Secret Sauce
Episode 67
August 17, 2021

Secret Sauce

with Andrew Suzuka, Founder and CEO of Otamot

Andrew Suzuka is the Founder and CEO of Otamot. Based in Brooklyn and sold in over 2000 stores including Whole Foods, Sprout's, and Wegmans, Otamot is a delicious veggie-filled tomato sauce brand made with over nine organic vegetables and healthy oil. In this episode, Andrew shares with us his entrepreneurial journey from growing up in Westchester, New York, with four sisters and dreams of becoming a stockbroker, to attending NYU where he launched a marketing and promotions company called Key Factors, where he made a 10,000 dollar mistake, to climbing the ladder at NOISE, which led to becoming an expert CFO for agencies including Bayard Advertising. He talks with us about his aha moment in creating Otamot, how they launched nationally in Whole Foods within their first six months of launching, and why attending trade shows as an early-stage food company has played an important role in their success as a brand.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • How his childhood was full of the love of food and exposure to business and learning how to make money, even from an early age
  • What hard lessons he learned from mistakes in business while in college and how what he calls his first real business really grew and provided a lot of opportunity with nationwide clients
  • What it was like to have a successful experience in an acqui-hire with NOISE that was an amazing partnership for Andrew and what he did next with recruiting solutions
  • What led him into financial management and consulting, to part time CFO roles, and lead to a full time CFO position
  • How the idea for Otamot came to him, what he did differently with this idea compared to other ideas he had over the years, and why he chose the name Otamot
  • Why they were able to hit the ground running after launching Otamot, how he got in front of more buyers, and his advice on marketing and pricing strategy
  • How he balances his full time, 9-5 job, with his 5-9 job growing Otamot and what advice he has for others who have a great idea and want to take it somewhere  

To Find Out More:


“To grow your business and really grow your experience, you're going to have to work with more and more people.”

“If you want people to be the extension of you, then you've got to give it all for them every single day.”

“I call it being comfortable being uncomfortable. Because if you're going to be squeamish and if you can't kind of thrive off of being in these different and challenging situations and really get excited about, hey, how do I jump over this thing? Then being an entrepreneur or doing something that hasn't been done before is not for you. And that's OK.”

“A little light bulb went off and I said, I love making food, I am a parent that just wishes I didn't have to spend three hours to make this, but I feel really good about her eating it. But is there a life hack here?”

“If we're going to flip the label around, what if we just flip the name around too? And it really plays well into it and really explains the origin of the sauce, which is we really want to turn things around.”

“We prepped enough that well before launch I hired a PR company. Well before launch we did our branding and sell sheets, so we were able to hit the ground running and look like a million bucks before we made any money, before we had one sale.”

“When you're building a business, you also want to look at what will your COGS be later on based on certain velocity assumptions. And you should be pricing yourself based on those future velocity assumptions, in my opinion.”

“If you want to go national, you have to be ready for it. And that just doesn't mean, hey, have a few bucks in the bank. That means be ready from a production standpoint, be ready to service them, be ready to understand how freights work, how UniFi works…”

“If I didn't have great teams on both sides of the table, I could not do this.”

“You just have to be someone that's been used to juggling life and you have to enjoy being that clown.”

Lee: [00:00:03] Welcome to Episode 67 of the Stairway to CEO podcast. I'm your host, Lee Greene. And today I spoke with Andrew Suzuka, the Founder and CEO of Otamot, based in Brooklyn and sold in over 2000 stores including Whole Foods, Sprout's, and Wegmans, Otamot is a delicious veggie filled tomato sauce brand made with over nine organic vegetables and healthy oil. In this episode, Andrew shares with us his entrepreneurial journey from growing up in Westchester, New York, with four sisters and dreams of becoming a stockbroker, to attending NYU where he launched a marketing and promotions company called Key Factors, where he made a 10,000 dollar mistake, to climbing the ladder at NOISE, which led to becoming an expert CFO for agencies including Bayard Advertising. He talks with us about his aha moment in creating Otamot, how they launched nationally in Whole Foods within their first six months of launching, and why attending trade shows as an early stage food company has played an important role in their success as a brand. If you like what you hear don't forget to click Subscribe to get updates on our new episode releases happening every Tuesday morning. Until then, we hope you enjoy this episode.

Lee: [00:02:10] Hi Andrew, thanks so much for being on the show today. I'm excited to hear your story in building Otamot. Thanks for joining us.

Andrew: [00:02:16] Thanks. Thanks so much for having me, Lee. I'm excited to be here.

Lee: [00:02:20] Awesome. So let's start from the very beginning. Where are you from originally?

Andrew: [00:02:25] So originally I grew up in Westchester, which is about an hour north of New York City, and then ended up come to school here at NYU. And I've been stuck ever since. So I'm actually living in Brooklyn now. Married, two kids, the whole nine yards. Don't have the dog yet. The dog is coming.

Lee: [00:02:44] {laughter} And so when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Andrew: [00:02:49] What did I want to be? I wanted to... From I guess one of the things I really enjoyed doing was picking out stocks and stock trading, to be honest with you.

Lee: [00:03:01] How old are you when you knew about stocks?

Andrew: [00:03:04] I think I was in my first year of high school or something like that, or maybe younger because I had a few stocks that were leftover from my grandparents that I started understanding what that was and they gave it to me for college. And so I ended up like doing some of these virtual like something called the AT&T Collegiate Investment Challenge, which is little stock trading, virtual stock trading thing back in it must have been like in the 1990's, 1992 or 1993 or something like that. And I remember going over to the payphone in high school and you had to call up your trades. It was kind of neat, it was kind of fun. They gave you like a million dollars of virtual money and so I thought I'd be a stockbroker when I grew up one day. I remember laying out all the newspapers. I didn't have... There wasn't really the Internet at that point or not much, really. And I would look at all these stocks and understand how they were going up and down and create my own trends. And then in college, I worked for a broker. And then I learned how really boring that line of business was and quickly pivoted out to marketing.

Lee: [00:04:08] Interesting. And did you have any other jobs kind of before then or were you just really focused on stocks and were like, I'm going to go to school and be a stockbroker? Or were you a waiter anywhere or like what were you doing before then?

Andrew: [00:04:22] I mean, I would always, I guess, I always had something going on. I used to be a camp counselor, but it was like way back when I worked at the grocery store, like probably every high school kid. And I always thought I was the fastest, like, how quick can I get these people checked out? But I also like one of my first businesses honestly, was selling cookies to my neighbors. I really enjoyed cooking. I would make pasta from scratch and pizza from scratch. And I was probably eight, nine, ten years old, Same age as my son and daughter who are getting in the kitchen now. And I used to sell, and I found recently a menu that I had when I was a kid. And it would say one dollar for a dozen cookies, $1.25 for the chocolate chip cookies. And it was really fun. I used to just go up and down and up the street in the wagon and they would buy the cookies. I'd keep the money. Besides that, I would tag around with my dad who had a construction business, and I'd help them on different jobs and things. So really understanding some of the businesses through him and creating invoices and so business plus the love of food and making a couple of dollars here and there, kind of, I think that set a lot of the foundational work for what I ended up doing later, even today.

