Lori Grenier has made a name for herself, with more than one startup, as a successful entrepreneur. It would be important to have her featured in our top-notch entrepreneurs series for founders, startups, and entrepreneurs that are just getting into the game. Her earring organizer sold out in 4 minutes in 1996. That year she made $1 million in sales of her jewelry box which could hold up to 100 pairs of earrings. It might sound like she had a special liking for earrings, but Lori Greiner is not a one-product kind of entrepreneur. After the popularity of that product, she went on to launch over 400 products and holds over 120 patents. According to Investopedia, she is worth $150 million as of March 2022.
Since 2000 she had hosted the popular TV cable show known as Clever and Unique Creations by Lori. She is the Queen of QVC who has made her mark as a judge and investor on the popular TV show Shark Tank where entrepreneurs pitch their products in return for investments at the cost of selling equity or sharing profits or both.
One of the most popular Shark Tank investments is the Scrub Daddy sponge for which Lori Greiner was the investor. It has made over $75 million in sales and even diversified to other products as well.
Clearly, Lori is not your basic entrepreneur. She is the real deal in the startup world and she is not stopping now. She has considerable prowess in investing in entrepreneurs, and knowledge that she so willingly shares on Shark Tank as a judge. We figured it would be important to have her featured in our top-notch entrepreneurs series for founders, startups, and entrepreneurs that are just getting into the game.
1) Know every detail about your product
So many times entrepreneurs and startups go to pitch on Shark Tank without nailing down every little detail about their companies. You have to understand what your company is doing inside out. You have to know the market statistics and what they mean. Lori advises entrepreneurs to get every detail about their products right.
You cannot pitch to a potential investor without a detailed understanding of your product and the prices you’ve set. In addition, you need to know whether there are other startups in the niche and what their offerings are.
Obviously, a lot of these entrepreneurs who have not gotten their details right do not usually get an investment from any of the sharks, and Lori is one of those sharks who would expect an answer for each of these questions.
2) Do the startup market research yourself
The only way of knowing every detail about your product is doing the market research yourself. Entrepreneurs cannot afford to outsource this particular task. You have to go on the ground and find out what the market looks like.
Some of the things that Lori watches out for and asks a lot of these founders and startups are issues like the future of the market and what the product can become to play a part in that future. She also wants to know whether competitors exist or if it is a unique product and what influences the pricing. Aside from that, details like where to best reach the market and how to target them are important.
She insists that there is no knowing these details and having the factual proofs without going to the market yourself and finding the details out. If you are launching an online service, the same applies. Hang out where your target market hangs out. Find out what the possible customers in this niche need, and collect all the information you can on the existing competition.
3) Bootstrap; no overspending – stay lean
Lori has stated over and over again that the biggest mistake startups make is spending a lot of money way too early. Whether it is money from a venture capitalist, an investor, or your own capital, burning through it in the early stages will absolutely kill your startup and probably drive you into debt.
Do not be swayed to spend money on pointless things like expensive furniture, or some interior decorations. These things probably add no value to your service or product and all you are doing is spending money on the non-issues. The same goes for trying to hire hundreds of unqualified people instead of focusing on nurturing the employees you already have. So what does a smart entrepreneur do instead?
Well, they bootstrap. Spending frugally can pay off when you’re building a brand new company from the ground up. One of the ways to do this is by outsourcing tasks that are not recurring so that you only pay when you receive the service rather than hiring someone who will be getting paid to do one single task month over month. It is the same concept for running lean. The lean startup methodology advocates for outsourcing tasks instead of hiring full-time employees. It also advocates for spending more on improving the product than paying more salaries or getting new furniture, etc. A lean startup thinks big, starts small and scales fast in order to survive the brutal startup phase.
4) Be likeable – investors want that for startup
Before Lori invests in your startup, she believes that she invests in the person first. It is time to ask yourself whether you have the personality to wow investors into not only believing in your product but also in your ability to lead, innovate, and grow the company to great heights.
Like Lori, a lot of investors do not just invest in the company, they are investing in you as the founder as well. The bottom line is you need to get some charm and develop that likeable personality. Apparently, you can learn how to have a likeable personality and grow yourself into this by developing some particular habits.
5) Packaging is critical for startup
If you have watched a lot of Shark Tank episodes, you will have learnt that for the Queen of QVC, the packaging is mission-critical. If you are selling a tangible product online or in retail stores, how else would someone stop to buy it?
The packaging of a product should be eye-catching and able to make someone subconsciously spot your product and stop to learn more about it. Otherwise, the buyer will just pass by it without even batting an eyelid. This doesn’t just stop at the retail stores. Lori believes that for eCommerce companies, packaging and presentation on the webpage are crucial.
Entrepreneurs and startups need to pay attention to detail with regard to this. Eye-catching packaging is about the font style and sizes you chose. It is also about the image on the packaging because people see faster than they read. Look at your product in startup, share samples of the packaging out to would-be customers (strangers especially) and ask them whether that packaging is great. Not good, but great.
6) Persist – Get around roadblocks
Lori has launched over 400 products and sold millions of dollars on her QVC show, but she has also met a lot of roadblocks to her success along the way. What gave? Persistence.
“I was fearless, I knew I would make it work, and that’s the difference between successful entrepreneurs and people that don’t get somewhere – it’s that tenacity and drive.”
Meeting roadblocks along your journey as an entrepreneur should not be a sign to quit. Instead, you should invoke your inner creativity to ask, what can I do to go through this roadblock? Sometimes, all it takes is getting around the roadblock and not necessarily removing it because that might be too costly.
