Tank Talker Tuesday- Neal Hoffman of Mensch on a Bench named in 40 under 40

Neal Hoffman named 40 under 40 by the Business Courier- Congratulations, Neal!

 

The Business Courier has announced its 2016 Forty Under 40 class. This annual awards program recognizes young professionals in the Tri-State who have reached major milestones in their careers and also made significant contributions to the community. They come from professions as diverse as our own business community, from physicians and nonprofit leaders to startup owners and CEOs – there's even the co-founder of a local brewery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tank Talker Tuesday- Tracey Noonan of Wicked Good Cupakes- Serves Up Her Take On Female CEO's

Female CEOs. Where Are They?- By Tracey Noonan- CEO Wicked Good Cupcakes

Our mentor, investor and friend, Kevin O’Leary loves female CEOs. He says they make him lots of money.

I don’t doubt that. I’ve never understood why men and women were always judged based on sex rather than on achievements. Thankfully that trend is changing. Long gone are the days of command and control types of leadership. Collaboration and team work are the new model. And as a woman, I couldn’t be happier. No more pant suits and short haircuts!

As a woman CEO myself, I have to agree with the musings of other reporters who have written about this subject.

First, women are just better listeners. We have to be. Especially if they are moms. Negotiating, refereeing and imparting their wisdom when necessary has been a woman’s job since the beginning of time. King Solomon ain’t got nothin’ on any Mom.

Second, women naturally nurture and inspire.  This is a critical trait to possess when working with younger employees eager to make their mark. Women are wonderful at developing a mind as well as the fine art of relationship building. Both key elements to a happy and healthy work environment.

Women tend to do twice as much to be noticed half as much. There’s no room for mistakes here. Women are more detail oriented and willing to put in the extra hours in order to get the job done.

But the facts are the facts and there are still not enough women in the C level ranks even today.

According to Fortune Magazine, there are 24 women CEOs in the Fortune 500 and 27 in the Fortune 1000.

This is fairly abysmal.  But why is this the case? Are companies till afraid to take a chance on a woman? Even in this day and age?

Or do women simply feel unworthy? I know for me, the fact that I didn’t graduate college, never mind get my MBA was something that held me back for many, many years. How stupid. The same article by Caroline Fairchild notes the following;

39% of Women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 have MBAs

Encouraging!  But it doesn’t answer the question as to why there are still so few.

80% of women CEOs in Fortune 1,000 companies have families and children. So that can’t be it.

Maybe we’re just lacking in role models. The number of women CEOS who could act as a role model simply isn’t there.

This past year I made the conscious effort to mentor. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in Babson College’s WIN lab, MBA mentoring program.  I’m so glad I did. I was blown away by the quality and ambition not only of “my” mentee but of all the other young women participating in this highly sought after program. There were women from all walks of life participating. It was truly inspiring.

Selfishly, it was really great for me as well. I learned that a women without an MBA, who has started a successful business can be as motivating and inspirational as a woman who has graduated from Harvard Business School. I gained a lot of insight about myself and what people really need in order to take their passions to the next level.

Here’s a link to Babson’s program.  http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/cwel/educational-programs/win-lab/Pages/home.aspx

I’m ending this post with no real answer to my question. But I do feel hopeful as the next few years pass, we’ll see a growing trend of female CEOs hitting the business scene.

Until then, I’ll continue to do my part to help motivate, mentor and encourage our young women as they make their way up the corporate ladder.

I ask all of you to do the same. It’s just as easy to encourage as it is to discourage. Young women need more positive role models.  Our daughters’ futures depend on this.

Tank Talker Tuesday- Listen to Tank Talker Ashley Drummonds Tout The Entrepreneurial Gospel

The Shark Tank Deal That Brought ABS Pancakes a Year of Sales in a Single Month-

Ashley Drummonds is the Founder of ABS Pancakes, gluten-free pancakes with 26 grams of protein, 8 net carbs, and under 200 calories per 4 pancakes.