Lee: [00:05:43] That's interesting. Did you have any siblings growing up?

Andrew: [00:05:47] Four younger sisters.

Lee: [00:05:49] Wow. Wow.

Andrew: [00:05:51] {laughter} So they got a few to take care of. But yeah, it's nice. I was the only guy and the older brother in the family.

Lee: [00:05:59] Sounds like a full house. And so what did your mom do?

Andrew: [00:06:03] So my mom was, she recently retired, she was a researcher for Sickle Cell Anemia up in the Bronx at the College of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She did that for something like 40 plus years, which is nuts. She really dedicated her life to finding a cure for Sickle Cell Anemia, which unfortunately is still out there. But there's a lot of advancements there. So that's cool. And then my dad had the construction business. My dad also owned a sushi restaurant for a while up in Westchester, which I would love to go to and eat, but didn't really want to work much at. So I would go there with friends and say, "Come on, let's go get dinner tonight." And that was always really fun.

Lee: [00:06:45] So it looks like you had quite a bit of exposure to entrepreneurship at an early age and you were cooking those cookies and selling them for a dollar for a dozen. When you were in college, you went to NYU. What were you studying? And I know you wanted to be a stockbroker. It sounds like you had a little bit of experience in that. But what kind of made you shift away from that?

Andrew: [00:07:08] Yeah, I think it was the... So while at NYU, my last job was selling advertising for the school newspaper. And it was nice. And they'd give me 10 percent for a full page ad. I'd make one hundred bucks on a thousand dollar full page ad for the official NYU newspaper. But the problem was that the sale was easy, but the return on investment for, say, the restaurants I was selling to or whoever I would go pitch wasn't there. Like it would say, "Andrew, we like you, but I'm not getting my return on this full page ad that we ran with you." And I said, "How about this, give me a thousand dollars." And so I did that. But you can't keep doing something that you don't believe in. Right? Because you start to lose motivation, you start to lose face. And I really appreciated all these companies and local clients, and I wanted to help them reach college students. I mean, I went to NYU, had access to all the dorms. And so what I ended up doing was actually to Blue Man Group as my first client because I had a student special and I said, "Hey, can you pay me to promote your student specials? You can go see the Blue Man Group at the last minute for 20 bucks with your student ID. Give me fliers, I'll make fliers, whatever they are and we'll promote you." And that ended up working. Ended up selling out, selling out. And they said, "Andrew, can you FIT? Can do Columbia?" Next thing you know, Pantene ProV came and said, "Can you do the Northeast for this contest." The next thing you know, MTV called, said, "Can you do 20 markets on one night to celebrate our 20th anniversary?" So a lot of things just kind of started spiraling while I was in college that was an extension of what I was doing. I was helping the newspaper. I was helping companies reach college students. And so I ended up helping more national companies, big companies, help college students, not just New York City. But I ended up really in college launching my marketing and promotions company. So that was like my first real business, which I ended up running for ten years and really gave me an appreciation for grassroots marketing, brand building, brand ambassadors, and that whole world.

Lee: [00:09:30] Wow. And so that was called what Key Factors?

Andrew: [00:09:32] Yes. You did your homework. {laughter}

Lee: [00:09:35] I did my homework. And so Key Factors. I mean, that's a long time to spend on a business. That's a lot of learnings. So what are some of the key insights, learnings, highlights from that experience that you took away with you?

Andrew: [00:09:47] Yeah, so the ten thousand dollar mistake, and when you're in college and you make a ten thousand mistake that definitely sucks.

Lee: [00:09:54] Wow.

Andrew: [00:09:55] So we were buying media, was getting into media buying as well. We did guerrilla marketing, the street marketing, brand ambassadors, all this kind of work. But I started wanting to buy billboards for clients and things like that. And so we had a verbal commit from one of these big development companies that was putting up restaurants in Rockefeller Center, etc. And they said, "Ok, Andrew, we want to buy these subway ads in Rockefeller Center. You have an access to Viacom TD Outdoor. Can you get us contract?" I said, "Sure, I'll get it to you. Here it is." They said, "Ok, we'll sign tomorrow." I ended up signing a contract on their behalf for ten thousand dollars, to reserve some space for some billboards and subway ads. And the next day they backed out of it and said, "We changed our mind." I go back to Viacom and I say, "Hey, my client changed their mind." They're like, "Andrew, we can't take this back." And so I literally had to eat ten thousand bucks. Or didn't eat, to pay the ten thousand dollars, right? {laughter} Because, it was not, you know, I don't come from that. So it's not like let me go put this on a credit card or go ask the parents for it. No, like you're going to wash your hair with with ninety nine cent dish soap for a while until you have that paid back. And so, you know, you just you need to learn. You're not going to learn that type of stuff out of a textbook and you're not going to remember it if you don't actually experience some of this stuff. So you really have to get out there and you can say, "Hey, you should have known to not sign a contract on someone's behalf." But I grew up like take people on their word. Right? Shake the hand, take someone on their word. And when someone just backs out, it's like, ok, I guess I really got to do this stuff by the book. Right? So, you know. Yeah. That kind of stunk. That's I mean, we had that. We had another... I learned so many things. I mean running street teams, especially, when you're dealing with... You deal with all kinds of people when you're doing that kind of stuff because, you know, you're out there, you're doing grassroots marketing. We would have people that would have to go and hand out samples for us. And say samples for MTV and things like that. And I would kind of had this Spidey sense that they didn't really do the job. They said they did it and they would send me photos, but they would send me 10 photos. And you can't prove to someone that you handed out ten thousand samples of whatever through like ten photos. Like that's like, you know, maybe that's scalable, but it's not a full audit. So I would end up calling some of the warehouses where we had product in, and I'd ask the warehouse, "Can you go into our storage unit and let me know because it should be empty? And they tell me, "Andrew most of your product is still in here." So, you know, I would get that. I mean, I could go on and on and you just have to, it just kind of draws to the conclusion or kind of like, I guess, this theme that when you go into business, you can't scale a business on your own. When I went to Blue Man Group, I said, "Let me do this one dorm that I live in and I'm going to market every student." I grabbed glue sticks and I glued fliers to everyone's door. NYU hated me, but it worked. {laughter} And then they said, "Can you do more dorms? Can do more schools?" Will I don't go to FIT, and I don't go to Columbia and I don't go to school up in Northwestern and all these other things as we grew. So you have to grow [00:13:16]... To grow your business and to grow your business acumen and to really grow your experience, you're going to have to work with more and more people. You're going to have to trust people and you're going to have to find people that you can trust to partner with. And so it just becomes really key to selecting your business partners, growing your network smartly, but also trust but verify. So [00:13:46] you can trust people, but sometimes you still have to verify that they're doing what they say they're going to do, or at least they're doing what you wanted them to do, or just verify that everything's OK. And it's important because if you don't do the verification part, you start to lose touch. And if you're not willing to get your hands dirty and if you think you're too good to take out the trash, well, you know, it's going to be real hard for people to appreciate you, to respect you and to really, you know, bust their butts for you.

