Summer 2016 Entrepreneurial Experiences

Author Archive

Week 8: Finishing Up

Sunday, July 24, 2016 2:27 pm

As I close out my internship, I reflected back to realize that I had learned and experienced a great deal during my time at Fulton and Roark. The time spent there fostered my growth significantly as well as instilled confidence in my abilities to move into the working world once I graduate in one years’ time. Now to catch up on my projects this summer.

Firstly, one of my biggest project undertakings this summer was facilitating the conversion of website hosting from Squarespace to Shopify. This allows the company to truly expand its e-commerce impact. I can say that this project is essentially done with a release date for the newly revamped website being this upcoming week. With the release, we will have the ability to create a subscription service, which is a hot style of shopping lately. We will also be able to do gift cards and user specific coupon codes. Doesn’t get much better than that! This project took a little longer than expected but it was because we wanted to do our diligence in making sure the new website was up to our design standards before release. I’m happy by my experience and ability during this project. I never realized how important a certain type of platform can be to the success of a company. We will hopefully see the positive results of this switch in the upcoming months. But, I’m proud to say that without me being at the company this summer, the website would never have changed.

My other large project this summer has been the scented candle. This one is still not done, luckily, I will be working for them part time once my official internship is over. Therefore, I can continue working on the candle. At the moment, we have an October release date, which is cautious. During the Atlanta trade show, we did show it around to potential customers and the design and smell of it definitely built and garnered much interest which was great to see. Although this has gone pretty well we have realized the cost of the fragrance on the candle is a little too much to meet the desired margins that we want. So we are trying to send the fragrance off to an official fragrance company to optimize the scent. I went at this project a little gung-ho and I think if I had taken a little more planning in the front hand we may not run into the problem we are in now, with the difficulty of matching our desired price point. Yet, this approach was a little needed and helpful for my development. No one at F&R had experience with candle making in the first place, so there wasn’t really one to lead me through the process. Which was totally okay and I enjoyed figuring out the candle making and planning process myself. I just wish I had done more on the front end in terms of pricing research instead of rushing into the candles.

This project also made me aware that there are a lot of times in my life when working through tasks that once I think I have enough information to get by I rush through. I found the importance of working through tasks at a controlled speed can be a better form, especially if it’s a new area of expertise. This is something I will take away as I move through different ventures as well as in school. The devil in the details.

As my last blog, I just wanted to say thank you to all that read through my time at Fulton & Roark this summer. As I have said countless times this summer, I learned an incredible amount. Both in tangible and intangible ways. I found love for work in startup cultures, creative ventures, and product development. I think that those areas of work are my calling and places I enjoy the work. This summer has helped me grow in terms of a business individual but also as an individual in the adult world. Living on my own, working on a budget, and planning my own life. I enjoyed my time and will always relish the time I spent here this summer. Thank you for the opportunity!

Tommy

Week 7: Learning about Entrepreneurship & Post Trade Show

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 3:31 pm

My time at Fulton & Roark has led me to grow an incredible amount. I’ve learned how much time, work, and care goes into creating and running a company of this size. In terms of leadership, to run a successful and profitable entrepreneurial company one must be strong, decisive, and reasonable (calculating risks over rewards). It’s important to be all of those characteristics because, as a leader, your supporting cast looks up to you. And, if they see someone who is strong, decisive, and reasonable they themselves will act the same. Leadership in a start-up company can be equal if not more important than the product itself. Therefore, as I go forward, whether I am involved in my own business or any other, I will try to become a leader who can rise up to the challenge utilizing the skills I previously expressed.

Looking at leadership and the experience I have had this summer at F&R, I’ve definitely found a lot about myself. I found that this type of work really suits me. Whether it is working on the product/project development or the creative sector in a company or creating my own venture, I love the style of work I am doing and believe that I do it pretty well. This notion gets me excited for my future and what I can do with myself as I move forward.