On this podcast, you’ll learn how she started by selling digital products and then transitioned into physical products, and the story of the Shark Tank deal that skyrocketed her sales.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why you might want to start with a physical product instead of a digital product for your first business.
  • How this entrepreneur was able to start a business simply through hashtags on Instagram.
  • How to connect with influencers and get them to work with you to cross-promote.

To hear the Ashley's Podcast on Shopify, click here:

https://www.shopify.com/blog/120346501-abs-pancakes-shark-tank-deal

Tank Talker Tips For Tuesday- CEO, Lindsey Laurain of ezpz

Tank Talker, Lindsey Laurain gives great advice to new entrepreneurs. She's just one of the powerhouse speakers and business women who make up Tank Talkers. Lindsey and all of our Tank Talkers are available to speak to your business focused audience at your next corporate function, event or seminar. Contact @tanktalkers today for a list of all of our talented Shark Tank Entrepreneurs. 

Tank Talker Tuesday- Talker of the Week- CEO Benjamin Stern, Nohbo

Benjamin Stern is the Founder and CEO of Nohbo-No Hair Bottles-a company that creates and manufactures the world’s first water dispersible ball that contains personal care products, such as shampoo,  conditioner, body wash, and shaving cream. Ben founded this eco-friendly idea after viewing a documentary on the damaging impact of plastic bottles on the environment. His outrage fueled inspiration to find a way to rid the world of unnecessary, destructive, and unsightly plastics, beginning with personal care products in the bathroom. Initially, Ben thought to investigate similar technology used in making dishwashing or laundry detergent pods, as he’d seen his family using them. However, he knew his ideas needed expertise and financing beyond his capacity. 

At fourteen years old, Ben got a job at a sub shop and borrowed thousands of dollars from parents, grandmother, and college saving to help pay for Nohbo, LLC’s initial start up expenses. He contacted corporations, hotels and garnered interest in his product, enough to convince patent attorneys to provide pro bono legal representation and services. Ben researched and hired a chemist to develop the original formula with the stipulation that the product must be waste-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, wrapped in a plant-based wrapper, and not tested on animals. 

Ben hired a tech savvy high school friend to film a clip for a Kickstarter campaign. As the campaign got started, Ben applied for Shark Tank. In a short 5 months after his application process, Ben heard back with an invitation to appear on the show. On Nohbo's airdate on February 19, 2016, he received three offers, even though his product was not market-ready, and was patent-pending. Mark Cuban was particularly impressed with Ben’s work ethic and Nohbo’s potential, and called him his “mini-me.” Robert Herjavec said, “Nohbo may be one of the most successful companies he has ever been presented on Shark Tank.” 

Within four months of airing, Nohbo launched a crowdfunding campaign to sell only the shampoo and doubled its funding goals. The company is scheduled to fulfill those orders next month. He has cumulatively received over 80 investment offers, some valuing the company at over 20 million. 

In his free time, Ben enjoys skating, flying (pilot-in-training), and brainstorming innovations of the future with like-minded individuals. He is inspired to make his vision a reality after witnessing the tragic affects plastic has had on the stunning Florida marine life. One of his favorite quotes is, "Don't let school interfere with one's education." He is a fierce advocate that experience is the best teacher, and that is where his entrepreneurial roots originated from; creating experiences.

Ben has been featured in articles on Forbes.com, Business Insider, Inc., The Huffington Post, Florida Today, Space Coast Daily, etc. He has spoken/booked to speak at Yale University, The Next Gen Summit in New York, Florida Institute of Technology, and a wide range of students and audiences. Ben speaks naturally to young people and old about the challenges of gaining credibility, breaking barriers, getting financial support, crowdfunding, and ….managing a life and building a business.