Lee: [00:14:21] Right.

Andrew: [00:14:21] So [00:14:21] if you want people to be the extension of you, then you've got to give it all for them every single day. [00:14:26]

Lee: [00:14:27] So what did you do when you were, step back to having to help these companies get access to other college students that weren't attending NYU? How did you find people at these other colleges or how did you provide that service and kind of scale it relying on other people?

Andrew: [00:14:47] Right. So well, you you break into the dorms and then you... I'm just kidding. {laughter} Well, we would stand outside. I would stand outside and I would get my... So I would start to get a local group of, say, fellow students at NYU that I would trust. And I'd say, hey, you're in charge of recruiting people at FIT. You're in charge of recruiting people up at Columbia. And we would go there and maybe wait outside the dorms, ask people if they want to make a few bucks, show them the type of work. We're not promoting some dance club or stuff like that. We're promoting, you know, good brands, things that people know of, Broadway shows they knew of, record labels that people know of. Before The Strokes really became The Strokes w were promoting them. Like a bunch of labels. And it was fun because you get to go to free shows and things like that. So we did a lot of word of mouth. We would then put posters up. The tear offs where we would have people write to us, and then you end up giving people jobs.

Andrew: [00:15:47] You give them a job here, a job there. Spot check them, are they outside the concerts, are they there on time? Are they picking up the materials on time? Do they seem into it? And you just have to you just start to grow your network. For MTV, we essentially needed to go national right off the bat, and they called me and we had a few weeks to assemble a nationwide street team.

Lee: [00:16:10] Wow.

Andrew: [00:16:10] And I'm sure at that point there were companies out there I could have called, but I would have not made any money and we would have out priced ourselves. And so for that one, I had been working. One of my clients was, and this is the fun part because you have these problems, which are opportunities, but you have to get really creative on how to solve them. Right? So it was this challenge like, "Hey, Andrew, we heard about you. We're MTV. We want to do a national campaign with you." The answer, first of all, has to be "yes."

Lee: [00:16:37] Right.

Andrew: [00:16:38] It doesn't matter how you get it done. The answer has to be yes. The second part is you go freak out and figure out how to get it done. Right?

Lee: [00:16:45] Yup.

Andrew: [00:16:45] And so I thought about how to get it done. And in this specific case, I said, I have a client and have contacts with a nationwide network of student travel agencies. Let me speak to them because they're on college campuses or near all these music venues and they're going to have responsible people because they're showing up for a nine to five job. But the work I need done is at night. So who doesn't want to make an extra 50, hundred, whatever it is, bucks and get some free tickets to a concert? So I ended up working and building my network out nationally in that way initially, which ended up really working out well. And it's like people are going to do a good job because you are reaching out to them at their place of work saying, hey, do you want a side job? And it came in through a reference. So, yeah, that's how we solved that one. But every opportunity is going to have some type of challenge and you just have to be ready to pivot.  [00:17:35]I call it being comfortable being uncomfortable. Because if you're going to be squeamish and if you can't kind of thrive off of being in these different and challenging situations and really get excited about, hey, how do I jump over this thing? Then being an entrepreneur or doing something that hasn't been done before is not for you. And that's OK. [00:18:02] If my kids or friends want to go... I have friends that work at the VA, I have friends that have regular nine to five jobs. I don't have many friends that are crazy enough to actually go do the things that I've done, which is go start this business or go start that or fail at this and be OK with doing OK with that. Like it's kind of like it's it can be a stressful thing for a lot of people.

Lee: [00:18:25] Yes.

Andrew: [00:18:27] And especially when you start to get to the point of, hey, I want to get married or now we have kids and there's a need for stability. If I were not married, if I wasn't having kids, I would probably be taking way, way more risks. So you have to kind of calculate what you do later in life. And I feel like younger and I'm forty three right now. So if I was still in my 20s or 30s or unmarried without kids, I would be taking a few more chances for sure. And I can also have taken a few more bigger misses as well.

Lee: [00:19:03] So interesting you say that because you are a Founder, so I feel like...

Andrew: [00:19:06] Yeah.

Lee: [00:19:06] You have taken a risk actually.

Andrew: [00:19:09] No, totally. But balance it. Yeah. Yeah. And I balance it though because I also, so I have the nine to five job, which not everyone knows. So I have a nine to five job as a CFO of a fairly decent sized media agency. But also my five to nine job, which is a CEO of Otamot Foods.

Lee: [00:19:26] Interesting. Yeah. I can't wait to go into kind of what that's been like running a business basically full time, but in your part time hours. Right? It's a lot of work.

Andrew: [00:19:36] Yeah. Yeah.

Lee: [00:19:36] But before we get there, I know you worked at NOISE, which is a creative agency, right after Key Factors, but Key Factors was your business. So how did you shut it down? How did you kind of move from that?

Andrew: [00:19:47] Yeah, we folded it in and brought our clients over. So it was essentially like an acqui-hire. They said, hey, let's work together. And I focused on young adults, NOISE focused on young adults. I had known them. I had worked on campaigns with them before. So they were essentially a client. No essentially. They were. They were a client of mine. And then at that point, honestly, I was about to get married. And I was like, OK, let me get a little more stability here, but still do what I love and I like the people. Had a chance to work with them before. And I was like, you know what, I like everyone here. This will be cool. And I came in and, you know, ended up being there for a while. I don't even know how many years it was. I feel like it was like a decade

Lee: [00:20:30] It's funny that you talk about stability because I feel like, you know, I grew up in a household. My dad was an architectural photographer, and it was a roller coaster. {laughter} It was a lot of ups and downs. Lots of moving houses.

Andrew: [00:20:38] Right. You get the jobs or you don't. Yeah. It's either sushi or just the rice. That's what half jokingly say. Like, let's see how this week goes.

Lee: [00:20:48] You're either writing in like a Land Rover or a Taurus wagon.

Andrew: [00:20:52] Or hitchhiking. Or walking. And you're like, oh yeah, this is good for me. I'm just going to go get my exercise. {laughter}

Lee: [00:20:58] Yeah. I mean, so it's interesting to hear how you have kind of been prioritizing stability. Where does that come from?