Atlanta Trade Show:

The Americas Mart Trade Show in Atlanta was an amazing experience for me. The show was humongous with three separate buildings and each building containing up to 17 floors! That means many people would explore our booth where I would talk about and try to pitch Fulton & Roark to prospective retailers. The show went from Thursday to Monday and I was involved the entire time. During that time I learned about Sales and how to talk to potential customers. At first, I was pretty rough around the edges when talking to them but after a few interactions I was able to get used to the style of work. I found the work entertaining and I constantly improved. This led to me bringing in a few sales on Saturday and Sunday! I was so excited that I was able to bring in orders for Fulton & Roark. One thing I really wanted to do this summer was recieve some type of sales experience and up to this point I had not received any but this was a perfect opportunity to do so and I couldn’t have been more excited about learning about it. The show for F&R was a success but due to the violence that has been happening around the world and even in America many potential retailers actually backed out, so I heard, from attending the event. That was a little bit of a disappointment, but we wrote a good amount of new orders from vendors and from that it was a definite success!

Week 6: Pre Trade Show & Challenges

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 12:35 am

Believe it or not, Fulton & Roark is much smaller than people tend to think it is. I was in the Mass General Store in downtown Winston-Salem who cares our products, and I mentioned to them we are out of Winston-Salem and she was surprised and believed that maybe we just had an “office” here. This is one of our biggest problems we face at the moment. We’re not as big as we look. Now, that can be a blessing and a curse. Being looked at as a sizable company opens us up to multiple avenues and retailers we may not have been able to reach before. Yet, since we’re also relatively small we can use that advantage to help us with other types of retailers as well.

What makes this a challenge is scaling. There may be a time when due to the fact we are seen as a rather large company, people may expect more from us than what we can give. This may be amounts of product or simply manpower, either way, it can be a dangerous game. Now, having these expectations are great and growth is awesome, but something to consider is when scaling to meet demand we must do it in a way where we don’t scale up too quickly nor too slowly. If done incorrectly we may damage the business. Also at the moment, we don’t have the resources to improve our employee force and it doesn’t look like we will be doing it anytime soon. At least from my perspective. But, we are making steps in the right direction, to make our transition into a large more demanding business already. This means streamlining new processes to make them more cost and time efficient for us. Tasks and processes that used to take hours now can be moved to external associates so that the employees we have now can make the most of their time during the day.

On top of this challenge, we must also beat and engage our competition well. While there aren’t very many solid cologne companies, Alfred Lane and Juniper Ridge, to name a few, we actually have a strong impact on the market. But, the market for solid cologne is significantly smaller than cologne or men’s grooming for that matter. Therefore our competition doesn’t solely stem from that. We must look at behemoths in our industry and marketplace like Baxter of California and Jack Black. By taking a look at these companies we can take tips and nuances that made them great and try to relate those ideas to our own marketing and production. What poses the challenge, though, is the delicate process of making the things that helped make them great and making them our own. Now, we don’t copy anything. What I mean is we take a look at their creative processes, how the market, who they market, what their pricing models look like and compare theirs to ours. We then pick things we like from those companies and try to address them on our own in a totally new and original format. The challenge is to gather inspiration from other sources, maybe not even our competitors but successful businesses outside the industry and look to see how we can apply that to F&R.

Teaser: This week(end) I will be traveling to Atlanta for a trade show. We will be showcasing our products as well as the very first sample of my project this summer. I couldn’t be more excited for the product have finally come about and be shown at a professional show. Stay tuned!

Week 5: A look inside F&R culture

Tuesday, July 5, 2016 8:06 pm

F&R, as any typical start-up is, a fantastic and relaxed work environment. Although, it is relaxed, don’t let that fool you when it comes to the quality and amount of work done. The environment may seem relaxed, happy go lucky, free, but that comes with the expectation that, work will get done in a timely and high-quality manner. “As long as you get it done, and done well, that’s all that matters.” The interactions between coworkers are also quite relaxed and open. We can often talk to our superiors in a relaxed and comfortable manor without the need to impress nor the feeling of intimidation. Needless to say the basic culture at F&R is conducive to a positive and prosperous work environment.

To delve a little deeper, day to day work is often quite mixed and there is typically no set schedule each day; unless we are having set meetings with customers or work affiliates. We can work as teams at certain times, to arrange a product or come up with creative solutions, but, sometimes we are also completely working independent. In terms of decisions, typically the owners have final say but our opinions are valued and therefore majority rules when we are making decisions. Now, we often try to compromise and come up with a mutual solution, almost always we do this. It tends, at least for us, to make us delve deeper into the creative process that typically brings about a more advanced and better thought through decision anyway. To compliment that, decisions and the ability to make decisions can also be in my hand. If it is my project, they trust me to make the most reasonable and beneficial decision. This makes my job and theirs easier, as long as I don’t goof up because I do not to have to wait on their decisions to move forward in a project, it has yet to fail so far.