Eli Crane- CEO of Shark Tank's Bottle Breacher and Featured Tank Talker-Shares His Tips for Developing New Products

Have you ever wanted to take one of the many amazing, and revolutionary ideas you’ve conjured up and turn it into a multi- million dollar products or business? I get asked all the time, "What do you think about this idea?" or "What should I do next?" "Where can I get a prototype made?" "Should I apply for a patent and then start selling or see if people buy the product and then make the investment on the IP?" To my knowledge there is no blue print or point by point procedure to successfully launch a product. I’m sure Entrepreneurs from all over the world have done this every way imaginable and I’m sure your method will be as unique as you are. I do not consider myself an expert on new product development but I feel I have learned enough since launching Bottle Breacher with a Dremel tool, some spray paint and a sticker in my garage to give some broad stroke advice and lessons learned for those looking to do this very thing. The following thoughts might also shine a light on the fact that successfully launching a product might be more difficult than you imagined and that maybe it’s just not for you, but I hope that is not the case. I hope these are a few tools you can put in your bag and things to remember as you start one of the most exciting, challenging and fulfilling paths known to man.

CRAWL, WALK, RUN. This is a saying that my staff probably hears on a daily basis. When you develop new products, you can spend thousands of dollars before knowing if your customers will pull out their wallets and remove that all too often, illusive, green paper that will ultimately tell us if our products are heroes or zeros. This is why it is so important to follow the crawl, walk, run approach. The main focus of this concept is not to go so fast that you miss the road signs and get in way over your head. You need to start by making your initial investment (dollars and time) in your new product as minimal as possible. You need to PROVE YOUR CONCEPT. In common speak, prove that people are willing to part with their hard earned cash for your brilliant idea early in the process. All too often I see entrepreneurs make this mistake right up front. They completely skip the crawl phase and are off seeking capital and investors without ever proving their concept because their grandmother and some friends said it was a great idea. Some people can give you all the data from complex surveys and consumer reports that support their idea and will talk your head off about becoming multi-millionaires after capturing a measly 1% of market share. I personally know people, good people, who have several hundreds of thousands tied up into a new product and their house as collateral before they have 1$ in sales. This is a place I never want to find myself. 

In SEAL training much of our training was very dangerous and dynamic. This is where I learned about the crawl, walk, run approach. Blocks of training would always culminate with a very realistic, high speed, training mission with many operators moving, communicating and shooting. We had all sorts of vehicles from naval ships, high speed boats and helicopters along with live breach scenes and active role players. We never allowed platoons to go into these dynamic environments without first practicing the crawl portion. In this case it meant the basic skills, like fast roping and clearing buildings one at a time, in a day light, static environment. Use your imagination for a second and see the correlation. It’s really all about minimizing your risk.

 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Applying for trademarks and patents is something that should be done early in the process. How early is usually the biggest question. When you are starting out you usually don’t have the budget to spend thousands on trademarking and patents. I usually recommend proving the concept first before applying for the legal protection unless you have the capital and confidence in your product to do so. You have up to one year to apply for a patent after you begin selling your product. This is usually an ample amount of time to prove your concept. The dichotomy here is that you are exposing your idea to others without the existence of a patent pending. This could make things more difficult for you in court of law if anyone ever decides to rip you off and infringe on your idea. Again, this is up to you. It will be one of the many large decisions that you will need to get right if you want to continue towards success.

 

INSTINCT. I wish there was a way around this one, but there really isn’t. To be good at product development you need to have a combination of instinct, street smarts and the ability to quickly identify winners and losers. I have many trusted allies that are so much better than me in so many areas. They occasionally pitch me their ideas. At times I think to myself “did you really just suggest that?” Knowing full well that nobody would break out a shiny quarter for the stupid grenade they just lobbed onto my desk. I constantly rely on my instinct. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong. It’s all part of the game. Your wins need to exceed your losses and sometimes a product will hold water and need a revision or two to join the winner circle, but you have to be realistic and know that sometimes we all will miss the mark.

 

THICK SKIN, BETTER HAVE IT. We all love to hear about how great we are. We love hearing that our ideas are amazing and sure to be the next "big thing". The reality is this. If you are smart enough to surround yourself with people who will give it to you straight then you will get feedback that isn’t always what you want to hear. You will hear things like, "Its okay, but could be even better it you changed this." Or, "I don’t get it." It’s too easy to fall so in love with our own ideas that we block out any negative feedback. One of the best things you can do as a product developer is to learn to watch people’s facial expressions when they evaluate your prototypes and concepts. I have learned that people are usually better at disguising their words than they are their facial expressions. Are they excited when they see it, does an instantaneous smile break across their face? Or do they get a confused look on their face like you just plopped a calculous problem in front of them? If you get enough of the frowny faces or confused looks you probably have some tweaking to do. Don’t scrap it completely. Seek out that negative feedback and fix the problems if possible. Again, this is where your instinct will need to play a huge roll. If you know it’s a winner that needs work keep at it. If you’re unsure about it and continue to hit brick wall after brick wall, might be time to scrap it and go back to the drawing board.