Andrew: [00:21:06] I guess it's the polar opposites that my parents are. And my mom stayed at the same job for 40 plus years. Same job, same commute, same floor. And just day in and day out was an extremely dedicated individual to doing something that she really believed in and that was meaningful. And a lot of people counted on her. And my dad, he was the crazy SOB and still is. {laughter} So he's like starting this business, starting that business, goes from construction to food to limousine companies. Like, I couldn't keep track, but it was fun to watch and it's fun to hang out and do this. And it was like, "Oh, here comes Andrew's dad. Here's the crazy guy."

Lee: [00:22:03] Did they work out? Is he the kind of guy that is like, you know, just has an idea, kind of runs with it and doesn't really think too much about the numbers and then gets to like a few miles down the road and is like, wait a minute, maybe it's not the best business model financially?

Andrew: [00:22:19] Yeah, I think it would work for a while, and then I don't know if he would get bored or the market would change and then he would switch to something else or do the restaurant thing. And he did that for two or three years, and that changed. So he does it because he sees an opportunity there and he loves it. But then he'd kind of like move on. He wasn't the kind that would like really focus on really building it out. Like he wouldn't franchise the restaurant or try to build the construction company to expand into other cities and that stuff. But he enjoyed it. And it also depends on how much you know, there's different levels of entrepreneurialism.

Lee: [00:23:03] Yes.

Andrew: [00:23:04] You might just want to be the entrepreneur that allows you to, sure, make ends meet and a little bit more and just have that liberty. Just have that freedom to do, hey, I don't want to work this week or I mean, when I had my company back in college and then some, I would find ninety nine dollars trips to London or to Bermuda. And I'd tell my friends, hey, you want to go? And no one can go because they had nine to five jobs. I'm like, all right, see you guys in a week and I'd just hop on a plane and go and it was cool. Did that mean I was saving money away and putting money into savings and doing 401Ks? No, but I lived basically in the moment and I was happy. And get hit by a bus tomorrow, you're good, right? Like it's you don't have regrets, in that type of sense. So it really depends on what you're looking for at that moment of your life. If you're looking for you just want that personal freedom without the additional pressure or the additional upside potential, then you then you focus on on sizing your business and your efforts in that kind of way.

Lee: [00:24:11] So you're saying like a solopreneur for the lifestyle? Kind of like my dad. He's like an architecture photographer, like he's the expert. He does the jobs. And, you know, it's limited to the amount of hours you have in a day, basically, and that's how much you can scale. It's very capped, but it does create a very nice lifestyle. You can take off whenever you want. And it's you know, it's got its ups and downs, but it is what it is. So what are the other levels? Obviously, there's the other end of the spectrum, which is to build a venture backed billion dollar company. What's in the middle?

Andrew: [00:24:43] I don't know if there really is a middle. I mean, there is. But either you're not trying hard enough or you just should probably get a nine to five job. I don't know. I mean, or just be the solo entrepreneur. And that's totally fine. But what's the point of kind of puttering growth if you're not going to really go for it? I mean, there is the middle, which is like you might be capped because of a market space issue or, you know, what you're selling is only you know, it's a very niche market. So you're not going to be flying in a G5. What? You'll be fine and you'll get the Land Rover, you know? So there is a market. It just depends on someone's mentality of what they want to get out of life. And do they want to, you know, were they dreaming of a Lamborghini since they were a kid, and they still want to have one? You know, then they're going to really try. Or they're going to pivot and they're going to jump out of whatever they're doing because they're like, you know what? This doesn't have as much potential and I'm more ambitious. And they're just more ambitious people financially. And other people might find something and just get a ton of satisfaction of running a daycare, a camp or something which has good residual income. It's doing something really awesome and they're doing really well. Maybe they just want to have three or four, maybe they want to... So there I guess there is a middle ground that there are lots of middle ground. I can be extreme and say there's only one way or another.

Lee: [00:25:38] Right.

Andrew: [00:26:15] But there is a kind of this comfort zone where you can balance some personal and business and still do really well. So I think it's kind of what path you choose. And I believe most people are pretty smart enough to know that what they could potentially make. They can make low to mid six figures and be like, you know what? That's all they ever need in life. And that could be, and they're totally happy and feel like they hit a grand slam. And for them they did. And then you have other people that are just like, that's not enough, you know? And then people are going to think those people are greedy. But it really just depends on the individual and what kind of like work to live, live to work type of things you can consider it. Or it's kind of like, what do you want to achieve before you sit in that rocking chair and sip some tea on the porch?

Lee: [00:27:09] Yeah, yeah, exactly. Looking at the geese out the window. {laughter} So NOISE, you were there for eight years. That's a really long time, and having a company that is you went through an acqui-hire, that really sounds like it was a very successful partnership. I think that a lot of times acqui-hires, acquisitions sometimes it's just like not a great fit long term. That's a very long time to stay at a company in general, let alone the fact that it was you having your own company as an entrepreneur to now working for someone else at their company and helping them grow their business. Can you speak a little bit about that experience?

Andrew: [00:27:48] Yeah, because you kind of feel at first, if you're like me and you were doing your own thing for a decade and you're like, all right, now I'm going to do this, personally I went through a feeling like am I a loser? Like honestly, it's kind of like, wait a minute, I just talked about how you either go for the G5 or you're just a solopreneur. I just joined someone else's company after being that guy that would do whatever, kind of go whatever...

Lee: [00:28:20] Right. You were aiming for the G5. Right? And it didn't work out. And that happens a lot.

Andrew: [00:28:25] Yeah. Totally. Yup, yup, yup. But it was also kind of the time, it was just a timing thing too. And what I needed in my life right then, and it was a personal decision. So I was like, OK, I do want to get married. I do want to have some stability here. I don't want my stress that I'm used to to be on someone else as much.

Lee: [00:28:47] And I think learning to manage that stress just comes with experience and it's like you're able to take a step back. And maybe your experience at NOISE maybe helped to adjust that, readjust that a little bit.

Andrew: [00:28:58] Yeah, yeah. I mean, NOISE had its ups and downs, mostly ups, and we were acquired twice and that was a lot of fun. So the reason I went with those guys is that we were small. It was about eight or nine of us when I joined and then when we ended up selling we were around 40 to 50. Then when we got sold again, we were around one hundred and fifty people. I really enjoyed the people there. They are some of my greatest friends now. The former CEO/Founder who I worked alongside with the longest out of anyone in my professional career now is Noah Kerner. He's the CEO of Acorn, and they're about to do a two billion dollar spec that they announced. It's crazy.

Lee: [00:29:38] Oh wow. Cool.

