Identify your true financial need. Many people get started without truly understanding what it’s going to take financially. Secure the funds you need whether you have to raise capital or use some of your savings, make sure you get started with at the very least what you need.
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 Ronak Shah.
Ron’s fascination with the CPG industry kicked off during his journey to successfully grow his agency, Ghost 3 Media, where they serviced 25+ clients generating $3M+ in agency revenue. After being Featured on Inc. As 1 of 22 High Achievers in the CPG industry, Ron began his journey to build Obvi, in what he hopes to one day be the most iconic brand in the world. Now, Ron serves as CEO of Obvi which is today’s fastest growing collagen brand in the industry with 1000,000+ customers worldwide and sold in over 72+ countries all while profitably generating 8 Figures in top line revenue.
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?
With passion for health and wellness almost all my life, supplementation always intrigued me but also puzzled me why something so important was always created to look so boring and unexciting. My co-founders and I set out on a journey to build Obvi, a brand that normalizes collagen as part of our daily diets without sacrificing taste and convenience. Upon our launch on June 1, 2019, we told ourselves one thing, “no matter the growth or revenue, we want to educate first, empower second, and provide third.” Fast forward 24 months, Obvi has broken through the stigma in 150,000+ households and shattered 8 figures in sales across 75+ countries globally, with major distribution in countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and China. With over 10 Million servings sold, we’ve been able to educate our customer base on why collagen is as important as any other protein source. With a growing community, ranking in the top 2 largest communities for collagen on Facebook, our Obvi Community has empowered 35,000+ customers and fans to converse in real time about their results with Obvi, both good and bad, making a true social impact.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
When we were going down the path of creating Obvi, we initially thought well stick with unflavored like the rest of the market. But when we forced ourselves to innovate, be patient with the 6 month long R+D process, we really hit the Aha Moment because we finally believed in what we always preached to others “patience will lead to success”. What took 6 months to ideate truly was the aha moment of understanding things don’t happen overnight.
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?
My Dad has been a big help and inspiration along the way of creating Obvi. Anytime success would come around the corner, he would remind me to appreciate it, he would congratulate myself and the team but then he would harness me back into my seat because the ride isn’t over and let me know this is just a step along the way. When we hit milestones, may it be breaking 8 figures in revenue or breaking 150,000 customer threshold, my Dad would always be proud but also asked me what’s next, always indicating that there has to be more. I’m grateful to have a sense of over achievement embodied in me as I am constantly chasing it. Without the guidance, support and acknowledgement of where I am versus where I want to be, from my dad, It would be hard for me to lay the groundwork for what we need to focus on to get to the goal us founders have set. Each milestone is a piece to the puzzle and although Obvi is a jigsaw puzzle, we sure love to put together the pieces we have while constantly searching for the remaining parts.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We started Obvi after asking ourselves, “Why do all the products that are supposed to help us look and feel youthful, feel so old, cold and clinical?” Come on, practical is great, but these dusty-looking things made getting better seem like some awful chore.
No wonder it’s hard to get started. It’s no fun.
We even got tricked a little — we thought we were making super-high quality, crazy-researched products for younger people. Turned out, we were helping all kinds of people express a younger mindset. 200,000 people and counting — 30k+ of whom find massive support and encouragement in the Obvi Community on Facebook.
250,000,000 times in less than two years, people like you have used our products to feel something we all want…To feel youth.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We give back at Obvi. Every year we make it a focus to give back to the women that we love. Last year we donated proceeds of our sales during Breast Cancer Prevention Month to Keep a Breast Foundation, totaling over $10,000 in donations. This was our first full year in operation.
We also make sure every product we are creating is helping someone to become better versions of themselves.
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?
- Relentless — We had to do whatever it takes mentality from day one. We are bootstrapped and had no choice but to make sure everything we do has no option but success. We got many obstacles we had to overcome but we stayed relentless towards our mission.
- Trustworthy — Make sure you are someone you would like to get along with. Being a good person and trustworthy person will make others believe in you more and also respect you more.
- Extreme Work Ethic — We do not shut off. I work weekends. I work nights. I wake up at 5 AM to take calls with UK, I stay awake till 1 AM to take calls with China. This work ethic has allowed me to have tunnel vision and be laser focused on the end goal.
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?