As a team, we have failed a few times, most recently in developing a fragrance. We learned that it was not as perfect as we had hoped and so, therefore, decided to fix it. This was a frustrating time for me as it set my candle project backward, something that did have a somewhat strict deadline. They noticed this and comforted me saying we don’t get it perfect every time, we’ve made loads of mistakes leading up to now. They made me realize, in the creation of the fragrance that the work I had put in was not a loss and truly only need a few adjustments to get it on track. So, when it comes to failures, they are handled very well. It makes me feel comfortable to take a risk and go do what is right if you believe in it. And, I believe that every company should approach failure in a similar shape or form.

Week 4: Close to Halfway

Sunday, June 26, 2016 5:26 pm

My time so far at Fulton & Roark has been an amazing learning experience. Whether it’s learning how a start-up business is run or learning how to correctly meet margins on a product; I have already grown significantly. I could not be more happy about this learning process and hope to learn even more especially on the sales side of the business. Looking back at my four weeks, I have accomplished a significant amount and can’t wait to see how some of my internship long projects pan out.

A quick update on those projects:

The website conversion from Squarespace to Shopify was one of the first larger projects that I embarked on and it’s almost done. I researched and was the one handling the entire project and I am excited to see it finish through, hopefully by the end of the next week. What makes this website conversion so great for F&R is the ability to expand its audience and E-commerce abilities. Once the new website is live, we will be instituting more analytics, and more website additions, like a very popularly requested subscription service. With much of the world becoming enamored in subscription services, having F&R join the club could significantly improve our E-Commerce impact.

The next larger project I’ve been working on has been the new product release of a scented candle. This is something I’ve been spending a significant amount of time on and am most proud about. To have an in hand product to show what I did this summer for my internship is awesome. Then for it to generate sales for the company makes it even more exciting. We have the design, fragrance, and materials down and hope to have a finished prototype done by the first week in July. This is just in time for the Atlanta trade show which we are going to a week later. Here, we will display the candle and hope to garner interest and pre-sales. If received well, we will go through and do the first round of orders. I am so excited to be heading this for F&R!

Looking back on the four weeks, I’ve learned how ready and prepared I have gotten for an opportunity like this. Wake has definitely played a major part in this preparation. Going into the internship, I was concerned if I could handle the projects and expectations placed upon me. I learned that I am quite capable of working for them and I am even excelling, I feel. The internship has been awesome and I have certainly gained immense experience because of it. A lot of that experience has also come through being in meetings or conversations with the owners and business partners, just listening, which has nicely complemented what I have been doing as I can take that knowledge and make it actionable. I’m excited to see what the rest of my internship holds for me, what challenges I come up against, and how I overcome them.

Week Three – Fulton & Roark the Story and Growth

Monday, June 20, 2016 12:51 am

Fulton & Roark was founded at Wake Forest University in 2012 by two business graduates Kevin Keller and Allen Shafer. They had an idea to create and formulate solid cologne for Men. Wake granted them seed money and they were off releasing their first product in 2013. Their mission was to craft High-quality grooming products specifically built for the way men operate, believing superior products make a man’s process of getting ready less complicated and more enjoyable. Kevin and Allen wanted to have their products easily integrated into everyday life. So, with every new product, the idea of ease of use and high-quality ingredients is at the forefront.
Since the founding, F&R has had an interesting ride. Both owners did not quit their full-time jobs to start working for F&R, but originally worked part time. It then became successful enough that they were able to hire their first full-time employee in 2015. This success carried into 2016 when both owners quit their jobs and devoted their work fully to the company. This led to this past May being their most successful month ever.
In terms of growing pains, F&R definitely has had them. Many stemmed from production quality. Since much of the original product was made in the offices, it was difficult for them to maintain symmetry in products. Meaning, not every single piece of cologne contained the “exact same” amount. It varied and it was something they wanted to fix right off the bat. It involved improving the design of their cologne square container to make it easier to see where to fill. The streamlining of processes was definitely one of their biggest problems. Another problem they had was monetary. With any small business, it is difficult to amass and use large sums of money in short notice. So every up and coming business must focus on their margins, making sure they are fool proof and that every ounce of money is squeezed out of production and sales. Every dollar counts. This, coupled with their aversion to amass many investors due to their preference to maintain a strong majority ownership, made them improvise when it came to creating profitable margins. One road block F&R is against at the moment is creating a profitable environment with the increase in full-time workers as the owners are now working full time. This will pose a great problem in forthcoming months as they become more cash-strapped. Yet, I have no worries that it be worked out easily. F&R has great margins and with more people working, the growth of the company has also been significant.