Andrew: [00:29:38] So it's like, you know, you get to work with some really fun people. You get to do some great things. Best day of work in my life was actually when I was at NOISE, and we made a crop circle for Chevrolet and that was just totally awesome. So it's like things that you don't think you you know, you don't imagine...

Lee: [00:29:59] You said crop circle?

Andrew: [00:30:01] Yes.

Lee: [00:30:01] What is that?

Andrew: [00:30:03] So it's you know, we found a cornfield. They were promoting the HHR vehicle. That I don't think they make it anymore.

Lee: [00:30:09] Oh, wait. Is that the thing where it's like a circle and all the crops are like flat, and it looks like a space ship landed on it?

Andrew: [00:30:15] Yes, yes, yes. So we did the letters HHR in a cornfield in Connecticut and flew over it in a helicopter, which just happened to be perfect timing, perfect place after we're done with making this crop circle thing. And yeah, but it was a lot of fun. So the experience at NOISE... So yeah, I went from going feeling like I'm kind of a loser to having a great support system like Andrew, no, this is just a perfect opportunity for you. Let's see what we can learn here. Let's see what we can contribute here. And I ended up contributing a lot, so much so that we were able to sell that company and everyone did well and all those types of things to, you know, give me options for what I want to do next to my career.

Lee: [00:30:59] That's great. And it looks like you went off to create a peer to peer recruiting platform, but the business was sold in a year. Can you talk about building Vouch?

Andrew: [00:31:09] Yeah. I mean, that was just a little idea. I've always the part I liked about the business at NOISE, and I think just in business in general, it's funny cause I'm in recruiting again now is connecting people and helping people find jobs. Like if you think about it, when you ask someone to come work for you, you're asking them to take a big leap of faith, to leave potentially something that's really stable, something that, you know, or pass up on on another opportunity and put their their life and their future, part of it at least, and trust in you.

Lee: [00:31:44] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:31:44] And so when I would have people come work for me and work with us at NOISE, that was like I believed in that company so much, it was such an easy sell. It wasn't a sell. It's like for the right people, it was an amazing time. It was amazing. And I wanted to be able to share that. But I also knew how impactful that decision could be on someone positively or negatively if it's not the right choice. It wasn't a great choice for everybody. Right? And so recruiting was always something that in the interview process and all that was something that I always kind of spent extra time with. But the one thing that always was a rub was recruiters, recruiting fees, and people that were just essentially almost like real estate agents. You do get, you know, a handful of good ones, but you get a bunch of them that just don't really take the time to learn about you or what your needs are or what's best for you. And they want to make a commission. And so Vouch was basically the anti recruiter solution, which was a peer to peer recruiting platform that was built based on an open API that LinkedIn had at the time and then ended up shutting down right before we launched. So that kind of sucked.

Lee: [00:33:02] Oh no. Fun times.

Andrew: [00:33:02] That kind of sucked for a minute. Yeah, and so we did it, we sold off some of the assets that we built and things like that, and that was that. But it was a cool little time for a minute.

Lee: [00:33:11] Interesting. And then we went into financial management for agencies. How did that come about?

Andrew: [00:33:16] Yeah. So that brought me back to my NOISE days where I was the CFO managing finances. And I would get a lot of emails and people on LinkedIn saying, hey, can you help me with my finances? Do you know any accountants? We don't want to hire a CFO. That was essentially a part time CFO role. And I ended up hiring a few people and doing that. I never felt that that business would be some crazy, gangbuster thing, but it was something that brought me back to my almost like solopreneur days. Yeah. Where I'm going to go have these client meetings. I'm going to not have client meetings and go take this, but keep residual income and then create some profit share models where if an agency does over a certain amount, you can get paid more. And so that business did well. And I was able to hire a few people to start working for me over there. And then what happened is one of my clients ended up saying, "Andrew, we really want to hire you. Come on, like, come over here." And they were taking up more and more time. And at the same time, I had this idea to build Otamot, and I had started on that already.

Lee: [00:34:25] So was that another acqui-hire that happened?

Andrew: [00:34:28] Which one?

Lee: [00:34:29] From optimization partners... You were doing the financial management for outsourced CFO stuff.

Andrew: [00:34:35] I ended up selling it off to one of my partners to go manage. So I stopped getting involved in that because I just didn't have the time. So the question where the opportunity came up to go work at Bayard, which is kind of going back to the full time type of job versus this flexible optimization partners, and that business was doing well. But I was essentially juggling three jobs at that time. I was juggling optimization partners, Bayard, which was still a client of mine, and I was the consultant there, so it was taking up more and more time. Plus I was launching this pizza sauce idea, or pasta sauce idea. And have the wife and two kids at home. [00:35:14] So at some point, if you want to have the wife and two kids still at home, you can't do three other full time jobs. [00:35:20]

Lee: [00:35:20] A little challenging. They might get a little upset.

Andrew: [00:35:23] Yeah, they definitely, they were starting to forget my name and that's not cool.

Lee: [00:35:26] Oh no. Yeah.

Andrew: [00:35:27] So I just decided, I said let's give up one, let's give up the optimization partners. Let me have a conversation with my biggest client and say, hey, I'm cool, let's do this. And because I thought I could add value, and it still works out really well. I said, but I have this little pasta sauce thing on the side, but I got to be able to work on it. And they said, fine.

Lee: [00:35:43] Nice.

Andrew: [00:35:51] And we're basically still in that relationship so far as we took that 98 year old family owned business, Bayard, and we sold it this past January to a private equity firm, who has been super awesome.

Lee: [00:36:08] Oh wow.

Andrew: [00:36:08] And they've allowed me to continue to do Bayard, but also do with my five to nine job, which is Otamot.

Lee: [00:36:16] Awesome. And so let's talk about Otamot. What was that aha moment that you had that you kind of realized this is what I want to start building next. I mean, very different than the path that you've been on. You've been in a lot of different agency, you know, you have an agency background. So why did you decide to create a product and how did it come about?

Andrew: [00:36:38] Right. I guess it really came about because my passion, I've been in all kinds of businesses, and at one point even had a day trip company called Escape Route Tours that would take people out of New York City for the day or, you know, do hiking and biking and people and all that. But, you know, so I've always been about two things. I always have been about food. I've always loved food as a kid. I've loved food grown up. At one point at six barbecues in my backyard here in Brooklyn. So I'm not like some, you know, not out in the suburbs or anything

Lee: [00:37:08] Right. That's not a very big backyard, I'm sure.