One of my favorite quotes from Soren Kierkegaard is “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” This is so powerful because it’s completely true for myself and too much extent my partners. We live life forward because we have to make decisions and take steps to find out what is to come next. However, along the way we will find out our decisions may not have been the best ones or the steps we took could’ve been a different direction. But We will only understand that when we look back at life. When you come to understanding that your past can help refined decision making, you trust that you will get wiser through this experience. It is relevant in our life because everything we learned in the past and the mistakes, we made in the past have taught us what to do and what not to do moving forward. However, the new decisions we make today may or may not be correct and as we progress through life, one day we’ll look back to today and apply what we understood and learned in the journey.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One of the hardest things I had to face when we started the journey was people telling us to change our vision and packaging. We were this loud, pink and female brand that even some close friends and family would tell us, “This won’t last long, it’s too extreme”. It is so hard to hear what the blunt truth from your close ones may be because you think you have to change everything at the snap of the moment. Luckily, we stuck by our sides and said this is what we believe in and this is what we’re going to do to make sure we get to the finish line. Sure enough, $12,000,000 million in sales later and 160,000 customers later, we’re so glad we stuck with our gut.
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?
The drive came from not wanting to let any of out customers in our community down. We have the second largest community on Facebook for Collagen with over 37,000 active members! To think that we can fail was impossible. We had to succeed not just for us but for our fans, our customers, our loyalists. When you find a passion and you find others aligning to your passion, the achievement and journey become that much more rewarding and powered by perseverance.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
When things are going well, they are usually going really well. When things are going bad, in our industry, it usually means they are going really poorly. Mindset and believing in what you created and why you created is how you get through these emotional highs and lows. There will be months or days you outperform every goal you set. There will also equally be days you are sold out, days you’re advertising just doesn’t perform and days where you have to take on a massive loss. With all that being said if you keep believing in what you’re doing, you’re going to be able to ride the highs and lows at a very levelheaded mindset.
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?
I would always advise a founder to boot strap. Bootstrapping allows the founder to challenge him or herself to figure everything out without necessarily throwing money at it. When you raise capital, most if not all founders feel a bit of comfort almost instantly. While bootstrapping you won’t feel comfortable any day because what you see is all that you have. We’ve been bootstrapped since day one. Myself, my founder Ankit Patel and my other founder Ashvin Melwani, we put in $3,333 each into a $10K PO. We have not raised cany capital and we have not put in anymore funds. From day one it was all about how were going to make this work with what we have. We figured it out and we were forced to take time to grow. I think this was one of the best lessons we learned.
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.
- Create A Vision and Business Plan at the same time. Don’t do one and then the other. If you truly want to feel excited about what you’re going to startup, your vision needs to be executed through your business plan. Don’t create a business plan and then search for a vision within.
- Identify your true financial need. Many people get started without truly understanding what it’s going to take financially. Secure the funds you need whether you have to raise capital or use some of your savings, make sure you get started with at the very least what you need.
- Build a team that consists of the right people who fit the vision. This is extremely crucial because you can’t do it alone so getting the right people around you will help get you to the finish line.
- Get your social media handles, website domain all secured as soon as you have made the decision of what your brand name will be. This step gets you excited to call it your own.
- Prepare yourself for anything. The road will not be a straight path, nor will it be smooth but as long as you are prepared for it you won’t fail.
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?
The most common mistakes I have seen CEOs make when they start a business is letting their ego get in between their end vision. All successful businesses will make money and grow well. However, if you as a CEO get in between that growth and let your mental state balloon up from all the growth, you won’t ever be able to understand a challenge that comes down the road. Instead, if you stay level headed weather you’re making no money or if your’e smashing records, you will be able to objectively look at everything that comes in your way in your path to success.
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 company?
Unplug. Find 2 hours in the day. Could be your evening time from 8–10PM. Could be your morning time — 7–9AM. Find two hours in the day to completely unplug from whatever you are doing and focus on yourself. Focus on distressing from everything around you and focus on spending time with your family, reading a book, working out, even just eating a peaceful meal. Whatever works for you.
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. 🙂
The movement I would start is getting rid of Alarm Clocks. Sounds weird, I know. But, I want to start a movement where everyone is forced to do something that they WANT to wake up for. Passion needs to be your alarm clock. I would force someone who isn’t able to wake up because they want to get going to their job in the morning, to go and chase their true passion and do what they love. Too many of us get stuck doing something we don’t love and become a “slave” to need to create a living. I think passion and creating a living can all work together.
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.
If I had the ability to have a private breakfast with anyone in the world, I would choose to have a private breakfast with the version of myself from 10 years ago. I want to tell this 10 year old younger me that everything you are going to go through will be worth it. Every battle, struggle and let down you face will come to fruition by creating a beautiful journey of self discovery. I would want to tell the 20 year old me that the unknown journey you felt you were on back then is okay to be on so long as you never stray away from working hard at whatever it is that you are doing.
But if the qualification has to be a prominent leader, i would certainly choose Kurt Seidensticker, CEO of Vital proteins because he truly paved the way for collagen and the ability to be formatted as not only a Unicorn brand but also bring out importance to the world of collagen over 10 years ago.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I am very active on Linkedin — www.linkedin.com/in/ronak06
I am also very active on Instagram and my handle is @thededicated
Lastly, you can always email me at: [email protected]
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!