Week Two: Continuing the Pace

Sunday, June 12, 2016 11:39 am

As I stated in my first blog post, Fulton & Roark (F&R), is an up and coming men’s grooming company. F&R got it’s start by two Wake graduate students, Allen and Kevin, who wanted to revolutionize the men’s quality grooming sector with a new type of cologne for men, solid cologne. While solid cologne is not “new” as it has been around for some time. It is “new” to men’s grooming as F&R was one of the first companies to make solid cologne specifically for me. Making it a splash hit. Now, they have expanded their company to more than 11 products and are still growing, believing, “superior products should make a man’s process of getting ready less complicated and more enjoyable.” Which is exactly what they have done.

In the office I work with four other individuals; Allen, Kevin, Alan, and Howard. All of us do a multitude of different tasks yet we each have our specialty whether it is sales, financials, creative work, social media, or research. The versatility of our team is amazing as we all gather to discuss decisions and ideas before going forward with them. It has enabled me to learn a lot about business and all the facets involved in it; whether it’s maintaining a positive ROI or how to design an advertisement correctly. The owners Allen and Kevin are extremely knowledgeable.

When it comes to the work I am doing for the company, I have been given two major tasks. One, the website migration, which I detailed in my previous post. And now the development and release of a brand new product, which I am extremely excited about. This means I need to research the product in terms of ingredients and style, compare competitors, development aesthetics and marketing techniques. Everything from start to finish. I am really excited about this project and hopefully, we will be able to take the product to the market by July. Obviously, I will be working and checking in with the owners but this project could impact the company very positively. Going into this internship, I really wanted to make an impact by having something to truly be proud of, and creating and developing this product is the perfect project to do this with as I will have a real, tangible end-product. Along with these two major projects, I am also developing and facilitating a Father’s Day ad campaign for the company, and doing industry-wide research to bring the companies research up to date. Needless to say, it has been a blast and already an immense learning experience for me.

Starting Fast: Week One

Sunday, June 5, 2016 3:18 pm

Fulton & Roark, a start-up men’s grooming company in downtown Winston-Salem, is the perfect opportunity for me to experience a fast paced start-up business. As a business student at Wake, concentrating in New Business Development, the internship Fulton & Roark was exactly what I wanted. When discussing the internship, the owners were vocal about the freedom I was to have during the internship, trusting me with many tasks an intern in a major company may not be able allowed to perform despite being quite capable. They also allowed me to explore and voice my own opinions. If I had a fantastic idea, and they were on board, I would be able to continue and develop the idea. Needless to say, they welcomed me as an equal.

Currently, F&R is growing at a fast pace with this past May being one of their best months ever. The two founders are now working full-time at the company and we currently have around 11 products live with 2 to 3 products in line to be developed and released. One of the up and coming products I may have the opportunity to head up and work on directly. This can be seen as a major project for this summer. The possibility excites me. But, as of now I have been doing a litany of different projects to improve the company as well as develop the social presence online. This involves creating and developing a Pinterest Page based on the company. Since Pinterest is one of the largest social media platforms I felt like this was a platform F&R could be widely succesful at, especially with their branding and aesthetic appeal.

Along with those tasks I am also in charge with the technical migration of our site from one platform to another. This is a major task as if we are to get this right, the new website platform opens up so many more options for the company. This includes analytics, coupon offer codes, better aesthetics, and more. This would be an awesome change in the right direction for the company and could lead to a more productive company.

Going forward, I am very excited to see what else I can accomplish with the company. I feel like I have a lot to offer and can truly make an impact. I expect to learn a lot more in terms of how business work with budgetting, decision making, and formalities. Since this was only my first week I had to get into a groove and basic understanding of the company and how it works. Now that I have started fast and gotten the information under my belt, I hope to learn much more in the upcoming nine weeks!

 

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