Andrew: [00:37:11] No matter where you are in Brooklyn it's not a big backyard. So and then I went for the seventh, and my wife told me to get out of here. So I sold like five of them on Craigslist, which is crazy. If you think about people literally buying anything on Craigslist, including use barbecues. So I always had that love of food. My grandparents used up a deli in the Bronx, my dad with the restaurant, my mom, everyone just always cook. Everyone loves to cook. My sister and brother in law work at Per Se. It's Thomas Keller restaurant here in the city. We all are just in the food world a lot. And so Otamot came about because of my love of cooking, and I was just making another meal one night, as well as the love for my family. And so just wanting to help my daughter eat healthier meals, help my family eat better. I cook a lot. Still do every weekend making the lunches. Every morning I make breakfast, fresh pancakes, crêpes, whatever we're making that day. And during the weekends I have time to do the lunches and dinners, too. And so I was making a pizza one night for my daughter and just wanted to honestly just make her pizza sauce but have it be more nutritious. So I was like, let me see what we have in the fridge. Ended up steaming up some carrots and some beats. And I was like she was in the living room and hanging out, and she didn't see what I was doing to the sauce, but I was just throwing in veggies, steaming them, and pureeing them, and then she ended up eating it. And I said, ah, it's dinnertime. And she said, "Dad, I like this. I want more, I want more." And I said,  [00:38:43]huh... A little light bulb went off and I said, I love making food, I am a parent that just wishes I didn't have to spend three hours to make this, but I feel really good about her eating it. But is there a hack, a life hack here? And that's when the twenty years of marketing and brand building and the brand ambassadors starts whirling around in your head, right? [00:39:03]

Lee: [00:39:03] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:39:03] So I spent a lot of my career building brands for Unilever, for Intel, for all these big things, you know, but how much good is selling shampoo doing for the world? But it's not easy to sell shampoo because there's so many options out there. And like, how do you market that? How do you speak to it? How you brand it? How do you drive sales? So that was really the aha moment when I made that meal, which was just unintentional. It was the most unintentional business that you can imagine, like it was not planned, it wasn't meant for that. And then when she said, "Dad, I want more," that's when a little light bulb went off and I said, wait a minute, maybe I can go down to the farmer's market, maybe I can make a little bit more of this and do it over there. I then took that idea. And here's, I guess, one big takeaway, because I've had way more ideas than this and maybe some of them could have worked really well. But one of the biggest differences with Otamot was that versus my other ventures or my other thoughts was I didn't hide it. I didn't kind of keep it too close to the chest like I did with Vouch, the recruiting platform. I kept that really close to the chest. The banker would say, "What is this account you need to open?" I said, "You don't need to know." The banker is going to steal my idea.

Lee: [00:40:25] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:40:25] The difference with with Otamot is when I had that idea and initially it was called Super Source, is that I said, you know what, I'm going to tell some people about this. I'm going to tell a buddy about this and see what does he think. And I did that before I even really went anywhere at all. I said, "Hey, John, I want to show you this is silly idea." And he said, "Andrew, this is a really good idea." John ended up introducing me to his stepson, his stepson, turns out is a James Beard award winning chef that co-wrote Modernist Cuisine, two thousand five hundred pages on the science of cooking. And I hired him to help me develop the first iteration of Otamot. We ended up working on it for a couple of years together, but [00:41:11] that's really when the light bulb moment turns into the Yankee Stadium floodlights. Because you have this idea. But then when the stars start to align and you're like, wait a minute, I had this concept and have the branding. Now I have another part of the puzzle, which is someone that understands the science of cooking to really bring this all together with me. And that's when you're like, all right, then you start to get excited and then you start your funding and all that, you know, and then you've got to get going with it. [00:41:41]

Lee: [00:41:41] Well, and I'm curious, because naming a company is always pretty tough. It always looks easy from the outside. But I'm sure there's a story, especially the name Otamot. It's tomato backwards. So how did you come up with that?

Andrew: [00:41:55] I mean, we have been in the advertising world for so long and you do those whiteboard sessions and you put the easels up and the giant sticky notes and you talk about what is the purpose of this product you're making? And you try to come up with any kind of acronym. And honestly, I hated them all. I worked with some of my clients because at the time I was also managing finances for different creative agencies. So there was no lack of ideas from them. And so honestly, I said, what are we trying to do here? And what we're trying to do is really flip this industry backwards. We're trying to turn it like, what are we trying to do? Trying to really shake up a really sleepy category, which is tomato sauce and all the pasta sauce is all sea of sameness. [00:42:42] And I said, "Well, let's start by actually telling people what's in our food right on the front. Let's flip the label and put the ingredients on the front." So that's why you see all the beautiful stripes, et cetera, that literally those stripes are made from the pictures of those foods that we just zoom into and stretch and Photoshop. So it's like the real, the beats, the carrots and tomatoes, the sweet onions and the sweet potatoes, everything. And so I said, if we're going to flip the label around, what if we just flip the name around too? And I said I can kind of pronounce it. It seems a little Japanese-y. And I thought the SEO has got to be fantastic because I don't know how many people are using that. So I went in, was able to trademark the name, trademarked the label, and then it was really off to the races. And it really plays well into it and really explains the origin of the sauce, which is, you know, we really want to turn things around in what's happening here. And so it just ended up sticking. [00:43:48]

Lee: [00:43:49] So what were some early metrics of success when you first kind of launched, I guess, when you kind of had a moment where like this is working, this is actually working? I think people like this, you know, more than just my friends, my daughter, and myself.

Andrew: [00:44:04] Right, right. Right. It's easy to get on one shelf. Like the local grocery store is going to feel bad for you and be like, "Andrew here you go." {laughter}.

Lee: [00:44:10] Right. Right. Right.

Andrew: [00:44:11] Which is still an exciting moment. Even though Joey up the block has heard about it for six months and within five minutes of actually bringing our first jar, he had us up there and a ton of fun. You get this rush, you know, it is kind of a softball, right?

Lee: [00:44:25] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:44:26] So kind of the I guess first initial two I could think of, I mean and then you just have more and more. But are when you get a phone call from a store that's like, "Can we buy your product?" That was pretty cool right?

Lee: [00:44:42] Yeah, that's really cool. When did that happen? How long after you launched?

Andrew: [00:44:46] Maybe like a few weeks.

Lee: [00:44:47] What?

Andrew: [00:44:47] And it was like oh so fast I was like, "How'd you hear about us?"

Lee: [00:44:50] Yes.

Andrew: [00:44:51]  [00:44:50]Now, we prepped enough that well before launch I hired a PR company. Well before launch we did our branding and sell sheets, so we were able to hit the ground running and look like a million bucks before we made any money, before we had one sale. [00:45:06] And that was really important. So when we went in to market, people took us seriously. We had a real website. We able we were able to ship, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it was really cool getting that call. And he was someone who was the buyer, Jeff, over at a food seller in Long Island City, for anyone in New York City. And it's basically like a Whole Foods of Long Island City because there's no Whole Foods there, and it's like a super nice store. And I didn't know. I don't live there. I live about a half hour away. And so I thought, OK, this guy must have a small bodega. I don't care. This is exciting.

