Funds. Save as much money as you can for the creation and preservation of your startup. I would recommend at least enough to keep your business going for three to five months.
Social Media. Social media is one of the biggest ways to make an impact. I would recommend posting at least once a day for the first couple of months to reach your audience on a consistent basis. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so use it for everything.
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 Shiloh McCulley.
Shiloh McCulley is the owner of Roundhouse Coffee in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At 25 years old, Shiloh launched his first startup selling coffee products online and at pop up events through local shops and organizations. Roughhouse is intensely focused on the community of Chattanooga and gives back with every product sold. As his startup reaches new levels of success, Shiloh plans to open a physical location and create community outreach platforms that can further the company’s mission statement. Roundhouse serves coffee for the community-focused and coffee obsessed.
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?
My family previously owned a coffee shop of their own, which was used as a sanctuary for the community. This is exactly what I aspire to do with my own company, Roundhouse.
I’ve always had a passion for community outreach, and coffee was sort of a hobby of mine, so I figured out a way to marry the two into something that could be turned into a business. When I lost my job due to Covid, I dedicated the next 12 months to creating Roundhouse and learning the ins and outs of the coffee industry.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The creation of our famous Coffee Milk was what led to the discovery of my love for coffee. Coffee Milk is an alternative coffee drink for coffee lovers and those who aren’t so fond of coffee. It is a sweet, refreshing iced drink I put a twist on — and what I knew I needed to share with the world.
After the first sip, I was sold on the idea of starting up Roundhouse.
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 family is my biggest inspiration. They do so much to help Roundhouse and the community. I see the work they do every day to have a positive impact.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Everything we do at Roundhouse has a “why” behind it — from the beans we buy to the nonprofits we partner with. We try to find ways to make a difference with every outlet of Roundhouse.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Bringing goodness to the world is the foundation of what Roundhouse stands for. We donate a portion of our sales to various nonprofits and businesses in Chattanooga that give back to our community. We’re currently partnered with the Chattanooga Autism Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga. These are great organizations and we’re so happy to support their missions.
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?
This is a tough one, I would say the three most important traits that were instrumental in Roundhouse’s success would be having a strong work ethic, self confidence and patience. You’ll face many challenges on your journey of launching a startup, and if you don’t have a good work ethic or the confidence to back up your decisions, your company might not survive those critical first few months. Having patience is also important because you will face slow periods or might not see growth as quickly as you would like, but be patient in the process and you will see success.
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?
It seems like everyone wants to have an opinion when you start a business. It’s important to have a steady foundation and your own vision of what you want your business to be, and not to listen to people who don’t align with your goals.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Starting a business during Covid was one of the hardest obstacles Roundhouse and I faced. I definitely feel blessed to have been able to launch a successful startup in the middle of a pandemic. Since we do not yet have a physical location, one of the challenges we faced was finding businesses that we could partner with for pop up events.
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?
My friends and my family keep me grounded and are my biggest inspiration. Launching a startup can be overwhelming between managing inventory, creating products and communicating with clients and other businesses, but when it feels like things are getting too hard, I reach out to my support network for guidance.
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”?
Make sure you’re taking time to enjoy the “small victories.” Every business starts from nothing, so you want to celebrate the milestones as they happen. Be grounded in something you believe in, remember to make time for yourself and try to enjoy the ride.
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?
Well, we all know the saying “it takes money to make money,” and that is so true. Bootstrapping is a great way to start because it allows you to save, plan and prepare for your business, which then helps cut back on some of the unexpected frustrations of owning a business. But every business model is different, so go with your gut on what is best for you and your startup.
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.
- Have a solid plan. I worked on perfecting my business plan for a year before I even sold the first cup of coffee.
- Networking. Get into as many groups, events and social circles as you can. The more connections you have, the better off you are.
- Funds. Save as much money as you can for the creation and preservation of your startup. I would recommend at least enough to keep your business going for three to five months.
- Social Media. Social media is one of the biggest ways to make an impact. I would recommend posting at least once a day for the first couple of months to reach your audience on a consistent basis. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so use it for everything.
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 see founders make when they start a business is thinking they need to “have it all” right away. Start small and slow. Growth will come, but you shouldn’t try to force it.
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?
Take time for you. I have a hard time with this especially because when you love what you do, you don’t think of it as work. I’ve actually started scheduling myself “off days.” You and your business will suffer if you burn yourself out too fast. Take time for yourself and recharge.
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. 🙂
Roundhouse has a saying that we use — “Community Matters.” We focus on ways to bring others together. Community is all about coming together and supporting other locals. I want to bridge the gaps within our community and create a safe place for learning, growing and caring for each other.
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 would love nothing more than to have a Roundhouse roundtable with leaders in the community and discuss how we can continue make a difference in our own community. There are so many intelligent, creative and innovative people in Chattanooga, we just need to sit around the same table and brainstorm.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can check out our online store at www.RoundhouseChatt.com. We sell our special Coffee Milk, cold brews, coffee syrups and branded merch. We are currently doing a Bonnaroo Box that comes with a chance to win a 2021 Bonnaroo pass. You can also donate to our dream of opening our first physical store.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!