An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Get references and call them for all your vendors and employees. Our first manufacturer didn’t have the capabilities needed to ensure consistency and excellence in our first run. Our new co-packer came with so many recommendations we were confident when we updated our product and that’s certainly been the case.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Phillips.

After careers spent in computer programming, math, law, and then management consulting, Leigh set out to build something of his own. He started NextDay, a company that believes life is for living, and creates easy-to-trust, easy-to-ingest products to help people feel great. Launched a month before the start of the pandemic, Leigh faced unique challenges on top of starting a business. Now, Leigh worked to make NextDay available anywhere in the US and in hundreds of locations around the country, as well as the UK, South Korea, and Dubai.

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 grew in Raleigh, NC where my family encouraged business and entrepreneurship. Although we lacked connections to the corporate world, I started my first business selling candy on the bus in 1st grade. I’d give a few free pieces to the 5th graders so no one would mess with me and made a profit reselling after buying in bulk from Sam’s Club. My parents pushed me to get my first job at age 8, when I started making custom cabinets. In high school, I thought I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps and do computer programming, so I worked at a company writing apps for the government in Java while my friends worked at grocery stores and ice cream shops. I stayed local for college at the University of North Carolina.

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?

Le Petit Prince. While a children’s book, it doubles as a deep, meaningful book for adults that emphasizes the importance of friends and enjoying the time you have together. I always cherish the opportunity to connect with friends.

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?

Surround yourself with great people. Doing it alone is really tough, you need mentors, advisors, and most importantly colleagues you can count on.

Find an idea that motivates you beyond money. Someone has likely thought about your idea before and maybe even tried it. Sometimes 100s of times. If success is mission driven it’s easier to win — for NextDay, I want to help people feel great so they can connect with friends (or however they choose to live their life).

Get feedback and adapt. No matter how many people tell you it’s a great idea, once you build it, you will need to change it.

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 their idea has already been created?

No matter the idea, someone has probably already thought about it. When starting a company, you want to determine if there is room for your company in the market. You can be Pepsi to someone’s Coke even.

Try and assess whether you have the right market, the right product, and the right team. You really need two, and ideally three of these things.

For the market, I’d start by determining the size of the total addressable market and how fast it is growing. Is it attractive? Who are the key players (who make up 75%+ of the market)? Are they are consolidated (3–5 players) or fragmented)?

For product, does it solve the market need? Do you have the ability to “build a moat” around it? The moat doesn’t have to be patents or an invention, it could be great branding. Liquid Death didn’t invent the can or certainly water, but they are crushing the market with fantastic branding.

For team, do you have the right experience? Can you bring someone in that would add to your experience?

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? 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.

Our product started with an idea — feel great after a night out in a simple, easy-to-drink format. We first researched what ingredients had scientific support for their efficacy. Then it required working with food scientists, identifying suppliers, ordering ingredients and cans, and having them delivered to a co-packer (manufacturer in our industry). Each step along the way, you need to talk to people and assess whether you think they have the experience you lack and are committed to delivering excellence. You may not get it right the first time, but it’s important to evaluate each partner along the way so you know if you need to replace them.

Once your product is created, finding retailers (and distributors to fill at the retailers) requires a lot of cold emails and phone calls. We had less of an opportunity to go in person because of the pandemic, but that’s become an option again, and one that we use. We lay out why our product solves a need their customers have, why it’s an attractive product for them to carry, and how our distribution partners can fill them.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?

  1. All co-founders need to be full time. When we started, I was full-time, but my co-founder still had a day job. There are not enough hours in the day to make that work, and we realized he was really more of an investor and advisor, and when he had the time to commit full time again, he is playing a co-founder role.
  2. Test your product at the smallest possible size. We manufactured 20,000 cans to start because that was the first economically viable option. In hindsight we should’ve down 1,000 cans and gotten feedback. Even though selling the 1,000 cans wouldn’t have made money, we would’ve learned about some of the issues with our first product that we now have corrected.
  3. Get references and call them for all your vendors and employees. Our first manufacturer didn’t have the capabilities needed to ensure consistency and excellence in our first run. Our new co-packer came with so many recommendations we were confident when we updated our product and that’s certainly been the case.
  4. Distribution matters! When talking to stores, the first question we get is who distributes our product. By working with great distributors, we can get retail space.
  5. The highs will be higher and the lows lower than you expect. When you are working for someone else, you can leave the work at the door (or maybe a bring some home) but you can stop it. When you are working on your own company, it never stops. Ever.

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?

Try and make the lowest cost prototype possible and get some people who are willing to give you honest feedback to try it.

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?

I’m biased towards striking out on your own. I’m sure they can help, and they probably have contacts that may help you (like distributors), but you are the person who will be most passionate and care about your invention. Find a cofounder that’s as passionate as you are instead.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

If you can build a low-cost prototype, delaying as much as possible your raise is beneficial. When you have nothing and your valuation is low, money is most expensive. As your valuation grows, you can give away less to get more.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Through NextDay I want to help people feel great. I get texts all the time (often from distributors) about how the drink made them feel so much better. That makes me happy and want to keep pushing forward with growing the company and letting people know there is a way to feel great after a night out.

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.

Spent an extra 5 minutes talking with friends and making new ones every single day.

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.

Seth Goldman, the founder of Honest Tea and executive chairman of Beyond Meat. I think he’s done a really great job of creating products that are better for you / the environment and getting them into people’s hands to make their lives better.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Making Something From Nothing: Leigh Phillips 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.

Recommended Posts