Lee: [00:45:42] {laughter} Yeah.

Andrew: [00:45:43] He's like, "Bring over a couple of cases." Turns out his wife saw on Instagram or Facebook or something.

Lee: [00:45:49] Nice.

Andrew: [00:45:49] And I go into the store and it's like after the kids go to sleep, I said, "Can I come over there at 9:30?" "Sure. Come over." And so I drive over there and I'm like, oh shoot. This is like this really nice, this store. {laughter}

Lee: [00:46:01] You're like, "This is a lot bigger than I thought. It's not some hole in the wall." {laughter}

Andrew: [00:46:04] And then and then I was like, oh my God. And so I was like, this is cool. And then we ended up... He ended up selling it. And a couple of days later said, "Andrew, bring me ten cases."

Lee: [00:46:14] Wow.

Andrew: [00:46:15] I was like holy cow. Cases at that point were twelve packs. We've since went to six packs because it makes more sense because it allows you to get to more places, et cetera. Just little things you learn along the way.

Lee: [00:46:23] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:46:24] And I just remember driving over that night when it was like the reorder, the first reorder. And it was like me are the back of a trunk. I still have pictures of it, and I had to put the car seat in the back. {laughter} And I had to pull down the seats. Yeah. And it was like it was just so exciting. I remember just blasting the Wu Tang Clan the whole way, and just having so much fun. And then afterwards, like rushing over to Macy's because I wanted to buy my wife her favorite perfume because she's put up with stuff for so long.

Lee: [00:46:54] Aww.

Andrew: [00:46:54] And then making it home at like 11 or 12, and \it was just cool. Everyone was sleeping. It's kind of I guess at my own party myself.

Lee: [00:47:04] Yeah, little mini celebration. .

Andrew: [00:47:06] Yeah. And so that was a kind of a cool, that was certainly cool moment. The other one was when we went to our first food show. So anyone in food and you have a product you believe in, and you're ready to produce it or about to be ready to go to mass market, whatever it is...

Lee: [00:47:26] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:47:26] I would absolutely be at a trade show. Be at the Fancy Food Show at the Plant Based Expo, be at a local food trade show, where you're going to have buyers walking by and maybe some consumers. Everybody is a consumer anyway. Everyone has to shop for food no matter who they are.

Lee: [00:47:45] Right.

Andrew: [00:47:46] And look at their reaction. The first show we did was a small show called the Plant Based Expo. And I think it was actually like April or May of 2019, like a couple of months after we launched. We had a really simple design, really clean. And I mean, we're just on pasta sauce, right? But it's a totally different take. Veggie loaded. And we were not organic at the time. And the really cool thing is that people loved it. They loved it. And everyone that tells you that you just get higher and higher.

Lee: [00:48:19] Right.

Andrew: [00:48:20] Like, oh, my God. And then that first day, you just never want to sleep.

Lee: [00:48:24] Right, right. It's impossible to sleep.

Andrew: [00:48:26] And it was like, this is a waste of time. Like, there's so much to do. And it's like, so you go to these shows and there was just a lot of positivity and there's a lot of annoying questions, too. It's like, are you in Whole Foods? Are you in Whole Foods? Are you in Whole Foods? It was like, I just launched this damn thing.

Lee: [00:48:46] It's like why do you think I'm here? You think I would be here if we're in every store?

Andrew: [00:48:49] Right. Right. So it was a cool experience to get that first call to then, you know, go to that show to meet other people, to then just on and on and you start to do the more shows. QVC, Whole Foods...

Lee: [00:49:06] Yeah. So you said you weren't organic before. Did people comment on that? And did you change to organic because of these shows and the feedback?

Andrew: [00:49:14] When you're young and just starting out, and you're trying to put products out? Organic is expensive, especially if you're not buying that much.

Lee: [00:49:25] Right.

Andrew: [00:49:26] So our MOQs were really small, but it was also really expensive just to be conventional. So we weren't organic in the sauce, but we were organic at home. And so I always wanted to make us organic. But we were going to be, I think we launched it like ten dollars on the shelf. Now we're $6.99 nationwide, and we're organic. So once we were able to validate the product, we were able to find a new co packer that was able to bring our price down, bring our quality up and have us fully organic for less. And so that's really key [00:50:04] too. When you're building a business, you also want to look at what will your COGS be later on based on certain velocity assumptions. And you should be pricing yourself based on those future velocity assumptions, in my opinion. Because if you price yourself on how much it's going to cost you if you were to go to the grocery store and buy your ingredients, versus, well, what happens when I'm going to buy a 50 pound bag of flour from Costco, versus what happens when I have a factory make this that buys fifty thousand pounds of flour once a month? So it's like those prices they really change dramatically. And so what you don't want to do, if you really believe you have a great product, is overprice yourself because you'll never know if a consumer was willing to try you if your price at the point of which you know what that equilibrium price or what that ideal price is that allows you to not just make a profit, but also bring it at a reasonable cost to the consumer. [00:51:06]

Lee: [00:51:06] Yeah, exactly. That's a really good point. Very good advice there. When you were saying before when you launched, you hired a PR firm which really helped you get to market guns blazing. How did fundraising fit into that strategy?

Andrew: [00:51:24] Yeah, so the fundraising really started out with friends and family. I think we raised like 38,500 bucks, just friends, family. It was four people, ten, ten, ten and a 85 hundred, to cover some initial R&D costs, you know, just to kind of help prove out the model. And so I really didn't know how fundraising worked. I said I need to get some funds. I need to hire a lawyer to help me write these agreements. And so I did. And then I realized, OK, we need to kind of do this on an ongoing basis because, you know, to actually go to these trade shows costs a lot of money, to produce some inventory is going to cost money. You've got to have inventory on hand to have something to sell to build the brand, to do this, to do that, and then it just grows. The bigger you want to get, the more money you're going have to pump into it. If you want to launch a brand ambassador program, we have about 600 brand ambassadors, that's not free to run. But we didn't need that the beginning. But now we do. We weren't running ads online really much in the beginning, but now we do. So the fundraising just happened out of necessity because when you're small, you're not going to have velocity. And even when you get bigger, you're still going to need to market and compete on a national level. So, yes, we're national at Whole Foods and Sprouts, Wegmans, et cetera, but so are a lot of big conglomerate brands. So is Unilever, so is et cetera. And they have a lot more money than we do. And so you have to be ready and able to not just be creative, but also you've got to have a war chest. Because they'll they're they're going to war against you the same way that you're trying to earn room in people's stomachs.

Lee: [00:53:17] Right.

