverse perspectives. We love that. Working remotely can have its challenges, but there is so much to gain. We’re constantly learning from one another and learning to see the world through another’s eyes. At the end of the day, business is about people, and creative, collaborative teams make a business thrive. Create a company culture of acceptance, open-mindedness, and listening, and great ideas will flow.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Being too broad. I think one of the mistakes people make when they start a brand is trying to cater to everyone. What matters the most is to have a very small, but strong community of fans. People who love and recognize what you do. They evangelize your brand and give real (sometimes harsh) feedback that helps you improve your product and understand your market.

Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a business?

Long working hours are quite standard for any founders, but I think not taking enough personal time is a mistake. Taking vacations and weekend off to enjoy quality time with your friends and family helps to create more balance and better performance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I think now, more than ever (if you aren’t tired of that phrase), the world needs more joy. Does the world need more neon signs? Yes, if you ask us. Yellowpop is a movement that makes space for joy. Neon is fun. It’s engaging. And it’s cheaper than therapy. If we could put a neon sign in every home, we know we’d be delivering a lot of smiles. I guess that’s our neon dream — to keep spreading smiles.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to sit down with Phil Knight of Nike. I think it’s important to learn from other entrepreneurs, why not learn from the best? I mean, the brand is so ingrained in society and pop culture, it’s not even a brand anymore. It’s an institution. What an opportunity it would be to meet the man behind the greatest brand of all time.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

@yellowpop on Instagram is definitely the place to be in term of news and update for the brand

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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