Be creative, and persist even when things seem tough. Find a way around that roadblock.
7) Personal feelings aside; business is busines
What do you do if you are enemies with your possible supplier or manufacturer? Do you change them? What if they are the best at what they do? What if they provide you with a better deal than the rest?
“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist – while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of water, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist.”
Lori believes that you would be stupid to put feelings in the startup way of business. Put those aside and get on with the work. At the end of the day, you get your product and your money. The result is happy customers and a growing company. Why would you put feelings in the way of this possible outcome?
8) One product? No problem
Some Sharks on the Tank do not like entrepreneurs who want to focus on one product and not diversify. However, Lori has no problem with such entrepreneurs and she scoops them every chance she gets.
Some one-product companies have gone on to generate millions of dollars in sales, much more than what other so-called diversified startups do. Scrub Daddy, Lori’s most successful Shark Tank investments is one of these products. Before they diversified and made more products, the startup had generated over $75 million in sales of one product alone. Even after diversifying, that scrub is still doing more numbers than the other new products they have.
9) Raise funds from other source and not friends or family
The Queen of QVC believes in seeking other sources of business capital than raising it from friends or family unless they are giving it away without expecting it paid back. The reason is that a lot of times, these friends and families will come back asking for their money even when the startup is not standing on solid ground yet. Sometimes they come back weeks after lending you the money, making you as an entrepreneur push the profits into paying back debt instead of investing it further into the product or the company.
Ideally, she advises seeking investors or negotiating with a lender institution like a bank for favourable terms.
10) Protect the idea for your startup
Coming from the entrepreneur who owns over 120 patents and a number of a few international ones, she knows that protecting your idea is the one sole way to dominate the market before the next person copies you.
Here is the thing, if you do not protect your idea but still share it, you cannot claim fraud if the person you share it with runs with the idea and gets a patent for it or even worse builds a successful company based on it.
“You are wise when you listen, especially to people with experience.”
Patents put your idea out there, but they also stop someone with the capability of copying it from doing so. For startups, someone with the ability to copy your idea could very well be a giant tech company which you cannot even afford to pick a fight with.
Avoid sharing your unprotected idea online if you want to build a company around it. The internet spreads information like wildfire. One minute you share your tweet in the US, the next minute someone in the UK is out there working on your shared idea.
11) Dedication; entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours for someone else
Some of Lori’s entrepreneurs in whom she has invested work extremely long hours every week. They do not mind this because it is the cost of building a successful business.
Lori usually remarks that, “Successful entrepreneurs work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else.”
Entrepreneurship usually requires a dumbfounding sense of dedication and commitment. As a result, it is not for everyone. She says that not everyone can be an entrepreneur and that is okay. Because it is not easy waking up and working long hours every day to achieve your dream.
12) Confidence is important for female entrepreneurs when building a startup
For so many years, women were ignored in the world of business, more so in the world of technology and engineering. Actually, in every niche from fashion to medicine to engineering and construction, women were never given the chances they deserved. In 1996 when Lori was breaking out into the world with her successful jewellery organizer, the situation was no different.
In 2018, progress has been made to recognize women who achieve equally as much as men or even more in these fields. However, the goal of that inclusivity has not been reached and a lot of work still needs to be done worldwide even in developed countries like the USA and the UK.
“The big thing for me is, I never think about myself as a female in business. I’m a person in business.”
Lori advises women in business to have confidence; it is important. She insists that it is the key to unlocking that respect and braving the tough business world.
13) Two types of inventors; Which one are you?
The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is also in understanding what kind of inventor you are. According to Lori, there are two types of inventors; (a) the masterwork who invents one product and if it becomes successful calls it a day and focuses on growing the company, and (b) the serial entrepreneur who has too many ideas, invents, grows the company to success and then sells it or relinquishes day-to-day duties to focus on launching another idea.
Lori Greiner is a serial entrepreneur and she loves the challenge of building a company from scratch every single time. Are you like her? Or do you want to build one successful idea and focus on it for the long term? Understanding yourself plays a big role in how your company grows and how you eventually shape it.
14) Seek constant product feedback for your startup
The principles of the lean startup are what Lori Greiner advocates for. The build, measure and learn phase is very important to her as an investor. She believes that seeking out constant product feedback and improving the product continuously is the best way to come up with a winning product.
You can get constant product feedback in various ways. Lori built her jewellery box and went out to the streets to ask customers if they would buy it and how much they would spend on it. She also gave them questionnaires to fill in the information. Through conducting these surveys, she knew that her product was set for greatness.
Using reviews, surveys, questionnaires, blogs, customer feedback channels and quizzes, you can easily get feedback about your product and make the necessary changes to make sure it fits your market best.
15) DIY- learn every aspect of your business and craft before delegating
Lori Greiner loves DIY entrepreneurs. The Do-It-Yourself entrepreneur understands what it takes to build the product inside out, market it, sell it, and ship it. They have done everything on their own for so long that they understand the product, market and industry data like nothing else before.
How do you become a DIY entrepreneur? Well, you get engaged in every process of the business. Steve Jobs knew every Apple product, especially the iPhone, inside out. And yet he was not a tech engineer by profession nor did he have any technical abilities. But he knew his stuff because he was involved in every single stage of the development of every single product. He knew every little detail about the iPhone. This is an entrepreneur who had learnt every aspect of the business.
Startup founders and entrepreneurs should know the business well enough to influence it the way Steve Jobs influenced Apple.
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