Andrew: [00:53:18] So when people are out there shopping, and you're trying to convince them, well, maybe they are going to reach for something that they haven't tried before. If they see a coupon on there or they heard about it from my friend or they read about it in an article. So it' a constant battle for brand loyalty out there across every category. Of oat milk that's trying to convince people to ditch the milk and ditch the almond milk for oat milk because they know that their lifetime value of a customer is X dollars. And so they're willing to spend X amount of dollars to acquire that customer just to get that in their mouth for the first time. So CPG is really, it requires some good funding to get people to actually try a new product. And that's something that people don't really realize, and especially if you're going to Whole Foods, and when you go national, if you're velocity is not turning then why would they keep you on the shelf, because there's a lot of brands out there that will buy that Super Bowl commercial and just have people buy some products. And so the nice thing is, after the first year of being in Whole Foods, they actually came back and said, "Hey, we're keeping you here. We like you. Can you actually bring us another sauce? Can you bring us a pizza sauce? And we're going to take that nationwide, too."

Lee: [00:54:37] That's great. And I know you launched a nationwide. I mean, this was I think you're saying before we hopped on here, less than six months into your business. And most retailers will try to test a product and do regional rollouts and like, start small. But they went straight for the big guns and took you guys national right away. Can you talk about how that happened? How did you build that relationship with Whole Foods? How did you meet them? You know, for all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there who want to get their products in Whole Foods, how did this happen for you?

Andrew: [00:55:10] I mean, this goes back to just having a great team. And it was a combination of things. I mean, we had our formula, we had our product, and we were ready for scale. And I think that's number one. [00:55:24] If you want to go national, you have to be ready for it. And that just doesn't mean, hey, have a few bucks in the bank. That means be ready from a production standpoint, be ready to service them, be ready to understand how freights work, how UniFi works... You have to have a really great team of people, and you have to assemble essentially an all star team of experienced people that have walked the walk before. Or else they're going to treat you like someone who might be a little bit more risky and maybe they justifiably would give you a chance. But at a smaller level. We [00:56:01] met Whole Foods at a trade show. We met Whole Foods because we hired a sales broker who happened to know a buyer there. And we're lucky enough that the buyer came by our booth. We were able to chat, and they invited us... So that was a step one. We brought a sales broker on early on in the process who has relationships that has met these people and met Whole Foods before. At the same we were also increasing our production capabilities, reducing our COGS, and we're starting to get ready to be able to deliver on a national level. And so that also helped. And then we just went out there and went down to Texas and pitched and thankfully, the pitch went well. They called us a few days before Christmas. And it was it was a pretty awesome Christmas present because they said, "Hey, we're going to take you global. Global is going to take you on." That means that when you're global with Whole Foods it means you're international, which was pretty sweet.

Lee: [00:57:02] Yeah, that's a very big deal. And congrats on that. That's really awesome. So being a founder obviously requires a lot of persistence, determination, there's a ton of challenges that we've hit along the way. I know you mentioned one before we have done about a co packer. Things going wrong. Can you kind of talk about some of the challenges that you've had to overcome in building your business?

Andrew: [00:57:24] Yeah, I mean, the key one in the beginning is really finding some people to partner with. And that could be your your coworkers, your Co-Founders, who's going to produce your product if you're in a CPG world like me. And so our first coacher was based out in the Midwest. And we made sure that we flew out there for every single production run and not really understanding the space or being there it was really key because there could be variances in your product from what you had in mind or what you test kitchened with them. So we went out there for test kitchen development. We went out there for the actual practice runs. We went out there for the actual production runs. And we would wee like these labels would come out twisted, they would come out wrinkled, and I would literally be pulling off the line. So things that, we're a premium brand, and if you're going to be a premium brand, then you better look like a million bucks coming out of that production line.

Lee: [00:58:27] Right.

Andrew: [00:58:27] And that's not something that, everyone's bar is set to a different level. So what they're about to put in the box, I said I'm not buying that. Take that out of the box. Put it back on line again. And so, you know, it's you have to really be anal and really protective of your brand. It's like being protective of your kids. And people might not understand it, but a lot of people will. And you just have to be there every second of day until you have people who are as crazy as you to work alongside of.

Lee: [00:58:57] Yeah. And you're doing this all part time. I mean, you have a full time job, nine to five. How have you been able to balance both and is this something you would kind of recommend to other Founders thinking of building a business?

Andrew: [00:59:10] Without knowing the other Founders, I can't say if it's for everybody. {laughter} It is a lot of work. It's a lot of work. You have to be the kind of person that just likes staying busy and can effectively contribute to both sides of the table, right?

Lee: [00:59:24] Yeah.

Andrew: [00:59:25] If I didn't feel that I can effectively contribute to both sides of the table. [00:59:27] If I didn't have great teams on both sides of the table, I could not do this. So we have a creative agency, a broker, a social media agency, on down the line idea that helps me with a ton. There's a lot of, a full time ops person who essentially runs the business. So I'll come in for sales meeting, strategy, marketing ideas, things like that. I mean, I still get hands on, but it is at a limited capacity, but it's where it matters. The nine to five job is not an easy one. It takes a lot of time. We're growing at a record pace. And so my head needs to be there. And so it's you just you need to have the right people. You have to have an understanding, professional and personal network. I'm kind of known to be late to things. Unfortunately. I always work on that because I'm trying to just stuff my calendars. But yeah, you just have to be someone that's been used to juggling life and you have to enjoy being that clown. [01:00:29]

Lee: [01:00:29] Yeah. And there's a lot of people, I think, that are waiting to figure out when they should make that move, when they should be full time on their company. So I think that your perspective of you taking the different route of you found a way to not have to do that, I think is a really interesting thing. So I appreciate you kind of going there and sharing that. But speaking of being late, you're late, I know, for a meeting right now. So I think we should probably get going. Before we wrap up, do you have any other final advice for any of the listeners out there thinking of building a business?

Andrew: [01:01:00] Yeah, I mean, it just you don't want to regret not taking a chance on something when you're 80 years old, right? If it works out great, if it doesn't work out great, and it's totally ok. I just don't want to live my life regretting that I didn't take a chance on something because you'll never know. And guess what? I've had more misses than I've had hits. And so, you know, just keep on swinging. Just keep on swinging and keep on doing it and make sure it's fun. Just make sure you're having some fun out there.

Lee: [01:01:30] Yeah. Awesome. Keep on climbing. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. Really appreciate your time. And yeah. Thanks again.

Andrew: [01:01:38] Yeah, no problem. Thank you so much, Lee. I appreciate you.

Lee: [01:01:43] Thank you so much for listening to the Stairway to CEO podcast. Once again, I'm your host, Lee Greene. And if you have any burning business questions, please feel free to reach us at We'd love to hear from you. And if you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to the show, tell your friends, leave us a review, and follow us on Instagram @StairwaytoCEO. Until next time, guys, keep on climbing.

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