An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Location, location, location is real. As I shared previously, if you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Brown.
A serial entrepreneur and CEO with four decades of results-driven leadership, Jason Brown transforms startups into multimillion-dollar companies doing business on the global stage.
From e-commerce to brick and mortar, Brown has pioneered omnichannel, direct-to-consumer strategies for some of the world’s leading brands, including Columbia Sportswear, Custom Nutrition Services, Organic To Go, and Persona, a dietary supplement company he sold to Nestlé Health Science two years post-launch.
Over the course of his 40 year career, he’s founded 9 companies and raised more than $200 million in public and private capital across multiple industries including apparel, health and wellness, fast-casual dining, retail food and more — often serving as chairman of the board in addition to his executive duties.
Along with managing thousands of employees and opening hundreds of retail locations, Brown has acquired and invested in over a dozen companies, recruited high-powered board members, introduced established American products to new overseas markets, and built efficient, vertically integrated supply chains to successfully scale operations.
Today, Brown is the Founder and CEO of Family Central, a new web and mobile app that connects, organizes and keeps families safe through life’s ups and downs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in 1957 and raised in Pittsburgh, PA in a traditional Jewish household. We were a family of entrepreneurship, long before the concept of entrepreneurship existed. My parents owned restaurants, a bar, a laundry mat and a package store in their lifetime. When I was 14 years old, we moved to Miami Beach and I graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School. After graduation, I moved to Boulder, CO and started out at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I traveled to Mexico and discovered an incredible Mexican shirt — a jerga. I bought them for $2.50 apiece and brought them back to college. I sold them for $12.50, and they sold out in 5 days. That was the beginning of my first company, Cotton Comfort. I never went back to college and never looked back.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“People plan and God laughs.” This life lesson is always in my mind. Every time I come up with an idea, I hire the brightest people to help build the company. At the end, what I had planned in my mind is different than the final product or company that is built.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, “The One Minute Manager,” by Kenneth Blanchard, Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson, M.D. has made a significant impact on me as an entrepreneur. I weave its teachings into my leadership style and give a copy of the book to all employees, so there’s a mutual understanding of my leadership style up front and how I’d like them to incorporate some of the tips into their style too. This has worked well over the years to keep meetings tight and communication to-the-point, so team members can keep working toward our shared goals.
I also enjoy watching old videos of Steve Jobs talking about brand and brand development. What he shares in the 90s is still very much relevant today as companies clarify their brand and the emotion they want to have with their customers.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
One thing that’s been at the core of every company I created was passion. It’s incredibly important that your idea is also your passion because it will become a focus in your life. If you don’t have a passionate reason to build something, then you’ll run astray, and you’ll only be in it for the money. What’s more, companies need to be authentic. The creation of a company must be real and come from the team’s heart and soul.
Another idea is to bring in a team sooner rather than later. The faster you build a team, the better your company will be. Hire or ask people to work alongside you in the very earliest stages of development, and make sure these individuals are smarter than you in what they do, so — as a team — you can build out the idea.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
It doesn’t matter if your idea has already been created. Take Tesla for example. There are multiple car companies manufacturing hybrid and electric cars. It didn’t stop Elon Musk from disrupting the auto industry. It took someone with maniacal focus to build a company. So, take your idea and be passionate about it and make it the best it possibly can be — it will be the best that exists.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
First things first — hire a lawyer and make sure your URL/domain name is available. Once the name is secured and your URL is available, file for a trademark.
Next, put together a board of advisors that will help guide the company in the earliest stages of development.
In terms of manufacturing, always look to go to the source. You can’t create a successful product unless you are as close to vertically integrated as you can be. However, in the early stages, it doesn’t matter how much it costs to manufacture the product. I’ve taken a cue from, Les Wexler, founder of Bath & Body Works, Inc. (formerly Limited Brands). If you see a dress and think it’s going to sell, buy as many as you can at retail price. Add them to your store at the price you can manufacturer them to see how fast they sell. If they sell immediately, you know you can manufacture them in volume and make a profit.
Location, location, location is a real part of retail. If you build it, they will come isn’t true. You need to put it in the way of customers. Digitally, if you’re going to sell a product — Amazon is most likely the channel of distribution. If you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- Growth consumes cash. Entrepreneurs always think when they sell more, they’ll have more cash flow. But, what happens is that they have to buy more in advance and the lead time of manufacturing gets greater, so they end up needing more cash to service that growth. This has happened at every company I’ve started.
- Agencies are better at selling than they are at implementing, most of the time. When I was building my last company, I thought I could create an agency strategy instead of hiring people with specific expertise we needed. Because the world was changing so fast, I felt we’d benefit from an agency model because we could lean into the learnings the agency had from other clients. I held an in-person strategy session to get everyone to work together. But, when they went back to their agencies, they were pulled in many directions. Their collaboration fizzled, and we didn’t get the output we needed from the time spent together.
- Hire good people early rather than waiting until you need them. 1+1=3. When you hire someone, you trust and you can have an informed conversation based their professional expertise. I can add value to what they’re sharing, and I can learn from them. In the end, they are better at their jobs, and I have a better company because I hired someone earlier.
- Always have a gross profit margin greater than 65% so you can spend the money on marketing. If you don’t make a material gross profit margin, you’re not going to make it up in the end. You’ll still have cashflow issues, marketing issues, and so it’s best to sell highest value possible, but with a material gross profit margin from the start. As your volume increases, other costs will go up, not down, so you want the dry powder necessary to grow the company geometrically.
- Location, location, location is real. As I shared previously, if you’re going to sell at retail, you need to find a high-volume environment.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
The very first step should be a quiet trip alone for 1–5 days to really think about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to implement the idea. You need time to visualize success. Then, surround yourself with the best people possible to help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of what you’re doing.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Try to strike out on your own. If a consultant was capable of starting a company by themselves, they’d do it. You need to be able to think it through as your product and your invention.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
In my opinion, you must bootstrap your idea in the beginning. This will control the energy around your idea. Raising money from friends and family will allow you to put your own energy into your product and brand. Once you have this piece figured out and you’re looking for growth capital, then align with VCs. VCs bring support, ideas, and people along with money — and you need both!
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
There’s always an intentional philanthropic component to every company I started — from helping people with disabilities ski, helping women and children who experience trauma, and supporting an organization that provided critical nutrition women and children in early life throughout developing countries.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Find a way to help men and women who are disadvantaged to have better services and support mechanisms for their families to live happier lives.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
McKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett. I’d love to explore ways to make my latest startup, Family Central, available to families at all income levels. The new web and mobile app reduces chaos and stress in a family’s life so they can focus on what really matters — Family time.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Jason Brown Of Family Central On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.