 

PATIENCE. This is one of the hardest things for me. I am a notoriously impatient person. I think many of us that have a passion for designing are this way. For instance, I am still working on one product that has been giving me fits for close to 2 years now. The Bottle Breacher wine opener that we launched last year took us nearly a year from prototype to production. There were days and weeks that I thought to myself, “we may never go to production with this thing.” It took close to 9 months to find a manufacturer that would make it in the USA for a reasonable price. I believe that this is one of the biggest failures of most entrepreneurs. They want it now. When they don’t get it they move on or lose interest. As a young man I would have launched many of the products we have worked on far before they were ready. Impatience and failure to TE (test and evaluate) your product can be fatal to a product and even your business.

 

RESILIENCE. I believe this is the biggest attribute that a product developer can have. Any developer that has been at it for a good period of time is very familiar with Murphy’s Law which states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Just when you think your prototypes or even your first production run is solid you will find out that too often there was something overlooked. Or that somebody in the production or assembly chain cut a corner causing a failure which could prove to be catastrophic in the launch. Remember, you only get so many chances with your customers. Many times one disappointment is one too many and your customer will move onto your competition. Two weeks ago, days before launching our new Bottle Breacher BBQ tools. One of our team members noticed that the weld connecting the steel rod from the .50 caliber handles to the spatula broke during a photo shoot. I was very concerned when I got the news because we were marketing these utensils as a very well made in the USA product. As we started going through the inventory our worst fears were realized. Over 50% of the spot welds were busting and in some cases didn’t even bond the 2 metal pieces together. These welds were being done by a very good friend and well respected local business. Turns out one of their laborers was not only cutting corners during production but also not checking his work. Thankfully the business stood behind their work and fixed every unit with lightning speed. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last. If you want to be a great product developer you better be prepared to put out large fires and think on your feet. You had also better develop strong relationships with your vendors so that they will step up for you in times of need.

 

TEST, TEST, TEST SOME MORE. Had we done a better job of testing we would not have run into this problem. We sell everything from Bottle Breachers to cozies, rings, apparel and more. You would be surprised at how many things can go wrong with even the simplest item. My attorney once gave me a very valuable piece of advice. He said, "Eli when you are making these products you have to visualize people doing the absolute dumbest things possible with them and then suing you for not protecting them from their own stupidity." One time a buddy asked me why I had 10 rings on each of my fingers. It wasn’t because I was trying to look like some hard ass biker. It was because it gave me the opportunity to test 10 units on my skin for comfort and product defect. Trust me I have screwed this up more than once. I have failed a couple times to do enough testing on my products. The importance of testing not only applies to making your product, but also selling it. When I first started selling my very raw, first edition Bottle Breachers, I priced them at $27 a piece. Nobody was buying them; 2 weeks later I dropped the price to $24. It worked, a couple people actually purchased at that price. We left it there for a couple weeks and then dropped for the second time to $20. Boom, the flood gates opened and orders started pouring in. The lesson here is that sometimes it isn’t your product. It’s your pricing. Test your customers reactions, test the durability and functionality of the product, and test your pricing.

As I said, there is no blue print or exact science to product development that I am aware of. I know there are many out there who have fine-tuned their product development departments and could teach me a thing or two. These are just a few lessons that we have learned along the way and I felt compelled to share them because I know many of you have great ideas and often wonder if it could be something more than just an idea. Maybe it could be the next big thing. But if you never start and are too afraid to fail, then you don’t have a chance. You will wind up like every old story teller who sits around wondering what might have been. You’ve got to start somewhere; don’t forget to Crawl, Walk, and then maybe, just maybe, you will be able to Run.